Because of widespread misconceptions on the historicity of the early Israelite kings we endeavor here to make a comparison study to show how things fit together. Especially the very existence of King Solomon has come under criticism because of the apparent lack of corroborating evidence from excavations in Israel itself. How can we explain that? Shouldn’t there be at least some evidence attributable to King Solomon or David by way of inscriptions? To be sure small items have been found, i.e. a Solomonic seal for instance, but we are looking more for larger items. Egypt’s kings left inscriptions on buildings, statues, stela – why is there such a lack of the same in Israel from any king?
This is a fair question to ask and we must address this issue. On the outset we would like to say that the lack of inscriptions, carvings, ornate stone reliefs in Israel and Judah must have a definite reason and that it does we shall try to explain. Of course they were very much aware of the richness of Egyptian inscriptions and stone carvings, after all they used to live there.
The evidence for that however is very early in their experience, right after they had left Egypt. Arriving at Mt. Sinai they clamored for the same things they were used to have around them in Egypt. The Israelites wanted images to dance around and worship – something they could see. But the faith they were taught about of the very God who had led them out of slavery was directed at worshipping Him in faith and deeds rather than by representations.
Self glorification of rulers also was not in accord with their beliefs. Only God deserved veneration and being written about. If Solomon would have left inscriptions in his cities the Jewish people themselves would have defaced and done away with them not to leave any trace. This may be not good for us today who are trying to understand those times from the remains, but it is why we should not even expect such artifacts. Those who want to make comparisons to Egypt and argue because of the lack of artifacts in Israel that these kings did not really live and reign as we are told just don’t seem to take into account the times they lived in and the Jewish mind. We cannot impose Egyptian conventions on the Jewish people.
However, other scholars note that there are other blank spots in Jerusalem’s archaeological record during periods when the city is known to have been occupied, and they caution against reading too much into a lack of evidence. Ronny Reich, an archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority, notes, for example, that excavations near the Gihon spring outside the present Old City have turned up “no pottery, nothing” from the Byzantine era–roughly A.D. 330-1450. “Does that mean there were no people in Jerusalem?” Reich asks. “Of course not. How do you explain it? You can’t.”[J.L. Sheler, `News from the Holy Land’]
In fact the lack of such personal records carved on stone is evidence in itself that we are at the right place of Jewish habitation. But a few reminders of the early Israelite monarchy are being found often in the form of the stone masons skill to produce smooth stones, with no chisel marks for constructions. All other cultures in the ancient Near East were much closer to Egyptian conventions with respect to artifacts, the Jewish lands are quite singular on the lack of such. But we must not forget that the kinds of artifacts like idols, ushabtis, scarabs and the like found in Palestine are probably those used and on occasion hidden or kept by Israelites who employed them in trade or, in the case of idols perhaps, had become unfaithful to their God.Laws pertaining to royalty – “When you enter the land…and you say: `Let us set a king over us like the nations around us’ be sure to appoint over you the king the Lord your God chooses. He must be from among your own brethren. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not an Israelite. The king…must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, `You are not to go back that way again.’ He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.” Deuteronomy 17:14-17
Critics also often doubt the existence of the early Israelite accounts of constructions and achievements because during excavations they are unable to locate any of these supposed palaces, city gates, walls or dwellings. The cities of Hazor, Gezer and Megiddo have been excavated to a great extend. A stratum containing remains of palaces, temples and fortifications was found in each of these cities but strangely enough the name of Solomon was not found but that of Pharaoh Amenhotep III was. How can that be? In conventional thinking Pharaoh Amenhotep III reigned from about 1405-1367 BC, long before Solomon. No wonder critics are baffled and discount the scriptural account of history. But let us see what happens when we apply revised chronology.
In revised view Pharaoh Amenhotep III reigned from about 878-870 as coruler with Amenhotep II, and sole from 870-843 BC, right in the middle of the El Amarna Age. That is just 60 years after the death of King Solomon. He, like Solomon, inherited a vast, glorious and rich empire with connections from the Nile to the Euphrates river. He left a wealth of evidence of his existence in his many constructions of palaces, temples, monuments, documents, art unparalleled and numerous except perhaps that of Ramses II. It was during the reign of Amenhotep III that cities like Gezer were refortified and Egyptian garrisons were set up in strategic locations. Why? Because of the many incursions into Palestine by restless rulers from Damascus, Syria, the great deserts and Assyria. For the Egyptians Palestine was a buffer zone. Stop any would-be-enemies before they reach the border of Egypt. We just need to read about the troubles involving Palestine in the days of Jehoshaphat, Ahab and their sons to understand how desperate the situation sometimes could become. So when we mentioned the palaces of Gezer, Hazor and Megiddo – we must be blind not to realize that they are the ones we had been looking for as belonging to the time of the early Israelite kings. What has been hiding their presence from us is not sand and dirt, but a false, conventional, Egyptian chronology, for Amenhotep III did not live 400 years before Solomon but 60 years after him.
It appears that Amenhotep III patterned his life after that of Solomon. But he was not hampered by religious oriented restrictions like Solomon, he could freely create idols, images of himself and vain glorious monuments to his greatness. But as the reader may recall we claim that Solomon most likely was Senenmut, the most trusted noble of Queen-Pharaoh Hatshepsut. It appears that in time Solomon, after having married an Egyptian princess, may have felt himself too restricted in his own kingdom and during the second half of his 40 year reign his gaze was directed toward Egypt. Being a cozy friend with the Egyptian king, he became the highest official and closest adviser to Hatshepsut. What he could not do in Israel he could do in Egypt – leave inscriptions, representations and monuments with his name on them. No wonder his own people would not leave any stone unturned in their homeland which would remind anyone of their wayward king.
Having said this we may get an idea about the importance of correct chronology before we go around and teach doubt and reproof of the Hebrew sources. But we realize that the majority of those who have voiced opinions on the ancient history of the Bible lands are still captivated by the rightness of conventional chronology. How can so many famous historians, scholars, archaeologists, scientists be wrong and so few, nameless new people be right? Could it be that sometimes being too close to something for too long disables us to get a clear view? Should we trust in the pronouncements of famous people just because `they must know what they are saying for they dig it out themselves and see it?’ Yes, they certainly do, but still their interpretations are colored by their scholarly upbringing. What can we say? Explaining the same history in line with revised chronology will open up so many more intrinsic, grand views of enchanting history that it is well worth to try and study and think our way into it.