BIBLE AND SPADE - BY STEPHEN L CAIGER D B - first published at the University Press, Oxford 1936. This Edition prepared for katapi by Paul Ingram 2003.


Jerusalem: Temple Area in the time of King Solomon. HOME | Contents | Introduction | Oldest Jerusalem | The Pottery Deposits | Saul, David, Solomon | The Inscription of Shishak

FOR our present purpose the 'Early Monarchy' extends
from Saul (c. 1036), David (c. 1010), and Solomon (c. 970)
to the early years of Asa and Omri (c. 886). 

During these hundred and fifty years the Hebrews settled down as a victorious nation
with capital cities, public buildings, and fortresses of their own,
developing a distinctive art in some degree,
and probably commencing to keep and to collect their national written records,
so that their archaeological remains are naturally more extensive than before. 

Yet the excavations have produced no very spectacular results?
no treasures of delicate workmanship,
no awe-compelling edifices,
no inscriptions of an interest in the least comparable with the discoveries in Egypt, Mesopotamia, or even Hittite-land.
Practically nothing remains today of the glory of Solomon or the Hebrew monarchs of that age save a few rough blocks of masonry and some pieces of broken earthenware.
Yet it is wonderful how the modern archaeologist can piece such fragments together and read their story.


It is impossible even to name all the sacred sites that have been excavated during the past century, especially since the formation of the Palestine Exploration Fund in 1865.
Some of them we have already mentioned;
a few others we shall note as we go on;
but for the fascinating story of such places as Lachish, Gezer, Taanach, Beth-Shean
we must refer the reader to the many specializing books.
Here, however, we must pause to look for a moment on the JERUSALEM of the Early Monarchy. (See an overview of the City of David HERE.)

Biblical Jerusalem was roughly a rectangle divided into four squares
and held in the cleft of the Kidron and Hinnom valleys.
The original city was on the hill of Ophel,
the bottom right-hand square,
which now lies outside the modern city and can therefore be excavated.
Here have been found traces of an original neolithic occupation going back to perhaps 3000 BC.
As a walled city, however, Ophel seems to have been fortified about 2000 B.C.,
when there are signs of a mingled Amorite and Hittite construction of considerable strength,
not brick like most of the former citadels,
but stone,
thus giving point to Ezekiel's remark:
Your mother was an Hittite, and your father an Amorite
and lending colour to the tradition in Josephus that the city was founded by the Hyksos refugees from Egypt.
The King of Jerusalem of the Tell el Amarna period still bore a Hittite name,
Arad-Hiba, and already the city was known as Uru-Salim. 

By the time of David
these original fortifications had apparently been still further strengthened by a double wall,
the city's name having been changed to Jebus.
The Jebusite walls, and signs of the breach made by David's well-known assault upon the place, can still be seen.
But the most interesting discovery is that of the underground passage by which Joab penetrated into the citadel,
and so took the garrison by surprise (I Chron.xi.6),
known by the name of its discoverer as WARREN'S SHAFT.

Of this Macalister writes:

'I myself followed Joab's example when I explored the tunnel?
I passed through at dead of night. ...
Wading through the water in the cave,
carrying their weapons and probably a rope,
they entered the tunnel that opens at the back of the cave.
They would follow it West for 32 feet,
after which it turns abruptly North
and runs for 23 feet by a branch passage impassible except at low water.
Here in Joab's time the tunnel ended in a chamber,
at the side of which rose a vertical shaft about 50 feet high.
Some expert climber in the party clambered (up. ...
With the help of a rope another and then another drew himself up
until they were all landed safely in the little -chamber at the top of the shaft.
From this they passed along the upper passage,
which gradually rises by a gentle slope to a flight of steps at the end.
Mounting these, they stood within the city.' 

Thus the archaeologist brings that exploit of three thousand years ago to life. 

On Ophel, too, David's 'tower that lieth out' has been identified, showing how his rough and hasty masonry had been repaired by Solomon's more carefully dressed stones.
The Millo, or 'filling', which David threw up to protect the breach he had made,
has been located at the north-east corner of the citadel;
here, too, the marks of Solomon's strengthening masonry are clearly distinguishable.
One of the curiosities of this tower was the discovery of faint traces of a painting of the goddess Ashtaroth, pathetic reminder, perhaps, of one of Solomon's wives. 

Of the royal palace and temple, however, no certain traces have been found, chiefly no doubt because they were situated on the upper right-hand square in our rough plan, that is on Mount Moriah, north of Ophel.
The site is therefore within the modern city, and beneath the present 'Dome of the Rock'.
'So long as these sanctuaries remain under the guardianship of a suspicious people, hostile to research, so long will it be impossible to seek for any relics of the Solomonic buildings.
But even if it were possible, it is improbable that much would be discovered.
Nebuchadrezzar was nothing if not thorough:
and Herod, when laying the foundations of his own ambitious structure,
would show but scant courtesy to the work of his predecessors' (Macalister).
All we can say is that the huge stone slab within the present Dome of the Rock most probably marks the spot where Solomon's altar stood.
The channel that conveyed the blood of the sacrifices to an underground cavern beneath the altar is still visible. 

Perhaps we should add that none of the Old Testament sites in the modern city, such as the 'Tower of David' or the 'Tomb of Absalom', are authentic.
'Few ancient cities have so suffered from haphazard nomenclature as Jerusalem:
at every turn there are names that seem to take us back to the days of the kings and earlier,
whereas in fact the remains of even the Jerusalem of Herod's time are not numerous' (Garstang). [W.O.P. 567.] 

The one authentic relic of Solomon's magnificence,
the noted Solomon's Stables,
seems to have survived, not in the Holy City,
but at Megiddo, one of the forts restored by him at the beginning of his reign (I Kg.ix.16).
Here Guy found masonry of Phoenician type, 'executed by Hiram on his way home from building the Temple', the most interesting feature being a huge garage for chariots, and stables for a hundred horses.
'Between each horse was a stone pillar, to which, as holes drilled in them show, the halters were attached.
Between each pillar there was a stone manger.
Access to the stables was provided by broad streets quite well paved and planned.' 

But it must be admitted that the study of buried masonry and tumbled walls which forms such a large part of Palestinian excavation is very much an acquired taste, and many readers will sympathize perhaps with the inscription of a tired workman found on the wall of the Maccabean palace at Gezer -

'Pampras says:
To blazes with Simon's palace!'



More difficult still for the amateur to appreciate is the rapture with which the modern archaeologist gazes upon what he calls a 'potsherd'.
Yet the value of these often unbeautiful relics lies precisely in their lack of attraction:
people throw their broken pots away,
no one troubles to pick them up,
yet they are almost imperishable,
and remain perhaps for ever just where they fell,
to be covered by layer after layer of the dust of time.
Then some archaeologist comes along and fixes the precise date of a site by merely checking off the pottery levels.
Hence the supreme importance of the humble shard. 

In itself Hebrew pottery is exceptionally uninteresting.
It has no beauty of colour, design, or workmanship, nor is it even original.
It is identifiable, in fact, chiefly by its inferiority to other pottery of the same period and locality.

'Hebrew ware',
says Duncan,
'is very easily recognized in the pre-Exilic period.
It is a totally distinct type and inferior to the Canaanite in workmanship, though the forms are largely borrowed from them.
The ware is lumpy, badly baked, and clumsy.
It shows no marked originality:
but though the Hebrews imitated, they imitated badly.
In the post-Exilic period the deterioration is even more marked than in the pre-Exilic.' 

All this certainly helps one to appreciate the inwardness of Jeremiah's account of how he

went down to the potter's house . . .
and behold,
the vessel that he made of the clay was marred in the hand of the potter


Duncan observes that the explanation of this Hebrew inadequacy in the ceramic and indeed in other arts must simply be that 'the genius of the race did not lie in that direction, but almost exclusively in the line of religion and morals. ...
In every sphere but religion they seem to have been under the domination of other races and civilizations.'


Of the history of those three famous kings, Saul, David, Solomon,
or even of their existence,
there is no trace whatever outside Palestine,
despite the fact that the two last at any rate were potentates of some international importance. 

Egypt at this time was in a state of confusion and decay,
a house divided against itself under the simultaneous XXIst and Xnd Dynasties,
so that historical records are practically non-existent.
We cannot even know the name of the Pharaoh who married his daughter to Solomon (I Kg.iii.1):
whether it was Pasebkhanet II (Knight), Siamon (Robinson), or Shishak (Breasted).
Yet excavations at Gezer, which the Pharaoh gave as a present unto his daughter, Solomon's wife (I Kg.ix.16), show traces of Egyptian occupation and damage, together with subsequent Hebrew repairs.
Macalister found that of the deities worshipped in the town, the most popular was Besh, the Egyptian god of dancing and revelry. 

Of the Queen of Sheba all we can say is that the excavations in Arabia have revealed an advanced civilization, named after her city 'Sabaean', probably the successor of the Minaean civilization described above [See pp.84 ff.], and that the Assyrian inscriptions of a somewhat later age speak of the ruler of these Sabaeans as a queen. 

The Biblical statement that Solomon levied a tribute on the people that were left of the Hittites (II Chron.viii.7) and that later on a king of Israel was able to hire the Kings of the Hittites (II Kg.vii.6) will excite astonishment, until we remember that the great Hittite empire of the days of Thothmes, Tell el Amarna, and Rameses the Great was now a thing of the past.
Their power had already passed its zenith when Rameses defeated them at Kadesh (1288), but 'the great disaster occurred about 1200 BC.
When the Homeric bards sang the siege of Troy, which fell within a few years of that date, the place of the Hittites was already being taken in popular legend by the Phrygians, who had joined, it would appear, in the destruction of their power. ...
The new invaders (Phrygians, Philistines, &c.) carried all before them, leaving the Hittite lands and Northern Syria desolated in their trail ... and blotted out the memory of the Hittite power that had bound its heterogeneous races together for 1500 years.'
[Garstang in W.O.P. 828. For the Neo-Hittites see D. G. Hogarth, Kings of the Hittites (Schweich Lecture, 1926).]
From that date until a few years ago their ancient capital at Hattusas (Boghaz Keui) lay buried in forgotten ruins. 

But before their collapse the Hittites had founded the city of Carchemish on the Upper Euphrates, and here the 'people that were left of them' established another but a far less powerful kingdom, where, though much of the ancient Hittite art, writing, and culture was preserved along with the imperial name, the dominant racial note seems to have been Semitic.
'Thereafter, the "Hittites" appear in the records of Assyria and in the Bible, as a Syrian confederacy' (Garstang).
Unfortunately the type of Hittite script they favoured most was not the cuneiform but the still undecipherable hieroglyphic, so that hardly any Neo-Hittite history is known to us. 

These were the 'Kings of the Hittites', their southernmost centre at Hamath, with whom the Hebrew monarchs had dealings.
Quite possibly it is among the undeciphered inscriptions of Carchemish, Zenjirii, Sakjegeuzi, or Aleppo that alone we can look for the names of David and Solomon outside the Bible.


Inscription of Shishak.

Not till the reign of Solomon's successors, Rehoboam and Jeroboam, do we once more make contact with the inscriptions.

Shishak of Egypt, the first Pharaoh to be actually named in the Bible (I Kg.xiv.25, &c.),
has left a bas-relief on the wall of the Temple of Amon at Karnak showing him dealing the heavy blows of his victorious club on the heads of captive Jews.
Apart from the long rows of names,
each in its embattled shield,
there is no historical explanation of the campaign,
which, however, we must connect in all probability with I Kings 14 and the year 931 BC.