Literally. That is, Israel Finkelstein went to visit Khirbet Qeiyafa on July 20th before the excavation season concluded, the guest of his colleague Yosef Garfinkel (HT Luke Chandler). It is difficult to imagine two scholars farther apart in their understanding of Iron Age I-II Israel. Yet the rule of hospitality is sacred.
One has to wonder how Finkelstein will interpret the astounding finds Garfinkel and his team continue to unearth. As is well-known, Garfinkel laid down the gauntlet early on (go here: “the Low Chronology is officially dead and buried” - the presentation dates to 2008).
Finkelstein serves the field well by presenting one challenge after another to commonly held but far from self-evident positions. In this series of posts, I return the favor by offering a challenge to his dismissal of the basic outline of events presented in 1 Sam – 1 Kgs 11. The cutting style I employ is my way of going native in what is often a debate among Israeli scholars.
No matter how you slice and dice it, Iron Age Khirbet Qeiyafa poses a challenge to the notion, propounded by Finkelstein among others, that David and Solomon’s realm was a minute territorial domain limited to a swath of the central highlands with a population of a few thousand and a cow town for a capital (Jerusalem). The fortified site of KQ in the Judean Shephelah, in view of pottery assemblage and other material indices to be construed as a perimeter site of a territorial domain whose epicenter lay on higher ground to the east, casts a pall over that thesis. In the absence of credible alternatives, the epicenter of the polity in question is identifiable with Jerusalem – more precisely, the “fortress of Zion” David seized partway through his reign, and the larger area of Jerusalem David fortified, per 2 Sam 5:6-12.
Jerusalem is 25 miles east of KQ over mountain roads. If and only if the narrative sequence of 1 Sam to 1 Kgs 11 is treated as a rank invention, is one in a position to propose alternatives thereto. Nonetheless, from the standpoint of political geography, there are no credible alternatives to the default hypothesis that Jerusalem was the epicenter of a terminal Iron I/ early IIA territorial domain on whose perimeter KQ was situated adducible from the archaeological and textual materials in hand.
To be continued.