4th episode: Myth or truth

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Like us, King Solomon and his peers were also relegated to confinement. This one ended a few weeks ago and it’s time to get them out of it. Holidays are over, I am taking up my pen again for this 4th Episode of Abraham and Anne-Marie, still in search of the causes that could have engendered anti-Semitism. We had finished the 3rd episode on the death of King David in 970 BC., and the advent of his son Solomon.

However, we must remain lucid and question the historical veracity of these facts. The various difficulties encountered during archaeological excavations have led to different chronologies and reconstructions between which it is difficult to decide.

Fouilles archéologiques à Jérusalem
Under which stone is the truth hiding?

As claimed by the traditional approach, charismatic rulers such as Saul, David and Solomon established the first centralized state during the 10th century BC. According to other theories, this unified monarchy has no foundation. Thus, quoting Thomas Römer: “the idea of a great united kingdom under David and Solomon is more of the imagination of biblical authors than of historical reality”. While for Israeli archaeologist Israel Finkelstein, the early Israelite rulers only headed chiefdoms without advanced administration. They are not at the origin of any monumental architecture, which will not arise in Israel until much later. For Amihai Mazar, it is impossible to distinguish the archaeological levels belonging to the tenth century BC. from those of the 9th century BC.

As per the theology of the Book of Kings, the monarchy is decided by the national god Yahweh – the one who has no name but a very competent middleman: the prophet Samuel. The Bible explains that the kingdom of Israel was born following the assembly of Shechem, the city where the good Lord spoke to Abraham, (mentioned in our first episode) 1000 years before the reign of King Solomon. When the latter died, the kingdom of Israel led by Jeroboam, a former exile in Egypt, and the kingdom of Judah led by Solomon’s son, Roboam, fell into a clash and it was Israel that won. The new realm brings together ten Israelite tribes, facing Roboam, the legitimate successor of the dynasty of King David who reigns only over the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and the priests of the temple of Jerusalem. In 933 BC., the separation will be total between the two brother states: that of Israel and Judah. Two desert expanses with no real border.

khirbet-keyafa
Khirbet Keyafa Archaeological Site, Kingdom of Judah

The story as told in the Old Testament presents this act as an apostasy and a betrayal of Yahweh. The dynasty of King David is the guarantor of its link with the Good Lord and Jerusalem its center point. If a kingdom was indeed set up by David and Solomon over the whole land of Israel, the secession of the north shows that it had no unity, the organization set up by David and Solomon having failed to unite the tribes of the north and the south. As a result, the monarchy collapsed upon the death of the last of the great kings; afterwards, heirs sat on the throne one after the other until the arrival of Omri, great-great-great-grandson of Solomon, in 876. BC.

The dynasty of Omri

It is from the 9th century BC. that archaeological data unambiguously confirms the existence of the northern kingdom of Israel.

In the 9th century BC., the Omrid dynasty sees the transformation of the kingdom of Israel into a regional power thanks to the policy of alliance with the neighboring kingdoms carried out by Omri. He was the real conquering king, not David as described in the Bible. However, the new nation is threatened in the east by the expansion of Assyria, a region which now stretches across northern Iraq and northeastern Syria. At the Battle of Qarqar, Omri and a coalition of small states in the Levant try to stop the advance of the Assyrian kingdom of Salmanazar III.

Despite the many achievements of Ahab, the eldest son of Omri, he is described by the Bible as a weak king, accused of having encouraged the worship of the Canaanite god Baal and in perpetual conflict with the prophet Elijah. However, the successes of the first omrides are undeniable. Their new power is expressed by monumental architecture: magnificent constructions in the great sites of the north, in Megiddo, Jezréel and Hazor… In Samaria, the largest palace of the Iron Age in the Levant was built. Numerous fortified complexes which confirm the royal prestige.

4th episode: Myth or truth
Reconstruction of the Samaria Palace in 3D

The policy of expansion of the kingdom of Israel, however, clashes with the Aramaic forces of the emerging kingdom of Damascus with which it competes. The growing power of Aram – the current center of Syria – puts an end to the development of Israel. Around 840 BC., the Aramaic king Hazael regains control of the northeastern territories, and destroys the Israelite centers in the valleys. Weakened by the assaults of Aram, the territory of Israel is reduced to the region around Samaria, located in the heart of the current state of Israel, barely larger than Paris.

Is this the end of the state of Israel? Is this the start of anti-Semitism? Men have always torn each other apart, without generating hateful and persistent racism.

End of the 4th episode

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