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David and Solomon    by Israel Finkelstein & Neil Asher Silberman order for
David and Solomon
by Israel Finkelstein
Order:  USA  Can
Free Press, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

David, as every Sunday school child can tell you, was the young fellow who armed himself with a slingshot and some stones, and then he marched out onto the field and killed the Philistine giant Goliath. As an adult, David - as everyone even marginally familiar with the Holy Bible can tell you - went on to become the divinely protected king of ancient Israel. And as serious students of Hebrew scripture (the old testament) can tell you, David was also remarkable for having been a poet, political strategist, conqueror of Jerusalem, protector of the Ark of the Covenant, notorious violator of religious morality, founder of a great dynasty, and ancient precursor to the Christian revision of Davidic traditions.

Students of the Holy Bible also know that Solomon - son of David and the beautiful Bathsheba - succeeded the legendary David and reigned during an era of remarkable peace and prosperity; celebrated in Hebrew scripture as wealthy, wise, and powerful, Solomon - the builder of the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem, the insightful judge, and the author of proverbs - would, through the centuries, become the legendary ruler during 'a golden age of spiritual and material fulfillment that might, one day, be experienced again.'

Those are the apparent facts according to the primary source - the Holy Bible - but what is the truth? Can archeological record and findings; other extra-biblical primary sources (contemporary to David's and Solomon's purported reigns); and post-Davidic records, texts, and commentaries shed any additional (or different) light on the lives of these two iconic figures? Authors Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman - authors of The Bible Unearthed, the fascinating assessment of the Bible's historical accuracy - seek to answer those and other questions in David and Solomon: In Search of the Bible's Sacred Kings and the Roots of the Western Tradition.

Readers of Finkelstein's and Silberman's exquisitely detailed and persuasively argued narrative may actually be surprised when they discover the real David and Solomon. At the same time, however, Finkelstein's and Silberman's reverential treatment of their subjects in no way interferes with traditional scriptural reading and appreciation of the David and Solomon stories; in fact, Finkelstein (archeologist at Tel Aviv University) and Silberman (archeologist in Belgium, and contributing editor to Archeology magazine) offer an innovative way of reading the Holy Bible which will invite a new appreciation for the ways in which the David and Solomon traditions have enriched Western culture's concepts of freedom, religious values, and political leadership.

David and Solomon is, in fact, not so much a book about who David and Solomon were in ancient Israel, but it is actually the story of what David and Solomon would go on to become (and how they came to be those icons) in our cultural history. Finkelstein's and Silberman's meticulously researched and nicely augmented book (with important appendixes and bibliography) is enthusiastically recommended for anyone who cares at all about Biblical scholarship, Judeo-Christian cultural traditions, and the ways in which myth, legend, history, and faith become ineffably fused in the human psyche; moreover - at the risk of offending someone - David and Solomon is even more highly recommended for anyone who believes that the Holy Bible is the whole story.

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