The exciting field of biblical archaeology has revolutionized our understanding of the Bible -- and no one has done more to popularise this vast store of knowledge than Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman, who revealed what we now know about when and why the Bible was first written in The Bible Unearthed. Now, with David and Solomon, they do nothing less than help us to understand the sacred kings and founding fathers of western civilization.
David and his son Solomon are famous in the Bible for their warrior prowess, legendary loves, wisdom, poetry, conquests, and ambitious building programmes. Yet thanks to archaeology's astonishing finds, we now know that most of these stories are myths. Finkelstein and Silberman show us that the historical David was a bandit leader in a tiny back-water called Jerusalem, and how -- through wars, conquests and epic tragedies like the exile of the Jews in the centuries before Christ and the later Roman conquest -- David and his successor were reshaped into mighty kings and even messiahs, symbols of hope to Jews and Christians alike in times of strife and despair and models for the great kings of Europe. A landmark work of research and lucid scholarship by two brilliant luminaries, David and Solomon recasts the very genesis of western history in a whole new light.
Lacking clear archeological evidence or extrabiblical testimony, biblical scholars are often challenged in persuading a skeptical world that the Bible's characters really existed and that their stories are actual historical records. The task of separating myth from history can be a daunting one. Finkelstein and Silberman, both renowned archaeologists (Finkelstein chairs the archaeology department [at Tel Aviv University; Silberman is a contributing editor to Archaeology magazine), take a different approach: integrating ancient heroic and warrior archetypes into the lives of the kings of Israel, thus synthesizing history and myth in support of the religious endeavor. The authors are careful to note that the absence of contemporary confirmation outside the Bible is no reason to believe that the characters did not actually exist. Rather, the biblical stories form the basis for a legend tradition in which the Davidic legacy gradually transforms "from a down-to-earth political program into the symbols of a transcendent religious faith that would spread throughout the world." Finkelstein and Silberman, who also had a winner with The Bible Unearthed, tell their story in a clear and easily understood manner, never boring but always challenging. Discovery Club main selection, BOMC, QPB and History book clubs alternate selection.