How Big Was Ancient Judah

While there is no question that Jerusalem was and is one of, if not the most important city in history, there are many theories and conflicting opinions on what it was like in the days of David and Solomon. Was there a kingdom or was it just a small tribe located in the vicinity of modern Jerusalem? It obviously existed, but was it a kingdom of power and influence or was it just a small chiefdom?

The Bible describes David as being a king of a substantial kingdom, however historians often challenge that record saying it can’t be true because there are no supporting documents outside of the Bible recording a similarly sized kingdom… Or is there?

The Bible clearly states that there was a united monarchy and that Solomon was as wealthy as could be imagined. If there just a tribe, how could such wealth be amassed? Is there any proof of such wealth and infrastructure that would be expected with a kingdom?

The Tel Dan Stele

A stele is a carving on a wood or stone slab in memoriam of some event. While this could be a sort of headstone, as we use today, it was also used to commemorate things like winning battles. Battles were often commemorated on a stele as a sense of bragging.

In 1993 a stele was discovered in the area of Dan, an ancient area in northern Israel. The stele was of course exciting to find, regardless of what it said as it was definitely ancient. But what they found on it was a telling of a victory by an Aramean king, boasting of his defeat of Israelite and Judahite armies. This king went on to say that he defeated the “House of David”. This king reigned over a hundred years after David lived. He also states he conquered several thousand horsemen.

If David was just a chief, or tribal leader, would a king brag about defeating his house more than a hundred years after his death? Would he have conquered thousands of horsemen?

No. David had to have been a well-respected and formidable leader for someone to brag about it, and a small chiefdom would not have thousands of soldiers to defeat.

The Palace

A chiefdom in the First Temple Period would have been having more of a very primitive life. There would have been more simple architecture and it would have been very small houses without much need for government buildings. What was found just outside of Jerusalem was a fortified complex of significant size. Some believe this had to be the palace of the rulers of Jerusalem. While some say it could have been another local group’s palace, why would Jerusalem, if a chiefdom, allow someone else to have a palace in such tight vicinity over them?

The Capitals

During the time of the covid-19 shut down, some archeological discoveries continued to be made including capitals found within the City of David. These capitals dated to the First Temple Period and were as ornate as they were well-preserved after thousands of years. They are thought to have been part of a royal building.

The Newest Discovery- Ivory

King Solomon was known to have amassed an impressive amount of riches. The Bible speaks to this wealth many times. In 2 Chronicles 2:13-30, the wealth of Solomon is detailed. It is said that deliveries of gold, silver, ivory, apes and peacocks were delivered every three years and that Solomon had a throne of ivory and gold.

Ivory was not from the region, so it would have been shipped in. It was among the most precious materials available, and was more valuable than gold.

Recently, while digging around the area of the City of David, a startling discover was made. Ivory carvings that would have been used to inlay furniture. There were thousands of fragments found that were then carefully reconstructed as possible and they divulged beautiful works of art that would have been done by a master craftsman. They dated back to the First Temple Period, exactly as stated in the Old Testament.

At that time, ivory was a complete status symbol, and showed not only the wealth of royalty, but also their strength. So much ivory would not have been in a small tribal chiefdom. Suddenly, Jerusalem and ancient Judah can no longer be looked at as a small area who’s significance was only enlarged well after the fact, but now has to be looked at as a major player in the ancient history of the Levant.

Very few ivory items from the time have been found anywhere and these are the first found in Jerusalem. The only other places it has been found were the very powerful capital cities Nimrud and Samaria. Now Jerusalem can be counted among them.

We hope we can welcome you to explore these and other amazing finds from ancient Israel. Speak to one of our staff today about planning your adventure today! CLICK HERE