Segments in this Video

King David and Today's Middle East (02:13)


For modern Israelis, David is a founding father. However, modern archaeology is challenging the accuracy of the Biblical account of David, which has major implications for the region.

Questionable Historical Claims (01:32)

At the City of David in Jerusalem, tour guides present as historical fact accounts that are dubious.

Importance of David Myth (01:22)

The Bible says David united Israel and Judah. The tribes later split, then lost their independence until the twentieth century. David's kingdom is key to legitimizing the Jewish state.

Historians and the Bible (00:56)

Some take Biblical accounts as revealed truth; as a historian, Dr. Francesca Stavrakopoulou looks at them dispassionately.

Philistines and Jews (02:04)

The Philistines lived on rich farmlands just inland in modern Israel. The threat of Philistine expansionism prompted Israel to elect their first King, Saul, leading to David and Goliath's duel.

Philistine Site (02:56)

Evidence at Tell es-Safi, home of Goliath, contradicts the Biblical portrayal of Philistines as barbarians. The Philistines sought to expand eastward into Israelite territory.

Search for David's Empire (02:09)

Confirmation of the Biblical story of David would require excavating traces of central imperial authority. After modern Israel's foundation, the search for such evidence took on political urgency.

Solomon's Building Projects (03:09)

Israeli archaeologist Yigael Yadin concluded that gates at Meggido, Hazor and Gezer, with six inner chambers, were evidence of a central, Solomonic building plan, supporting the Biblical account.

Yadin and his Critics (02:05)

Yadin's archaeological conclusions supporting the existence of David and Solomon's empire initially held sway. Later critics said Jewish and Christian archaeologists were biased.

Rejecting Yadin's Conclusions (03:39)

Israel Finkelstein says Yadin assumed the accuracy of the Biblical account. He found flaws in how he dated Meggido and other finds, dating them to after David and Solomon's time.

Ancient Judah's Population (03:13)

Finklestein concluded that Judah, David's power base, had too little population to support a conquering army. The society of shepherds and stock-raisers was bound by kinship, not nationhood.

Khirbet Qeiyafa (01:51)

Archaeologists long failed to find the major cities David would have needed to rule an empire. 2007 find Khirbet Qeiyafa, however, is a fortified city dating to David's time.

Evidence of Empire (01:53)

An archaeologist at Khirbet Qeiyafa says its stone fortifications would have required vast manpower, indicating central authority.

Jerusalem (01:23)

Khirbet Qeiyafa makes it plausible that David's society could have supported a centralized kingdom, but what evidence is there of such an authority in Jerusalem?

Find in Jerusalem (01:53)

Archaeologists think they have uncovered a royal palace from David's time in Jerusalem. The Bible indicates that his palace is on top of the city, with a fortress beneath it.

Finkelstein Disputes David's Palace (01:57)

Finkelstein challenges the dating of the site purportedly of David's palace in Jerusalem, and questions whether it is a palace.

David Story Dubious (01:26)

Evidence to support the existence of David's empire, which the Bible and modern Israel claim he built, is lacking.

Evidence of David's Existence (03:02)

Archaeologists failed to find extra-Biblical written mentions of David until the 1993 discovery of the Tel Dan Stele, written 150 years after David's time.

David as Historical Figure (03:37)

The Tel Dan Stele establishes David as a historical figure and dynastic founder, though not his specific achievements. The complexity of the Biblical David suggests authenticity to the story.

Insufficient Evidence of David (01:19)

Dr. Stavrakopoulou thinks a King as mighty as David would have left behind more contemporary evidence. There is a mighty King of Israel shortly thereafter who left behind plenty of evidence.

Mesha Stele (01:41)

The Mesha Stele, an ancient Moabite document, describes Israelite King Omri's conquest of Moab. Extra-Biblical written evidence for David does not suggest comparable importance.

Samaria (01:27)

We visit Samaria, capital of the northern kingdom of Israel and Omri's power base. Today it is in the occupied West Bank, with tension between Israeli settlers and Palestinians.

Omri Contrasted to David (02:41)

Omri built his capital in Samaria, a much larger city than Jerusalem. Fragments are still standing. We see evidence of Omri's empire, unlike David's.

King David and Contemporary Politics (01:29)

Evidence does not support Biblical accounts of David. Basing Israel's legitimacy on such accounts is shaky. Religion deals with mystery, while politics deals with the here and now.

Credits: Did King David's Empire Exist? Bible's Buried Secrets (00:43)

Credits: Did King David's Empire Exist? Bible's Buried Secrets

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Did King David's Empire Exist? Bible's Buried Secrets

Part of the Series : Bible's Buried Secrets
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $300.00
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $450.00
3-Year Streaming Price: $300.00



Dr. Francesca Stavrakopoulou goes on the trail of the Biblical King David and his fabled empire. A national hero and icon for the Jewish people, and a divine king for Christians, David is best known as the boy-warrior who defeated the Philistine giant Goliath. As king, he united the tribes of Israel. But did he really rule over a vast Israelite kingdom? Did he even exist? Stavrakopoulou visits key archaeological excavations where groundbreaking finds are being unearthed, and examines evidence for and against the Biblical account of King David. She explores the former land of the Philistines, home of the giant Goliath, and ruins in the north of Israel and in old Jerusalem itself purporting to be remains of David's empire. A BBC Production. A part of the series Bible's Buried Secrets.

Length: 53 minutes

Item#: BVL57438

ISBN: 978-0-81609-337-3

Copyright date: ©2011

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