Photo Credit: Matanya Tausig / FLASH90
An Israeli soldier stands in the city of David (Ir David), May 19, 2009.

Notes 1. For material on this subject, see: Doron Bar, “Kever David b’Har Tzion B’Shnotehah Harishonot shel Hamedinah,” Al Atar 11 (5763): 85-95; Yoel Elitzur, “Achen! Kivrei Beit David,” Al Atar 11 (5763): 15-27; Gabriel Barkay, “L’ba’ayat Makom Kivrehem shel Malchei Beit David Ha’achronim,” Bein Chermon L’Sinai: Yad l’Amnon (1977): 75-92; Bargil Pixner, Biblical Archaeological Review (May/June 1990); Hershel Shanks, “The Tombs of David and Other Kings of Judah,” Jerusalem: An Archaeological Biography (New York: 1995), 35-43 and Ora Limor, “King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion: The Origins of a Tradition,” in D. Jacoby & Y. Tsafrir (eds.), Jews, Samaritans and Christians in Byzantine Palestine (Jerusalem, 1988), 11-23 [Hebrew].

2. See http://www.nps.gov/gegr.

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3. King David actually has another “tomb” as well. There is an area in Jerusalem just north of the Old City known as “The Tombs of the Kings” that is today owned by the French government. A sign hanging there says “Tombs of the House of David.” These burial caves, which were excavated in 1863, are most likely from the Hellenistic period and are those of Queen Helene of Adiabene, her son Munbaz and their families (see Doton Goren, “Parshat Kivrei Hamelachim,” HaTzofeh, 5 January 2005, 12, 14).

4. This was unusual because in the early First Temple period, people were generally not buried within the city limits.

5. It has always been common to name structures (and texts) after long-deceased, important persons. For example, Solomon’s Stables are located on a section of the Temple Mount that was added by Herod 900 years after King Solomon reigned. Thus, associating the Tower of David near Jaffa Gate with King David is just as absurd as associating Solomon’s Stables or Solomon’s Pools with King Solomon, or Yad Avshalom with King David’s rebellious son Avshalom.

6. When used in the Bible, the phrase “Mount Zion” often refers to the Temple Mount. There are indeed some people who erroneously cling to the notion that Mount Zion was part of the ancient City of David and that King David is buried there. See Leibel Reznick, “Moving Mount Zion,” Jewish Action, (summer 2001): 38-43; http://www.ou.org/publications/ja/5761summer/. Rabbi Y.M. Tukitchinsky devoted an entire chapter of his Ir Hakodesh v’Hamikdash (vol. 2, chap. 4) to “proving” that Mount Zion was within the Jerusalem of Kings David and Solomon. Many of their arguments compress the more than 400 years of the First Temple into one unified period.

There is little doubt that at the time of the Churban (Destruction of the First Temple) in 586 BCE, Jerusalem included most of today’s Jewish Quarter, possibly extending as far as the modern Jaffa Gate and including Mount Zion. Evidence derived from walls or other artifacts from that period in those regions reveals nothing about what Jerusalem looked like at the start of the period. No one denies that over the course of the First Temple period Jerusalem greatly expanded and eventually did include Mount Zion, but the question here concerns the boundaries of Jerusalem at the time of King David’s death (ca., 965 BCE).

The overwhelming evidence is that during the reigns of Kings David and Solomon, Jerusalem was the small area known today as the City of David and did not encompass Mount Zion. This is the unanimous opinion today among archaeologists and Biblical scholars, as clearly shown in the articles cited in note 1. As Jane Cahill stated in her November/December 2004 article in Biblical Archaeology Review: “One thing on which all scholars agree: In the time of David, Jerusalem was confined to what is still called the City of David…” (20). The list of scholars includes Rabbi Zalman Koren, who was the consultant to Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and remains the consultant to the Israeli Chief Rabbinate on matters relating to archaeology and Old City issues.

Although lack of evidence is not evidence of lack, credence must be given to the total absence of artifacts in the most excavated site on earth. Absolutely nothing has been found on Mount Zion dating back to earlier than the eighth century BCE, while down below, in the City of David, a plethora of material dating back to pre-history has been uncovered. Among the findings were segments of the Canaanite Wall on the western side, thus demarcating the city limits, which were below Mount Zion.

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Rabbi Dr. Zivotofsky is on the faculty of the Brain Science Program at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.
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