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

7. See Limor, “King David’s Tomb.”

8. It should be noted that although Josephus (first century CE) erroneously suggested that the City of David included Mount Zion, he never implied that King David’s Tomb was located there. That notion only took root 800 years later. It is not unusual for places and meanings of words to be forgotten over time. For example, while no one discussed Kever Dan ben Yaakov for centuries, it suddenly “appeared” not far from Beit Shemesh less than 100 years ago. See Avi Shoshan, “Kever Dan,” Mechkarei Yehudah veShomron, 10 (5761): 207-218. In fact, in the 600 years between the Talmud and Rashi and Tosafot, the meaning of words such as tzvi, netz, nesher and korah all changed (Rashi, Chullin 59a, s.v. v’harei tzvi; Tosafot, Chullin 63a, s.v. netz).


Traditions are delicate and need to be preserved accurately; what’s more, seemingly erroneous “traditions” need to be reexamined. Keep in mind that when Josephus was writing, Mount Zion had indeed been part of Jerusalem for over 700 years, and it is not unreasonable that he should have mistakenly thought it had always been. There is no evidence or reason to suspect that he had some form of tradition regarding this mundane matter.

9. In a fascinating twist, 700 years later, in the mid-nineteenth century, the Turkish city engineer of Jerusalem, knowing nothing about Benjamin of Tudela, also reported finding an extensive labyrinth of caves directly underneath the believed site of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion. According to a theory by archaeologist Dr. Gabriel Barkay, if these caves do indeed exist, it is possible that they are the second royal burial site of the House of David mentioned in the Bible in the period after the expansion of Jerusalem. Menashe was the first king to be buried at the site known as the Garden of Uzza.

10. If this is correct, it is an additional proof that it is not Kever David; it is unusual to build a synagogue over a grave, thereby barring Kohanim from entering.

11. This Muslim backlash against the Franciscans led to a Christian retaliation against the Jews that included a papal edict by Martin V forbidding Christians to transport Jews by boat.

12. See Yerushalmi, Beitzah 2:4.

13. Regarding King Solomon, see 1 Kings 11:43. For later kings, see 1 Kings 14:31, 15:8, 24, 22:51 and 2 Kings 12:22, 14:20, 15:7, 38, 16:20. Of the twenty-one kings of Judea, the Bible uses similar phraseology regarding the burial of the first fifteen kings, indicating that they were all buried in the same complex. Similar language is used again in Chronicles for Yehoyada the High Priest, who was an acting king for a time. The usual practice was to have family burial caves; however, this complex seems to have been dynastic and reserved for those who actually sat on the throne.

14. The recently uncovered Shiloah is a large reservoir fed by the robust Gihon Spring that was unquestionably the water source for the early city of Jerusalem, before any cisterns were dug and any complex aqueducts were constructed. See Hershel Shanks, Biblical Archaeology Review (September/October 2005): 17-23. That the late Second Temple period water system, which includes Solomon’s Pools and the Mamila Pool, supplied water to the city 800 years earlier, as Rabbi Leibel Reznick suggests in his original Jewish Action article (see note 6), is highly improbable.

It is inconsistent to rely on archaeological tools to date certain structures and then ignore the same science in dating others. It should be noted that many authorities such as the Radak and Targum Yonatan assume that the Gihon Spring and the Shiloah are two names for the same water source, or two aspects of it—not two separate entities.

15. There is continuous evidence of familiarity with the site. Josephus records that John Hyrcanus opened one of the tombs of the Davidic line and looted it, and 150 years later Herod opened a second tomb and attempted to loot it as well (Josephus, Antiquities 16:7:1). Feeling remorseful, Herod later built a monument on top of the tombs. Thus, according to Josephus, the location of the tombs was known in the first and second centuries BCE (although he does not give the location), and they were said to contain much riches.

16. Even if one were to argue that Mount Zion was inhabited in King David’s time, based on this statement there is simply no way that King David’s Tomb is on Mount Zion, and it must be on the southern ridge known today as the City of David.

17. The whole City of David is only about forty dunams (ten acres).

18. No other reasonable suggestion has been tendered. However, Dio Cassius, a late second-century Roman historian, reports that the tomb of Solomon had collapsed in his period. It is possible that the Davidic tombs are indeed in the general area excavated by Weill but were destroyed by the extensive quarrying in the Roman period. This is the opinion of leading archaeologist Dr. Barkay (lecture in Jerusalem, November 27, 2006).



Previous articleDusty Windows (Part Six)
Next articlePresenting Arafat’s Dead Sea Tonic
Rabbi Dr. Zivotofsky is on the faculty of the Brain Science Program at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.
Loading Facebook Comments ...