“How Many?” is a popular feature in each issue of BAR. In effect, this article is an extended example of a “How Many?” How many people in the Hebrew Bible have been confirmed archaeologically?
The startling answer is at least 50!
Let’s start with the Hebrew kings. According to the Bible, David ruled in the tenth century B.C.E., using the traditional chronology. Until 1993, however, the personal name David had never appeared in the archaeological record, let alone a reference to King David. That led some scholars to doubt his very existence. According to this speculation David was either a shadowy, perhaps mythical, ancestor or a literary creation of later Biblical authors and editors. In 1993, however, the now-famous Tel Dan inscription was found in an excavation led by Avraham Biran. Actually, it was the team’s surveyor, Gila Cook, who noticed the inscription on a basalt stone in secondary use in the lower part of a wall. Written in ninth-century B.C.E. Aramaic, it was part of a victory stele commissioned by a non-Israelite king mentioning his victory over “the king of Israel” and the “House of David.”a Whether or not the foreign king’s claim to victory was true, it is clear that a century after he had died, David was still remembered as the founder of a dynasty.