David is celebrated as the greatest, and most famous king of Israel.  It was quite interesting, therefore, that archaeologists had never turned up any reference to David outside of Biblical records.  The absence of evidence led many to conclude that David was not a historical figure.  That changed in July 1993 when archaeologists discovered three stone fragments while excavating the city gate at Dan.[1]  The stones contained an Aramaic inscription dating to the mid 9th century BC that mentions “the house of David.”  The 13 extant lines of text read:

1. […………………]…….[……………………………..] and cut […………………….]
2. [………] my father went up [against him when] he fought at[….]
3. And my father lay down, he went to his [fathers]. And the king of I[s-]
4. rael entered previously in my father’s land. [And] Hadad made me king.
5. And Hadad went in front of me, [and] I departed from [the] seven[…..]
6. of my kingdom, and I slew [seve]nty kin[gs], who harnessed thou[sands of cha-]
7. riots and thousands of horsemen (or: horses). [I killed Jeho]ram son of [Ahab]
8. king of Israel, and I killed [Ahaz]iahu son of [Jehoram kin]g
9. of the House of David. And I set [their towns into ruins and turned]
10. their land into [desolation……………………]
11. other …[………………………………………………………………. and Jehu ru-]
12. led over Is[rael…………………………………………………………….and I laid]
13. siege upon [……………………………………………………]

King Hazael of Syria (842-805 BC) probably set up the stele at Dan after he conquered the city.  It was a “business card” of sorts, ranting on the kings of Israel and Judah whom he had defeated.  Presumably after Hazael died and the city of Dan was freed from the control o fSyria, the inhabitants of Dan broke the stele and used the rock to help construct their gate.

While this inscription confirms the Biblical existence of Ahaziah and Jehoram, it contradicts the Biblical record of their death.  While both Jehoram king of Israel and Ahaziah king of Judah were defeated in battle by Hazael (2 Kings 8:7-15, 28; 9:24-29; 2 Chronicles 22:5), it was Jehu who killed them (2 Kings 9:24,27), not Hazael.

Significance:

  1. This is one of the earliest extra-biblical mentions of Israeli and Judahite kings.
  2. Confirms that Jehoram was king of Judah (5th), and that his son was Ahaziah.
  3. Confirms that Ahab was king of Israel (7th), and that his son was Jehoram (9th; yes, there are two kings named Jehoram, and two kings named Ahaziah).
  4. Confirms the historicity of King David.
  5. This proves that the Davidic dynasty continued for at least 150 years following David’s death, just as God had promised David.

[1]The largest stone (12.5” x 8.5”) was discovered in 1993.  Two additional pieces of the stele were found in June 1994.

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