In the January-February 1997 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (bar), Israeli archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar made a staggering assertion: She claimed to know the exact location of King David’s palace. The map accompanying her article had an arrow pointing to the spot, along with the caption, “It’s there.”
It wasn’t until February 2005, almost 10 years later, after finally securing permission and funding to dig, that Dr. Mazar commenced the excavation. She officially announced her discovery of David’s palace just a year later.
Dr. Mazar analyzes the Jerusalem landscape through the prism of the Hebrew Bible. She relies on biblical history. Very few people believe in her methods or predictions, yet she is almost always right. Even those who question whether the structure she unearthed is really King David’s palace at least acknowledge that it is a significant discovery. And she made this discovery with the help of the Bible.
David’s palace spotlights the Bible in an inspiring way. Many critics question this book, but it is the most accurate history on Earth. This is proven in the City of David and in archaeological excavations across Israel.
Dr. Mazar’s discovery of King David’s palace ought to fill you with wonder and hope!
“Dr. Eilat Mazar, world authority on Jerusalem’s past, has taken King David out of the pages of the Bible and put him back into living history,” wrote Rachel Ginsberg in a November 2005 article for aish.com titled “Reclaiming Biblical Jerusalem.” She is absolutely right. The palace of David brings Bible history alive! “Mazar’s latest excavation in the City of David, in the southern shadow of the Temple Mount, has shaken up the archaeological world.”
I encourage you to go online and find this article. Ginsberg mentions Dr. Mazar’s doctorate in archaeology from Hebrew University and describes her as “one of the world’s leading authorities on the archaeology of ancient Jerusalem.” The article also discusses the teenage Mazar working alongside her grandfather, archaeologist Benjamin Mazar, on excavations on the Ophel, which is along the southern wall of the Temple Mount.(The predecessor to our work, the late philanthropist and educator Herbert W. Armstrong, worked closely with Benjamin Mazar. Today, we support the projects of Dr. Eilat Mazar.)
Prof. Benjamin Mazar is often referred to as the “dean of biblical archaeologists.” He always took a Bible with him when he visited archaeological digs across Israel, and he would consult the biblical passages related to whatever site he was visiting. Dr. Mazar fondly recalls the impact her grandfather had on her thinking, always asking her, “What’s new in the excavation?” If she said there wasn’t anything new that day, he would ask the same question again, prodding her to engage in fresh, new thinking every single day. She learned from him to excavate, think; excavate, think. She also learned to use the Hebrew Bible in her work.
The science of the Bible is routinely questioned today. To most, the Bible isn’t considered a worthy historical source. But we need to look at the fruits. Has anyone made greater archaeological discoveries than Dr. Mazar? The Hebrew Bible is her guide! “I work with the Bible in one hand and the tools of excavation in the other,” said Dr. Mazar.
Critics say that King David never existed, or that he was just a small, irrelevant king. That’s nonsense! He did exist, and you can easily prove this using both the Bible and science. The proof is overwhelming!
A Geographical Clue
The one passage that really helped Dr. Mazar uncover David’s palace is 2 Samuel 5. “And when the Philistines heard that David was anointed king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to seek David; and David heard of it, and went down to the hold” (verse 17).
“It is clear from the topography of the City of David that David could have gone down to the citadel only from the north, as the city is surrounded by deep valleys on every other side,” Dr. Mazar wrote about this verse in the January-February 1997 issue of bar. “It also makes sense that the Jebusite stronghold would have been located at the high point in the City of David, that is, in its northernmost section. From here, the fortress would not only command all areas of the city but would also provide for the defense of the city on its only vulnerable side—the north, which had no natural defense. If this was in fact the case, one can infer that after conquering the city, David’s palace was constructed north of this citadel (David went down to the fortress) and outside the northern fortifications of the city.”
Dr. Mazar noticed a geographical clue in the Bible and trusted it enough to actually dig where the Bible indicated. In 2005, she started digging immediately north of the area known today as the City of David, right at the top of the ancient Mount Zion. After just one season of digging, she discovered a massive wall measuring up to 3 meters wide in some places and running 30 meters from west to east. This is what is known as the Large Stone Structure, or David’s Palace.
Beneath the Large Stone Structure is the Stepped-Stone Structure, which is the size of a 12-story building, the largest Iron Age structure in Israel. The Stepped-Stone Structure supports David’s Palace.
After David conquered the Jebusite stronghold of Jerusalem, he “dwelt in the stronghold, and called it the city of David. And David built round about from Millo and inward. And David waxed greater and greater; for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him” (verses 9-10). David became a great king because of his relationship with God.
“And Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar-trees, and carpenters, and masons: and they built David an house” (verse 11). Does this sound like an obscure tribal chieftain? The Phoenicians, a powerful trading people that inhabited the Mediterranean coast and had access to the forests of Lebanon, provided both the labor and materials for David’s palace. They had some of the highest-quality craftsmen and best materials in the region.
Sure enough, the details of Dr. Mazar’s discovery confirm the biblical record. While excavating, she found a massive Phoenician-style capital (a stylish pillar cap). This is evidence of Phoenician influence on David’s palace, just as the Bible explicitly confirms.
As Dr. Mazar has repeatedly said, how can anyone excavate in Israel and not consult the Bible? She has meticulously documented her Bible-proving finds, saying that her work would be primitive otherwise.
The Find of the Century—and Much More
David’s palace was home to David’s throne, the greatest monarchy on Earth. You can prove where his throne is today. This palace is considered by some archaeologists to be the find of the century. It has refreshed the scriptural narrative.
But Dr. Mazar didn’t just uncover an incredible structure. Below the walls, she also found 11th-century b.c.e. pottery. Inside a room above that find, her team located 10th-century b.c.e. pottery coinciding with the time of King David. This proved the takeover from the Jebusites and the construction of a palace in the 10th century b.c.e.
In 2006, Dr. Mazar conducted the next phase of the Palace of David dig. As the excavation expanded, she discovered a much larger wall; this one was over 16 feet wide, testifying of the building’s importance and grandeur. As Dr. Mazar put it at the time: “This was not just a house; this was a fantastic house!”
Dr. Mazar’s City of David dig is only about 20 percent finished. There is a lot more of the palace yet to be excavated!
The City of David defies the critics of the Bible, who say that good science and the Bible are mutually exclusive—that you can only have one or the other. Dr. Mazar is using Hebrew Bible history as science to make all these astonishing discoveries. (We will tell you all about these in future issues.)
In her article for aish.com, Ginsberg wrote that “what most amazed Mazar was how close the building is to the surface.” The palace was only a meter or two, depending on where she dug, beneath the surface. The cynics, according to Dr. Mazar, warned that “there will be so many layers, so many remnants of other cultures” that it wouldn’t be “worth digging.” Others argued that so much of the area had been excavated, there would be nothing more left to find.
“I was shocked at how easy it was to uncover it, and how well preserved it was, as if it were just waiting 3,000 years for us to find it,” Dr. Mazar said.
King David’s palace is just one of many shocking discoveries made by Dr. Mazar. Since 2005, she has uncovered King Solomon’s royal complex, clay seals bearing the names of King Hezekiah and Isaiah, seals bearing the names of the Prophet Jeremiah’s captors, evidence of Nehemiah’s wall, and rare bronze coins preceding the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in c.e. 70.
Again, Dr. Mazar has found this trove of precious artifacts by simply believing and following the Bible!
Perhaps most exciting about Dr. Mazar’s unearthing of King David’s palace is the spotlight it places on this warrior king. Nobody in the Bible has a longer biography than David. He is a marvelous example from the Hebrew Bible for us today!
“And David perceived that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that He had exalted his kingdom for His people Israel’s sake” (2 Samuel 5:12). The great God of the universe was directly involved in David’s life, and He wants to be a part of your life too!