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Question of the Week: How do we know that the people in the Bible like David actually existed? Could these all just be fictional stories meant to communicate deeper truths?
The plain answer to the second question is no according to the Bible itself. The Old and New Testament are both organized into three sections; History, Poetry, and Prophecy. While David did write poetry and present scenarios and descriptions that weren’t meant to be taken literally, we conclude that by where we find them in the Bible itself. The historical sections concerning David’s life give us everything we’d expect from a historical document. Those things are;
1. People, places, and things that actually existed: When the life and reign of David is detailed for us in 1-2 Samuel, they mention details that we know existed during that time. The Philistines were wiped out by the Babylonians in the 6th Century BC, which means they still were around 400 years before that during David’s time. The same is true for the Amalekites who disappeared from the world scene in the 5th Century BC. The cities of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ziklag, and Gath all are either still standing today or fit the descriptions given to them when discovered exactly where the Bible claimed they would be. The names of other kings like Achish, Saul, and others give us no reason to think these are fictional characters interacting with historical people. The most significant of which is the mention of Ahimelech who served as priest during the historical days of the High Priest Abiathar according to none other than Jesus Himself. (Mark 2:26)
2. Support from Archeology: Discoveries were made in Tel-Dan by Professor Avraham Biran of a victory pillar that dates around 100 years after David’s time. This pillar included a mention of the Dynasty of David being overcome by the Syrians. You would think that an enemy of Israel would know whether or not this family existed after defeating them in battle and setting up a sign to gloat about it.
3. Embarrassing Details: When making up a story about Israel’s greatest king, you’d expect the author to embellish and glorify their fictional character to the point of absurdity like we see with the other kings of ancient history. The problem is that we are told more details that you wouldn’t make up about a hero and king then anything you could consider exaggeration. A man after God’s own heart is acknowledged in these same sources as a polygamist violating God’s law for kings in the Torah, a murderer and liar regarding the incident with Bathsheba, and even a mercenary who lived with the Philistines towards the end of Saul’s reign. We are also given very embarrassing details about his heirs. His firstborn son is reported to have raped one of his daughters. Another one of his heirs murders his brother for the act and enacts a coup de tat against his father. These are not the sort of things you make up about someone held in such high stature in Jewish and Christian circles even to this day. For these reasons, we have no reason to believe by any historical standard that David is a fictional character. The Bible isn’t just a book of history, but it records history in a way that can be tested. John 3:12: “If I tell you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about Heavenly things?”
A Reason For Hope is a ministry of Calvary Christian Fellowship of Tucson
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