In 2005, archeologists digging in Ophel located what they believe are the remains of King David’s Palace. Specifically, a wall to a very large building has been unearthed from his time.
The archeologist credited with the important find is Eilat Mazar. She is quick to offer up that the Bible played a most important part in the discovery of the Palace’s location:
But when the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines came up to seek David; and David heard and went down to the stronghold.
2 Samuel 5: 17
Mazar believed that the ‘stronghold’ mentioned here is a reference to the ‘Millo’ – a stepped-stone structure that is located in the Ophel. She theorized David must have ‘went down to the stronghold’ from his home – i.e., from his Palace.
It should also be noted that slightly below Mazar’s proposed dig site, the tops of Phoenician columns had been previously unearthed. This further suggested that a monumental building must have stood further up the hill.
Using the Millo and location of the Phoenician columns as reference points, Mazar concluded that David’s Palace should be found just up the hill. Within but a few weeks, the remains of many rooms were being uncovered. Most of these were Roman structures dating from the 1st Century – such as Roman baths and pools. However, just underneath these ruins, the remains of massive older walls were located. These averaged a thickness of 6 feet and extended close to 100 feet in the direction of the Kidron Valley. Such grand walls indicated the presence of an important and one-time opulent building.
Pottery dating from the 11th and 10th Century BC was located here. The lack of other time dated pottery argued strongly that the walls dated to the time of David. So far only a small percentage of the house has been excavated.
Did You Know?
During this excavation, a room was uncovered that dated to the 6th Century BC. We know this due to the pottery that was found. The most interesting discovery found within the room was a seal or ‘bulla’ inscribed with the ancient Hebrew name – ‘Jehucal, son of Shelemiah, son of Shevi’. Jehucal is a Judean prince mentioned in Jeremiah 37: 3.
In this same general region, another royal seal was found referencing the name of ‘Gemaryahu, son of Shaphan’. Gemaryahu is mentioned in Jeremiah 36: 10.
Both finds are significant in a couple of ways:
For one, it is yet more confirmation of the accuracy of the Biblical record. The Bible references yet another figure of history for which archeology can provide confirmation as to their existence!
A second way in which this is significant is that it shows the site to be an important seat for Judean royalty some 400 years after King David’s death. This too confirms the Biblical account which implies continuous use of the Palace until the time of the Babylonian conquest in 586BC.
What’s the Point?
Supporting the notion that Mazar’s find was an important governmental building is the size of the site. Such massive construction projects were extremely rare for this time.
Why is this particular find so important? In contrast to the Biblical account, some liberal scholars like to portray David as nothing more than a petty tribal leader. They present a view of David where he is merely a ruler over several local tribal clans and not the king spoken of in the Scripture. Although long since discredited, some have even argued that Jerusalem was nothing more than country village. Still others go further and say that David is only a character of mythology. Invariably, archeology corrects such low views of the Biblical account.
The massive structure found by Eilat Mazar is but one more piece of hard archeological evidence weighing in on the side of David’s historicity and prominence.
This find also would serve to discredit the claims of many Muslims who deny any Israelite links or claims to Jerusalem.
It is but a short walk down the stairs to go from David’s Palace to the ‘Millo’. This structure is referred to a number of times in the Bible. In spite of its significance, we’re still not exactly sure what it was.
The Hebrew word ‘Millo’ means ‘full’ or ‘filling’. The Assyrian word ‘Mulu’ seems to be a related word meaning ‘earthworks’ or ‘landfill’. This supports the idea tthis was not a hollow structure. It may have been a retaining wall or terrace that enabled further building on top. Some conjecture that it was the base of a tower. Judges 9: 6, 20, 46, and 49 connect the word to a tower in Shechem.
Most scholars agree that the Millo was a military fortification.
The lower parts of the stone stepped structure date back to Jebusite times (1100 BC). The portions of the wall found higher up date to around Nehemiah (@ 445BC) or even that of the Hasmoneans (@ 140BC).
The Millo shows up on several occasions in the Scripture having to do with kings of Israel / Judah:
David built all around it (II Samuel 5: 9; I Chronicles 11: 8)
Solomon built up the Millo once he assumed the throne (I Kings 9: 15, 24; 11:27)
Hezekiah later repaired it and sealed other breaches in the walls around Jerusalem (II Chronicles 32: 5)
It’s worth noting that Hezekiah’s rebuilding of the Millo and Jerusalem’s other walls was done in advance of the approaching Assyrian army under Sennacherib.
Did You Know?
In 1975, roughly 250 clay seals or ‘bullae’ started to show up in the antiquities market. A number of these are thought to have come from in and around the Millo site. Bullae are clay pieces that are impressed with a seal and represented someone’s official signature. When dry, a bulla cannot be altered without visible damage taking place. As such, it was used as a kind of authentication token.
In antiquity, there are two distinct types of bullae found in the Holy Land:
Clay surrounding a dangling cord (these would have a hole for the cord running in the center)
Clay molded into a flat disc shape that is pressed against a cord that surrounds a folded document (such as papyrus or vellum)
Some of the seals found here (as was the case with the digs taking place on King David’s Palace) belong to figures mentioned in the Bible.
One seal was found with the inscription ‘Belonging to Berekhyahu, son of Neriyahu, the scribe’. Scholars believe this is the seal belonging to an important figure mentioned in Jeremiah – namely, Baruch, the son of Neriah (see Jeremiah 32: 12). His full name was Berekhyahu, meaning ‘Blessed of Yahweh’. Fingerprints of the person who made the impression are actually still evident on the Baruch Seal.
We know from Scripture that Baruch was an important official in the Jewish court system (Jeremiah 32: 12 – 15). He served as Jeremiah’s personal scribe (Jeremiah 36: 4 – 19). He is seen in Scripture as standing with Jeremiah against the Jewish leadership of the day (Jeremiah 36: 26; 43: 3). He also departed with the prophet to Egypt after Jerusalem’s fall (Jeremiah 43: 6, 7).