In 1993 archaeologists at Tel Dan, in northern Israel, discovered a ninth-century B.C.E. Aramaic inscription bearing the phrases Beth David (House of David) and Melech Yisrael (King of Israel)—the earliest extrabiblical references to David and his dynasty. See “‘David’ Found at Dan,” BAR 20:02; and Avraham Biran, “More Fragments from ‘David’ Stela Found at Dan,” BARlines, BAR 20:05.


These four Hebrew letters, often transliterated “Yahweh,” constitute the personal name of the Israelite God.



Thomas L. Thompson, The Early History of the Israelite People: From the Written and Archaeological Sources (Leiden: Brill, 1992); Philip R. Davies, In Search of ‘Ancient Israel’ (Sheffield: JSOT, 1992); Niels Peter Lemche, Ancient Israel: A New History of Israelite Society, trans. Fred Cryer (Sheffield: JSOT, 1988).


See Gary Rendsburg, “Reading David in Genesis,” and Ronald S. Hendel, “David Loves Bathsheba,” BR 17:01; and Hershel Shanks, “King David, Serial Murderer,” BR 16:06.


In this, they follow the lead of the great German biblical scholar Martin Noth. See his “The Deuteronomistic History,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series (JSOT Sup) 15 (Sheffield: JSOT, 1943).


The Deuteronomistic History consists of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings. Most Hebrew Bible scholars identify the Deuteronomy-Kings corpus as a distinct theological history with origins separate from the Genesis-Numbers corpus.


P. Kyle McCarter, Jr., “The Apology of David,” Journal of Biblical Literature 99 (1980), pp. 489–504 and I Samuel: A New Translation with Introduction, Notes and Commentary, Anchor Bible 8 (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1980), pp. 27–30; James VanderKam, “Davidic Complicity in the Deaths of Abner and Eshbaal: A Historical and Redactional Study,” Journal of Biblical Literature 99 (1980), pp. 521–539; Keith Whitelam, “The Defense of David,” JSOT 29 (1984), pp. 61–87; Steven L. McKenzie, King David: A Biography (Oxford and New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2000).


See James Flanagan, “Court History or Succession Document: A Study of 2 Samuel 9–20 and 1 Kings 1–2, ” Journal of Biblical Literature 91 (1972), pp. 172–181; Marsha C. White, The Elijah Legends and Jehu’s Coup: An Examination of a Biblical Accession Text (Ann Arbor: University Microfilms, 1994), pp. 141–150; McKenzie, King David, pp. 30–36, 129–184. The same kind of analysis I have summarized with respect to the History of David’s Rise and the Revolt Narrative can be (and has been) done with respect to other early sources, including the Ark Narrative (1 Samuel 4–6) and Solomon’s Succession Narrative (2 Samuel 10–12; 1 Kings 1–2). Regarding the former, see Patrick D. Miller, Jr., and J.J.M. Roberts, The Hand of the Lord: A Reassessment of the “Ark Narrative” of I Samuel (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1977); and, with regard to the latter, T.C.G. Thornton, “Solomonic Apologetic in Samuel and Kings,” Church Quarterly Review 169 (1968), pp. 159–166; R.N. Whybray, The Succession Narrative: A Study of II Samuel 9–20; I Kings 1 and 2, Studies in Biblical Theology 9 (Naperville, IL: Allenson, 1968); and McCarter, II Samuel: A New Translation with Introduction, Notes and Commentary, Anchor Bible 9 (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1984), pp. 11–16.


This is also true of the Solomonic narratives. See the previous endnote.


See White, “‘History of Saul’s Rise’: Saulide State Propaganda in 1 Samuel 1–14, ” in “A Wise and Discerning Mind”: Essays in Honor of Burke O. Long, ed. Saul M. Olyan and Robert C. Culley, Brown Judaic Studies 325 (Providence, RI: Brown Univ., 2000), pp. 271–292.


Giorgio Buccellati, Cities and Nations of Ancient Syria: An Essay on Political Institutions with Special Reference to the Israelite Kingdoms (Rome: Instituto di Studi del Vicono Oriente, 1967); Tomoo Ishida, The Royal Dynasties in Ancient Israel: A Study on the Formation and Development of Royal-Dynastic Ideology (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1977).


White, The Elijah Legends and Jehu’s Coup, Brown Judaic Studies 311 (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997).


The Hebrew word ‘am, used in 1 Samuel 11:15, means both “people” and “army.” In this context, where the ‘am has just defeated the Ammonites, it refers to Saul’s army.


For another reconstruction of the historical Saul from the literary Saul, see Diana V. Edelman, “Saul ben Kish in History and Tradition,” in The Origins of the Ancient Israelite States, ed. Volkmar Fritz and Davies, JSOT Sup 228 (Sheffield: JSOT, 1996), pp. 142–159.

Whether Saul gained the throne immediately after the battle of Jabesh-Gilead or later is another matter. Gilgal is quite distant from Jabesh-Gilead, and it would have been a long and grueling march. A closer shrine at which to perform the inauguration, such as Shechem, could have easily been found. I believe it is more likely that Saul’s army made him king at Gilgal after he led them to victory against the Philistines.

If that is true and Saul was made king by the grateful Benjaminites and Ephraimites shortly after the battle with the Philistines at Michmash, then the location of his inauguration at Gilgal makes perfect geographical sense. Gilgal is on the border between the two tribal areas and would have been convenient to both. More importantly, holding the inauguration at a location between the two tribes would have signified the binding of the two as subjects of Saul.


The battle begins at Michmash, which is in Benjaminite territory just opposite Geba (1 Samuel 13:2–7a, 13:15b–14:23a). The best reading of 1 Samuel 14:23b is found in the Septuagint: “As the fighting passed by Bethel, the entire army was with Saul, some ten thousand men. But then the fighting scattered into the hill country of Ephraim.” In other words, Saul defeated the Philistines in Benjaminite territory, but then the fighting spread into Ephraimite territory. At that point Saul imposed the vow of fasting on the army (1 Samuel 14:24; reconstructed text), after which the Israelite army defeated the Philistines completely (1 Samuel 14:31).


Compare Kyle McCarter’s reasoning for dating the History of David’s Rise to his reign (“Apology of David,” and I Samuel). Also, the addition of the Revolt Narrative to the History of David’s Rise requires that the Revolt Narrative be dated after the history defending David’s rise to the throne.