We can know a great deal about what King David’s palace looked like even if we never find it in excavations.
“I dwell in a house of cedars,” David disclosed (1 Chronicles 17:1). His palace was in fact built for him by Hiram, the Phoenician king of Tyre, who used cedars of Lebanon in its construction (2 Samuel 5:11; 1 Chronicles 14:1). David’s palace was doubtless in Phoenician style.
How would a Phoenician palace have looked in the tenth century B.C.E.?
Solomon’s palace was also built by the Phoenicians (actually by the same Hiram). Although no trace of Solomon’s palace has survived, the Bible does provide a brief description of it (1 Kings 7:1–12). And Tel Aviv University archaeologist David Ussishkin has reconstructed Solomon’s palace plan based on this text, aided by archaeological parallels.15 Contemporaneous parallels that match the Biblical description have been excavated in Syria and Turkey. These palaces are known as bit-hilani, an Akkadian term for a structure with a colonnaded entrance portico, or porch.16
The bit-hilani-type palaces from the acropolis of Zincirli in Turkey are especially good parallels. Ussishkin considers the closest parallel of all to be the palace constructed for Solomon at Megiddo. It seems highly probable that this palace, known as Building 1723, was built by the same Phoenician master builders who built Solomon’s palace in Jerusalem;17 if this is not the case, then the Israelite builders at Megiddo must have used the same plan as the Phoenicians, which was used again and again in the cities that Solomon built.18
According to the bit-hilani plan of the Megiddo palace as reconstructed by Ussishkin, it was a nearly square palace fortress measuring about 70 feet on a side. The palace would have been entered from the north through an entrance hall with two pillars in the facade (A). (An example of this kind of entrance hall, with distyle in antis piers supporting large proto-Ionic capitals, is shown in the photo below; this entranceway, now restored and standing in the Israel Museum, once led into the ninth-century B.C.E. citadel at Hazor.) The entrance hall led to the largest room in the palace (B), next to which was a large courtyard (C) surrounded by residential rooms. The building had two staircases leading to an upper story. A guard tower apparently defended the entrance.
If David’s palace in Jerusalem was modeled on Phoenician-style buildings as we know them from later examples, it would have resembled a small-scale version of King Solomon’s palace at Jerusalem, such as that found at Megiddo.