Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hobbins, Finkelstein, and Khirbet Qeiyafa

After a blogging vacation of 11 days (an eternity for Ancient Hebrew Poetry but due to his move, no doubt), John Hobbins has returned to the blogosphere with a vengeance, posting six positively powerful pieces in a paltry period of perhaps 24 hours.

For my part, I perceived the primary project of John’s four posts posing Khirbet Qeiyafa as a possible problem for Finkelstein and his preposterous posturing on the probability of a puny Israelite polity in the 10th century BCE to be a precise paragon of perspicacity. 

1. Finkelstein on Khirbet Qeiyafa
2. Public building activity in the early monarchic period of a polity named Israel
3. Khirbet Qeiyafa: The Kiss of Death to the David-and-Solomon Naysayers
4. Khirbet Qeiyafa and Finkelstein’s Low Chronology

Here are a few quotes from part 3 that illustrate what’s at stake in this debate and why Khirbet Qeiyafa has proven to be such a key find.
Khirbet Qeiyafa poses a challenge to Israel Finkelstein’s hypothesis that the basic outline of the biblical narrative found in 1 Sam – 1 Kgs 11 is a figment of the imagination of much later writers who manipulated inherited tradition in order to place legendary figures of a distant past in a sequence and a set of historical contexts of their own devising (Finkelstein 2006).

Regardless, how can KQ be reconciled with Finkelstein’s oft-defended revisionist synthesis? Once again, in Finkelstein’s mind, the kingdom of David, the bare historicity of which he does not deny, was a polity with (1) a limited administrative capacity at most, encompassing a territorial domain spanning a few neighboring villages; and (2) a weak capability of force projection, offensive and defensive, relative to neighboring external polities.
If so, one would never have expected to find what Garfinkel and company have found at Khirbet Qeiyafa. KQ, a site by all accounts in the Judean Shephelah, was a massively fortified late Iron I/early Iron IIA settlement with public structures at its heart and on its perimeter.
Finally, the concluding paragraph from part 4. I agree that these finds should put all minimalists to shame, but I’m sure John realizes that Davies, Thompson, Van Seters, and Lemche have proven themselves remarkably resourceful in promoting their puerile premises without regard for proof or the proper presentation of logically sound arguments.
If KQ poses a challenge to Finkelstein’s chief theses, it buries those of the minimalists. Israel in Transition Volume 2, edited by Lester Grabbe with contributions by Philip Davies, Niels Peter Lemche, and John Van Seters, is due to hit the bookstores in September. One cannot help looking forward to its contents with singular anticipation. In my view, the Davies-Lemche-Van Seters-Thompson approach is equivalent to whistling in the dark. They can hope against hope that nothing turns up that discredits their conclusions. I can’t help thinking: it already has.


  1. Hi Doug,

    And there is more to come, though I can't match your gift for alliteration. It would not be fair to describe Finkelstein as the wannabe Pied Piper of biblical archaeology. His LC nonetheless has played the role of the piper's magic pipe, luring children away from their default stance of higher naivete.

    In the process, at least two children, Donald Kagan and myself, have been feeling pretty lonely. So my posts are a kind of temper tantrum from a Peter Piper who simply wants to pick a peck of pickled peppers according to the methodology referred to as "historical biblical archaeology" by Tom Levy.

    On Donald Kagan, go here:


  2. Wordplay makes writing more fun! Thanks for your posts anyway. I've been waiting to see what Finkelstein and other minimalists would do with Kh Qeiyafa.