Several days ago, while doing research on the discovery of David’s palace, I read the article written by Steven Erlanger, “King David’s Palace Is Found, Archaeologist Says,” published in The New York Times on August 5, 2005. This article was also published in several newspapers, both in the United States and abroad.
While reading the article, I discovered two factual errors made by Mr. Erlanger that need to be corrected. These two errors were also reproduced by those newspapers that carried the article. Below is a list of the two factual errors in the article.
Mr. Erlanger wrote: “Even Israeli archaeologists are not so sure that Mazar has found the palace – the house that Hiram, king of Tyre, built for the victorious king, at least as Samuel 2:5 describes it.” Mr. Erlanger cites “Samuel 2:5″ but this citation is an error since it does not give the precise location in the Book of Samuel where the information is found. The correct biblical reference for David’s conquest of Jerusalem and the building of his palace is “2 Samuel 5.”
Mr. Erlanger wrote: “Archaeologists debate ‘to what extent Jerusalem was an important city or even a city in the time of David and Samuel,’ he said.” Mr. Erlanger mentions “David and Samuel” but this information is incorrect. The prophet Samuel died many years before David became king of Judah and conquered Jerusalem. Jerusalem became an important city to “David and Solomon” since it was David who made the city his capital and it was Solomon who built the temple for God in Jerusalem. In other places in his article, Mr. Erlanger correctly mentions “David and Solomon.”
In his article, Mr. Erlanger mentioned that in the remains of David’s palace, Professor Mazar discovered a bulla, or governmental seal, of a Judean official named Jehucal (or Jucal), the son of Shelemiah, the son of Shevi. One interesting fact about this bulla is that Shelemiah is called the son of Shevi. Jehucal, the son of Shelemiah appears twice in Jeremiah (Jeremiah 37:3; 38:1), but Shelemiah is never identified as the son of Shevi. In fact, Shevi never appears as a personal name in the Hebrew Bible.
There are several persons named Shelemiah in the Old Testament:
1. One person named Shelemiah was a Levite appointed to guard the east entrance to the tabernacle under David, while his son Zechariah guarded the northern gate (1 Chronicles 26:14).
2. Another person named Shelemiah was the son of Cushi and the father of Netaniah. Netaniah was the father of Jehudi. The princes of Judah sent Jehudi to Baruch to invite him to read
Jeremiah’s scroll to them (Jeremiah 36:14).
3. Another person named Shelemiah was the son of Hananiah and the father of Irijah. Irijah arrested Jeremiah as the prophet was leaving the city and accused him of deserting to the Babylonians (Jeremiah 37:13).
4. Another Shelemiah was the son of Abdeel and one of those ordered by King Jehoiakim to apprehend Baruch and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 36:26).
5. Two persons named Shelemiah appear in the Book of Ezra as descendants of Binnui who were commanded to divorce their Gentile wives after the people returned from their exile in Babylon (Ezra 10:39, 41).
6. Another Shelemiah was the father of the Hananiah who repaired part of the walls of Jerusalem
(Nehemiah 3:30). This Hananiah may have been the same person who was one of the perfumers who helped repair the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 3:8).
7. Another person named Shelemiah in the Old Testament was a priest appointed by Nehemiah as commissary of the Levitical tithes (Nehemiah 13:13).
8. Then, there is Shelemiah, the son of Shevi, who was the father of Jehucal. Jehucal was one of the palace officers, whom Zedekiah, King of Judah, sent to Jeremiah to intercede for Jerusalem during the Babylonian crisis (Jeremiah 37:3). Jehucal was probably one of those officials who asked King Jehoiakim to put Jeremiah to death, accusing the prophet of being a traitor and of undermining the morale of the soldiers who were left in Jerusalem, as well as the morale of the people who were taking refuge in the city. (Jeremiah 38:1, 4).
The fact that the bulla discovered by Professor Mazar says that Shelemiah was the son of Shevi is important because this information does not appear in the Old Testament. Once again, archaeology provides that kind of information that helps us understand the life and times of the people who are mentioned in the Bible.
Mr. Erlanger wrote a good and informative article. It is just sad that the errors he introduced in his article were reprinted in so many other newspapers, giving readers incorrect information about some of the items related to Professor Mazar’s discovery.
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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