Biblical Archaeology Review 33:1, January/February 2007

Another View: Could the Edomites Have Wielded an Army to Fight David?

The Debate Goes On

By Hershel Shanks

Biblical Archaeology Review

Those who say “no,” led by Israel’s most quoted archaeologist, Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University, argue that in David’s time Edom was not a state capable of mobilizing an army. Not until centuries later did Edom (or Judah, for that matter) become a state. Therefore, they reason, the Biblical story of David and his Edomite wars must be fiction, a story created centuries later by Judahites who wanted to give themselves a glorious past.

This line of argument was contested in a path-breaking BAR article by archaeologists Thomas E. Levy of the University of California, San Diego, and Mohammad Najjar of Jordan’s Department of Antiquities.a They have discovered a massive Edomite copper smelting facility at a site called Khirbat en-Nahas in the lowlands just east of the Aravah Valley, about 30 miles south of the Dead Sea, that could only have been operated by a complex society like a state. In short, in this new understanding of Edomite society, an Edomite army was easily imaginable, even likely. This gave a new reality to the Biblical account of David’s Edomite wars.

The BAR article received major coverage in The New York Times and elsewhere around the world.

But that is not the end of the story.

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