In two articles recently published in leading journals (Ugarit Forschungen and Semitica), Prof. Gershon Galil of the University of Haifa (Department of Biblical Studies) presented important information about the period of David’s reign, based on new archaeological and epigraphic data unearthed in northwestern Syria and southern Turkey.
Prof. Galil points out that King David halted the Arameans’ expansion into the Land of Israel on account of his alliance with the southern Philistine kings, as well as with Toi, king of Ḥamath, who is identified with Tai(ta) II, king of Palistin (the northern Sea Peoples). "The Empire of David is a realistic historical phenomenon and the biblical description of its formation and consolidation is possible and reasonable," says Prof. Galil. "It reflects the great struggle between the Arameans and the Sea Peoples for the inheritance of the territories, which were previously part of the Egyptian and the Hittite Empires. David took advantage of these conflicts to unite the northern and the southern Sea Peoples against the mutual enemy, Hadadezer king of Aram-Zobah. David defeated the Arameans and created a regional empire from the Sinai Peninsula to the Euphrates."
“Eight inscriptions recently discovered at different sites clearly indicate that a large kingdom named Palistin existed in northwestern Syria and southern Turkey. It encompassed the cities Hamath, Aleppo and Carchemish,” Prof. Galil says. “This kingdom was inhabited by different groups including Sea Peoples. They invaded the Levant in the 12th century BC, conquered vast areas, destroyed kingdoms and took over their lands.”
“The inscriptions of Ramesses III, king of Egypt (1182-1151 BC), indicate that he conquered cities in northern Syria and seized control of “the lands of Plst.” However, hitherto there was no evidence that Philistines had lived in northern Syria, so scholars assumed that the Egyptian scribes exaggerated, describing places which didn’t really exist,” Prof. Galil explains. “The discovery of the northern kingdom of Palistin helps us understand the Egyptian inscriptions and the reality of northwestern Syria in those distant days.”
Prof. Galil adds that a few inscriptions form a direct link between the archeological and epigraphic data unearthed in northern Palistin and the Bible: Some open with the words “I am Tai(ta) the Hero, King of Palistin.” Given our philological and historical knowledge, it’s clear that Tai(ta) should be identified with Toi, mentioned in the Book of Samuel and in Chronicles,” he says.
“The alliance between David and Toi, king of Hamath, against Hadadezer, king of Zobah, is clearly attested in the Bible," says Prof. Galil, "We know for sure now that Toi of Hamath existed, and that he was indeed a historical figure. The biblical text in the Book of Samuel is therefore well supported by the historical reality of the 10th century BC.” He stresses in particular II Samuel 8:10: “When Toi, king of Hamath, heard that David had defeated the entire army of Hadadezer, he sent his son Joram to King David, to greet him and to congratulate him on defeating Hadadezer in battle --- for Hadadezer had been at war with Toi”.
Prof. Galil thus proposes the following scenario. Relations between David and the southern Philistines (particularly the people of Philistine Gath) were close during David's reign in Hebron. But after the unification of Israel and Judah, a war broke out between the Philistines and David, as described in the Bible. At this stage the Arameans’ advance led by Hadadezer king of Zobah, results in an alliance between David and Toi king of Hamath, in the sense of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
The alliance between David and the northern Philistines ultimately leads to a pact with the southern Philistines as well, since they too were threatened by the Arameans. With their joint forces, the Israelites and the Philistines defeated the Arameans and seized their lands.
Prof. Galil notes that the close relationship between David and the Philistines is also demonstrated by the fact that during Absalom’s rebellion, all Israelites rebelled against David. Only a few people supported him, primarily Philistine fighters: David’s royal garrison, consisting mainly of Philistines known as "the Cherethites and the Pelethites"; and Itai of Gath, who came to David’s aid from Philistine Gath with 600 soldiers.
After his great victory over the Arameans, achieved with the help of his allies, David established an empire from the Sinai Peninsula to the Euphrates (see map).