David on the Map

Photo Credit: BiblePlaces.com, Egypt, Karnak Temple

In Exodus 18, Moses’ father-in-law was pleased to learn of the turn of events: Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the Lord had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians. He said, “Praise be to the Lord, who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians.”

In 2 Chronicles 12, the news about the Egyptians was not as good for Judah. “Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem in the fifth year of King Rehoboam. With twelve hundred chariots and sixty thousand horsemen and the innumerable troops of Libyans, Sukkites and Cushites that came with him from Egypt, he captured the fortified cities of Judah and came as far as Jerusalem.”

At the Karnak Temple in Egypt, in the Bubasite Portal, the Egyptian king Shoshenq I recorded his triumphs over the cities and towns of the southern Levant. On the wall, 156 names were each recorded within an oval, against the backdrop of a prisoner with arms bound above the elbow. This can be seen in the image above, a photo of Shoshenq I’s list. Some of the names are easily recognizable and familiar: Beth-Shean, Gibeon, Megiddo.

The listing of the names reveals a pattern of travel. Shoshenq I first attacked northern cities that were within the realm of the Bible’s Kingdom of Israel, and later attacked locations in the Negev and around Arad. Not every name is clear. Some appear to have been erased or damaged over the course of time. Some place names cannot be identified with an exact location.

One location that cannot be identified is what is listed as the 106th name on the list. Transliterated, the name is written as ‘dwt.’ The Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen has suggested that this could be a reference to King David. He notes that elsewhere in Egypt, the ‘d’ sound could be transcribed as a ‘t’ sound. This occurs in versions of the name Megiddo, which in places is written with the consonants ‘mkt.’

The name ‘dwt’ appears amongst the locations in the south. King David was associated with the southern Kingdom of Judah, increasing the odds of a possible connection.

The 9th century Tel Dan Stele contains the first broadly accepted mention of a ruler in the southern hill country name David. The 9th century Moabite Stele may contain an earlier mention. Assuming that the Bible’s Shishak and Egypt’s Shoshenq I are one and the same, if Shoshenq I’s list does indeed refer to location named after King David, this 10th century monument could contain the earliest known reference to the Bible’s King David.