In 2005 and 2008, excavations under the leadership of Dr. Eilat Mazar of Hebrew University discovered two clay bullae (seals) from the sixth century BCE in the Area G area of the City of David. What is so noteworthy? Found together, these two seals bear the names of Yehuchal ben Shelemayahu(Shelemiah) and Gedaliah ben Pashur, two ministers of King Zedekiah, the last king to rule in Jerusalem before the destruction of the First Temple. Incredibly, their names appear in the Book of Jeremiah (38:1), one after the other, in the same verse! We are sometimes led to believe that Biblical stories are just…stories. In truth, the Torah taught about real people, living real lives. We learn of their struggles, successes — and failures. As we experience and dig throughout the Land of Israel, the Torah comes alive!

Hezekiah’s Tunnel

The most famous part of the City of David is Hezekiah’s water tunnel, built over 2,500 years ago. In preparation for the coming Assyrian onslaught, the king fortified cities throughout Judea, built a large wall around Jerusalem (the Broad Wall), and stored away provisions. He also controversially ordered that the waters of the Gihon spring, Jerusalem’s main water source, be diverted in order to prevent attackers from having easy access to water, which would have enabled a long siege. In the rush to build the tunnel, it was dug by two teams, each starting at opposite ends. The tunnel itself is 533 m (1,750 ft) long, with a total height difference between its two ends of only 30 cm! Engineers today still don’t fully understand how they managed to “meet in the middle,” without modern technology.

Whatever their method, according to the “Siloam inscription” found at the site, their meeting was a joyous one — realizing that the Assyrians could not besiege the Holy City for long. Jerusalem could, and would, survive!

The City of David: David’s Palace?

In 2005, Dr. Eilat Mazar of Hebrew University began to dig in the northern part of the City of David. The area had been previously excavated by Macalister and Duncan in the 1920s and by Dame Kathleen Kenyon in the 1960s. It was thought to hold little of value.

Dr. Mazar was looking for David’s Palace, mentioned in the Book of Samuel (II:5:11), as it says, “And Hiram, King of Tyre, sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, and carpenters, and masons; and they built David a house.”

Was there anything left of this “house”? Mazar thought it may be just north of the City of David. A wall and a royal proto-Ionic capital column already found there fit the timing, giving her more reason to think she was correct. The palace would then be just outside of the city walls — an impossibility according to other archeologists, but very reasonable to Dr. Mazar, as David was expanding the city northward and could easily and quickly go south to the city in case of trouble. Indeed, the site fits perfectly with the Biblical description (in II Samuel 5:17) of David descending from his residence to the citadel or fortress (the metzudah).

As she dug, new discoveries and a re-understanding of old finds combined to paint a fuller picture. The Large-Stone Structure she found was a massive, impressive building roughly three thousand years old, seemingly supported by the famous Stepped-Stone Structure — which was the largest structure of its time in Israel, as tall as a modern twelve-story building. This imposing Stepped-Stone Structure would have taken an enormous investment of time and money. Most archeologists believe it supported Jerusalem’s fortress (Metzudat Zion) or perhaps a Jebusite fortress. Dr. Mazar believes David’s palace was directly north of it.

As the years pass, the location, the verses, and the archeological finds are convincing more and more people that she was right and that we today can “step into” King David’s ancient palace!