Another View: Could the Edomites Have Wielded an Army to Fight David?
The Debate Goes On
By Hershel Shanks
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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.

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