Grappling with Tough Questions in the Old City

This was written by Spring 2019 participant Rayna Carner after the group visited the Old City.

Today the Tanakh came alive for me; I realized that through science, we could prove that the ancient stories in the Tanakh sometimes reference real life places and people. There is no convincing evidence that proves King David was a real person besides a piece of pottery that references a “House of David,” but because of other realistic qualities of the Tanakh, we can hypothesize that there may very well have been a King David, or at least multiple different kings from history who have been combined to create the character.

Over the past two weeks, I have struggled a bit with our Tanakh readings. I found myself in class constantly asking, “was this real?” and “did this actually happen?” Studying the ancient text can be interesting, regardless of the reality of the stories. However, after today’s excursion I have found that forming real life connections to the historical world makes studying the Tanakh much more engaging to me.

Today we arrived in the Old City, not to see the Western Wall, but to learn about King David’s rule. We walked the short distance past the Wall and into the City of David, careful not to slip on the Jerusalem stone (although a couple of us did later!).

Our teacher introduced us to David, the biblical character who impressed the Israelites when he fought and killed Goliath, a Philistinian man. The current King Saul was intimidated by David’s popularity, attempted to kill him on multiple occasions, but David eventually assumed power, claiming Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Later in our morning, we learned about the story of Bathsheba, Uriah, and David by acting out a skit. David was a confident and popular leader, but we learned about his selfish side when he killed Bathsheba’s husband Uriah to prevent him from finding out about Bathsheba’s pregnancy (where David was the father). As a result, David was punished. His son would die, he could not build the temple, his family would be torn apart, and his wives would lie with other men with everyone knowing. Despite his moral hiccup, David is known by most as a prosperous and powerful King, especially because he did t’shuvah, or repented for his mistakes.

I thought that our trip today was impactful because it began to link the stories we had been reading in the Tanakh with confirmed moments in history. I am so thankful for the opportunity to learn about events from the Tanakh in places they are believed to have occurred. Most high school students don’t have classrooms in an ancient city!

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