BURIAL PLACES OF THE KINGS, OR, OF DAVID
Peter on Pentecost stated: “David . . . both deceased and was buried and his tomb is among us to this day.” (Acts 2:29) This indicates that the burial place of King David was still in existence as of the year 33 C.E.
1 Kings 2:10 tells us that David was buried in “the city of David,” and apparently this became the customary burial place of later kings of Judah. Twelve of the twenty kings following David are directly mentioned as being buried in the city of David, though not all of these were placed in “the burial places of the kings”; Jehoram, Joash (Jehoash), and Ahaz being specifically mentioned as not buried there. (2 Chron. 21:16, 20; 24:24, 25; 28:27) Rather than being one common tomb of many chambers, the “burial places of the kings” may have constituted a particular area within the city of David where the memorial tombs of the kings were located. King Asa was buried in a “grand burial place that he had excavated for himself in the city of David” (2 Chron. 16:14), and Hezekiah is spoken of as being buried “in the ascent to the burial places of the sons of David.” (2 Chron. 32:33) Leprous King Uzziah was buried “with his forefathers, but in the burial field that belonged to the kings, for they said: ‘He is a leper.’” This would seem to indicate the placement of his diseased body in the ground rather than in a rock-hewn tomb.—2 Chron. 26:23.
Of the other kings of Judah, Manasseh and Amon were evidently buried in a different location, in “the garden of Uzza.” (2 Ki. 21:18, 23, 26) The statement that Amon’s son, faithful King Josiah, was buried in “the graveyard of his forefathers” may refer either to the royal tombs in the city of David or to the burial places of Manasseh and Amon. (2 Chron. 35:23, 24) Three kings died in exile: Jehoahaz (in Egypt), Jehoiachin and Zedekiah (probably in Babylon). (2 Ki. 23:34; 25:7, 27-30) Jehoiakim received the “burial of a he-ass,” “thrown out to the heat by day and to the frost by night” in fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy.—Jer. 22:18, 19; 36:30.
Righteous High Priest Jehoiada was accorded the honor of a burial in the “city of David along with the kings,” the only person not of the royal line mentioned as receiving such distinction.—2 Chron. 24:15, 16.
The location of these royal burial places has not been determined. On the basis of the reference to the “Burial Places of David” at Nehemiah 3:16 and the mention of the “ascent to the burial places of the sons of David” at 2 Chronicles 32:33, some believe the likely location to have been on the SE hill of the city near the Kidron valley. A number of what appear to be ancient rock-cut tombs have been found along a 350-foot (106.1-meter) strip of ground in this area, their entrances being in the form of sunken rectangular shafts. However, no positive identification can be made, such effort being complicated, not only due to the destruction of the city in the year 70 C.E. and again in 135 C.E., but also because the southern part of the city was used by the Romans as a stone quarry. Hence, the above-mentioned tombs are in a greatly deteriorated state.
The mausoleum of Queen Helena of Adiabene, located in the N of the modern city of Jerusalem, has acquired the misleading name of the “Tombs of the Kings.” It was actually built in the first century C.E. and should not be confused with the royal burial grounds mentioned in the Bible account.
At Ezekiel 43:7-9 Jehovah condemned the house of Israel and their kings for defiling his holy name by “their fornication and by the carcasses of their kings at their death,” and said, “Now let them remove their fornication and the carcasses of their kings far from me, and I shall certainly reside in the midst of them to time indefinite.” Some commentators have taken this to indicate that the Jews were guilty of having made the burial places of certain kings near the temple area. About twenty Hebrew manuscripts and editions and the Targums contain the phrase “at their death,” while the Masoretic text reads, instead, “their high places,” and the Septuagint Version says “in the midst of them.”
Even if the phrase “at their death” is the correct reading here, this seems to be no solid basis for believing that any of the kings of Judah were buried near the temple grounds. Since the dead body of a person was unclean according to the Law, to bury anyone near the temple would be an open affront to God, and such an obvious and gross violation of the temple’s sanctity is not even hinted at in the histories of the kings. Those kings not accorded a burial in the “burial places of the kings” or “of the sons of David” are not likely to have been given a more exalted place of burial, such as near the temple, but, rather, a less prominent and less honorable place.
A closer consideration of the text indicates that the discussion involved idolatry and that, even as the “fornication” is primarily figurative, so too the “carcasses of their kings” represent the dead idols that the house of Israel and their rulers had worshiped. Thus, at Leviticus 26:30 Jehovah warned the Israelites that their disobedience would cause him to “annihilate your sacred high places and cut off your incense stands and lay your own carcasses upon the carcasses of your dungy idols.” (Compare Jeremiah 16:18; Ezekiel 6:4-6.) The record shows that such idols were introduced into the temple area. (Ezek. 8:5-17) It may also be noted that some of these idol gods were designated as kings, the word for “king” being included within the names Molech (1 Ki. 11:7), Milcom (1 Ki. 11:5), and Malcham. (Jer. 49:1) Concerning the idol gods of the northern kingdom the prophet Amos (5:26) wrote: “And you will certainly carry Sakkuth your king and Kaiwan, your images, the star of your god, whom you made for yourselves.” So, there seems to be greater weight for viewing the text as being a condemnation of idolatry rather than of a desecration of the dedicated ground by improper burial of literal rulers.