Kiryat Ye’arim is mentioned in the Bible as a Judahite town situated near Jerusalem during the period of the judges and King David (11th and 10th centuries BCE)
According to the first Book of Samuel (ch. 7), the Ark of the Covenant was stored at Kiryat Ye’arim for 20 years after it was returned from the Philistines, who had captured it in a battle at Eben-haezer, yet later were smitten with disease. The text says the ark was stored “in the house of Avinadab in the hill” before King David conveyed it to his new capital of Jerusalem after uniting all the tribes under his throne.
Kiryat Yaarim is identified at the hill of “Deir El-Azar” above the Arab village of Abu Ghosh, some 12 kilometers (7 miles) west of Jerusalem. Most of the hill is occupied by the “Church of Our Lady of the ark of the Covenant” of a French order, yet its perimeter is accessible for archaeological excavations.
Excavations at the site began last year (2017) by a joint team join team of College de France and Tel-Aviv University.
Recently Prof. Israel Finkelstein, co-director of the expedition, presented the finds made at the site so far, and his preliminary conclusions.
The most remarkable find is a massive wall built with great precision around the hilltop, forming a big platform of 110 x 150 meters. This giant platform, according to prof. Finkelstein hints to the existence of a large and important cultic center in the area. But the dating material, mostly potsherds, lacks typical Judean pottery from the time of King David. Instead, most of the pottery is Israelite in style, and dates to the first half of the 8th century BCE.
Finklestein’s conclusions are that the site was a religious and possibly also an administrative center in the days of Jeroboam II, king of Israel.
In general Prof. Finkelstein is known as a leader of the scholarly line that opposes the bible as a reliable historical source, and especially its review of a unified kingdom of David and Solomon that controlled also extensive parts of the land of Israel.
The Old Testament, according to Finkelstein, wad compiled in Jerusalem in the 7th Century BCE, and glorifies the kings of Judah and belittles the kingdom of Israel.
In reality Judah was a small vassal entity compared to the Israelite kingdom, and the results of the excavations at Kiryat Yaarim are further evidence for this understanding.
If any item was ever worshipped at the site, in Finkelstein’s view it was not related to the Kingdom of Judah, and not in the time of King David.