A careful reading of the Bible provides indications that the Israelite didn’t only worship their God in Jerusalem. In fact, archaeological research in the Shephelah and the Negev yielded intriguing evidence of Judean worship in those areas as well. This specially designed tour will follow the pioneering research of archaeologist Y. Aharoni. It will show the discoveries he made, and the controversies of their meaning.
Prepare your incense and animal sacrifice!
Judean Worship in Arad
Biblical Arad is located at the southern end of the Judean mountains, at the junction of significant roads in ancient times. The Bible records how the Canaanites of Arad blocked the Israelites from entering the Promised Land (Numbers 6). Later, Arad became an Israelite site at the southern frontier of the Judean Kingdom. It protected the Judeans from a potential invasion of the Edomites.
Excavations at the Tel Arad yielded rich and rare finds, relating both to Canaanites and Israelites. The Canaanite city of Arad is perhaps the best preserved in the Holy Land. Centuries later, the citadel of Arad was converted to a Judean fortress, protecting Judeans from the Edomites. One of its rooms contained extremely rare documents, bearing valuable information about daily life at this post, and the Edomite threat. Moreover, another part of the fortress proved to be especially designed for Judean rituals. It had an altar, and its holy of holies bore two standing stones. This is one of the most important discoveries in the study of the Biblical Judaic religion.
Mysterious Altar at Tel Beer-Sheva
According to the book of Genesis, Abraham founded Beer-Sheva, to regulate the use of wells in the Negev. To this day, a tamarisk tree (next a well in modern Beer-Sheva) is said to be the one Abraham planted.
Three mile north east of Modern Beer-Sheva, is Tel Be’er Sheva. This site was possibly a regional center in Biblical times. Intense excavations of the site yielded an unprecedented amount of data. In fact, this is the only archaeological site in Israel where the whole architectural layout is known.
One of the most surprising discoveries made in these excavations was evidence of a dismantled four-horned altar. Originally the altar was probably set in a room next to the main gate. However, at some in point of time it was deliberately desecrated. Its abolishment is attributed to the religious reforms of King Hezekiah or King Josiah. This site is further evidence of localized rituals of the Judeans in Biblical times.
God’s Temple in Lachish?
Lachish is in the southern end of the Shephelah, in a fertile region along the international road system of the ancient Near East. Being so, it is no wonder that Lachish was a significant city in both Canaanite and Israelite times. Lachish was in fact the second most important city in the Judean Kingdom. Lachish is also famous for the detailed depiction of its conquest by Sennacherib, found in the foundation of his palace in Iraq. The long bas-relief is on display at the British Museum in London, and many details depicted in this battle were validated by archaeological research at the site.
The excavations also uncovered a temple designed in the typical Canaanite and Israelite style. It dates to the Persian period. Although it had a favissa next to it, where religious artifacts from the Iron age were concealed. Furthermore, in recent years a horned altar was found in the city’s gate. However, at some point, the horns were cut off and a latrine was placed next to it.
What is the meaning of all of this??
We will end the tour with a detailed discussion on this fascinating topic.