Ancient 'outlaw temple' discovered in Israel: Dated to First Temple Period

“This temple was likely built around 900 B.C. and operated for a few hundred years, until its demise in the early sixth century B.C., according to Kisilevitz and her co-researcher, who wrote about it in the January/February issue of the Biblical Archaeology Review magazine.” - LiveScience


OT scholars and biblical archeologists will have to figure how this temple (if it really is one) fits into what we know of OT history…

This timing of the temple’s existence dumbfounded archaeologists. “The Bible details the religious reforms of King Hezekiah and King Josiah, who assertedly consolidated worship practices to Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem and eliminated all cultic activity beyond its boundaries,” Kisilevitz and review co-author Oded Lipschits, the director of the Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University, wrote in the magazine.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Seeing the video, the site is close to the top of a hill, and I have to wonder if it is one of the high places spoken of in the books of history. I sure know that it seems that idolatry came roaring back very quickly after Hezekiah’s death, and the continued existence of the buildings in which it took place would be an intuitive part of that. One might wonder whether the granary on site was a way of throwing the king’s soldiers off the track of the pagan temple/high place so they wouldn’t cast down the stones.

Or alternatively, was enforcement half-hearted to start with, and was the temple declared “destroyed” when a nominal amount of damage was done to the pagan elements that could be easily repaired? All in all, I don’t get why people are so shocked at this. It seems consistent with what we know about how quickly Manasseh reinstituted pagan worship, no?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

I remember when preaching through the books of the Kings, getting the impression that there were references to what sounded like comprehensive destruction of the “high places,” but fairly soon someone was destroying them again. So my guess is that there is some vagueness on what constituted “destroyed”… and/or maybe I had the wrong impression of what regions were included in the cleanup.

But this one is pretty close to Jerusalem, so a “nominally destroyed” scenario seems like a logical guess. Then somebody comes along and “reconsecrates” the place, does some repairs, and they’re back in business.

But I wonder how they even know it was a temple? It’s probably in the Biblical Archaeology article, but I don’t have access to the full read.

It’s pretty clear that the author of the study (or one of them) is actively looking for ways to challenge the biblical account of events rather than looking to understand how it all might fit together.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

The video suggests that they saw a structure that is commonly used in the region as an altar, and they also found animal bones that suggest sacrifices. Perhaps if one looked closer, one might also see the heavy charring that would suggest that things had been burned there.

That noted, in the video, the altar (which is not clearly shown IMO) appears to be inside, where at the true Temple, it’s outside for the obvious reason of smoke. So that’s quite different from at least one other altar we know about. One could argue it had to be hidden in a kingdom that officially worshipped YHWH, or one could also argue that it could have been an ordinary abattoir where meat was butchered but not cooked there.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

… the authors make a definite effort to challenge the Biblical account. Besides their apparent shock at rampant, often state-sponsored, idolatry in the kingdom of Judah—which even a casual reading of the OT reveals—notice the conclusion they draw from it:

When the Kingdom of Judah first emerged, it wasn’t as strong and centralized as it was later on, but it built relationships with local nearby rulers, including one at Tel Motza, the researchers said

… in line with the typical effort to paint David and Solomon as mere local chieftains, etc. (Contrast the extensive catalog of David’s administrative apparatus in Chronicles.)

Regarding the find itself, I think it could definitely be considered a high place. It’s hard to tell the size of the error bars on the “c. 900 BC” figure, but it seems reasonable to date its construction to the time of Rehoboam or Abijah. And even the kings who removed high places did so inconsistently: Asa took away the high places (2 Chron. 14:3-5), but the high places were not [all] taken away (1 Kings 15:14). And as Bert said, it was easy for Manasseh to bring them back after they had been taken away. Indeed, it seems Josiah recognized this pattern and tried to combat it by actively defiling the high places to render a relapse more difficult. And yet we know that under his sons, idolatry came back stronger than ever.