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Thread: Judaic ritual shrines at the time of David

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    Default Judaic ritual shrines at the time of David

    The writers of this article claim that this new discovery of a ritual shrine in Judah has implications for our understanding about whether David was a real king of Israel and whether Solomon’s Temple was a real place. However......Health Warning: it does come from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem whose funding is dependent upon certain a political view. Therefore, what they see as confirming history can also be read differently. Solomon's Temple could have been a way of transmitting an ideal template for a ritual area.

    But what's also interesting is that it shows that the ritual practises, well certainly in this shrine, were different to those practised elsewhere across the Middle East at this time.


    Khirbet Qeiyafa in the Valley of Elah

    Prof. Yosef Garfinkel, the Yigal Yadin Professor of Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, announced today the discovery of objects that for the first time shed light on how a cult was organized in Judah at the time of King David. During recent archaeological excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa, a fortified city in Judah adjacent to the Valley of Elah, Garfinkel and colleagues uncovered rich assemblages of pottery, stone and metal tools, and many art and cult objects. These include three large rooms that served as cultic shrines, which in their architecture and finds correspond to the biblical description of a cult at the time of King David.

    This discovery is extraordinary as it is the first time that shrines from the time of early biblical kings were uncovered. Because these shrines pre-date the construction of Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem by 30 to 40 years, they provide the first physical evidence of a cult in the time of King David, with significant implications for the fields of archaeology, history, biblical and religion studies.

    The expedition to Khirbet Qeiyafa has excavated the site for six weeks each summer since 2007, with co-director Saar Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The revolutionary results of five years of work are presented today in a new book, Footsteps of King David in the Valley of Elah, published by Yedioth Ahronoth.

    Located approximately 30 km. southwest of Jerusalem in the valley of Elah, Khirbet Qeiyafa was a border city of the Kingdom of Judah opposite the Philistine city of Gath. The city, which was dated by 10 radiometric measurements (14C) done at Oxford University on burned olive pits, existed for a short period of time between ca. 1020 to 980 BCE, and was violently destroyed.

    The biblical tradition presents the people of Israel as conducting a cult different from all other nations of the ancient Near East by being monotheistic and an-iconic (banning human or animal figures). However, it is not clear when these practices were formulated, if indeed during the time of the monarchy (10-6th centuries BC), or only later, in the Persian or Hellenistic eras.

    The absence of cultic images of humans or animals in the three shrines provides evidence that the inhabitants of the place practiced a different cult than that of the Canaanites or the Philistines, observing a ban on graven images.

    The findings at Khirbet Qeiyafa also indicate that an elaborate architectural style had developed as early as the time of King David. Such construction is typical of royal activities, thus indicating that state formation, the establishment of an elite, social level and urbanism in the region existed in the days of the early kings of Israel. These finds strengthen the historicity of the biblical tradition and its architectural description of the Palace and Temple of Solomon.

    According to Prof. Garfinkel, “This is the first time that archaeologists uncovered a fortified city in Judah from the time of King David. Even in Jerusalem we do not have a clear fortified city from his period. Thus, various suggestions that completely deny the biblical tradition regarding King David and argue that he was a mythological figure, or just a leader of a small tribe, are now shown to be wrong.”

    Garfinkel continued, “Over the years, thousands of animal bones were found, including sheep, goats and cattle, but no pigs. Now we uncovered three cultic rooms, with various cultic paraphernalia, but not even one human or animal figurine was found. This suggests that the population of Khirbet Qeiyafa observed two biblical bans—on pork and on graven images—and thus practiced a different cult than that of the Canaanites or the Philistines.”

    Description of the findings and their significance:

    The three shrines are part of larger building complexes. In this respect they are different from Canaanite or Philistine cults, which were practiced in temples—separate buildings dedicated only to rituals. The biblical tradition described this phenomenon in the time of King David: “He brought the ark of God from a private house in Kyriat Yearim and put it in Jerusalem in a private house” (2 Samuel 6).

    The cult objects include five standing stones (Massebot), two basalt altars, two pottery libation vessels and two portable shrines. No human or animal figurines were found, suggesting the people of Khirbet Qeiyafa observed the biblical ban on graven images.

    Two portable shrines (or “shrine models”) were found, one made of pottery (ca. 20 cm high) and the other of stone (35 cm high). These are boxes in the shape of temples, and could be closed by doors.

    The clay shrine is decorated with an elaborate fašade, including two guardian lions, two pillars, a main door, beams of the roof, folded textile and three birds standing on the roof. Two of these elements are described in Solomon’s Temple: the two pillars (Yachin and Boaz) and the textile (Parochet).

    The stone shrine is made of soft limestone and painted red. Its fašade is decorated by two elements. The first are seven groups of roof-beams, three planks in each. This architectural element, the ''triglyph,'' is known in Greek classical temples, like the Parthenon in Athens. Its appearance at Khirbet Qeiyafa is the earliest known example carved in stone, a landmark in world architecture.

    The second decorative element is the recessed door. This type of doors or windows is known in the architecture of temples, palaces and royal graves in the ancient Near East. This was a typical symbol of divinity and royalty at the time.

    The stone model helps us to understand obscure technical terms in the description of Solomon’s palace as described in 1 Kings 7, 1-6. The text uses the term “Slaot,” which were mistakenly understood as pillars and can now be understood as triglyphs. The text also uses the term “Sequfim”, which was usually understood as nine windows in the palace, and can now be understood as ''triple recessed doorway.”

    Similar triglyphs and recessed doors can be found in the description of Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 6, Verses 5, 31-33, and in the description of a temple by the prophet Ezekiel (41:6). These biblical texts are replete with obscure technical terms that have lost their original meaning over the millennia. Now, with the help of the stone model uncovered at Khirbet Qeiyafa, the biblical text is clarified. For the first time in history we have actual objects from the time of David, which can be related to monuments described in the Bible.
    Last edited by Ishtar; May 17th, 2012 at 10:31 AM.
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    Dating archaeological finds to some famous historical (or psuedo-historical in the case of David) personage is a good way to attract attention. Biblical archaeology thrives on this sort of attention, turning what's probably a molehill into a mountain. It's good for tourist $$$ and Israel has a thriving tourist industry (i.e. there are multiple tombs of Jesus in Jerusalem, I believe, which makes me wonder if there were several Jesii strolling about ancient Judea). Unearthing ancient settlements is certainly interesting but how in heaven can it be tied in any way to the yarns of the Bible? It could've been a settlement of iconoclastic Canaanites for all we know, as if prohibiting cult images was unique to the ancient Jews (which it wasn't as a couple of examples can tell- Herodotus indicates that the Persians kept no images in their temples; Rome had no images in its temples during the reign of King Numa).

    * Has the supposed temple built by Solomon ever been discovered? To my knowledge it hasn't. The Wiki article on the temple states that "Because of the religious and political sensitivities involved, no archaeological excavations and only limited surface surveys of the Temple Mount have been conducted" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solomon...le#Archaeology). How convienient! As far as I know only the rubble of the Herodian temple, demolished by the Romans, remains in situ.

    * David may've existed as inscriptions attesting to the "House of David" have been found (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tel_Dan_Stele) but this doesn't attest to any of his deeds as the biblical narrative gives.

    * Lack of cultic objects, etc. doesn't indicate that the excavated site was used as a center for worship does it? It could've been for storage or some other purpose.

    The article errs on the side of caution with this comment:

    "The biblical tradition presents the people of Israel as conducting a cult different from all other nations of the ancient Near East by being monotheistic and an-iconic (banning human or animal figures). However, it is not clear when these practices were formulated, if indeed during the time of the monarchy (10-6th centuries BC), or only later, in the Persian or Hellenistic eras."

    The biblical tradition is, at best, semi-legendary and silly at worst in that its taken at face value when it contains tall tales (i.e. flat Earth, giants ala Jack and the Beanstalk, talking animals, etc.).
    Last edited by Zeno; May 17th, 2012 at 04:37 PM.

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    This is why I LOVE maps, Ish. Gaze at this one and note the relative position of Khirbet Qeiyafa and Beth Shemesh - from the other thread. They are at virtually the same longitude and more importantly at the dividing line between the coastal plain and the interior highlands.

    Garfinkle, in his haste to find his precious Israelites/Judahites misses the obvious fact that a fort built along a road can be used to defend from either direction. The Philistine town of Gath is nearby and Kh. Qeiyafa makes more sense as a Philistine outpost. In the 10th century archaeology tells us that Judah was an undeveloped region of pastoralists. The Chinese built the Great Wall to keep out pastoralist Mongolian tribes. The Romans built the Limes along the entire border with Germany and Hadrian's Wall to keep out the Scots. It is always the settled and agricultural peoples who build defenses to protect against nomadic raiders. The nomads rely on speed, surprise and movement....not defensive works.

    No less an epigrapher than Christopher Rollston has trashed Garfinkle's attempt to read "hebrew" into this one ostracon.

    As far as Tel Dan goes, Zeno I would highly recommend George Athas' The Tel Dan Inscription: A Reappraisal and a New Interpretation. Painstaking archaeological research to the point of boredom but Athas evaluates virtually every stroke of the chisel in an attempt to make sense of the inscription. His conclusion is that the words bytdvd do not refer to "House of David" in the sense of a dynasty but rather are a toponym for what was then a minimal settlement or perhaps a fortified manor house ( or castle ) by that name. There is no word divider ( a dot ) between the byt and the dvd and such word dividers are apparent on the extant portion of the inscription.

    If you are willing to risk the boredom in spots it is well worth the read. Especially when the religious start asserting that "David" has been proven. No. He hasn't. Bytdvd could mean City of David in the same sense that Athens is named for Athena or Rome for Romulus.
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    Just noticed a direct contradiction in the original article:

    No human or animal figurines were found, suggesting the people of Khirbet Qeiyafa observed the biblical ban on graven images.
    Then the paragraph after next says:

    The clay shrine is decorated with an elaborate fašade, including two guardian lions, two pillars, a main door, beams of the roof, folded textile and three birds standing on the roof. Two of these elements are described in Solomon’s Temple: the two pillars (Yachin and Boaz) and the textile (Parochet).
    Since when are lions and birds not of the animal kingdom, I wonder? Talk about cognitive dissonance.

    The two pillars are highly significant though.
    Last edited by Ishtar; November 15th, 2012 at 10:57 AM.
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    Well spotted Ishtar.
    I think the distinction they are trying to make – which is moot – is that there were no “graven” images in the shrines that adherents could worship. I believe this is the injunction contained in the Old Testament.
    The guardian lions were not worshipped but were merely a presence keeping the adherents safe while they carried out their rituals in the interior, therefor broke no biblical scripture.
    If this is right, then I wonder if the builders thought that the animal guardians (presumably their spirits) would keep the worshippers safe or whether they were purely decorative (such as the lions guarding the approaches to stately homes). If it is the former, might we be seeing a reluctance to abandon completely older animistic beliefs?
    It’s a fascinating site!
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    Ain Dara pre-dates the alleged "Solomonic Temple" and ruins of it actually exist.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ain_Dara_temple

    A courtyard built with sandstones provides approach to the temple. The courtyard is paved with flagstones where a chalkstone basin for ceremonial purposes is seen.[4] The temple, 98 by 65 ft (30 by 20 m) in size, faces southeast.[3][4] Its exterior contains a cherubim relief.[11] The entrance porch, or portico, marked by two basalt piers or pillars, and a wide hall, were not roofed over and were part of an open courtyard. The entrance pillars appear to have architectural and cultic significance.[3] A sphinx and two lions decorate the temple portico flanking the three steps (out of four) made in basalt.

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    Thanks, Min. Two columns, eh?

    This is now in Syria, though.

    I still have my doubts that Solomon was historical, or his temple. I think it that part of the OT was the Judaic way of teaching sacred geometrical proportions.

    Ain Dara temple
    The remains of the Ain Dara temple


    Shown within Syria

    Location Ain Dara village, northwest of Aleppo, Syria
    Coordinates 36.459351░N 36.852025░E
    Type Temple
    Part of Acropolis
    Length 30 m (98 ft)
    Width 20 m (66 ft)
    Area 600 m2 (6,500 sq ft)
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    There would have been stories about the grandeur of the temple throughout the region and when "yahweh" got his promotion to chief god his devotees would have decided that he needed such a temple befitting his newly-acquired status, too. Just a bit of holy theft from history.

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    So what is it about the Dome of the Rock that is so precious that causes Abrahamic religions to fight over it, I wonder? If there was never a Temple of Solomon there? ....
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    Theists always insist their lies are true, my dear.


    Fact: There is no extra-biblical attestation for any "Solomon."

    Fact: Archaeology has shown that 10th century "Jerusalem" ( or whatever it may have been called ) was at best a miniscule village.

    Fact: That same archaeology has shown that the entire population of the region known as Judah was about 20,000, mainly herders.

    Fact: Not a single artifact relative to such a temple has ever been found. One which was put forward as such an artifact was found to be a fraud.

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    I so get that, Min. I'm making another point. There must have been a pagan shrine at the Dome on the Rock, or something, for it to be so important to so many people. It is on a mound ... a high place, after all. There must be a confluence of leylines there.. there's something that each group doesn't want the other to have access to... and as Cartomancer has found, so many important ecclesiastical buildings are aligned with it.
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    The bible story is that Canaanites worshiped at high places. Enough cultic apparatus has been found on hills to give that some credence. Further, in many places around the world we find various holy places built on top of earlier holy places so surely that idea has some merit also.

    The thing with "Jerusalem" though is that we have no indication of a population center at the site. In, The Tel Dan Inscription, A Reappraisal and a New Interpretation, George Athas suggests that what we are really dealing with - as late as the end of the 9th century BC - is a fortified manor house or castle in European terms. The home of the local warlord, nothing more. Now, certainly there is no argument that the local headman could have had a shrine located conveniently to his home but who worshiped there?

    That is the question.

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    There must have been a pagan shrine at the Dome on the Rock, or something, for it to be so important to so many people.
    "According to tradition, Muhammad's mystic night journey was in the company of the Archangel Gabriel, and they rode on a winged steed called El Burak (meaning `lightning'), which according to Islamic Hadith tradition was a winged, horse-like creature that was "smaller than a mule, but larger than a donkey." Stopping briefly at Mt. Sinai and Bethlehem, they finally alighted at Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and there encountered Abraham, Moses, Jesus and other prophets, whom Muhammad led in prayers. Gabriel then escorted Muhammad to the pinnacle of the rock, which the Arabs call as-Sakhra, where a ladder of golden light materialized. On this glittering shaft, Muhammad ascended through the seven heavens into the presence of Allah, from whom he received instructions for himself and his followers. Following his divine meeting, Muhammad was flown back to Mecca by Gabriel and the winged horse, arriving there before dawn." Ref: http://sacredsites.com/middle_east/i...jerusalem.html.

    Don't you just love religion?

    The bible story is that Canaanites worshiped at high places. Enough cultic apparatus has been found on hills to give that some credence. Further, in many places around the world we find various holy places built on top of earlier holy places so surely that idea has some merit also.
    Min, with Amorites and other ne'er do wells stomping around my neighborhood, I would worship at high places also ... provides a 360 degree view and prevents being surprised by anyone who doesn't have your best interest in mind. Further, I would build fortifications at my place of worship ... just in case I needed them.
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    "According to tradition, Muhammad's mystic night journey was in the company of the Archangel Gabriel
    Humorously, Muhammad - if such a person ever lived - is reputed to have died in 632. Islam did not capture Jerusalem until 637. Seems somewhat odd for old Muhammad to make a special trip to a xtian town in order to fly off to heaven...with or without an "archangel" for an escort.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Minimalist View Post
    As far as Tel Dan goes, Zeno I would highly recommend George Athas' The Tel Dan Inscription: A Reappraisal and a New Interpretation. Painstaking archaeological research to the point of boredom but Athas evaluates virtually every stroke of the chisel in an attempt to make sense of the inscription. His conclusion is that the words bytdvd do not refer to "House of David" in the sense of a dynasty but rather are a toponym for what was then a minimal settlement or perhaps a fortified manor house ( or castle ) by that name. There is no word divider ( a dot ) between the byt and the dvd and such word dividers are apparent on the extant portion of the inscription.

    If you are willing to risk the boredom in spots it is well worth the read. Especially when the religious start asserting that "David" has been proven. No. He hasn't. Bytdvd could mean City of David in the same sense that Athens is named for Athena or Rome for Romulus.
    I get it! In this view that you've put forth it's simply a place name in a topographical sense, like Wansdyke (Woden's Dyke) in England. I never thought of that- "House of David" could literally mean that, i.e. a settlement that had some connection to a personage named David.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Minimalist View Post
    The bible story is that Canaanites worshiped at high places. Enough cultic apparatus has been found on hills to give that some credence. Further, in many places around the world we find various holy places built on top of earlier holy places so surely that idea has some merit also.

    The thing with "Jerusalem" though is that we have no indication of a population center at the site. In, The Tel Dan Inscription, A Reappraisal and a New Interpretation, George Athas suggests that what we are really dealing with - as late as the end of the 9th century BC - is a fortified manor house or castle in European terms. The home of the local warlord, nothing more. Now, certainly there is no argument that the local headman could have had a shrine located conveniently to his home but who worshiped there?

    That is the question.
    I was under the impression that Jerusalem was inhabited, even anciently (i.e. prior to the extirpation of the Canaanites by the Hebrews). One of the fables in the Old Testament maintains that the site of Jerusalem was inhabited by Canaanites- the Jebusites I believe.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cognito View Post
    Following his divine meeting, Muhammad was flown back to Mecca by Gabriel and the winged horse, arriving there before dawn."
    So old Mo flew around on the pegasus in addition to hanging out with angels and Allah? This sounds like something out of One Thousand and One Nightab. I wonder if Mo met Ali Baba at some point in his prophetical career?
    Last edited by Zeno; November 29th, 2012 at 08:39 PM.

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    a settlement that had some connection to a personage named David.
    Or - as with the earlier examples of Athena and Romulus - a mythical character of that name.

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    I was under the impression that Jerusalem was inhabited, even anciently
    But was it a city or more realistically a "town?" Or might it have been merely a minor military post where the local Egyptian governor hung out? Think of some of the wooden-palisade US army posts on the Great Plains in the 19th century. We have correspondence from a person named Abdi-Heba(t) to Pharaoh Amenhotep III and/or Ahkenaten. Some people call him a "king" but the tone of the letters is, frankly, submissive to the extreme. (Ex. "Say to the king, my lord: Message of Abdi-Heba, your servant. I fall at the feet of my lord seven times and seven times.")

    By the way, the name Abdi-Heba(t) seems to be Hurrian (Syrian) and a theophoric to a Syrian goddess named Hebat meaning "Servant of Hebat." Some might find it odd that the name of a Syrian goddess would appear so prominently in the name of an alleged "king" of a Canaanite community. But, the Egyptian empire at the time ( that of Thutmoses III) included Syria/Hurria so why would anyone doubt that a minor officer of Hurrian birth could be appointed to be superintendent of a minor province of the Egyptian empire? But the one thing that archaeology fails consistently to show is that there was any kind of town/city located at that site between the Middle Bronze Age until the expansion of the site under Hezekiah as part of the Assyrian economic sphere...... in the late-8th century BC.That's a long time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Minimalist View Post
    Or - as with the earlier examples of Athena and Romulus - a mythical character of that name.
    Outside of the biblical David I can think of no other legendary figure from the Near East with this name.

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