Gate shrine from First Temple era unveiled at Tel Lachish

Findings from King Hezekiah’s efforts to abolish idol worship found; Gate is the largest known gate from the First Temple period in Israel

img729735.jpg

Israeli archeologists revealed findings of a rare, First Temple era gate shrine from an archeological dig at the Tel Lachish National Park near Hevron this week. The dig was conducted in early 2016 with findings only revealed this week.

Findings from the location are from King Hezekiah’s efforts to abolish idol worship in the region from the 8th century.

According to the head Israel Antiquities Authority’s excavation, Sa’ar Ganor , “Tel Lachish was the most important city in Judea, after Jerusalem. This is the biggest city-gate we have found in the Land of Israel. The size of the gate is consistent our historical and archaeological data that indicates Lachish was a major city and the most important one after Jerusalem. According to biblical descriptions, the gate of a city was where everything happened. The elders of the city, the judges, governors, kings, and bureaucrats-all of them sat on the benches at the city gates. The benches were found in our dig.”

Ganor described significant findings from the site, including a room for sacrifices and additional proof of King Hezekiah’s efforts. He described that the “steps to the gate-shrine in the form of a staircase ascended to a large room where there was a bench upon which offerings were placed. An opening was exposed in the corner of the room that led to the holy of holies.”

He explained that his team found “two four-horned altars and scores of ceramic finds consisting of lamps, bowls and stands in this room. It is most interesting that the horns on the altar were intentionally truncated. That is probably evidence of the religious reform attributed to King Hezekiah, whereby religious worship was centralized in Jerusalem and the cultic high places that were built outside the capital were destroyed: “He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles…” (II Kings 18:4).

The archeologists also pointed out that a toilet was installed in the holy of holies, but was never used, proving the placement of the toilet as symbolic and additional desecration of the site.

Archeologists also found arrowheads and weapons likely from Assyrian King Sennacherib’s siege of Judah and Jerusalem.