Garfinkel responds to discussions about the new Qeiyafa shrines

Yossi Garfinkel asked me to post some comments from him regarding the new discoveries from Khirbet Qeiyafa. These comments address some misconceptions about his conclusions. For one, he clarifies that the unique shrine here is the stone model, not the clay one. Fuller explanations of his conclusions can be found in his new published work. (As my Hebrew is inadequate, I await the English-language version.)

Garfinkel’s comments follow:

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

1. On the same day of the press conference we published a detailed popular book entitled, Footsteps of King David in the Valley of Elah (in Hebrew). In this book we present long, detailed discussions and arguments on the site and on the various material culture categories, including the urban planning and cultic objects. In the press release just one sentence was given to aspects which are presented in length in the book.

2. People seem to confuse two different aspects: there are cultic rooms (three) and there are shrine models (two). We uncovered three cultic rooms, and in these rooms not even one figurine was found. The cultic paraphernalia in these rooms is different from cultic items found in Canaanite, Philistine, and Edomite sites, and even sites of the Kingdom of Israel. In the other sites anthropomorphic or zoomorphic figurines were found in cultic places.

3. The second aspect regards the two shrine models (or portable shrines). Indeed one of them has two guardian lions and birds on the roof, but these are clearly different from similar items in Canaanites, Philistines, Edomite and even sites of the Kingdom of Israel, where naked goddesses were found attached to the models. We never talk about monotheistic cult here, but instead draw attention to the absence of iconic representations. I think that aniconic cult evolved over a large period of time, with deep struggles between those who accepted it and those who still believed in graven images. In Khirbet Qeiyafa we see a strong attitude toword aniconic cult. This needs to be addressed and discussed. It will be bad science to overlook this phenomenon.

4. The unique item is the stone model, with triglyphs and a triple recessed door. This enabled us to decipher two obscure technical terms in the biblical description of Solomon’s palace and temple. The model is dated to the early 10th century BC and the palace and temple are also related by the biblical tradition to the 10th century BC. The similarities between the two strengthen the historiosity of the biblical description regarding royal construction in Jerusalem at that time. However, this does not indicate the size of the territory ruled by David and Solomon (“United Monarchy”).

5. The other question I asked is: What was the name of these “building models” in antiquity? Today we call them various names: “Building models,” “shrine models,” “portable shrines,” or “naos“. However, I don’t think these names were used by the Canaanite, Israelite or the Judean people, as they did not speak English or Greek.  I propose that the technical term for such items in that time was “Aron Elohim” (box for keeping god symbols). Each religion kept different gods or goddesses in such
boxes. In Middle Bronze Ashkelon an example of this was found with a small calf figurine inside. The Bible described a portable shrine (“Aron”) in various traditions and it was translated into English as: “The Ark of the Covenant,” “The Ark of the Lord,” and other names. I am not talking about this ark, but that the term “Aron Elohim” was used to describe this category of objects. In the same way, there were many temples in the ancient Near East and one temple in Jerusalem. There were many arks, and one of them was in Jerusalem. As a matter of fact, my suggestion demystifies the term “Ark”.

About LukeChandler

Luke holds an M.A. in Ancient and Classical History and has been an adjunct professor at Florida College in Temple Terrace, Florida. Luke and his wife Melanie have five children. He serves as a minister with the North Terrace Church of Christ and has participated in multiple archaeological excavations in Israel. Luke leads informative, meaningful tours to Europe and the Bible Lands.
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1 Response to Garfinkel responds to discussions about the new Qeiyafa shrines

  1. chrismckinny says:

    Prof. Garfinkel thanks for clarifying some of your comments.

    It seems like most of the “aniconic” argument is based on the lack of figurines – who is to say that these models were not successfully uncovered, removed by a Qeyafiate on his way to greener pastures, or some other explanation? The explanation that there was no icon inside the models is only one of many plausible, unprovable scenarios. Second, while these finds are quite nice and might provide another vista into interpreting passages like 1 Kings 6 ff. these exact connections have already been made with better parallels. See especially Monson’s article in BAR on the Ain Dara temple and Solomon’s temple.

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