Archaeologists announced the discovery at Tel Lachish of an ancient Judahite shrine dating to around the time of King Hezekiah. The shrine had been desecrated, which may relate to biblical accounts of Hezekiah’s religious purge against idols and “high places.” These finds include a toilet, which relates to another Bible account. More on that in a moment.
Excavators discovered the temple shrine in the inner gate of Lachish III, the city level destroyed by the Assyrian king Sennacherib in 701 BC during the reign of Hezekiah. The Israel Antiquities Authority’s press release has a good description and is worth reading in full. Here are a few highlights:
- This gate is the largest one known in the country from the First Temple period.
- The first chamber had benches with armrests, numerous storage jars, grain scoops, and stamped LMLK jar handles. [Note: Jars stamped with LMLK (“belonging to the king”) held grain taxes. The grain scoops probably relate to food rationing during Sennacherib’s siege. – L]
- The third chamber had a stepped entrance leading into the temple shrine. A walled off “Holy of Holies toward the back contained two four-horned altars.
- The altars’ horns had been cut off, apparently to desecrate them. This may be evidence of Hezekiah’s religious reforms to centralize worship at Jerusalem’s temple. “He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones, and cut down the Asherah poles.” (2 Kings 18:4)
- A toilet had been installed in the “Holy of Holies” to desecrate the shrine. This recalls Jehu’s destruction of the Baal temple in Samaria, when the site was turned into a latrine. (2 Kings 10:27) Tests indicate the Lachish toilet was never used, which would make its installation symbolic. [Note: I understand the toilet may have been fashioned from one of the altars, but there is no mention of this in the press announcement. – L]
The JewishPress.com has a release with additional photos.
This excavation was conducted by the IAA in cooperation with the Nature and Parks Authority to develop Tel Lachish for tourism. It is not associated with Hebrew University’s Lachish Expedition that I work with, though some individuals work with both of these digs. The gate excavation site is currently covered for conservation purposes but will eventually be open to the public.
Here is a short YouTube video with archaeologist Sa’ar Ganor that shows some of the finds.
More photos and information when I have it!