Bible Aids Archaeologist in Interpreting Beer-sheba Discovery -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bible and Spade (First Run)
Volume: BSP 06:1 (Winter 1977)
Article: Bible Aids Archaeologist in Interpreting Beer-sheba Discovery
Author: Anonymous


Bible Aids Archaeologist in Interpreting Beer-sheba Discovery

A very unusual feature was excavated at Beersheba, just inside the city gate, to the left as one enters. (For a full report on the excavations at Beersheba, see the Winter 1974 issue of Bible and Spade, pages 21–27). There, in a courtyard, is a staircase which leads nowhere. The staircase may be seen in Courtyard 443 of Building 430 (See plan and photo). Hard put to explain this, the excavators could only speculate that what they had uncovered was the beginning of a much longer staircase that originally led to the top of the city wall. There was no evidence to support this interpretation and, in fact, such a staircase is unknown in archaeology.

As prominent Israeli archaeologist Yigael Yadin was reading the account of Josiah’s reform in 2 Kings 23, it suddenly dawned on him what the purpose of the mysterious staircase was. The answer was right there in verse 8:

And he [Josiah] brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense, from Geba to Beer-sheba,

and brake down the high places of the gates that were in the entering in of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on a man’s left hand at the gate of the city.

Yadin interpreted the second half of the verse as referring specifically to the high place at Beersheba. 2 Kings 23:8 states that the high place was on the left side of the city gate and this is precisely where the mysterious staircase was found. By studying the pottery and the fortification systems found at Beersheba, Yadin concluded that the level in which the staircase was found dates to the period of Josiah. Building 430, he believes, is the very high place, or cult center, that Josiah destroyed.

Having identified Building 430 as a cult center left only one logical explanation for the purpose of the staircase—it was associated with an altar. Although no altar was found in the vicinity of the staircase, one was found during the 1973 season—not in its original position, but in reuse in a wall (see Bible and Spade, Winter 1974, page 24). The disturbing thing about the altar was that it was made of hewn and dressed stones in direct violation of Exodus 20:25:

And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.

Since the altar was made of hewn stone, this would indicate that it was not ...

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