Cult Worship At Tel Dan -- By: Kristen Davis

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 29:2 (Spring 2016)
Article: Cult Worship At Tel Dan
Author: Kristen Davis

Cult Worship At Tel Dan

Kristen Davis

Editor’s note: The dig at Tel Dan (Tell el-Qadi, ancient Laish/ Leshem) in northern Israel is one of the most important archaeological excavations in all of Israel. It was at this location that King Hazael of Damascus erected his victory stela containing the House of David inscription, one of the earliest references in historical records to King David. Beyond this extraordinary discovery the site reveals the world’s oldest archway, 1500 years earlier than the vaunted Roman archways; King Jeroboam’s temple; and evidence for settlements long predating the early history of Israel, back to the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods. Our friend and ABR Associate, Kristen Davis, has written an extensive research article that provides description and analysis of the site and its contributions to our understanding of the biblical record from the Early Bronze Age through the Iron ll Age. In particular, Kristen’s research focuses on the evidence for Israelite cult worship that was practiced at this site, practices described and condemned in various OT accounts.

Introduction To Tel Dan

Tel Dan is a site rich with Canaanite and Israelite history. It was consistently inhabited from the Early Bronze Age II through the Iron Age II, with sporadic habitation continuing through the Late Roman Age. With such a long-standing historical record, the cultic transitions of the land would be expected to surface alongside the cultural transitions of the land. A survey of the cultural and cultic artifacts of the strata identified with the Late Bronze Age through the Iron Age II should reveal details pertaining to the cult worship of the people groups identified with these strata. An analysis of the cultural and cult changes through these periods will be done, after which it will be argued that the shifts seen in cult artifacts at Tel Dan parallel the account put forth in the Hebrew Bible pertaining to Israelite cult worship at Dan.1

History Of The Site

At the foot of Mount Hermon and the “headwaters of the Dan [River], the most profuse of the Jordan River’s tributaries,” the territory of Dan wins the proverbial lottery when it comes to having agricultural potential.2 In the 1960s, the area surrounding Tel Dan was “the northern outpost of the Israeli army on the frontiers with Syria and Lebanon,” which put the material

Todd Bolen,

The headwaters of the Jordan River. The largest of four sources of the Jordan River, the Dan Spring, emerges at the base of Mt. Herm...

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