Tag Archives: Israel Museum

The reforms of Hezekiah

After the death of Solomon, the nation of Israel divided into Israel (the northern kingdom) and Judah (the southern kingdom). With the introduction of calf worship by Jeroboam, the kingdom of Israel never recovered. Eventually the kingdom fell to the Assyrians between 732 and 721 B.C.

In the southern kingdom of Judah (the House of David) it was different. From the time of king David onward (1110–970 B.C.) all of the kings of Judah were his descendants. Some of them were faithful to the LORD and others were not. There were departures from the way of the LORD into idolatry.

A visit to the Israel Museum, or to a variety of sites, will provide numerous illustrations of this idolatry. One example comes from Beersheba (Beer Sheva). The archaeological excavation at the site is well marked for the benefit of the visitor. Before entering the tel one passes through a square in which stands “a reconstructed replica of a large, sacrificial four-horned altar whose stones were discovered incorporated into a storehouse wall.” (This statement comes from a beautiful brochure provided for visitors by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

Reconstructed four-horned altar from Beersheva. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Reconstructed four-horned altar from Beersheva. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The brochure continues,

The altar shows that the city had a cultic structure, built in the framework of the religious administration of the Judean monarchy. Its dismantling and burial attest to a change in the kingdom’s ritual customs. Based on the dating of Stratum 2 at the end of the eighth century BCE, the abolishment of the cultic site was connected to the religious reform initiated by King Hezekiah of Judah according to the Bible. (The temple discovered at Tel Arad was also done away with in this reform.)

The original four-horned altar is now displayed in the Israel Museum.

The four-horned altar from Beersheba. Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The four-horned altar from Beersheba. Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The reforms of King Hezekiah of Judah (716/15–687/86 B.C.; Thiele) are described in 2 Kings 18.

He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan). He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him.  (2 Kings 18:4-5 ESV)

Calf and sanctuary found at Ashkelon

Professor Lawrence E. Stager of Harvard writes about the discovery of the silver calf at Ashkelon in the summer of 1990.

In the waning days of the season, on the outskirts of the Canaanite city, we excavated an exquisitely crafted statuette of a silver calf, a religious icon associated with the worship of El or Baal in Canaan and, later, with the Israelite God, Yahweh. The calf lay buried in the debris on the ancient rampart that had protected the city in the Middle Bronze Age (c. 2000–1550 B.C.). (BAR 17:02 (March/April 1991), ed. Hershel Shanks (Biblical Archaeology Society, 1991).

In Life in Biblical Israel, by King and Stager, the calf is dated “around 1600 B.C.E. (p. 173). This bull calf and the pottery shrine in which it was found is now in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

Silver calf and sanctuary found at Ashkelon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Bronze and silver calf and sanctuary found at Ashkelon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Bible students recall the golden calf made by Aaron at Mount Sinai (Exodus 32:4).

They made a calf in Horeb and worshiped a metal image. (Psalm 106:19 ESV)

We also know about the golden calves erected by Jeroboam I at Dan and Bethel (1 Kings 12:28-30). In the prophet Hosea we find references to calves in Samaria (8:5-6) and Beth-aven (10:5).

Stager calls attention to a significant reference in Hosea 13:1.

When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling; he was exalted in Israel, but he incurred guilt through Baal and died. And now they sin more and more, and make for themselves metal images, idols skillfully made of their silver, all of them the work of craftsmen. It is said of them, “Those who offer human sacrifice kiss calves!”  (Hosea 13:1-2 ESV)

The discoveries of archaeology often shed light on biblical accounts and help us to see the reality of them.

For a photo of a bull from the Samaria region, see here.

Video about King Herod exhibit

CBN.tv has a nice brief video about the King Herod exhibit at the Israel Museum. This video features the exhibit as well as commentary by James Snyder, Israel Museum Director, and Dr. Sylvia Rozenberg, the Senior Curator. Here you will learn the rationale behind the million dollar exhibit that emphasizes Herod as a builder.

Click here for the short video.

For previous links to King Herod and this exhibit click here, or type the word Herod in the Search Box.

HT: the Book & the Spade.

Herod the Great in the Israel Museum

Are you planning a visit to Jerusalem during the upcoming months? I suggest you visit the Israel Museum. There is much to see that is of importance to Bible students. We called attention to some of the archaeological artifacts several times.

We have written about the Herodium here, here, here, here, and here (and perhaps a few other places) in this blog.

View of the Herodium toward the east. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins

View of the Herodium toward the east. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins

The Israel Museum recently opened a new exhibition called Herod the Great: The King’s Final Journey. The exhibition includes a reconstruction of the tomb and sarcophagus of the King from the Herodium. I suggest you begin by reading the article about the exhibition in The New York Times here.

Shmuel Browns, a tour guide in Israel, and a fellow-blogger, is quoted in the article. Please take a look at the beautiful photos and descriptions of the new exhibition by Browns.

Carl Rasmussen calls attention to the articles by Browns, and includes a nice photo of the large model of what Prof. Netzer thought the monumental tomb of Herod might have looked like here.

I’m looking forward to seeing this exhibition in a few weeks.

Acts 6 — Photo Illustrations

Acts 6 records the selection of seven devout men to tend a need that has arisen among the new disciples of Christ. The function of these men seems similar to that of those later referred to as deacons (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8ff.).

One of these men, Stephen, had a leading role in the spread of the word and the resultant obedience to the faith by many. Even priests were becoming obedient to the faith. But there was opposition which eventually led to the stoning of Stephen.

Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen.  (Acts 6:9 ESV)

These Freedmen were liberated slaves (“Former Slaves” in the CEB). The term Libertines used in the KJV and the ASV probably leaves the wrong impression to a modern reader.

An inscription was discovered by French Archaeologist Raymond Weill in 1914 (some say 1913) in the area of the hill of Ophel or the City of David, south of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

The inscription is known as the Theodotus Inscription. Theodotus was the name of the priest and synagogue ruler whose name is the first word of the inscription. It is 25″ wide and 17″ high. This synagogue was for the use of Jews of the Diaspora when they visited Jerusalem. Saul of Tarus in Cilicia was probably comfortable among those who assembled there.

Herschel Shanks says this synagogue,

“is one of the most dramatic archaeological finds of the century. Like the Masada synagogue, it serves to confirm rather than to challenge our expectations regarding the existence of pre-destruction synagogues. For the Talmud tells us that before the Roman destruction of the Temple there were 394 synagogues in Jerusalem and gives us much the same picture of the synagogue as the one offered by the Jerusalem synagogue inscription. (Judaism in Stone: The Archaeology of Ancient Synagogues, 20)

Theodotos Inscription from Synagogue of Freedmen. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Theodotos Inscription from Synagogue of Freedmen. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This inscription was formerly displayed in the Rockefeller Museum, but is now exhibited in the Israel Museum. Click on the image for a larger one.

The translation of the Greek inscription reads as follows:

“Theodotus son of Vettenus, priest and synagogue leader, son of a synagogue leader, grandson of a synagogue leader, rebuilt this synagogue for the reading of the Law and the teaching of the commandments, and the hostelry, rooms and baths, for the lodging of those who have need from abroad. It was established by his forefathers, the elders and Simonides.” (Shanks, BAR, July/Aug 2003.)

The phrase “synagogue leader” which is used three times in the inscription is the Greek term archisunagogos. Luke uses the same term three times in his history of the early church (Acts 13:15; 18:8; 18:17). In each case he is writing about a synagogue leader of the Diaspora Jews.