An Iron Age temple, discovered in Tel Moza, located near Jerusalem, cast doubt on the theory that Solomon’s temple was the only centralized place of worship in the region of the ancient Kingdom of Judah.
The research was recently published in the Review of Biblical Archeology by a team of archaeologists from the University of Tel Aviv and the Israel Antiquities Authority.
“Our analysis of the clearly defined archeological findings and biblical texts that Motza temple conformed to the ancient conventions and religious traditions of the Near East and the biblical representations of places of worship throughout the earth,” wrote Shua Kisilevitz, one of the main authors of the study.
“It has been clear that temples like Motza not only could but also must have existed for most of the iron period as part of the official religious construction, sanctioned by royalty,” Kisilevitz added.
“We suggest the temple of Tel Moa was the initiative of a local group, which represented several large families or perhaps villages that came together to gather their resources and maximize production and yield,” says the researchers.
Table of sacrificial offerings, a well full of ashes and bones of animals
The area under the first floor of the temple includes human and horse-shaped figures; as well as a stand decorated with lions and sphinxes that had been used by an ancient cult.
A stone altar, a table of stone offerings and a well full of ashes and bones of animals were discovered on the site.
The discoveries would prove that there were other sanctioned temples besides the famous temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. Solomon’s temple was destroyed during the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 587 and 586 B.C.
According to archaeologists the place where it is located served as an administrative center for the storage and redistribution of grains.
Also, as its function as a barn intensified; A temple was built to achieve economic success and strengthen the control of local leaders over the community.
The size of the building, about 12 by 20 meters, is similar to the temple described in 1 Kings, as is the architectural plan. An analysis of the bones of animals found on the identified site that belonged only to kosher animals (cows, goats, sheep and deer); most of them young and with signs of having been cut, which strengthens the theory that they were brought as sacrifices.
“Could there really be a monumental temple in the heart of Judah, outside of Jerusalem? Did Jerusalem know about it?
“If so, could this other temple possibly have been part of the Jewish administrative system? The Bible details the religious reforms of King Hezekiah and King Josiah; who consolidated the practices of worship to the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, and eliminated the cult activity beyond its limits, ”said Kisilevitz.
“I could not have built a great monumental temple so close to Jerusalem without being sanctioned by the dominant society,” says Kisilevitz. The fact that the Motza temple operates in parallel with the largest site in Jerusalem means that it could have been under the auspices of Jerusalem.
“Despite the biblical narratives that describe the reforms of Hezekiah and Josiah, there were sanctioned temples in Judah in addition to the official temple in Jerusalem,” Tel Aviv University professor Oded Lipschits added.
Archaeologists intend to continue with the excavations in the next springs of 2020 and 2021 since parts of the walls are still covered. In addition, its plans include finding out when its use as a place of worship stopped. According to the archeologist, it would be “a key issue” for the research.
At least the same size as Solomon’s Temple and resembling that structure’s description in the Bible, Motza temple was used for worship of both Yahweh and idolshttps://t.co/pkONBSMotg
— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) February 3, 2020