Thursday, September 29, 2016

Desecration by toilet at Lachish

ARCHAEOLOGY: The wrong kind of throne: Toilet discovered at 2,800-year-old shrine reveals Biblical tale of desecration of religious sites by King Hezekiah (Richard Gray, Daily Mail).
The Lachish city gate, as it is known, consists of six chambers which contain signs of city life at the time.

In one of the chambers, however, is a shrine that once had walls covered with white plaster and two altars decorated with raised corners - known as horns.

These, however, appear to have had their tops deliberately cut off, a sign that there had been an attempt to end the spread of religious cults and centralise worship in Jerusalem.

But perhaps the greatest sign that the shrine had been the site of one of King Hezekiah's crackdowns was the installation of the toilet within the inner sanctum of the shrine.

This stone with a hole cut through the centre would have been the ultimate desecration of the Holy site.
This is a remarkable discovery and, assuming the full publication supports all the physical evidence reported in the story, the interpretation applied to it seems entirely plausible. The shrine may have been dedicated to a pagan god such as Baal, but it may also have been one to YHWH, which the priests of the the Temple in Jerusalem would have regarded as illegitimate because it wasn't theirs. At least that's how the Deuteronomistic Historian tells it.

This story is receiving a great deal of coverage in the media. Todd Bolen collects some of the articles and some other information at the Bible Places Blog. The Mail article presents it well and includes lots of nice photos. The shrine area also produced some important artifacts, including inscribed seal impressions.