Monday, January 14, 2019

More on the Ark and Kiryat Yearim

ARCHAEOLOGY AND ... SPECULATION: Biblical site tied to Ark of the Covenant unearthed at convent in central Israel. Excavation uncovers a unique, monumental structure previously unknown in the region. Was it a shrine — or the site of David’s triumphant parade of the legendary ark? (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
A massive 8th century BCE man-made platform discovered at a Catholic convent in central Israel may have served as an ancient shrine to the Ark of the Covenant, said leading Tel Aviv University archaeologist Israel Finkelstein. Unearthed at Kiriath-Jearim, the shrine gives potential new insight into the political machinations of the sibling kingdoms of Judah and Israel.

Remains of the monumental elevated podium have been unearthed on a Judean hilltop long associated with the location of biblical Kiriath-Jearim. According to the Hebrew Bible, the spot was the 20-year home of the legendary Ark of the Covenant until taken by King David and paraded to Jerusalem.

The joint expedition by Tel Aviv University and the College de France is not on the trail of the elusive ark, however. Indeed Finkelstein, the dig’s co-director, does not believe the Ark of the Covenant existed.

Okay, I think I have this straight. Professor Finkelstein thinks there wasn't an Ark of the Covenant; it's just a legend. Well, that could be right.

But he thinks that the legend was around in Northern Israel in the eighth century B.C.E. and that this big platform at the site of Kiryat Yearim (Kiriath Jearim) was a shrine built in commemoration of the legendary Ark in order to legitimate the place as a sacred site.

Now, two caveats. First, I haven't read the original report and I don't know if what he said is being reported with full nuance, although Ms. Borschel-Dan is generally very good about such things. Second, I'm not an archaeologist and I have no opinion about the archaeology of the site.

That said, I am very skeptical about the conclusions as reported. It's hard enough to formulate credible connections between the biblical narrative and archaeology. And these particular conclusions involve a lot of speculation that goes well beyond what the biblical texts say.

Call me when they excavate a plaque that says "This site is dedicated to the Ark of the Covenant."

Meanwhile, this is a really interesting excavation on its own archaeological terms. I am going to keep that separate from any speculation about how it may connect with the Bible or with a real or imaginary Ark of the Covenant.

Past posts on the excavation at Kiryat Yearim are here and links. And for many past posts on the Ark of the Covenant, follow the links from that same post.

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