Toilet discovered at 2,800-year-old shrine reveals Biblical tale of desecration of religious sites by King Hezekiah of Judah

Toilet discovered at 2,800-year-old shrine reveals Biblical tale of desecration of religious sites by King Hezekiah of Judah

  • The city gate at Tel Lachish in Israel has been found to have once contained a sacred shrine with two altars
  • Raised corners once decorated the altars have been cut and a toilet was installed in the corner of the shrine
  • Archaeologists believe this was a desecration as part of a religious crackdown on cults and idol worship
  • King Hezekiah is said in the Bible to have ‘removed the high places’ and ‘smashed the sacred stones’

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King Hezekiah instituted one of the most zealous religious crackdowns in the history of Judaism and saw the numerous cults in ancient Judah smashed to pieces.

Now evidence of the reforms implemented by King Hezekiah, which are described in the Old Testament, around 2,800 years ago have surfaced in a surprising form.

Archaeologists digging at the site of an ancient gate to the ruined city of Tel Lachish in Israel have uncovered the remains of a shrine that was desecrated during the purges in the 8th century BC. The discovery at Tel Lachish, however, is the first time that an archaeological find confirms this practice.
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  Putting a latrine at a holy site was considered to be sacrilege as it soiled a religious location that was to be respected. In the case of Jehu who destroyed the cult of Baal in Samaria the Bible states “And they demolished the pillar of Baal and demolished the house of Baal and made it a latrine to this day” (2 Kings 10:27).

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. 38e07e1f00000578-3811712-tests_on_the_stone_toilet_pictured_and_the_ground_around_it_sugg-a-59_1475070670278

Sa’ar Ganor, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said: ‘Steps to the gate-shrine in the form of a staircase ascended to a large room where there was a bench upon which offerings were placed.

‘An opening was exposed in the corner of the room that led to the holy of holies.

‘To our great excitement, we found two four-horned altars and scores of ceramic finds consisting of lamps, bowls and stands in this room.

‘It is most interesting that the horns on the altar were intentionally truncated. That is probably evidence of the religious reform attributed to King Hezekiah.’ According to the narrative given in the Book of Kings in the Bible, King Hezekiah oversaw a widespread effort to abolish the religious cults and idol worship that had sprung up in Judah.

It states in II Kings 18:4: ‘He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles…’

Tests at the site showed that while the toilet stone appears to have been installed to desecrate the shrine, it was never actually used. Archaeologists instead believe it had been placed there symbolically and the inner sanctum of the shrine was sealed shut.

Dr Ganor said: ‘The size of the gate is consistent with the historical and archaeological knowledge we possess, whereby Lachish was a major city and the most important one after Jerusalem’.

‘According to the Biblical narrative, the cities’ gates were the place where ‘everything took place’.

‘The city elders, judges, governors, kings and officials – everyone would sit on benches in the city gate. These benches were found in our excavation.’

The ruins of the city gate today:

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A reconstruction of the city gate:

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A Trip To Israel

Hello readers,

This blog post is a little bit different to our usual. One of our members has recently travelled to Israel and has very kindly agreed to share their experience with us on the blog. Enjoy!

“It was a pleasure to visit Israel for two weeks in August this year. I was able to develop an understanding of the history, both modern and ancient, of a land which God calls ‘most glorious of all lands” (Ezekiel 20:6) We visited many places.

Ashkelon, where Samson went to kill thirty Philistines for their garments, after they had tricked him, into revealing the answer to the riddle he had set by threatening his wife with death if she did not get the answer for them.(Judges 14:14-20) ;

Ashdod Philistine Cultural Museum which gives a context to the David and Goliath account, and to the endless struggle which Israel had with the surrounding people until the Babylonian captivity;

Masada where the Jews took refuge after fleeing Jerusalem after revolting against the Roman conquest of their land Jesus foretells the conquest in Matt 24:32-35.(Israel is symbolised as a fig tree).

The Mount of Olives Jerusalem where King David wept as he fled from Jerusalem when Absalom rebelled against his father (2 Samuel 15:30)

The Temple Mount Jerusalem where archaeologist Dr Leen Ritmeyer has found evidence of the First Temple Period platform from which Ezra spoke to the people who ‘sat in the open square before the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of the heavy rain’ Ezra 10 (The children of Israel had been unfaithful by taking foreign wives after returning from the Babylonian exile)

The Jordan Valley where John baptised Jesus (Mark 1: 1-8) and where the Children of Israel crossed over when entering the land (Joshua 3)

Ein Harod, where Gideon separated the 300 men who were to go to war from those who were to go home (Judges 7)

Mount Carmel where Elijah met more than 850 false prophets of Baal and .all the people .to prove that the Lord is God.(1 Kings 18:20-40).

Independence Hall Tel Aviv where the modern state of Israel was confirmed by the UN vote in 1948. This was the fulfilment of Bible Prophecy which foretells the return of the Jews to the land of Israel.

Seeing such places as Shechem helps me to understand the different choices the Children of Israel had to make; did they want the blessing by obeying God or the curses because of disobedience, Mt Gerazim or Mt Ebal – the symbolic act described in Deut 27. Shechem, translated as Shoulder, lies between these two mountains emphasising that there is a great gulf between God’s blessings and His cursing, between choosing good and choosing evil.

Shechem

Beersheba, a town in the far south in Israel, a city whose ruins are excavated and preserved well enough for tourists to see the ouline of the city and some of the rooms clearly. It reminds one of how, in the latter period of the judges, the prophet Samuel’s sons Joel and Abijah “were judges” in Beer-sheba but that they “turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes and perverted justice”,

(1 Sam 8:6). This led the people of Israel to demand a king.

BeerSheba

The well in Beer-Sheba, 26 metres deep, reminds me of the fact that this was the foundation name of the city, the name chosen after Abraham and Abimelech made a covenant between them where “two of them took an oath”.(Genesis 21:22-31)

BeerSheba Well

Another interesting location was Perath. In Jeremiah 13:4, the prophet is told to go to this location, normally translated ‘Euphrates’, though it is actually more likely to be a location not too far from Jerusalem. This was misunderstood by commentators until recently.  

Perath                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

These sorts of things help me to understand the ‘beautiful land’ which God talks about and the relevance of it to my understanding of God, His Scriptures and the prophecies they contain for the future of our world.”

*To find out more about the Christadelphians in Ammanford, their faith and how you can be a part of it, please visit our website: www.ammanfordchristadelphians.co.uk

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Faith

“Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even because of the lack of evidence. Faith is not allowed to justify by argument.”

Excerpt taken from a speech by Prof Dawkins (1992), entitled Lions 10, Christians nil

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Faith in God is derived by reading, understanding and believing the Bible’s message. The apostle Paul wrote: “So faith comes from hearing and hearing through the Word of God”. (Romans 10:17)

Let us put this Biblical faith to the test, particularly the Old Testament. God has a purpose with the Jewish people. They have been dispersed throughout the world, as the Bible says (Deuteronomy 28:64-68) because of their waywardness. However, God promised and we are witnesses to the fact that they have returned to Israel, in fulfilment of Bible Prophecy. The prophet Ezekiel writes: “Thus says the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the people from the nations among which they have gone and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land. And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all …” (Ezekiel 37:21,22)

Since 1948 the Jews have returned to their land and are now a prominent nation in the earth. We are seeing part of the above prophecy being fulfilled. Other prophecies indicated the following events happening just before the return of Jesus to the earth. For example:

  •  Jews in control of Jerusalem (Joel 3:1)
  • Jerusalem -source of international trouble (Zechariah  12:1 , 2)
  • Jewish nation prosperous (Ezekiel 38:12 ,13)
  • Arab nations and others trying to destroy Israel( Ezekiel 38:1, -12).

Remember, the Old Testament was written before Jesus was born!

I can get on a plane to Israel, journey to Jerusalem and note the hatred towards the Jews by some Arabs and see the prosperity of Israel. All these events prerecorded in a book which was written before the birth of Jesus!

These details are just a few of many that could be presented.

Shortly Jesus will be back to establish the Kingdom of God. What a shock for Dr Dawkins!

Will it be a shock for you? We all need to be getting ready for this world shattering event!

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*Quotes from the ESV

To find out more about our hope and how you can become a part of it, visit our website:www.ammanfordchristadelphians.co.uk. Our next public meeting will be held at 2.30pm on Sunday, in our hall, Foundry Road, Ammanford. All are welcome to attend!

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