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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Dueling Altars in Time and Place.




One of the most confusing sections in the entire 24 books of Torah (1 Kings 13:1) describes the account of the man of God from Yehuda who arrived as the altar was being dedicated by King Yerovam (Jeroboam) in BeitEl - Shomron. Yerovam had capitalized on King Solomon's opulence, its burden on taxpayers, which he used to revitalize a lingering grievance between the leaders of Yehuda and Yosef about the location of Solomon’s Jerusalem Temple. After Solomon, he led a successful split of the entire nation. Then, he reintroduced a form of nationalized, intermediate idolatry using golden calves. His success confused many that grappled God’s intent.

The man of God from Yehuda arrived, interrupted proceedings and directed his prophecy to the altar proclaiming it would be destroyed in the future by a man born to the House of David (of the tribe Yehuda) named Yoshiahu. Then, he paralyzed the right hand of a crazed Yerovam and released it before he returned along a different path. On his way he was intercepted by an old prophet who had not joined Yerovams entourage that day. The old prophet challenged and convinced the man of God to break the oath he took when accepting God's mission to deliver the prophecy. On his return, the man of God was mauled by a lion who sat by the side of the road with a donkey. The old prophet sent his sons to recover the body and instructed it be buried in his grave, which he proclaimed he would share with the man of God.

Some three hundred years later (2 Kings 22:1) King Yoshiahu rid Israel of idolatrous objects and realized the man of God’s prophecy by destroying the altar in BeitEl. Seems simple at first, but the detailed time and place descriptions that span Kings one and two are separated by 300 years and the places these verses speak of span the tribal territory of Yehuda and Yosef (Ephraim) which were separated by the territory of Binyamin in between.

Consider this pre-requisite information about the altar of akeida, the place Abraham bound and offered his son Isaac. Rambam, the famous Maimonides states: “The altar is [to be constructed] in a very precise location, which may never be changed, as it is said (I Chronicles 22:1 [by David]): "This is the altar for the burnt-offerings of Israel." David’s conclusion or Rambam’s insistence that a “universally” accepted tradition that the altar once stood on Mount Moriah does not suffice for the Jewish law stringency akeida imposes on the precise location required for the third temple’s altar.

The prefix ‘Ha’ of the word ‘Ha’Makom (הַמָּק֔וֹם) is unique as to “The Place”, generally ‘The’ place of God’s resting presence. The word is never used to describe Yerovams altar in BeitEl in Shomron. However, it is extensively used to describe locations associated with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob especially at Mount Moriah. It is therefore a universally accepted tradition that HaMakom, used in Torah verses to do with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob more often associate with Mount Moriah including Shalem of Malchitzedek, akeida, BeitEl and Luz.




In the text of 2 Kings 23:4 Yoshiahu ordered the High Priest to remove objects of idolatry from the temple, in Jerusalem, which the High Priest, for the strong symbolism burned in the Kidron valley (in Jerusalem) before depositing the ashes at BeitEl in Jerusalem. Then, the eradication of idolatrous objects continued in and around Jerusalem and Yehuda until 23:14. At 23:15 - “And also the altar that was at BethEl…” in Shomron, of Yerovam, “also that altar” he destroyed. At Yerovams BethEl the prophecy of the man of God came true. But, here it was Yoshiyahu who did the destruction not the High Priest, because  human bones were used to defile the altar and that precludes the High Priest.

Three hundred years before the man of God incident, before the book of Kings toward the end of Joshua’s reign Judges 1:8-15 briefly states Judah conquered Jerusalem, 1:20-21 states Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem and 1:22-26 declares the house of Joseph smote Beit El, which was Luz. Therefore, Judges declares a northern (Benjamin) and southern (Judah) Jerusalem (since the city ran in a north south direction) - this is not controversial. However that Joseph smote BeitEl, which was Luz contradicts Judah conquering the southern section of Mount Moriah synonymous with Jerusalem at the time. This may be the first hint of competition between Joseph and Judah over the location of the temple Solomon would eventually build.

2 Kings 23:4 is the only specific reference to BeitEl being in Jerusalem. It leaves little ambiguity about its proximity to Jerusalem and the Kidron valley and is directly supported by archaeology discovered in the area. The BeitEl of Jacob and the Bethel of Yerovam are different places that are deeply convoluted by competition and grievance that have long distorted facts. Perhaps that time is coming to an end.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Sword over Jerusalem!

The Bible relates King Davids' dilemma, his test. To unify the nation he was required to identify the location of the national altar from which Israel’s temple would eventually be built. Without his selection no temple could ever be built and King David would be unable to fulfill his life mission. The King had to locate the altar, precisely at the place Isaac was offered as a sacrifice by his father Abraham and he had to do it with prophetic support. However, his search for Isaac’s altar was futile, instead he turned to the advice of Prophet Samuel, his teachers, Do'eg, Achitofel and eventually the Prophet Gad.

Do'eg was a convert and very serious Torah scholar. He was known to have ruthlessly consumed the intellects of his fellow students and teachers with his sharp commentary. His rivalry with knowledge of Torah law, that King David possessed revealed his jealous disposition. Paradoxically Do'eg tried to disqualify David from being King because David was born through the lineage of Ruth, a Moabite convert which was allegedly forbidden by Torah law. However, the prevailing legal opinion in David’s favor ruled that Torah's prohibition is limited to descendants of male Moabite converts only.

Do'eg also challenged David who was struggling to determine the site of the future temple, lobbying for it be located in the high mountains south-west of ancient Jerusalem. David preferred it be built in close proximity of the people of ancient Jerusalem. In his later years, King David, by the King’s own will ordered his general to make a census of the nation, it was not requested of him through a prophet by God, as was the law. After 9 months and 20 days Yoav, his general reluctantly delivered his count of males over 20 in Israel.

David reflected on the opposition expressed by his general and his public contravention of  Jewish law and became remorseful. Retribution followed swiftly and Gad conveyed his prophecy as three choices by which to repent; seven years of famine, three months fleeing his enemies or 3 days of plague in the land. King David chose plague. Immediately 70,000 men from the northern tribal lands received their fate. On the second day, as the nation suffered the King witnessed a vision; the angel of death was standing on the threshing floor where Ornan - King of the Jebusites would separate chaff in the wind. From there the angel stretched out its sword over Jerusalem (The ancient City of David). David immediately and deeply repented for his sins asking God’s forgiveness for the people. With David’s confession and the angels dictate, Gad told David to purchase the threshing floor on which to build an altar to God and through which he would be forgiven.

David purchased the threshing floor from the willing Jebsuite King. He built the altar, made holy sacrifices to seek forgiveness for the sin of his ill fated census. In the process and the pandemonium the tribal leaders of the day unanimously accepted this altar as the beacon by which the future site of the first and second temples in Jerusalem would be determined. The demand, in 1 Chronicles 21:18  by the angel of death to build an altar on the threshing floor, at the angel's feet became accepted as a prophecy of Gad.

Are we to rely on a a vision, much less than a prophecy through the voice of an angel or on chance or hidden meaning that David's altar is in fact the site at which Isaac was bound and offered by Abraham - Akeida? Was David opportunistic? There are no scholarly sources that directly state King David’s selection of this location is one and the same with Akeida. For the past 2840 years from the time King Solomon built the first temple and its altar, people have simply believed the site to be precisely the true Akeida. How is it that the most holy site for Jews is identified with the feet of the angel of death?

David struggled to find the site of the temple, for years he contended with Doeg over its location. Did he not have a sign, an archaeological fingerprint, something to go on that was better than the feet of the angel of death and a prophecy of Gad to annul the plague that he caused? Did David know that the altar of Isaac was a prerequisite for the building of the Temple? David’s son Solomon built Jerusalem’s first temple based on the plans of his father, we don’t have those plans. What we have is a declaration in 1-Kings Chapter 6 that details how it was built by Solomon.

The missing ingredient in all this is the location of the altar of Isaac's binding, which is the essential item according  Rambam and Halacha (Torah Law) for building a temple in Jerusalem. So where is it?

Intriguingly the sacrifice offered for a sin offering is the same as the new month (Rosh Chodesh). When David brought his sacrifice at the altar the first time, he repented for his sin, not that of the nation it was not a communal offering, but David's. Today, in the Rosh Chodesh prayer Jews the world over ask for a "New altar to be built in Zion", but when David first used the word "Zion" the angel of death's altar had not been identified and Solomon had not built the temple. So where is David's Zion the place we ask for a new altar to be built?

In numerous articles I have argued that the newly excavated temple complex above the Gihon, on the neck of the mountain, where sacrificial worship and ceremony is now known to have taken place, is in fact the site of the altar on which Isaac was bound. Notwithstanding popular opinion, this site is likely to be the original site of Salem, Luz, Beit-El, Zion and Jerusalem as such it ought to be more seriously considered as the primary site King David did not identify. To understand the reasons why the King did not identify the site, we must be sensitive to a chronological series of events that presented him a great difficulty.

When King David and a small band of men first attacked and conquered the Jebusite city, now known as the City of David, its walls had been heavily fortified and constructed to prevent and protect its residents from attack while allowing them to obtain water from the perennial Gihon Spring. Within and adjacent inner sections of the city walls, many homes had been built.


The walls and the homes were built on the foundation of bedrock over the site of Isaac’s altar, that had once been carved out of bedrock on the Upper Ridge. After occupants first began living on the mountain area, they extended the small Upper Ridge which serviced worship on the east facing hillside. It is probable the first small walls were chiseled or even built by Jacob and his sons when they returned from Shechem on their way to Hevron via the place of the matzevah (monument) Jacob erected at the site of Akeida, the altar. This is also the place where Jacob experienced his famous dream in which the angels walked up and down the ladder or stairway between heaven and earth and where he accepted the name Israel upon himself. It is also where he anointed his monument to God and formally took the name Israel.

When King David entered the city for the first time this general location, at and around the Gihon Spring became known as the Zion fortress and is referred to numerous times in the Bible. There is little doubt this is the physical location Tzion or Zion that David referred to. Whether or not King David knew of the existence of the temple complex is unknown, regardless its emergence for the first time in more than 3000 years and its identity today is remarkable. The question remains whether we will be open minded enough to seriously question whether or not the site we presently identify for the third temple is in fact its true location?

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Jerusalem - alternative theories






















David Ussishkin’s alternative view is a wonderful account of excavations at the City of David on which many facts turn. Three references ought to be given greater weight because they fit the Biblical timelines.
  1.  Fill L1654A/1656A comprised the fill beneath the floor which also abutted Wall 285 (De Groot and Bernick-Greenberg 2012: 110, photo 130, plan 58). The floor yielded MB II pottery, including one complete, and two partly complete storage jars (Eisenberg 2012: figs 7.4–7.6, 7.12–7.14).
  2. We should add at this point that ʻMB II pottery is likewise associated with the floor inside the cave at the south-eastern exit of Warren’s Shaft System’ (Reich and Shukron 2000b: 333).   
  3. Hardly any remains from the Late Bronze or Iron I–IIA periods — structural remains and pottery alike — were uncovered in the Gihon Spring excavations (Reich 2011: 304–06; Reich and Shukron 2004: 213; Uziel et al. 2013: 24*). This datum indicates that, for some 800 years or so, between the end of the MB II in the 16th century and the Iron IIB in the 8th century, there was hardly any human activity in the area of the spring.

The presence of whole jars at L1654A/1656A is sufficient archaeological proof, by any standard that the floor post-dates the fill. The MBII pottery in the cave at the south-eastern end of the Warren’s Shaft System is sufficient to tie the period with L1654A/1656A, therefore the use of these features. Finally an 800 year gap in evidence at the Gihon Spring must surely be alluded to in the Biblical record.

According to Wikipedia, the Bronze Age and Iron Age together are sometimes called the "Biblical period".[9] The periods of the Bronze Age include the following:

Early Bronze Age I (EB I) 3330–3050 BCE
Early Bronze Age II–III (EB II–III) 3050–2300 BCE
Early Bronze Age IV/Middle Bronze Age I (EB IV/MB I) 2300–2000 BCE
Middle Bronze Age IIA (MB IIA) 2000–1750 BCE
Middle Bronze Age IIB (MB IIB) 1800–1550 BCE
Late Bronze Age I–II (LB I–II) 1550–1200 BCE

In the Iron Age/Israelite period both the archaeological and narrative evidence from the Bible become richer and much writing has attempted to make links between them. A chronology includes:

Iron Age I (IA I) 1200–1000 BCE
Iron Age IIA (IA IIA) 1000–925 BCE
Iron Age IIB-C (IA IIB-C) 925–586 BCE
Iron Age III 586–539 BCE (Neo-Babylonian period)

We can already see the discrepancy between Ussishkin’s “800 year gap” and Wikipedia’s 625 years. Give or take inaccuracies, that could be reduced to 550-600 years. In any event it’s a significant period where trace of life is almost non-existent.

L1654A/1656A fill pre-dated the physical construction of wall 285, as such wall 285 may have occurred some reasonable time after MBII, the time for signs of life begins to narrow. If the theory that the Massive Fortified Corridor (MFC) of the Gihon Tower was built in response to Israel’s exodus from Egypt, it would serve the evidentiary gap. In the 436 years between the time Israel, under Joshua returned to their homeland and the appointment of King David, there is good reason significant evidence is absent.

Joshua 10:2-4 discloses that after news of Joshua’s destruction of Ai and secession by Gibeon , Adoni-Zedek, king of Jerusalem gathered neighboring kings from Hebron (south) Jarmuth (west), Lachish (south west), Eglon/Debir (south) to a battle they ultimately lost against Joshua.

The opening verses of Judges, 1:4-7 states the tribe of Judah brought Adoni-bezek to Jerusalem to die after he had been maimed by them. 1:8-15 briefly states Judah conquered Jerusalem. 1:17-19 states Judah also conquered Gaza, Ashkelon, Ekron and territory. 1:20,21 states Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem. 1:22-26 declares the house of Joseph smote Beit El, which was Luz. Shortly after these accounts Joshua dies and the period of Judges begins.

I included Gaza, Ashkelon and Ekron to illustrate that the tribe of Dan, to which this territory was allotted was unable to occupy it fully and were forced to also establish territory in the north. Further, Jerusalem was split because Judah conquered Jerusalem, but Benjamin did not. Finally the question about the location of Luz must be addressed. Two potential locations exist for BeitEl/Luz, Jerusalem and to the north modern Bethel. If Jacob’s dream at HaMakom was Mount Moriah - Jerusalem, it would support that the following tit-for-tat verses are not declarative as to territorial achievements. In any event there appears to be empirical victory over some of Jerusalem, which may also be related to the area defined as Beit El or Luz.

Wall 285, to which L1654A/1656A abuts was a wall of the lower city on the south east slope of Mount Moriah, therefore it stands to good reason that this was the Jerusalem Judah conquered. It would also comport with Benjamin’s allotment to the northern section of Mount Moriah, designated Jerusalem. Curiously Judges 1:22-26 uses the adverb גם (gum) meaning also or further to the previous verse, regarding Benjamin's Jerusalem. As such BeitEl/Luz, which was smote by the House of Joseph forms a relationship between the verses and associates BeitEl/Luz with Jerusalem.

Returning to the absence of evidence at the Gihon, if indeed Judah or Joseph had destroyed the lower city of Jerusalem, it would necessitate that life ceased abruptly and that the ever present Israelite threat may have rendered the lower slopes of Mount Moriah uninhabitable for the entire ~440 years of Joshua through through King David.

The biblical account emphasizes that Ussishkin’s unusual absence of evidence associates the time of Joshua-Judges and suggests that use of the Warren’s Shaft System, following the Judah-House of Joseph attack on the lower city became the limitation on access to water, a significant factor that restricted the upper city's population growth.