An archeological discovery made in present-day Jerusalem seems to put forth evidence that contradicts the Bible. The ancient temple believed to date back to around900 BC at Tel Mozta not far from Jerusalem questions the biblical account that suggests that Solomon’s temple was the only one in the ancient kingdom of Judah.
The Temple of Solomon – which is also known as the First Temple – was erected around the 10th century B.C. and remained in existence until its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar II in 586 B.C.
The Hebrew Bible asserts the temple was built under Solomon, king of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah and that during the Kingdom of Judah, the temple was devoted to Yahweh.
As revealed in the Bible, the Jewish king Hezekiah carried out a religious reform that prohibited people from worshiping or praying outside Solomon’s temple. Subsequently and to ensure that the reform of his predecessor was accomplished, King Josiah would order to destroy all places of worship inside and outside the city.
However, this may not have been accurate. A group of archaeologists has discovered the remnants of another temple that is believed to date back between 900 and 600 BC. The ancient temple is thought to have been attached to a barn.
Archeological excavations suggest that around 150 congregants worshipped Yahweh inside the temple and used idols to enter into communion with the divine.
Instead of worshiping these idols, the researchers believe they were used as “means through which people could communicate with God (or with the gods).”
Experts believe that the temple was excused avoiding destruction most likely due to the granary being of great importance in the region. The existence of the temple further hints at the possibility that the Kingdom of Judah may not have been as strong as it would later become.
Given the importance of the granary, the temple may have been spared from destruction. This idea is backed by the fact that the area of Tel Motza, located on a fertile valley, was one of the largest centers of grain production and distribution of the time.
The remnants of the temple had been unearthed in 2012, however, it wasn’t until recently that an in-depth analysis of the structure was carried out.
As revealed by archeologists Shua Kisilevitz and Oded Lipschits of Tel Aviv University, the temple was most likely constructed around 900 BC and remained operational for more than 300 years.
Researchers discovered various sacred pottery vessels, chalices as well as small figurines of men and horses near the temple’s altar. The cache of sacred artifacts as been dated to circa 750 BC.
Archeologists have also unearthed animal bones at the site which sow signs of having been cut, a possible indication that the animals were sacrificed.
The temple was therefore operational during the eighth and seventh centuries BC, at a time when the worship outside of Solomon’s Temple was prohibited.
As explained by the Biblical Archaeology Review, “The Bible details the religious reforms of King Hezekiah and King Josiah. They assertedly consolidated worship practices to Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem and eliminated all cultic activity beyond its boundaries.”
“If a group of people living so close to Jerusalem had their own temple, maybe the rule of the Jerusalem elite was not so strong and the kingdom was not so well established as described in the Bible,” Kisilevitz revealed in an interview with Live Science.
The temple in Tel Motza was a rectangular structure with an open courtyard in the front, which served as a point for worship activity since the general population was not allowed to enter inside, the researchers explained.