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An Ancient Latrine Provides Confirmation of a Biblical Narrative

Nov. 14 2017

The books of Kings and Chronicles describe King Hezekiah (late 8th century BCE) as a God-fearing religious reformer who “removed the high places, broke down the pillars, and cut down the sacred pole” (2Kings 18:4). According to most interpreters, this and other passages imply that Hezekiah not only cracked down on idolatry but banned the offering of sacrifices anywhere outside the Jerusalem Temple. Recent discoveries seem to confirm this narrative, as Robin Ngo writes:

Excavations at Tel Lachish fully exposed the massive city-gate complex, which measures about 80 feet by 80 feet. Discovered at the complex were remnants of storage jars—including some that bore the stamp l-m-l-k (“[belonging] to the king”)—that may be evidence of Hezekiah’s preparations against the Assyrian king Sennacherib’s impending attacks. Lachish was completely destroyed in 701 BCE.

Part of this gate complex, the archaeological team found, was a large room that appears to have been a shrine. The room contained two four-horned altars, whose horns [cube-like protrusions on the four corners of an altar’s top surface] had been intentionally damaged, and several ceramic lamps, bowls, and stands. [The scholars overseeing the excavation] believe that the destroyed altars corroborate biblical references to King Hezekiah’s reforms: his efforts to centralize worship in Jerusalem and abolish it elsewhere.

Most surprising of all was that in one corner of the room, the archaeologists discovered a seat carved of stone with a hole in the center—what [they] believe to be a toilet. This latrine . . . was unquestionably a form of desecration of this shrine room—a practice described in the Hebrew Bible: “Then they demolished the pillar of Baal, and destroyed the temple of Baal, and made it a latrine to this day” (2Kings 10:27).

[The researchers] believe the latrine excavated at Lachish was symbolically placed. . . . “Laboratory tests we conducted in the spot where the stone toilet was placed suggest it was never used,” [one] said in a press release; “hence, we can conclude that the placement of the toilet had been [merely] symbolic.”

Read more at Bible History Daily

More about: Archaeology, Hebrew Bible, Hezekiah, History & Ideas, Idolatry

 

Why a Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza Is Unlikely

Feb. 16 2018

High-ranking figures in the IDF, along with some Israeli and foreign officials, have been warning that economic troubles combined with severely deficient public works could lead to an outbreak of starvation or epidemic in the Gaza Strip; their warnings have been taken up and amplified in sensationalist stories in Western media. Hillel Frisch is skeptical:

The most important factor behind real humanitarian crises—mass hunger and contagious disease—is first and foremost the breakdown of law and order, and violence between warring militias and gangs. This is what occurred in Darfur, Somalia, and the Central African Republic. In such situations, the first to leave are the relief agencies. Then local medical staffs evacuate, along with local government officials and anyone professional who can make it out of the bedlam. The destitute are left to fend for themselves. Hospitals, dispensaries, schools, and local government offices are soon abandoned or become scenes of grisly shootouts and reprisals.

Nothing could be farther from such a reality than Gaza. Hamas, which is the main source of [misleading reports] of an imminent humanitarian crisis, rules Gaza with an iron fist. Few developed democracies in the world can boast the low homicide rates prevailing in the Strip. Nor have there been reports of any closings of hospitals, municipal governments, schools, universities, colleges, or dispensaries. . . .

Nor have there been news items announcing the departure of any foreign relief agencies or the closure of any human-rights organizations in the area. Nor is there any evidence that the World Health Organization (WHO), which rigorously monitors the world to prevent the outbreak of contagious disease, is seriously looking at Gaza. And that is for good reason. The WHO knows, as do hundreds of medical personnel in Israeli hospitals who liaise with their colleagues in Gaza, that the hospital system in Gaza is of a high caliber, certainly by the standards of the developing world. . . .

Hamas, [of course], wants more trucks entering Gaza to increase tax revenues to pay for its 30,000-strong militia and public security force, and to increase the prospects of smuggling arms for the benefit of its missile stockpiles and tunnel-building efforts. How Israel should react is equally obvious. You want more humanitarian aid? . . . Free the two mentally disabled Israelis who found their way into Gaza and are imprisoned by Hamas.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian economy