Discovered in Israel: A Biblical Shrine for the Ark of the Covenant?

Jan. 11 2019

According to the books of Samuel and Chronicles, the Ark of the Covenant was kept at various locations in the Land of Israel, the last of which was the town of Kiriath Jearim, until King David brought it to Jerusalem. An excavation at what is thought to be this town has revealed a large elevated podium that Israel Finkelstein—the dig’s co-director and one of Israel’s leading archaeologists—believes was built to commemorate the Ark’s sojourn there. Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:

The elevated rectangular podium . . . can be reconstructed to have covered an area of more than four acres. Created with typical Iron Age walls, which still stand at some six-feet tall, it is oriented exactly north-south and east-west.

It is an oddity in the kingdom of Judah, which, according to the Bible, once ruled Kiriath-Jearim. Finkelstein and his co-directors believe the platform may have been a shrine built by the Northern Kingdom [to compete with Jerusalem, located firmly in the Southern Kingdom of Judah], in commemoration of the Ark of the Covenant story. . . .

According to the archaeologists, other similar platforms were well-known in the Northern Kingdom during the suggested window of time, including in the capital Samaria. The pottery debris close to the wall dates to the period from 900 to 700 BCE and the timing of the construction could also point to the Northern Kingdom: “An elevated platform at Kiriath-Jearim could have been built by [the Northern Kingdom] following the subjugation of Judah by [the north’s] King Joash,” as noted in 2Kings 14:11-13, stated the archaeologists. . . .

The archaeological dig is unusually located on private church property under the protection of the French government, a situation stemming from a 1949 agreement with the fledgling state of Israel. Today the site serves as the Convent of the Ark of the Covenant, which covers the hill’s summit, and is occupied by the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition.

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More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Ark of the Covenant, Hebrew Bible, History & Ideas

The Syrian Civil War May Be Coming to an End, but Three New Wars Are Rising There

March 26 2019

With both Islamic State and the major insurgent forces largely defeated, Syria now stands divided into three parts. Some 60 percent of the country, in the west and south, is in the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Another 30 percent, in the northeast, is in the hands of the mostly Kurdish, and American-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The final 10 percent, in the northwest, is held by Sunni jihadists, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, under Turkish protection. But, writes Jonathan Spyer, the situation is far from stable. Kurds, likely linked to the SDF, have been waging an insurgency in the Turkish areas, and that’s only one of the problems:

The U.S.- and SDF-controlled area east of the Euphrates is also witnessing the stirrings of internal insurgency directed from outside. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “236 [SDF] fighters, civilians, oil workers, and officials” have been killed since August 2018 in incidents unrelated to the frontline conflict against Islamic State. . . . The SDF blames Turkey for these actions, and for earlier killings such as that of a prominent local Kurdish official. . . . There are other plausible suspects within Syria, however, including the Assad regime (or its Iranian allies) or Islamic State, all of which are enemies of the U.S.-supported Kurds.

The area controlled by the regime is by far the most secure of Syria’s three separate regions. [But, for instance, in] the restive Daraa province in the southwest, [there has been] a renewed small-scale insurgency against the Assad regime. . . .

As Islamic State’s caliphate disappears from Syria’s map, the country is settling into a twilight reality of de-facto division, in which a variety of low-burning insurgencies continue to claim lives. Open warfare in Syria is largely over. Peace, however, will remain a distant hope.

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More about: ISIS, Kurds, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, Turkey