An Ancient Canaanite Temple Sheds Light on Judaism’s Early Competitors

As the Hebrew Bible frequently mentions, the worship of Baal and other pagan deities was the norm in the land of Canaan before the Israelite conquest, and continued to appeal to Israelites themselves for centuries thereafter. Archaeologists discovered a temple dedicated to the worship of these gods in Lachish, about 24 miles southwest of Jerusalem—built in the times before Kings Saul and David. After a five-year excavation, they have published a comprehensive report on their findings. Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:

During the middle and late Bronze Ages, the people of Lachish controlled large parts of the Judean lowlands, and the city was among the foremost Canaanite cities in the Land of Israel. Mentioned in the Bible, Lachish was built around 1800 BCE and later destroyed by the Egyptians around 1550 BCE. The city rose and fell twice more [before its final destruction] in 1150 BCE. The 12th-century-BCE Canaanite temple, while not a massive compound, is a once-in-a-lifetime find for archaeologists.

In a departure from the typical Canaanite temple structure, the compound also includes side rooms. [It] was divided into a front area that was marked by two columns and two towers, which led into a large hall. From there, an inner sanctum was delineated by four supporting columns “and several unhewn ‘standing stones’ that may have served as representations of temple gods,” stated the [archaeologists’] press release.

In addition to the standing stones . . . [many] other ritual items were discovered, such as “bronze cauldrons, jewelry inspired by the ancient Egyptian goddess Hathor, daggers and axe-heads adorned with bird images, scarabs, and a gold-plated bottle inscribed with the name Ramses II, one of Egypt’s most powerful pharaohs.”

Perhaps the most fascinating finds are a pair of “smiting gods,” which were discovered inside the temple’s inner sanctum, comparable to the Jerusalem Temple’s “Holy of Holies.” . . . Smiting gods are found in the Levant in temples from the [period]. The [archaeologists] write that the figurines are commonly identified with two Canaanite gods, Baal and Resheph, who are both known as war gods.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Archaeology, Canaanites, Idolatry, Paganism


Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy