Digging Up the Philistine Religion in Goliath’s Hometown

In the book of Samuel, the Philistines capture the Ark of the Covenant from the sinful Israelites and place it in the temple of their god Dagon. The next day, the priests find that the idol of Dagon has fallen to the ground and set it upright. The day after that, they find the statue lying on the ground and broken into pieces, and decide to find another place for the Ark.

This episode is one of very few sources about the religion of the Philistines, who controlled southwestern Canaan and battled with the ancient Israelites for many centuries. Recent research, based on years of excavations of the city of Gath—home to Goliath, the most famous Philistine—provides some new information on the subject, as Judy Siegel-Itzkovich writes:

The discovery of numerous plants in two temples unearthed at the site unraveled unprecedented insights into Philistine cultic rituals and beliefs—the food ingredients in their temple, the timing of ceremonies, and plants for temple decoration. Freshwater, agriculture, and the cyclical birth, death, and rebirth of a plant are recognized and venerated as transformative, and even magical, in the oldest myths, such as the Gilgamesh epic, the tale of Aqhat, and the worship of deities such as Tammuz, Ishtar, and Baal.

An analysis of the temples’ seeds and fruits provided valuable insights into the timing of rituals, with the importance of the early spring for temple rites, and the date of the final utilization of the temples—and their destruction by Hazael of Aram, [described in 2Kings 12:17]—which occurred in late summer or early fall. The seasonal aspect of Philistine religious practices underscores their deep connection to the natural world and the cycles of agriculture.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Goliath, Paganism, Philistines

Israel Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security