Digging Up the Philistine Religion in Goliath’s Hometown https://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/history-ideas/2024/02/digging-up-the-philistine-religion-in-goliaths-hometown/

February 27, 2024 | Judy Siegel-Itzkovich
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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 on Jerusalem Post: https://www.jpost.com/archaeology/article-788924