Special Issue "Archaeology and Ancient Israelite Religion"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2018)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Avraham Faust

Department of Israel Studies, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan 5290002, Israel
Website | E-Mail

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Israelite religion has received a great deal of attention over the years, and many dozens of books and hundreds of articles have been written about various aspects of the Israelite religion. Initially, research was based on biblical testimony, either illustrating the various traditions or questioning them in a critical manner. Gradually, with the accumulation of more and more information on other ancient near-Eastern religions, and especially with the advent of archaeology, more avenues of research have been opened. Consequently, the framework that was based on the biblical narrative was abandoned by many, resulting in (1) an abandonment of the view that one can speak of an Israelite religion in the singular, and many today prefer to speak about Israelite religions, and (2) a plethora of research questions and scholarly agendas in approaching the data.

Among the questions discussed today are the differences between the "official" and "popular" expression of religion, between the "biblical" religion and the real one, as practiced during the Iron Age, the role of people in various forms of religions, the loci of religious expression (in temples or in other spaces), what objects were used for religious purposes (e.g., figurines) and how and when did monotheism evolve, and which other gods or goddesses were worshiped in ancient Israel? Did Israel's god (YHWH) have a spouse? Similarities and differences between the religious experienced in Israel and Judah and other Iron Age religions, the religion of Israel's neighbors, the influence of the Assyrian empire, aspects of continuity and differences between the Iron Age religion and those that developed during the Second Temple period, and many others.

Since archaeology has a major role in the new development, the present issue intend to present various approaches to the archaeology of Israelite religions, and to the contribution of recent studies to our understanding of this issue. Contributions are welcome by scholars from all disciplines, including archaeologists, biblical scholars, theologians, Assyriologists, historians, and more, and approaches need not be archaeological.

Prof. Dr. Avraham Faust
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • Archaeology
  • religion
  • Israelite religion
  • Bible
  • monotheism
  • polytheism
  • YHWH
  • ancient Near East

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle The Temple of Solomon in Iron Age Context
Religions 2019, 10(3), 198; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10030198
Received: 24 February 2019 / Revised: 12 March 2019 / Accepted: 13 March 2019 / Published: 15 March 2019
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Abstract
1 Kings preserves a long and detailed description of the construction of a temple and palace in Jerusalem by King Solomon in the 10th century BCE. Previous generations of scholars accepted this description as an authentic account. Accordingly, much literature on this text [...] Read more.
1 Kings preserves a long and detailed description of the construction of a temple and palace in Jerusalem by King Solomon in the 10th century BCE. Previous generations of scholars accepted this description as an authentic account. Accordingly, much literature on this text and the relevant archeological discoveries has accumulated. Since the 1980s, skeptical approaches to the early part of the Kingdom of Judah, the biblical text, and the archaeological record have been expressed. Some scholars doubt whether any temple at all was constructed in Jerusalem in the 10th century BCE. In the last few years, the picture has been changed by new discoveries from two Judean sites: a building model of the early 10th century BCE from Khirbet Qeiyafa and an actual temple building of the 9th century BCE from Motza. In this article, we present the history of research, some aspects of the biblical text and the contribution of the new discoveries. These enable us to place in context both the biblical text and the building it describes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Archaeology and Ancient Israelite Religion)
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Open AccessArticle The Religion of the Ammonites: A Specimen of Levantine Religion from the Iron Age II (ca. 1000–500 BCE)
Religions 2019, 10(3), 153; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10030153
Received: 7 January 2019 / Revised: 23 February 2019 / Accepted: 26 February 2019 / Published: 2 March 2019
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Abstract
In the Iron Age II (ca. 1000–500 BCE), the region around Amman, Jordan, was home to a sociopolitical group known as the Ammonites (literally, “the sons of Ammon”). This paper investigates the religious traditions of the Ammonites through an analysis of the extant [...] Read more.
In the Iron Age II (ca. 1000–500 BCE), the region around Amman, Jordan, was home to a sociopolitical group known as the Ammonites (literally, “the sons of Ammon”). This paper investigates the religious traditions of the Ammonites through an analysis of the extant archaeological and textual sources. The analysis leads to the conclusion that the religious tradition of the Ammonites is a specimen of the broader religious tradition of the Iron Age II Levant. One distinguishing feature of Ammonite religion is the state god Milkom, whose name is probably an epithet for the god ʾEl, and who appears to be represented in a tradition of stone sculptures that have been found in the vicinity of Amman. The rest of the non-physical realm was understood to be inhabited by gods, goddesses, a variety of other non-human beings, and dead ancestors. Also visible in the extant evidence is a blending of local and foreign elements, especially those from Mesopotamia. Unique in this respect is the probable temple to the moon-god at Rujm al-Kursi, which most likely reflects a local tradition of lunar worship influenced by the iconography of the Mesopotamian moon-god Sîn. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Archaeology and Ancient Israelite Religion)
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Open AccessArticle Iron Age Cultic Sites in Transjordan
Religions 2019, 10(3), 145; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10030145
Received: 29 January 2019 / Accepted: 20 February 2019 / Published: 27 February 2019
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Abstract
In the area east of the river Jordan, eight Iron Age structures identified as cultic have been excavated. This paper presents the evidence as published and discusses the relevance of the cultic identification of the structures. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Archaeology and Ancient Israelite Religion)
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Open AccessArticle Moon, Rain, Womb, Mercy The Imagery of The Shrine Model from Tell el-Far‛ah North—Biblical Tirzah For Othmar Keel
Religions 2019, 10(2), 136; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10020136
Received: 6 January 2019 / Revised: 3 February 2019 / Accepted: 12 February 2019 / Published: 25 February 2019
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Abstract
The present article focuses on the imagery of the shrine model found at Tell el-Far‛ah North, Biblical Tirzah, seat of the ruling dynasty of the Northern Kingdom in the early days of the Israelite monarchy. It examines the multiplicity of connotations, changeability and [...] Read more.
The present article focuses on the imagery of the shrine model found at Tell el-Far‛ah North, Biblical Tirzah, seat of the ruling dynasty of the Northern Kingdom in the early days of the Israelite monarchy. It examines the multiplicity of connotations, changeability and ambiguity in the representation of the lunar crescent image in the figurative language of the ancient Near East. Finally, the article offers a reconstruction of the model’s place within the cult of the late 10th–early 9th century BCE. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Archaeology and Ancient Israelite Religion)
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Open AccessArticle Women in Israelite Religion: The State of Research Is All New Research
Religions 2019, 10(2), 122; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10020122
Received: 5 January 2019 / Revised: 21 January 2019 / Accepted: 21 January 2019 / Published: 19 February 2019
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Abstract
Historically, those studying Israelite religion have ignored the existence of women in Iron Age Israel (1200–587 BCE). They have, therefore, accounted neither for the religious beliefs of half of ancient Israel’s population nor for the responsibilities that women assumed for maintaining religious rituals [...] Read more.
Historically, those studying Israelite religion have ignored the existence of women in Iron Age Israel (1200–587 BCE). They have, therefore, accounted neither for the religious beliefs of half of ancient Israel’s population nor for the responsibilities that women assumed for maintaining religious rituals and traditions. Such reconstructions of Israelite religion are seriously flawed. Only in the last four decades have scholars, primarily women, begun to explore women’s essential roles in Israel’s religious culture. This article utilizes evidence from the Hebrew Bible and from archaeological sites throughout Israel. It demonstrates that some women had roles within the Jerusalem Temple. Most women, however, resided in towns and villages throughout the Land. There, they undertook responsibility for clan-based and community-based religious rituals and rites, including pilgrimage, seasonal festivals, rites of military victory, and rites of mourning. They fulfilled, as well, essential roles within the sphere of domestic or household religion. At home, they provided medico-magical healing for all family members, as well as care for women and babies throughout pregnancy, childbirth, and beyond. They, and the men in their communities, worshipped Yahweh, Israel’s primary deity, and the goddess Asherah, as well; for most people, these two divinities were inextricably linked. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Archaeology and Ancient Israelite Religion)
Open AccessArticle Israelite Temples: Where Was Israelite Cult Not Practiced, and Why
Religions 2019, 10(2), 106; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10020106
Received: 7 January 2019 / Revised: 5 February 2019 / Accepted: 7 February 2019 / Published: 12 February 2019
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Abstract
Most scholars in the late 20th and early 21st century believed that cultic activity in the kingdoms of Israel and Judah was practiced in various temples that were scattered throughout the kingdoms. Still, a detailed study of the archaeological evidence on Israelite cult [...] Read more.
Most scholars in the late 20th and early 21st century believed that cultic activity in the kingdoms of Israel and Judah was practiced in various temples that were scattered throughout the kingdoms. Still, a detailed study of the archaeological evidence on Israelite cult reveals that Israelite cultic buildings were extremely rare, both in absolute terms and when compared to other ancient Near Eastern societies, suggesting that cultic activity in temples was the exception rather than the norm and that typical Israelite cult was practiced in the household and in other, non-temple settings. Hence, the evidence suggests that rather than viewing temples, like the one in Arad, as exemplifying typical cultic activity, they should be viewed as exceptions that require a special explanation. The first part of the article develops and updates the suggestion, first raised about ten years ago, that Israelite temples were indeed extremely rare. Given the ancient Near Eastern context, however, such practices seems to be exceptional, and the second part of the article will therefore explain why was such a unique pattern not identified in the past, and will suggest a possible explanation as to how was such an outstanding practice developed and adopted. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Archaeology and Ancient Israelite Religion)
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Open AccessArticle Philistine Cult and Religion According to Archaeological Evidence
Religions 2019, 10(2), 74; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10020074
Received: 6 January 2019 / Accepted: 16 January 2019 / Published: 23 January 2019
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Abstract
The paper surveys and discusses the updated archaeological evidence for Philistine cult and religion, and cult and religion in Philistia during the Iron Age. The evidence can be related to public or official cult, represented in temple and shrine structures, and to that [...] Read more.
The paper surveys and discusses the updated archaeological evidence for Philistine cult and religion, and cult and religion in Philistia during the Iron Age. The evidence can be related to public or official cult, represented in temple and shrine structures, and to that coming from households, representing possibly more popular religion. The evidence of public cult, so far mostly from peripheral sites, includes largely cultural elements linked with the local Canaanite cult and religion. Yet, within households at the Philistine cities there is more evidence for cultic elements of Aegean affinity during Iron Age I. In particular, figurines and ceramic figurative vessels and objects will be discussed. It seems that the Philistine religion may have retained certain distinctive elements also during Iron Age II. Nevertheless, it is still difficult to reconstruct the details of the nature of the Philistine religion due to the limited amount of evidence and lack of textual records. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Archaeology and Ancient Israelite Religion)
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