SERIES: The History of the Esrtwhile
“Jerusalem’s Temples: The Archaeological Evidence”
This History of the Erstwhile article draws excerpts from the Watch Jerusalem article:
The Bible relates that Hezekiah was a righteous king over Judah at the end of the eighth century b.c.e. He was famous for his religious reforms—destroying pagan places of worship and refurnishing the temple in Jerusalem. Ample evidence of Hezekiah’s pagan “purges” has been found (notably, at Lachish).
However, later in his reign, Hezekiah’s faith wavered. The Assyrians were invading Judah, and Hezekiah attempted to pay them off. Sennacherib demanded 300 talents of silver and 30 talents of gold. Hezekiah pillaged the temple, going so far as to strip gold from the doors and pillars (2 Kings 18:14-16).
Remarkably, receipt of this transaction has been found, documented on Sennacherib’s prisms. “As for Hezekiah, the terrifying splendor of my majesty overcame him … In addition to the thirty talents of gold … [continues to list a variety of other items, including silver] which he had brought after me to Nineveh, my royal city. To pay tribute and to accept servitude, he dispatched his messengers.”
Again, while this discovery of itself does not “prove” the temple, it does confirm the biblical account, accurate down to the weight of gold—and where did that gold come from? The temple!
House of YHWH
This fascinating ostracon (a pottery sherd with writing on it) was discovered at Tel Arad, dating to the early sixth century b.c.e. (just before the fall of Judah). It reads:
To my lord Eliashib: May yhwh inquire after your well-being. And now, give to Shemaryahu a measure (of flour), and to the Kerosite you will give a measure (of flour). And concerning the matter about which you commanded me, it is well. He is staying in the house of yhwh.
The name of Jerusalem’s temple was the “house of yhwh,” the tetragrammaton name of God. And it did have chambers in it, within which one could stay. However, there were also several pagan “high places” around the land, attested to in the Bible and in archaeology. These were known as “houses of yhwh,” the same as the temple—and one was in Tel Arad. Still, it seems likely that this ostracon refers to the temple in Jerusalem. This is based on the assumption that the letter was found where it had been delivered to—Eliashib, in Tel Arad—and thus, the house of yhwh would logically not be the one at Tel Arad. Further, the unspecified location of this house may thus imply it to be the most well-known and only true house of yhwh—the temple in Jerusalem.
At the very least, the inscription confirms such a thing as a “house of yhwh.” Where did such a term, such an idea, come from? Surely, it must have been from the official religious center of worship—from the original house of yhwh, the temple in Jerusalem.