See Ze’ev Meshel, “Did Yahweh Have a Consort?” BAR 04:03; André Lemaire, “Who or What Was Yahweh’s Asherah?” BAR 10:06; and Ruth Hestrin, “Understanding Asherah—Exploring Semitic Iconography,” BAR 17:05.


Ugaritic is a language that was used in northern Syria in the second millennium B.C.E.


Akkadian is a Semitic language that was used in Mesopotamia as long ago as the third millennium B.C.E.


Elsewhere the New Jewish Publication Society translation renders the word as “open shrine” (1 Kings 3:2).


Contemporaneous sacred places belonging to non-Israelites, including the Philistines (at Ashdod and Miqne) and the Edomites (at Horvat Qitmit; see Itzhaq Beit-Arieh, “New Light on the Edomites,” BAR 14:02) have also been excavated.


See Aharon Kempinski, “Joshua’s Altar—An Iron Age I Watchtower,” and Adam Zertal, “How Can Kempinski Be So Wrong?” both in BAR 12:01; and Hershel Shanks, “Two Early Israelite Cult Sites Now Questioned,” BAR 14:01.


See Israel Finkelstein, “Shiloh Yields Some, But Not All, of Its Secrets,” BAR 12:01.



Note Torczyner’s early counteractive statement: “I have tried to show that ‘bamot’ are not ‘high’ places but sacred buildings erected, both on high as in low places” (Harry Torczyner et al., Lachish I: Tel Lachish Letters [London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1938], p. 30). He continued by suggesting that the term bamah refers to a cultic building and to all the ritual objects found within it.


See, for example, R.A. Stewart Macalister’s interpretation of the Gezer Middle Bronze II standing stones as a high place, a Canaanite precursor of the Biblical bamah (The Excavation of Gezer, 3 vols. [London: Palestine Exploration Fund, 1912], vol. 2, pp. 381–406).


See, for example, Avraham Biran, “To the God Who Is in Dan,” in Temples and High Places in Biblical Times, ed. Biran (Jerusalem: Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, 1981), pp. 142–145. Here, Biran discusses the enormous stone platform excavated in Divided Monarchy Dan. See also “Avraham Biran—Twenty Years of Digging at Dan,” BAR 13:04. Patrick D. Miller’s description of the bamah as, minimally, “a raised elevation, platform, or mound often alongside or near a sanctuary and set up primarily for the purpose of sacrifices” (“Israelite Religion,” in The Hebrew Bible and Its Modern Interpreters, ed. D.A. Knight and G.M. Tucker [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985], p. 228) incorporates the idea of platform and several others. See also Patrick H. Vaughan, The Meaning of “Bama” in the Old Testament: A Study of Etymological, Textual and Archaeological Evidence, Society for Old Testament Study Monograph Series 3 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1974), p. 55. Vaughan specifies two types of bamot or “cultic platforms.” They are “truncated cones of some height; and low oblong ones which may also have had an altar standing on them.”


See Yigael Yadin, “Beer-sheba: The High Place Destroyed by King Josiah,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (BASOR) 222 (1976), p. 8; Menahem Haran, “Temples and Cultic Open Areas as Reflected in the Bible,” in Biran, ed., Temples and High Places, p. 33; and Haran, Temples and Temple-Service in Ancient Israel: An Inquiry into Biblical Cult Phenomena and the Historical Setting of the Priestly School (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1985), pp. 17–25.


See, for example, William F. Albright, “The High Place in Ancient Palestine,” Vetus Testamentum Supplement 4 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1957); Albright, Archaeology and the Religion of Israel (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1969), p. 102; and, contra, W. Boyd Barrick, “The Funerary Character of ‘High Places’ in Ancient Palestine: A Reassessment,” Vetus Testamentum 25 (1975), pp. 565–595.


Rudolf Kittel, an early pioneer in the study of Israelite religion, considered the bamah to have been the place for the enactment of Canaanite cult. The later tendency of Israel to revert to Canaanite religious practices he likened to the allure of Catholicism (“pleasing both to the senses and to the imagination”) over and against the “sternly ethical” Protestantism of the Reformed Churches. The latter, in Kittel’s opinion, was closely aligned to the “serious form of worship” offered by the prophets (The Religion of the People of Israel, trans. R.C. Micklem [New York: Macmillan, 1925], pp. 34–35, 146).


Barrick, “What Do We Really Know About ‘High-places’?” Svensk Exegetisk Arsbok 45 (1980), p. 51.


This is the approach used by Yohanan Aharoni in his description of the Arad and other bamot temples as institutions “at the royal administrative and military centers dominating the [Israelite and Judaean] borders” (“Arad: Its Inscriptions and Temple,” Biblical Archaeologist 31 [1968], pp. 28–30).


The following comments of William G. Dever are most appropriate: “There seems to be a great deal of unnecessary confusion, not to mention skepticism, in our discipline about the use of social science ‘models’ in archaeology. Yet a model is simply a heuristic device, an aid in interpretation and understanding the basic evidence. It is, if you wish, a hypothesis to be tested against the evidence, and if necessary replaced by one that is more useful as new evidence becomes available. A model is simply a way of framing appropriate questions. And without doing that explicitly, I would argue that we can never hope to convert so-called archaeological ‘facts’ into true and meaningful data, data that can elucidate the complex cultural process in ancient Palestine” (“The Rise of Complexity in Palestine in the Early Second Millennium B.C.,” Second International Congress on Biblical Archaeology, 1990 (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1993). See also Norman Yoffee, “Social History and Historical Method in the Late Old Babylonian Period,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 102 (1982), pp. 347–348.)


See Leviticus 26:30 (in which Yahweh threatens to destroy Israelite bamot) and Numbers 33:52. Both of these are attributed to the Priestly School (Richard Elliott Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible [New York: Summit/Simon and Schuster, 1987], pp. 252, 254), writing in the seventh or sixth century B.C.E.


Carol Meyers, “David as Temple Builder,” in Ancient Israelite Religion: Essays in Honor of Frank Moore Cross, ed. P.D. Miller, Jr., P.D. Hanson and S.D. McBride (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987), pp. 357–376.


The economic centralization of David’s empire as detailed in 1 Chronicles 27:25–31 has been documented by Michael Heltzer, “The Royal Economy of King David Compared with the Royal Economy in Ugarit,” Eretz-Israel 20 (1989), pp. 175–180 (in Hebrew). Agricultural produce and the breeding of livestock were managed according to specialized programs, subsequent to which goods were distributed according to state policy.


First Chronicles contains many texts relevant to the study of early monarchical Israel. See Baruch Halpern, “Sacred History and Ideology: Chronicles’ Thematic Structure—Indications of an Earlier Source,” in The Creation of Sacred Literature, ed. R.E. Friedman, Near Eastern Studies 22 (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1981), pp. 35–54.


See Albright, Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, p. 117; and Yohanan Aharoni, The Land of the Bible: A Historical Geography (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1967), pp. 269–273.


See also G.W. Ahlström, Royal Administration and National Religion in Ancient Palestine (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1982), pp. 25, 47–74.


The reference to the bamot of Baal in the Transjordanian Balaam story (Numbers 22:41) comes rom the Elohist’s text (eighth-seventh centuries B.C.E.; see Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible? p. 253), although the story originally may derive from earlier epic material (see Jo Ann Hackett, “Religious Traditions in Israelite Transjordan,” in Miller, Hanson and McBride, eds. Ancient Israelite Religion, p. 128). From this perspective, the mention of a bamah (or bt bmt) in the Mesha Inscription is interesting. This Transjordanian text describes the mid-ninth-century B.C.E. victory of Mesha, king of Moab, over Israel. It mentions that Mesha’s father built a bamah for Kemosh in Qarhoh, and that following its destruction, Mesha restored it (Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 2nd edition, ed. James B. Pritchard [Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1955], pp. 320–321; Mitchell Dahood, “The Moabite Stone and Northwest Semitic Philology,” in The Archaeology of Jordan and Other Studies, ed. Lawrence T. Geraty and Larry G. Herr [Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews Univ. Press, 1986], p. 437). Biran has noted the close (although not necessarily amicable) relationship between Moab and Israel during these centuries (see “To the God Who Is in Dan,” p. 143), and this relationship may well extend to shared modes of worship.


Judges 17–18 describes the migration of the tribe of Dan to Laish (Tel Dan). The Danites conquered Laish, renamed it Dan and set up an idol they had commandeered from a man in Ephraim named Micah. Micah’s priest, a Levite from Bethlehem and a member of the clan of Judah, joined the Danites in their new northern home. The Levitically run shrine established at Dan remained in existence “as long as the House of God was at Shiloh” (Judges 18:31). Thus, Dan was not a blank slate onto which the Israelite monarchy could impose its wishes. Jeroboam had to contend with the preexisting Levitical cult at Dan. For the Israelite monarchy, ruling from Shechem far to the south and isolated from Dan by the mountain chains of the Galilee, control of Dan was crucial. It was to Jeroboam’s advantage to utilize the already existing clergy, involving them—and their congregants—in the national cult that served to link them to the Israelite monarchy. The bamah at Dan has recently been excavated.


The story of Abimelech ben Jerubaal (Judges 9) takes place in 12th-century Shechem, a city that remained under Canaanite control. The Temple of Baal-berith/El-berith (Judges 9:4, 27, 46–49), which Abimelech and his supporters destroyed, has been identified with the Canaanite Fortress Temple 2b of Temenos 9, well known from excavations at Shechem. See Lawrence E. Toombs and G. Ernest Wright, “The Fourth Campaign at Balatah (Shechem),” BASOR 169 (1963), p. 29; Toombs, “Shechem: Problems of the Early Israelite Era,” in Symposia Celebrating the Seventy-fifth Anniversary of the Founding of the American Schools of Oriental Research (1900–1975), ed. F.M. Cross (Cambridge, MA: American Schools of Oriental Research, 1979), p. 73. The scale of this Canaanite sanctuary stands in contrast to contemporaneous Israelite places of worship, which were, by comparison, quite small.


Amihai Mazar, “The ‘Bull Site’: An Iron Age I Open Cult Place,” BASOR 247 (1982); pp. 27–42; Mazar, “Bronze Bull Found in Israelite ‘High Place’ from the Time of the Judges,” BAR 09:05.


Adam Zertal, “An Early Iron Age Cultic Site on Mt. Ebal: Excavation Seasons 1982–1987,” Tel Aviv 13–14 (1986–1987), pp. 105–165; Zertal, “Has Joshua’s Altar Been Found on Mt. Ebal?” BAR 11:01.


Israel Finkelstein, The Archaeology of the Israelite Settlement (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1988), pp. 226–232.


Yigael Yadin, Hazor: The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy, 1970 (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1972), pp. 132–134; Pirhiya Beck, “The Metal Figures,” in Hazor III–IV: An Account of the Third and Fourth Seasons of Excavation, 1957–1958, Text, ed. A. Ben-Tor (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1989), p. 361.


Yadin, Hazor: The Rediscovery of a Great Citadel of the Bible (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1975), p. 257.


David Ussishkin, “Shumacher’s Shrine in Building 338 at Megiddo,” Israel Exploration Journal (IEJ) 39 (1989), pp. 149–172. For a rebuttal of Ussishkin’s position, see Ephraim Stern, “Shumacher’s Shrine in Building 338 at Megiddo: A Rejoinder,” IEJ 40 (1990), pp. 102–107.


Paul W. Lapp, “The 1963 Excavation at Ta’annek,” BASOR 173 (1964), pp. 26–39; Lapp, “The 1968 Excavations at Tell Ta’annek,” BASOR 195 (1968), pp. 42–44; and Walter Rast, Taanach I: Studies in the Iron Age Pottery (Cambridge, MA: American Schools of Oriental Research, 1978), pp. 26–39.


Yohanan Aharoni, Investigations at Lachish: The Sanctuary and the Residency, Lachish V (Tel Aviv: Gateway, 1975), pp. 26–32.


Amihai Mazar, Excavations at Tel Qasile, Part 1, The Philistine Sanctuary: Architecture and Cult Objects, Qedem 12 (1980), pp. 47–53.


Frances James, The Iron Age at Beth Shan: A Study of Levels VI–IV (Philadelphia, PA: The University Museum, 1966), pp. 110–118; Magnus Ottosson, Temples and Cult Places in Palestine (Boreas, Sweden: Uppsala Studies in Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Civilizations; Uppsala, Sweden: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 1980), pp. 71–73.


James, The Iron Age at Beth Shan, pp. 152–153.


Khair N. Yassine, “The Open Court Sanctuary of the Iron Age I Tell el-Mazar, Mound A,” Palestine Exploration Quarterly (PEQ) 118 (1984), pp. 108–118.


Nahman Avigad, “Excavations at Makmish, 1960: Preliminary Report,” IEJ 11 (1961), pp. 97–100.


Shalom Levy and Gershon Edelstein, “Cinq années de fouilles à Tel ‘Amal (Nir David),” Revue biblique 79 (1972), pp. 331–334.


According to Shulamit Geva, the eighth-century city of Hazor “was characterized by the absence of worship (no material remains of such, and no places of worship) and also apparently the absence of faith (as corroborated by the prophets).” Among those living at Hazor, religious practice was most likely affected by pilgrimage to the royal sanctuary at Dan (Hazor, Israel: An Urban Community of the 8th Century B.C.E., BAR International Series 543 [Oxford: British Archaeological Reports, 1989], pp. 108–110).


See Amihai Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible (New York: Doubleday, 1990), p. 143; Lawrence E. Stager and Samuel R. Wolff, “Production and Commerce in Temple Courtyards: An Olive Press in the Sacred Precinct at Tel Dan,” BASOR 243 (1981), p. 99. Others think that the podium was a raised platform on which sacrifices were made. See John S. Holladay, Jr., “Religion in Israel and Judah Under the Monarchy: An Explicitly Archaeological Approach,” in Miller, Hanson, McBride, eds., Ancient Israelite Religion, p. 255 and references there.


Biran, “To the God Who Is in Dan,” pp. 144–145.


A. Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, pp. 492–495.


Stager and Wolff, “Production and Commerce in Temple Courtyards,” pp. 95–97. Biran, on the other hand, suggested that the installation was used for special water libations (“Two Discoveries at Tel Dan,” IEJ 30 (1980), pp. 91–95; see also “Is The Cultic Installation at Dan Really an Olive Press?” BAR 10:06.)


Biran, “Two Discoveries at Tel Dan,” p. 95.


Ephraim Stern and Itzhaq Beit-Arieh, “Excavations at Tel Kedesh (Tell Abu Qudeis),” in Excavations and Studies: Essays in Honour of Professor Shemuel Yeivin, ed. Y. Aharoni (Tel Aviv: Institute of Archaeology, 1973), pp. xiv, 96; Stern and Beit-Arieh, “Excavations at Tel Kedesh (Tell Abu Qudeis),” Tel Aviv 6 (1979), pp. 5–6.


James B. Pritchard, Tell es-Sa‘idiyeh: Excavations on the Tell, 1964–1966, University Museum Monograph 60 (Philadelphia: The University Museum, 1985), pp. 8–9, 77–80.


Y. Aharoni, “Arad: Its Inscriptions and Temple,” p. 19; see also Ze’ev Herzog, Miriam Aharoni and Anson F. Rainey, “Arad—An Ancient Israelite Fortress with a Temple to Yahweh,” BAR 13:02. Noting the dissimilarity in size between the two standing stones within the Holy of Holies and the matching dissimilarity between the pillars flanking its entrance, A. Mazar suggested that the large and small stones reflected Yahweh and Asherah respectively (Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, p. 497).


Y. Aharoni, “Arad: Its Inscriptions and Temple,” pp. 21, 29–30.


Letter 18 from the Elyashib archive, which mentions byt yhwh (the house/temple of Yahweh), refers to the sanctuary at Arad rather than the Jerusalem Temple. See David Ussishkin, “The Date of the Judaean Shrine at Arad,” IEJ 38/3 (1988), p. 155.


See Z. Herzog, M. Aharoni, A.F. Rainey and Shmuel Moshkovitz, “The Israelite Fortress at Arad,” BASOR 254 (1984), p. 4, and references therein.


See Ussishkin, “The Date of the Judaean Shrine at Arad,” pp. 151–154, and references therein, esp. n. 45.


Y. Aharoni, “Excavations at Tel Beer-sheba: Preliminary Report of the Fifth and Sixth Seasons, 1973–1974,” Tel Aviv 2 (1975), pp. 154–156. One suggestion places the sanctuary on the spot of the later Building 32 (p. 162); see also Herzog, Rainey and Moshkovitz, “The Stratigraphy at Beer-sheba and the Location of the Sanctuary,” BASOR 225 (1977), pp. 56–58. A second claims that it was located southwest of the city gate and associated with Building 430. See Yadin, “Beer-sheba: The High Place,” p. 8.

Also see the following BAR articles: “Horned Altar for Animal Sacrifice Unearthed at Beer-Sheva,” BAR 01:01; and Hershel Shanks, “Yigael Yadin Finds a Bama at Beer-Sheva,” BAR 03:01.


Y. Aharoni, “Tel Beersheba,” Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, 4 vols., ed. Michael Avi-Yonah (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1975), vol. 1, p. 126.


Ze’ev Meshel, Kuntillet ‘Ajrud: A Religious Centre from the Time of the Judaean Monarchy on the Border of Sinai, Israel Museum Catalogue 175 (Jerusalem: Israel Museum, 1978).


Dever, Recent Archaeological Discoveries, pp. 140–149.