These inscriptions were found on large storage pots at a desert outpost in the Sinai named Kuntillet Ajrud. These texts also mention Yahweh in conjunction with a female divine counterpart, Asherah. See Ze’ev Meshel, “Did Yahweh Have a Consort?” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 1979; and Ruth Hestrin, “Understanding Asherah—Exploring Semitic Iconography,” Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 1991.


The name “Israel” is much older than the time of the United Monarchy, although it is only with the monarchy that we see a whole Israel that unites these component tribes. The term “Israel” first appears in the archaeological record at the end of the 13th century in a victory stele of Egyptian king Merneptah. His defeat of a people named Israel in the Canaanite highlands probably refers to one of the smaller groups that eventually lent its name (and religious traditions) to the larger entity. See Frank J. Yurco, “3,200-Year-Old Picture of Israelites Found in Egypt,” Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 1990.



Throughout this study, the author has benefited greatly from the excellent work by Patrick D. Miller in The Religion of Ancient Israel, Library of Ancient Israel (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox, 2000).


Miller, Religion of Ancient Israel, pp. 69–70. In addition to the zevach, Miller mentions the family aspects of the Passover feast as well as the family libations and offerings criticized by the prophet in Jeremiah 7:18.


See, for example, Joshua 3–5 on the spring festival held at Gilgal, Deuteronomy 16 for the summer harvest festival, and Leviticus 23:39–43 for the autumn festival of “booths” or “ingathering.”


This point is also made by the religious reforms and innovations introduced by Ahaz (2 Kings 16:10–18) and Manasseh (2 Kings 21:1–9), who (like Hezekiah and Josiah) brought the cult into line with their political agendas, in this case influenced by their vassal relationship with Assyria. Notice the statement in 2 Kings 16:18 that Ahaz “did this because of the king of Assyria.”


The instructions for the Passover celebration in Exodus 12–13 indicate that lambs should be slaughtered and consumed in diverse family gatherings. Only in Deuteronomy 16 does this celebration become a national festival celebrated in Jerusalem. Notice, for instance, that Deuteronomy does not mention the smearing of blood on the doorpost, which is central to the commemorative observance in Exodus. The differences here have led many to conclude that the Passover was observed among the clans in pre-monarchical Israel and that Deuteronomy reflects a centralizing, reformist vision. This would explain why the reforming Kings Hezekiah and Josiah (2 Kings 23:21–23) lament the fact that the Passover had not been performed “properly” in many years.


There have been many discussions about the particulars of this ritual, and why the priests must burn these particular items. Excellent recent work is found in Mary Douglas, Leviticus as Literature (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1999).


Miller, Religion of Ancient Israel, pp. 121–130.


Regulations for lepers and other people with such purity issues are spelled out in detail in Leviticus 11–15.


An accessible version of this tale, and others, can be found in Benjamin R. Foster, From Distant Days: Myths, Tales, and Poetry of Ancient Mesopotamia (Bethesda, MD: CDL Press, 1995). See Tzvi Abusch, “Gilgamesh: Hero, King, God and Striving Man,” Archaeology Odyssey, July/August 2000; and William H. Steibing, Jr., “A Futile Quest: The Search for Noah’s Ark,” Biblical Archaeology Review, June 1976.