Anson Rainey’s vicious and vulgar attack on my theory concerning the Beer-Sheva cult place (“Beer-Sheva Excavator Blasts Yadin—No Bama at Beer-Sheva,” BAR 03:03) deserves no reply. But since BAR is widely read by people whose only interest is the archaeological truth, I will disregard any reference to some of Rainey’s unprecedented personal attacks and answer only the concrete facts raised by him.
• In trying to refute my suggestion (and it was not more than that) that the angled steps led to the altar, Rainey writes “There is no logic in building a staircase around the altar; the narrow steps would require some clever acrobatics to wrestle a sacrificial animal up to the altar hearth”. Logically or not, some ancient altars had stairs, as attested by Biblical and other Near Eastern sources. More than that—the animal (even if sacrificed as a whole offering) was first cut into pieces. Please read, for example, the first verses of the first chapter of Leviticus: “If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd he shall offer a male without blemish … Then he shall kill the bull before the Lord, and Aaron’s son the priest shall present the blood … And he shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into pieces (my italics, Y.Y.). And Aaron’s sons, the priests, shall lay the pieces, the head and the fat in order upon the wood that is the fire upon the altar … ” etc. (Leviticus 1:3–9). In any case, the absence of any traces of soot on the horns shows that the Beer-Sheva altar was used mainly for offering the fat and the entrails.
• As mentioned in my article in the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (No. 222, pp. 5–17, 1976), the real clue which led me to suggest that the stairs were connected with an altar was Yohanan Aharoni’s unacceptable explanation of their function (that being “the principle staircase leading to the top of the casemate wall”). In my article, therefore, I have set forth all the arguments against Aharoni’s theory. In Rainey’s article we are informed that he, too, did not agree with Aharoni’s idea. Rainey therefore suggests another theory; that the steps “were intended to go up to the roof of House 430”. This suggestion is untenable for various reasons: (a) The space between the first step and the pillared space (see his plan in “Beer-Sheva Excavator Blasts Yadin—No Bama at Beer-Sheva,” BAR 03:03) is merely 4 meters. The stairs are about 0.80 meters wide, and there are no revetment walls supporting their sides. How could a staircase so narrow stretch for 4 meters and rise to about 3–4 meters? (b) Why should a staircase be built in such an unusual way when the normal practice was to build the stairs adjacent to the wall and parallel to it? (c) Where did the stairs lead? I believe that the cobbled area (the southern part of the pillared room) was roofed. In that case the stairs would have led right into a roofless area. But even if the northern part were the roofed area, as Rainey claims, the stairs would have led to the very edge of the roof. Furthermore, the stairs would have cut the room into two parts, leaving the southern part without an entrance.
So, these stairs remain without a plausible explanation, except that they were attached to an installation, in my opinion, the altar.
• The water channel: The fact remains 004that the channel widens for no apparent reason abruptly to the left of the stairs, and turns into a wide and deep channel. Why?
Rainey’s claim that the channel directed the water to the well outside the city gate is a guess which has never been proved archaeologically.
• I am sorry that my schematic reconstruction of the altar and the stairs is slightly misleading. (This was drawn by an assistant of mine, with no evil intentions). In this reconstruction the altar appears to be about 30 centimeters smaller than its actual measurements. This small inaccuracy does not change the basic data. It is quite clear, even in Rainey’s plan, that between the altar and the oven remains a space of about 0.80 meters, a space equalling the width of the other entrances in this building. (By the way, a mud oven is a temporary installation, and may have been made in the last phase of the existence of the building).
• The fact that a few stones of the altar were found under the rampart (which is attributed to stratum II) does not prove, as indicated by Rainey, that the altar was dismantled in the previous stratum. The rampart may have been added to or repaired in the very last phase of the city’s life, while the altar may have been dismantled during an earlier phase of stratum II. It is notable that all these stones were found at the foot of the tell, in the very vicinity of building 430.
• The implication of my suggestion on the Biblical verse:-As I mentioned in my article, I consulted several of the leading Biblical scholars in the Hebrew University before putting forward my suggestion. All of them admitted that my interpretation was possible, and some thought it was even probable. Whether one accepts it or not is another matter. Besides, I indicated clearly in my article that the Biblical passage only gave me the clue, but the theory itself is based on archaeological arguments.
• The date of Lachish III: In my article I claimed that it is clear that the pottery of Beer-Sheva II resembles that of Lachish II, which all agree was destroyed by the Babylonians. Therefore, the date of Lachish III is irrelevant to the subject.
I intend to discuss elsewhere the fact that there is no correspondence between the pottery of Beer-Sheva and that of Lachish III, and suggest that there was a gap in Beer-Sheva’s history during the second half of the 8th century B.C.
Anson Rainey’s vicious and vulgar attack on my theory concerning the Beer-Sheva cult place (“Beer-Sheva Excavator Blasts Yadin—No Bama at Beer-Sheva,” BAR 03:03) deserves no reply. But since BAR is widely read by people whose only interest is the archaeological truth, I will disregard any reference to some of Rainey’s unprecedented personal attacks and answer only the concrete facts raised by him. • In trying to refute my suggestion (and it was not more than that) that the angled steps led to the altar, Rainey writes “There is no logic in building a staircase around the altar; the narrow […]