Zev Radovan

A bronze bull figurine, measuring a diminutive 4 by 7 inches, is a rare example of a “proto-Israelite” cult artifact. Discovered at a 12th-century B.C.E. site near Biblical Dothan, in the Samaria hills north of Mt. Ebal, the bull may have been worshiped as a deity. The chief Canaanite god, El, was often depicted as a bull. William Dever notes that many aspects of Israelite culture—from pottery to language to agricultural festivals—reflect Canaanite influence, so we should not be surprised if religious practice does, too. “Why would the prophets denounce the Canaanite cult so vehemently if it were not still present?” he asks.