Tel Motza, Israel — Archaeologists in Israel have announced the discovery of a pagan temple and a number of figurines that date back to the time of King Solomon.
The Israel Antiquities Authority states that it uncovered the items while excavating in Tel Motza, west of Jerusalem.
“The ritual building at Tel Motza is an unusual and striking find, in light of the fact that there are hardly any remains of ritual buildings of the period in Judea at the time of the First Temple,” explained Anna Eirikh, Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily and Shua Kisilevitz, who are directing the excavation. “The uniqueness of the structure is even more remarkable because of the vicinity of the site’s proximity to the capital city of Jerusalem, which acted as the Kingdom’s main sacred center at the time.”
They outline that the positioning of the temple further indicates that it was meant for pagan worship.
“The walls of the structure are massive, and it includes a wide, east-facing entrance, conforming to the tradition of temple construction in the ancient Near East: the rays of the sun rising in the east would have illuminated the object placed inside the temple first, symbolizing the divine presence within,” the Authority stated. “A square structure, which was probably an altar, was exposed in the temple courtyard, and the cache of sacred vessels was found near the structure.”
The various figures that were collected were also of interest to archaeologists.
“The assemblage includes ritual pottery vessels, with fragments of chalices — bowls on a high base which were used in sacred rituals, decorated ritual pedestals, and a number of pottery figurines of two kinds: the first, small heads in human form with a flat headdress and curling hair; the second, figurines of animals — mainly of harnessed animals,” the Authority stated.
While ancient pottery has been located in a number of other sites throughout Israel, the Authority believes this discovery is especially important because remains of pagan temples dating back to this period have been few and far between.
“The finds recently discovered at Tel Motza provide rare archaeological evidence for the existence of temples and ritual enclosures in the Kingdom of Judah in general, and in the Jerusalem region in particular, prior to the religious reforms throughout the kingdom at the end of the monarchic period (at the time of Hezekiah and Isaiah), which abolished all ritual sites, concentrating ritual practices solely at the Temple in Jerusalem,” the directors stated.
As recorded in Scripture, when the book of God’s Law was brought to King Josiah and read aloud, he tore his clothes and sorrowed over the nation’s rebellion against God. The king then destroyed all of the idols and their temples and altars, and called the people together for a time of repentance before the Lord. Hezekiah, his grandfather, also had destroyed pagan altars throughout the land, but Hezekiah’s son Manasseh, soon rebuilt them.
The archaeologists state that the items uncovered during the excavation will require further research.