TEL LACHISH — The ruins of what has been characterized as a Canaanite temple, along with numerous artifacts — including a gold-plated bottle referencing the historic Egyptian leader Rameses and two bronze “smiting gods”— have been unearthed in Lachish, the biblical city where the Scripture chronicles in the Book of Joshua that “the Lord delivered Lachish into the hand of Israel.”
According to reports, the discovery was made by an archaeological team led by professors Yosef Garfinkel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology and Michael Hasel at Southern Adventist University in Tennessee.
“This excavation has been breathtaking,” Garfinkel said in a statement. “Only once every 30 or 40 years do we get the chance to excavate a Canaanite temple in Israel. What we found sheds new light on ancient life in the region. It would be hard to overstate the importance of these findings.”
The archaeologists outline that layout of the “level VI northeast temple,” which they date to the 12th century B.C., is similar to other Canaanite structures that have been found in Northern Israel but is more square. However, it also differs in that there are side rooms that are “typical of later temples, including Solomon’s Temple.”
The temple, or ceremonial structure, appears to have had two columns at its entrance and two towers that led to a large hall, along with “standing stones” inside that might have represented their gods.
A number of artifacts were also found in the vicinity, including jewelry, daggers, ax heads engraved with bird images, and Egyptian items, such as a gold-plated bottle that was inscribed with the name “Rameses II,” also known as Rameses the Great.
According to reports, Rameses II ruled for 67 years after taking the throne as a teen. Claiming to be a god on earth, he had many structures built in his lifetime, and a large statue bearing his image was found in Giza in the 1990s. Another statue stands in front of the temple of Luxor.
Some believe that Rameses II was pharaoh at the time of the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt, but others place him a few centuries later. The Egyptians were among those who destroyed Lachish, which was razed on several occasions, including by Joshua and the Israelites, as noted in Joshua 10:32.
“And the Lord delivered Lachish into the hand of Israel, which took it on the second day, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and all the souls that were therein …,” it reads.
In the temple’s inner sanctum were found two bronze figurines believed to represent the Canaanite’s “smiting gods,” possibly Baal or Resheph. A pottery shard was also found in the area with the Hebrew letter “samek” written therein — the oldest known discovery bearing the letter.
Christian News Network reached out to the Pennsylvania-based Associates for Biblical Research (ABR) for its take on the finds. It said that it views the temple and its artifacts as rather representing Israel’s departure from the Lord during the period of the judges — to serve the Canaanite gods — which would line up with the dating of the discovery. It noted that Israel would have already had possession of the land for several centuries by this time, not the Canaanites.
“The Bible states that Joshua and the Israelites conquered Lachish when they entered the Promised Land (Joshua 10:32). According to biblical chronology, this occurred in the 15th century B.C.,” staff member Bryan Windle outlined.
“The recently discovered ‘temple’ at Lachish dates to the 12th century B.C., during the period of the judges,” he explained. “This would appear to affirm what is written in the book of Judges: ‘Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. … They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. (Judge 2:11,13).”