Arad and Beer-Sheva

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May 25th 2012
Published: May 25th 2012
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We trekked up to Tel Arad on Wednesday the 23rd. To illustrate the height of my nerd-dom in the ancient world, the highlight of the day was visiting the Arad house, which demonstrates the typical house layout from the Early Bronze Age. The doorway presents itself on the long end of the wall, and the dwelling had no windows. Ah, you want more trivia about this fascinating site? How about the fact that a small clay model of the exact same dwelling was found within the Arad House, which helps us confirm that this design was in fact a standard design for this time period.

Brian (our fearless class instructor) made an excellent point at this site. We read so often about the various types of sacrifices which were performed throughout the Old Testament. Though the sacrifices served a cultic purpose, they also served a highly practical purpose as well: a feast. The opportunity to eat meat outside of the times of sacrifice would have been rare, so at the time of sacrifice, the approved animal without blemish would be killed upon the altar. However, we make a mistake in thinking that the animal would have been burnt to a crisp or otherwise ruined - rather, it was cooked and prepared for human consumption.

We also talked briefly about the name of the (in)famous Judas Iscariot, the one that betrayed Jesus with a kiss on the Mount of Olives. As it turns out, there is a fort on the road from the Eastern Negev basin to Jerusalem named Keriot. It is believed that Judas was born in this small town. Now, men would sometimes be called by their first name followed by their birthplace (i.e. Jesus of Nazareth), and the word for "man" in Hebrew is pronounced "'ish." Hence: Judas "Ish-Keriot", the man from Keriot. Cool, eh?

Part of the Tel Arad site includes a Temple which was in use from the 12th to 8th centuries BC. This is significant for a few reasons, not least of which is that by the time the Temple ceased to be in use at the 8th c., the Temple in Jerusalem would have been in service. Add to this the fact that the Temple here at Arad seems to be dedicated to YHWH, the God of the Israelites, and the question must be raised why a second temple would be necessary when Jerusalem was to be the home of the cult. As Brian pointed out to us, though, standing stones are present in the Holy of Holies of this temple, which often represent the god or gods being worshipped. But since standing stones were not typically part of YHWH worship, could this Temple be providing us evidence that other gods besides YHWH were being paid homage to here? Judging from the evidence at this site as well as many other secondary YHWH temples throughout the land, it is possible that Asherah was being worshipped in addition to YHWH for at least part of this temple's life.

We then proceeded to the site of Beer-Sheva, which was first settled in the 12th or 11th centuries BC (though the site remains date to the 6th c. BC). As my time is growing short for this entry, I will only mention a great story from Genesis 23 which seems to be illustrating a quirk of Middle Eastern culture which can still be seen today. Abraham wishes to buy a burial place for his wife Sarah from a landowner named Ephron, so he goes to the gate at Hebron to ask the assembly of men for permission to do this. Ephron, who is present at the gate, then begins an overly polite, protracted negotiation with Abraham. Turns out, Ephron doesn't want to sell Abraham just the burial site, but the entire field in which the burial would be located, and at a grossly inflated price! "My lord, listen to me; a piece of land worth 400 shekels of silver, what is that between me and you?"

Translation: You've got a wife to bury, and I've got you right where I want you. Pay up. :-)

So many more ultra-Biblical-nerdy things I could say here, but suffice it to say another very full day in the region of Arad. Also took the time this morning to explore the modern city by running through the neighbourhood outside the hostel. Modern Arad overlooks some very deep canyons, and as the sun rose above the horizon the Dead Sea and, further afield, the land of Jordan was clearly visible as I ran through the streets.

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