The high place at Dan (1 Kings 12)

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According to 1 Kings 12 Israel’s king Jeroboam I challenged Jerusalem’s claim to be the only legitimate location for worshiping and offering sacrifices. Jeroboam built “shrines on high places” (12:31) in Dan (pictured above) and Bethel as rivals to the Jerusalem temple, installed golden calves in each, appointed priests and institutionalized festival days. During excavations at Tel Dan (Tell el-Qadi) beginning in 1966, archaeologist A. Biran discovered a sacred precinct that has been identified as almost certainly the one established by king Jeroboam I in the tenth century B.C. The shrine was renovated and expanded under kings Ahab and Jeroboam II during the eighth and seventh century B.C., respectively.

In the sacred area a massive stairway (approximately 8,2 m long and 7,9 m wide leads up an aslar block platform, which is nearly 3 m high. This “high place“, where the golden calves would have been displayed, was either an open-air sanctuary or served as the base of a temple structure. Within the sacred precinct Biran uncovered both small and large four-horned altars (the smaller ones for incense and burnt offerings, such as birds, and the large altar for bigger animals, like sheep and goats, the remains of which were also unearthed). Iron shovels, a jar used for an ash disposal, a ceremonial drinking bowl, oil lamps with seven spouts and numerous other religious objects were also found.

By all archaeological and Biblical indications, Jeroboam I was successful in rerouting Israelite pilgrims from Jerusalem to Dan and other shrines (12:30). These shrines were condemned by the prophets as spurious and as enticements to apostasy.


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