The Beth Shan temples (1 Samuel 31)

Bilderesultat for The Beth Shan temples

Following their victory over the Israelites at Mount Gilboa, the Philistines cut off Saul’s head and stripped his body of his weapons. 1 Samuel 31:10 informs us that “they put his armour in the temple of the Ashtoreths and fastened his body to the wall of Beth Shan“, suggesting that this temple was in the city of Beth Shan (also spelled “Beth Shaen”) about eight km east of Mount Gilboa. The account in 1 Chronicles 10:10 states that “they put his armour on in the temple of their gods and hung up his head in the temple of Dagon.” It appears that there were temples of both Dagon and Ashtoreth in Beth Shan. 2 Samuel 21:21 indicates that the bodies of Saul’s sons also were put on display, being hung in “the public square at Beth Shan.”

Bilderesultat for The Beth Shan temples

Beth Shan had a long history, with occupation periods from Early Bronze to the Byzantine and Arab periods. At the beginning of the Iron Age (twelfth century B.C.), it was inhabited by peoples who were either heavily influenced by Egypt or were themselves Egyptian. (A large number of Egyptian style artifacts were found there. In addition, famous but grotesque “anthopoid coffins” were uncovered.)

Bilderesultat for The Beth Shan temples

After the decline of Egyptian influence, the site was occupied by Canaanites and Sea Peoples (primarily Philistines). Two adjacent temples have been found there at stratum V, with artifacts dating to the tenth century B.C. Oriented from west to east, the temples were unique in plan. The northernmost was 19,5 x 11,3 m in outside dimensions, with its roof supported by four pillars. The southernmost was much larger – 24 x 18,3 m. Inside was a central hall with six columns and auxiliary rooms on either side. Some researchers conjecture that the northern temple was that of Ashtoreth (31:10) and the southern temple that of Dagon (1 Chronicles 10:10).


 

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