The Taanach cult stands (Joshua 17)

Occupied from the third millennium B.C. until the fourteenth century A.D. (although not continuously), the city of Taanach is located a few km southeast of Megiddo in the foothills above the Valley of Jezreel. Along with several other items used in deity worship, two tenth century B.C. cult stands have been recovered intact from this site. The first was uncovered during excavations from 1902-1904 and is about 89 cm tall. The second, discovered when excavations were resumed in the 1960s, is somewhat smaller, measuring about 60 cm in height.

Both stands contain panels of sculptured figures surrounding a hollow cube. The larger stand boasts two decorated panels with griffin- or sphinx-like creatures on them, as well as the protruding heads of other animal or human figures. The smaller is decorated in four panels: The bottom is of a female figure holding two lions; the next a cut-out space flanked by griffins (Mythical animals combining physical characteristics of eagles and lions); the third a sacred tree with an ibex (wild goat) on either side, each surrounded by lion-like creatures; and the uppermost a winged sun disc on the back of a horse or a bull.

This winged sun disc may represent the Canaanite god Baal, while the female figure with the lions may depict his consort or partner, Asherah. These were gods to whom the Israelites turned when they fell into apostasy.


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