Worship (illicit) at the City Gate

One of the not–to–frequently mentioned actions that the ancients practiced at city gates was  worship ([always?] illicit).

2 Kings 23:8     Josiah brought all the priests from the towns of Judah and desecrated the high places, from Geba to Beersheba, where the priests had burned incense. He broke down the shrines at the gates—at the entrance to the Gate of Joshua, the city governor, which is on the left of the city gate. (NIV)

One of the best places to envision an example of one of these shrines is at a not–too–frequently visited place in Israel called et–Tell—probably to be identified as biblical Geshur (home of Absalom; see below for location).  One of the spectacular finds is a massive four–chamber Iron Age Gate.

Iron Age II City Gate at et-Tell/Geshur

Iron Age II City Gate at et-Tell/Geshur

View looking west into the entrance of the east gate of et–Tell.  Note the basalt paving stones and the two upright standing stones on each side of the gate.  On the right (north) side are three steps that led up to a “high place” (= worship center?).

GeshurStelaThe carved basalt stela found at the Iron Age Gate at et–Tell (probably biblical Geshur).  Note the bull headed figure that is place upon a tripod and wearing a sword.  It may be a representation of the storm god Hadad.  The stela dates to the 9th or 8th centuries BC.

high-place-detailView looking north at the High Place and stela located on the north side of the Iron Age gate that leads into the city.  On the left is one of the seven(!) stelae that were found in the gate area—this one is not inscribed.  Slightly to the right of center note the three steps that lead up to a high place that has a basin—carved black basalt—on the top platform.  Note the replica of a stela with the deity Hadad engraved on it.

GeshurEt-Tell is located about 2 miles north of the northeast shore of the Sea of Galilee on the east side of the Upper Jordan River.  It is often identified with the New Testament city of Bethsaida but in fact the remains from the Old Testament period are much more significant and it is probably to be identified as biblical Geshur (home of Absalom).


5 responses to “Worship (illicit) at the City Gate

  1. Pingback: Worship (illicit) at the City Gate | HolyLandPhotos’ Blog – beliefspeak2

  2. There is an identical feature in the gate of Dan, though a stele of Baal is missing. The explanation on the park signage ascribes this platform different meaning indicating thay it is where the governing official of the city sat. But it seems to me that because it is identical to the one at Geshur (Bethsaida) that it is most likely also a gate shrine. What are your thoughts?

    • You could be correct. Biran, the excavator wrote, “The platform was probably either for the city’s ruler, to greet a parade of dignitaries along a beautifully paved processional route, or a pedestal for the statue of a deity.”
      I opted for the first interpretation — see my previous blog post (note the column bases found at Dan). At Geshur, the stela was found at/on the pedestal and at Geshur there is a carved basalt basin (for offerings?) on the platform—not so at Dan. While at Dan, no stelae were found although several massevoth and cultic articles were found in the gate of Dan (see my coming post).

  3. Pingback: City Gate Shrine to Atu at the City of Geshur - David Olmsted

  4. At et-Tell, there is a stone bench to the right and a few feet forward of that pedestal where the elders of the city would have sat. Here’s a pic from 2012 with the site director, Rami Arav, demonstrating.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s