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Tel Dan in Its Northern Cultic Context

Tel Dan in Its Northern Cultic Context

Andrew R. Davis
  • Book Info
    Tel Dan in Its Northern Cultic Context
    Book Description:

    This work presents in detail a description of archaeological data from the Iron II temple complex at Tel Dan in northern Israel. Davis analyzes the archaeological remains from the ninth and eighth centuries, paying close attention to how the temple functioned as sacred space. Correlating the archaeological data with biblical depictions of worship, especially the “textual strata” of 1 Kings 18 and the book of Amos, Davis argues that the temple was the site of “official” and family religion and that worship at the temple became increasingly centralized. Tel Dan's role in helping reconstruct ancient Israelite religion, especially distinctive religious traditions of the northern kingdom, is also considered.

    eISBN: 978-1-58983-929-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  2. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. List of Figures
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. 1 Introduction: Cult Places and Sacred Spaces
    (pp. 1-16)

    In his review article of R. Albertz’s important history of Israelite religion, W. Dever applauds the overall scope and depth of the work, especially its attention to “unofficial cults,” but at one point he expresses surprise that Albertz makes no mention of the cultic precinct at Tel Dan, not even in his discussion of northern cult.¹ Unfortunately, Albertz’s omission is not exceptional, for although Tel Dan has been excavated for over thirty seasons and has yielded an impressive array of cultic artifacts and monumental architecture, in most studies of ancient Israelite religion the site remains marginal at best. Part of...

  6. Part 1: The Site of Tel Dan and Its Sacred Precinct

    • [Part 1 Introduction]
      (pp. 17-30)

      The site of Tel Dan (Arab.Tell el-Qāḍi) is a 20-hectare site located in the northeastern Huleh Valley (fig. 1).¹ Its mound is set against the karstic springs of ‘Ain Leddan (ān),² which constitute one of the site’s defining topographical features.

      These springs feed the Dan River, which is one of the three major tributaries of the Jordan River.³ Although the Dan River has the smallest catchment area of the three (8 km²)—upon seeing the river, Mark Twain laconically reported, “This puddle is an important source of the Jordan”⁴—it is the most abundant tributary, discharging 250 million...

    • 2 Area T, Stratum III: A Ninth-Century B.C.E. Cult Site
      (pp. 31-66)

      Stratum III at Tel Dan refers to the architecture and material remains associated with the so-called yellow floor, which was made of crushed yellow travertine and exposed in several sections of Area T.¹ In this way it became a common denominator; sections of exposed yellow floor could be linked together to provide a coherent snapshot of Area T after it was installed. The pottery sealed beneath the floor dates to the end of the tenth century B.C.E. and beginning of the ninth century B.C.E. and provides aterminus post quemfor the yellow floor.² Then working back from the eighth-century-B.C.E....

    • 3 Area T, Stratum II: An Eighth-Century B.C.E. Cult Site
      (pp. 67-108)

      Stratum II at Tel Dan is defined by a destruction layer that was exposed in Areas A, B, and T. As we shall see in the description below, the layer was most pronounced in T-West, where more phasing has been preserved. This destruction has been connected to the second western campaign of Tiglath-pileser III, although admittedly neither the Hebrew Bible (see 2 Kgs 15:29) nor the Assyrian royal annals mention Dan as a casualty of this campaign.¹ Yet even if Tiglath-pileser was not responsible for the conflagration, an eighth-century-B.C.E. date for the stratum is confirmed by the pottery found in...

  7. Part 2: Analysis of Biblical Texts

    • [Part 2 Introduction]
      (pp. 109-114)

      In part 2 I turn my attention to textual data, which will provide further context for the archaeological data I have analyzed. In this endeavor the Hebrew Bible will play a central role, but even as I am convinced that the biblical text can shed new light on the issues I have addressed, I am also mindful of its pitfalls. For this reason, I will begin part 2 by discussing the biblical texts that are relevant to my discussion of Tel Dan in the Iron IIB period and by explaining my rationale in selecting texts for the present work.


    • 4 Ninth-Century B.C.E. Textual Stratum: 1 Kings 18
      (pp. 115-146)

      In seeking out biblical texts to shed light on cultic attitudes in the northern kingdom during the Iron IIB, I turn now to the Elijah cycle (1 Kgs 17–19), especially chapter 18. Verses 20–40 of this chapter describe the contest on Mount Carmel between Elijah and the prophets of Baal in which both sides prepare a sacrifice without setting fire to it; then the prophets of Baal invoke the name of their god. When Baal fails to answer, Elijah calls upon YHWH, who immediately torches the sacrifice and its altar. YHWH’s triumph is acknowledged by the people, who...

    • 5 Eighth-Century B.C.E. Textual Stratum: The Book of Amos
      (pp. 147-170)

      When we turn to the Hebrew Bible for textual data to complement our analysis of Stratum II at Tel Dan, the book of Amos presents itself as a useful source for comparison. In terms of geographical and temporal proximity, this book represents the best available textual stratum for exploring cultic practices in the northern kingdom during the eighth century B.C.E. First of all, although Amos himself was a Judahite, the book focuses on his prophetic activity in Israel. Its regional character is apparent not only in the frequent mention of northern toponyms but also in Amos’s detailed description of life...

    • 6 Summary of Conclusions
      (pp. 171-176)

      Regarding the interface of archaeological and textual data, Avraham Biran, the excavator of Tel Dan for over thirty years, offered this recommendation: “Let us study the archaeological evidence. If we can explain what we find through the biblical record, so much the better, but if we cannot, each discipline will have to stand on its own merits.”¹ Indeed, both disciplines are indispensable for understanding the religion of ancient Israel, but each must be engaged independently before possible intersections can be explored. This approach has been a guiding principle of the preceding study, which began with an examination of two Iron...

  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 177-204)
  9. Scripture Index
    (pp. 205-210)