“There has been nothing like it in the archaeology of the Land of Israel until now. It’s not one room; it’s a large complex with lots of animal bones all around. We have to recall that [the] Arad [temple] is a two-day walk from Jerusalem. I assume that the population in the Negev needed a site for their ritual cult, but Motza is five kilometers [about 3 miles] from Jerusalem. Why did they need another temple [while Judean kings sat on the throne in Jerusalem]?”
Ancient Jewish Temple Competing With Temple Of David And Solomon Found Only 3 Miles From Temple Mount
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
In a shocking find that will surely change historians’ and archaeologists’ understanding of biblical-era Israelite history, Israeli archaeologists have found and excavated a site they identify as a temple that competed with the Jerusalem Temple of Kings David and Solomon, Ha’aretz reports.
Even more stunning, this second temple, which dates to the First Temple period after King Solomon but before King Hezkiyahu, is located on the outskirts of Jerusalem only approximately three miles from the Temple Mount itself.
The site, in an area called Tel Motza, was discovered during the rerouting of Highway 1, and is thought to be the biblical Mozah mentioned in the Book of Joshua.
In the excavation, archaeologists Anna Eirikh, Dr. Hamadi Khalaily and Shua Kisilevitz reportedly found a massive building with clear signs of ritual use, dating to the 9th century BCE.
The building has an enormous east-facing entrance which the archaeologists say conforms to ancient Near East temple construction standards.
A square structure which appears to have been an altar was found in the temple's courtyard.
Archaeologists found a treasure trove of ritual objects made from pottery near the building that included tiny figurines of men and animals that were mostly farm animals.
An analysis of the animal bones found at the site showed that they belonged only to animals considered kosher by the bible for ritual use and consumption – cows, goats, sheep and deer. Most of them were young when they were killed and showed signs of having been cut, indicating that they were probably brought as sacrifices.
The only other building outside Jerusalem identified with certainty as a temple was excavated by Yochanan Acharoni in Arad in the 1950s.
The discovery of the Motza temple raises questions about the status of the central Temple in Jerusalem.
“We’re talking about a settlement in the very heart of the Kingdom of Judea within walking distance of the Temple, and we’re finding vestiges of a temple and an altar and sacred vessels, That’s very surprising, and we have nothing to compare it with,” an Antiquities Authority official told Ha’aretz.
The Motza temple was apparently in use after the period of David and Solomon and it may have fallen out of favor or have been closed entirely with the ritual reform attributed by Tanach to Kings Hezekiyahu and Yoshiyahu in the Eighth and Seventh Centuries BCE which banned the sacrificial cult outside of the Jerusalem Temple.
“There has been nothing like it in the archaeology of the Land of Israel until now. It’s not one room; it’s a large complex with lots of animal bones all around. We have to recall that [the] Arad [temple] is a two-day walk from Jerusalem. I assume that the population in the Negev needed a site for their ritual cult, but Motza is five kilometers [about 3 miles] from Jerusalem. Why did they need another temple?,” Prof. Yosef Garfinkel of Hebrew University’s Department of Archaeology, told Ha’aretz.
Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University sees much less importance in the find.
“We have additional evidence of the existence of ritual cult sites in Judea up to the end of the eighth century BCE – in Arad, Be’er Sheva and Lakhish. But we can also learn of it from the biblical text, which is constantly demanding a centralization of the ritual cult. That’s the best testament to the fact that there were other such sites,” Finkelstein reportedly said.