Next to Jerusalem, Lachish was the most important city from the time of King Rehoboam, until the exile of Judea in 586 BCE. The archaeological site of Tel Lachish has been undergoing excavation for decades. However, given its enormous size, only in March of this year was the elaborate structure of the city gate fully revealed in its original state.
According to excavation director Sa’ar Ganor, the “Gate Shrine,” which is the specific site that now is being fully exposed, points to none other than King Hezekiah. More specifically, the findings at the Gate Shrine are linked to Hezekiah’s religious reforms mentioned in 2 Kings 18:4: “He [Hezekiah] removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah.”
The broken horns of the twin alters located within the Gate’s structure were broken to desecrate the pagan alters of Baal. The latrines found within the Gate also point to a common practice used to desecrate pagan holy places, first mentioned in connection with King Jehu: “They also broke down the sacred pillar of Baal and broke down the house of Baal, and made it a latrine to this day” (2 Kings 10:27).
Tests conducted by the Israel Antiquity Authority found that these latrines were never used, adding weight to the notion that they served as a sign of defilement.
The Gate also reveals that the biblical institution of the “City Gate” was real. Ganor points to well persevered benches located within the gate’s chambers and stated that, “According to biblical descriptions, the gate of a city was where everything happened. The city elders, the judges, governors, kings, and bureaucrats – all of them sat on the benches at the city gates,” which now can actually be seen for the first time.
As expected, politicians were quick to seize the opportunity to emphasize modern Israel’s connection to its biblical past.
Minister of Culture and Sport, Miri Regev, said that this discovery is one of many in a long line that “gives us a glimpse into our rich past.”
These archaeological findings are opening the doorway to some of the most incredible biblical sites known to man and will continue to shed light on the significance of the area’s incredible past.
Originally posted at Israel Today Magazine.