Iron Age temple near Jerusalem challenges the Biblical claim that Solomon's ...

An Iron Age temple discovered at Tel Motza, near Jerusalem, calls into question the Biblical claim that Solomon's temple was alone in the ancient Kingdom of Judah.

Solomon's Temple — which is also known as the First Temple — stood from the 10th Century BC until its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar II in 586 BC.

According to the Bible, the Jewish people were prohibited from worshipping outside of Solomon's Temple — and the other 'high places' of worship were destroyed.

However, experts unearthed another temple in Judah — what is today southern Israel — which dates back to between around 900–600 BC and is attached to a granary.

This 'other' temple and had 150 congregants who worshipped Yahweh but also used idols in order to commune with the divine.

Experts think the granary was powerful enough to have its Temple excused — hinting that the Kingdom of Judah was not initially as strong as it would later become.

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An Iron Age temple discovered at Tel Motza near Jerusalem, pictured, calls into question the Biblical claim that Solomon's temple was alone in the ancient Kingdom of Judah

An Iron Age temple discovered at Tel Motza near Jerusalem, pictured, calls into question the Biblical claim that Solomon's temple was alone in the ancient Kingdom of Judah

The Iron Age site at Tel Motza, pictured — which was first discovered in the early nineties — lies around 4 miles (6.4 kilometres) outside of Jerusalem

The Iron Age site at Tel Motza, pictured — which was first discovered in the early nineties — lies around 4 miles (6.4 kilometres) outside of Jerusalem

The Iron Age site at Tel Motza — which was first discovered in the early nineties — lies around 4 miles (6.4 kilometres) outside of Jerusalem.

The temple at the site was only unearthed in 2012, however — with in-depth excavations taking place last year in advance of a road construction project.

According to archaeologists Shua Kisilevitz and Oded Lipschits of Tel Aviv University, the temple was in built around 900 BC and remained in operation for around 300 years. 

This means that the temple was in use in the eighth and seventh centuries BC, during which worship outside of Solomon's Temple was beginning to be outlawed.

'The Bible details the religious reforms of King Hezekiah and King Josiah, the researchers wrote in the magazine Biblical Archaeology Review.

'[They] assertedly consolidated worship practices to Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem and eliminated all cultic activity beyond its boundaries.' 

'If a group of people living so close to Jerusalem had their own temple, maybe the rule of the Jerusalem elite was not so strong and the kingdom was not so well established as described in the Bible,' Ms Kisilevitz told Live Science.

The only other known temple within the Kingdom of Judah from this time was 'a small temple in the southern border fort of Arad, which served the local garrison,' Ms Kisilevitz added.

Solomon's Temple, pictured — which is also known as the First Temple — stood from the 10th Century BC until its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar II in 586 BC. According to the Bible, the Jewish people were prohibited from worshipping elsewhere

Solomon's Temple, pictured — which is also known as the First Temple — stood from the 10th Century BC until its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar II in 586 BC. According to the Bible, the Jewish people were prohibited from worshipping elsewhere

The temple at Tel Motza was a rectangular structure with an open courtyard in front, which 'served as a focal point for the cultic activity, as the general population was not allowed into the temple itself,' Ms Kisilevitz told Live Science. Pictured, a horse figurine found at Tel Motza

The temple at Tel Motza was a rectangular structure with an open courtyard in front, which 'served as a focal point for the cultic activity, as the general population was not allowed into the temple itself,' Ms Kisilevitz told Live Science. Pictured, a horse figurine found at Tel Motza

Perhaps, the researchers propose, the continued existence of the Temple was sanctioned, despite flying in the face of Hezekiah and Josiah's reforms.

The Tel Motza site was home to a granary, with dozens of silos for grain storage and movement as well as what appear to be administrative buildings.

The duo believe that Tel Motza became so successful as a granary that it ended up catering to Jerusalem and becoming powerful in its own right — enough so that its associated Temple was exempted.

'It seems that the construction of the temple — and the worship conducted in it — were related to [the granary's] economic significance,' the researchers wrote.

'Cultic finds in the courtyard include a stone-built altar on which animals were sacrificed and their remains discarded into a pit dug nearby,' Ms Kisilevitz added. Pictured, a horse figurine

'Cultic finds in the courtyard include a stone-built altar on which animals were sacrificed and their remains discarded into a pit dug nearby,' Ms Kisilevitz added. Pictured, a horse figurine

Excavations have also recovered four broken clay figures that were buried in the courtyard, likely as part of a cultic ritual. Two of the clay statuettes resembled humans, pictured, while the other two appear to be the oldest known depictions of horses from Judah's Iron Age

Excavations have also recovered four broken clay figures that were buried in the courtyard, likely as part of a cultic ritual. Two of the clay statuettes resembled humans, pictured, while the other two appear to be the oldest known depictions of horses from Judah's Iron Age

Excavations have also recovered four broken clay figures that were buried in the courtyard, likely as part of a cultic ritual. Two of the clay statuettes resembled humans, pictured, while the other two appear to be the oldest known depictions of horses from Judah's Iron Age

The temple at Tel Motza was a rectangular structure with an open courtyard in front, which 'served as a focal point for the cultic activity, as the general population was not allowed into the temple itself,' Ms Kisilevitz told Live Science.

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