Rectangular Shrines, South and North

Credit:, Galilee and the North, Israel

Exodus 26 & 27 describe the dimensions of the desert Tabernacle and its courtyard. These show rectangular sacred spaces. In Exodus 27, it instructs: Make a courtyard for the tabernacle. The south side shall be a hundred cubits long and…the north side shall also be a hundred cubits long…The west end of the courtyard shall be fifty cubits wide and have curtains, with ten posts and ten bases. On the east end, toward the sunrise, the courtyard shall also be fifty cubits wide.” The Tabernacle building was similarly rectangular, with dimensions of 10 cubits wide by 30 cubits long.

Solomon’s Temple structure was also rectangular shaped. In 1 Kings 6 the construction is described as follows: “In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites came out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, the second month, he began to build the temple of the Lord. The temple that King Solomon built for the Lord was sixty cubits long, twenty wide and thirty high.” Again, it was a rectangular shaped structure, its dimensions double that of the Tabernacle.

In 1 Kings 12, after he led the northern tribes to secede from the Davidic kingdom, Jeroboam set up shrines to compete with the shrine in Jerusalem. “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan.

At Tel Dan, archaeologists discovered a temple sanctuary that dates to the Iron IIA period. The site contained a large animal sacrificial altar and smaller altars that were likely used for incense.

Archaeological sites can be studied as layers. An earlier site is filled and covered and a new site is built above the older material. At Tel Dan, the observable sanctuary site, referred to as Bamah B, measured at 62×60 feet. This layer was assigned to the mid-9th century BCE. However, this layer appears to have been an expansion of an earlier temple site. And this earlier high sanctuary, referred to as Bamah A, was a rectangular site, measured at 22’x60’, comparable to the dimensions of Solomon’s Temple as described in the Bible.

The image above is of the high place at Tel Dan.