The Northern Kingdom’s Northern Temple?

Credit:, Galilee and the North, Israel

Exodus 25 begins the laws of Israel’s desert Tabernacle, its central shrine during Israel’s wanderings. Moses is ordered to collect the materials needed for construction: The Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give. These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and another type of durable leather; acacia wood; olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece. Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.”

In 1 Kings 12, after Jeroboam led the split of the 10 northern tribes from the Rehoboam’s kingdom centered in Jerusalem, he established two competing sites for ritual worship, one at Dan at his kingdom’s northern edge and another at Bethel near his southern border. “After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, 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.”

Tel Dan is an archaeological site in the northeastern corner of the Hula Valley, north of the Korazim Plateau and the Sea of Galilee. It is located where the Dan River feeds into Jordan River.

Archaeologists working the site discovered an Iron IIA temple complex in the northwest section of the site. A pathway from the lower city led up to the temple complex. The temple area was 60 square feet. It included a 16 square foot altar, with steps on both sides of the altar. The steps have led researchers to assume that the altar was elevated and could be reached via the steps. The altar itself likely had horns on its corners

The platform also contained a number of smaller rooms. In these rooms were found two smaller sacrificial altars. These altars likely were used for burning incense.

The findings demonstrate a temple with similarities to the Temple in Jerusalem, and are potentially the site of the temple complex initiated by the first Israelite ruler.

The image above is an aerial view of the archaeological site at Dan.