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Archaeologists excavating at Beit Shemesh, (pronounced, bate she-mish) located about 12 miles (20 km) west of Jerusalem, have unearthed a structure they believe to be a 3100-year-old temple. It has been identified as such by the excavators due to its thick walls and perfectly square construction, as well as the presence of pottery vessels and animal bones which may indicate ritual activity. The structure was destroyed at sometime in the 12th century BC, likely by the Philistines and the temple was converted to a space to house animals, as evidenced by a thick layer of dung. The excavators have proposed that this was a deliberate act of desecration. Recently the team discovered a large slab of rock lying horizontally on two rocks, appearing as a sort of table. Some have suggested that this rock is to be understood in connection with the “great stone” in Joshua’s field that the ark was placed on when it was returned by the Philistines (1 Sam. 6:14). This, according to some critical scholars, is evidence that there may be a “kernel of history” in the ancient biblical text, and has led to much sensationalism in recent headlines, such as, “Archaeologists discover table on which Ark of Covenant once sat – report” in the Jerusalem Post. However, a “stone table” (if it is a table) located in a structure identified as a temple (if it was a temple), may not be related in any way to a “great stone” in the middle of a field in a nearby valley, and ought not be understood to reflect “inconsistencies between the [biblical] narrative and the evidence” as has been reported. Such reporting reveals more about the presuppositions of the reporter than the truth of Scripture. Beit Shemesh was an important city mentioned over 20 times in ​the biblical text, and the current excavations will hopefully result in a greater understanding of this site, but absent of such speculation.





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