The table was uncovered within a temple dating back to the 12th Century BCE, a time when the Israelites and Philistines were warring.
A 3,100-year-old temple uncovered near Beit Shemesh may hold a link to the Ark of the Covenant, archaeologists have said.
The archaeological site at a tel on the outskirts of Beit Shemesh, 20km west of Jerusalem, which has been under excavation since 2012 has now recently yielded a fascinating discovery: a stone table, which echoes Biblical narratives of a slab on which the Ark of the Covenant is said to have been placed.
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The table has been found within a structure thought to be a temple thanks to its construction – the building was a perfect square, with walls 8.5m long, whose corners aligned with the cardinal points – and because it contained two large concave stones with gutters which may have been used for libation offerings, as well as a vast array of pottery and animal bones, indicative of ritual activity.
“There is a lot of evidence that this was indeed a temple,” Prof. Shlomo Bunimovitz of Tel Aviv University told Haaretz. “When you look at the structure and its content, it’s very clear that this not a standard domestic space but something special.”
The table structure, a huge dolmen-like rock slab resting upon two smaller rocks, posed more of a challenge.
“At the beginning we thought it was a massebah that had fallen over,” Dr. Zvi Lederman, who leads the dig, said (a massebah is a type of standing stone commonly associated with cultic activity in the Levant). “But soon we realized that it was meant to be a table.”
The find is significant because it ties in with the time frame of the ‘large stone’ the Ark of the Covenant was said to have been placed upon when brought to Beit Shemesh after being returned by the Philistines, as recounted in the book of Samuel.
According to the Bible, “Now the people of Beth Shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley; and they lifted their eyes and saw the ark, and rejoiced to see it. Then the cart [sent by the Philistines] came into the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh, and stood there; a large stone was there. So they split the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. The Levites took down the ark of the Lord and the chest that was with it, in which were the articles of gold, and put them on the large stone.” (1 Samuel 6:13-15)
By: Miss Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter
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