Apologetics, Archaeology, Bible, Main, z165
Comment 1

Have archaeologists discovered the horns once attached to the Jewish altar at Shiloh?

A rendering of the Jewish Altar in front of the Temple of Solomon.

The discovery last year made the list of the top ten Bible archaeology discoveries of 2019 for several organizations.

Three items thought to be the horns off the altar were found by archaeologists with the Texas-based Associates for Biblical Research (ABR) working at a site in Samaria believed to be the location of Shiloh, where the Tabernacle of Moses once stood (Joshua 18:1).

During the construction of the altar, the Israeli were specifically told to make horns and attach them to corners of the altar (Exodus 27:2).

It is believed the three stone horns discovered by ABR were carved for this purpose. The largest horn was 9.25 inches (ca. 23 cm) x 15 inches (ca. 38 cm).

The altar stood at the front of the Tabernacle of Moses. Animals were sacrificed in front of the altar and the blood poured out before the altar and then smeared on the horns (Exodus 29:11-12). The animals were then burnt on top of the altar.

The horns played a significant role both theologically and prophetically in Israel’s religious life.

A tradition developed that people in trouble could grab hold of the horns of the altar and ask for mercy (1 Kings 1:50-53), although it wasn’t always honored (1 Kings 2:28-34).

But God may have referenced this tradition when Amos prophesied the coming judgment on Israel:

“that on the day I punish Israel for his transgressions, I will punish the altars of Bethel, and the horns of the altar shall be cut off and fall to the ground.

Amos 3:14 ESV

The horns being broken off suggests that once judgement started, Israel would no longer able to cling to the horns and call out for mercy.

When Ezekiel prophesied the rebuilding of a third Jewish Temple, he specifically mentions setting up of the horns on the altar (Ezekiel 43:15) suggesting that Israel would once again receive mercy.

Though many believe Ezekiel’s prophecy speaks of the construction of a yet-to-be-built third temple in Jerusalem, others suspect the temple being talked about is the church, which as Christ’s body is considered the Temple of God (John 2:19-21; Ephesians 2:19:22).

The Tabernacle of Moses remained in use for 369 years and continued to function as a place for animal sacrifice even when King David moved the ark of the covenant to a tent in Jerusalem commonly referred to as the Tabernacle of David (Amos 9:11-12).

However, when Solomon’s Temple was built, it not only became the new home for the Ark of the Covenant, but it was also the center for animal sacrifices rendering the Tabernacle of Moses obsolete.

Not everyone agrees that the location in Samaria is the original site of Shiloh, but they have discovered other elements that indicate it was. This included ceramic pomegranates. Pomegranates were sacred items and are routinely found at sites associated with the Jewish priesthood.

Archaeologists believe the ceramic pomegranates found at Shiloh may have been the very items that hung along the hem of the priestly garments (Exodus 28:33-34). They also found a large amount of animal bones that would be necessary if it was a site used for sacrifices.


1 Comment

  1. Bruce Nicoll says

    Interesting speculation complete with a difficult latinate name that will be difficult to add to the personal lexicon.


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