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The Untold Story of the Kingdom of Judah

(B5) The Untold Story of Temple's Renovation and the Altar Replacement

Prof. Oded Lipschits

Over the centuries of Judah’s existence, the temple in Jerusalem gradually became the focus of the people’s life. However, it is doubtful whether the Jerusalem historiographers had reliable written sources of information about the past of the temple and its history. It was easy for them to describe its construction, since the temple built by Solomon continued to exist for hundreds of years without being destroyed. Its rather modest dimensions had not changed. Its plan, size and direction of construction had remained the same as they were when they were built. The temple’s position at the top of the hill above the city was well-known to all, the temple vessels remained as they were, and apparently even if vessels were added and changed, the biblical historiography attributed all of them to Solomon, and this was also the case when it was destroyed and some of the vessels were taken to Babylon.
What did the historiographers know about changes and developments in the temple? Was there a chronicle that documented and described these changes?
It can be assumed that the small and modest temple, which stood in the center of Jerusalem, was so familiar and close to those who lived in the city and to those who visited it and made a pilgrimage to it, that this intimate acquaintance did not require the complex chronicles that characterized the large temples in the imperial capitals. The memory of changes and developments that took place in the temple was rooted in the temple objects themselves, in the buildings that were in the temple and in its surroundings, and in various places within the temple, where the memory was linked to what had been and what had changed.
The two most prominent examples of this are in the description of the method that was put into practice during the days of King Jehoash of Judah to make renovations in the temple, and in the replacement of Solomon’s altar in the days of King Ahaz. The information about this was preserved as a memory linked to the objects themselves that were found in the temple: the collection chest for the silver and the altar that stood at the heart of the temple. These pieces of information were written down and integrated by the Deuteronomistic authors into the broad descriptions of the history of Judah, and thus they became part of the biblical historiography.

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