Next to Jerusalem, Lachish was the most important city from the time of King Rehoboam until the exile of Judea in 586 BCE. The archeological site of Tel Lachish has been undergoing excavation for decades, but, given its enormous size, only in March of this year was the elaborate structure of the city gate fully revealed.
According to excavation director Sa’ar Ganor, the “Gate Shrine,” the specific site that now is being fully exposed, points to none other than King Hezekiah.
More specifically, the findings at the Gate Shrine are linked to Hezekiah’s religious reforms mentioned in 2 Kings 18:4: “He [Hezekiah] removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah.”
The broken horns of the twin alters located within the Gate’s elaborate structure were broken to desecrate the pagan alters. The latrines found within the Gate also point to a common practice used to desecrate pagan holy places, first mentioned in connection with King Jehu: “They also broke down the sacred pillar of Baal and broke down the house of Baal, and made it a latrine to this day” (2 Kings 10:27).
Tests conducted by the Israel Antiquity Authority found that these latrines were never used, adding weight to the notion that they served as a sign of defilement.
The Gate also reveals that the biblical institution of the “City Gate” was real. Ganor points to well persevered benches located within the gate’s chambers: “According to biblical descriptions, the gate of a city was where everything happened. The elders of the city, the judges, governors, kings, and bureaucrats – all of them sat on the benches at the city gates,” which now can actually be seen for the first time.
As expected, politicians were quick to seize the opportunity to emphasize modern Israel’s connection to its biblical past.
Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev said that this discovery is one of many in a long line that “give us a glimpse into our rich past.” Minister of Environmental Protection Ze’ev Elkin said that the excavation is another example of how stories from the Bible are confirmed in archaeological records.