I loved my visit to Tel Arad. I learned so much about Archaelogy. But it left me so confused. Why did the Canaanites desert their city? Why did the Israelite city have an altar? Did this altar have male and female deities? Why was the altar eventually buried? Why does the wilderness sometimes spreads out to the north and sometimes spreads out to the south? Did the King of Arad live in a tent? Why did the Israelites build a fortress and why did t he Romans abandon it? You will have to visit the site to learn the answers.
Tel Arad National Park – תל ערד
Tel Arad, (Arad Mound) northwest of the modern city of Arad in the northern Negev, consists of two separate sites – a lower city of the Bronze (Canaanite era) and an upper city of the Iron era ( Israelite period ). You can visit two for the price of one.
Best season: Year-round. Length of tour: 1-2 hours.
Hours: April-September 8 A.M.-5 P.M.; October-March 8 A.M- 4 P.M. Last entry one hour before above closing hour
Entrance: Adult: NIS 15; child: NIS 7; Israeli senior citizen: 50% discount; Group (over 30 people): Adult: NIS 14: child NIS 6
The “Arad House”
The standard plan of the dwellings, whose style became known as the ‘Arad house’ included a broad room and a kitchen or storage room.
The houses at this site had very similar features (not unlike today’s suburban tracts in the U.S.). The “Arad House” was found at other sites in the Early Bronze, but nowhere more than here. The features include a broad-room style house, benches lining the walls, a stone pillar base in the center to support the roof, and a door socket on the left-hand side of the entrance.
Early Bronze City
The lower city was inhabited only in the Early Bronze Age (3150-2200 BCE) and never reached this size again. At approximately 100 dunams (25 acres) Arad was one of the largest cities of its day in this country, and surrounded by a strong 1,200-meter wall. The city’s streets, plazas, and buildings were meticulously planned, including a reservoir in the lowest part of the city to which surface runoff was channeled. Its importance at this time was because of trading expeditions which traveled from here – to Sinai in the south to mine copper, and to the east for extracting bitumen from the Dead Sea.
The fortress was built to protect the border and the roads and prevent encroachment by nomadic tribes.
In the Iron Age, a major fortress was erected on the summit of the site to protect Israel’s southeastern border. While Amalekites and other nomadic peoples could be troublemakers, Judah’s chief enemy in this direction was Edom. This fortress was destroyed by the Edomites at least once. The upper city was first settled in the Israelite period (1200 BCE). When Edom fell to the Romans and the border markings were moved to the south, there was no longer an need for this fortress.
Waterworks between Lower City and Upper City Fortress
Archaeologist suggest that the water was taken by pack animals up the hill from the well in the Caananite city area to the fortress and spilled into a channel which by gravitation filled a cistern inside the fortress walls.
The upper city of Tel Arad represents one of the forbidden “high places” referred to in Scripture. In fact, interpretive signs reveal the outline of a temple patterned after Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem. Inside the Iron Age fortress, archaeologists found remains of a temple used for several centuries during the time of the Divided Monarchy. Though worship centers outside of Jerusalem were forbidden by Moses (Deut 12), high places flourished throughout the land according to the Bible. The sacrificial altar is visible in the outer courtyard.
A highlight of the visit to Arad is the Israelite temple, which included a large outer sacred area, the hechal, and a smaller ‘holy of holies.’ The temple in Arad was a miniature version of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. A meter-high, stone monument, painted red, was found on the paved bamah of the holy of holies. An altar was found in the courtyard in front of the hechal. Another famous find at Arad are inscribed potsherds bearing the names of priestly families.
No ancient documents describe the worship practices of this temple, but the existence of two standing stones and two incense altars points to the worship of two deities at this site. A definite breach in faithfulness to the Torah! During either King Hezekiah’s or King Josiah’s reigns, the temple was dismantled (see 2 Kings 23:8). Most probably, the Israelites here worshipped “Yahweh and his Asherah,” a corruption of true biblical religion that is attested in other archaeological finds.