Nahal Ashan, Beersheba

Ancient Beersheba was a town in Canaan [1], inhabited first by various Canaanite tribes, then by the ancient Israelites following their 40-year sojourn in the wilderness (See Sinai Desert). Beersheba marked the southernmost border of the land promised to Abraham [founding patriarch of the Israelites] and his descendants by Yahweh [God].[2]

During the time of Joshua, when the Canaanite territories were being allotted to the twelve tribes, the town of Beersheba was portioned out to the tribe of Judah as part of his inheritance. A biblical references that supports this event is found at Joshua 15:20-28 and reads, "20 This is the inheritance of the tribe of Judah, clan by clan: 21 The southernmost towns of the tribe of Judah in the Negev toward the boundary of Edom were:Kabzeel, Eder, Jagur, 22 Kinah, Dimonah, Adadah, 23 Kedesh, Hazor, Ithnan, 24 Ziph, Telem, Bealoth, 25 Hazor Hadattah, Kerioth Hezron (that is, Hazor), 26 Amam, Shema, Moladah, 27 Hazar Gaddah, Heshmon, Beth Pelet, 28 Hazar Shual, Beersheba, Biziothiah,...". [3].

Iron ([See Iron Age [4]) was the chief metal in use, and with it, men made iron tools and weapons. Paganism and idolatry was the dominant religion of Canaan, and it abounded everywhere.

The Israelite's founding father, Abraham, was the first to settle in the land of Canaan. God [Yahweh] called Abraham from his home in Haran [Mesopotamia], and instructed him to go to a land where "He would show him." Heeding God's call, Abraham left Haran and went to live in Canaan (See Genesis 12:4-5). [5] Abraham spent a large amount of his time living in the southern town of Beersheba, as did Isaac and Jacob. A few centuries later, the Israelites, under Joshua, entered Canaan, uprooted most of the original inhabitants, and settled down to worship the one true God. Eventually, they succumbed to its pagan influences; and, as prophesied by Yahweh's prophets, they too were uprooted by foreign powers.

Not very long ago, archaeologists made an astounding find in this very region - evidence of the Israelite's existence and spirituality in the land. They unearthed a four-horned brazen altar that had the structural likeness of the altar used by the Israelites in the sacrificial rites that were performed during their solemn assemblies (i.e., Passover, Day of Atonement), and prescribed for them in the Mosaic Law Covenant.

Today, ancient Beersheba lies buried beneath rubble and sand - not very far from the modern town of Beersheba.

Ancient History

The Canaanite Period

  • Origin

The Canaanites are the descendants of Noah's grandson Canaan (Genesis 10:6). They originally resided in Mesopotamia [now Modern Iraq]. The capital city of Mesopotamia was Babylon. The Greek form of this name is "Babel". Babylon was called, "The Gate of God" at this time. In an inscription of the Kassite conqueror Gaddas, the name appears as Ba-ba-lam, as if from the Assyrian babalu, "to bring"; another foreign folk etymology is found in Genesis 11:9, from "balbal," which means "to confound". [6]. One of the many gods that they worshipped there was Merodach (a late-generation god from ancient Mesopotamia, and patron deity of the city of Babylon)[7] ,who was also known as Marduk, the divine patron of the city.

Babylon was settled by other civilizaions such as the Sumerians, Akkadians, Assyrians and citizens of the Persian Empire. Famous figures of Babylon included Nimrod [the God-opposing monarch who founded Babylon], Hammurabi, and Nebuchadnezzar. There is archaeological evidence [the Eblaite material (dated 2350 BC)] "from the archive of Tell Mardikh showing the oldest reference to Canaanites in the ethnic name ga-na-na which provides a third millennium reference to the name Canaan". Many other inscriptions have been found linking the Canaanites to ancient Mesopotamia as well. [8]

Another group that settled in Canaan were the Horites. It is believed that this group came to the land after the collapse of the Akkadian Empire. Evidence shows the arrival of peoples using Khirbet Kerak Ware pottery,[19] coming originally from the Zagros Mountains, east of the Tigris. It is suspected by some [20] that this event marks the arrival in Syria and Canaan of the Hurrians, possibly the people later known in the Biblical tradition as Horites. John Bright [21] and William F. Albright [22] have suggested that contact during the early Isin-Larsa period of Amorite states lies behind the Abraham stories of the patriarchal traditions. [9]

  • Politics

The Canaanite areas were originally agricultural but later became urbanized city-states. An example would be the city of Jericho. Located at the center of major routes that link it to three continents, the land of Canaan also became a central location for trade. Leaders from Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Asia Minor would meet here often. Due to Canaan's growing prosperity from trade, it was soon dominated by some of these powerful neighbors, namely Ancient Egypt and Assyria - nations who attempted to control them politically. During the time of Rameses VI [around 1150BC], for example, the last Egyptian garrisons withdrew from Beth Shean, the Jordan Valley, Megiddo and Gaza. [10] [11][12]

  • Religion

The Canaanites were polytheistic and therefore worshipped and believed in many gods. The main god they worshipped was called "Baal" [or "false god"]. The Canaanites believed that he was the giver and sustainer of life. This deity was also called the "son of Dagon" (controller of grain), and "Hadad" (storm god who would provide plentiful rains).

According to one source, "Ba'al" can refer to any god and even to human officials; in some texts it is used as a substitute for Hadad, a god of the rain, thunder, fertility and agriculture, and the lord of Heaven. Since only priests were allowed to utter his divine name "Hadad", Ba'al was used commonly. Nevertheless, few if any Biblical uses of "Ba'al" refer to "Hadad", the Cannanite lord over the assembly of gods on the holy mount of heaven, but rather refer to any number of local spirit-deities worshipped as cult images, each called "ba'al", and regarded by the writers of the Hebrew Bible in that context as a false god. [13]

negev museum

Some scholars claim it is uncertain whether "Ba'al" 'the Lord' refers to Melqart in Kings 10:26, they point out that Hadad was also worshipped in Tyre. However this position negates the real possibility that Hadad and Melqart are one and the same god, only having different names because of different languages and cultures. Hadad being Canaanite and Melqart being Phoenician. Both Hadad and Melqart are professed to be the son of El both carrying the same secondary position in the pantheons of each culture. This fact reveals them to be the same deity with different names due to different languages. A contemporary example of this would be God in English and Dios in Spanish. [14]

Nevertheless, the Canaanites believed that Baal was in absolute control over nature and over people. They also held that he was the principal deity of the land, second only to his father El. In their religious ceremonies, base sex worship was also prevalent along with the commandment for religious prostitution. Human sacrifice was common and was often practiced in order to appease their gods. The pagan practitioners would kill young children and bury them in the foundations of a house or public building at the time of its construction. Joshua made comment on this activity. It is recorded at Joshua 6:26, and reads, "At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: "Cursed before the LORD is the man who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho:

"At the cost of his [Hiel the Bethelite's] firstborn son
will he lay its foundations;
at the cost of his youngest
will he set up its gates." [15] Howard E. Vos, "An Introduction To Bible Archaeology" Revised ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1953) pp. 17-19. "Joshua 6:26 says, "In his days did Hiel the Bethelite build Jericho: he laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his firstborn..."
  • Archaeological Discoveries

Author, Howard E. Vos explains how there were many clay tablets unearthed from Ras Shamra [the prehistoric city of Ugarit of the Amarna Letters], many revealing the myths told about the deities of the Canaanite pantheon including its chief male god Baal. He writes of a story that revealed the account about Baal's conflict with Mot, the powerful god of death. According to him, the Canaanites saw the conflict between Baal and Mot as an ongoing one. Mot, the story says, demanded Baal's' surrender, and '"the cry when forth: "Baal is dead! What will return him to life; whereupon all nature blossomed again and El proclaimed: "Baal the conqueror lives; the prince, the lord of the earth, has revived."' (from the article, "Baal the Life Giver," by Howard E. Vos).] [16]

The Patriarchal Period

Canaan during the Patriarchal Period

The patriarchal period refers to the time when the Israelite patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were residing in Canaan. It is believed that this period occurred during the Iron Age. [17]. Biblical support of this can be found at Genesis 15:18-21 (KJV)where it states, "In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jews." It should be noted that the biblical Amorites are considered synonymous with the Canaanites and occupied the same land.

  • Abraham

Abraham traveled widely throughout Canaan, surveying many of its cities. Although he experienced many conflicts he remained steadfast in his worship and loyalty to the one true God, Yahweh, building altars of worship wherever he settled for a long time. Abraham eventually came to settle in Beersheba; and it was here that Sarah gave birth to their son Isaac. It was also while living in Beersheba that Abraham's faith was put to a final test[Genesis 22:2], which after passing, God gave His own sworn oath to bless him as promised.

The biblical account informs us that, Abraham, after being called by God, left his hometown of Ur in Mesopotamia [modern-day Iraq] and traveled, with his nephew Lot, his wife and servants, to the land of Canaan. [Note that Abraham's actual departing city was Haran in Mesopotamia where he and his family had stopped temporarily.] Immediately upon arriving in Canaan, Abraham began surveying the region. He traveled from town to town, dwelling in tents. His status was that of a resident alien. It is noted that Abraham's first stop was at Shechem near "the great trees of Moreh," where God appeared to him and reaffirmed the promises that He had made [Genesis 12:6]. Abraham then built an altar there to worship God. Abraham left Schechem and headed towards the Negeb and then traveled on to Egypt. He left Egypt, and passed back through the Negeb until he came again to Bethel where he built another altar to God. He traveled again and settled in Hebron near the "big trees of Mamre. At this time, there was a conflict between Amraphel king of Shinar, [a] Arioch , Kedorlaomer and Tidal against Bera, king of Sodom and his allies, in which Abraham was forced to enter in order to rescue his nephew Lot and all who were with him.

After the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abram moved to the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur, in the city of Gerar, where he encountered Abimelech, King of Gerar [Genesis 20 1-2]. Abraham apparently left Gerar where Abimelech was, and settled in a place which Abraham later named Beersheba. The bible verse regarding this account reads, "For here is where he and Abimelech made a sworn oath.31 So that place was called Beersheba, [d] because the two men swore an oath there. {Genesis 21:30-31]. Abraham's stay in Beersheba is further confirmed by the biblical account given at Genesis 21:32-34, which states, "32 After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his forces returned to the land of the Philistines. 33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called upon the name of the LORD, the Eternal God. 34 And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time."

  • Isaac

Isaac, son of Abraham, had left Beersheba and was living in Beer Lahai Roi in the Negev Desert [in the tent of his mother Sarah] when he married Rebekah (Genesis 24:62 and 67).

He returned to Beersheba (Genesis 26:17- 33). [18], however, after encountering problems with the Philistines over the wells that Abraham's servants had dug.

When he lived in Gerar earlier, Isaac had grown very wealthy, so the Philistines began stopping up his wells with earth. He was then ordered by King Abimelech to leave Gerar. The biblical account states, "14 He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him. 15 So all the wells that his father's servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth [Genesis 26:14-15).

The account continues at Genesis 26:17 and reads, "17 So Isaac moved away from there (Beer Lahai Roi, be-er-la-hi'-roi, "well of the Living One that seeth me: A fountain of water in the wilderness," "the fountain in the way to Shur") (Genesis 16:7-14)[19], and encamped in the Valley of Gerar [near Beersheba] and settled there. 18 Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them."

God comforted Isaac and gave him the promises that He had made to Abraham. The account at Genesis 27:23-24 reads, "23 From there he went up to Beersheba. 24 That night the LORD appeared to him and said, "I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham." [This site, incidentally, was the scene of Hagar's theophany, and here Isaac dwelt for some time (Genesis 16:7; 24:62; 25:11). It lies in The Negeb between Kadesh and Bered (Genesis 16:14).]

At Beersheba, Isaac built an altar to God for worship as well as another well. He made a peace agreement with Abimelech the Philistine over the well and renamed the place "Sheeba". The biblical account of this can be found at Genesis 26:25-29. It says, "25 Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD. There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well." In due time, Isaac was able to conclude a peace agreement with Abimelech [the Philistine] "27 Isaac asked them, "Why have you come to me, since you were hostile to me and sent me away?"

28 They answered, "We saw clearly that the LORD was with you; so we said, 'There ought to be a sworn agreement between us'-between us and you. Let us make a treaty with you 29 that you will do us no harm, just as we did not molest you but always treated you well and sent you away in peace. And now you are blessed by the LORD."

  • Jacob

Jacob [Israel], one of Isaac's two sons (See Esau) was living in Hebron when another famine came to the land of Canaan. He wanted to go to Egypt at this time in order to find sustenance for his family, but the Lord told him to remain in Canaan.

At one point in his life, Jacob did leave Hebron and set out for Haran [Mesopotamia] in search of a wife from the daughters of Laban [his mother's brother] [Genesis 28:2]. According to Genesis 31:3. the Lord told him to "Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you." Jacob returned home to his father Isaac in Mamre, near Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had stayed…."

In his old age, and after Joseph had been made ruler in Egypt, Jacob did travel to Egypt with his entire family and servants (Genesis 48:5). At that time, there was a severe famine in the land. The biblical account reads, " 1 So Israel set out with all that was his, and when he reached Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. In the Bible at Genesis 48:2-5 it says, "2 after, Jacob went to Egypt from Beersheba.

2 And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, "Jacob! Jacob!"
"Here I am," he replied.
3 "I am God, the God of your father," he said. "Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. 4 I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph's own hand will close your eyes."
5 Then Jacob left Beersheba, and Israel's sons took their father Jacob and their children and their wives in the carts that Pharaoh had sent to transport him. 6 They also took with them their livestock and the possessions they had acquired in Canaan, and Jacob and all his offspring went to Egypt. 7 He took with him to Egypt his sons and grandsons and his daughters and granddaughters—all his offspring."

Some very notable events made Beersheba the most significant of all 29 towns allotted to Judah. The prophet Elijah took up refuge in Beersheba when Jezebel [Queen of Ancient Israel] ordered him killed (I Kings 19:3). The sons of the prophet Samuel were judges in Beersheba (I Samuel 8:2). Saul, Israel's first king, built a fort for his campaign against the Amalekites (I Samuel 14:48 and 15:2–9)."

In conclusion, Beersheba was the town where the patriarchs dwelled for the longest time, and the last town lived in by the youngest of them [Jacob/Israel] before their 400-year long sojourn in the land of Egypt. Departing from Beersheba was a major turning point in God's overall plan for his chosen people and the world. In Egypt, they would be preserved as a nation that would later serve the one true God, Yahweh, and one through whom the Messiah would come. As Jacob's life was about to expire, he foretold of the time when a universal King/ruler would come from [the loins of] Judah, one of his twelve sons. (Genesis 49:8-12) Genesis 49:8-12 reads,

8 "Judah, your brothers will praise you;
your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
your father's sons will bow down to you.
9 You are a lion's cub, O Judah;
you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
10 The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
until he comes to whom it belongs
and the obedience of the nations is his.
11 He will tether his donkey to a vine,
his colt to the choicest branch;
he will wash his garments in wine,
his robes in the blood of grapes.
12 His eyes will be darker than wine,
his teeth whiter than milk.


The Israelite Settlement Period


  • Early Settlement

The Israelites came to occupy most of Canaan, following their victorious conquests of many Canaanite cities while under the leadership of Joshua. One source explains the form of government for the Israelite at this time, stating, "There was no formal government so the people were led by ad hoc leaders (the "judges" of the biblical Book of Judges) in times of crisis. Around 1020BC, after the tribes had been settled for a while, Saul was anointed as their first monarch." The same source goes on to explain how David succeeded Saul as King of a United Monarchy [Israel and Judah] around 1006BC, moving his capital to Jerusalem, and how later, King David, [with the help of God], was able to annex Philistia, Edom, Moab, Ammon, and parts of ancient Aram [Syria] and Aram-Damascus, making Aram a vassal state. He was succeeded by his son Solomon in about 965 BC. [It was King Solomon who built the Temple of Solomon at Jerusalem.]" It is then explained how after King Solomon's death in 926BC, the United Monarchy split into two kingdoms - Israel to the North and Judah to the South. [21] [Also See Nehemiah 11:20]

Archaeological evidence for an Israelite presence in the area has been found in the Merneptah Stele, dated from only six years after the end of the reign of Rameses II. It states that nearly three million Israelites, who had been wandering in the desert for a generation, invaded the land of Canaan, destroying major Canaanite cities such as Ai, Jericho and Hazor. Dever suggests that there were about 300 newly-founded small agricultural villages from lower Galilee to the Negev in the 13th-12th century BCE (usually considered the time of Judges), all of them conspicuously absent from previous Late Bronze Age towns and settlement along the coast. The population [of Canaan] also rose from around 12,000 at the end of the Bronze Age to about 55,000 by the end of the 12th century, and rose to 75,000 by the end of the 11th century - the period of David and Solomon - with the vast majority in the north. [22]

  • The Two-Kingdom Period and the Influence of Paganism and Idolatry

It wasn't too long after the United Monarchy had split into two kingdoms -Israel and Judah - before many of the Israelites starting coming under the influence of Canaanite religion and began forsaking the only God who had delivered them from slavery in Egypt-Yahweh. The Israelites began adopting many of their traditions and inculcating their heathen practices into the pure monotheistic religion that they had been taught by Moses. Beersheba was one of the many towns that fell under such evil influence.

One source writes how Yahweh, the God of Israel, continually condemned the worship of Baal, and how the Lord sent His prophets to warn them of this idolatry and of the corruption of Baal's fertility rites. During the period of the kings of Israel, Baal worship was prevalent, and even commanded. Queen Jezebel, the Phoenician wife of King Ahab, had 450 prophets of Baal as her court counselors. Elijah challenged them on Mount Carmel and Yahweh proved to be the true God.

In regards to King Ahab's idolatry, 1 Kings 16:30-34 states, "Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him. And it came to pass, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshiped him. Then he set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. And Ahab made a wooden image. Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him." (Also see 1 Kings 14:22-24) [23]

"It wasn't long before the Kings of Judah followed in the footsteps of their brother [Ahab] in the North," te source continues. We find biblical support of this at 1 Kings 14:22-24 where it states, "Now Judah did evil in the sight of the LORD, and they provoked Him to jealousy with their sins which they committed, more than all that their fathers had done. For they also built for themselves high places, sacred pillars, and wooden images on every high hill and under every green tree. And there were also perverted persons in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel." [24] [25]

As mentioned before, the paganism practiced at shrines in Bethel and other places had become integrated into the ancient [altar] ritual that Yahweh Himself had prescribed. When the horned altar of Beersheba was discovered by archaeologists it was found to be in a corrupted state, showing how badly the Israelites'had gone in their transgressions against Yahweh. The horned altar that was found was structurally similar to the one that Moses and the Priests had used for making atonement, except for the fact that it was of hewn [shaved] stones, and bore the ingraved image of a serpent. The Israelites knew from Moses' teachings that no tool should be used on the altar of burnt offering since that would defile it [Exodus 10:25, Ex. 20:25 and Exodus 29: 2 or 1 Kings 1:51; 2:28].

Various Names of Baal in Scripture: Baal-gad ( "lord of good fortune," Josh 11:17) Baal-hamon ( "lord of wealth," Song 8:11) Baal-hazor ( "Baal's village," 2 Sam 13:23) Baal-meon ( "lord of the dwelling," Num 32:38) Baal-peor ( "lord of the opening," Deut 4:3) Baal-tamar ( "lord of the palm tree," Judg 20:33), and others. Ba'al-ze'bub was the form of the name of Baal who was worshiped at the Philistine city of Ekron [West]. Baal, under this aspect of worship, was viewed as the producer of flies and therefore able to control this pest so common in the East. [26]

There is now physical evidence, discovered by archaeologists, of ancient inscriptions linking Yahweh and Asherah. An 8th century BC ostracon inscribed "Berakhti et’khem l’YHVH Shomron ul’Asherato" was discovered by Israeli archeologists at Quntilat 'Ajrud (Hebrew "Horvat Teman"), a remote desert site in the Sinai desert, in 1975. This inscription translates as: "I have blessed you by YHVH of Samaria and His Asherah", or " our guardian and his Asherah", if "Shomron" is to be read "shomrenu". Another inscription from Khirbet el-Kom near Hebron reads: "Blessed be Uriyahu by Yahweh and by his Asherah; from his enemies he saved him!"[27]

  • Prophesy and Reform

From around 792-750BC, Amos, a prophet of Yahweh, prophesied over Judah and Israel, and further denounced Beersheba where other pagan sanctuaries were in existence, saying, "…because they have been led astray by false gods…." [Amos 2:4]. In Amos 2:9, it reads," 8 They lie down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge. In the house of their god they drink wine taken as fines." His pronouncements came only a short time before the northern kingdom [Israel] would go into captivity by the King of Assyria (722-721 BC). It would take another 136 years before the southern kingdom of Judah, with Beersheba, would follow suit in 586BC by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The prophet made a prediction concerning this exile in Amos 5:5, saying "For Gilgal will surely go into exile, and Bethel will be reduced to nothing." (prophet) The prophet Amos also mentions Beersheba in regards to idolatry in Amos 8:14).[4] [28]

King Hezekiah undertook major religious reforms, attempting successfully at first to centralize Judean religious practices in the temple and eliminate the false worship.[29]

As the Israelites were being swept away by paganism and idolatry in Beersheba and other cities, they lost their commitment to God's Laws as well as a basis for righteous conduct, leading to an even deeper susceptibility to pagan influences. In spite of Israel's transgression, however, Yahweh promised future salvation and restoration to the remnant returning from Babylonian exile [verse]. God kept His promise to return them to their land during Nehemiah's time [Exra 1:1-5], and to bring them promise of salvation during the time [33AD] of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ[Matthew 1:20-22].


The Horned Altar of Beersheba and Christ

Much to the joy of many Jews and Christians was the remarkable discovery of a four-horned sacrificial altar in the ancient Beersheba archaeological site. The discovery was in 1973 and made by the late Professor Yohanan Aharoni and Professor Ze'ev Herzog of Tel Aviv University at an archaeological site in Israel called "Tel Be'er Sheva". [30] The team of archaeologists first unearthed an ancient storage wall that contained the stones of the altar. These stones were then extracted from the wall and reassembled to assume their former shape. Three of the stones still had large horns projecting from them, while a fourth showed evidence that the horn had been broken off. Yet still another stone had the carved image of a serpent. In spite of the altar's degradation, it basic structure proved to be the same as the one that Yahweh had instituted [for Israel's sacrificial rituals under the Mosaic Law Covenant.

The following account explains in more detail where the altar stones were found: "Excavations have uncovered a well-planned city dating to the time of the United Monarchy (10th century BC). It was built on an artificial mound some 19 or 20 feet high, affording both security and an imposing view of the surrounding region. The city was actually quite small, about 3 acres, but its defenses were substantial. The earliest wall, a massive structure of sun-dried brick with stone foundations, was reinforced by a sloped glacis with a deep moat at its foot. This wall, which existed throughout the 10th century BC, was destroyed in the 9th century BC. It was replaced by a casement wall (a double wall with rooms) built on the foundation of the old solid wall. It existed almost 100 years, until destroyed in 701 BC by the Assyrian king Sennacharib. [It stands 5 feet high and measures 9 feet on each side, the dimensions of the Tabernacle altar erected by the Israelites in the Wilderness." [31]

The Altar during the Old Covenant

The horned altar only proves that before the Messiah was sent forth by God, plans were in put in place for forgiveness [atonement]. The altar was ancient Israel's legal means for receiving atonement for sins before the great Advent of the Messiah; for God's Law, which they were under at that time, said, "without the shedding of pure blood, there is no forgiveness." There would have to be a substitute or "scapegoat" that would pay the penalty incurred by the sin. This "scapegoat" had to pure and sinless in order for the sinner to be forgiven by God.

Reconstruction of Ancient Horned Alter

All of mankind was marred spiritually by inherited sin from Adam, our forefather. A person who is spiritually unclean due to this inheritance cannot appear before a perfect and righteous God without incurring His wrath. One had to be cleansed [excused] from the sin first by means of the blood that was shed during the ritual. The sinless animal's pure blood was thus shed on the horned altar for spiritual cleansing. This important ritual was a vital part of the covenant that God had established with the nation of Israel through His servant, Moses, and foreshadowed the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ later on.

Christ, the Altar's Replacement

Christ Carrying the Cross

Later, when God's mercy abounded for all people, and He saw fit to save and redeem mankind and forgive all of their transgressions, He himself sent the "scapegoat" for sacrifice. While mankind was enslaved to the sin it had inherited from Adam, God sent forth his only begotten Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to become a propitiatory sacrifice who would make atonement through his death, for the sins of the world. Christ's life-saving sacrifice would nullify the effect that Adam's transgression had on the world - the inability to resist sin and ultimately, the sentence of death. This explains why Christ is often referred to as the "second Adam". (See 1 Corinthians 15:22 [32] and 1 Corinthians 15:45 [33]) Hebrews 9:14 states, "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!"

The ancient horned altar played a huge part in Yahweh's ultimate plan for salvation by helping to pave the way for the coming of the Messiah. This was done by preserving the Holy Seed of Christ that was rooted in the tribe of Judah. Yahweh makes His Law clear at Leviticus 17:1 where it reads, "… it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life." The apostle Paul makes reference to this Law at Hebrews 9:22 where he states, "…. without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness."

Readers can recall when Jacob, as he lay dying in Egypt, prophesied about the one whom God would ultimately choose to lead the nations. A portion of Jacob's prophecy at Genesis 49:10, reads, "The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his."

The Apostle Paul makes the nature of Christ vividly clear when he says, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. [Therefore, we can only be resurrected through Christ.] For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross [Colossians 1:15-20]. The above verses from Leviticus, Hebrews and Colossians support the fact that the horned altar was a precursor to Jesus Christ.

Modern History and Geography

Construction in Beersheba

Beersheba is located on the northern edge of the Negev desert 115 kilometres (71 mi) south-east of Tel Aviv and 120 kilometres (75 mi) south-west of Jerusalem. The city is located on the main route from the center and north of the country to Eilat in the far south. The Valley of Beer Sheva has been populated since thousands of years ago due to the presence of water which travels here from the Hebron Mountains in the winter and is stored underground in vast quantities. The main river in Beersheba is Nahal Beersheva, a wadi [valley or dry riverbed] which floods in the winter. The Kovshim and Katef streams are other important wadis which pass through the city.

One site writes that "The modern city of Beersheba dwarfs an old well that may be the Biblical one. Called "Abraham's well," it is found in a small museum. A big old tamarisk grows beside it, in memory of the one that Abraham planted. Just across the street to the south is the broad flat bed of the Beersheba River. Around the well, from the 11th-7th centuries BC, spread an unfortified Israelite town, whose area at times reached 22 acres. [34]

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