Ancient Latrine: A Peek into King Hezekiah’s Reforms in the Bible?

Hezekiah’s religious reforms sought to centralize worship

lachish-latrine-2

The latrine discovered in what may be a shrine at Lachish. Photo: Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

A millennia-old latrine discovered at Tel Lachish in Israel might reveal some interesting insights into Biblical history. According to dig director Sa’ar Ganor, who conducted the excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), the latrine could be evidence of King Hezekiah’s religious reforms enacted throughout the Kingdom of Judah in the eighth century B.C.E.

The Hebrew Bible has several references to King Hezekiah’s reforms and attempts to centralize worship in Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles 29–32 describes his efforts during the first year of his reign to cleanse and refurbish the Temple in Jerusalem, believing that his ancestors had not worshipped the God of Israel dutifully. 2 Kings 18:4 narrates that “he removed the high places (bamot), broke down the pillars (masseboth), and cut down the sacred pole (asherah).”

Lachish, located in the foothills of Judah (the Shephelah), was regarded as the second most important city in the Kingdom of Judah after Jerusalem. Spanning more than 18 acres on the tell, the Iron Age city boasted a palace-fort, city wall and six-chambered gate complex.

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This winter, excavations led by IAA archaeologist Sa’ar Ganor fully exposed the massive city gate complex, which measures about 80 feet by 80 feet. Discovered at the complex were remnants of storage jars—including some that bore the stamp lmlk (“[belonging] to the king”)—that may be evidence of Hezekiah’s preparations against Assyrian king Sennacherib’s impending attacks. Lachish was completely destroyed in 701 B.C.E.

lachish-gate

The massive six-chambered city gate at Tel Lachish. Photo: Guy Fitoussi, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Part of this gate complex, the archaeological team found, was a large room that appears to have been a shrine. The room contained two four-horned altars, whose horns had been intentionally damaged, and several ceramic lamps, bowls and stands. Ganor believes that the destroyed altars corroborate Biblical references to King Hezekiah’s reforms: his efforts to centralize worship in Jerusalem and abolish it elsewhere (see 2 Kings 18:4).

lachish-altar

The four-horned altar with evidence of intentional destruction—perhaps due to King Hezekiah’s reforms in worship? Photo: Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Most surprising of all was that in one corner of the room, the archaeologists discovered a seat carved of stone with a hole in the center—what Ganor believes to be a toilet. This latrine, Ganor says, was unquestionably a form of desecration of this shrine room—a practice described in the Hebrew Bible: “Then they demolished the pillar of Baal, and destroyed the temple of Baal, and made it a latrine to this day” (2 Kings 10:27).

lachish-latrine

IAA archaeologist Sa’ar Ganor believes this latrine excavated at Lachish was symbolically placed to desecrate the shrine as part of Hezekiah’s reforms. Photo: Igor Kramerman.

“Laboratory tests we conducted in the spot where the stone toilet was placed suggest it was never used,” Ganor said in an IAA press release. “Hence, we can conclude that the placement of the toilet had been symbolic, after which the holy of holies was sealed until the site was destroyed.”

“This is the first time that an archaeological find confirms this phenomenon,” Ganor explained.

Click here to watch a short video of the recent discoveries at Tell Lachish.
 


 
Which finds made our top 10 Biblical archaeology discoveries of 2016? Find out >>
 

 

Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Lachish: Open Access to BAR Articles on Lachish Archaeology

King Hezekiah in the Bible: Royal Seal of Hezekiah Comes to Light

Which Altar Was the Right One in Ancient Israelite Religion?
 


 

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9 Responses

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  1. Joe says

    Wow! Archaeology confirms a Bible passage to be true.

  2. ilan says

    As Usual!

  3. Richard says

    So, is “the bible myth”, or as far back as we can analyze, do we find “real names,real places, real dates”?

  4. Nelson says

    But there is a slight inconsistency: the passage from 2 Kings states that people used the room as a latrine, whereas the field tests apparently indicate otherwise. I’m biased in favor of trusting the reliability of scripture, so I suggest the archaeological team test other locations in the room to examine the possibility that the stone toilet had been moved, or that it was not the only location used for the desecration.

  5. Michael says

    To Nelson – read it again. The Scripture doesn’t say it was used, only that it was “made a latrine.”

  6. Rc says

    And the passage was not talking about Lachish…the point is that this was a practice.

  7. Paul says

    These discoveries just confirm that the Bible really is Gods word and not man’s (proverbs 4:18).

  8. Krishanu says

    The Bible is the truth! And it is a great history book too!!

  9. Jk says

    Why can’t ppl just open their eyes? A latrine never used means more things? For example,
    “it might never have been a latrine?”
    “We might have the right discovery but wrong conclusion?”
    Stop believing like its the truth.


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