Tel Lachish has long been one of the most important and most impressive of the ancient cities on display in Israel today.
The massive hill lies 26 miles southwest of Jerusalem. When Lachish was a fortified city, it served as the southern-most guard for all of Judah. Along with Azekah, these two cities and their armed forces were critically important for Jerusalem’s protection.
The problem with Judah’s people, of course, is that they constantly wavered between a devotion to God and the lure of the pagan religions that also permeated the area.
In Lachish, there came a time when one of the pagan religions took hold of the city. As visitors crossed the moat and climbed an incredibly impressive ramp to the city gate, they were met with a most unusual scene at the city entrance.
It was a shrine to a pagan god, complete with a “holy of holies!”
It was one of those seasons when the people of Judah had completely lost their spiritual bearings.
Thankfully, some kings and leaders in Israel’s history did their best to lead the people back to the worship of God. When Jehu was cleaning house in the northern kingdom, for instance, he not only killed the prophets of Baal and destroyed the sacred objects, but he made the Baal temple a latrine!
If we could smell that last sentence, the impact would be more impressive. The psychological effect would have been amazing. Can you imagine your community using your place of worship as a public restroom?
Some years later, Hezekiah led a series of reforms in the southern end of Israel. That shrine of pagan worship at the entrance of Lachish? Apparently, he flushed it.
It was part of Hezekiah’s massive campaign of reform. According to 2 Kings 18:4-5:
He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.) Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.
Chemical tests have indicated that the shrine was never actually used as a latrine. Plus, there were no ancient magazines nearby. Still, the symbolism was unmistakable. Hezekiah was bound and determined to make part of Judah’s defense system a purified worship of the Lord.
The archaeological work at Lachish has been ongoing for nearly a century. But even now, work there continues to unveil secrets about the past that give us more insight to the Bible’s record of events.
Right down to the last toilet seat.
Want to learn more? Here’s a link to the press release (and video report) from the Israeli Antiquities Authority. And next week, our EIN Photos of the Day will feature a closer look at Tel Lachish. If you’ve not signed up, use the form on this page to do so! We email five photos a week to our subscribers … for free!