Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Secret Places: Moza Temple in the Iron II

(by Chris McKinny)

For the background of the Moza temple see Todd's informative post showing the location of the Moza temple and discussing its significance for biblical studies.

The Iron Age II site of Moza (likely the biblical site of the same name, cf. Josh. 18:26) sits right in the path of the ongoing expansion of the Jerualem-Tel Aiv road (highway 1) right below the modern city of Mevasseret-Zion. In the course of salvage excavations to build the road on the slopes of Moza, the excavators encountered a unique Iron II temple with fantastic cultic finds that seems to date to the Iron IIA and Iron IIB (c. 1000-701 BCE). Stratum VII represents the first phase of the Iron II, which the excavators dated to the 10th centuries BCE on the basis of a destruction that they relate to Shishak’s campaign (925 BCE, cf. 1 Kings 14:25). Stratum VI is the continuation of the Iron IIA habitation at the site in the 9th century BCE before the temple was renovated and the cultic material was buried in stratum V in the 8th century BCE (Iron IIB, perhaps by Hezekiah) (Greenhut and De Groot 2009; Greenhut 2012; Kisilevitz and Eirich-Rose 2013). Specifically, the altar and standing stones (masseboth) at the entrance of the temple were purposefully buried and the purpose of the building was changed from stratum VI to V.

Picture of Moza Iron II temple after last year's snow (2013) - the stones between the two figures (I am the one on the right) has been interpreted as an altar

Could this site be an example of the ubiquitous statement of  “the high places (that) were not taken away, and the people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places” (e.g. 1 Kings 22:43, cf. 15:14)? The writer of Kings indicates that these high places persisted until the reign of Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:1-4, 22) who removed them. Previously, archaeologists have sought to show Hezekiah’s (or Josiah’s) cult reformation at the sites of Arad and Beersheba (see below), perhaps the Moza temple is another example of this cult reformation. Similarly, its existence during the 10-9th centuries BCE provides an important touchstone for the cultic descriptions of the various Judahite monarchs until Hezekiah.

It should be noted that Moza strata V and IV (Iron IIB-Iron IIC) show evidence of large grain storage in the form of silos and a public storage building (building 150) (Greenhut and De Groot 2009; Greenhut 2012).  In light of this, it is worth mentioning that the ancient site sits very close to the ancient route from Kiriath-Jearim to the Central Benjamin Plateau. Interestingly, the narrative that discusses David’s moving of the Ark of the Covenant’s from Kiriath-Jearim to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6) indicates that David stopped the procession “at the threshing floor of Nacon” after Uzzah's fatal touching of the ark and placed it in the house of “Obed-edom the Gittite” who was blessed due to its presence (6:7-11). Could there be a connection between the 10th century BCE temple (stratum V) and this narrative? Ultimately, it is impossible to say, but the parallels between grain abundance, geographical setting and archaeological sequencing are compelling. In any case, it appears that Moza stratum VI is a clear example of a 9th century BCE cult context that may be related to ongoing Judahite cult activity outside the Jerusalem temple.

For an actual threshing floor right below Kiriath-Jearim see here.


Greenhut, Z.
            2012  Moza and Jerusalem in the Iron II: Chronological, Agricultural and  Administrative Aspects Unpublished Official. IAA Website.

Greenhut, Z., and A. De Groot
            2009  Salvage Excavations at Tel Moza: The Bronze and Iron Age Settlements and Later Occupation. IAA Reports 39. Israel Antiquities Authority, Jerusalem.

Kisilevitz, S., and A. Eirich-Rose
            2013  New Evidence of Religious Practice in the Jerusalem Environs during the First Temple Period, Based on Recent Excavations at Tel Moza. In Baltimore, November 20.


  • Since this was a salvage dig, what would one be able to see if one were to visit the site? Have you been there?

    By Blogger A.D. Riddle, at Thu Mar 13, 08:06:00 AM  

  • AD - Not sure that it is still open as there will be a bridge that runs directly over it and the road construction work is ongoing. See picture that I just posted that answers your second quesiton :).

    By Blogger Chris McKinny, at Thu Mar 13, 08:25:00 AM  

  • For some reason I always assumed that "Perez-Uzzah" was very close to Kiriat-jearim, but another look at the text shows it doesn't have to be. As you mention, locating it here is speculatory but an interesting idea. It seems you are on firmer ground with the suggestion that this is a high place from Solomon (1 Ki. 3:2-3) or Rehoboam (1 Ki. 14:22-24) that persisted until Hezekiah. The geographical situation of the site at the confluence of wadis and the nearby spring would provide the "luxuriant tree(s)" of Rehoboam's folly. Thanks.

    By Blogger Bill Schlegel, at Thu Mar 13, 10:11:00 AM  

  • Bill - you are right - I should have made that more clear above. That is precisely what I meant. This is one of only three "high places" found in Judah, Lachish V - cult room near Persian Solar Shrine and Arad IX-VIII - temple are the others. The latter and Moza seem to both have ceased at the end of the 8th century BCE - i.e. the time of Hezekiah.

    By Blogger Chris McKinny, at Thu Mar 13, 02:15:00 PM  

  • There's also Jer(ho)ram of Judah who "made high places in the mountains of Judah", mid ninth century. 2 Chr. 21:11

    By Blogger Bill Schlegel, at Fri Mar 21, 03:48:00 AM  

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