Do you sometimes find yourself missing the obvious? It certainly happens to me more often than I would like and I believe it happens to all of us, especially when we hold strong presuppositions. I would certainly never want to criticize someone for being a victim of it.
This said, I took great interest in reading David G. Hansen’s 2010 article entitled “Shechem: Its Archaeological and Contextual Significance“, on www.biblicalarchaeology.org; a website that presents itself as “A Christian Apologetics Ministry Dedicated to Demonstrating the Historical Reliability of the Bible Through Archaeological and Biblical Research”.
The article in itself is well researched and I command Hansen for providing quality information on Shechem (modern day Nablus). Shechem remains a critical site that can help us better understand the context in which the Yahweh made a Covenant with Abraham.
What I find interesting, however, is that I get the feeling Hansen has collected all the pieces of the puzzle, but has somehow failed to see the obvious.
Indeed, how can someone read this article (let alone write it) without coming to the obvious realization that the worships of Baal Berith and Yahweh have quite a lot in common? The article offers a wealth of information on the worship of these two deities.
Shechem as the site of Baal Berith worship:
- Shechem is the site of the temple of Baal Berith (i.e. “Lord of Covenant”)
- The site was established somewhere during the 18th century BCE
- Tel Balata (notice the “Baal” component in the name) is the Tel (i.e. mount) where the temple of Baal Berith is located
- The foundation of the temple of Baal Berith can be dated to 17th century BCE
- Mount Ebal (notice the “Baal” component in the name) is one of the two mountains (Gerizim is the other) that is surrounding Shechem
- Shechem is the site where Abimelech (c. 12th century BCE) burned a thousand Israelites that had found refuge in the temple of Baal Berith
- Idolatry and sacrifices were common at Shechem
- The Samaritans living at Shechem practiced ancient pagan cult, but accepted Yahweh
Shechem as the site of Yahweh’s worship:
- Shechem is the site where Abraham (18th century BCE) made a covenant with Yahweh (before the temple of Baal Berith was established)
- Jacob hides his idols under a tree at Shechem
- Shechem is the site where Joshua (c. 13th century BCE), standing next to the Ark of the Covenant, reads the words of the Law (long after the temple of Baal Berith was established). This renewal ceremony was meant at recognizing the promises made to Abraham.
- Shechemites (pagan) and Israelites co-existed without problems
- Shechem was a city of the Levitical priesthood
- Shechem is the place of the burial of the Patriarch Joseph
- Shechem is where one can find Jacob’s well
We therefore learn from this article that Abraham made a covenant with Yahweh precisely where Baal Berith (“Lord of Covenant”) would soon be worshipped… We also learn that the site of prominent Baal Berith worship activity becomes a central place of priesthood and worship for Yahweh…
Don’t you get that odd feeling that Yahweh and Baal Berith could actually be one and the same deity?
Biblical history makes a lot more sense when “faith” is removed from it.