Archaeology Confirms King Hezekiah's War Against Idolatry

An archaeological dig in Israel has unearthed evidence of King Hezekiah's devotion to Yahweh as recorded in the Bible. The 12th king of Judah, he was the pious son of a godless father, and he launched a war on idolatry, ordering the destruction of all false idols. Archaeologists in the ancient city of Tel Lachish in southern Israel claim to have discovered evidence of that devotion: a shrine dating to the 700s B.C., which shows signs of destruction and desecration around the time of Hezekiah.

Archaeologists with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) discovered a large shrine, and in one of the inner rooms they found two four-horned altars. The horns on the altars appeared to have been intentionally cut, and there was even a toilet discovered in the corner of the shrine!

These discoveries are "probably evidence of the religious reform attributed to King Hezekiah, whereby religious worship was centralized in Jerusalem and the cultic high places that were built outside the capital were destroyed," excavation director Sa'ar Ganor said in a statement on the find. He quoted 2 Kings 18:4, wherein Hezekiah "removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles."

The IAA archaeologists also discovered a toilet — in the part of the shrine which would have been the holy of holies! The ancient john, a stone fashioned in the shape of a chair with a hole in the center, was found in the corner of the room. Ancient stones like this have been identified as toilets in previous archaeological finds. Biblical evidence that toilets were used to desecrate temples can be found in 2 Kings 10:27: "And they demolished the altar of Baal, and demolished the house of Baal, and made it a latrine to this day."

Despite evidence of ancient toilets and the biblical passages describing desecration by porta potty, this is the first archaeological find to confirm the phenomenon. The IAA performed lab tests in the spot where the toilet was placed, and the results suggest it was never used. "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," the IAA release read.

The dig was conducted between January and March of this year. The gate discovered at the site is the largest one known in Israel from the First Temple period. "The size of the gate is consistent with the historical and archaeological knowledge we possess, whereby Lachish was a major city and the most important one after Jerusalem," Ganor explained.

This city gate was more than just a door into Lachish — it contained many rooms with a wide variety of artifacts. Among the artifacts were jars with a special seal impression which the archaeologists connected to the military and administrative preparations of the Kingdom of Judah in the war against Sennacherib, king of Assyria, who attacked in the late eighth century B.C.

Next Page: Why Hezekiah's war on idolatry was pivotal in the history of Judah.