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Altar of Mount Ebal. Source: Hoshvilim / CC BY-SA 4.0

Is Mount Ebal the ‘Real’ Home of God?


A controversial researcher claims Jerusalem’s place “where God will choose to dwell” was not the famous Temple on Mount Moriah.

The Temple in Jerusalem, also known as Mount Moriah, is traditionally the place “where God will choose to dwell” and is a central spiritual-landmark in Jewish, Islamic, and Christian religions and its remaining Western Wall is “The” holiest site for observant Jews today. But researcher Tsvi Kenigsberg now proposes an altar found at Mount Ebal is the “real” dwelling place of God, a theory which challenges the historical, religious, and mythical heritage of not only Jerusalem, but Judaism.

Would The Real “Place” Please Stand Up?

Jewish legends describe the Temple being destroyed by both the Babylonians and the Romans and therefore it represents “divine promise” and a reminder of the Jews’ ability to endure and rebuild through extreme hardship. In Islamic traditions, Muhammad, the prophet of Islam flew a winged horse towards the Temple before taking off to heaven and in Christianity’s New Testament Jesus chased money lenders from the Temple.

According to a report in the Jerusalem Post it is because the Jewish Temple includes the Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam which is currently managed by Jordan, that severe theological, political, and military conflicts revolve around this building. But now, independent US-born researcher Tsvi Kenigsberg, suggested in an interview in Maariv that Jerusalem is “not” the location referred to in the Torah as “the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name” (Deuteronomy 26:2), but another location on the West Bank.

Aerial view of Temple Mount Moriah. (Godot13 / CC BY-SA 4.0)

Aerial view of Temple Mount Moriah. (Godot13 / CC BY-SA 4.0)

Waves Of Disruption

Kenigsberg worked under the late archaeologist Adam Zertal, who according to a Smithsonian article discovered the biblical Mount Ebal in the West Bank where the people of Israel emerged during the conquest of the land promised to them by the biblical God. Zertal uncovered what he died believing was the actual altar built by Moses' successor Joshua but many archaeologists pointed to distinct architectural differences between the site and the biblical descriptions.

The altar on Mount Ebal before the removal of the stones. (Professor Adam Zertel)

The altar on Mount Ebal before the removal of the stones. (Professor Adam Zertel)

Nevertheless, Kenigsberg is taking his mentor Zertal's claims to a whole new level suggesting that Mount Ebal, not Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, was the actual location mentioned in the Torah and this directly challenges the spiritual supremacy associated with Jerusalem and sends waves of disruption onto four centuries of biblical study.

In the biblical Book of Deuteronomy “the place the Lord your God will choose” is mentioned more than 20 times and it has, since the 17th century, been accepted that it was the Temple Mount in Jerusalem that was God’s intended location for Jews to worship. The Torah says that after Joshua erected his altar for religious worship it was moved to the “Shiloh”, the Temple built by Solomon. But Kenigsberg claims Zertal's discovery of “the place” of Deuteronomy, suggests the book was composed during the conquest of Canaan by the Hebrews and is therefore “the oldest source used to compile the Bible”.

But Not Everyone Agrees…

There is absolutely no way, even with the discovery of a carved plaque saying, “Joshua was here” will every scholar accept this controversial new theory, and back in the 80s when Zertal suggested that Mount Ebal was the “real” place where Joshua had built his altar, archaeologist Israel Finkelstein slammed him saying he had found only “a tower for guarding fields”.

Mount Ebal after the removal of the stones. (Professor Adam Zertel)

According to the Jerusalem Post article, US archaeologist Lawrence Stager visited Mount Ebal in 1984 and said that if Zertal was correct “he and all of his colleagues need to return to kindergarten” and Zertal’s teacher, Professor Aharon Kampinski of Tel Aviv University complained that Zertal’s opinion “was encouraging settlers to feel that Jews had a right to the Shechem area”.

The altar on Mount Ebal in full glory - restored at the top - a view from the north. (Daniel Ventura / CC BY-SA 3.0)

The altar on Mount Ebal in full glory - restored at the top - a view from the north. (Daniel Ventura / CC BY-SA 3.0)

Kenigsberg will deliver his evidence in a lecture at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening, October 30 at 7:30 pm and according to the controversial archaeologist the most important thing is that we now have an archaeological finding which “fairly certainly” shows that the Torah “has least a kernel of truth”. Again, offending many people who hold the Torah as “The” generator of all truths.

Top image: Altar of Mount Ebal. Source: Hoshvilim / CC BY-SA 4.0

By Ashley Cowie

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Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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