The Bible imagines the religion of ancient Israel as purely monotheistic. And doubtless there were Israelites, particularly those associated with the Jerusalem Temple, who were strict monotheists. But the archaeological evidence (and the Bible, too, if you read it closely enough) suggests that the monotheism of many Israelites was far from pure. For them, Yahweh (the name of the Israelite god) was not the only divinity. Some Israelites believed that Yahweh had a female consort. And many Israelites invoked the divinity with the help of images, particularly figurines. I call this Israelite religion pagan Yahwism.
The archaeological evidence we will look at comes mostly from Judah in what is known in archaeological terms as the Assyrian period, the span from 721 B.C.E., when the Assyrians destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel, until 586 B.C.E., when the Babyloniansconquered Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple and brought an end to the Davidic dynasty in Judah. This period, to put it into perspective, is several centuries after King Solomon built the Jerusalem Temple in about 950 B.C.E. So the archaeological evidence we are about to discuss documents a level of Israelite paganism long after Solomon built an exclusive home for Israel’s god.
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