Arad – Stone Age History
Arad is located slightly east of Beersheba, and Stone Age followed by early Canaanite settlements were discovered dating to before 2650 B.C., when the site was apparently abandoned until the 11th century B.C. As there is an occupation gap of about 1500 years, and because there seem to be two Arads mentioned in Egyptian sources, some archaeologists believe the Arad mentioned in Numbers 21, 33, Joshua 12, and Judges 1 is located at nearby Tell el-Milh. Alternatively, Arad in these early passages is referring to a region, not the later city, the “the wilderness of Judah which is in the south of Arad” (Judges 1:16).
Arad – A Temple to Yahweh
David and Solomon built at Arad, and excavations revealed an Iron Age fortress with a casemate wall 5 meters thick protected by two towers, and sanctuary dated to the time of David and Solomon. Shoshenq I also campaigned against Arad according to his conquest list at Karnak, and there is a destruction layer dated to the 10th century B.C. fitting the Shosenq I attack. Located in the northwestern corner of the fortress, the Arad temple was composed of three rooms: an entrance hall, main hall, and inner sanctum. Three steps led up to the elevated inner sanctum, in which stood a 1 meter high stone stele, painted red. Stone altars, 50 cm high, flanked both sides of the entrance.
At the center of the large courtyard in front of the temple was an altar built of uncut stone. This structure, although smaller and with different proportions, appears similar to the Temple in Jerusalem, which also contained a three room layout and similar size altar in the courtyard (2 Chronicles 6:13). However, this temple was destroyed about the end of the 8th century B.C., probably because of religious reforms of Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:4, 22). Over 100 ostraca inscribed in ancient Hebrew were found in the citadel. One of the ostraca letters from the late 7th century B.C. mentions “the matter you commanded me about: all is well. He is staying at the house of Yahweh,” possibly the Temple in Jerusalem.
Arad – Destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar
Although some believe the Arad temple was also a temple to Yahweh, it was destroyed prior to these letters. There is no evidence to suggest it was a legitimate center of worship to Yahweh, and it may have been either an unsanctioned temple to Yahweh or a pagan temple copying some of the forms of Solomon’s Temple. Either way, it was in violation of God’s commands and demonstrated the religious syncretism that had troubled the Israelites. During the Babylonian conquest of Judah, the armies of Nebuchadnezzar II destroyed Arad in the early 6th century B.C. The site remained unoccupied until the Persian period in the 5th century B.C., and later even Herod the Great built in the lower city.