The historical and archaeological background behind the old israelite ark narrative

Israel Finkelstein, Thomas Römer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


In this article we deal with the historical realities behind what we consider to belong to the old part of the Ark Narrative (1 Sam 4,1 - 7,1). Based on the finds of excavations at Kiriath-jearim, Shiloh and other places mentioned in the story as well as exegesis of the text and an understanding of the geopolitical situation, we suggest that the story reflects the ideology and aspirations of Israel in the first half of the eighth century BCE, the time of Jeroboam II. We propose that the main theme of the narrative is the transfer of the Ark of Yhwh from Shiloh to Kiriath-jearim on the border of Israel and Judah. This narrative is apparently connected to a United Israel ideology in the days of Jeroboam II, according to which the territory and people of the two Hebrew kingdoms should be ruled by a Northern king from Samaria; this was the de-facto situation following the victory of Joash over Amaziah at Beth-shemesh (2 Kgs 14,11-13). Choosing Kiriath-jearim as the location for the temple of the Ark was related to this concept.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-185
Number of pages25
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2020


FundersFunder number
Sana and Vlad Shmunis
Tel Aviv University
Fondation du Collège de France


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