In the northeast Negev, southern Israel, (about 5 1/2 miles (9 km) east-northeast) can be found the ruins of one of the cities of the Canaanite king of ʿArad which were “utterly destroyed” by Israel’s armies.
The temple at Arad was uncovered by Israeli archaeologist and historical geographer, chairman of the Department of Near East Studies and chairman of the Institute of Archaeology at Tel-Aviv University, Yohanan Aharoni in 1962 who spent the rest of his life considering its mysteries, dying there in the mid-1970s.
The Tel Arad Temple or sanctuary is an ancient Hebrew temple from the Kingdom of Judah, dating back to circa 950 BCE. The citadel and sanctuary were constructed at the time of King David and Solomon. During the reign of either King Hezekiah or King Josiah, this temple was dismantled (2 Kings 23:8).
The temple in Arad was built according to the plan of the Tabernacle described in the Bible and consisted of three parts: the inner courtyard, the temple and the Holy of Holies.
In the holy of holies of this temple two incense altars and a “standing stone” were found, probably having been dedicated to Yahweh.
The finds of an Israelite temple and altar, the Holy of Holies, is something extremely rare as most of these altars were destroyed when it was decided to concentrate the cult to the Almighty in Jerusalem. Located in a small chamber on the west side of the altar, accessed by three steps. Two incense altars flanking the entrance, and two standing stones are on its rear side. A small Bamah (stage, or high place) is located on the rear side. A replica of the Holy of Holies is exhibited at the Israel Museum.
In the heart of the courtyard, there was a square altar, built of small stones, and faced with unchiseled stones. This altar complies with the Biblical prohibition against building an altar of stones chiseled by means of a metal tool. Having passed the Altar of Burnt Offering (mizbach ha’olah) through the outer court/sanctuary area the priests would enter the area known as the Inner Court or Holy Place. The measurement of the altar fits the Biblical description – having a size of 5 square cubits (Exodus 27:1).
Among the most significant artifacts unearthed at Tel Arad are 91 ostraca in paleo-Hebrew referring to the citadel as the House of Yahweh. They are mostly orders to the quartermaster, commands and lists of names. Another inscription was found on the site by Aharoni mentioning a “House of Yahweh”, which William G. Dever suggests may have referred to the temple at Arad or the temple at Jerusalem. The Eliyashiv Ostraca, all found in the same room, are addressed to a person named Eliyashiv, ordering him to deliver a specific quantity of wine, flour, etc.
Under the Judaean kings, the Arad citadel was periodically refortified, remodeled and rebuilt, until ultimately it was destroyed between 597 BCE and 577 BCE whilst Jerusalem was under siege by Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II. The site was apparently deserted for over 1500 years until resettled during the Israelite period from the 11th century BCE onwards, initially as an unwalled piece of land cut off as an official or sacred domain was established on the upper hill, and then later as a garrison-town known as “The Citadel”.