Abstract of Lee, Young S. “Israelite Local Shrines and the Deuteronomic Mandate of a Central Sanctuary.”

Lee, Young S.  “Israelite Local Shrines and the Deuteronomic Mandate of a Central Sanctuary.”  PhD diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 2005. [Israel/Solomon/Furnishings/Theology]

Abstract:  The Old Testament attests to two altar laws, that of Exodus 20 and that of Deuteronomy and the Old Testament historical books. Deuteronomy 12:5; 14:22-29; 15:19-20; 16:6, 11, 16, and the like instructed Israel to worship Yahweh in a central sanctuary as one designated place. Exodus 20:24-26, on the other hand, allowed the worship of Yahweh at multiple shrines. Also, even Deuteronomy 12:20-25 permitted the existence of local shrines. Furthermore, worship the local shrines outside the central sanctuary was legally permissible in the days of the judges and Samuel and in the United Monarchy period. Later, Hezekiah and Josiah destroyed them in the effort to centralize all worship in Jerusalem as the sole sanctuary and declared all sanctuaries outside Jerusalem as being illegitimate. This causes one to wonder about the use of local shrines.

From this aspect, many scholars draw attention to the seeming contradiction between the permission of multiple local shrines by the Exodus 20 altar law and the requirement of a central sanctuary by the Deuteronomic law. Therefore, in order to discover whether or not there is any contradiction between the two laws, this study provides an exegetical survey of theologically significant texts relevant to the local shrines and the central sanctuary, and investigates the reason the local shrines came to be declared illegitimate by the godly kings in the Temple period. The exegesis supplies a basis for the hermeneutical and theological approaches that ensue.

The study deals with (1) the date of Deuteronomy; (2) the historical, religious, cultural background of the high places with their paraphernalia; (3) the exegesis of Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 12; (4) the relationship between the two laws; and (5) the cause of the destruction of the local shrines by Hezekiah and Josiah. That is to say, the composition of Deuteronomy was not associated with the time of Josiah who centralized all worship of Yahweh in Jerusalem. Research into the background of the high places provides the information of where they were located and how they were used in Israelite and Canaanite cultic practices; and a better explanation of the relationship between the two laws is established by the exegesis of the original texts relevant to them.

The thesis of this dissertation is that there is no contradiction between the two laws–central vs. local. Worship at local shrines was permissible for individuals and assemblies apart from national festivals and other corporate community occasions. The Deuteronomic law was for worship by the community as a whole, limited to the central designated place for national festivals and other community occasions of all Israel. Thus, the local shrines could coexist with the central sanctuary in light of the different roles and functions of the separate stipulations. The causes of Hezekiah’s and Josiah’s reform were (1) to eliminate the tendency of syncretism among God’s people by removing the ancient practices and the local places; (2) to turn the Israelites back to Yahweh, and (3) to restore true worship structures based on the teachings of Deuteronomy. The Israelite local shrines played an important role with the central sanctuary not only in the worship of Yahweh but also in Israel’s religious history up to the time of their reformation.

Full text available online through ProQuest.

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