The Lachish Incense Burners

Two large incense burners can be seen in the Sennacherib Lachish relief. The question is, what were these incense burners used for? Several answers have been proposed by scholars. The first of these, the option that the burners were used in a temple, is rather unlikely, given that Hezekiah very likely instituted cultic reforms throughout Judah, and would not have allowed a temple to exist even at such an important place as Lachish. The second of these; that the burners were used for a shrine not used for sacrifice, is possible, though there is as of yet no archaeological evidence for this shrine. The third, and, to me, most likely possibility regarding the Lachish incense burners were that they served a wholly secular role in the governor’s residence (the “palace-fort”), being used as simple fumigation stands to mask the constant smell of dung of the ancient world.

Here‘s another incense burner displayed in an entirely different context  on a relief of Merenptah attacking Ashkelon, being portrayed as a sign of Canaanite desperation, the incense apparently being given to a god of the heavens as an offering. This demonstrates incense burners had a cultic role even in pre-Israelite Canaan.

Author: pithom

An atheist with an interest in the history of the ancient Near East. Author of the Against Jebel al-Lawz Wordpress blog.

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