Arad – Israel

Arad is located in the Negev Highlands. The Negev itself is an arid stretch of land that has been re-settled in the past eighty years or so. The people here come from kibbutzim backgrounds as well as a mixture of immigrants from India, Russia and Ethiopia. Bedouin settlements can also be found in this part of the country.

Arad was an important strategic location in Biblical times. It served as a one of the fortress cities that ringed Jerusalem.

Scriptural Significance

Arad is one of the ‘fortified cities’ leading toward Jerusalem.  As such, it was critical for an invading army to take this location.  Arad was a Canaanite city and initially appears in the Bible during Joshua’s invasion of the Land (Numbers 21: 1 – 3) Arad was eventually conquered by Israel (Joshua 12: 7 – 8, 14) The Kenites, descendants of Moses’ father-in-law, later settled in this area (Judges 1: 16)

The city was sacked at times by Egypt (II Chronicles 12: 2 – 4) and Assyria (II Chronicles 32: 1)

Aerial view of Arad: Red arrow indicates Canaanite Arad and the blue arrow indicates Arad in Josiah’s day

Cities like Arad would communicate with each other via beacon fires. Fortress cities would be strategically located within view of one another. All of Israel could then be warned fairly quickly of an approaching invader.

During the reign of Hezekiah, Assyria invaded Judah after sacking Israel (and the Northern Tribes). Assyria circled Judah around to the south and laid siege to Arad.  Many of the outlying fortress cities fell, including Arad (II Kings 18: 13). God did spare Jerusalem however (see II Kings 18 – 19 and specifically, II Kings 19: 35).

Did You Know?

Arad was one of those cities that became a ‘high place’ (see II Kings 23: 5).

‘High place’ is the term given to those locations where idolatrous worship would take place, often involving astral bodies. Specifically, this involved finding a hill or tel where an altar was erected along with some idol, which would then be worshipped. This is condemned (Deuteronomy 12: 2–3)!

‘High place’ is also the term given to those locations where worship of the True God would occur. Yet this would involve violating God’s Word on how He was to be approached. There was to be but one central sanctuary and one altar unto the Lord (Deuteronomy 12: 11–14). That central place of worship was in Jerusalem at the Temple!

During the history of the Jews, you’ll see two types of revivals: Some involved removing just those high places where idols were worshipped – such as during the reigns of:
• Asa (II Chronicles 15: 1 – 17)
• Amaziah (II Kings 14: 1 – 4)
• Azariah (II Kings 15: 1 – 4)
• Jotham (II Kings 15: 32 – 35)

Some however involved sweeping reform that resulted in the removal of both types of high places:
• Hezekiah (II Kings 18: 1 – 6)
• Josiah (II Kings 23: 1 – 28)

Archeological Significance

To date, no ancient manuscripts have been recovered that describe worship practices here. Yet, archeologists have uncovered an ancient temple. Note in the background, two standing stones. In the foreground are two ancient incense burners (the originals are actually in the Jerusalem):

Tell Arad was a gold mine for archeologists. Not only were the incense burners found, but traces of the actual incense used were still present. When scientists carbon-dated the specimens, it dated to @ 621 BC – in other words, to just about the time that Josiah would have destroyed this high place.

Perhaps the most important find though was of some ostraca.  These are pottery shards that have a kind of ancient style of Hebrew writing or inscriptions on them. Broken pieces of pottery were often used for writing in lieu of paper or papyrus.  One of these makes reference to the Temple in Jerusalem. This is yet more evidence confirming the accuracy of the Bible and the existence of the Jews in the Land in the 7th Century BC.