Saturday, April 27, 2013

The altar of witness at Geliloth? ALTERNATIVE TITLE: The Loch Galilee Monster

Reading Joshua 22 this morning, I ran across this phrase rendered "to/in the region" (vv. 10, 11; NRSV). The Hebrew is alternatively (and more literally) rendered, "to/at Geliloth," which bears a remarkable similarity to "Galilee."

The controversial altar built by the tribes in the transJordan was said to be "by the Jordan, an altar of great size" (v. 10), which brought to mind this recent article over at LiveScience, which discusses a massive stone structure (of unhewn stones, mind you) beneath the surface of the Sea of Galilee. Most theorize that it's a burial mound, but I wonder ...

The one thing that would suggest perhaps not is that this structure appears round, rather than square or rectangular, as would be appropriate if it were a "copy" of the original at Shiloh (v. 28), but that could be a matter of entropy over time. Meanwhile, note that Geliloth means "stone circles" (Hastings, ed., Dictionary of the Bible) and is also translated "borders" or "coasts." While Geliloth is often identified with Gilgal, there seems to be some debate on that score. I know, Galilee is a long way from Adummim (cf. Josh 15:7; 18:17), but if "Geliloth" is used here in a more generic (coastal, regional, circular) sense, I suppose it is just possible.

Make sure to follow the links to the image gallery, esp. the map inset. Then see again the latter half of v. 11, which says they "built an altar at the frontier of the land of Canaan, in the region (Geliloth) near the Jordan, on the side that belongs to the Israelites." Depending on what map you consult, "Canaan" and "Gilead" (where the confrontation with Phineas took place; see v. 15) often stretch as far north as Galilee.

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