Which Was the Right One in Ancient Israelite Religion? – Biblical Archaeology Society
biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/ ancient-cultures/ancient- israel/which-altar-was-the- right-one-in-ancient- israelite-religion/
The altars uncovered in this archaeological context reveal religious differences between the northern and southern kingdoms in Israel (and Philistia). They also show us a point of tension between the sources of the Bible and their respective visions for ancient Israelite religious practices.”
This is a note on the religious practice all believers in The One would have been involved in in Elijah’s day, including especially Elijah himself. As this article shows, four-horned altars were commonplace thru out the NK as well as Judaea. They are another indication that the people using them were monolatrists, ie, they had a primary god but not an exclusive one. Just as an aside, “you shall have no other gods before me” should properly be read “you shall have no other gods ABOVE me. I’m the main one”.
Of the many things going on in the long transition that starts around the time of Elijah, one was the struggle between the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom for legitimacy in ruling the people. This was “earned” by being God’s authentic representative. So it was very important where worship was conducted. And in Iron II it was still widely distributed. There were no priests, nor any priestly class. One of the attributes of Elijah and all those other prophets of every faith running around the countryside in his day was that they were of the people. They were not a separate class the way the Sadducee’s would become in later times.
Elijah is at the forefront of ending this practice of a dispersed and unguided faith. That is his significance to the later Deutornomists, whom I will come back to shortly. But for the moment the point is that everyone who wasn’t a Ba’alist had one of these four-horned altars in their home if they were wealthy enough b/c we are still in the time before a central temple in Jerusalem. The central temple had multiple roles. One of the most important of them was to function somewhat like our Capitol (note the spelling!) building does today. The temple was built to be magnificent. To awe. To be a statement that this is God’s seat and OBTW, since this is God’s home, this is also the legitimate location of the seat of government of the Hebrew people. This was a big, long struggle between the two kingdoms over legitimacy and the power that went with it.
So one of the things the Deutoronomist(s) are attempting to accomplish in their retelling of history is to begin the unification process that’s culminating during their time. Probably at Josiah’s direction, they are writing up an explanation of ‘how we came by God’s grace to represent the true temple of the true faith that all began with Elijah.
All this is by way of some context for an important area of your story you haven’t spent much time on: how these people worshipped; who they worshipped; how it affected their everyday lives. Those four-horned altars would have been in the homes of most of your key characters.
Ahab’s add-on altar for his new queen was outside the palace. Was that meant to say anything about the relative power of the two gods? Or was it that Ba’al was to be worshipped out of doors while The One could be worshipped inside? Don’t know. And don’t know if it signifies anything. But I wanted to see the four-horned altars b/c they’re a key ingredient to the soup.