Most often, however, it appears that a masseba was set up as a sacred stone. In this case, the unnaturally placed stone or series of stones provided worshipers with a physical location at which to meet their deity. To this day, surviving sacred stones break the natural contours of the landscape, inviting us to come in for a closer look.

The outdoor sanctuary was often marked by stones in groups of seven to nine upright monoliths that faced east with a courtyard immediately to the west. At times long, thin stones were placed next to shorter stones; some have interpreted the taller sacred stones to be associated with male deities and the shorter ones with female deities.

In general, the sacred stones that survive in the Promised Land have no message or features carved into them. Some scholars presume that the stones themselves were believed to not just represent the deity but to actually contain the essence of the deity. If that is the case, the raucous carving process might have been intentionally avoided in order to avoid disturbing the deity present within the sacred stone.

The large number of surviving sacred stones coupled with the frequent mention of such stones in Old Testament law settings combine to show just how deeply this particular practice was woven into the fabric of ancient Near Eastern culture. END OF PART 2

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