The Bamot and the Destruction of Idol Worship

In Parshat Re’eh, right before B’nai Yisrael were about to enter the Land of Israel they were told (Devarim 12:8-10) “You shall not do everything that we do here today- every man what is proper in his eyes- for you will not yet have come to the resting place (hamenucha- Rashi: Shilo) or to the heritage (hanachala- Rashi: the Beit HaMikdash) that HaShem your God gives you. You shall cross the Jordan and settle in the Land that HaShem, your God, causes you to inherit and He will give you rest from all your enemies, all around and you will dwell securely”.


Rashi quoting Sifre and Tractate Zevachim 117b points out that when B’nai Yisrael would first arrive in the Land of Israel, for the first 14 years of conquest and appointment, until the Tabernacle was set up in Shilo, B’nai Yisrael were required to bring sin (chatot) and guilt offerings (ashamot) in Gilgal (a national alter was set up there). Optional promissory (nedarim) and contributory (nedavot) sacrifices were permitted to be brought either on a national alter (Gilgal) or on personal Bamah- alter.


Once the Mishkan was set up in Shilo (resting place), all sacrifices were to be exclusively brought there (private Bamot were no longer allowed). After the destruction of Shilo (the Tabernacle stood in Shilo for 369 years) the Tabernacle was transferred to Nov and then to Givon (that period lasted 57 years). During that time the minor bamot were again permitted. When the Beit HaMikdash (heritage) was built in Jerusalem, the Bamot became forbidden.


It was difficult for B’nai Yisrael to get used to not being able to bring sacrifices wherever they chose and unfortunately throughout the TaNaCh we see that it led to idol worship since B’nai Yisrael were exposed to the C’naanim bringing sacrifices to their gods wherever they wanted to. That is exactly why God warned B’nai Yisrael (Devarim 12:2-3): “You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations you are driving away worshipped their gods: on the high mountains and on the hills and under every leafy tree. You shall break apart their alters; you shall smash their pillars; and their sacred trees shall you burn in the fire; their carved images shall you cut down; and you shall obliterate their names from that place”.


Archeologists have found many idols that looked like they were deliberately smashed. However, B’nai Yisrael did not go far enough in trying to uproot all forms of idol worship from the Land of Israel and in the end many including King Solomon’s wives actually got sucked up in idol worship themselves.