Meaning of Sacrifice and Offerings in "High Places"


The Book of Kings repeated refers to the continued sacrifice and burnt offerings in “High Places”. I would appreciate any insight as to how this is to be understood? For example, was it that they were worshiping the Lord in high places and not a central location or is the understanding that they were involved in pagan worship? Or is there another meaning?

I read Kings I&II and just want to get this understanding. Appreciate any insight.




HIGH PLACE The high places were common sites of worship in the ancient Near East, named after their common location at the summits of hills or ridges.
In the Bible, the high places were sites of worship. They were often unsanctioned for worshiping Yahweh, and typically located at the summits of hills. The usual word for high place (במה, bmh) means “height” or “the back of an animal” (the highest part of an animal). The word was used to describe non-Yahwistic—or at least nonorthodox—sites even when the worship sites were not on hills (Howard Vos, “High Place,” BEB). High places were often open, natural areas. However, bamah could also indicate an established structure (2 Kgs 23:8; Jer 7:31).
Israel’s high places were likely predominantly Canaanite in origin, at a time before religion power was centralized (Julius Wellhausen, Prolegomena, 18–19). As the Israelites settled into the land and established permanent structures, temples replaced high places as the central place of worship (Wellhausen, Prolegomena, 20).
(There’s much more, but it would be too long to post)

The above is quoted from the Lexham bible dictionary, which is included free with the Verbum bible study app. Verbum is a product of Logos, but is slanted for a catholic readership. You can spend anywhere from $10 - 10,000+ on materials.

Another excellent bible study app is esword. Esword is totally free, it does contain some catholic material, mainly from the early fathers, and a complete copy of Aquinas’ catena aurea. Esword also provides a computer interface.


Thank you for your reply.


Holman Bible Dictionary
High Place
An elevated site, usually found on the top of a mountain or hill; most high places were Canaanite places of pagan worship.

Heathen Worship at the High Place The average high place would have an altar (2 Kings 21:3 ; 2 Chronicles 14:3 ), a carved wooden pole that depicted the female goddess of fertility (Asherah), a stone pillar symbolizing the male deity (2 Kings 3:2 ), other idols (2 Kings 17:29 ; 2 Chronicles 33:19 ), and some type of building (1 Kings 12:31 ; 1 Kings 13:32 ; 1 Kings 16:32-33 ). At these places of worship the people sacrificed animals (at some high places children were sacrificed according to Jeremiah 7:31 ), burned incense to their gods, prayed, ate sacrificial meals, and were involved with male or female cultic prostitutes (2 Kings 17:8-12 ; 2 Kings 21:3-7 ; Hosea 4:11-14 ). Although most high places were part of the worship of Baal, the Ammonite god Molech and the Moabite god Chemosh were also worshiped at similar high places (1 Kings 11:5-8 ; 2 Kings 23:10 ). Scripture speaks negatively about these heathen places of worship; still they played a central role in the lives of most of the people who lived in Palestine before the land was defeated by Joshua. Archaeologists have discovered the remains of high places at Megiddo, Gezer, and numerous other sites.
God’s Hatred of the High Places When the Israelites came into the land of Canaan, they were ordered to destroy the high places of the people who lived in the land (Exodus 23:24 ; Exodus 34:13 ; Numbers 33:52 ; Deuteronomy 7:5 ; Deuteronomy 12:3 ) lest the Israelites be tempted to worship the Canaanite false gods and accept their immoral behavior. The Israelites were to worship God at the tabernacle at Shiloh (Joshua 18:1 ; 1 Samuel 1:3 ).

False Worship at High Places in Judah After the Temple was constructed, the people were to worship God at this place which He had chosen (Deuteronomy 12:1-14 ), but Solomon built high places for the gods of his foreign wives and even worshiped there himself (1 Kings 11:1-8 ). Because of the seriousness of this sin, God divided the nation by removing ten tribes from the kingdom of his son Rehoboam (1Kings 11:9-13,1 Kings 11:29-38 ). Following this, each new king that ruled in the Southern Kingdom of Judah and in the Northern Kingdom of Israel was evaluated in the books of Kings and Chronicles according to what they did with the high places where false gods were worshiped. In Judah, Asa is called a good king because he removed the Asherah, idols, and sacred prostitutes but, unfortunately, he did not destroy the high places (1 Kings 15:9-14 ; 2 Chronicles 15:17 ; initially he may have destroyed them according to 2 Chronicles 14:2-5 ).

Only Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:3-4 ) and Josiah (2 Kings 23:4-15 ) had the courage to destroy the high places in the land of Judah. Only these two kings brought major revivals to the land of Judah.

Gary V. Smith


While there is some tendency to identify high places with pagan shrines they were also used by Israel in an apparently licit way. This is where we find Samuel worshiping and where Saul was to meet with Samuel.


high places - no doubt figurative for their places of worship (although very often temples were built on mountains or had steps that led to a high place)


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