“Manoah’s Altar” Near Ancient Zorah
I recently had the opportunity to visit the site of a large stone altar near the ancient city of Zorah. This altar has been known to scholars since the late 1800’s, but to my knowledge it has never been thoroughly investigated. The name “Manoah’s altar” reflects its proximity to Zorah, the hometown of Samson and his father Manoah (Judg 13:2). When Manoah and his wife were informed that they would have a son, Manoah made an offering. “So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering and offered it on the rock to Yahweh, and he performed wonders while Manoah and his wife looked on. For it came about when the flame went up from the altar toward heaven, that the angel of Yahweh ascended in the flame of the altar. When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell on their faces to the ground” (Judg 13:19-20). Although there is no specific connection between this text and the altar named for Manoah, it may be noted that Manoah’s encounter happened “in the field” outside the city of Zorah (Judg 13:9).
There are no known buildings or other remains in the near vicinity of the altar. The altar is about a half mile east of the ancient city. Today it is on the edge of the Hartuv Industrial Park, perched atop a dirt bank above the paved road.
The earliest report of the altar was made by J.E. Hanauer in the Palestine Exploration Quarterly in 1885. He reported the approximate location and size of the altar, and gave rough dimensions for it. He also described the surface, noting that it was “battered and weather-worn,” and describing the hollows and grooves on the top. He also provided two sketched views of the altar.