“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.

Google Earth view of the Manoah altar and the ancient site of Zorah.

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.


Views of the “Manoah altar” provided by J.E.

The altar is rectangular in shape, with a stepped top. The base is approximately 10 ft long by 8 ft wide, and the exposed portion rises about 4 ft above the soil. It is impossible to tell how much might be buried beneath the dirt. These dimensions are quite close to the dimensions of the altar that was used with the tabernacle (five cubits per side, three cubits high; Ex 27:1) The top surface of the altar is marked by a number of cup-marks, some of which are connected by grooves.

Surface of the Manoah altar, showing grooves and cup marks.

The date of this altar is uncertain. It seems most likely, based on the size, shape, and physical characteristics, that it should be attributed to the Late Bronze or Iron Age periods (c. 1500-600 BC), but that is only an estimate. Excavation of the environs might provide a firmer date. A number of scholars have noted the similarities between this altar and the altar at Givat Harel near Shiloh.

Western end of the Manoah altar.

Manoah’s altar with the author, for relative size perspective.

If you are interested in visiting this altar, either by Google Earth or in person, the coordinates are 31°46’21.16″N 34°59’34.19″E.
For the initial report on this altar, see J. E. Hanauer, “The Rock Altar of Zorah,” Palestine Exploration Quarterly, 1885, vol. 3, pp. 183-184, available here.


    1. Avatar for Kris Udd Majorie Davis : July 5, 2023 at 7:35 pm

      I didn’t remember that there were wonders after the sacrifice. No gift shop there?

    2. Avatar for Kris Udd Gary Wissel : July 6, 2023 at 8:49 am

      It is so amazing to see people sacrificing in and around that area at or near the time of Manoah. Even if it isn’t the altar Manoah used it is neat to see. Wonderful pictures and I really appreciate the google earth views to see where it sits.

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