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S. Bamah

Bāmôt are raised platforms, built in the open air or in the cities, where religious rituals were performed. Places were either naturally or artificially raised. Often, there was a a sanctuary building ("bêt bāmâ"='House of a high place') associated with the bāmā. Also, there was an additional room associated with the bāmā–the liska (dining room for sacrificial meals;1Sam 9).

Bāmôt were typically urban (1 Kgs 13:32; 2 Kgs 17:9 "high places in all the cities"), but sometimes associated with hills (1 Kgs 14:23 "they built high places on every hill;" 1 Kgs 11:7–Solomon built a high place on a mountain; ), but ABD says there is no preference for elevated locations. Possible examples of bāmôt are the open air bull site on the summit near Dothan, but this may not be cultic. Also, the Dan sacred precinct is another bāmā candidate.

Sacrifices were made at the bāmôt by priests. At first, they are seen as legitimate. David and Solomon patronized the bāmā at Gibeon. David had the tabernacle in the bāmā at Gibeon. YHWH appeared to Solomon at Gibeon to offer him whatever he wanted. People sacrificed at the bāmôt because the temple wasn’t yet built (1 Kgs 3:2). 

After construction of the temple which lead to centralization of religion, bāmôt were considered illigimate places of worship. Muted disapproval is given to Solomon visiting the bāmôt (1 Kgs 3:3). They are denigrated by the Deuteronomist (Deut 12:2). Hezekiah removed the bāmôt (2 Kgs 18:4). Josiah defiled all the bāmôt (2 Kgs 23:8). On the other hand, Jeroboam I built bāmôt and installed non-Levitical priests there.

The word bāmā occurs 106x in MT. In the Vulgate, it is translated as "excelsus" and in the English as “high place”, from Luther's German, "Höhe." There is no known verbal root. Albright suggested bmt as anatomical term like Akk bamtu “back, trunk (of animal or man).” The consensus is that Hebrew and Akk have dual meaning: part of body (“back”) or part of landscape (“high place”). Ugaritic bmt so far only anatomical sense is known.