The gate-shrine is likely evidence of actions taken by King Hezekiah, the twelfth king of Judea, to abolish idols. As soon as Hezekiah ascended the throne following the death of his father, Ahaz, identified in scripture as a godless man, he ordered the destruction of all of the false idols in the kingdom: "He [Hezekiah] removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles [associated with a sacred goddess]…" - II Kings 18:4.
The gate is located in the ancient city Lachish. The northern section of the gate was unearthed decades ago by an expedition led by archaeologists from the United Kingdom and Tel Aviv University. The latest excavation, which took place from January to March, 2016, concentrated on uncovering the entire gate. The excavation was no small task, as the gate is the largest one in Israel dating back to the First Temple period, a time when the kingdom used the temple built by King Solomon.
"The size of the gate is consistent with the historical and archaeological knowledge we possess," Sa'ar Ganor, an excavation director with the Israel Antiquities Authority. According to multiple accounts in scripture, all important transactions, etc., took place at the gates of the many Israelite cities. Men—including city elders, judges, governors, kings and officials—would sit on benches by the city gates. The benches at Lachish were found during excavation.
The Tel Lachish city gate is now exposed and preserved to a height of about 13 feet. The excavation revealed that the first chamber held benches with armrests, as well as jars, scoops that were used for loading grain, and stamped jar handles that have the name "lmlk" on them, the seal belonging to the king.
Further excavations revealed more evidence of Hezekiah's actions. Steps to the gate-shrine in the form of a staircase ascended to a large room, where there was a bench upon which offerings were placed. An opening was exposed in the corner of the room that led to the holy of holies [the gate-shrine. Also unearthed were two four-horned altars and scores of ceramic finds consisting of lamps, bowls and stands in this room. The horns on the altar had been intentionally cut off.
Archaeologists also found a stone toilet installed in the corner of the gate-shrine. The Bible mentions other descriptions of placing toilets in cultic areas for desecration purposes. For instance, King Jehu ordered the destruction of the cult of Ba'al in Samaria: "And they demolished the pillar of Ba'al, and demolished the house of Ba'al, and made it a latrine to this day" - II Kings 10:27. Laboratory tests on soil taken from beneath the stone toilet indicate it was never used, but probably served a symbolic purpose. The gate-shrine was sealed and later destroyed by Sennacherib in 701 B.C.