What do you make of 1 Kings 18 & 19?
"Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down. And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, “Israel shall be your name.” Then with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD; and he made a trench around the altar large enough to hold two seahs of seed" (I Kings 18:30-32 NKJV).
Elijah repaired an altar to the LORD on Mount Carmel that was broken down.
Then there is the 1 Kings 19 reference illustrating that altars (plural) dedicated to the LORD had been known of in the Northern Kingdom of Israel in Elijah's day and even prior to his time, albeit that they had been torn down at the time of Elijah's words.
"So he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life”" (I Kings 19:10 NKJV).
"And he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life”" (I Kings 19:14 NKJV).
What I would like comments on is if the sacrifices were supposed to take place wherever the tabernacle was located, prior to the temple in Jerusalem, then why had these altars to the LORD been built at various places? Elijah seems to comment on their being torn down as a bad thing. However, Hezekiah and others present the tearing down of these altars as a good thing, even if the altar was not dedicated to an idol but to the LORD.
At first glance, it seems the theory that all sacrifices had to be at the tabernacle (before the temple being built) may not be entirely correct. One could say perhaps that 1 Kings 3:2 provides the answer:
"Meanwhile the people sacrificed at the high places, because there was no house built for the name of the LORD until those days. And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David, except that he sacrificed and burned incense at the high places. Now the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place: Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask! What shall I give you?”" (I Kings 3:2-5 NKJV).
But then, one may still be left with the difficulty of explaining why Elijah is lamenting that these altars were torn down, for the temple in Jerusalem was certainly built in his day!
And then there is also the matter of the altar built by Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh in Joshua 22. Those on the east side of the Jordan had to clarify that it was merely a replica of the altar before the tabernacle, and not a substitute altar for sacrifice and burnt offering. Had it been such it looks like a civil war was going to break out.
Any thoughts or insights you could share on this perceived dilemma would be appreciated. Thanks!