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Why did people build pillars and altars?

Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. Genesis 8:20

The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him. Genesis 12:7

Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD. There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well. Genesis 26:25

There he built an altar, and he called the place El Bethel, because it was there that God revealed himself to him when he was fleeing from his brother. Genesis 35:7

Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner. Exodus 17:15

Sometimes those altars acted as places where sacrifices occurred to God. It was a place where their worship and tithe happened.

Also, when an event of great significance occurred, people in ancient times created markers by piling stones in a heap. Obviously stones don’t naturally pile themselves up into a formation, so the manmade structure indicated to others that something important occurred in this place. It acted as a reminder to the parties, a visual reminder to those who “witnessed” the event. For us it would be like a monument.

There was also no paper then to sign or treaties to fill out, so the stones also acted as markers where covenants or agreements occurred, indicating that the contracts were written in “stone.”