Version 3.21
April 18, 2004
Unofficial Guide with Hyperlinked Background Material to the Exhibit
Ancient Treasures and the Dead Sea Scrolls
Canadian Museum of Civilization
December 5, 2003- April 12, 2004
David Steinberg




I.    Note on the Exhibition’s Title

II.   Note on the Term "Israel"

III.  Themes of the Exhibit

IV. Critique of the Exhibit

V. Structure of the Exhibit

VI.  Pattern of Viewing

a. Israel and Judah in the context of the Near-East

b. Israelite-Jewish Artistic, Architectural and Literary Traditions

c. Early Extra-Biblical Evidence of Israel’s Existence 

VII. Notes on Exhibits

A. First Temple Period (c. 1000 BCE-586 BCE[1])

Part 1 - Davidic Dynasty – Rulers

Part 2 - Ritual Life in the First Temple Period

I.    Background

II.   Music

III. Sacrificial Rites

IV. Objects Reflecting Canaanite Polytheism

Part 3 - Everyday Life

I.    Eating in Jerusalem of the First Temple Period

II.  The Gentle Caress of Oil

III. Ornament

IV. Games and Toys

V.  Money, Weights, Measures and Trade

Part 4 - Literate First Temple Culture as the Matrix for the Development of Scriptures

I.    Background on the Alphabet

II.  Increased Use of Writing

III. Seals and Bullae

 Part 5 - Destruction and Exile

B. Second Temple Period (c. 520 BCE-70 CE)

Part 1 After the Exile Historical Background

Part 2 - Dead Sea Scrolls

I.    General Overview

II.  Artifacts Connected with the Scrolls

III. Sections of Three Important Dead Sea Scrolls

Part 3 - Herodian Jerusalem with its  Hellenistic Influences

I.    Ossuaries

II.  Crucifixion

III. Limestone Carving in Jerusalem

IV. Menorah

C. Jewish and Christian Life in the Galilee and Golan in the Byzantine Period (fourth century to mid seventh century CE) – Emergence of Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity

I.    Background Information

II.  Jewish Symbols in the Post-Temple Period

III. Hebrew and Latin Bibles

IV. In the Synagogue - Architecture, Symbols, Mosaics etc.

D. Sepher Torah (Torah Scroll) and Reading Room - The Survival of Rabbinic Judaism and its Flourishing Transplantation to Canada




Box 1   - Why Should Israelite-Jewish History be of More Interest to People in Modern Western Culture than other Ancient Cultures?

Box 2   - Dever on Art in Ancient Israel

Box 3 - Hebrew Proper Name of the God of Israel

Box 4   - How Do We Know the Dates of First Temple Kings?

Box 5   - Victory Steles of the Enemies of Israel vs. Biblical Minimalist Claims Regarding the Early Israelite History

Box 6   - Masoretic Text

Box 7   - Canaanite Harvest Festivals to Israelite Commemorative Festivals

Box 8   - Maimonides on Sacrifices

Box 9   - Josiah's Reform According to the Book of Kings

Box 10  - Amulets in Jewish Tradition

Box 11 - Dever on Popular Religion

Box 12 - The Cult of Asherah in Ancient Israel and Judah

Box 13 - Signifier and Signified - Does Iconography Originating in Polytheism Prove Polytheistic Belief?

Box 14 - Children in Ancient Israelite Society

Box 15 - Commerce

Box 16 - Illustration of How Papyrus Documents Were Sealed

Box 17 - The Imperial Imperative of Frightfulness

Box 18 - The Destruction of Sennacherib by George Gordon, Lord Byron

Box 19 - The Assyrian Army

Box 20 - The Curse of Sennacherib

Box 21 - Mass Deportations

Box 22 - Jesus the Galilean Jew

Box 23 - Relationship Between the Scrolls and the New Testament

Box 24 - Six Most Attested Biblical Books in the Qumran Library and in the New Testament

Box 25 - The Physical Death Of Jesus Christ, Study by The Mayo Clinic

Box 26 - The Bar Kochba Rebellion (132-135 CE)

Box 27 - Jewish Galilee to Christian Galilee (324-600 CE)

Box 28 - Writing a Torah Scroll

Box 29 - Torah and Reading of the Torah

Box 30 - The Laws of the Torah and those of the Ancient Near East

Box 31 - Pentateuch - The Documentary Hypothesis

Box 32 - The Spirit of Torah

Box 33 - Are the “Historical Books” of the Hebrew Bible “History”?

Box 34 - Archaeology and the Historicity of the Hebrew Bible

Box 35 - Review of What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It? by William G. Dever

Box 36 - What Do We Know About the Historic David and Solomon?

Box 37 - How Reliable are Oral Traditions?

Box 38 - Jewish Responses to Challenges to the Historicity of Biblical History

Box 39 - A Christian Response to Challenges to Historicity of Biblical History

Box 40 - Sennacherib and Jerusalem

Box 41 - Better Texts of the Hebrew Bible Among the Scrolls?

Box 42 - Six Most Attested Biblical Books in the Qumran Library and the          Probable Reasons for their Popularity


 Annex 1 - History Archaeology and the Bible – What Really Happened and How can we Know it?

Annex 2 - Complexity of Israelite-Jewish Society

Annex 3 - The Importance of the Scrolls

Annex 4 - The Congregation As Temple

Annex 5 - Dead Sea Scrolls and Christianity


Select Bibliography


I. Note on the Exhibition’s Title

"Ancient Treasures and the Dead Sea Scrolls explores more than one thousand years of early Jewish and Christian history through a collection of rare ceremonial objects, decorations, household items, and ancient texts dating from 1200 B.C.E. to 700 C.E"

From Ancient Treasures and the Dead Sea Scrolls: About the Exhibition, Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation,  December 4, 2003

The title Ancient Treasures and the Dead Sea Scrolls implies a balance between the Ancient Treasures and the Dead Sea Scrolls even though exhibit includes fragments of only 3 scrolls among about 100 non-scroll exhibits. 

However, the objects, interesting as they are in themselves, are most relevant as part of the understanding of history being portrayed which could be termed the story.

Fundamentally First Temple portion of  the exhibit is a secular explanation of the nature and rise of Ancient Israel.  Specifically – the first ever religion based on a written scripture arose out of a social and political context i.e.

 –         the kingdom of Judah ruled by the House of David within and economic context and, towards its end, exhibiting a rapidly increasing in the use of writing;


         early Israelite religion (henotheism  tending to monolatory) based on sacrifice, prophecy and casting of lots develops via the Deuteronomic revolution into a monotheism based on scripture


II. Note on the Term "Israel"

"Israel" is used below in at least 4 meanings -

  1. The community, tracing its ancestry to Abraham, described as entering into a covenant with the God of Israel YHWH (See also Names of God) in the biblical books of Exodus and Deuteronomy;
  2. A people who appear in Canaan in the 13th-11th centuries BCE and eventually form the Kingdom of Israel (often called the United Monarchy) which splits in the late 10th century BCE into (see map) the Kingdom of Judah, under the Davidic dynasty, in the south (encompassing the former tribal territories of Judah, Simeon and southern Benjamin) and the Kingdom of Israel, in the north and east (encompassing the former territories of the remaining tribes of Israel).  According to the biblical tradition (Joshua to 2 Kings), this Israel is physically and religiously the descendant of the Israel described in (a) above;
  3. A people mentioned in the Egyptian Merneptah Stele [1] (approximately 1210 BCE) as living in Canaan.  Merneptah succeeded his father, Rameses II (about 1300-1234 B.C.) as Pharaoh (king of Egypt).  Rameses II  is usually considered the Pharaoh of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egyptian captivity (map). There is no way of knowing whether the Israel of the Merneptah Stele is the same as the Israel described in (b) above; and,
  4. The modern State of Israel.


III. Themes of the Exhibit

1. Relationship between the Bible and Archaeology – What Really Happened and How can we Know it?

2. Relationship Between Israelite-Jewish Society, Other Cultures and Foreign Powers (the evidence of this is widespread in the forms of artistic influence ( see mosaics, stone table Jewish artistic traditions), literary influence (also Josephus), conquest, exile (see Reasons for Survival of Judaism through Babylonian Exile and captivity ) etc..

3. Social Complexity, including Religious Diversity and Class Differences in All Periods

4.  A Secular Alternative Explanation for the Rise of the first Religion Based on Written Scriptures (i.e. Post-Deuteronomic Reform Judaism).  The religious explanation is that a supernatural God delivered a revelation.  With this explanation archaeology can provide no more that illustrative artifacts.  However, a secular view would see both the scriptures and the religion(s) based on them as human cultural artifacts.  Thus, from this viewpoint, human culture and history are determinative.  The key point being made is that  first Religion Based on Written Scriptures came out of the political, religious, commercial and social context of the First Temple Kingdom of Judah).

5. The Nature and Importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls

6. The Impact of the growing belief in the physical resurrection of the dead on Burial Patterns (Ossuaries)

7. Menorah and the Cross – the Symbols of Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity the Survivors of the Cataclysm of the Destruction of Jerusalem and their Shared Physical Culture (mosaics, lamps, chancel screen etc.) and Theological Traditions (e.g. David, Elijah, the Bible)

8. The Survival of Rabbinic Judaism and its Flourishing  Transplantation to Canada (Oldest Torah Scroll in Canada)

Box 1

Why Should Israelite-Jewish History be of More Interest to People in Modern Western Culture than e.g. Ancient Cultures in South America or the Pacific?


Fundamentally, the answer is that the impact of Israelite religious thought, mediated by the Bible and Christianity was, together with Greco-Roman culture, the main source from which medieval European (Italy, France, Spain, Low Countries, German speaking areas, UK) Culture grew. In turn this developed into modern Western Civilization.

The exhibits on the everyday life of ancient Israel etc. can be seen as illustrating the context of its religious life.


Roots of Western History

Israelite Religion to Judaism: the Evolution of the Religion of Israel

The Impact of Greek Culture on Normative Judaism from the Hellenistic Period through the Middle Ages c. 330 BCE- 1250 CE


IV. Critique of the Exhibit


V. Structure of the Exhibit

Overall the Exhibit is divided into four time periods

1.        First Temple Period (approximately 1000 BCE-586 BCE)

2.        Second Temple Period (approximately  536 BCE-70 CE)

3.        Jewish Life in the Galilee and Elsewhere in the Early Post-second Temple period (approximately 70 CE-600 CE) – Emergence of Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity

4.        The most ancient Torah Scroll in Canada forming a symbolic link between the earlier periods and the Jewish experience in Canada


VI. Pattern of Viewing

Many people want the context before zeroing in on the exhibits. e.g.

a. Israel and Judah in the Context of the Near-East see

Ø    Map of the Ancient Near-East




Ø    Map Showing the Countries of the Present Day Near East



Ø  Biblical Israel and Judah to 733 BCE[1]


The time line is on the left as you enter (see

Note the artist’s reconstruction of  Jerusalem in the time of Solomon has a curious “bee hive” structure. I assume that it is the famous "stepped structure".  "Excavations directed by the late Prof. Yigal Shiloh, uncovered a monumental 20 metre stepped structure, and dated it to the 12th-10th century BCE[1]. This could have been the foundation of the Jebusite stronghold (Zion) captured and subsequently expanded by David."

See Jerusalem History


N.B. The "Western Wall", also called "Wailing Wall" was built by Herod, over 900 years later, at a site to the west of the First Temple's outer (western) wall.  The First Temple can be seen in this artist’s reconstruction at the northern extremity of Jerusalem.


b. Israelite-Jewish Artistic, Architectural and Literary Traditions

Israelites-Jews never having had, as far as is known, unique indigenous monumental architectural, artistic or musical traditions.  Thus Solomon’s Temple was a typical Canaanite-Phoenician structure whereas the temple built by Herod was of Greco-Roman design.  Synagogues during the first to seventh centuries CE was mainly of the Roman basilical type.



Box 2

Dever on Art in Ancient Israel

'Discussing art in ancient Israel, according to most biblical scholars until recently, should be relatively easy: there was none. The attitude of most biblicists may have been unduly influenced by a naive presupposition that the Second Commandment - "You shall have no images" - should be and was taken seriously as "historical fact. "Nevertheless, the presupposition is wrong. But what does "Israelite art" consist of? And why would more conventional biblical scholars not be aware of its existence?

'In answer to the first question, Israelite art of the period of the Divided Monarchy consisted primarily of engraved seals... and carved ivory panels, mostly inlays for wooden furniture, of both Syrian and Phoenician styles...

 '...  most of the motifs of the 10th-8th-century seals are borrowed, either directly from Egypt, or more often via the medium of Phoenician art, which was characterized by a mixture of Egyptian and Mesopotamian themes. Later on, in the late 8th-6th centuries, Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian motifs predominate, as expected. Common motifs on the Phoenicianizing seals include lions, bulls, sacred trees, dung-beetles, and other themes from nature, most with known religious connotations. The later group features much more astral imagery - sun, moon, stars of the heavens - as well as specifically Mesopotamian themes.

'Here we have both convergences and divergences with the biblical texts. On the one hand, such art ought not to have existed at all in light of the Second Commandment: "You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likenes of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth" (Exod. 20:4).On the other hand, a number of the motifs are found in the biblical descriptions of the temple and its furnishings...there was always a certain ambivalence about representative art in ancient Israel. This was especially because Israel had no native artistic traditions and thus usually borrowed art from its "pagan" neighbors, which led to conflicting associations and ultimately to the religious syncretism that the later Yahwistic parties so vigorously denounced.

'However uncertain much of the picture of Israelite art may be, I find two aspects of our data on seals suggestive. (1) The early period is heavily influenced by Syrian, specifically Phoenician, art, and most of it is found in the north. That is entirely in keeping with the main biblical tradition, which condemns the north for succumbing to "foreign gods." One recalls in particular the vehement opposition of the Deuteronomists to Ahab, and especially to his Phoenician queen Jezebel,who brought with her to Samaria an entire Ba'al cult and its entourage of priests and priestesses. Of course our view of this single minded wrath must be tempered by the acknowledged Phoenician influence on the construction and furnishings of the Solomonic temple, of which the editors of Kings do not disapprove. (2) It also strikes me as significant that by the 7th-6th century the vast majority of Israelite (now really Judean) seals have no symbols or artistic motifs at all, only personal names. In short, they, like the later "official" tradition of the Deuteronomistic school, are now severely aniconic. Is this merely coincidence? I doubt it. ... There does seem to be a tendency to purge Israelite art, if it can still be called that, of foreign elements, particularly in the late 7th/early 6th century. ...

The second major class of ancient Israelite art, again strongly Phoenician in character, consists of a series of carved ivory inlays of the 9th-8th centuries. These are found mostly in the northern kingdom, at administrative centers such as Hazar, and especially at Samaria, the capital.... The carved ivory panels found in Israel all belong to an international style of art, mostly of north Syrian and Phoenician manufacture or style...

'Many of the panels are half-scenes, or one of a matching pair, and others have tabs at the top and bottom for attaching them. ...The major artistic motifs of most of the Israelite ivories known are typically Phoenician: lions, bulls, cherubs, palmettes, lilies, lotus blossoms, etc.

'As with the seals, we have here a convergence with the candid biblical notion that there was little native Israelite art, so that Solomon had to resort to Hiram, king of Tyre on the Phoenician coast, to design, build, and furnish his temple in Jerusalem. Phoenician influence also continued later, as reflected in the stories of Ahab, Jezebel, and the temple of Ba'al at Samaria.'

From What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?: What Archaeology Can Tell Us About the Reality of Ancient Israel by William G. Dever



c. Early Extra-Biblical Evidence of Israel’s Existence 

All of these are commemorations of the conquest of Ancient israel and Judah by foreign powers.

i. Merneptah Stele [i](photograph in exhibit) approximately 1210 BCE.  This is the earliest mention of the name "Israel" outside the Bible.

The problems and ambiguity of this inscription are described at

"Israel, identified by the determinative for people, is a socioethnic unity powerful enough to be mentioned along with major city-states that were also neutralized....We may perceive Israel within the context and information of the Merneptah stela to be a rural sedentary group of agriculturalists without its own urban city-state support system ....This is exactly the picture we have of Israel from the Old Testament. ...Archaeological evidence supports the fact that the Israelites were agriculturalists in the late 13th century BC. Grain storage pits were a common feature of hill country sites of this period. "


 ii. The Tel Dan Stele[1] The Tel Dan Stele (original in exhibit) approximately 850 BCE – “The ninth line reads "House of David", and is most likely a reference David of the Bible as line eight mentions the "King of Israel". This is the earliest reference king David outside the Bible and it comes from only about 120 years after his death. Biblical minimalists have suggested that some errors in the text should call into question the stele's authenticity.  This has been widely rejected by experts.  Dr. Guy Couturier, in a lecture on February 26, 2004 pointed out that 80% of stone inscriptions from this era have errors in the inscriptions.  it was simply too difficult to make corrections. In the Tel Dan Stele, the kingdom of Judah is called "bet dawid" (House of David). Dr. Couturier pointed out that the Hebrew Bible contains 26 examples of this term.


"bet dawid" (House of David)


it appears in Tel Dan Stele

iii. Mesha Stele[1] (photograph in exhibit) around 850 BCE and contains the first earliest mention, outside the Bible, of the God of Israel YHWH (See also Names of God).  According to a recent reconstruction, line 31 originally read "And the House of David dwelt in...." (See André Lemaire, “‘House of David’ Restored in Moabite Inscription,” Biblical Archaeological Review, May/June 1994. )


"bet dawid" (House of David)

as restored by André Lemaire

Mesha Stele line 31


Box 3

Hebrew Proper Name of the God of Israel

Paleo-Hebrew Script

Dead Sea Scroll Script

Modern Torah Script

Approximate English Transliteration


N.b. It is highly likely that the divine name was pronounced as "yah-way" (the h in "yah" being consonantal like the h in the English word "hot") and was used in ordinary speech throughout the First Temple Period.  However, since at least the Hellenistic period (late 4th century BCE), Jews, except for priests pronouncing ancient formulaic blessings in the Temple, have been forbidden to pronounce the name out of respect for its holiness.  When reading scripture and in prayer Jews pronounce YHWH as "adonai" ("my lord" in Hebrew) and in all other contexts they substitute "hashem" ("The Name" in Hebrew).  In scholarly texts, and some Bible translations, YHWH is traditionally transliterated as Yahweh though, as note above, this is intended to represent the pronunciation "yah-way".  In many English translations of the Bible "YHWH" is translated as LORD (all capitals) i.e. really the translation of "adonai".

iv. Black Obelisk Jehu King of Israel (photograph in exhibit) approximately 825 BCE – showing Jehu King of Israel bowing in homage to the king of Assyria.  This is the only contemporary depiction of an Israelite king.

"Camels, Monkeys, and elephant and a rhinoceros, items of tribute that the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III (858-824 BCE) amassed over his long reign, are depicted on the four sides of the Black Obelisk ... a 65-foot-tall monument to the king's achievements. On the second register (below) horn the top, on the side shown here, Jehu, king of Israel, prostrates himself before Shalmaneser. Jehu paid Shalmaneser tribute in the latter's 18th regnal year, or 841 BCE.; with this date fixed, Biblical scholars can proceed to date other events described in the Bible and even some of the Biblical texts themselves."

From Eyewitness Testimony: Parts of Exodus Written Within Living memory of the Event by Baruch Halpern, Biblical Archaeology Review September-October 2003

v. Photographic Reproduction of Assyrian depiction of the destruction of Lachish (approximately 701 BCE) containing (probably see below) the only contemporary depiction of First Temple Judeans.

"(regarding) the 'Ashkelon wall' at Karnak - the 1970s Frank Yurco ... perceived connections between these reliefs and the Merneptah stela, particularly the latter's mention of Ashkelon.  A comparison of the scenes on the wall with the locations mentioned in the stela led Yurco to the conclusion that the wall provided a visual account of battles mentioned on the stela.  If Yurco is right, then there is a visual depiction of the people Israel on the Karnak depiction of  peoples and chariots... Yurco's hypothesis is rejected by other scholars..."



Box 4

How Do We Know the Dates of First Temple Kings?


"The basic political chronology of the Iron Age (1200-587 BCE) is fixed by lists of Assyrian kings and eponyms (officials appointed one per year). One such list contains a dated reference to the solar eclipse of 763 BCE, so we can project regnal lengths forward and backward from that point. This permits us to date reports of military campaigns, often to particular years. Hence, the sychronisms these lists share with kings of Israel and Judah permit the construction of a chronology based on reports of regnal lengths in the two books of Kings. For example, in the sixth regnal year of Shalmaneser III, 853 BCE, “Ahab the Israelite" participated in a battle waged by a coalition of Western kings against Assyria. And in 841 BCE, Shalmaneser's18th year, Jehu (king of Israel) paid Shalmaneser tribute. … Using these dates as a basis, synchronisms between Kings and passages concerning foreign monarchs and international events from Mesopotamian, Aramaic and Moabite sources (as well as the Tyrian annals …fit neatly into the chronological web that Assyrian (and, later, Babylonian) sources form. Thereafter, there are synchonisms for a series of Assyrian monarchs and Israelite and Judahite kings…”


From Eyewitness Testimony: Parts of Exodus Written Within Living memory of the Event by Baruch Halpern, Biblical Archaeology Review September-October 2003



Box 5

Victory Steles of the Enemies of Israel vs. Biblical Minimalist Claims Regarding the Early Israelite History


These steles establish that, even if we cannot recover much reliable information about the history of Israel and Judah before about 900 BCE, Israel and Judah did exist, Judah was ruled by a dynasty founded by David and that the national god of these kingdoms was YHWH.


"What do the minimalists believe? Although they have their disputes among themselves, all agree that there is no historical basis to any of the narratives in the Pentateuch or in the books of Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, and the first half of 1 Kings--that is, to the Bible's entire account of Israelite origins from the age of the patriarchs through the "united monarchy" of David and Solomon, traditionally dated to the 10th century B.C.E. "Biblical history," if there is such a thing at all, begins for them with the separate kingdoms of Israel and Judah in the 9th and 8th centuries, of the existence of which there is independent confirmation in Assyrian records. The text of the Bible, including its legal codes, prophetic books, and psalms, is a literary creation whose oldest parts are no older than the late-6th-century Babylonian exile.

Not all of these opinions are exclusive to the minimalists. More moderate Bible scholars nowadays share some of them, too. Their quarrel with (the minimalists) ... stems from their belief that, first, starting at least with David and Solomon, the Bible is talking about real historical figures; and second, parts of its text predate the Babylonian exile and are possibly contemporaneous with the events they describe.


"To be sure, apart from a single obscure reference to inhabitants of Canaan called "Israel" in the "Marniptah Stela" (from the late 13th-century B.C.E.), none of this material alluded to specific biblical events or individuals earlier than the 9th century. ... Nowhere was there so much as a hint of an Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or Joseph; of an enslavement in Egypt or liberation from it; of an Israelite conquest of Canaan."


Can the Bible Be Trusted? (Historic Accuracy of the Bible) by Hillel Halkin in Commentary Magazine July, 1999



Israelite Kings in Non-biblical, Non-Israelite Inscriptions

From The Minimalist Assault on Ancient Israel by BARUCH HALPERN Bible Review December 1995





United Monarchy




David (c. 1003-971 B.C.E.)

1.       Tel Dan stela (9th century BCE)

2.       Stela of Moabite king Mesha (c. 849-820 B.C.E.)

1.       House of David


2.       House of David

Northern Kingdom of Israel




Omri (c. 885-874 B.C.E.)

1.       Stela of Moabite king Mesha (c. 849-820 B.C.E.)





2.       Black Obelisk of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III (c. 858-824 B.C.E.)


3.       Annals ot the Assyrian king Tiglath Pileser III (c. 744-727 B.C.E.)


4.       Annals ot the Assyrian king Sargon II (c. 721-705 B.C.E.)



1.       “As for Omri, king of Israel, he humbled Moab many years… but I have triumphed over him and over his house, while Israel hath perished for ever.”

2.       ln the 18th year of my rule... I received the tribute of the inhabitants of Tyre, Sidon and of Jehu, son of Omri"

3.       “The land of Omri (Israel)… all its inhabitants and their possessions I led to Assyria.”

4.       “I conquered ... all of the land of Omri (lsrael)"


Ahab (c. 874-853 B.C.E.)

Kukh Monolith of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III (c. 858-824 B.C.E.)

“[Karkara] brought along to help him… 10,000 foot soldiers of Ahab the Israelite”

Jehoram (c. 852-841 B.C.E.)*


Tel Dan stela (9th century B.C.E.)



Jehu (c. 841-814 B.C.E.)


Black Obelisk of the Assyrian king

Shalmaneser III (c. 858-824 B.CE.)

"The tribute of Jehu, son of Omri; I received from him

silver, gold … tin, a staff for a king”

Joash (c. 805-790 B.C.E.)

Tell Al Rimah stela of Adad-Nirari III (c. 810-873 B.C.E.)

“Joash (Ia-‘a-su) the Samarian”

Menahem (c. 740 B.C.E.)


Annals of the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III (c. 744-727 B.C.E.)


“As for Menahem, I overwhelmed him like a snowstorm and he ... fled like a bird."

Pekah (c. 735 B.C.E.)

Annals of the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III (c. 744-727 B.C.E.)


“The Land of Omri… all its inhabitants and their possessions I led to Assyria. They overthrew their king Pekah and I placed Hoshea as king over them.”

Hoshea (c. 730-722 B.C.E.)


Annals of the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III (c. 744-727 B.C.E.)

“They overthrew their king Pekah and I placed Hoshea as king over them.”

Southern Kingdom of Judah




Ahaziah (c. 841 B.C.E.)**

Tel Dan stela (9th century B.C.E.)




Uzziah? (early 8th century B.C.E.)


Annals of the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III (c. 744-727 B.C.E.)

“I received the tribute of the kin[gs…A]ziau (Uzziah?) from Iuda (Judah).”

Ahaz (c. 740-725 B.C.E.)

Annals of the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III (c. 744-727 B.C.E.)

“I received the tribute of … Ahaz ((Ia-u-ha-zi) of Judah.”

Hezekiah (c. 725-696 B.C.E.)


1.       Taylor Prism of the Assyrian king Sennacherib (c. 704-681 B.C.E.)

2.       Bull Inscription of Sennacherib




3.       Nebi Yebus Slab of Sennacherib


1.       "As to Hezekiah, the Jew, he did not submit to my yoke. "

2.       “I laid waste the large district of Judah and made the overbearing and proud Hezekiah, its king, bow in submission.”

3.       “I put the straps of my yoke upon Hezekiah, its (Judah's) king."


Manasseh (c.696-642 B.C.E.)


1.       Prism B of the Assyrian king Esarhaddon (c.680-669 B.C.E.)


2.       Rassam Cylinder of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (c. 668-633 B.C.E.)

1.       “I called up the kings… on the other side of the Euphrates… Manasseh, king of Judah.”

2.       “Manasseh, king of Judah.”

Jehoiachin (c. 597-560 B.C.E.)


Ration documents of the Babylonian king

Nebuchadnezzar (c. 605-562 B.C.E.)

"10.(sila of oil) to Jehoiachin ([Ia]-kin), king of Judah (Ia[...])."

* The Jehoram referred to in the Tel Dan stela may have been the Judahite king of the same name, who ruled c.846-843 B.C.E.

** The Ahaziah referred to in the Tel Dan stela may have been the king of the northern kingdom who bore the same name and ruled c.852-851 B.C.E.


VII. Notes on Exhibits

A. First Temple Period (approximately 1000 BCE-586 BCE[1])

Biblical History Resources,%20The%20First%20Temple:


Map 12 tribes


Map Divided Kingdoms


Jerusalem in the First Temple Period (1006-586 BCE)  and


The Two Kingdoms (approximately 920-597 BC)


Inside Solomon's Temple by Victor Hurowitz, Bible Review April 1994


First Temple Period - Part 1- Davidic Dynasty of the First Temple Kingdom of Judah – Rulers

David, son of Jesse of Bethlehem

"You shall shepherd my people Israel; you shall be ruler of Israel."

2 Samuel 5:2

According to the Bible, David's reign was the golden age of the Kingdom of Israel, conquering surrounding territories (map). Yet no archaeological trace of this supposedly glorious period remains, and neither the kingdom of David nor that of his son Solomon is mentioned in any contemporary sources other than the Bible.

Did David really exist? The stele discovered at Tel Dan and shown here provides substantial evidence for those who argue that there was a real King David though it is still impossible to judge the historicity of the stories of David and Solomon as recorded in the Bible.

The Tel Dan Stele[1] c. 850 BCE ( which mentions “the House of David ”.  This is balanced by one of the final exhibits which is a Byzantine Period (4th Century CE-Sixth Century CE) mosaic floor thought to portray David in Roman dress.  David has a special place in both the Jewish and Christian traditions.  For the latter see Matthew, chapter 1 vs1 “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham”.  The Montreal catalogue states

“In 1993, archaeologists… discovered this stele telling of the stunning victory of Hazael, King of the Aramaeans, over ’70 kings’ including the king of the House of David.  This was a major find dating from 150 years after David took the throne, it is the oldest reference outside the Bible to the Davidic dynasty.  The Bible confirms these events (2Kings 9), although its version differs from the stele on certain points.”

Recent Edition of the Hebrew Bible opened at Psalms, many of which are ascribed to David in their superscriptions and all of which are ascribed to David in Jewish tradition. Modern scholarship indicates their origin within an ancient Canaanite literary tradition and their composition over an extended period (see

Note the difference between this text provided with vowel signs by the medieval Masoretes and the unpointed Dead Sea Scrolls and modern Sefer Torah which have only a minority of their vowels marked by the use of the letters – waw, yod, heh and sometimes ‘aleph. See

This Bible is based on the Masoretic text.

Box 6

Masoretic Text


The term  Masoretic text refers to the

“…traditional Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible, meticulously assembled and codified, and supplied with diacritical marks to enable correct pronunciation. This monumental work was begun around the 6th century AD and completed in the 10th by scholars at Talmudic academies in Babylonia and Palestine, in an effort to reproduce, as far as possible, the original text of the Hebrew Old Testament. Their intention was not to interpret the meaning of the Scriptures but to transmit to future generations the authentic Word of God. To this end they gathered manuscripts and whatever oral traditions were available to them.

"The Masoretic text that resulted from their work shows that every word and every letter was checked with care. In Hebrew or Aramaic, they called attention to strange spellings and unusual grammar and noted discrepancies in various texts. Since texts traditionally omitted vowels in writing, the Masoretes introduced vowel signs to guarantee correct pronunciation. Among the various systems of vocalization that were invented, the one fashioned in the city of Tiberias, Galilee, eventually gained ascendancy. In addition, signs for stress and pause were added to the text to facilitate public reading of the Scriptures in the synagogue. 

"When the final codification of each section was complete, the Masoretes not only counted and noted down the total number of verses, words, and letters in the text but further indicated which verse, which word, and which letter marked the centre of the text. In this way any future emendation could be detected. The rigorous care given the Masoretic text in its preparation is credited for the remarkable consistency found in Old Testament Hebrew texts since that time. The Masoretic work enjoyed an absolute monopoly for 600 years, and experts have been astonished at the fidelity of the earliest printed version (late 15th century) to the earliest surviving codices (late 9th century). The Masoretic text is universally accepted as the authentic Hebrew Bible." Quoted from Encyclopedia Britannica 2003

The most important masoretic manuscripts are the Aleppo and Leningrad codexes.



Epitaph of Uzziah king of Judah (of the dynasty of David) - The epitaph once marked the place, now unknown, where the bones of King Uzziah were re-interred many centuries after his death in the eighth century BCE. It is written in Aramaic, a language spoken in Israel during the Second Temple period (as were Hebrew and Greek) and in style of script that dates it to the latter part of the Second Temple period. To quote the Montreal catalogue “When king Uzziah died of leprosy, he was buried outside of Jerusalem, despite his royal status. Seven centuries later, his remains were shifted when the city was expanded.” See also


Window Balustrade found at Ramat Rahel  Phoenician style (Late 8th century - early 7th century BCE) built by a late First Temple Davidic king of Judah.  Inside the fortifications, a window balustrade survived, with several capitals bear palmettes in the style of Phoenician craftsmen-a style popular with the Israelites. See


Woman at the Window -- a frequent motif in the ancient Near East

'Out of the window she peered, the mother of Sisera gazed through the lattice: 'Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why tarry the hoof beats of his chariots?"'

Judges 5:28

First Temple Period - Part 2 - Ritual Life in the First Temple Period Tension Between Popular Religion Anchored in Canaanite Polytheism and the New Yahwism of the Deuteronomic Movement 

"Solomon, King David's son, built the First Temple in Jerusalem in the tenth century B.C.E., about 3,000 years ago. This section of the exhibition presents archaeological discoveries from the First Temple period. They include a tiny ivory pomegranate believed to be from the First Temple, figurines representing religious deities, and ceremonial objects."

From Ancient Treasures and the Dead Sea Scrolls: About the Exhibition, Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation,  December 4, 2003

I. Background

For popular religion see Under Every Green Tree: Popular Religion in Sixth-Century Judah (Harvard Semitic Monographs, 46) by Susan Ackerman

a.        The cultic terminology, and probably much of the ceremonial, remained from, or were taken over from,  Canaanite polytheism known from Ugaritic, Phoenician and Punic texts.  eg. khn = priest in Hebrew, Ugaritic and Phoenician; zbH = sacrifice/slaughter in Hebrew and its cognate in Ugaritic; ndr = religious vow in Hebrew, Ugaritic and Phoenician; mnHa = (meal) offering in Hebrew, Ugaritic and Phoenician; mqdsh = sanctuary in Hebrew, Ugaritic and Phoenician; mzbH = altar in Hebrew and Phoenician as does its cognate in Ugaritic; 'lh = (among its meanings) to offer sacrifice in Hebrew and Phoenician; kll = whole offering in Hebrew, Ugaritic and Phoenician; Ht' = sin in Hebrew and Ugaritic. 

"The basic sacrificial types appear to reflect a need to feed and to care for the divinities and to establish a form of communion with them. The sacrifice, for example, appears to reflect a cultic meal in which the offerer partook of the same meal as was offered to the divinity. This last term, cognate with Hebrew conventionally translated "peace offerings," opens a window on the interconnections between these West Semites of Northwest Syria and the better-known inhabitants of Canaan, the birthplace of the Jewish and Christian religions. Space does not permit a discussion here. Suffice it to say that there are long lists of both similarities and differences between Hebrew and Ugaritic religion and cult"

It is probable that agriculturally related pilgrim festivals - Passover, Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Booths were Canaanite in origin.

Box 7

Canaanite Harvest Festivals to Israelite Commemorative Festivals


Original Agricultural Significance

Historicized Meaning in Jewish Tradition

Passover (Hebrew Pesach)

Beginning of barley harvest (March-April)

Exodus from Egypt

Feast of Weeks (Hebrew Shavu'ot)

End of wheat Harvest & beginning of fruit harvest (50 days after Passover)

Giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai

Feast of Booths (Hebrew Sukkot)

End of fruit harvest (6 lunar months after Passover)

memory of Israelites living in tents in the wilderness after the Exodus


Box 8


Maimonides on Sacrifices

Moses Maimonides was one of the greatest rabbis, and the greatest philosopher produced by the Jewish people.  Concerning sacrifices he wrote -

"... a sudden transition from one opposite to another is impossible. And therefore man, according to his nature, is not capable of abandoning suddenly all to which he was accustomed. As ... at that time the way of life generally accepted and customary in the whole world and the universal service upon which we were brought up consisted in offering various species of living beings in the temples in which images were set up, in worshiping the latter, and in burning incense before them-the pious ones and the ascetics being at that time, as we have explained, the people who were devoted to the service of the temples consecrated to the stars: His wisdom, may He be exalted, and His gracious ruse, which is manifest in regard to all His creatures, did not require that He give us a Law prescribing the rejection, abandonment, and abolition of all these kinds of worship. For one could not then conceive the acceptance of (such a Law), considering the nature of man, which always likes that to which it is accustomed. At that time this would have been similar to the appearance of a prophet in these times who, calling upon the people to worship God, would say: "God has given you a Law forbidding you to pray to Him, to fast, to call upon Him for help in misfortune. Your worship should consist solely in meditation without any works at all" Therefore He, may He be exalted, suffered the above-mentioned kinds of worship to remain, but transferred them from created or imaginary and unreal things to His own name, may He be exalted, commanding us to practice them with regard to Him, may He be exalted. Thus He commanded us to build a Temple for Him: "And let them make Me a Sanctuary" (Ex. 25: 8); to have an altar for His name: "An altar of earth you shall make to Me" (ibid. 20: 24); to have the sacrifice offered up to Him: "When any man of you brings an offering to the Lord" (Lev. 1:2); to bow down in worship before Him; and to burn incense before Him. And He forbade the performance of any of these actions with a view to someone else: "He that sacrifices to the gods shall be utterly destroyed" (Ex. 22: 19), and so on; "For you shall bow down to no other god" (ibid. 34:14). And He singled out priests for the service of the Sanctuary, saying: "That they may minister to Me in the priest's office" (ibid. 28: 14). And because of their employment in the Temple and the sacrifices in it, it was necessary to fix for them dues that would be sufficient for them; namely, the dues of the Levites and the priests. Through this divine ruse it came about that the memory of idolatry was effaced and that the grandest and true foundation of our belief-namely, the existence and oneness of the Deity-was firmly established, while at the same time the souls had no feeling of repugnance and were not repelled because of the abolition of modes of worship to which they were accustomed and than which no other mode of worship was known at that time."

"Maimonides Guide of the Perplexed Part 3 Chapter 32 quoted from A Maimonides Reader by I Twersky

b.        Hereditary Priesthood (in Hebrew "priest" translates kohen plural kohanim - n.b. the priesthood was hereditary) Including High Priest

c.         Jerusalem Temple ("First Temple") - 1 Kings chapts. 6-7 describes the Jerusalem temple attributed to Solomon.  No trace has been found of this temple probably due to the site clearance preparatory to the rebuilding of the Second Temple by Herod. The biblical tradition links Solomon's Temple to earlier Israelite tradition by stating that the Ark of the Covenant was placed in its Holy of Holies.

For further information on the First Temple see;;

Clay Model of Temple from Trans-Jordan

II. Music

"Meanwhile, David and all the House of Israel danced before the LORD to the sound of all kinds of cypress wood instruments with lyres, harps, timbrels, sistrums, and cymbals."

2 Samuel 6

Music was always a part of religious ceremonies as well as the ordinary life of the people.


Musical Instruments in the Bible


From Mesopotamia


Clay Cult Stand with Figurines of Musicians (Ashdod; Late 11th century - early 10th century BCE; Pottery; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection) see

Five musicians emerge from openings around this cup, each one playing an instrument: cymbals, a double pipe, a stringed instrument (probably a lyre) and a drum.

Figurine Playing a Double Pipe (Achziv; 8th- 7th century BCE; Pottery; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

The instrument may be similar to that referred to in Exodus chapter 15

"Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. 21And Miriam sang to them: ‘Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea."

Figurine Playing the Drum (Provenance unknown; 8th- 7th century BCE; Pottery; Israel Museum Collection)

Rattle (Provenance unknown; 8th century BCE; Pottery; Israel Museum Collection)

A rattle like this one, filled with pebbles or bits of clay, makes a noise when shaken. Many such rattles have been found in the remains of places of worship. They may have been used as musical instruments in the time of the First Temple.

III. Sacrificial Rites

Various offerings of the gods, in the form of libations (wine, oil, milk), bread or animal sacrifices, were made at places of worship. On the site of the town of Megiddo, continuously occupied for 5,000 years, a temple from the early 3rd millennium BCE and several Canaanite temples or altars from later periods have been unearthed.

Model Shrine (Mount Nebo; 9th- 7th century BCE; Pottery; Israel Museum Collection)

The facade is similar to the entrance to Solomon's temple, which the Bible says was also flanked by two columns, named Jachin and Boaz.

Ceremonial Stand (Megiddo;12th century BCE; Bronze; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

This is probably a scaled-down version of full-sized stands that served as supports for pottery or metal vessels used in cultic ceremonies for purification or burning incense.

Horned Altar for Incense (Megiddo; 10th century BCE; Stone; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

This would have been similar to the horned altar in Jerusalem at the commencement of Solomon's reign which figures in the following accounts.

1Kings chapter 1

' Solomon was informed, "Adonijah is afraid of King Solomon; see, he has laid hold of the horns of the altar, saying, 'Let King Solomon swear to me first that he will not kill his servant with the sword.'"  So Solomon responded, "If he proves to be a worthy man, not one of his hairs shall fall to the ground; but if wickedness is found in him, he shall die."  Then King Solomon sent to have him brought down from the altar. He came to do obeisance Solomon; and Solomon said to him, "Go home." '

1Kings chapter 2:28-34

 ' When the news came to Joab--for Joab had supported Adonijah though he had not supported Absalom--Joab fled to the tent of the LORD and grasped the horns of the altar.  When it was told King Solomon, "Joab has fled to the tent of the LORD and now is beside the altar," Solomon sent Benaiah son of Jehoiada, saying, "Go, strike him down."  So Benaiah came to the tent of the LORD and said to him, "The king commands, 'Come out.'" But he said, "No, I will die here." Then Benaiah brought the king word again, saying, "Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me."  The king replied to him, "Do as he has said, strike him down and bury him; and thus take away from me and from my father's house the guilt for the blood that Joab shed without cause.  The LORD will bring back his bloody deeds on his own head, because, without the knowledge of my father David, he attacked and killed with the sword two men more righteous and better than himself, Abner son of Ner, commander of the army of Israel, and Amasa son of Jether, commander of the army of Judah. So shall their blood come back on the head of Joab and on the head of his descendants forever; but to David, and to his descendants, and to his house, and to his throne, there shall be peace from the LORD forevermore."  Then Benaiah son of Jehoiada went up and struck him down and killed him; and he was buried at his own house near the wilderness.'


Incense Alters?

"A CULTIC GATHERING. About 40 small stone altars dating from the tenth to seventh centuries B.C.E. have been discovered in Israel, including this assemblage from Ekon. Measuring from 6 inches to 26 inches high, most of the excavated altars from these sites are made of limestone and have four horns projecting from the comers of their square platforms.

Scholars commonly identify the small stands as incense altars based on their similarity to the biblical altar that stood before the Holy of Holies in the desert Tabernacle: "One cubit long [about 18 inches] and a cubit wide-it shall be square-and two cubits high, its horns of one piece with it On it Aaron shall burn aromatic incense" (Exodus 30:2,7).

But traces of fire appear on only a handful of these purported incense altars. Archaeologists have discovered altars from some sites outdoors, where people would have been unlikely to expend rare, costly incense. Weighing the archaeological evidence, author Menahem Haran suggests that a less expensive offering would have been more appropriate for these small altars, and that incense burning in Israel was largely confined to the Royal Temple of Jerusalem....

UNLEAVENED CAKES, one of the simplest offerings recorded in the Hebrew Bible, may once have been offered on this homed altar discovered at Israelite Megiddo. While bread offerings played a crucial role in elaborate Temple sacrifices along with meat and wine, argues author Haran, inexpensive grain offerings could also have been offered independently on the small homed altars discovered outside Jerusalem. Grain-offerings were not always burned, he notes, which would explain why so few of the excavated altars display signs of fire....

The Bible also mentions that the Judahite king Manasseh "bowed down to all the host of heaven... and he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the House of the Lord" (2 Kings 21:3-5). Manasseh's altars must have been fairly small if several of them were set up in the Temple courts, Haran notes, concluding that the small horned altars excavated in Israel once may have held the honey-sweetened cakes and other grain-offerings presented to the Queen of Heaven. Significantly, most of the altars date to the seventh century B.C.E., a period of Assyrian hegemony in Judah. The only similar horned altar discovered outside Israel was found in Nineveh-in Assyria."

From Altar-ed States:Incense Theory Goes Up in Smoke by MENAHEM HARAN, BIBLE REVIEW VOLUME XI NUMBER 1 FEBRUARY 1995


Cult stand from Megiddo (10th C BCE)


In the First Temple period, people throughout the ancient Near East prayed to a great variety of gods and goddesses. Baal, for instance, was the god of storms and war, while Astarte was the goddess of love and fertility. These polytheistic practices were common among the early Israelites themselves-and were vehemently denounced by the prophets, as recounted in the Bible and evidenced by the many cultic figurines that were apparently deliberately destroyed. It was not until the religious reform under King Josiah, in the 7th century BCE, that the worship of a the one God of Israel began to be enforced.

Ostracon from Arad  (Late 8th century BCE)

(Ostracon - plural ostraca - refers to an inscription on a fragment of pottery) with name Pashhur found in various books of the Hebrew Bible e.g.. Jeremiah, chapter 20 vss. 1-3:

“Now Pashhur the priest, the son of Immer, who was chief officer in the house of the LORD, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things. Then Pashhur beat Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the upper Benjamin Gate of the house of the LORD. On the morrow, when Pashhur released Jeremiah from the stocks, Jeremiah said to him, "The LORD does not call your name Pashhur, but Terror on every side.”

N.b. Ostracon refers to an inscription on a fragment of pottery.

Ostracon from Arad  (Late 8th century BCE) with name Meremot (see books of Ezra and Nehemiah e.g. Ezra, chapter 8:33 “On the fourth day, within the house of our God, the silver and the gold and the vessels were weighed into the hands of Meremoth the priest, son of Uriah…” ). See also (Arad: Israelite Temple overview

 Bowl with Sacred Inscription (Arad; Late 8th century BCE; Pottery; Collection Israel Antiquities Authority)

This bowl, found near the sacrificial altar in the temple of Arad, is marked with the word "holy"

Inscribed Ivory Pomegranate from the "House of the Lord"

See also The Temple Inscription of  The House of Yahweh

It is not known where, or in what context, this object was found.  It has been argued that it has some connection with the First Temple in Jerusalem.  This is possible bearing in mind the following:

·          the text of the inscription (BYT YHWH = House of Yahweh = "House of the Lord") clearly relates to an Israelite or Judean temple/shrine;

·          the writing style indicates a date of the mid-eighth century BCE;

·          at that time there were probably hundreds of Israelite and Judean shrines for sacrifice (referred to as "high places" (Hebrew bamah (singular) bamot (plural))  throughout the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah

o     " Every village, or group of villages, had its bamah where sacrifice could be offered and sacred meals take place (e.g. 1 Samuel 9:12 ff.)  It seems likely that pre-Deuteronomic Israelite tradition seems to have required that all slaughter for food be in the form of a sacrifice.

o      Many bamot had priests (Hebrew kohen plural kohanim) who claimed Aaronic, Mosaic (at Dan see Judges 18:30), Levitical or other lineage. It is likely that traditions of Israel's relationship to God, Israelite origins, and the etiology of the bamah itself would have been maintained by the kohanim or singers of the bamah.  During the Deuteronomic Reform (see below) the kohanim of the bamot of Judah were put on the staff of the Jerusalem temple.  It is probably through this means that some of the traditions preserved at the bamot entered the Torah (mainly Genesis e.g.. the stories in Genesis associating Abraham with locations in the south of Judah such as Beer Sheba) and the Deuteronomic History (Joshua-2 Kings). Traditions from the former Kingdom of Israel (e.g. associating Jacob with Beth-El and Shechem in the territory of the Joseph tribes or with Mahanaim in Gilead) may well have entered the Torah via the E and D traditions which are considered to have originated there"

    From Israelite Religion to Judaism: the Evolution of the Religion of Israel

·          During the Deuteronomic Reform about 621 BCE) the priests from the Judean bamot were brought to Jerusalem (see below).  Hence, if the artifact was found in Jerusalem, it is at least as likely that it was brought to Jerusalem by a priest originally from a Judean bamah outside Jerusalem as that it was originally associated with the Jerusalem Temple.


Box 9

Josiah's Reform According to the Book of Kings


'Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign.

The high priest Hilkiah said ... "I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD." ... "….When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes. Then the king commanded ... saying, "Go, inquire of the LORD for me, for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our ancestors did not obey the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us." …

Then the king directed that all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem should be gathered to him. The king went up to the house of the LORD, and with him went all the people of Judah, all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests, the prophets, and all the people, both small and great; he read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant that had been found in the house of the LORD. The king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the LORD, to follow the LORD, keeping his commandments, his decrees, and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. All the people joined in the covenant.

'The king commanded the high priest Hilkiah, the priests of the second order, and the guardians of the threshold, to bring out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven; he burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron, and carried their ashes to Bethel. He deposed the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to make offerings in the high places at the cities of Judah and around Jerusalem; those also who made offerings to Baal, to the sun, the moon, the constellations, and all the host of the heavens. He brought out the image of Asherah from the house of the LORD, outside Jerusalem, to the Wadi Kidron, burned it at the Wadi Kidron, beat it to dust and threw the dust of it upon the graves of the common people. He broke down the houses of the male temple prostitutes that were in the house of the LORD, where the women did weaving for Asherah.

He brought all the priests out of the towns of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had made offerings, from Geba to Beer-sheba…. The priests of the high places, however, did not come up to the altar of the LORD in Jerusalem, but ate unleavened bread among their kindred.

He defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of Ben-hinnom, so that no one would make a son or a daughter pass through fire as an offering to Molech. .. Moreover, Josiah removed all the shrines of the high places that were in the towns of Samaria, which kings of Israel had made.. Moreover Josiah put away the mediums, wizards, teraphim, idols, and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, so that he established the words of the law that were written in the book that the priest Hilkiah had found in the house of the LORD."

From 2 Kings 22-23

See The Destruction of the Local Bamot Throughout Judah and the Neighboring Areas of the Former Kingdom of Israel


Israel accuses 4 of forging trove of biblical artifacts
Sophisticated fakes were hailed as important archeological discoveries

The Associated Press

Updated: 2:11 p.m. ET Dec. 29, 2004


JERUSALEM - Israeli police indicted four antique dealers and collectors Wednesday for allegedly running a sophisticated forgery ring that created a trove of fake biblical artifacts, including some hailed as among the most important archaeological objects ever uncovered in the region.

The forged items include an ivory pomegranate touted by scholars as the only relic from Solomon’s Temple, an ossuary that reputedly held the bones of James, Jesus’ brother, and a stone tablet with inscriptions on how to maintain the Jewish Temple, officials said.

“During the last 20 years, many archaeological items were sold, or an attempt was made to sell them, in Israel and in the world, that were not actually antiques,” the indictment said. “These items, many of them of great scientific, religious, sentimental, political and economic value were created specifically with intent to defraud.”

The 27-page indictment charges Israeli collector Oded Golan, along with three antiquities dealers, Robert Deutsch, Shlomo Cohen and Faiz al-Amaleh, on 18 counts including forgery, receiving fraudulent goods and damaging antiquities. Deutsch is an inscriptions expert who teaches at Haifa University.

Collector denies charges
Golan denied the accusations as a campaign of lies spread by Israel’s archaeological authorities to destroy the local antiquities trade.

“There is not one grain of truth in the fantastic allegations related to me,” Golan said in a statement, adding that he believed he would be cleared in court.


According to the document, the members of the ring took genuine artifacts and added inscriptions to them, falsely increasing their importance and greatly inflating their value. After forging the inscriptions, they would paint the items with a coating designed to emulate the patina that would accumulate on the object over thousands of years, the indictment said.

The work was so sophisticated, it fooled top antiquities experts, and some of the fake artifacts sold for huge amounts of money, authorities said.

“We only discovered the tip of the iceberg. This spans the globe. It generated millions of dollars,” said Shuka Dorfman, head of Israel Antiquities Authority.

Chief investigator Shaul Naim said police believe that there are many more forgeries that have not yet been discovered.

“We have reason to believe that many more forged antiquities which we haven’t been uncovered yet are being held by private collectors in Israel and abroad, and in museums in Israel and abroad,” he said.

The indictments came five days after the Israel Museum announced that the ivory pomegranate, one of its most prized possessions, was a forgery.

Pomegranate purchased for $550,000
The museum bought the pomegranate from an anonymous collector for $550,000 in the 1980s, with the money deposited into a secret Swiss bank account at the time.

Among the other objects the police tagged as forgeries were two of Golan’s possessions, the James ossuary and the “Yoash inscription,” a shoebox-sized tablet from about the ninth century B.C., inscribed with 15 lines of ancient Hebrew with instructions for maintaining the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.

The ossuary, with the words “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus,” was touted as a major archaeological discovery — the oldest physical link between the modern world and Jesus. But last year, Israeli experts said that while the ossuary, a 2,000-year-old limestone box, was indeed ancient, parts of the inscription were added recently.

The forgeries also include clay tablets with descriptions of biblical events, a stone menorah said to belong to the priests in the second temple, Judaism’s holiest site which was destroyed by Romans in 70 A.D., and a stone seal said to belong to Menashe, king of Judah.

© 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Silver Amulet with a form of the Priestly Blessing (Jerusalem, Hinnom Valley; 7th century BCE; Silver; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection According to G Barkay, the publisher of the inscription (Tel Aviv 19:2 1992) the silver amulets “… constitute the sole text that shows affinity with the biblical text, which predates the canonization of the Pentateuch.” .  Most recently see The Challenges of Ketef Hinnom: Using Advanced Technologies to Reclaim the Earliest Biblical Texts and Their Contexts by Gabriel Barkay, Marilyn J. Lundberg, Andrew G. Vaughn, Bruce Zuckerman and Kenneth Zuckerman


The Priestly Blessing, as it appears in the Bible is -

"The LORD bless you and keep you;

the LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;

the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace."

Numbers 6:24-26


Box 10

Amulets in Jewish Tradition

 the term "amulet" refers to an object worn on the body, generally hung from the neck, as a remedy or preservative against evil influences. Some later amulets with biblical themes.

“From earliest times, man has tried to protect himself from misfortune by the use of objects which he considered holy or otherwise (e.g., magically) potent. One of the ways of doing this was to keep the object close to his person, frequently wearing it as an article of clothing, or as an ornament. It was felt that the evil spirits which cause misfortune would not dare to attack one so protected. It has been suggested that this desire for protection is the source of man's habit to adorn himself with jewelry and other ornamentation; the female being weaker—and consequently in greater danger—has the greater need for protection. The custom developed for people to have on their persons pieces of paper, parchment, or metal discs inscribed with various formulae which would protect the bearer from sickness, the "evil eye," and other troubles. The use of inscription as a means to ward off evil spirits stemmed from a belief in early times in the holiness and in the power of words. Such artifacts are known as amulets (for other types of charms and protective items, see Magic). … Traditional Judaism does not consider tefillin and mezuzah—whatever their original antecedents may have been—to be amulets. The purpose of tefillin is stated to be "for a sign upon thy hand" (Deut, 6:8) and from the immediate proximity of the verse regarding mezuzah it would seem that its purpose is the same. While one biblical rite involving the doorposts (Ex. 11:7, 13) had an apotropaic function and the current translation for tefillin ("phylacteries") suggests the same purpose, the traditional interpretation of the "sign" was that of a reminder of God's commandments and of the duty of the Jew to bear witness to his God.

“Amulets are frequently mentioned in talmudic literature. … Unfortunately, there is no record in the Talmud of the inscriptions in the amulets …. Later amulets were inscribed with quotations relevant to their specific purpose. The text of the Priestly Blessing (Num. 6:24–26) was considered effective against the "evil eye…

“The Talmud … states that it is forbidden to recite verses of the Torah for the purpose of curing an existing illness but it is permitted "to guard" against possible future sickness …. This distinction was equally applied to amulets. “

From Encyclopedia Judaica


IV. Objects Reflecting "Canaanite Polytheism" – see


Box 11

Dever on Popular Religion

'...nearly all commentators on ancient Israelite religion have based themselves on what we may call texts of the "Great Tradition." In this case, the evidence comes from the official, or canonical, texts of the Hebrew Bible, which as we have shown are thoroughly elitist. That version of the religion of ancient Israel - the "orthodox" one - may have been the one intended by the final editors of the Hebrew Bible. Certainly it has been the one congenial to most of the theologians and clerics who have commented on the biblical text over the centuries. But such a portrait is artificial, even arbitrary; and it scarcely does justice to the rich variety and vitality of the actual religious practices of the majority in ancient Israel. It is only recent archaeological discoveries that have enabled us to balance this portrait, by giving attention to "folk" or "popular religion;' usually not directly reflected in the written sources....

'One way to define popular religion would be to look not only at the archaeological evidence, which may differ radically from official texts, but also to look closely at the condemnation of religious practices in the texts of the Hebrew Bible. In doing so we are making a practical and legitimate assumption, namely that prophets, priests, and reformers "knew what they were talking about." That is, the religious situation about which they complained was real, not invented by them as a foil for their revisionist message. The irony is that in condemning popular religious practices, the biblical writers have unwittingly preserved chance descriptions of such practices, of which formerly the "archaeological revolution" constituted our only witness. (That is not to say, however, that the same writers and editors in their zeal for orthodoxy did not deliberately suppress much information about popular religion that we should like to have.) Fortunately, archaeology has supplied not only much supplementary information, but in doing so it has given us some valuable clues as to how to "read between the lines" in the biblical texts.

'As examples of how we might read the textual and the archaeological records together, each illuminating the other on popular religion, I would suggest the following. In Jer.7:18 there is a telling description of what must have been a common family ritual, although one decried by the prophet: "The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the Queen of Heaven." The latter is either Asherah or her counterpart 'Astarte; the two often coalesced in the Iron Age. An even fuller example of what was really going on in Judean times is the lengthy description in 2 Kgs. 23 of King Josiah's reform measures in the late 7th century. Most biblical scholars have taken this famous passage largely as a piece of "Deuteronomistic propaganda;' not an accurate historical account. But apart from the question of whether the supposed "reform" was successful, there is the question of whether the purported need for such a reform is based on an eye-witness, realistic appraisal of the actual religious situation. It appears that it was; indeed, as I have shown recently, every single religious object and/or practice that is proscribed in 2 Kgs.23 can readily be illustrated by archaeological discoveries. The terminology of the text is not at all "enigmatic;' as has usually been supposed by textual scholars, but is a clear reflection of the religious reality in monarchical times.

'I would argue that all of the following features are now well known archaeologically and give us an accurate picture of what may be called "popular religion." Popular religion is an alternate, nonorthodox, nonconformist mode of religious expression. It is largely non centralized, noninstitutional, lying outside state priests or state sponsorship. Because it is nonauthoritarian, popular religion is inclusive rather than exclusive; it appeals especially to minorities and to the disenfranchised (in the case of ancient Israel, most women); in both belief and practice it tends to be eclectic and syncretistic. Popular religion focuses more on individual piety and informal practice than on elaborate public ritual, more on cult than on intellectual formulations (i.e., theology). By definition, popular religion is less literate (not by that token any less complex or sophisticated) and thus may be inclined to leave behind more traces in the archaeological record than in the literary record, more ostraca and graffiti than classical texts, more cult and other symbolic paraphernalia than Scripture. Nevertheless, despite these apparent dichotomies, popular religion overlaps significantly with official religion, if only by sheer force of numbers of practitioners; it often sees itself as equally legitimate; and it attempts to secure the same benefits as all religion, i.e., the individual's sense of integration with nature and society, of health and prosperity, and of ultimate well-being.

'The major elements of popular religion in ancient Israel, as we can gather both from substrata of the biblical text and archaeology, probably included:  frequenting bamot and other local shrines; the making of images; veneration of 'aserim (whether sacred-trees or iconographic images) and the worship of Asherah the Great Lady herself; rituals having to do with childbirth and children; pilgrimages and saints' festivals; planting and harvest festivals of many kinds; marzeaH feasts (sacred banquets); various funerary rites, such as libations for the dead; baking cakes for the "Queen of Heaven" (probably 'Astarte); wailing over Tammuz; various aspects of solar and astral worship; divination and sorcery; and perhaps child sacrifice. These and other elements of "folk" religion are often assumed to have characterized the religion of "hearth and home;' and thus to have been almost the exclusive province of women. That assumption, typically made by male scholars, inevitably carries with it a note of condescension. After all, women in ancient Israel were largely illiterate and marginalized; they played an insignificant role in the socio-political processes that shaped Israelite life and institutions, Nevertheless, I think that family religion in ancient Israel involved many men as well, especially in rural areas far from the influence of elite circles in Jerusalem. Asherah, who brought life, could be the patroness of men as well as women....

'Why has the role of popular religion and the cult of the Mother Goddess in ancient Israel been neglected, misunderstood, or downplayed by the majority of biblical scholars? There are many reasons, including the male, Establishment, elitist bias of most students of the subject, agreeing (not coincidentally) with the biases of the biblical writers themselves; the typical preference of the Protestant scholars, who have dominated the study, for theology rather than cult (i.e., religious practice) in any form; and the notion that texts alone can inform us adequately on religious matters – that  philology, rather than archaeology or the study of material remains, should prevail. Yet archaeology is literally forcing us to revise our basic notion of what ancient Israelite religion was. In particular, we now know that the old Mother Goddess Asherah - virtually expunged from the texts of the Hebrew Bible, and all but forgotten by rabbinical times - never died out, but enjoyed a vigorous life throughout the Monarchy.

'This is not really surprising, since most biblical scholars now agree that true monotheism (i.e., not merely "henotheism") arose only in the period of the Exile and beyond.

'There are even later reflexes of the cult of the Great Mother: the personification of divine Wisdom (Hokmah) in later Judaism; and the conception of the Shekinah, or effective divine presence in the world, sometimes called the Matronit or even the Bride of God, in medieval texts of the Kabbalist sect of Judaism.

'In the Christian Church, parallel doctrines that may go back to a primitive memory of feminine manifestations of the deity may be seen in the development of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, a more immanent, nurturing aspect of the transcendent God. Especially relevant in this connection is the later elevation of Mary to the position of Mother of God, a feminine intermediary through whom many Christians pray, rather than directly to God himself.

'Mainstream, more orthodox clergy, both Jewish and Christian, have always resisted these "pagan" influences in what are ostensibly rigorously monotheistic religions. In popular religion, however, the old cults die hard. But when they do, archaeology sometimes rescues them and thus writes a better balanced history of religion.

'The point of all the foregoing resume is simply that the biblical writers and editors were once again not so much "wrong" in many of the facts of their history of Israel's religious development as they were one-sided in their interpretation of the facts. Yet despite their own partisan, rigorously orthodox outlook, they nevertheless give us many clues as to what the "real" religions of ancient Israel were. Perhaps they do this unwittingly; but nevertheless by their very condemnation of pagan beliefs and rites they confirm their widespread existence. Otherwise, there would have been no point to the repeated condemnations by prophets and reformers like the Deuteronomists. Here is where we might agree with the new literary critics and revisionists and do a little deconstruction of our own. It is by reading many of the biblical texts "against the grain;' or despite their idealistic pretensions, that we may best get at the truth about ancient Israelite religions. This may not be the religious "truth" that the biblical writers had in mind, but it is historical truth, and that is our proper goal as archaeologists and historians. Even without the archaeological evidence sketched here (and there is much more) we might, however, have grasped this truth long ago, were it not for the fact that too many of us, Jews and Christians, have sided perhaps unconsciously with one particular biblical worldview, that of the late Deuteronomists and reformist prophets. Yet there were many other worldviews that were once part of Israel's Yahwistic religion, however unorthodox they came to be seen in time. How the recognition of the actual diversity and vitality of religion in ancient Israel may contribute to our own religious thinking is a topic that we will explore further in the final chapter.'

From What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?: What Archaeology Can Tell Us About the Reality of Ancient Israel by William G. Dever



Box 12

The Cult of Asherah in Ancient Israel and Judah

'From the verbs used in connection with asherah, it has been noted that asherah usually denotes some sort of wooden object, which is humanly made. This may be a wooden image of the goddess Asherah, or it may be a stylized tree. However, some verses appear to indicate the goddess. After a close examination of the use of the definite article with asherah, I have come to the conclusion that the wooden object gradually lost its previous association with the goddess. If Israel therefore 'lost' its fertility deity, then some sort of compensation must have been made. It maybe that Yahweh personally was forced to take on some of Asherah's fertility attributes. In that case, the asherah may have become a hypostasis or symbol of Yahweh's fertility aspects (see below). If so, the object could still have been in the form of the goddess or else a stylized tree. By the time of the Chronicler, the term 'asherah' had ceased to have any remembrance of the goddess, and the later versions also consider it to be merely a tree. This is the opposite interpretation to some scholars… who believe that the Asherah began as a Yahwistic cult object, and then developed into being understood as the consort of Yahweh.

'Furthermore, there is no substantial evidence in the Hebrew Bible (and, indeed, in the Ugaritic literature) that Asherah was intimately connected with Baal. It is of course possible that altars dedicated to Baal sometimes had an asherah next to them as a female fertility symbol, but it is not likely that they represented the goddess per se. The pairing of Asherah and Baal in the Old Testament is best explained as part of the attempt of the deuteronomists to discredit her cult and worship, which held a legitimate place in the official Yahwistic cult….

'(An) eighth-century inscription (Khirbct el-Qom) mentions Yahweh and 'his asherah', and is similar to the Kuntillet 'Ajrud inscriptions. Since the possessive suffix is not attested on a personal name in Hebrew, it is unlikely that 'asherah' in this case refers directly to the goddess …However, it shows that this cultic symbol was part of Yahwistic worship, It may be that at this time Yahweh was absorbing this symbol into his cult, and so the object would represent his nurturing, protective aspects. This would be a possible interpretation, given the text which we have. Alternatively, it is possible that the goddess was still known and worshipped at this time, and so the inscription would then indicate a blessing by Yahweh and the representation of his consort which stood in the temple… In the ninth/eighth centuries BCE, Yahweh was worshipped with his special cultic object, known as asherah, which may still have some connection to the goddess of the same name….

'The stands from Taanach portray the clearest picture so far discovered of the worship of both Yahweh and Asherah together. If Taylor is right in his belief that the deity associated with the first and third tiers is Yahweh, then we have here proof that in the tenth century BCE Yahweh and Asherah were worshipped together…. Finally, in the biblical record, we can begin to trace how her name 'Asherah' gradually evolved into a designation of merely her cultic pole, as the editors of the text attempted to eliminate the evidence of her former worship among the Israelites.'

From The Cult of Asherah in Ancient Israel and Judah: Evidence for a Hebrew Goddess by Judith M. Hadley Cambridge: University Press, 2000

Hypostasis - key concept.  The point being made, is that the figurine might just have stood for the nurturing aspect of Yahweh much like the kabbalistic Shekhina or the virgin Mary.  A Christian theologian stated "Our teaching is that God is one Being, existing eternally in three hypostases: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."



Jeremiah, whose introduction addresses the entire "house of Israel," both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, warns the Israelite nation against following the “false" ways of other nations…. In Mesopotamia-the area that includes both Assyria and Babylonia-an idol was not merely a representation, nor was it completely identified with a deity. True, the gods were depicted anthropomorphically. But the same gods could be depicted in many other ways, indicating that the images were not meant to portray the appearances of gods, but to convey their functions and attributes. As one scholar has put it, 'These designs were probably pictograms, not portraits.' Images of gods were variously cast in bronze, hewn of stone or modeled in clay. .. In the words of A. L Oppenheim, "the deity was present in its image if it showed certain specific features and paraphernalia and was cared for in the appropriate manner. Those who came to venerate the statues did not, in fact, worship the image itself, but rather the god they believed was present in the image. The paradox of the identity and non-identity of the god with the statue is somewhat confusing to Western habits of thought, but apparently made sense to the Assyrians and Babylonians. A mystic unity was thought to exist between the god and the image, whereby the statue became what it represented. As Thorkild Jacobsen explained it, 'The god is and at the same time is not the cult statue. The spirit of the deity dwelt within the idol. The material image was, to use Jacobsen's word, "transubstantiated" into the god it represented. The god was made present in the image through a ceremony of consecration known as "opening" or "washing the mouth." This rite transformed the image into a living entity. The presence of the deity in the statue was sustained through proper care and offerings…. Did the Hebrew prophets identify the Mesopotamian gods with the idols representing them, or were they aware of how the Assyrians and Babylonians understood the cult images? In either case the biblical polemics against the worship of idols, such as Jeremiah's, make it clear that the prophets denied the reality of these statuary gods.”


From Jeremiah-Polemic Against Idols-What Archaeology Can Teach Us by PHILIP J. KING, BIBLE REVIEW VOLUME X NUMBER 6 DECEMBER 1994


Box 13

Signifier and Signified - Does Iconography Originating in Polytheism Prove Polytheistic Belief?


Fertility figurines , with exaggerated breasts, originally symbolizing a Canaanite goddess are found in the ruins of many Israelite homes of the First Temple Period.  How are we to understand what these statuettes meant to the (likely) women who cherished these objects?  There are three obvious choices:

1.      They may have been a hypostasis (see box above) representing the nurturing aspect of Yahweh

2.      They symbolized Canaanite Goddess Astarte or Anat or Asherah.  In support of this option is the abundant evidence that a pole-like object, called the “Asherah” (Deuteronomy 16:21, Judges 6:26, 1 Kings 16:33, Isaiah 17:8 ) was an integral element of religious life in ancient Israel prior to the Deuteronomic Reform introduced by King Josiah about 621 BCE (see Israelite Religion to Judaism: the Evolution of the Religion of Israel); or,

3.      They may have gradually come to be thought of as nothing more than an amulet to ward off  barrenness or death in childbirth.  The fact that the halos around saints’ heads, or the iconography of the virgin Mary, originated in pagan iconography does not necessarily indicate that medieval Christian artists were “thinking polytheism” when they painted their icons.


'The superstitious use of "good luck charms" is common in all conditions of stress regardless of how scientific, or even monotheistic, the general outlook of those involved.

"Superstition is defined as a pragmatic belief - inconsistent with the available scientific evidence - that an item or ritual will bring a good outcome or prevent a bad one. Talk to any servic emember who's been to war, and you'll find that superstition is as common on the battlefield as foxholes and shell casings.

'"Superstitions are a way of reducing anxiety in [servicemembers]," explains Stuart Vyse, associate professor of psychology at Connecticut College in New London, Conn., and author of Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition (Oxford University Press, 1997). "War is a situation in which you do everything possible to avoid being killed or your buddies being hurt, but so many things are out of your control," Vyse says. "You don't know where the enemy is a lot of the time, you don't know when a bomb will fall or when you'll trip a land mine. Superstition gives service members the feeling that they are doing something that might have an effect - that they are taking some action to control a situation that is by definition uncontrollable. And that gives them comfort." ... When suddenly faced with a loss of control, many service members understandably turn to superstition - even if they are not superstitious by nature....

'"Once you got there and realized how bad it was, you grabbed for anything that would help you get through it," says Grant, now a writer. "So you learned quickly how to survive, and superstition was a part of that. Whatever it took, that's what you did."

'...Superstition also continues to play an important role in many social subcultures, including sports, the dramatic arts, and some occupations such as fishing. Baseball players, for example, consider it bad luck to mention a no-hitter in progress for fear of jinxing the pitcher. New York Yankees hurler Don Larsen, who pitched a perfect in the 1956 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers, said afterward that he never felt more lonely than over the course of that ' nine innings because none of his teammates would speak to him.

'The military also is a subculture steeped in history and ritual. And while it may not consciously promote superstition the way baseball does, it almost certainly does so unconsciously through its strong adherence to tradition, with many superstitions being handed down from generation to generation of service members. ...

'Logically, superstitious belief should disappear in the light of rational thought. But, as many soldiers will acknowledge, rationality can give way quickly to mystical belief when one is faced with possible death. In researching this article, I received numerous accounts of superstitious belief from veterans of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. All the veterans acknowledged the irrationality of their beliefs but readily credited their superstitions with helping them to survive often-extraordinary circumstances.

'The most common type of superstition among American service members is belief in a lucky charm, usually a coin, medal, or family heirloom that's often of a religious nature. In Vietnam, many American service members carried small Buddhas with them because the locals considered them good luck.

'... Maj. Hammond Salley, USA-Ret., of Anaheim, Calif., also carried a good luck charm - a wallet card containing the 91st Psalm, which supposedly brings good luck to service members, given to him by his mother. " I came away from two tours in Vietnam without a scratch... I was very lucky but would prefer to think the card had something to do with it."...

The psychological benefits - and problems - of superstition

Superstitious belief among service members at war may appear to be little more than irrationality born of fear and desperation, but psychologically it actually can make a soldier a better fighter. "The stakes are high during war - literally life and death," explains Stuart Vyse, a psychology professor at Connecticut College, New London, Conn. "There's also a randomness to warfare that can make soldiers feel as though living or dying is just a roll of the dice. But superstitious belief can provide psychological comfort and help reduce anxiety, thus improving a soldier's performance on the battlefield."


'Rituals are also a common superstition among service members, most notably pilots. Recalls World War II veteran Lt. Col. Robert Brulle of Fort Myers, Fla.: "I flew 70 combat missions in Europe as a P-47 Thunderbolt pilot. Our flying equipment was kept in a box on the flight line. Before every mission I would take out my parachute and helmet, close the [lid], and knock on it for luck. I once forgot to do this because it was a rush mission, and it bothered me the whole flight." Indeed, pilots tend to be a highly superstitious lot. ...

'"One morning I had a take-off scheduled for dark time. I went to the flight line, did a [complete] check on my plane, got in, and taxied out to runway No. 1 for takeoff. About the time I got the green light from the tower, I reached up to touch the silver dollar in the zippered left-breast pocket of my flight suit - only to find that it wasn't there! I had no choice. I called the tower and requested return to our operations, which we did. I left the right engine running with the engineer in the plane while I exited, climbed in the ops jeep, and drove the three minutes to my quarters. My dollar was lying where I thought it would be: right in the middle of my cot where I had been reading. I grabbed it, raced back to ops, climbed back into my bird, and was airborne within five minutes....."'


Statuette of a Bull  (Dothan 12th century BCE; Bronze ASJOS Collection) probably related to cult of ElThis Canaanite-style statuette may have been given as an offering in a place of worship.

The bull symbol was widespread in the Near East.

Nb.1 Kings12

'Then Jeroboam said to himself, "Now the kingdom may well revert to the house of David. If this people continues to go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, the heart of this people will turn again to their master, King Rehoboam of Judah; they will kill me and return Rehoboam of Judah." So the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold. He said to the people, "You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt." He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. And this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one at Bethel and before the other as far as Dan.'

"The narrative of the golden calf cannot be understood without relating it to the erection of two golden calves in the temples of Beth-El and Dan by Jeroboam I of Israel (I Kings 12:26ff.). Not only are the general features of the story similar in both accounts, but the explanatory formula in Exodus 32:4b, 8b—"These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt"—is virtually identical to the one in I Kings 12:28b. Scholars are divided on the question of the chronological relationship of the two accounts. The traditional view is that the Jeroboam incident is dependent on the Exodus story (see Cassuto, loc. cit.). Other scholars, however, hold the view that Exodus 32 presupposes I Kings 12.

"The bull had an important role in the art and religious texts of the ancient Near East. The storm-god Hadad is frequently represented standing on a bull. Taking these facts into account it is generally assumed (after H. Th. Obbrick) that Jeroboam's calves corresponded to the cherubim of Solomon's Temple, i.e., they were regarded as seats or pedestals upon which the Lord was thought to stand invisible to human eyes. M. Haran remarks that if Jeroboam's calves were considered pedestals, then they were not meant to be an exact replica of cherubim connected with the Ark of the Covenant because the Ark and its cherubim were kept in the publicly inaccessible Holy of Holies while the calves were placed in the courts of the Temple, where the people could see and kiss them (cf. Hos. 13:2). It is also possible that the calves were, from the beginning, meant to represent the Lord like the images in the sanctuaries of Micah and Dan (Judg. 17:4; 18:14, 15–31; cf. M. Haran, in B. Zvieli (ed.), Sihot ba-Mikra, 1 (1968), 214; idem, in: Biblica, 50 (1969), 264).

"In any case Jeroboam's initiative must have had some basis in an old tradition, otherwise he could not have succeeded in his enterprise. Jeroboam's bulls, contrary to the Ark symbolism, were meant to be accessible to worshipers in the temples (cf. I Kings 12:27); and thus they developed from symbols of the Lord to es in their own right (cf. e.g., II Kings 17:16; Hos. 8:5–6; 10:5; 13:2)."

Encyclopedia Judaica

Horse and Rider (Provenance unknown; 7th-6th century BCE; Pottery; Israel Museum Collection, Jerusalem) - Figurines of riders became popular between the 7th and 5th centuries BCE as horses became more common in the region. According to the Bible (2 Kings 23:11) "sun chariots" were associated with one of the foreign cults destroyed by King Josiah.

Pillar Figurine” of the Canaanite Goddess Astarte or Anat or Asherah (Provenance unknown; Iron Age II (900-586 BCE); Israel Museum Collection)

"The meaning of this figurine is probably closely related to the function of stimulating fertility or fruitfulness in expecting or would be mothers. "  “In Canaanite and Syrian mythology, a goddess of sexual passion (equivalent to the Babylonian and Assyrian goddess Ishtar). As goddess of maternity and fertility, she was associated with Tammuz or Adonis, who represented the passage of the seasons. She was also a warrior goddess.

Her main centre of worship was in Phoenicia, where biblical reference names her as the goddess of the Sidonians, but she was also worshipped throughout Canaan as the consort of the local Baals (chief male gods), and her image in the form of a wooden totem called the Asherah stands in each of the sanctuaries.”

"A common religious object, not confined to sacred places, is the "Astarte" figurine, depicting a , often with exaggerated breasts and genitalia, and sometimes holding a child. This was perhaps a representing the mother goddess and used to stimulate conception, childbirth, or lactation."

The Phoenician Temple



' By far the most intriguing cultic artifacts that archaeologists have recovered are the 2000 or more mold-made terra-cotta female figurines, found in all sorts of contexts. They depict a nude female enface, the earlier examples often clutching a tambourine (or bread-mold) or occasionally an infant to the upper body, the later Judean ones prominently emphasizing the breasts. In contrast to the typical LB plaques depicting the Mother Goddess with large hips and exaggerated pubic triangle, the Israelite figurines usually show the lower body stylistically,the body only a pillar possibly representing the tree symbolism often connected with Asherah (giving them the name "pillar-base" figurines). These comparatively "chaste" portrayals may indicate that Asherah/'Anat, the old consort of the male deity in Canaan, with her more blatantly sexual characteristics, has now been supplanted by a concept of the female deity principally as Mother and patroness of mothers. …Ziony Zevit has aptly termed the female figurines "prayers in clay" - in this case, invocations to Asherah.

'… To me …their cultic connotations are obvious. I would argue that in ancient Israel most women, excluded from public life and the conduct of "official" political and religious functions, necessarily occupied themselves with domestic concerns. Predominant among these concerns were those connected specifically with reproduction - conception, childbirth, lactation - but also those connected with rites of passage, such as marriages, funerals, and all the other practical matters that insured the maintenance and survival of the family. To be sure, men were probably involved in some of these domestic activities as well, but "the religion of hearth and home" fell mainly to women in Israel, as it did everywhere in the ancient world. It would not be surprising if Yahweh portrayed almost exclusively as a male deity, involved in the "political history" of the nation - seemed remote, unconcerned with women's needs, or even hostile. Thus one-half of the population of ancient Israel, women, may have felt closer to a female deity, identified more easily with her. In this case, it would have been Asherah, who was still widely venerated in many guises in the Levantine Iron Age (and even much later). To this and other aspects of popular religion we now turn.'

From What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?: What Archaeology Can Tell Us About the Reality of Ancient Israel by William G. Dever

See also E. STERN, Religion in Palestine in the Assyrian and Persian Periods in THE CRISIS OF ISRAELITE RELIGION edited by BOB BECKING AND MARJO C.A. KARPEL, Brill 1999


First Temple Period - Part 3- Everyday Life in First Temple Period – Ordinary People (objects as a window into the social life of the common people)

"Jewelry, coins, cooking bowls and oil lamps exhibited in this zone tell us about daily life in ancient Israel. Fascinating objects on display include toys used by children and possibly adults"

From Ancient Treasures and the Dead Sea Scrolls: About the Exhibition, Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation,  December 4, 2003

General reference Life in Biblical Israel (Library of Ancient Israel)  by Philip J. King and Lawrence E Stager , John Knox 2001 Topics covered include medicine, crafts, agriculture, trade, household, warfare, clothing, jewelry, music, religious practices and burial customs

First Temple Period Costume

I. Eating in Jerusalem of the First Temple Period

Mortar and Pestle for Grinding Grain (Ein Gedi; 7th century BCE; Basalt; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

Cooking Pots (Ein Gedi; 7th century BCE; Pottery; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

Cooking containers were probably stored on large benches, as many of them were found along the walls. Sometimes the pots were placed on the floor, on straw mats.

Juglet (Provenance unknown; 8th - 7th century BCE; Pottery; Israel Museum Collection, Jerusalem)

... used to draw wine or oil from a large jar.

Bowl (Provenance unknown; 8th - 7th century BCE; Pottery Israel Museum Collection, Jerusalem)

Oil Lamp (Provenance unknown; 9th - 7th century BCE; Pottery; Israel Museum Collection)

Footbath (Lachish; 8th century BCE; Pottery; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

"Owing to the general use of sandals in Eastern countries the washing of the feet was almost everywhere recognized from the earliest times as a duty of courtesy to be shown to guests (Gen., xviii, 4, xix, 2; Luke, vii, 44, etc.)"  For Jewish customs see  

Bowl (Provenance unknown; 8th - 7th century BCE; Pottery; Israel Museum Collection)

Jar (Gath; 8th century BCE; Pottery; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

This large jar would have been used for storing wine, olive oil or grain, common foodstuffs.

Decanter (Provenance unknown; 8th - 7th century BCE; Pottery; Israel Museum Collection)

Jar (Arad; 8th..century BCE; Pottery; Collection Israel Antiquities Authority)

Such storage jars held grain used for baking bread or preparing beer. This human-shaped flask contained perfumed oil, for anointing the body.

II. The Gentle Caress of Oil

Israelites bathed regularly and rubbed oil, often perfumed, on their bodies, to protect themselves from the hot, dry climate. Aside from strict hygienic requirements, the Torah encouraged people to purify themselves with water, especially after illness.

III Ornament

"I adorned you with ornaments: I put bracelets on your arms, a chain on your neck"

Ezekiel 16:11

Mirror (Yafit: 5th century BCE; Bronze; ASJOS Collection)

A bronze mirror was not only a luxury, but a sign of a women's wealth.

Seal of Jezebel