VII. Notes on Exhibits
Box 2 - Dever on Art in Ancient Israel
Box 6 - Masoretic Text
Box 8 - Maimonides on Sacrifices
Box 10 - Amulets in Jewish Tradition
Box 11 - Dever on Popular Religion
Box 15 - Commerce
Box 18 - The Destruction of Sennacherib by George Gordon, Lord Byron
Box 19 - The Assyrian Army
Box 21 - Mass Deportations
Box 22 - Jesus the Galilean Jew
Box 28 - Writing a Torah Scroll
Box 29 - Torah and Reading of the Torah
Box 32 - The Spirit of Torah
Box 37 - How Reliable are Oral Traditions?
Box 40 - Sennacherib and Jerusalem
"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;
"Israel" is used below in at least 4 meanings -
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..
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).
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)
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.
Overall the Exhibit is divided into four time periods –
First Temple Period (approximately 1000 BCE-586 BCE)
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
Many people want the context before zeroing in on the exhibits. e.g.
Ø Map of the Ancient Near-East
The time line is on the left as you enter (see http://members.rogers.com/davidsteinberg/eb2bk.htm).
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. This could have been the foundation of the Jebusite stronghold (Zion) captured and subsequently expanded by David." http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/go.asp?MFAH01xv0.
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.
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
The problems and ambiguity of this inscription are described at http://olrcweb.bham.ac.uk/deryn/Merneptah.htm
"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 The Tel Dan Stele (original in exhibit) approximately 850 BCE – “The ninth line reads "House of ", and is most likely a reference David of the Bible as line eight mentions the "King of Israel". This is the earliest reference avidoutside 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 DavidDr. 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 (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.http://pages.sbcglobal.net/zimriel/Mesha/index.html )
"bet dawid" (House of David
Mesha Stele line 31
Hebrew Proper Name of the God of Israel
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 - ...in 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..."
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
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."
Israelite Kings in Non-biblical, Non-Israelite Inscriptions
From The Minimalist Assault on Ancient Israel by BARUCH HALPERN Bible Review December 1995
* 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.
A. First Temple Period (approximately 1000 BCE-586 BCE)
Map Divided Kingdoms
Inside Solomon's Temple by Victor Hurowitz, Bible Review April 1994
"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 c. 850 BCE (http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/6_06.html) 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 Davidin 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 http://www.olphparish.org/HistoryPsalms.pdf).
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 http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~decaen/hypertextbook/lesson1.html
The term Masoretic text refers to the
Epitaph of UzziahDavidThe epitaphonce 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 http://www.azstarnet.com/dailystar/printSN/4202.php
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 http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/go.asp?MFAH0k450
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?"'
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
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.
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
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
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
"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.
From Mesopotamia http://members.tripod.com/~jaydambrosio/burharp.gif
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.
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.
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.'
"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
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.
“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. 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 http://www.ebibletools.com/israel/arad/DCP_1328.html
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" http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=427&letter=P&search=Pomegranate http://www.ancientneareast.net/pomegranate.html)
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"
· 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.
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
Israel accuses 4 of
forging trove of biblical artifacts
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.”
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.
“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.
purchased for $550,000
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 http://www.israel-mfa.gov.il/mfa/go.asp?MFAH00uz0) 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.” http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/Archaeology/jerplaques.html . 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."
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.
IV. Objects Reflecting "Canaanite Polytheism" – see http://members.rogers.com/davidsteinberg/israelite_religion.htm#process2322
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
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
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....."'
'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)."
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.
"The meaning of this figurine is probably closely related to the function of stimulating fertility or fruitfulness in expecting or would be mothers. "http://philae.sas.upenn.edu/ANEP/students/IrPillarFigurine.html. “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 http://www.barca.fsnet.co.uk/Phoenician-Temple.htm
' 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
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.)" http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15557b.htm. For Jewish customs see http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=77&letter=F&search=foot%20washing
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.
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.