December 23, 2016
by Fehmida
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Pagan Yahwism: The Folk Religion of Ancient Israel

Pagan Yahwism: The Folk Religion of Ancient Israel
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The Bible imagines the religion of ancient Israel as purely monotheistic. And doubtless there were Israelites, particularly those associated with the Jerusalem Temple, who were strict monotheists. But the archaeological evidence (and the Bible, too, if you read it closely enough) suggests that the monotheism of many Israelites was far from pure. For them, Yahweh (the name of the Israelite god) was not the only divinity. Some Israelites believed that Yahweh had a female consort. And many Israelites invoked the divinity with the help of images, particularly figurines. I call this Israelite religion pagan Yahwism.
The archaeological evidence we will look at comes mostly from Judah in what is known in archaeological terms as the Assyrian period, the span from 721 B.C.E., when the Assyrians destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel, until 586 B.C.E., when the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple and brought an end to the Davidic dynasty in Judah. This period, to put it into perspective, is several centuries after King Solomon built the Jerusalem Temple in about 950 B.C.E. So the archaeological evidence we are about to discuss documents a level of Israelite paganism long after Solomon built an exclusive home for Israel’s god.
While Yahweh was the god of the Israelites, other nations had their own national gods. The chief god of the Phoenicians was Ba‘al. For the Philistines, the chief god was at first Dagon and later also Ba‘al (Judges 16:23; 2 Kings 1:2). For the Ammonites it was Milkom. For the Moabites, Chemosh. For the Edomites, Qos. And for the Israelites and Judahites—Yahweh. Except for the Edomite god Qos, who appears only in the archaeological record, all of these gods are mentioned in the Bible (1 Kings 11:5, 7, 33).
Interestingly, while each nation’s chief god had a distinctive name, his consort, the chief female deity, had the same name in all these cultures: Asherah or its variants Ashtoreth or Astarte. (As we shall see, this was even true of Yahweh’s consort.)
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Not only was the female consort the same, the various nations used the same cult objects, the same types of incense altars made of stone and clay, the same bronze and clay censers, cult stands and incense burners, the same chalices and goblets and the same bronze and ivory rods adorned with pomegranates. It was easy to take cult vessels of one deity and place them in the service of another one—and this was commonly done. For example, in the ninth-century B.C.E. stela erected by Mesha, the king of Moab, he describes himself as the “son of Chemosh,” and tells how he defeated the Israelites (see also 2 Kings 3:4–27). He then brags, “[I] took t[he ves]sels of Yahweh, and I hauled them before the face of Chemosh.”
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We sometimes get the impression that after Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem, Yahweh had no other sanctuary in ancient Israel—but this is not the case. The religious reforms of, first, King Hezekiah in the late eighth century B.C.E. (2 Kings 18:1–8; 2 Chronicles 29–31), and then of King Josiah, in the late seventh century B.C.E. (2 Chronicles 34–35), sought to centralize the worship of Yahweh in Jerusalem. The need for these reforms demonstrates, however, that Yahweh worship was by no means confined to Jerusalem.
The Bible itself mentions sanctuaries at sites such as Dan, Shechem, Shiloh, Bethel and Beersheba, and archaeology confirms that there were numerous other sanctuaries outside Jerusalem dedicated to the Israelite national god. A cultic installation dedicated to Yahweh must have existed at Judahite Nebo in Moab during the ninth century B.C.E.: In his stela, Mesha claims to have taken from Nebo the vessels of Yahweh that he later used in a sanctuary dedicated to the Moabite god Chemosh.
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A complete Judahite sanctuary has been uncovered in the fortress of Arad in southern Judah.a Despite scholarly disputes as to precisely when it was built and when it was destroyed, it is clear that the Arad sanctuary was in service simultaneously with the Jerusalem Temple and was probably in use during most of the monarchy. It consisted of three parts—a courtyard, a heikhal, or main hall, and a debir, or holy of holies, which was ascended by three steps. In the debir was a massebah, or standing stone. Two additional masseboth were embedded in the wall of the holy of holies. On the third step two limestone incense altars were found, with remains of burnt material on top, probably incense. In the temple courtyard stood a large animal altar. Other cult centers have been uncovered in Israelite Megiddo and Judahite Lachish, both dating to the tenth century B.C.E.
Cult installations have also been excavated in several Israelite and Judahite fortresses. One—at Vered-Jericho—was reported in these pages some time ago.b The excavator, Avi Eitan, interpreted the installation as a bamah, or high place.
More recently, Itzhaq Beit-Arieh reported on cult platforms ascended by steps, found adjacent to the gates of two fortresses near Arad, ‘Uza and Radum.1
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In addition, a large four-horned altar and a bamah were excavated at Beersheba2
Stone stairs at the fortress of Mes\ad-Michmash, on Judah’s northern border, have been interpreted as leading up to a bamah.3
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Although it has not been found, there was doubtless a sanctuary to Yahweh at Lachish, the most important city in Judah after Jerusalem. We know of the Lachish sanctuary from reliefs depicting a pair of large cultic stands taken as booty from Lachish by Sennacherib’s soldiers after they had sacked the city in the late eighth century B.C.E. (see photo and drawing). These well-known reliefs were excavated long ago at Sennacherib’s palace in Nineveh. The Judahite cultic stands depicted in the reliefs are very similar to numerous smaller examples frequently found in contemporaneous levels at sites in Judah.
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Inscriptions also confirm the existence of cultic installations dedicated to Yahweh, some even outside the country. At the cult site of Kuntillet ‘Ajrud, in the Sinai, inscriptions were found that mention “Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah” and “Yahweh of Teman” and his Asherah.c4
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A “house of Yahweh” is also mentioned in numerous inscriptions. In one of the Arad ostraca it is said of someone that “he is in the house of Yahweh.”5
An ostracon from the collection of Shlomo Moussaieff records a contribution of three shekels to the “house of Yahweh.”d
Similarly on the inscribed ivory pomegranate (see photo and drawing) that BAR made famous and which was purchased by the Israel Museum: The inscription says that it is sacred to the priest of the “house of Yahweh.”e It is generally supposed that the three-shekel ostracon and the pomegranate refer to Solomon’s Temple, the House of Yahweh in Jerusalem. But that is not necessarily so. In light of the many sanctuaries dedicated to Yahweh outside Jerusalem, the references to the house of Yahweh on the three-shekel ostracon and on the inscribed ivory pomegranate may well refer to a sanctuary other than the Jerusalem Temple. A “house of Yahweh” could have been located in any settlement in Judah, or in any area settled by Judahites.
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These houses of Yahweh, like the Jerusalem Temple, were served for the most part by hereditary priests. Several seals contain names designated with the title cohen, priest. One recently published seal refers to “Hanan son of Hilqiyahu the priest” (see photo).f The ending –yahu is a form of Yahweh. Another seal, dating to the last days of the northern kingdom (late eighth century B.C.E.), mentions an Israelite priest active in the temple at Dor: “Zekharyo [-yo is a shortened form of Yahweh] the priest of Dor.” Similarly, the prophet Amos reports that “Amazyah [-yah is another form of Yahweh] the priest of Bethel” sent a message to King Jeroboam of Israel (Amos 7:10).
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A seal inscribed with the name “Miqnayahu [still another Yahwistic name] servant of Yahweh” indicates that the owner served in one of the many sanctuaries dedicated to Yahweh. Obviously “servant” here means not a person without status, but rather a high functionary in service to the divinity—not quite a priest, but almost.
The Yahwistic names just mentioned incorporate the name of the Israelite god. In Judah, names had –yahu as a suffix. In Israel, it tended to be simply –yah or –yo. The theophoric element could also appear at the beginning of a name, as in Yo-natan (Jonathan). Evidence of Yahweh worship comes from the prevalence of Yahwistic names. Approximately 1,200 personal names have turned up in archaeological excavations in Judah—on seals, bullae (lumps of clay impressed by a seal) and ostraca. Over 45 percent of them contain a Yahwistic element.6 And although a more general name for god is ‘el (Israel and Nathaniel), only 3 percent of the 1,200 names contained this theophoric element. Other gods were incorporated into Judahite names even less frequently.
The prevalence of Yahweh worship is also reflected in the frequency with which his name is invoked—for instance in the ostraca found at such Judahite sites as Arad and Lachish.7 His name appears in numerous oaths and blessings: “I have blessed you to Yahweh”; “May Yahweh let hear my lord tidings of peace”; “May Yahweh bless you in peace”; “May Yahweh give my lord pleasant tidings”; “May Yahweh give you prosperous tidings,” and the like.8 All this reflects the widespread devotion to Yahweh among the Judahite population.
Yet was it pure? Or did elements of the population mix their Yahwism with paganism?
I have already mentioned the inscriptions from the Israelite sanctuary at Kuntillet ‘Ajrud in the Sinai, dating to the late ninth or early eighth century B.C.E., that refer to Yahweh “and his Asherah.” This site of course is outside the borders of Judah. But a reference to the divine couple has also been found at the site of Khirbet el-Kom, in the heart of Judah (near Hebron). A tomb inscription there reads: “Blessed will be Ariyahu to Yahweh and his Asherah.”9
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Like their neighbors, Israelites and Judahites widely used figurines to represent aspects of divinity. But it is rather surprising that so many figurines peculiar only to Judah are found within the borders of this supposedly monotheistic (but not to say imageless) kingdom.g
Like the figurines in the surrounding cultures, the Judahite examples are mostly female and about 5 to 6 inches high. They belong to the type known as “pillar” figurines. The head is made separately, from a mold. The body is usually solid and handmade, in the shape of a small column, to which are added exaggerated breasts supported by the statuette’s hands. Scholars usually identify these figurines as Astarte, the fertility goddess.
Another common variation involves a handmade head with a kind of pinched face. These are often called “bird’s-head” figurines.
Sometimes the goddess is playing a tambourine or holding a dove—a traditional emblem of goddesses in all periods throughout the ancient Near East. A few figurines, made in the Phoenician tradition, have a hollow, round body—a bell-shaped body, in scholarly jargon. Even rarer, but occasionally found, are figurines in the form of a plaque, flat on the back and impressed from a mold on the front.
The Judahite figurines were originally painted in strong colors such as white, black and red, but the paint has survived on only a few. Eyes and hair were made especially prominent, and occasionally a necklace was added.
Another surprising fact: Although these figurines have been found all over Judah, about half (405 out of 822, to be exact) were found in Jerusalem, many only a short distance from the Temple Mount.10
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What about male figurines? In this respect, too, Judah did not differ from its neighbors. There were male figurines, though not as many as there were female figurines. In Judah, we have a few dozen. They come in two types: riding on horses (see photo), and wearing a round turban, sometimes with a raised hand.
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The first type is by far the most common. Some scholars connect these figurines with the cult of sun chariots mentioned in the Bible (2 Kings 23:11); according to others, they represent a warrior god. The latter seems more likely: A warrior god appears in the cults of all of Judah’s neighbors, and Yahweh himself is pictured as a warrior in the Bible (for example, in Isaiah 13:4: “The Lord of Hosts is mustering a host for war”).
The turban-crowned figurines seem to be wearing an authentic turban; the turbans are very similar to those depicted on the Israelites going into exile on the reliefs at Sennacherib’s palace at Nineveh.
These male figurines could represent some foreign deity—perhaps the Phoenician god Ba‘al, who was worshiped in Judah alongside Yahweh. Or they may represent Yahweh himself, who would be joined by his consort Astarte or Asherah (the female figurines). In either case, there can be no question but that these figurines are Judahite.
We are thus led to the inevitable conclusion that between the foreign pagan practices and the pure monotheism of Yahwism there existed a cult that may be called pagan Yahwism or perhaps more accurately, Yahwistic paganism. Of course in the background was the central monotheistic cult practiced in the Jerusalem Temple by its priests and preached by the Biblical prophets. And some of the kings of Judah—especially Hezekiah and Josiah—made efforts to centralize the monotheistic cult in Jerusalem. But looking at the archaeological evidence, we must conclude that they were less than 100 percent successful. Indeed, until the Babylonian destruction of Judah and the end of the Israelite monarchy in 586 B.C.E., pagan Yahwism was common even in Jerusalem, to say nothing of the rest of Judah.
Coda: We have almost no evidence of cultic practices of any kind from the period between the Babylonian destruction and the return of the exiles under Cyrus, king of Persia, in the late sixth century B.C.E. This situation changes in the Persian period with the return of the exiles. Once again figurines are found in the area of what was Judah, but now the area was divided among the Idumeans (descendants of the Edomites) and the Judeans or Jews (descendants of the Judahites). The Galilee was inhabited mostly by the Phoenicians. In the post-Exilic period the figurines are found only in areas inhabited by Idumeans and Phoenicians. In the areas of the country occupied by Jews, not a single cultic figurine has ever been found despite intensive excavations and archaeological surveys of these areas.
The situation is much the same with respect to post-Exilic sanctuaries: Many have been found in non-Jewish areas, but none in Jewish areas. The only exceptions are the Second Temple in Jerusalem and the Samaritan temple on their holy mountain, Mt. Gerizim in Samaria. Upon the return from exile, the Jews purified their worship.h Jewish monotheism was at last consolidated.
1. Itzhaq Beit-Arieh, “H|orvat Radum,” The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 4 (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society and Carta, 1993), pp. 1254–1255.
2. Yohanan Yadin, “Beer-Sheba: The High Place Destroyed by King Josiah,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (BASOR) 222 (1976), pp. 5–18.
3. Shim’on Riklin, “A Fortress at Michmash on the Northeastern Border of the Judaean Desert, Judea and Samaria,” Research Studies of the College of Judea Ariel 4 (1994), pp. 69–74 (Hebrew).
4.John A. Emerton, “New Light on Religion, the Implications of the Inscriptions from Kuntillet Ajrud,” Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 94 (1982), pp. 2–20; William G. Dever, “Ashera, Consort of Yahweh,” BASOR 255 (1984), pp. 21–37.
5. Yohanan Aharoni, Arad Inscriptions Text 18:9–10 (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1981).
6. Alan R. Millard, “The History of Israel Against the Background of Ancient Near Eastern Religious History,” in Timo Eskola and Eero Junkkaala, eds., From the Ancient Sites of Israel: Essays on Archaeology, History and Theology in Memory of Aapeli Saarisalo (1896–1986) Iustitia Supplement Series (Helsinki: Theological Institute of Finland, 1998), pp. 101–117.
7. See Jeffrey H. Tigay, You Shall Have No Other Gods: Israelite Religion in the Light of Hebrew Inscriptions (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1986), esp. pp. 47–63.
8. Aharoni, Arad Inscriptions; Harry Torczyner et al., The Lachish Letters (Lachish 1), (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1938); see also Christopher W. Mitchell, The Meaning of BRK “to bless” in the Old Testament, Dissertation Series, Society of Biblical Literature 95 (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1987).
9. William G. Dever, “Iron Age Epigraphic Material from the Area of Khirbet El-Kom,” Hebrew Union College Annual 40–41 (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College, 1969–70), pp. 139–204; Ziony Zevit, “The Khirbet el Qom Inscription,” BASOR 255 (1984), pp. 39–49; William H. Shea, “The Khirbet el-Kom Inscription,” Vetus Testamentum 40 (1990), pp. 56–63.
10. Raz Kletter, “The Judean Pillar-Figurines and the Archaeology of Asherah,” British Archaeological Reports, International Series S-636 (1996).

Source: http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org

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December 23, 2016
by Fehmida
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Asherah and the Asherim: Goddess or Cult Symbol?

Exploring the Biblical and archaeological evidence
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This four-tiered cult stand found at Tanaach is thought to represent Yahweh and Asherah, with each deity being depicted on alternating tiers. Note that on tier two, which is dedicated to Asherah, is the image of a living tree, often thought to be how the asherim as a cult symbol was expressed. Photo: © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem/Israel Antiquities Authority (photograph by Avraham Hay).

Who is Asherah? Or perhaps, what is asherah?1 The Hebrew means “happy” or “upright” and some suggest “(sacred) place.” The term appears 40 times in the Hebrew Bible, usually in conjunction with the definite article “the.” The definite article in Hebrew is similar to English in that personal names do not take an article. For example, I am Ellen, not the Ellen. Thus it is clear that when the definite article is present that it is not a personal name, but this does not eliminate the possibility of it being a category of being (i.e., a type of goddess). There are only eight cases where the term appears without an article or a suffix—suffixes in Hebrew can be used to express possession, e.g., “his,” “their,” etc. Interestingly, the plural of the term, asherim, occurs in both masculine and feminine forms.This diversity of grammar leads to the two questions at the beginning of this article: Who is Asherah? What is asherah? The reference may be to a particular goddess, a class of goddess or a cult symbol used to represent the goddess. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish what meaning is intended (cf. Judges 3:7).

This goddess is known from several other Ancient Near Eastern cultures.2 Sometimes she is known as “Lady Asherah of the Sea” but could be taken as “She who walks on the sea.” As Athirat, a cognate name for Asherah, she is mother of 70 children (this relates to the Jewish idea of the 70 guardian angels of the nations). Arguments have been made that Asherah is a figure in Egyptian, Hittite, Philistine and Arabic texts. Egyptian representations of “Qudshu” (potentially the Egyptian name for Asherah) show her naked with snakes and flowers, sometimes standing on a lion. Whether this should be interpreted as Asherah is contested and thus should be viewed with caution. Another suggestion is Asherah is also the Hittite goddess Asertu, who is married to Elkunirsa, the storm god (she is often viewed in connection with the regional storm god).

As Athirat in Arabian inscriptions there is a possibility that she is seen as a sun goddess (this is perhaps a connection in Ugaritic literature as well). In Phoenician, she is the mother goddess, which is different from Astarte, the fertility goddess; there is some debate regarding a confusion of the two relating to 1 Kings 18:19. In Akkadian, she might be Asratum, the consort of Amurru (chief deity of early Babylon). The connection is made because the Akkadian kingship (early 14th century B.C.E.) takes the title “servant of Asherah.”

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The Ugaritic texts provide the most insight into the goddess. Ras Shamra (located on the Syrian coast) texts, discovered in 1929, portray her as Athirat, the wife of El. Their sexual encounter produces dusk (Shalim) and dawn (Shahar), among others. Her relationship with Baal is complicated, and it is suggested that Baal has killed large numbers of her children.3 In these texts, she intercedes with El to get Baal a palace, after Anat’s (his “sister” and her “daughter”) request is refused. She supplies a son to reign after Baal descends into the netherworld. The relationship is further complicated by debates as to whether she is the mother of Baal or his consort or both. The idea of her being a consort comes from later Phoenician sources, where scholars have associated Asherah with Tinnit. Yet, the connections are tentative, and many scholars question the association. A hypothesis also suggests that Baal usurped El’s position and also took his consort, Asherah, which would make the relationship very oedipal.

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This inscription found on a pithos at Kuntillet ‘Ajrud (similar to an inscription found at Khirbet el-Qom) refers to “Yahweh and his Asherah.” This has led some scholars to believe that in popular religion Asherah was understood to be the wife of Yahweh, much the same as she under her cognate Athirat was considered to be the wife of El. Photo: Courtesy Dr. Ze’ev Meshel and Avraham Hai/Tel Aviv University Institute of Archaeology.

Asherah or asherim refer to more than just the person of the deity. These terms are often, especially in the Biblical texts, used for consecrated poles. These poles represent living trees, with which the goddess is associated. Some scholars believe that asherim were not poles, but living trees (like the one depicted on the Tanaach Cult Stand). The poles were either carved to look like trees or to resemble the goddess (this could also be reflected in the numerous pillar figurines found throughout Israel). Remains of these poles are determined by postholes and rotted timber, which resulted in differently hued soil. There is great debate as to whether the cult symbol lost its ties to Asherah (and became a religious symbol on its own without the worshippers knowing anything about the goddess who originated it) or is seen as a representation of Asherah herself (similar to the way the cross is a representation of Jesus to Christians).The relationship between Asherah and Israel is a complicated one.4 Does the text refer to the goddess or her symbol?5 Jeroboam and Rehoboam fostered Asherah worship (1 Kings 14:15, 23). Worship of Asherah was highly encouraged by Jezebel, with the presence of 400 prophets who held a place in the court of her husband King Ahab (1 Kings 18:19). Worship of Asherah is given as a reason for deportation (2 Kings 17:10,16). Attempts to eradicate the worship were made by Asa, Josiah, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah and Gideon (Exodus 34:13-14; Deuteronomy 7:5; Judges 6:25-30; 1 Kings 15:13/2 Chronicles 15:16; 2 Kings 23:4,7/2 Chronicles 34:3,7; 2 Kings 21:7/2 Chronicles 33:3,19; 2 Chronicles 19:3; 2 Kings 18:4). However, devotion to the cult symbol remained (Isaiah 27:9; Jeremiah 17:1; Micah 5:14). It is particularly interesting that objections to Asherah are found mostly in Deuteronomistic literature, rather than in the prophets. In both cases, the authors are much more concerned about the worship of Baal rather than Asherah.

This apparent lack of concern might be due to a popular connection between Yahweh and his Asherah. Inscriptions from Kuntillet ‘Ajrud (on a pithos; see image above) and Khirbet el-Qom (on walls) contain the phrase “Yahweh and his Asherah.”6 Some take this to mean it was believed that she was seen as the wife of Yahweh and represents the goddess herself. Yet, the presence of the suffix could suggest that it is not a personal name. This has led others to believe it is a reference to the cult symbol. A more obscure opinion claims it means a cella or chapel; this meaning is found in other Semitic languages, but not Hebrew. Because of the similarities between El and Yahweh, it is understandable that Asherah could have been linked to Yahweh. While some readers might find the idea that Yahweh had a wife disturbing, it was common in the ancient world to believe that gods married and even bore children. This popular connection between Yahweh and Asherah, and the eventual purging of Asherah from the Israelite cult, is likely a reflection of the emergence of monotheism from the Israelites’ previous polytheistic worldview.


ellen-whiteEllen White, Ph.D. (Hebrew Bible, University of St. Michael’s College), is the senior editor at the Biblical Archaeology Society. She has taught at five universities across the U.S. and Canada and spent research leaves in Germany and Romania. She has also been actively involved in digs at various sites in Israel.


Notes:

1. One of the most influential studies on Asherah is Saul M. Olyan, Asherah and the Cult of Yahweh in Israel, Society of Biblical Literature Monograph Series (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988). Olyan’s study provides background for this piece.

2. For a detailed study of Asherah outside of the Biblical texts, see Walter A. Maier, Asherah: Extrabiblical Evidence, Harvard Semitic Monographs (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986).

3. Olyan, Asherah, pp. 38–61.

4. For one of the best treatment of Asherah and Israel, see Judith M. Hadley, The Cult of Asherah in Ancient Israel and Judah: Evidence for a Hebrew Goddess, University of Cambridge Oriental Publications (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).

5. For a really good analysis of the Biblical passages involving Asherah, see C. Frevel, Aschera und der Ausschliesslichkeitsanspruch YHWHs, Bonner biblische Beitrage (Weinheim: Belz Athenaum Verlag, 1995).

6. For more details, see William Dever, Did God Have a Wife? Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), pp. 176–251.

Source: http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org


December 23, 2016
by Fehmida
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The Cult of Asherah in Ancient Israel and Judah

By JUDITH M. HADLEY, Cambridge Universiry Press.
In recent years archaeological discoveries have helped to shed some light on
the goddess Asherah and her possible role in Israelite religion. Because of
these discoveries, much has been written on what has become a quickly devel-
oping subject. In this introductory chapter, I shall first discuss the basic views
about the meaning of the term ‘asherah’, followed by a brief summary of
some of the relevant dissertations and monographs….

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September 24, 2016
by Fehmida
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A History of the Land and Archaeology of Gezer

by Taman Turbinton

Tis the season for Biblical archaeology. The summer months mark the time when archaeologists and scholars from all over the world come to Israel to further explore and discover more information about the Biblical land. This article will focus on the Biblical city of Gezer. Gezer is a city small in size, but big in archaeological history.

Gezer Boundary Stone. Source.

The Land and Biblical Background of Gezer

The Israeli city of Gezer (also identified as Tell Jezer, or Tell Jazari) is a place which holds significant importance to Old Testament studies. Located close to the Plain of Philistia which is to its west, Gezer sits approximately 15 miles east of the Mediterranean Sea. From Jerusalem, Gezer is located approximately 19 miles west-northwest. Gezer sits on top of a 30-acre mound, and is close to 225 meters above sea level. It is conveniently and strategically located near the junction where the Via Maris (way of the sea) meets the trunk road leading to Jerusalem.i

Even though the land is known to have been occupied from the Late Chalcolithic period to the Roman-Byzantine period,ii there is no known archaeological evidence of the city being occupied between the Early Bronze IV and the Middle Bronze I period.iii During the Middle Bronze IIA period archaeological evidence reveals a vibrant urban life, and Canaanite culture seems to be dominant at Gezer and its surrounding cities. About 65 percent of the Canaanite population was occupied in these areas.iv The ten monolithic upright stones at Gezer, known as the Gezer “High Place,” which comes from the Middle Bronze Age points to some type of religious or ceremonial activity in the city.v The finds of pig bones and the alabaster statue of the naked man holding a pig to his chest also point to some type of religious ceremonial activity probably through sacrifice.vi Manetho, the Egyptian historian, listed Pharaoh Thutmosis III as the sixth king of the Eighteenth Dynastyvii; his rule was one of the longest and most powerful. During approximately 1468 B.C., Thutmosis III captured and gained control of Gezer.viii Thutmosis III listed Gezer, and his 104 captures under his dominion in some inscriptions at the Temple of Amon in Karnak.ix The land for an extended period continued under Egyptian domination. About a century later, Abdi-Heba, the ruler of Jerusalem in the Late Bronze IIB period sent a series of letters to the Pharaoh, who was most likely Amenophis IV (1350-1334 B.C.), and explained that Ili-Milku (also spelled Milk-ilu), who was the ruler of Gezer, conquered much of the land. The rebellion of Ili-Milku was so devasting that Abdi-Heba lamented to Pharaoh:

I fall at the feet of my lord, the king, seven times and seven times…. Lost are the lands of the King, my lord…. Ili-Milku has caused the loss of all the land of the king, and so may the king, my lord, provide for this land. I say, “I would go in to the king, my lord, and visit the king my lord.” But the war against me is severe, and so I am not able to go in to the king, my lord…. (That) Apiru [Ili-Milku] has plundered all the lands of the king…[l]ost are the lands of the king, my lord.x

Ili-Milku was part of a coalition with Labᵓayu, ruler of Šakmu (Biblical Shechem), and a people identified as the “sons of Arsawa.” He took a town between Gezer and Jerusalem, known as Rub(b)utu, and sent a letter to Tagai and the sons of Šakmu, to isolate (or desert) Jerusalem. Abid-Hebdi explained to the Pharoah:

Milk-ilu does not break away from the sons of Labᵓayu and from the sons of Arwawa, as they desire the land of the king for themselves…. Such was the deed that Milk-ilu and Tagi did: they took Rub(b)utu. And now as for Urusalim [Jerusalem], if this land belongs to the king, why is it <not> of concern (?)… Milk-ilu has written to Tagi and the son <of Labᵓayu>…“[b]e both of you…a protection…[g]rant all their demands to the men of Qiltu [probably Keilah of the Bible], and let us isolate Urusalim…. May the king, my lord know (that) no garrison of the king is with me…. And so may the king send 50 men as a garrison to protect the land. The entire land of the king has deserted.xi

Later, on what is known as the “Israel Stele,” the Egyptian King Merneptah (1236-1223 B.C.), son of Rameses II (1304-1237 B.C.) recorded that Gezer was seized upon. The mention of Israel and Gezer in this “Stele” sheds more light as to state of these places, and also challenged the view of some scholars who contested that Merenptah was the Pharaoh of the exodus.xii During the Iron IA period Gezer seems to have been taken over by the Philistines. Numerous amounts of Philistine pottery have been recovered which shed evidence for this conclusion.xiii

Although Gezer gets more numerous mentions in ancient Egyptian accounts, recorded history of the ancient city in the Hebrew Bible goes back to the Late Bronze Age during the New Kingdom in Egypt, and the Israelite conquest. In the books of Joshua and Judges, it is mentioned that the tribe of Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so that they lived among them (Joshua 16:10; Judges 1:29). Even though Gezer was most likely in a weakened state after being defeated by Joshua’s army, the Ephraimites were either unable to drive them out, or just chose not to. Most likely the writer is noting the direct violation of the older commands to drive them out.xiv Gezer was supposed to be given by the tribe of Ephraim to the Kohathites, of the tribe of Levi (Joshua 21:21). The mention in 1 Kings 9:15-16, of Gezer being given as a dowry to King Solomon’s wife by Pharaoh, and being rebuilt by Solomon is supported by remarkable archaeological evidence that will be discussed later. The next mention of Gezer is not until in post-biblical literature during the Maccabean wars, during which the city plays a significant role.xv During the Hasmonean rule, Simon who ruled from 142 to 134 B.C., conquered Gezer, and “purified” the town by expelling the gentile inhabitants and resettling it with Jewish inhabitants.xvi

Robert Alexander Stewart Macalister. Source.

Robert Alexander Stewart Macalister’s Excavations at Gezer

In 1872, Professor Clermont-Ganneau, a French archaeologist and consul of Jerusalem, discovered the ancient site of Gezer, being led by a reference from the Arabic history of Mujir-ed-Din. At the site he found inscriptions cut in the outcrops of rocks which read “boundary of Gezer.”xvii This is significant in the fact that ancient direct identification of a site has only happened one other time, at Marissa, in the tomb of Apollophanes.xviii In 1902 the Palestine Exploration Fund began excavations at the Tel in Gezer which ran during the years of (1902-5, 1906-8), and almost the amount of three-fifths of the total area were excavated. Robert Alexander Stewart Macalister, an Irish archaeologist, was the director of the site. Macalister would later be joined with Dr. Schumacher of Germany, who was an architect and resident in Palestine and worked on the site of Tell Mutasellim, which was funded by the Deutsche Palästina-Verein, partnered with the Orient-Gesellschaft; direct support was also given by the German emperor.xix

The work done by Macalister has been strongly and negatively critiqued by archaeologist that came after him. W. F. Albright noted that Macalister erroneously tried to arrange his chronology to cover the centuries of the 9th-6th centuries B.C., which ultimately reduced most of his dates between 1200 and 300 B.C. Most of the chronology of other surrounding sites went back to the second millennium B.C. As with the Germans who had dug at Jericho, Albright saw some of the work being done during Macalister’s time as mixing Bronze Age material with Iron Age, and wrongly identifying Canaanite objects as Israelite.xx In the winter of 1908-9, Macalister found a fragmentary tablet which scholars have debated in which time it should have been placed in. Edouard Paul Dhorme, the late French Assyriologist and Semitologist, thought it was a Neo-Babylonian tablet, but Albright strongly criticized that claim. For Albright, the tablet belonged in the Amarna period. The evidence, Albright pointed out, showed that it was a letter by an Egyptian official to the prince of Gezer.xxi

Two cuneiform tablets from Gezer, which are contracts for the sale of property date to the Assyrian period. In the first tablet someone named Luakhe, makes a sale to two Assyrians named Marduk-eriba and Abi-eriba, of a house, a slave named Turiaa, his two wives, and his son. The names mentioned give support of the mixed population of the city of Gezer during its integration into the Assyrian empire after the conquest of Tiglath-pileser III.xxii In the other tablet, a Hebrew man named Nethaniah (or Natan-Yau) sells his land. The tablet is broken, but the names of three witnesses are preserved on it, with the date of the transaction. The tablet is specifically dated in the reign of Assurbanipal. The names in this tablet also demonstrate the mixed population of Gezer, as well as the role and influence that some Hebrews had in the economics of the area.xxiii

Also located at Gezer was a squared stone with a large hieroglyphic character. Macalister believed it probably belonged to an inscription that covered the façade of its belonging structure. He suggested that it could have been a temple for the Egyptian community of that time.xxiv

IMG_2463

City Gates at Meggido [Courtesy of Taman Turbinton]

The Gezer Calendar

The most important of Macalister’s finds is what is known as the “Gezer Calendar,” which contains what are, most likely, some of the oldest known Hebrew Inscriptions. Some scholars, such as P. Kyle McCarter, suggest that it is safer to describe the language as a South Canaanite dialect rather than specifically Hebrew.xxv Macalister made the discovery in September of 1908, and it consisted of soft limestone at about 4 ¼ inches long (probably originally it was about 5 ½ inches long), and 5/8 of an inch thick.xxvi Macalister notes that although it may be convenient to label the find as a calendar it may not be accurate to do so. A peasant boy called Abi (his full name is not known)—wrote on the plaque of limestone a list of the appropriate agricultural duties for certain times of the year.xxvii Albright felt very confident that the dating of the “Calendar” should be placed from about 950 to 918 B.C. in the Iron IC period.xxviii The plaque contains markings on both sides of scraping for reuse, which in possibility, may have been used as a palimpsest.xxix

 

The Solomonic Gate at Gezer

In 1957, the archaeologist, Yigael Yadin discovered a city gate at Hazor dating from the time of King Solomon. Yadin initially saw that it was identical in plan and measurements with the gate at Megiddo. Yadin was so confident to suggest that the gates were planned by the same architect.xxx Neither Macalister, nor those shortly after him were successful at finding a gate at Gezer that could be ascribed as being Solomonic. Because of Yadin’s success at Hazor and Megiddo, and his confidence in the accuracy of the Biblical information in 1 Kings 9:15-16 of Solomon building the cities at the locations mentioned, Yadin decided to do a fresh examination of Macalister’s report, hoping that he would have success in locating the city gate. His visit at Gezer lead him to the conclusion that was called the “Maccabean Castle” was actually a Solomonic city wall and gate.xxxi Yadin’s comparative measurements of the three sites concerning its main features of the casemate walls (only at Hazor and Gezer) and the gates drew a striking similarity. For the lengths of the gates: Megiddo measured at 20.3 meters, Hazor at 20.3 meters, and Gezer at 19.0 meters. The width of the gates measured at 17.5 meters for Megiddo, 18.0 meters at Hazor, and 16.2 meters at Gezer. The width of all the walls came to 1.6 meters. With this and much more evidence, it led Yadin and his team to conclude that gates and walls were indeed built by “Solomon’s architects from identical blue-prints, with minor changes in each case made necessary by the terrain.”xxxii

An up close view of some of the stones at the "Gezer High Place." [Courtesy of Taman Turbinton]

An up close view of some of the stones at the “Gezer High Place.” [Courtesy of Taman Turbinton]

Yadin’s conclusions were confirmed by the renewed excavations from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion headed by Dr. William G. Dever, who dated the six chambered gates to the time of Solomon. The task for Dever and his team was to examine and to see if Yadin’s work was verifiable. At first his team was cautious of describing anything to Solomon, but the sealed pottery from the floors and the striking characteristic of the red-burnished ware confirmed to Dever and his team that “Solomon did indeed re-build Gezer.”xxxiii John S. Holliday, Jr. also saw it reasonable to attribute the prior destruction of Gezer during the reign of King Solomon. In support of Yadin, Holliday saw lacking evidence of undisturbed destruction deposits that would produce restorable pottery. There was a succession of archaeological finds from unburnished red-slipper wares to burnish red-slipper wares.xxxiv

Solomon's City Gate at Gezer. [Courtesy of Taman Turbinton]

Solomon’s City Gate at Gezer. [Courtesy of Taman Turbinton]

Yet, Yadin was not without his skeptics. Later, Israel Finkelstein and others would cast serious doubts about the dates given. Finkelstein claimed in order to have a firm confidence in the dating there would need to be an archaeological find that would anchor the archaeology of Israel to the securely dated monarchs of Egypt and Assyria. Finkelstein argues vehemently that there are no finds that would anchor the dating’s to the time of Solomon, but that the reconstruction of the evidence is based on one Bible verse.xxxv The statement from Finklestein contains an important truth, for which Yadin was not ashamed of. Yadin, one of the most capable archaeologists, himself declared, “…the truth is that our great guide was the Bible: and as an archaeologist I cannot imagine a greater thrill than working with the Bible in one hand and the spade in the other.”xxxvi Nevertheless, for Finkelstein, the Solomonic monuments needed to be lowered into the ninth century B.C., seventy-five to one hundred years later.xxxvii It seems that these issues will continue to be contested by revisionists, but scholars such as André Lemaire accept the evidence presented by Yadin as convincing.xxxviii Even earlier, W. F. Albright was convinced that the palace structure at Megiddo discovered by the Chicago excavators was Solomonic.xxxix

Layout of the land and fields at Gezer

Layout of the land and fields at Gezer

Later Excavations at Gezer

In 1934 the Palestine Exploration Fund began to sponsor a second series of excavations at Gezer under the direction of A. Rowe, but the project never came to fruition. In 1964 G. E. Wright began a ten year excavation project at Gezer, which was sponsored by the Hebrew Union College Biblical and Archaeological School (which is now the Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology) in Jerusalem, and was also financed through grants from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. The work here began in two major phases. Wright directed Phase I of the project from 1964-65 and 1966-1971. Phase II from 1972-74 was directed by Joe D. Seger, and again by William G. Dever in 1984 and 1990. Steve Ortiz of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Samuel Wolff of the Israel Antiquities Authority initiated Phase III of excavations at Gezer in 2005.xl

Gezer is a place that has been inhabited during various times by various different people groups such as the Egyptians, Philistines, Canaanites, and Israelites. There are archaeological finds that gives significant insight as to the culture of each of these people groups. The Israelite level is stratum VIII, which is located in Field III, east of the Canaanite water tunnel. The Solomonic Gate also is located in Field III. The Casemate Wall connected with the gate in field II is also Solomonic.xli Two Astarte plaques have been discovered in Field II, Area 4, pit 4022, along with numerous amounts of pottery. Both of the plaques and the pottery seem to be Late Bronze I-II.xlii The Astarte plaques also share some similarities of idols found at Troy.xliii Located in Field I, is the large structure of a Canaanite tower (the locus for the tower is noted by Dever’s group as 5017). The tower connects to the “Inner Wall,” mainly construed of large stones at about 1.00 meters long, 75-90 centimeters wide, and 50 centimeters in thickness.xliv In the Middle Bronze IIC period, Field IV provides much evidence of growth and redevelopment, starting with defense structures around the perimeter of the mound.xlv The Canaanite “High Place” is located in Field V, close to the northern “Inner Wall.” As mentioned above it consists of ten monoliths, with some of them over 3 meters high (the stones were discovered laying down and had to be placed up). The stones seemed to be made by the Canaanites, and it is possible that there could have been an association with child sacrifice, or with a covenant renewal ceremony involving the inhabitants of the location.xlvi In Field VII there are numerous finds of pottery almost completely intact.xlvii Area 24, Fill 2433, which was covered by Phase 9 Fill 2430 in Field VII, contains a dog burial.xlviii This most naturally would have one assume this find was not from the Israelite period.

The Excavations of Steve Ortiz and Samuel Wolff

The excavations that began in 2005 at Tel Gezer were sponsored by the Charles D. Tandy Institute of Archaeology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), along with other consortium schools. The directors of the excavations are Dr. Steven Ortiz, professor of Archaeology and Biblical Backgrounds of the Tandy Institute and SWBTS, and Dr. Samuel Wolff, senior archaeologist and archivist of the Israel Antiquities Authority. In 2013 their work primarily consisted of removing portions of the city wall from the Iron IIA period, to have access for investigation of a Late Bronze age destruction level. During their excavations of the city wall, an earlier wall system was discovered from the Iron Age I period. Some items discovered were Philistine pottery and a Philistine figurine. Other discoveries at this site seem to correspond with information from Amarna letters concerning this area around the time of the Egyptians 18th Dynasty. Discovered was an earlier city that had been destroyed, with debris finds of pottery vessels, cylinder seals and a large Egyptian scarab with the cartouche of Amenhotep III. Additional work is being done to remove public and domestic structures of the 8th and 9th centuries B.C., to reveal the 10th century B. C. city plan adjacent to the “City Gate.” Although controversial, the exposure of the 10th century walls gives hopes for some of the excavators to find the rest of the “Solomonic city.”xlix

Entrance to the "Water Tunnel" at Gezer. [Courtesy of Taman Turbinton]

Entrance to the “Water Tunnel” at Gezer. [Courtesy of Taman Turbinton]

The Gezer Water System

Located north of the six chambered Iron Aged gate, is the extraordinary “water system.” It was hewed as an oval shaped reservoir at about 14 to 17 meters in diameter.l A stairway consisting of 78 steps was hewn into the walls and descends to the floor which leads to a source of water.li From the entrance of the water system tunnel, the distance into the earth is approximately 40 meters. In 1905 Macalister discovered the water system, but he left many unanswered questions. In the summer of 2010 the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS), took on the task of reopening the ancient water system. Primary sponsorship is from the Moskau Institue of Archaeology of NOBTS, and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. Leading the excavations from NOBTS are Dr. Dan Waner, Dr. R. Dennis Cole, and Dr. James Parker, in collaboration with Dr. Tsvika Tsuk, Chief Archaeologist of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and the Israel Antiquities Authority. This team accompanied by student volunteers from NOBTS and other Universities seeks to address the issues of identifying the source of the water, the overall purpose of the location, and it’s dating. A likely dating for the system seems to belong in the Bronze Age. It is believed that system’s cavern had an exterior opening accessible from outside of the city. It is thought that the inhabitants would have built the tunnel to access the water in case of a siege.lii

image1

Macalister noted in his find of the system of a pool of water at the end of the tunnel of unknown depth. He explained that water stood wherever the mud was dug away, and the level of water remained constant no matter how much water was taken away. Similar issues were again discovered by the NOBTS excavators. On June 5, 2015 the team digging at the bottom of the tunnel removed close to 140 gallons of water. In the process of removal they were able to notice a lowering of the water level.liii It is very damp above the pool and deep into the cavern, and the main way to enter the area is by crawling. A large stone covers oneself the further one crawls back. It is hoped that an exit will be found deep in this cavern; this possible exit would be to the east side of Gezer. In previous excavations there were no finds of pottery at the end of the tunnel or in the cavern. Now into the fifth season numerous amounts of pottery shards have been found, but none with significant or extraordinary markings.liv Some of the pottery found looks similar in material to the finds from the believed to be “house” inside the inner wall in between the Canaanite gate and the water system opening. Dr. Eli Yannai, archaeologist of the Israel Antiquities Authority, serves at the pottery expert for this area. Parts of the area in the “house” received material from Macalister dump. Yannai has identified pottery that is very thin, covered with red on each side as material from Cyprus dating to the Late Bronze Age. The information is significant because towards the south of the “house” finds are from the Middle Bronze Age. This gave Dr. Yannai the indication that the location of a possible wall in the “house” facing north is filled with Macalister’s dump.lv The pottery finds are not substantially enough to posit a clear connection between the two sites of the water tunnel and the house; it will take further work to draw upon more firm conclusions.

Summary

Even though many great finds have been found at Gezer, the excavators at the water tunnel believe and expect this particular area to be one of the premier sites in Israel. The structure of the tunnel is unique, with nothing like in the rest of Israel, Egypt, or Mesopotamia. This site will continue to be an attraction to archaeologist, and certainly later, a major tourist attraction for Bible believers, and even Biblical minimalists.

Because of the groundbreaking work taking place at Gezer, it will for a short time be a site of numerous mysteries. The excavators on the Tel and in the “Water System” have come up with interesting suggestions and questions about the site. Was the “Water System” used for times of siege? Did cultic activity take place in the Tunnel? Did King Solomon make use of the “Water System”? It is up to the excavators to try and understand the information behind the large amounts of archaeological evidence. But as we have learned from previous finds, Gezer is full of information that points to the accuracy of the Biblical record. Yigael Yadin was right to lean on his impulse and trust the inspired Word of God for finding Solomon’s Gate. Families can use Gezer as an example to have confidence in teaching their children that the Bible and archaeological finds do not contradict each other. Far from insignificant, Gezer will be remembered as one of the most important places in the Bible for Biblical Archaeology.

References

i Steven Ortiz and Samuel Wolff, “Gaurding the Boarder to Jerusalem: The Iron Age City of Gezer,” Near Eastern Archaeology 75, no. 1 (2012): p. 4. Henceforth: Ortiz and Wolff, “Iron Age City of Gezer.”

ii W. G. Dever, “Gezer” in Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 2, ed. Michael Avi-Yonah (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1976), p. 428. Henceforth: Dever, “Gezer”.

iii See John D. Currid, and David P. Barrett ed., Crossway ESV Bible Atlas (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), pp. 60-61. Henceforth: ESV Atlas.

iv Thomas C. Brisco, ed., Holman Bible Atlas: A Complete Guide to the Expansive Geography of Biblical History (Nashville, Tenn.: Holman Reference, 1998), pp. 43-44. Henceforth: Holman Atlas.

v Ibid., p. 45.

vi See Roland deVaux, The Bible and the Ancient Near East, trans. Damian McHugh (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1967), p. 253.

vii According to Eusebius, from Syncellus see Manetho, The History of Egypt, trans. W. G. Waddel, in Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1956), p. 115.

viii G. G. Garner, and J. Woodhead, “Gezer” in New Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed., (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1996), p. 409; Also see Dever, “Gezer”, p. 428.

ix James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts: Relating to the Old Testament, 3rd ed (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), p. 242.

x “Letter of Abdi-Heba of Jerusalem (EA 286) (3.92A)” in The Context of Scripture, vol. 3, Archival Documents from the Biblical World, eds. William W. Hallo, and K. Lawson Younger, Jr. (Leiden: Brill, 2002), p. 237.

xi “Letter of Abdi-Heba of Jerusalem (Urusalim) (EA 289) (3.92B)” in ibid., p. 238.

xii Holman Atlas, p. 57; Sir Alan Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs: An Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961), p. 273.

xiii William G. Dever, H. Darrel Lance, and G. Ernest Wright, Gezer I, vol. 1, Preliminary Report of the 1964-66 Seasons (Jerusalem: Hebrew Union College Biblical and Archaeological School in Jerusalem, 1970), pp. 4-5. Henceforth: Dever, Lance, and Wright, Gezer I.

xiv See Barry G. Webb, The Book of Judges, NICOT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012), pp. 123-24; K. Lawson Younger, Jr., Judges and Ruth, NIVAC (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), p. 72.

xv Dever, “Gezer”, p. 430.

xvi Lee I. A. Levine, “The Age of Hellenism: Alexander the Great and the Rise and Fall of the Hasmonean Kingdom,” in Ancient Israel: A Short History from Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple, ed. Hershel Shanks (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1988), p. 187.

xvii R. A. S. Macalister, A Century of Excavations in Palestine (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1925), p. 64. Henceforth: Macalister, Excavations; Yigael Yadin, Hazor: The Rediscovery of a Great Citadel of the Bible (New York: Random House, 1975), pp. 200-1. Henceforth: Yadin, Hazor.

xviii Macalister, Excavations, p. 82.

xix Ibid., pp. 64-65.

xx William Foxwell Albright, From Stone Age to Christianity: Monotheism and the Historical Process, 2nd ed., (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1957), pp. 55-56.

xxi For more information on Albright’s view of this tablet at Gezer see W. F. Albright, “A Tablet of the Amarna Age from Gezer,” Bulletin of American Schools of Oriental Research 92, (December 1943): pp. 28-30.

xxii Macalister, Excavations, p. 188; Hallo, and Younger, The Context of Scripture, vol. 3, pp. 263-64.

xxiii Macalister, Excavations, p. 189; Hallo, and Younger, The Context of Scripture, vol. 3, pp. 264-65.

xxiv Macalister, Excavations, p. 223.

xxv P. Kyle McCarter, “The Gezer Calendar,” in The Context of Scripture, vol. 2, Monumental Inscriptions from the Biblical World, eds. William W. Hallo, and K. Lawson Younger, Jr. (Leiden: Brill, 2000), p. 222.

xxvi William F. Albright, “The Gezer Calendar,” Bulletin of American Schools of Oriental Research 92, (December 1943): p. 16. Henceforth: Albright, “Gezer Calendar”.

xxvii Macalister, Excavations, p. 249.

xxviii Albright, “Gezer Calendar”, p. 19.

xxix Ibid., 21.

xxx Yigael Yadin, “Solomon’s City Wall and Gate at Gezer,” Israel Exploration Journal 8, no. 2 (1958): p. 80.

xxxi Ibid; Yadin, Hazor, pp. 201-2.

xxxii Yadin, “Solomon’s City Wall and Gate at Gezer,” pp. 85-86.

xxxiii Yadin, Hazor, p. 203.

xxxiv John S. Holladay, Jr., “Red Slip, Burnish, and the Solomonic Gateway at Gezer,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 277-278 (February/May 1990): p. 24.

xxxv Israel Finkelstein, “King Solomon’s Golden Age: History or Myth?” in The Quest for the Historical Israel: Debating Archaeology and the History of Early Israel, no. 17, by Israel Finkelstein and Amihai Mazar, ed. Brian Schmidt (Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2007), pp. 110-12.

xxxvi Yadin, Hazor, p. 187.

xxxvii Finkelstein, “King Solomon’s Golden Age,” p. 114.

xxxviii André Lemaire, “The United Monarchy: Saul, David and Solomon,” in Ancient Israel: A Short History from Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple, ed. Hershel Shanks (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1988), p. 107.

xxxix Albright, “Gezer Calendar,” pp. 18-19.

xl William G. Dever, “Gezer” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 2, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), p. 998; Joe D. Seger, and James W. Hardin, ed., Gezer VII: The Middle Bronze and Later Fortifications in Fields II, IV, and VII (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2013), p. 1. For the information of the location of the fields refer to the maps herein.

xli Dever, “Gezer,” p. 441.

xlii See Dever, Lance, and Wright, Gezer I, p. 57. For images see Plate 25, herein.

xliii See C. Schuchhardt, Schliemann’s Excavations: An Archaeological and Historical Study, trans., Eugénie Sellers (New York: Macmillan & Co., 1891), pp. 66-67.

xliv Dever, Lance, and Wright, Gezer I, pp. 18-19.

xlv Joe D. Seger, Gezer VII: The Middle Bronze and Later Fortifications in Fields II, IV, and VII, ed. Joe D. Seger and James W. Hardin (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2013), p. 13.

xlvi Dever, “Gezer,” pp. 437-438.

xlvii See pictures of plates 65 in Field VII East, Area 37; plate 61 in Field VII Central, Area 35, all in Seymour Gitin, Gezer III: A Ceramic Typology of the Late Iron II, Persian and Hellenistic Periods at Tell Gezer, Data Base and Plates (Jerusalem: Hebrew Union College, 1990).

xlviii Ibid., see plate 73.

xlix Steven Ortiz and Samuel Wolff, “ARCHAEOLOGY: The history beneath Solomon’s City,” accessed July 26, 2015, http://www.swbts.edu/campus-news/news-releases/archaeology-the-history-beneath-solomone28099s-city/.

l See Steve Ortiz, “Gezer” in the Oxford Encyclopedia of The Bible and Archaeology, ed., Daniel Master (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), p. 471. Henceforth: Ortiz, “Gezer.”

li The layout by Mcalister listed 78 steps and has been examined and confirmed as the accurate number of steps by the author and Tsvika Tsuk. Some of the steps are losing shape, but are still distinct enough to be identified as steps.

lii Ortiz, “Gezer,” p. 469. Also see the CAR page, at the NOBTS website.

liii See the blog post from Gary D. Meyers on June 7, 2015, who is the publication relations representative of the Seminary, “Gezer 2015: The things you find at the bottom of the water system,” accessed July 21, 2015, http://nobtsarchaeology.blogspot.com/?m=0.

liv Information unpublished, but available from the author. On June 2, 2015, over one hour was spent in the tight area of the cavern collecting pottery. I found approximately over 50 pieces of pottery, along with the numerous amounts collected by Gary D. Meyers.

lv Information unpublished, available from the author. Along the possible wall, no matter how far low the wall was dug, Late Bronze Age material was continuously found lower than in other areas where Middle Bronze Age material were found.

 

Selected Bibliography

Albright, William Foxwell. “The Gezer Calendar” Bulletin of American Schools of Oriental Research 92, (December 1943): pp. 16-27.

———. “A Tablet of the Amarna Age from Gezer” Bulletin of American Schools of Oriental Research 92, (December 1943): pp. 28-30.

———. From Stone Age to Christianity: Monotheism and the Historical Process. 2nd ed. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1957.

Brisco, Thomas C., ed. Holman Bible Atlas: A Complete Guide to the Expansive Geography of Biblical History. Nashville: Holman Reference, 1998.

Currid, John D., and David P. Barrett eds. Crossway ESV Bible Atlas. Wheaton: Crossway, 2010.

Dever, William G. “Gezer.” In Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 2, ed. Michael Avi-Yonah, pp. 428-443. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1976.

———. “Gezer.” In The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 2, ed. David Noel Freedman, 998-1003. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

Dever, William G., H. Darrel Lance, and G. Ernest Wright. Gezer I, Vol. 1, Preliminary Report of the 1964-66 Seasons. Jerusalem: Hebrew Union College Biblical and Archaeological School in Jerusalem, 1970.

Finkelstein, Israel. “King Solomon’s Golden Age?: History or Myth?” In The Quest for the Historical Israel: Debating Archaeology and the History of Early Israel, No. 17. By Israel Finkelstein and Amihai Mazar. Edited by Brian Schmidt, 107-116. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2007.

Gardiner, Sir Alan. Egypt of the Pharaohs: An Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961.

Garner, G. G., and J. Woodhead. “Gezer.” In New Bible Dictionary. 3rd ed., 407-409. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1996.

Gitin, Seymour. Gezer III: A Ceramic Typology of the Late Iron II, Persian and Hellenistic Periods at Tell Gezer, Data Base and Plates. Jerusalem: Hebrew Union College, 1990.

Holladay, John S., Jr. “Red Slip, Burnish, and the Solomonic Gateway at Gezer.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 277-278 (February/May 1990): pp. 23-70.

Hallo, William H., and K. Lawson Younger, Jr., ed. The Context of Scripture. Vol. 2, Monumental Inscriptions from the Biblical World . Leiden: Brill, 2000.

———. The Context of Scripture. Vol. 3, Archival Documents from the Biblical World. Leiden: Brill, 2002.

Lemaire, André. “The United Monarchy: Saul, David and Solomon.” In Ancient Israel: A Short History from Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple, ed. Hershel Shanks, pp. 85-108. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1988.

Levine, Lee I. A. “The Age of Hellensim: Alexander the Great and the Rise and Fall of the Hasmonean Kingdom.” In Ancient Israel: A Short History from Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple, ed. Hershel Shanks, pp. 177-204. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1988.

Macalister, R. A. S. A Century of Excavations in Palestine. London: The Religious Tract Society, 1925.

Manetho. The History of Egypt. Translated by W. G. Waddel. In Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1956.

McCarter, P. Kyle. “The Gezer Calendar.” In Hallo, and Younger. The Context of Scripture. Vol. 2, p. 222.

Meyer, Gary D. “Gezer 2015: The things you find at the bottom of the water system.” Accessed July 21, 2015. http://www.nobtsarchaeology.blogspot.com/?m=0

Ortiz, Steven. “Gezer.” In Oxford Encyclopedia of Bible and Archaeology, vol. 1, ed. Daniel Master, 468-474. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Ortiz, Steven and Samuel Wolff. “Guarding the Boarder to Jerusalem: The Iron Age City of Gezer.” Near Eastern Archaeology 75, no. 1 (2012): pp. 4-19.

———. “ARCHAEOLOGY: The history beneath Solomon’s City.” Accessed July 26, 2015. http://www.swbts.edu/campus-news/news-releases/archaeology-the-history-beneath-solomone28099s-city/.

Pritchard, James B. ed. Ancient Near Eastern Texts: Relating to the Old Testament, 3rd ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969.

Schuchhardt, C. Schliemann’s Excavations: An Archaeological and Historical Study. Translated by Eugénie Sellers. New York: Macmillan & Co., 1891.

Seger, Joe D. Gezer VII: The Middle Bronze and Later Fortifications in Fields II, IV, and VII, ed. Joe D. Seger and James W. Hardin. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2013.

Vaux, Roland de. The Bible and the Ancient Near East. Translated by Damian McHugh. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1967.

Webb, Barry G. The Book of Judges. NICOT. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012.

Yadin, Yigael. “Solomon’s City Wall and Gate at Gezer.” Israel Exploration Journal 8, no. 2 (1958): pp. 80-86.

———. Hazor: The Rediscovery of a Great Citadel of the Bible. New York: Random House, 1975.

Younger, K. Lawson, Jr. Judges and Ruth. NIVAC. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002.

Written by Taman Turbinton

Taman Turbinton is a student at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and is excavating this season at the site of Gezer.

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September 20, 2016
by Fehmida
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One page levant chronology

  • c. 6000 BCE
    First fortified settlement at Ugarit.
  • c. 4000 BCE – c. 3000 BCE
    Trade contact between Byblos and Egypt.
  • c. 4000 BCE
    Founding of the city of Sidon.
  • c. 2900 BCE – c. 2300 BCE
    First settlement of Baalbek.
  • c. 2750 BCE
    The city of Tyre is founded.
  • c. 1450 BCE
    Kadesh and Megiddo lead a Canaanite alliance against the Egyptian invasion by Thutmose III.
  • 1274 BCE
    Battle of Kadesh between Pharaoh Ramesses II of Egypt and King Muwatalli II of the Hittites.
  • c. 1200 BCE
    Sea Peoples invade the Levant.
  • 1200 BCE – 1100 BCE
    Hebrew tribes settle Canaan.
  • 1115 BCE – 1076 BCE
    Reign of Tiglath-Pileser I of Assyria who conquers Phoenicia and revitalizes the empire.
  • c. 1000 BCE
    Height of Tyre’s power.
  • 1000 BCE
    Rise of the kingdom of Israel.
  • 965 BCE – 928 BCE
    Solomon is king of Israel.
  • 950 BCE
    Solomon builds the first Temple of Jerusalem.
  • 721 BCE
    Israel is conquered by Assyria.
  • 351 BCE
    Artaxerxes III sacks Sidon.
  • 334 BCE
    Alexander the Great sacks Baalbek and renames it Heliopolis.
  • 333 BCE
    Alexander the Great sacks Sidon.
  • 332 BCE
    Conquest of the Levant by Alexander the Great who destroys Tyre.
  • 332 BCE
    Alexander the Great besieges and conquers Tyre.
  • 64 BCE
    Tyre becomes a Roman colony.
  • c. 6 BCE – c. 30 CE
    Life of Jesus Christ.
  • 637 CE
    Muslims enter Levant. The Byzantines are driven out.

September 20, 2016
by Fehmida
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10th Century BCE Hebrew Inscription Found at Khirbet Qeiyafa

Ostracon from Khirbet Qeiyafa

Ostracon from Khirbet Qeiyafa

This summer an extraordinary Semitic inscription was found at Khirbet Qeiyafa. It was uncovered inside the fortified city, near the gate, lying on a floor level of a building. The city existed for a rather short time, within the 10th century BC, thus, the dating of the inscription is perfectly secured to the beginning of the First Temple period, known as the United monarchy, the time of kings David and Solomon.

The inscription is a large pottery fragment (ostracon), ca. 15 × 15 cm. written with ink. It contains five rows, divided by black lines. Each row has 10 letters or so in Proto-Canaanite script. According to the preliminary observations of the epigraphist, Dr. Haggai Misgav, the language of the ostracon is Hebrew. This is the longest Proto-Canaanite inscription ever found and the earliest Hebrew text known to date. Other possible Hebrew inscriptions are the Gezer calendar (ca. 900 BC), the stele of king Mesah (ca. 850 BC) or the Samaria ostraca (ca. 800 BC). The new inscription is earlier by 100-200 years from the other earlier Hebrew inscriptions. As the decipherment has just begun, it is still immature to talk about the content, but it clearly bears a massage, a letter sent between two people.

Khirbet Qeiyafa

Khirbet Qeiyafa

Paleography: The complicated writing techniques developed in Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt enabled only professional scribes to read and write. Contrarily, the simple Semitic alphabet writing technique enables larger segments of the population to read and write. Thus, it is one of the most important intellectual inventions of human kind. But the early developments of the Semitic alphabet and its transmitting to the early Greek, and then to Latin and the rest of the world is poorly known. The earliest type of alphabet script, known as Proto-Canaanite, was found in Canaan, Sinai peninsula and Egypt in various sites dated from the second millennium BC (Middle Bronze and Late Bronze periods, ca. 1700-1200 BC). In this stage it was rather pictorial in character, adopting Egyptian hieroglyph signs.

Aerial photograph of Khirbet Qeiyafa

Aerial photograph of Khirbet Qeiyafa

In the Iron I period (1200-1000 BC) the hieroglyphs became more and more schematics, and it was assumed that at ca. 1000 BC the script became standardized in various aspects, like the number of letters (22), the direction of writing (from right to left) and the shape of the letters. As the Greek letters are quite similar to Proto-Canaanite script it was generally believed that they adopted the alphabet script in the late second millennium BC.

Very few early alphabet inscriptions are known. Most of them are either very short, or just a list of the letters (abecedary). Almost all of them do not have a secure archaeological context, thus lacking clear dating. The new inscription is the first Proto-Canaanite script clearly dated from the 10th century BC. It will now serve as the anchor for the entire developments of the early alphabet scripts: the Semitic (Phoenician, Hebrew and others) as well as the Greek.

Implication to Biblical History: Currently, there is a bitter debate about the historical accounts of Kings David and Solomon as presented by the Biblical tradition. The main arguments so far were the luck of urban centers that can be clearly dated to the time of the United Monarchy (Early Iron Age IIa period).

On September 13th 2008 a colloquium of some 40 Israeli archaeologists took place at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The pottery from the fortified city was presented and discussed. There was a general agreement that the assemblage is indeed from the very beginning of the Iron IIa period. The new excavations clearly indicate that already in the time of David and Solomon urban cities were constructed in Judah. The fortifications of the site required 200,000 ton of stones. The upper part of the gate was built with ashlar stones, a clear characteristic of royal activities in the Biblical period. There was a need for administration to organize these massive building activities and indeed the new inscription indicates that writing was in use. The new inscription indicates that writing was indeed practiced in the biblical kingdom of Judah from its very beginning. Thus, historical memories could have been survived for generations and the biblical traditions regarding the period of kings David and Solomon cannot be overlooked.

Gate at Khirbet Qeiyafa

Gate at Khirbet Qeiyafa

Source

Acknowledgments. Khirbet Qeiyafa excavations are conducted by Prof. Yosef Garfinkel and Mr. Saar Ganor, on behalf of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Funds were kindly provided by J.B. Silver, the Berman Center for Biblical Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Foundation Stone and the Curtiss and Mary Brenan Foundation. The expedition website is: qeiyafa.huji.ac.il

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September 14, 2016
by Fehmida
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Zodiac Calendars and Angelic Teaching in the Dead Sea Scrolls

By: Helen R. Jacobus

Angels are often associated with secret knowledge but not usually with authentic mathematics. In several of the Dead Sea Scrolls there is a complicated network of parallel stories in which angels impart secret knowledge of the calendar, astronomy, astrology and divination to humans before the Flood. These secrets were important for Jews and early Christians, among other things, to know about current scientific knowledge around them that had been developed to an advanced level by their neighbours in the ancient Near East and Mediterranean.

Figure 1. Part of the Chester Beatty papyri showing portions of the Book of Enoch in Greek (P.Mich.inv. 5552; third century C.E), University of Michigan Library) http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:P._Chester_Beatty_XII,_leaf_3,_verso.jpg

Figure 1. Part of the Chester Beatty papyri showing portions of the Book of Enoch in Greek (P.Mich.inv. 5552; third century C.E), University of Michigan Library).

The myths are expansions of Genesis 5:23–24, the after-life of Enoch whose days ended at 365 years and Genesis 6:4, the appearance of Nephilim—or giants in The Septuagint—benign progeny of divine beings and the daughters of humans. In early Jewish writings these short passages have been woven into epic, ‘rewritten Bible’ sagas.

With the exception of the fragmentary Aramaic Genesis Apocryphon, an expanded retelling of parts of Genesis, discovered in Qumran Cave 1, these additional narratives from Second Temple Judaism were already known before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. 1 Enoch and the Book of Jubilees were preserved in Ethiopic, and a portion of 1 Enoch in Greek. The Book of Jubilees and 1 Enoch had been preserved and canonised in the Ethiopic Orthodox Church and the Book of Enoch is cited in the New Testament (Jude 1:14–15= 1 En. 60:8). Fragments of these books were also found at Qumran Cave 4: I Enoch in Aramaic, and Jubilees in Hebrew.

But previously unknown texts found at Qumran, without full Ethiopic versions, include two astronomical and calendrical manuscripts in Aramaic: 4Q208 (4QAstronomical Enocha) and part of 4Q209 (4QAstronomical Enochb), a formulaically written calendar, some of which appears in a corrupted condition in the Ethiopic Astronomical Book of Enoch (1 En. 72-82).

2. God took Enoch. Illustration by Gerard Hoet (1648-1733) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enoch_%28ancestor_of_Noah%29#mediaviewer/File:Figures_God_took_Enoch.jpg

2. God took Enoch. Illustration by Gerard Hoet (1648-1733).

At Qumran there is also the formerly completely unknown Aramaic 4QZodiac Calendar and Brontologion (4Q318). This comprises a schematic 360-day calendar that traces the zodiac sign that the moon traverses for every day of a year composed of twelve 30-day months. An appended thunder omen text, the Brontologion, gives a prediction according to the position of the moon in the zodiac when the thunder clap occurs.

Nothing in these manuscripts indicates they are part of mythological books. When reconstructed it can be seen that they contain real astronomical calendars, and actual mathematical material. But angels are at the forefront.

In both the Ethiopic and in the Qumran version of 1 Enoch and Jubilees, Enoch ascends to the heaven to receive divinely authorised knowledge. Conversely, angels known collectively as the Watchers descended to earth and married human women. They taught their wives the secrets of metalwork for making weapons and jewellery, using kohl, precious stones and dye, magical arts, omen reading and astronomy. In parallel stories the women gave birth to cannibalistic giants, and variously blood-thirsty Nephilim (see 1 Enoch, Genesis Apocryphon, Jubilees).

One detailed story about the descending angels’ secret arts is described in The Book of Watchers from 1 Enoch (1 En. 1-36) in Ethiopic, several substantial fragments of which were found in Cave 4. The fragments 4Q201, 4Q202 and 4Q204 contain the story of the rebellion of the Watchers, their names and their skills and the intervention of the four archangels, Michael, Sariel, Raphael and Gabriel, to punish them and bring about the Flood. The earliest fragment, 4Q201, was copied circa 200–150 BCE.

Figure 3. Pieter Bruegel the Elder: The Fall of the Rebel Angels (1562).

Figure 3. Pieter Bruegel the Elder: The Fall of the Rebel Angels (1562).

It is during his tour of heaven, where Enoch ascends to intercede on behalf of the Watchers, that he learns the secrets of astronomy and the calendar (in the Ethiopic version he is taught by Uriel. The archangel’s name is not extant in the fragments from Qumran).

Figure 4. The Fall of the Rebel Angels by Hieronymus Bosch (1500-1504) http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/78/Hieronymus_Bosch_-_The_Fall_of_the_Rebel_Angels_%28obverse%29_-_WGA2572.jpg http://www.wikiart.org/en/hieronymus-bosch/the-fall-of-the-rebel-angels-1504

Figure 4. The Fall of the Rebel Angels by Hieronymus Bosch (1500-1504).

Several scholars take the view that Enoch, the seventh man after Adam, is a Jewish adaptation of Enmeduranki, the seventh ruler in some versions of the antediluvian Sumerian King List, ruler of Sippar, city of the sun god Shamash. Enmeduranki received secrets of divination and mathematical calculations from the gods and became the ancestor of the bāru, diviners skilled in interpreting celestial omens.

Interestingly,the Brontologion is also composed in the style of Mesopotamian omen texts known from the Enūma Anu Enlil omen series but with a conditional clause involving the zodiac, unknown from the Babylonian texts.

The zodiac calendar of 4Q318, 4QZodiac Calendar, uses the Aramaic translations of the Babylonian month names that are used in the Hebrew calendar today. The months, Shevat, month 11, and Adar, month 12, are extant in the very fragmentary remains of this manuscript.

4QZodiac Calendar also helps us to understand the calendar of 4Q208-4Q209 that was identified by the Dead Sea Scrolls scholar J.T. Milik in 1976 as a so-called “synchronistic calendar.” The sun and moon in the Aramaic synchronistic calendar are harmonised through numbered “gates.” With respect to 1 Enoch 72–82, Assyriologist and mathematician Otto Neugebauer argued that the numbered “gates” corresponded to the sunrise and sunset positions on the horizon. He rejected the interpretation by Richard Laurence from 1821 that the “gates” in the Ethiopic Astronomical Book of Enoch are connected with the zodiac signs. Figure 5 shows the solar-lunar-stellar scheme in 1 Enoch Chapter 72, with the cognate zodiac signs added.

Figure 5.  The scheme from 1 En. 72: the direction of the arrows signify the journey of the sun.

Figure 5. The scheme from 1 En. 72: the direction of the arrows signify the journey of the sun.

Jacobus Figure 6

Figure 6. Detail of the proposed zodiac of 4Q209 (4QAstronomical Enochb) , the tenth lunar month. Reconstructed data from text in part of the largest fragment. The extant text is shaded on the zodiac signs. The sun enters Gate 1 in Month 10 and the moon leaves Gate 4 (Aries) and enters Gate 5 (Taurus) Key to zodiac signs: Aries; Taurus; Gemini; Cancer; Leo; Virgo; Libra; Scorpio; Sagittarius; Capricorn; Aquarius; Pisces. The moon changes sign in just under every 2½ days.

It may be argued that the largest Qumran fragment, 4Q209 (4QAstronomical Enochb) containing data that the sun enters Gate 1, corresponds to the winter solstice zodiac signs of Sagittarius and Capricorn and solar zodiacal months 9 and 10. The moon moves from Gate 4, corresponding to Aries, on the 8th and 9th of the month to Gate 5, corresponding to Taurus, on the 10th of the month. The manuscript also describes the waxing and waning phase of the moon day by day in fractions of sevenths of its shining and darkness.

In the zodiac calendar of 4Q318, the reconstructed text shows that in Month 10, Tevet, on the days 8 and 9, the moon is in the sign of Taurus (see Figure 7 for the position of the moon in the zodiac for the first nine days of the month).

Figure 7. The first nine days 4Q318 (4QZodiac Calendar) without the Brontologion. Reconstructed from the existing text.

Figure 7. The first nine days 4Q318 (4QZodiac Calendar) without the Brontologion. Reconstructed from the existing text.

It appears the year in 4Q318 is mathematically slightly ahead of 4Q209. In the luni-solar calendar, the lunar months have to be regulated by adding a 13th month every two to three years. It is possible that the Aramaic calendars are earlier versions of the ideal schematic, luni-solar calendar of the 19-year cycle known as the Metonic cycle. This is well-known from the Standard Mesopotamian calendar and the calendar of Athens. (When Hanukkah coincided with Thanksgiving in 2013 it was an example of an additional month being due).

The teaching of the descending, rebellious angels or the revealed knowledge to Enoch by Uriel during his tour of the cosmos in 1 Enoch may be mythology with an educational purpose. The earliest copy of the Aramaic fragment concerning the Watchers who came to the earth, 4Q201, was, according to Milik, dictated by a master in a scribal school.

Figure 8. Painting of the winged heads of 80 Ethiopian cherubs on the Berhan Selassie Church roof.

Figure 8. Painting of the winged heads of 80 Ethiopian cherubs on the Berhan Selassie Church roof.

An understanding of astronomy and mathematics ensured that people prayed at the correct time with the angels, a theme in several of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The implication of this research is that the zodiac calendar was extremely important in Second Temple Judaism and probably in early Christianity. Had this continuous copying not taken place by Christians, we would not have had an ancient literary context in which to interpret these remarkable mathematical texts from Qumran.

Helen R. Jacobus is Honorary Research Associate in the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University College London. She has recently published Zodiac Calendars in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Their Reception: Ancient Astronomy and Astrology in Early Judaism (Leiden: Brill)

September 14, 2016
by Fehmida
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A Brief History of Sumerology

By: Erika Marsal

Sumerian is the language of ancient Sumer, that is, southern Mesopotamia, during the third millennium BCE. But what is Sumerian, really? A short glance at any modern Sumerian grammar comes across as a never-ending list of scholars proposing a succession of mismatched interpretations of the difficult parts of that especially difficult language, which to this day remains unrelated to any other known language.

The study of the Sumerian language and, specially, the correct interpretation of the Sumerian verbal morphemes, (the smallest grammatical units in a language) has been subject of long debate. Understanding Sumer and its literature means first looking at the history of Sumerology, to identify what we do and don’t know about this language of the third and second millennium BCE.

Map of the ancient Near East.

Map of the ancient Near East.

In order to reconstruct this most arcane of academic disciplines we must go back to the 18th century, when the cuneiform script of Mesopotamia was still being deciphered. Just as the Rosetta Stone did with the Egyptian hieroglyphs, the monumental trilingual inscriptions of the Persian king Darius the Great at Behistun in Iran provided early Ancient Near East specialists the opportunity to finally understand cuneiform writing.

The inscription at Behistun.

The inscription at Behistun.

The inscription provided the same royal text in three languages, Old Persian, Elamite, and the Babylonian version of Akkadian, all of which used similar versions of the cuneiform script. Between 1835 and 1844, the great Orientalist and East India Company officer Henry Rawlinson (1810–1895) carefully studied and edited the Old Persian version of the text, while the philologist Edwin Norris (1795–1872) did the same with the Elamite version. Finally in 1851, along with other scholars such as Edward Hincks (1792–1866) and Jules Oppert (1825–1905), Rawlinson accomplished the transliteration and translation of the Babylonian portion of the text.


Henry Rawlinson

Henry Rawlinson

Archibald Sayce

Archibald Sayce


The analysis of the cuneiform script, however, continued and Hincks began to question whether the Semitic-speaking people of Babylonia were the true inventors of this writing system. In 1855, Rawlinson published an article in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society reporting the discovery of non-Semitic inscriptions on bricks and tablets from sites in southern Babylonia. Only months later, Hincks achieved a triumph in recognizing an unknown language and correctly establishing that it was agglutinative in character, where words are composed of elements linked together in a chain of suffixes and infixes that are used to indicate tenses, cases, or numbers. The decipherment of the newly discovered language was the beginning of a new and challenging (if still unnamed) enterprise, Sumerology.

Regular progress in describing the new language was made during the following years. In 1869, Oppert suggested calling the new language as “Sumerian”, based on some inscriptions that used the title “King of Sumer and Akkad.” In 1871 Archibald H. Sayce (1846–1933) presented a primary approach to the grammar of the language in his groundbreaking article “On an Accadian Seal,” which began with the memorable sentence “The cuneiform records have disclosed to us a new language.” Sayce’s study added new sign values and philological observations.


Jules Oppert

Jules Oppert

6

The royal title “king of Sumer and Akkad” highlighted in a stamped inscription of the Ur III king Ur-Nammu. Musée du Louvre, Paris.


Systematic study of this new language then progressed rapidly. The German scholar Paul Haupt (1858–1926) published his “Grundzüge der akkadischen Grammatik” in 1882 and correctly established the existence of two Sumerian dialects: eme-gîr (the standard variety) and eme-sal (mainly used by female characters in literary texts). Although these first analyses successfully comprehended the basics of the Sumerian language, the boundaries between Sumerian and its contemporary Semitic neighbour, the Akkadian language, were not yet clearly established. Indeed, Oppert’s suggestion to name the new language Sumerian was not accepted until much later and Sumerian still continued to be called “Akkadian” for many years. 

In the following decades, the British Museum acquired a large and important collection of cuneiform tablets from Mesopotamia. The French-born scholar George Bertin (1848–1891) undertook an extensive study of Sumerian grammar in several articles, of which the most important was his “Sumero-Akkadian Grammar” (1888). Bertin was one of the first scholars to describe a recognizably grammar of this language, explaining some peculiarities of Sumerian…

With the beginning of the 20th century, the number of articles and findings related to Sumerian language rapidly increased. In 1911, Stephen Langdon published a leading scientific monograph dedicated to Sumerian grammar, and in 1914, Friedrich Delitzsch followed with his own monograph on the topic, the Grundzüge der sumerischen Grammatik.

A hand-copy of the Babylonian “flood” cuneiform text by A. Poebel.

A hand-copy of the Babylonian “flood” cuneiform text by A. Poebel.

Delitzsch’s grammatical ideas and description of verbal prefixes provided the foundation for the pioneer analysis later developed by his pupil Arno Poebel (1881–1958). Poebel’s main work, Grundzüge der Sumerischen grammatik (1923), which had the same title as that of Delitzsch’s, can be considered the foundation of modern Sumerology.

But in August 1914, the First World War broke out in Europe. The conflict occupied the major imperial powers and national budgets were accordingly adjusted. Excavations in the Near East were suspended and many archaeologists returned home. Some young scholars were called to arms or simply drafted from their respective occupations into other government institutions. The development of Sumerian studies was severely hampered during these years.

After the First World War, Anton Deimel (1865–1954), who was professor at the Pontifical Institute in Rome, began collecting materials for his main work, the Sumerisches Lexikon, which is still today the only complete published dictionary of Sumerian language. His work was presented in 1959 and spanned nine volumes. Deimel also published the second edition of his Sumerian grammar, the Sumerische Grammatik (1939).

Also during these years, in 1932, Viktor Christian (1885–1963), who like Poebel, had studied under Delitzsch, incorporated some notions of the still new science of Linguistics into the study of the Sumerian language. In his work Beiträge zur sumerischen Grammatik (1957), Christian classified Sumerian among the so-called ergative languages (where, unlike Indo-European languages, the subject of the intransitive sentences is marked the same way as the object of the transitive sentences) and clarified the particular behaviour of Sumerian subject and object marks. Christian’s intuition was, however, not immediately appreciated and it was not until 1967, with the great Russian scholar Igor Diakonoff (1914–1999), that the ergative pattern in Sumerian began to be seriously considered.

After the Second World War the study of Sumerian continued rapidly, permitting a deeper view into Sumerian literature and history. In 1949 the German Assyriologist Adam Falkenstein (1906–1966) published his Grammatik der Sprache Gudeas. Taking the grammar from Poebel as a basis, Falkenstein made important advances on Sumerian grammar and literature. In addition, Falkenstein adopted an innovative methodology, limiting his research to a corpus of contemporary documents, specifically the Ur III period of the late third millennium BCE and its inscriptions, instead of analysing the whole Sumerian language at once.

Second edition of Falkenstein's grammar.

Second edition of Falkenstein’s grammar.

During the 1980’s, parallel with the new publications of an increasing number of Sumerian literary texts, the Danish scholar Marie-Louise Thomsen attempted a modernization of Falkenstein’s work. The impact of linguistics has also been increasingly valuable for Sumerology and some important grammars are still bringing new and profitable observations to the field.

But a complete understanding of the Sumerian language is still an exciting and unfinished task. Understanding the language itself is critical to addressing the question of whether ‘Sumerians’ were actually an ethnic group, and how the language went from a living, spoken language during the third millennium BCE to a purely written one in later millennia, used for administration, literature, and liturgy. The mysteries of Sumer are thus tied directly to those of Sumerian and its grammar.

Erika Marsal is a doctoral candidate at the Institut für Orientalistik at the University of Vienna.

September 14, 2016
by Fehmida
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Who are the Sea Peoples?

Who are the Sea Peoples and what role did they play in the devastation of civilizations that occurred shortly after 1200 BCE?

By: Eric Cline

The simple answer is that there is no simple answer. It remains an archaeological mystery that is the subject of much debate even today, more than 150 years after the discussions first began. But it’s a fascinating story with lots of twists and turns, right up to the present day.

It begins with the early French Egyptologist Gaston Maspero, who suggested in the 1860s and 1870s that a group of marauding invaders whom he called the Sea Peoples were responsible for bringing the Late Bronze Age to an end shortly after 1200 BCE. He based this on a number of Egyptian inscriptions, especially those on the walls of Medinet Habu, the mortuary temple of Ramses III, which is near the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.

Ramses III fighting the Sea Peoples at Medinet Habu. (Wikimedia Commons)

Ramses III fighting the Sea Peoples at Medinet Habu. (Wikimedia Commons)

By about 1900, this hypothesis had become so solidified that Egyptologists and other archaeologists essentially took it as a fact, even though there was no real proof that’s what had happened. At the time, even the mere existence of the Sea Peoples was only documented in the records left by Ramses III and by Merneptah, who ruled 30 years earlier. Each claimed to have fought against an invasion of these Sea Peoples. Merneptah said it happened in the fifth year of his reign, which would be about 1207 BCE, while Ramses III said he fought both a land and a naval battle against them in his eighth year, which would be about 1177 BCE.

In both cases the Egyptians won. Merneptah says that the invaders whom he defeated included the Shardana, Shekelesh, Lukka, Teresh, and Ekwesh, while Ramses III says that the invaders in his time were the Shardana, Shekelesh, Tjekker, Denyen, Weshesh, and Peleset. So, there were five groups the first time and six groups the second time, with two of the groups overlapping, for a total of nine groups.

Captured Sea People from Medinet Habu. (Wikimedia Commons)

Captured Sea People from Medinet Habu. (Wikimedia Commons)

Shardana bodyguards of Ramses II from Abu Simbel. (Wikimedia Commons)

Shardana bodyguards of Ramses II from Abu Simbel. (Wikimedia Commons)

So, we know who the Sea Peoples are, but in name only. Where did they come from? And where did they go after they lost? Answering the second question is easier, if we believe the Egyptian records, because Ramses III says that he settled the survivors in his strongholds in Egypt. There are also indications that some settled in what is now Israel, for the Tale of Wenamun from a century or so later describes the site of Dor as being a Sikel (probably Shekelesh or Tjekker) city, and the Peleset are usually identified by scholars as the Philistines, whom the Bible tells us, and archaeology confirms, were also resident in what is now Israel.

As for where they came from, the early Egyptologists were split in their opinion as to whether the Sea Peoples had come from the west, i.e., Italy, Sicily, and Sardinia, and traveled east, or whether they were from the Eastern Mediterranean and had fled west after being defeated by the Egyptians. Even today we still play linguistic games with the names of the individual groups whom the Egyptian pharaohs mentioned. Most (although not all) scholars would now argue that the Sea Peoples began their migration from the Western Mediterranean, and that there is a linguistic link between the Shardana and Sardinia as well as the Shekelesh and Sicily. However, when they headed east and overran various countries and areas, others joined in along the way, so that the Denyen and Ekwesh might be from the Aegean (Homer’s Danaans and Achaeans), the Lukka are almost certainly from Lycia in southwestern Turkey, and so on.

Satellite view of the Eastern Mediterranean. (Free Bible Images)

Satellite view of the Eastern Mediterranean. (Free Bible Images)

If that thinking is correct, then the two waves of Sea Peoples that crashed upon the shores of Egypt thirty years apart were composed of a motley crew from many different areas of both the western and eastern Mediterranean plus the Aegean and perhaps Cyprus as well. But all of that, plain and simple, is still just a hypothesis, for there are no other texts or even archaeological evidence at the moment to confirm the entire story.

What we have instead are bits and pieces of the puzzle, such as the fact that the Shardana (also called the Sherden) appear in Egyptian texts and inscriptions already a century or more earlier, fighting as mercenaries both for and against the Egyptian army. Individual texts from places such as Ugarit in north Syria report unnamed invaders and foreign ships, as well as famine in the Hittite lands. We also have sites destroyed during this time, but it’s not always clear who or what did it and why – perhaps foreign invaders; perhaps an uprising by the local populace; perhaps an earthquake. It can be difficult, and sometimes impossible, to tell what caused the destruction of a site, especially if no weapons (such as arrowheads, swords, or spear tips) or bodies are found in the rubble.

However, speaking of bodies, our most promising lead was just announced a few weeks ago, for a probable Philistine cemetery has been discovered at the site of Ashkelon in Israel. Hopefully various analyses can be conducted on the numerous skeletons that were recovered, including DNA that might allow us to figure out where the buried people came from and to whom they are related, and strontium isotope (from their teeth) that could tell us where they grew up. But, the cemetery reportedly dates from at least a century after the initial invasions during the time of Merneptah and Ramses III, so these are not the remains of the original Sea Peoples, but rather their descendants who settled in the area. Thus, DNA analyses will probably tell us more about them than strontium isotope will, since it is probably a given that these burials are of people who grew up in the local area, even if their ancestors came from the Aegean or the Western Mediterranean.

Aerial view of Ashkelon.

Aerial view of Ashkelon.

As for what role the Sea Peoples actually played in the destruction of civilizations around 1200 BCE and shortly thereafter, I personally think that they have been set up as a scapegoat, because of the Egyptian inscriptions, and that they were as much victims as oppressors. I doubt that they were responsible for all of the destructions that we blame on them and I think that they are only one of the many factors that together contributed to a “perfect storm” that ended the Bronze Age. These stressors, as they are sometimes called, probably also included drought, famine, earthquakes, and possible internal rebellions in addition to external invaders, all of which combined to cause a systems collapse. However, since I have gone on too long already, I will just refer you to the opening and closing chapters of my recent book 1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed (Princeton University Press, 2014), where I go through some of these possibilities. I will warn you, though, that there is not yet a smoking gun, nor one single cause, that we can point to as responsible for the collapse of civilizations just after 1200 BCE. It remains one of the most interesting mysteries of ancient history.

Eric Cline is Professor of Classics and Anthropology at The George Washington University.

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September 10, 2016
by Fehmida
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Origins of Islamic Taweez or Talisman

There are many similiarities with the the origins of the taweez, it’s usage and the association between the practices between the Islamic tradition of taweez and that of Judo – Christian and Babylonian amulets.

The term ‘Islamic talisman’ is not strictly true as there is no basis for amulets is Islam. Rather it is something that was established from later practitoners who emulated other religions and civilisations or a continuation of  their former beliefs before Islam. For the purpose of this article the term Islamic taweez refers to Muslims who practiced this science.

Many people from the Muslim world still use Taweez (Talisman) in the form of writings either based on the Qur’an, the names of Allah, Quranic narratives such as the sleepers in the cave, angels, prophets  and saints and astrological signs or symbols.

The Taweez is worn by some Muslims, amongst them some Sufis and Shias and also some Sunni Muslims. They believe it removes the wearer of any evil or affliction put on them through black magic, keep them safe and also bring good luck. As such it is intended to be an amulet.

Some Sunni scholars make a distinction between taweez that contain permissible verses of the Quran and the taweez that contain anything else or any other type of invocation.

However, the majority of Sunni Scholars hold that this is impermissible and an act of polytheism as it places the trust and belief in an object rather than invoking God Himself.

Practices of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

The usage of Taweez, that is written words placed on the body, was not something known to be practiced by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). What was practiced by him was the recitation of the Quran for curing ailments and protection. Some of the oral traditions (hadith) of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) specified how he used the recitation of the Quran for protection:

Anas (May Allah be pleased with him) said: “When you recite Surah Al-Fatihah and Surah Al-Ikhlas upon lying on your bed, you will be safeguarded and should become fearless of everything except death.”[Narrated by Baraa, Tafseer Mazhari 1:31]

“Whenever the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) would become ill, he would recite the Mu’awwizat (Surah al-Falaq & Surah an-Nas) and blow over himself. When his illness was aggravated, I used to recite these two Surahs (and blow my breath) over him and make him rub his body with his own hand, for its blessings.” [Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 4728]

“Abu Saeed al-Khudri said: “The Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.S.) used to seek refuge with Allah from the jinn and from the evil eye until the Mu’wadaitain (two last ‘Qul’ surahs) were revealed, and when they were revealed he started to recite them and not anything else” (narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 2058; he said it is hasan ghareeb. Also narrated by al-Nasaa’i, 5494; Ibn Maajah, 3511).

 

Majority of the contemporary books on Islamic taweez are largely based on the works of Ahmed ‘Al -Buni’ (622 -1225 A.D) a Sufi and writer on the esoteric value of letters and topics relating to mathematics, sihr (sorcery) and spirituality. He wrote one of the most famous books of his era, the Shams al-Ma’arif al-Kubra (Sun of the Great Knowledge) which is one of the most widely read medieval treatises on talismans, magic squares and occult practices. His works have been translated to urdu and Farsi and form the bases of most modern taweez’s today.

The ‘Seven Seals’ in taweez

Below in fig.1 is a contemporary Taweez used by the standard taweez maker. The taweez is given to the wearer for protection and to cure ailments. It is thought to work by invoking and seeking help from the names of whoever is written on it. The text is in Arabic and contains the names of four archangels in the four corners of the square. The inner corners of the square contains the names of the four caliphs of Islam Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali.

Inside each triangle are symbols, sometimes known as the ‘Seal of Solomon’, or the ‘seven seals’, allegedly attributed to Ali ibn Talib, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) according to Shia and Sufi mystical Islam. The seven Seals represent in graphic form the Great Name of God. They feature prominently in Islamic mysticism, magic texts and talismans.1  Al Buni popularised the seven seals in the Shams al-Ma’arif where he described their meaning and usage.

The seven seals are also known in Judaism. Dating back to at least the 13th century CE. 2 In the Jewish Kabbalah, the seven seals bear individual Divine Names which collectively form a “Great Name.”

Fig.1 Contemporary talisman

Fig.1 Contemporary talisman

 

 

 

 

Fig.2

Fig 2. we see here the seals (a) Islamic 8 and 7 symbol form and (b) the Jewish seven seals. 3

 

The Jewish and Islamic seals also have wider dual associations. Each Seal also maps directly to one of the seven classical planets, and hence to a day of the week, angels, divine names and jinni.

fig-3

Fig.3

Fig 3 Shows the similarities of two Jewish and Islamic talismans (a) from a manuscript copy of Fatḥ al-Malik al-Majīd, a work by Aḥmad al-Dayrabī (d.1738/9CE) and (b) Table from Shōshān Yesōd ha-ʾŌlām, Bibliothèque de Genève(BGE) 4

 

Fig.4

Fig.4

Fig 4 Talismanic design from an Ottoman Turkish Sufi journal from the library of the Mevlana Sufi lodge at Ayazma, Istanbul, written in the late nineteenth century CE.

Fig.5

Fig.5

Fig 5 Early Kufic talisman symbols attributed to the Islamic era (640-1510 CE) 5

 

 

 

 

Fig.6

Fig.6

Possible origins of these symbols may lie in the late Babylonian period. See fig 6 interesting similarities appear in this Babylonian/Neo-Assyrian black stone amulet (6-10th century BCE) which commences with “seven signs repeated seven times,” accompanied by a Sumerian inscription intended to protect against ghost. The seven symbols here may relate to the seven gods or seven demons of Mesopotamian religion, both of which were invoked in magical spells. 6

 

Fig.7

Fig.7

Fig. 7 This Babylonian amulet to ward off a demon, on red jasper, Babylonia, 1000-600 BC has some familiar seal symbols from Judo –Islamic seals 7

 

Invoking of the angels in taweez.

In Fig.1 the contemporary Islamic taweez has the names of angels, Jibreel, Mikaeel, Israfeel and Azra’il on each corner of the square in Arabic. The invoking of angels are a recurrent theme used in ancient books and medieval manuscripts and grimoires throughout history.

Mystical writings, especially Kabbalah had a strong influence with regards to the development of talismans; using the name of God and angels which were often codified for practical use.

Fig.8

Fig.8

Eleazar Rokeach, a leading Talmudist and mystic, wrote a significant book, the Sefer Raziel Fig.8 of the uses of talismans in 1230, (printed format in 1701) which included a detailed list of angels to be used. The  Sefer Raziel, A Jewish mystical text supposedly given to Noah by the angel Raziel, and passed down throughout Biblical history to Solomon. It is split into seven sections, not including a preface, which mirror the seven days of creation and the seven heavens. Each section contains a list of angels and spells that can be used in a talisman. 8 The Jewish saint Rabbi Haim David Azulai (1724 – 1807) constructed talismans using Kabbalistic knowledge. He wrote extensively on the use of angels in his talismans.

 

Fig.9

Fig.9

Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa (1486-1535) is the most influential writer of Renaissance esoterica, and indeed all of Western occultism relies heavily on the usage of angels. Fig.9  and dealt with Elemental, Celestial, and Intellectual magic.

 

 

Fig.10

Fig.10

 

Fig.10a

Fig.10a

Another book that confirms the conjuring of  angels is the ‘Heptameron’ written by Pietro d’Abano (1257– 1316) an Italian philosopher, astrologer and professor of medicine, who died in prison during the Inquisition on claims of heresy and atheism. The Heptameron is a concise book of ritual magical rites concerned with conjuring specific angels for the seven days of the week. Fig.10 is page from ‘The Heptameron.’ The text is a manual of planetary magic. It details the rites for summoning angels for each of the seven days of the week.  Fig.10a depicts The Angel of the day, his Sigil, Planet, the Signe of the Planet, and name of the first heaven.

 

John Dee (13 July 1527 – 1608 or 1609) was an English mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, occult philosopher, and advisor to Queen Elizabeth I. He devoted much time and effort in the last thirty years or so of his life to attempting to commune with angels.

 

The use of Astrology in Taweez

Going back to the seven seals in fig.1 which has a strong link with astrology. Astrology is widely used in the so called Islamic taweez, however its presence dates back since the earliest civilisations, in particular the  Sumerians, Egyptians and Babylonians. The Sumerian astrology tablets are the first historical record of astrology and the oldest astrological documents. They named many of the constellations and defined the nature of numerous bodies in the solar system. This was followed on to the Babylonian astrologers who may have brought it to the Western Hellenistic world. Most of western astrology stems from here. Ptolemy, a Greco-Egyptian  mathematician, astronomer, and astrologer, studied astrology at Alexandria during the 2nd century CE. Ptolemy contributed to astrology as a compiler of existing astrological Greek, Babylonian, and Egyptian works in his ‘Tetrabiblos’ (meaning four volumes) which is a source of reference for modern astrologers today.

 

 

Fig.11

Fig.11

Fig.11 is the from the Enuma Anu Enlil is a series of about 70 tablets dealing with Babylonian astrology. These accounts were found in the early 19th century by excavation in Nineveh, near present day Bagdad. The bulk of the work is a substantial collection of omens, estimated to number between 6500 and 7000, which interpret a wide variety of celestial and atmospheric phenomena in terms relevant to the king and state. The tablets presumably date back to about 650 BC, but several of the omens may be as old as 1646 BC. Magic was an integral part of everyday life in Babylon and the whole Mesopotamian region. The concept of the gods and the stars were inseparable. Incantations were connected to the invocation of the gods who were equated to star constellations observed in the night sky, the planets, or the sun and moon, similiar to the modern taweez which uses names of God, angels and other beings.

The modern taweez maker will adhere to planetary hours and days. The hour and day chosen depending upon the purpose of the talisman. They will be familiar with symbolisms connected to all the different planetary and elemental forces. They will make the taweez strictly according to the timing and design principles laid out in traditional sources like Cornelius Agrippa’s ‘Three Books of Occult Philosophy’, The ‘Picatrix’, Thabit Ibn Qurra’s ‘De Imaginibus’ and Al Buni’s  ‘Shams al-Ma’arif.’ The so called Muslim taweez maker uses a system called Ilm al Hiqmah. Fig.12 depicts  the angels and thier corresponding planets, signs, days, colour and metal. The same method is used in Kabbalistic and other mystical doctrines.

 

Fig.12

 

Fig.13 Wiki Commons

Fig.13 depicts a table of associations between letters, the mansions of the moon, the constellations of the standard Zodiac, and the seasons, from the Al Buni’s  ‘Shams al-Ma’ārif’. This book remains the seminal work on esoteric occult arts to this day. Al-Buni also made regular mention in his work of Plato, Aristotle, Hermes, Alexander the Great, and  Chaldean magicians.

 

Islam, does not condone the practice of the use of talismans or taweez. All the elements within the taweez such as astrology, invoking of angels and other beings are influences that come from sources other than Islam. With the advent of Islam these practices were outlawed as they could not sit well with mainstream Monothiesm, being the polar opposite of putting one’s faith in One God. However, these practices  crept in, in the later period when schisms came about and different groups formed. As Islam grew, some travelled in search of new ideas, as well as pre-Islamic ideas of early Christian mystics of Syria and Egypt, to the Essenes, the ancient Pythagorean orders, Jewish Kabbala, the Egyptians, Zoroastrians, and Babylonians, among others.

 

 

Bibliography

1 “The Decipherment of Arabic Talismans,” In: Magic and Divination in Early Islam, Emilie Savage-Smith, Ashgate Variorum, Aldershot.

2, Gabriella Samuel, 2007, “The Seven Mystical Seals,” In: The Kabbalah Handbook, Tarcher/Penguin,

New York/London, p.301

3,5, 6 https://www.academia.edu/1509428/The_Seven_Seals_of_Judeo-Islamic_Magic_Possible_Origins_of_the_Symbols

4 https://www.scribd.com/doc/205732399/A-Comparison-of-the-Seven-Seals-in-Islamic-Esotericism-and-Jewish-Kabbalah

7 http://www.schoyencollection.com/magical-literature-introduction/babylonian-magic/ritual-against-demon-lamashtu-ms-2779

8 Living Entities of Power By Nick Farrell

9 Rasmussen, E.A. 2010. Vejret gennem 5000 år (Weather through 5000 years). Meteorologiens historie. Aarhus Universitetsforlag,Århus, Denmark, 367 pp, ISBN 978 87 7934 300 9.

Reading

A comparison of the Seven Seals in Islamic esotericism and Jewish Kabbalah by Lloyd D. Graham

Magic and Divination in Early Islam, Emilie Savage-Smith

Wallis Budge ‘Amulets and Superstitions’ Oxford University Press 1930

 

 

 

 

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