Thursday, January 17, 2008

Seal From First Temple Discovered in Jerusalem


While the Palestinian Arabs continue to deny Jewish historical ties to Jerusalem and the Land of Israel, the ground continues to offer testimony to refute them, and testify as well to the accuracy of the Bible. This week Israeli archaelogist Dr. Eilat Mazar announced the discovery of a stone seal from the First Temple, bearing the name of a family of servants in the Temple, Temah, which the Book of Nehemiah (7:6-7, 55) identifies as among the people that went into captivity in Babylon following the destruction of the Temple, and later returned to the Land of Israel with Nehemiah and Zerubbabel. According to the Book of Nehemiah:

"These are the inhabitants of the province that went up out of the capitivity of those that had beencarried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, had carried away, and that returned to Jerusalem and to Judah, every one to his city. ...The Nephidim: ... the descendents of Temah."

The seal, shown at left, shows two bearded priests worshipping at an incense altar. Above them is a crescent moon, which Dr. Mazar described as a symbol of the Babylonian god Sin. The presence of an idolotrous symbol on a seal from the first Temple should not surprise us; after all, the Bible tells us that the destruction of the First Temple and the Babylonian exile were punishment for idol worship by the Children of Israel.

Indeed, based on my own limited amateur research, I might offer a competing explanation of the crescent moon above the altar on the seal. The family of Temah is named among a group of families who were servants in the Temple, called the Nethinim. According to this entry in Wickipedia, the Talmud speaks very disparagingly of the Nethinim, forbidding their marriage with the general Jewish population, and classifying them with the offspring of adulterous relationships (mamzerim). At least one modern scholar, Joseph Jacobs, has explained this attitude by suggesting that the Nethinim were the descendents of the Kedishoth, women (and ritual prostitutes) dedicated to the worship of the goddess Astarte, whom the rulers of Israel shamefully and sinfully permitted to practice their idolotrous worship in the Temple before the Babylonian Exile. According to Wickipedia, "There is evidence of these practices from the time of Solomon (1 Kings xi. 5) down to Josiah (2 Kings xiii. 4-6), and even as late as Ezekiel (Ezek. xxiii. 36-48)." Keep in mind that the seal of the family of Temah dates to before the Babylonian exile, when this Astarte worship would have been rampant. (Apparently the Nethinim cleaned up their act by the time that they returned with Nehemiah from Babylon.) Moreover, according to Wickipedia, Astarte was a lunar goddess. Hence the Temah family seal may have been advertising their idolotrous allegiance.

Of course, the Palestinians will claim that the presence of the lunar crescent proves that the Temah family was Moslem, even if they lived 1000 years before Mohammed.

1 Comments:

Blogger Fe2O3 said...

Personally I like your explanation better than the official one. Your "amateur research" could qualify as a "letter to the editor" in BAR. (Biblical Archaeology Review for those that don't subscribe.) I'm sure they'll cover the story in a bit more detail in a future issue.

Thursday, January 17, 2008 8:47:00 PM  

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