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The Inscribed Pomegranate from the "House of the Lord"

Author(s): Nahman Avigad

Source: The Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. 53, No. 3 (Sep., 1990), pp. 157-166
Published by: The American Schools of Oriental Research
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The nscYedPmegrna


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Previouspage: The thumb-sizedpomegranatecarvedin ivory and bearingan ancient Hebrew
inscription was acquired by the IsraelMuseum with the help of an anonymous donor in 1988.
Mentioned several times in the Bible, the pomegranate(rimmonin Hebrew)was a popular
fertility symbol in ancient times. The shape of this pomegranaterepresentsthe fruit in its
blossom stage of growth, a form less frequently depicted in ancient art than the globular body
of the ripepomegranatewith its crown of short petals. Dated by its inscription to the eighth
centuryB.C.E.,this pomegranateis believed to be associated with the temple built by King
Solomon. Unless otherwise noted, all illustrations in this article are used courtesy of the
Israel Museum.

heIsrael recentlyworkman who discoveredit and sold This cross section shows the actual size of
made an outstanding ac- it to an antiquities dealer.It could the pomegranate.The body is solid but has a
hole cut into its bottom, which was probably
quisition- a thumb-sized also be either an accidental find or where a rod, stick, or shaft was inserted.
pomegranatecarvedin the booty from an illegal dig. Drawing by Florica Vainer.
ivory and bearing an ancient Hebrew When, in 1979, the Frenchbibli-
inscription. It is believed to be the cal scholar Andr6Lemairevisited an
only archaeologicalfind known so antique shop in the Old City of Jeru- tom and a narrow,tall neck. This
farwhich, in all probability,can be salem, he was given the opportunity "neck"terminates in the form of six
associated with the Temple in Jeru- to examine an ancient inscribed lengthy petals, two of them broken.
salem built by King Solomon. No ivory object in the shape of a pome- The shape of the pomegranaterepre-
wonder,then, that this acquisition granate.Lemaire,being familiar sents the fruit in its blossom stage of
has stirredpublic interest and gained with Hebrew palaeography,recog- growth. This form is less frequently
worldwide publicity. nized the significance of the inscrip- depicted in ancient art than the
At the same time, queries have tion. He took photographsof the globularbody of the ripepomegranate
been raised,orally and in newspapers, object and published the result of with its crown of short petals.
regardingthe authenticity of the his investigation, first in a scholarly The total height of the pome-
pomegranateor that of its inscrip- journal' and then in a populararchae- granateis 43 millimeters (1.68
tion. These doubts derive primarily ological magazine3. inches), and the diameter of the body
from lack of sufficient information, The object later was purchased is 21 millimeters (0.83 of an inch).
notwithstanding the initial publica- in Jerusalemby an unknown person The body is solid but has a hole cut
tion of the object. It is therefore who took it out of the country il- into its bottom, which is 6.5 milli-
essential to comment on this impor- legally. In 1988 it was offeredanony- meters in diameter and 15 milli-
tant find in a professional journal mously for sale and subsequently ac- meters deep. This hole most proba-
in orderto providethe public with quiredand brought back home to bly served to insert a rod, stick, or
additional data and to further a Jerusalemby the Israel Museum, shaft. Around the shoulder of the
scholarly discussion on this fas- with the generous help of an anony- object is incised an inscription in
cinating subject. mous donor from Basel, Switzer- palaeo-Hebrewcharacters.A con-
land. Hence this unique relic was siderablepart of the body is broken
The Recent History redeemed and returnedto its place off, obliterating about one-thirdof
of the Pomegranate of origin. the inscription.
The exact provenanceof the ivory
pomegranateis unknown. Although Description of the Pomegranate The Inscription
not found officially in a controlled The shape of the pomegranateis The inscription is carefully engraved
excavation, it may yet have come reminiscent of a very small, grace- aroundthe shoulder of the body in
from such an excavation conducted fully designed vase with a rounded small but very clear letters. The
in Jerusalem,possibly stolen by the body taperingtowardsits flat bot- preservedpart of the inscription was

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Numerous pomegranateshave been found at other kinds have been found at exca- market"for a low price, as happened
excavation sites, but none inscribed. Above
vations, but none of them were in- before the pomegranatereached the
left: The inscription is engravedaround the
scribed. The inscription gives rise to
shoulder of the body in small but very clear market in Switzerland.
the study of a new subject in biblical
letters. Above center: A considerableportion In addition to the evidence of
of the body is brokenoff,however,obliterating
archaeologywhich, if correctly inter- the patina, I would like to point out
about one-thirdof the inscription. This has
led some scholars to doubt the restoration preted, is associated with the First another distinctive feature which
proposedby Andre Lemaire.Above right: Temple of Jerusalem.After the Israel testifies to the antiquity of the in-
Magnification of the damaged part of the Museum'sacquisition of the pome- scription. The edges of severalof the
inscription shows the uppertwo tips of the letters' lines are not sharp as they
granatewe were able to reexamine
letter taw (see arrow),the addition of which
lends substantial weight to the suggested the inscription and to elaborateon would be in new incisions, but rather
restorationof the inscription. this subject. rounded and worn, merging with the
First of all we must establish surface of the object. This is the re-
the authenticity of the inscription. sult of long wear.Another case in
decipheredby Lemaireas follows: Once this is proven,the genuineness point is the broken surface of the ob-
lby[ ...]hiqd' khnm. From the yod of the pomegranateitself becomes ject, which extends to its entire width,
only the lower horizontal stroke re- self-evident. Lemaire,awareof the and bears distinct signs of forcible
mained, and from the he survived but problem, had the inscription ex- destruction and of havingbeen buried
the upper horizontal stroke. Lemaire amined under a microscope. He in the soil for many years.
proposedthe restoration of the re- found that traces of the ancient Furthermore,a palaeographic
maining letters and read the complete patina, which coveredthe surface of examination of the inscription leaves
legend as follows: lbl[t yhw]h qdcs the pomegranate,could also be seen no doubt whatsoever concerning its
khnm: "Belongingto the Tem[ple in the incisions of the letters. This is genuineness. The script shows cor-
of the Lor]d(Yahweh),holy to the a recognized proof for the antiquity rect forms, well executed by a skilled
priests."Dating the inscription on of such an inscription. The exami- engraverwho was familiar with
palaeographicgrounds to the late nation was repeatedlater in the Hebrew writing. He succeeded in his
eighth century B.C.E., Lemaire ad- chemistry laboratoryof the Israel task despite the difficulty of engrav-
vanced the hypothesis that the Museum, to the same effect. ing in such a small scale upon the
pomegranate had been used by the One might claim that forgers uneven and rounded surface of the
priests in the service of the Temple would be able to produce an artifi- pomegranate'sshoulder.
of Jerusalem. cial patina with chemical means. Lemairecomparedthe script
This may be true, but no forgerin his with that of the Siloam tunnel in-
Discussion right mind would deliberately break scription and dated it accordingly to
The most important and enlighten- such an "attractiveproduct"and sell the late eighth century B.C.E. Actually
ing aspect of the pomegranate is the defective artifact,with the most the pomegranateinscription is not
undoubtedly inscription. Quite a important part of its inscription of the elegant formal cursive script
number of pomegranatesof this and missing, on the Jerusalem"flea which characterizesthe Siloam in-

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scription. It divergesfrom the latter ters iby. The addition of this letter of Yahweh.The phrase qd' khnm, to
in various aspects, such as the form lends substantial weight to the sug- be pronounced qode' kohanim, has
of the letters dalet, he, and, especial- gested restoration of the inscription. met with much reservationand de-
ly, mem, with its irregularw-shaped The word byt having been serves a short comment. Qode',
head. Moreover,our inscription established, the restoration of the meaning "holiness,"designates a
looks generally more archaic. Con- thing set apartfor worship;conse-
sequently, I am inclined to join crated to the Lord;sacreddonation
FrankMoore Cross in dating it to for priests. Thus, for instance, the
the mid-eighth century B.C.E. contents of the bowls inscribed with
It is of interest to compare the the word qd' found in severalex-
word qd' with the same word incised cavations (see above)were dedicated
on three contemporaneousbowls to priests or sanctuaries. Qode'
and found in the excavations at kohanim is but a regularshortened
and Arad.6The form of such phrases as: "andthis
Hazor,4 Beersheba,s
script is extremely similar in all shall be a sacreddonation for the
cases. The first two inscriptions are priests"9(Numbers 6:20) or "the
assigned to the second half of the sacred products from the land shall
eighth century B.C.E.; the third is be for the priests"(Ezekiel 45:6).
unstratified. The word khn (kohen) Compare similar formations such
was also found on two Hebrew seals, as: "thingssacred to the Lord"
probablydating to the second half of
the eighth century B.C.E7
8 (Malachi2:11)and "thethings that
David has consecrated"(1Kings 15:5;
As mentioned above,Lemaire Above:Drawing of the inscription, with 1 Chronicles 5:1).
missing letters restored,as it would appear
proposeda restoration of the broken around the shoulder of the pomegranate. Accordingly,in our case, qd'
part of the inscription by reading Below: Whenthe suggestedorderof the khnm should be translated"sacred
lby[t yhw]h: "Belongingto the restoredinscription is reversedit translates donation for the priests."We should
as: "Sacreddonation for the priests of (in) the
Temple of the Lord."If correct, then House of Yahweh."It stands to reason that
thus regardthe pomegranateas a
this restoredpart corroboratesthe the "Houseof Yahweh"("Houseof the Lord" donation, an offering, to be used by
interpretationof the inscription as in the English Bible) most probablyrefersto the priests during their service in
the Templeof Jerusalem.
associating the pomegranatewith the Temple. With this in mind, we

the Temple. next word as yhwh becomes the are inclined to reversethe previously
However,Lemaireprovidedno more plausible. No other name of a suggested orderof the legend and
graphicevidence, nor a detailed pre- deity ending with he except yhwh is read:"Sacreddonation for the priests
sentation of his arguments to prove in place here. This accepted, there of (in)the House of Yahweh."The
the credibility of this restoration. seems to be no other possible read- vacant space,which afterthis amend-
Although the proposedrestoration ing than lbyit[yhw]h qd' khnm. The ment is located in the middle of the
convinced some scholars, it left inscription runs in a continuous inscription and not at its beginning,
others in doubt and impelled them circular line with irregularintervals may be explained by a miscalculation
to look for an alternative text. Our between the individual letters and of space on the part of the engraver,
examination of the original inscrip- without separationmarks between or else by a need to skip a defect on
tion not only confirmed the proposed the words.The proposedbeginning the ivory surface, on the assumption
reading,but also addednew evidence of the inscription with the wordlbyt that it is indeed an old defect. Such a
to its validity. Wewere able to dis- is based on the vacant space behind change of the syntax would facilitate
cern traces of the last letter of the this word. the interpretationof the legend.
wordibyt, which Lemairehad ap- In biblical Hebrew,the lamed Inview of certain linguistic pecu-
parently overlooked.As can be seen preceding a noun without a verb liarities in the Bible text, the expres-
on the photograph,the upper two means "of,""belongingto."8Hence sion ibyt yhwh in this context may
tips of the x-formedletter taw are lbyt yhwh at the beginning of a sen- eventually be translated:"inthe
clearly visible at the left of the let- tence means: Belonging to the House House of Yahweh";comparehkhnym

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Thejuicypomegranate, a popularsymbolof
fertility,waswidelyusedas a symbolicand
decorative motifin the sacredandsecularart
of variousculturesin the ancientNearEast.

However,all these temples were Our revised definition of the

of an early date and precededthe inscription as a dedicatorytext is
Templeof Jerusalem.After Solomon's preferableto its interpretationas
Temple had become the central place designating ownership. It seems un-
of worship, no mention was made in likely that the Temple authorities
the Bible of any other temple, except would have taken the trouble of
that of Bethel, the main temple of marking so laboriously the Temple's
the Northern Kingdom of Israel and ownership on such a tiny and humble
rival sanctuary to the Temple of Jeru- object, which at that time was not
salem; it is called "King'ssanctuary" allotted any particularsignificance.
(Amos 7:13). Still it was important enough to serve
As for shrines or sanctuaries as a donation on behalf of an anony-
which continued to operateunlaw- mous donor.
fully, these could hardlybe expected How then, was our pomegranate
to be referredto as "Houseof Yahweh." used in the Temple?Does the Bible
The word qd' (qode', meaning "holiness") They were finally destroyedduring referto the use of such objects by
carvedon the pomegranateis very similar to King Josiah's reform in 622 B.C.E.The the priests? Does archaeologicalevi-
the same word incised on three contempora-
neous bowls found at Hazor (a), Beersheba only archaeologicalremains of what dence provide any information in
(b),and Arad (c). The word khn (kohen, seems to be an Israelite temple dat- this respect?A short comparative
meaning "priest"),also engravedon the ing to the monarchic period have study of the extant material may
pomegranate,has been found on two Hebrew been uncoveredat Arad."This reveal some important data relevant
seals (d and e), probably dating to the second temple
half of the eighth century B.C.E. Among the is not mentioned in the Bible, how- to our subject.
many ostraca discoveredin the fortressof ever.Among the many ostraca dis- The juicy pomegranatefruit
Arad is a letter addressed to Elyashib in of Arad is a with its multitudinous seeds was a
which he is informed by the words byt yhwh covered in the fortress
(f)about a certain person who "sitsin the letter addressedto Elyashib in which popular symbol of fertility from the
House of Yahweh." he is informed about a certain person earliest times.13It was widely used
who "sitsin the House of Yahweh."12 as a symbolic and decorative motif
It is generally believed that this in sacred and secular art of various
letter was written in Jerusalemand cultures throughout the ancient
'r ibyt yhwh: "thepriests which that the term "House of Yahweh" Near East. The pomegranate(rim-
were in the House of the Lord" refersto the Temple in Jerusalem mon in Hebrew)is frequently men-
(Zachariah7:3). and not to the shrine at Arad,for tioned in the Bible and is counted
A few remarks on the term two reasons: 1)Aradwas the place of among the seven kinds of fruit with
"House of Yahweh"are in place here. destination of the letter; thus the which the country is blessed: "For
The question has been raised wheth- person and the temple must have the Lordyour God is bringing you
er the term "House of Yahweh"or, been outside of Arad;2) When the into a good land - a land of wheat
as renderedin the English Bible, letter was written (late seventh or and barley,of vines, figs and pome-
"Houseof the Lord,"refers in our in- early sixth century), the shrine at granates,a land of olive oil and of
scription to the Temple in Jerusalem Aradno longer existed, as it had honey" (Deuteronomy 8:7-8). The
as claimed, or ratherto one of the apparentlybeen destroyedduring rimmon became a favorite symbolic
shrines-sanctuariesoutside of Jeru- Josiah'sreform. motif in Jewish art from its earliest
salem. Our knowledge about these It is beyond the scope of this beginnings down to modern times.
temples is very limited. The Bible article to discuss the term "House In the sphere of art, ancient Is-
contains only indirect references to of Yahweh"in greaterdetail, but rael was directly influenced by her
their existence, as in Shiloh, Hebron, considering the above arguments it Canaanite-Phoenician neighbors. In
Bethlehem, Mizpah, and others.1' stands to reason that the pomegran- Israel, we meet the pomegranate
Some of them are referredto as ate inscription indeed refers specifi- motif first of all in the Temple of
"Houseof Yahweh"or "Houseof God." cally to the Temple of Jerusalem. Solomon. The Bible describes the

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The rimmon was a favoritesymbolic motif
in Jewish art from its beginnings,and in this
sphere ancient Israel was directly influenced
by her Canaanite-Phoenicianneighbors.Far
left: This bronzecultic tripodfrom Ugarit,
which dates to the thirteenth century B.C.E.,
has a chain of pendants shaped like pome-
granates. The Bible describes chains formed
by hundreds of rimmonim that decorated the
capitals of the two bronzecolumns, Yakhin
and Boaz, in front of the entrance to the Jeru-
salem Temple.The Phoenicians helped build
Solomon'sTempleand may have introduced
this style of decoration to Jerusalem.Left:
These two pendants fromMegiddo,dating to
the eighth century B.C.E.,are the same kind
as the earlierpomegranate-shapedpendants
from Ugarit. They also resemble the blossom
shape of the ivory pomegranatenow in the

chains formed by hundreds of rim- personally by the priest during some frequently as a decorative motif on
monim which decoratedthe capitals ritual act performedin the Temple; Hebrew seals of the eighth-seventh
of the two bronze columns, Yakhin otherwise it would not be termed century B.C.E.Of a much later date is
and Boaz, in front of the entrance to qode' kohanim. As the Bible refers the cluster of pomegranatesthat
the Temple (1 Kings 7:42;Jeremiah neither to such a ritual object nor to adorns the Jewishsheqel coins of
52:23;2 Chronicles 3:16). such a ceremony,we must depend the first century C.E.
This arrangementof pomegran- on external evidence. The closest and most significant
ates recalls the chains of pendants in The very use of pomegranate- parallel to our pomegranatecomes
the form of pomegranateswhich shaped objects for cultic purposes is fromthe Britishexcavationat Lachish
surrounda Canaanite bronze cultic attested to by a number of clay vessels conducted in the 1930s.16In a Ca-
tripod from Ugarit, dating to the in the form of globularpomegranates naanite temple dating to the thir-
thirteenth century B.C.E.14We may which were found in various excava- teenth century B.C.E.,many cultic
assume that the Phoenicians who tions of sites in Israel dating to the vessels and ritual artifacts were
helped in building Solomon'sTemple tenth-eighth century B.C.E. They are uncovered.Among them were two
introduced this style of decoration either individual vessels or attached ivory "scepters."7Each of these con-
in Jerusalem.It is of interest to find to a bowl or to a kernos (a hollow sists of a pomegranate-shapedhead
two isolated bronze pendants in ring base on which are mounted mounted on a rod, 23 centimeters
Israelite Megiddo (eighth century pomegranatesand other objects be- (9.5 inches) long. One of the heads is
B.C.E.)of exactly the same kind as in lieved to have been used for libation). very similar both in shape and size
Ugarit.'sMoreover,they closely re- The pomegranatealso appearsquite to our pomegranate;the other is
semble the blossom shape of our
ivory pomegranate.
The Bible also describes the
robe of the High Priest, which was
embellished all along its hem with
purple pomegranatesand golden
bells (Exodus28:33-34). It makes no
other mention of pomegranatesin .

connection with priests which

would attest to the purpose of our WW
pomegranate.Divergent suggestions
have been made in this respect: 1)It
served as the head of the "scepter"
used by the High Priest; 2) It was no
more than a decorativepiece on an
altar,or a finial on a throne, a cultic
box, or the like.
I am inclined to subscribe to the Above left: Thepomegranateappearedas a decorativemotif on Hebrew seals of the eighth-
first alternative.Accordingto our seventh century B.C.E., as seen here.Above right: Of a much later date is the cluster of
interpretationof the inscription, the pomegranatesadorningthis Jewish sheqel coin of the first centuryc.E. The inscription reads
said object must have been used "Jerusalemthe Holy"

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Below, far left: The closest parallels to the pomegranatenow in the Israel Museum are these
two ivory "scepters" uncoveredat Lachishin a Canaanite temple dating to the thirteenthcentury
B.C.E.Each "scepter" consists of a pomegranate-shapedhead mounted on a rod 23 centimeters
long. The one to the left is verysimilar in shape and size to the pomegranatein the Israel
Museum, whereas the one on the right is rounderand somewhat smaller. The function of
these "scepters" is unknown, but the fact that such artifacts were used in a temple helps verify
the origin of the pomegranatein the Israel Museum and indicates that it was probablypart of
such a "scepter." Photographcourtesy of the IsraelAntiquities Authority. These other three
"scepters"were found in tombs also dating to the thirteenth centuryB.C.E. on Cyprus.Below
center:Tvo ivory pins with heads in the shape of a pomegranatewere found in a tomb at
Enkomi. They are the same length as those discoveredat Lachish, and their shape is very
similar to the pomegranatein the Israel Museum. Below, far right: This ivory "scepter" from
Kition is more globular shaped.

rounder and somewhat smaller. The

function served by these "scepters"is
unknown, but the very fact that
such artifacts were used in a temple
is of the greatest importance for our
attempt to verify the origin of the
pomegranatenow in the Israel Mu-
seum, its original shape, and pre-
sumed function. With the evidence
at Lachish, we may be sure that such
objects were used in temples and
that our pomegranatewas part of
such a "scepter." We are still left in
the dark concerning its purpose,
It appearsthat these pomegranate-
headed "scepters"are not as rareas
one would expect, although ours
remains the largest and most grace-
ful among those unearthed so far.In
Cyprus a number of such "scepters"
were found in tombs dating also to
the thirteenth century B.C.E. Their
function is unknown. They are al-
ternately termed spindles, pins for
fastening the dress, and the like.
Especially noteworthy are "twoivory
pins with heads in shape of a pome-
granate"which were found in Tomb3
at Enkomi.'8They are of the same
length as those discoveredat Lachish,
while their shape is similar to that
of our pomegranate.Other speci-
mens, such as that from Kition, are
globular shaped.
Three ivory pomegranates,two
of them attached to rods, were dis-
coveredin a Phoenician tomb at
Akhziv north of Akko.19They are ap-
proximately contemporaneous with
our pomegranate (eighth century

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Thereis as yet no evidence that
these pomegranate-shaped"scepters"
were actually used as scepters,and
some certainly were not. It is im-
portant, therefore,to point out this
rareexample of a pomegranate-
headed scepterdepicted in the
decoration on an Etruscanmirror
dating to around 300 B.C.E. This
long scepter,topped with a round
pomegranate,is held by Aphrodite
(fromMuthmann1982:45, figure32).
Although of classic ratherthan
Near Easternorigin, and of a late
date, this scepter testifies to the use
of pomegranate-headedsceptersin
ancient times (see note 17).

B.C.E.).A single "scepter,"smaller in

size and made of bone, was uncovered
in the excavations at Tel Serain the
northwesternNegev,20dating to the
late seventh-early sixth century B.C.E.
We thus witness the continuation of
a long tradition.
However,the most significant
find of this kind after that of Lachish
was made quite recently in a tomb at
TelNami on the coast south of Haifa.2
There a skeleton was discoveredwith
two pomegranate-headed"scepters"
placed on top of it. Made of bronze,
they measure approximately30 cen-
timeters (circa 12 inches) in length.
In the same tomb, which dates
to the thirteenth century B.C.E.,was
found a group of exquisite incense
vessels of bronze. The excavator,
Michal Artzy of Haifa University,
suggested that the person interredin
this tomb was a priest and that the
tomb deposits representcultic imple-
ments used by him when perform-
ing his office.
This find from TelNami, indicat-

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viewthattheinscribed pomegranatewaspart
of a pomegranate-headed usedby
thepriestsin the serviceof theTemple.
ingthatthepomegranate-headed "scep-
ters"hadprobably belongedto apriest,
supplementsthe findfromLachish,
which, as we saw,atteststo their
beingusedin a temple.In combina-
tion, the two findsconfirmthe sug-
gestedinterpretation of ourinscribed
pomegranate, namely:1)that it was
of a
part pomegranate-headed "scep-
ter";2)thatit wasdestinedforpriests;
and3) that it was usedin a temple.
Whatis still left openis the
questionof how andwhen this scep-
terwasusedin the Temple.It stands
to reasonthat it servedthe priests
duringsomekindof ceremonywhich
tookplacein the Temple.The Bible,
however,makesno mentionof any
suchritualceremoniesor of the use
of such symbolic"scepters" in the
Temple Jerusalem.
Nonetheless,we must allowfor
the possibilitythat certaincultic
ritesperformedin the Templemay
haveincludedsome ceremonialcus-
toms of marginalsignificanceand
the use of auxiliarycultic utensils
in the Bible.Take,forinstance,the
offeringof the firstfruits- a major
eventin the cult of the Temple.The
Biblerelatesverylittle aboutthe
ceremonieswhich wereperformed
duringthese offerings,whereasthe
the festivecelebrationswhich took
placeduringthis event.Theyincluded
processionsof officiantfruitbearers
proceedingto the Templeaccom-
paniedby music, songs,andprayers
until the basketscontainingthe first
Other ancient Near Easternpeoples apparentlyused the pomegranatein their religious cere-
monies, as evidenced by these Assyrian wall reliefs from palaces dating to the ninth-eighth fruitswerehandedoverto the priests.
century B.C.E.Opposite page: The offeringbearerdepicted in this relief from Nimrud, now in The choiceof the firstfruitbelonged
The British Museum, holds a kid to be offeredup on his left arm and carries a stalk with to the priests (Ezekiel 4:30).
pomegranatesin his right hand. Above:In this relief from Khorsabad,now in the Louvrein
Paris,the leading offeringbearerholds a goat on his left arm and carries a stalk with a lotus Here we suggest an imaginary
blossom in his right hand. Both the pomegranateand the lotus had a symbolic significance, scenario in which the priest, receiv-
perhaps comparable to that of the ivory pomegranate"scepter" in the Israel Museum.
ing baskets containing three kinds of

Biblical Archaeologist, September 1990 165

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fruit - grapes, figs, and pomegran- suggestions may shed additional Fosse Temple(OxfordUniversity Press,
ates - and putting them on the altar, light on this intriguing ivory pome- 1940),p. 62, pl. XX:25,26.
performed some kind of ritual act granatewhose inscription invests it '7The term "scepter"is arbitraryin
with supreme significance. this context, and the objects are not
during which he made use of a sym-
bolic pomegranate-headed "scepter," identified as such by the excavators.It is
used here as a terminus technicus and
such as the one discussed here. Notes does not attest a priori to the object's
We may, perhaps, find support This article is an adaptedreprintfrom function. So far there is no evidence that
for such an assumption in the cus- the Israel Museum Journal(VolumeVIII, objects of this specific kind were indeed
toms of other ancient peoples. Of 1989:7-16). The article and all illustra- used as scepters,and some of them cer-
special interest are the sacral scenes tions are published courtesy of the Israel tainly were not. The example cited by
depicted on the Assyrian wall reliefs Museum Journal. Lemaireof an Assyrianking holding such
of the ninth-eighth century B.C.E. 'A. Lemaire,"Une inscription paleo- a scepter is vague and unconvincing.
palaces of Nimrud, Nineveh, and hebraiquesur grenadeen ivoire,"Revue Lookingfor parallels among Assyrian
Khorsabad. Some of these reliefs de- Biblique 88 (1981),pp. 236-239. reliefs one should not be misled by the
pict processions of offering bearers 2Ibid."ProbableHead of Priestly globularhead of the royalmace held by
with branches of pomegranates in ScepterFromSolomon'sTemple Surfaces Assyriankings as a symbol of their sov-
in Jerusalem,"Biblical Archaeology ereignty (see J.B. Pritchard,The Ancient
their hands?2 They are described as Review 10 (1984),pp. 24-29; see also H. Near East in Pictures Relating to the
representing divinities, priests, and Shanks,"Pomegranate,Sole Relic From Old Testament [Princeton, 1954],nos.
worshipers. One of the leading fig- Solomon'sTemple,Smuggledout of Israel, 442, 576). It is thereforeof special inter-
ures carries a kid to be offered up in Now Recovered," Moment, The Magazine est to point out a very rareexample of a
one hand and holds a stalk with of Jewish Culture and Opinion 13 (1988), pomegranatescepter depicted on an
pomegranates in the other. A second pp. 36-43. Etruscan mirror of circa 300 B.C.E.This
figure carries a goat and holds a stalk 3ApudLemaire(above,n. 2) p. 29, box. long scepter is toppedwith a round
with lotus blossom. Both pomegran- 4Y. Yadinet al., Hazor III-V (Jeru- pomegranateand held by Aphrodite
ate and lotus here have a symbolic salem, 1961),pls. CCCLVII:4; CCCLVIII:4. (Muthmann[above,n. 13],p. 45, fig. 32;
significance, just as that which we 5Y.Aharoni, ed., Beer Sheba, I (Tel with referenceto E. Gerhard,Etruskische
Aviv 1973),p. 73, pls. 42:4;69:2. SpiegelI, 2 [1845],Taf.181).This example,
would like to ascribe to our pome-
6Y.Aharoni,Arad Inscriptions (Jeru- albeit late in date and of classic rather
granate "scepter." salem, 1988),inscription no. 104. than Near Easternorigin, testifies to the
7N. Avigad,"ThePriest of Dor,"Israel use of pomegranate-headedscepters in
Conclusions ExplorationJournal25 (1975),p. 101, ancient times.
Our conclusions on the subject are pl. 10:D;J.Elayi, "Lesceau de pretre '8E. Gjerstadet al., The Swedish
of two kinds - definitive and ten- Hanan, fils de Hilqiyahu,"Semitica 36 CyprusExpedition, II, Plates, pl.
tative. I am fully convinced of the (1986),p. 45. LXXVIII:240, 241; idem, IV,Part 1D,L.
genuineness of the ivory pomegran- 8y. Yadin,"AFurtherNote on the and P.Astr6m, The Late CyprioteBronze
ate, the authenticity of its inscrip- Lamed in the SamariaOstraca,"Israel Age, pp. 550, 610, fig. 74:14;on specimen
tion, and its use in a sacred service of ExplorationJournal18 (1968),pp. 50-51. from Kition, see H. G. Buchholz and V.
the priests in the Temple of Yahweh. 9Translation:The Jewish Publica- Karageorghis,PrehistoricGreece and
tion Society of America. Cyprus(New York, 1973),p. 479:1746.
To this effect the epigraphicalevi-
10M.Haran,Templesand Temple- 19Unpublished,courtesy of
dence alone, in my opinion, is abso- Service in Ancient Israel (Oxford,1978). M. Prausnitz.
lutely convincing. It is also supported 11Y.Aharoni,"TheIsraelite Sanc-
to some extent by archaeologicalevi- 20Unpublished,courtesy of E. Oren.
tuary at Arad,"New Directions in Bibli- 21I am gratefulto Michal Artzy for
dence. The Temple of Yahwehwas cal Archaeology,ed. D. N. Freedmanand an informativediscussion and for her
most probablythat of Jerusalem. J.C. Greenfield (GardenCity, New York, permission to make mention of the yet
These conclusions determine the 1969),pp. 25-39. unpublished material.
historical, religious, and cultural 12Y. Aharoni (above,n. 6), inscrip- 22EncyclopidiePhotographiquede
importance of our pomegranate. tion no. 18. l'Art, L'artMesopotamie ancienne au
I am less certain about the sec- 3F.Muthmann, Der Granatapfel, Musdedu Louvre,V (Paris,1936),p. 307;
ondary issue, namely, how exactly Symbol des Lebens in der alten Weit R. D. Barnettand M. Falkner,The Sculp-
the object was used. My assumptions, (Bern,1982). tures of Tiglath Pileser III (745-727 B.C.)
14E A. Schaeffer,"LesFouilles de
raised above, are based on what ap- (London,1962),pls. CXXVI-CXXVII;
Minet el-Beidaet de Ras Shamra,"Syria E. A. W.Budge,Assyrian Sculpturesin
pears to be relevant comparative 10 (1929),p1.60:1. the British Museum (London,1914),
material. No decisive evidence is 15Y.Yadin,Hazor:The Rediscovery p1.48:78.
available to date from which to draw ofa Great Citadel of the Bible (New York:
final conclusions on this particular RandomHouse, 1975),p. 224 (bottom).
point, however. Future finds or new 160. Tufnell et al., Lachish II, The

166 Biblical Archaeologist, September 1990

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