The Jerusalem Pomegranate (2 Chronicles 4)

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A thumb-sized chunk of ivory in the shape of a pomegranate may be the only archaeological find recovered from Solomon’s temple. This graceful, six-petaled blossom is engraved with the words “Belonging to the temple of the Lord, holy to the priests.” Based upon the shape of the Hebrew letters in the inscription, the artefact was initially dated to the eighth century B.C., although that date is now in dispute. Investigators for the Israel Antiquities Authority have reassessed the artefact and concluded that although the object itself dates to about 1400 B.C. (consisting earlier than the age of Solomon), the inscription is a recent forgery. The body of the pomegranate has a hole on the bottom in which a rod might have been inserted to form a sceptre.

Two ivory sceptres dating to the thirteenth century B.C. have been excavated in a Canaanite temple in Lachish, each topped with a miniature pomegranate. This implies that the pomegranate was a ritual object used regularly by priests in the ancient Near East, although its use specifically by priests in the Jerusalem temple is now open to question.

Ancient art made rich use of the pomegranate as a decorative motif. In a religious vein, this fruit was used by the Israelites as a sign of fertility of the promised land under the blessing of God (Numbers 13:23, Deuteronomy 8:8). Chains of pomegranates graced the capitals of the twin bronze pillars flanking the entrance of Israel’s temple (2 Chronicles 4:13). They also adorned the hem of the high priestly robes as embroidered blossoms of blue, purple and scarlet alternating with golden bells (Exodus 28:33).


 

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