BIBLE HISTORY DAILY

Facing the Facts about the “Face of God”

A Critical Response to Yosef Garfinkel

In the most recent issue of BAR, Yosef Garfinkel claimed that an anthropomorphic (human-shaped) clay head from Khirbet Qeiyafa, two similar clay heads and two horse figurines from Tel Moẓa, and two anthropomorphic vessels from the Dayan Collection should be viewed as a new type of male figurine from the early Iron Age II (tenth–ninth centuries B.C.E.).1 He interprets three of these figures as representing a rider and a horse. He also suggests that the Hebrew Bible sometimes depicts Yhwh as a rider on a horse and, consequently, declares that the clay heads from Qeiyafa and Moẓa form a unique iconographic type of figurine that represents a male god, possibly Yhwh.

This figurine comes from Khirbet Qeiyafa. Measuring about 2 inches (5 cm) tall, it depicts a male figure with prominent eyes, ears, and a nose, as well as a flat top ringed by holes. Yet it has no chin or beard. Photo: Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority.

Unfortunately, his argument is riddled with inaccuracies, and his methodology disregards available evidence on ancient coroplastic (terracotta) art and the study of religion in ancient Israel. We reject Garfinkel’s presentation of the figurative clay artifacts, his interpretative framework, and the alleged metaphor of Yhwh as a seated horseman.

 

Presentation of Figurines

Garfinkel’s iconographic and typological discussion is based on the grouping of seven clay artifacts: an anthropomorphic head from Khirbet Qeiyafa, two anthropomorphic heads and two horse figurines from Tel Moẓa, and two unprovenanced vessels from the Dayan Collection which originated in the antiquities market—a Philistine-type strainer jug, and a rider-and-horse-shaped vessel. He asserts that the four items from Moẓa represent only two artifacts, arguing that each of the two separate heads should be paired with a horse. Yet Garfinkel overlooks their obvious typological, stylistic, and technological differences, all of which negate such a grouping. Further, the rudimentary, schematic representation of the horse-and-rider pottery vessel, which was fashioned as a single, inseparable dispenser of liquids, is markedly different than the detailed facial features of the Moẓa and Qeiyafa anthropomorphic heads and elaborate trappings and harness of the Moẓa horse figurines.

Tel Moẓa figurine heads

These two heads come from Tel Moẓa. While Yosef Garfinkel argues that these heads and the Qeiyafa head are uncommonly large and constitute a unique typology dating to the tenth century B.C.E., the authors of this article highlight the average scale of the Moẓa heads and the similarities between the three heads and other anthropomorphic figures in the region, in regard to production techniques and features (i.e., puncturing, round headdress, prominent pellet eyes, ears, and nose). The Moẓa heads, each measuring about 1 inch (2.8 and 3.4 cm) tall, have pronounced chins (one punctured to simulate a beard), eyes, ears, and noses, and wear round headdresses above styled hair locks. Photos: Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority.

The figurines from Moẓa form the backbone of Garfinkel’s identification of the items as depictions of a deity. Since the Moẓa objects were found in a clear cultic context, their intrinsic religious nature and significance are unquestionable. But in the absence of any divine markers and given their similarity to clay figures throughout the region, they cannot be assumed to depict gods.

The four Moẓa figurines were hand modeled out of local Moẓa marl clay. One human head is about 1.1 inches high and 1 inch wide, while the other is about 1.3 inches high and 1.1 inches wide. They are fashioned “in the round” out of a solid piece of clay. Clay appliqués were attached to form the hair, a round headdress with raised edges, and prominent facial features, including a nose with punctured nostrils, ears, pellet eyes punctured in the center to simulate the pupil, and a pointed chin. One of the heads has puncturing on the chin that simulates a beard and indicates its male gender; the other does not. Close inspection of their backs indicates that the heads were free-standing figures and probably originally belonged to figurines. Perhaps one was even the rider mounted on the larger horse figurine. However, they may as well have been attached to a vessel or another object, such as a clay stand or shrine model (e.g., see the shrine model from Tel Rehov).

Tel Moẓa horse

This figurine represents a horse. It comes from the courtyard of the Moẓa temple and dates to the late tenth or early ninth century B.C.E. It measures about 6 inches (15 cm) in length. It was harnessed: It has the feet and left leg of the rider still attached. While its body is hollow, its head and limbs are solid. Photo: Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority.

The Moẓa zoomorphic figurines depict harnessed horses with similar incised mouths and punctured pellet eyes and nostrils, but the two differ in size, detail, and production. The large figurine (about 5 in high and 6 in long) is meticulously fashioned, and its somewhat realistic details include trappings and the feet and left leg of a rider, whose body is not preserved; the rider may be represented by one of the anthropomorphic heads, but this cannot be proved. While the horse’s body is hollow, its head and limbs are solid. The smaller figurine (about 1.4 in high and 3 in long) is completely solid and crafted in a more schematic and rudimentary form, depicting remains of a pack or rider on the back of the horse and blinders flanking the eyes

Garfinkel disregards typological, technological, iconographic, and contextual discussion of the figurines from Moẓa and their interregional context.2 He also ignores other early Iron Age artifacts that share stylistic characteristics with the Moẓa and Qeiyafa artifacts. Anthropomorphic figurines, for example, are known from Ashdod along the coast and Tel Kinrot on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, while horse heads discovered at Tell el-Far‘ah North (biblical Tirzah) in the central highlands and at Tel Rehov in the Jordan Valley exhibit the same puncturing technique, facial features, headdress (for the anthropomorphic figures) and trappings (for the horses). These provide significantly better parallels for both the Moẓa and Qeiyafa figurines than the unprovenanced vessels.3

Two_horse_scultptures

Hence, the similarities in the headdress, eyes, and puncturing technique, exhibited in the human heads from Moẓa and Qeiyafa do not distinguish them as members of a special group. In fact, the opposite is true—the large size and atypical facial proportions of the Qeiyafa head distinguish it from the other figurines of the period, including from the Moẓa heads.

Ashdod head

This anthropomorphic figurine head from Ashdod in ancient Philistia dates to the mid-11th–mid-10th centuries B.C.E. With puncturing on the chin (to simulate a beard), it serves as a good parallel for the figurine heads from Tel Moẓa and Qeiyafa. Photo: Meidad Suchowolski, Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

As for the significance of horses and riders, horses are the most common type of animal represented in coroplastic art during the Iron Age (c. 1200–586 B.C.E.), and horse figurines appear in increasing numbers, along with horse-shaped vessels, throughout the tenth–ninth centuries B.C.E., primarily in the Kingdom of Israel. Their appearance has been linked to the emerging importance of cavalry and horse-driven chariots across the ancient Near East.4 Horse figurines, schematically rendered and at times mounted by a rider, become ubiquitous in the southern Levant from the eighth century B.C.E., and in Judah they appear in masses.5

In his presentation and interpretation of the finds from Qeiyafa, Moẓa and the antiquities market, Garfinkel makes several false arguments:

(1) He claims that the horses from Moẓa are hollow, akin to pottery vessels, and, along with the human heads from Moẓa and Qeiyafa, are typologically, stylistically, and technologically similar to the two vessels from the antiquities market.

However, apart from the body of the larger figurine, the horse figurines from Moẓa are not hollow, and they are not vessels. The disproportionate ratio of the small horse figurine compared to the human heads precludes the possibility that one of the human heads could have been its rider. These four figurine fragments from Moẓa, therefore, do not represent two horse-and-rider figurines.

Kinrot head

This anthropomorphic figurine head from Tel Kinrot in the Galilee dates to the mid-11th–mid-10th centuries B.C.E. With puncturing on the hairline (or headdress), it also serves as a good parallel for the figurine heads from Tel Moẓa and Qeiyafa. Photo: Lukas Butscher, Courtesy of Kinneret Regional Project.

(2) He argues that the head from Qeiyafa, the figurines from Moẓa, and the two vessels from the antiquities market form a new type of male figurine, with three representing a rider on a horse.

Garfinkel’s grouping ignores the typological, stylistic, and technological dissimilarity among the artifacts and simultaneously overlooks all of the contemporary parallels that do exhibit common traits. Additionally, the Qeiyafa head does not have a beard or any other clear gender marker, and its widening neck has led even Garfinkel to note that it may not have been a figurine, and could just as well have been attached to a pottery vessel. This would, of course, render the identification of the head as a rider on a horse impossible.

(3) Finally, Garfinkel argues that the Qeiyafa and Moẓa heads are remarkable in their large size—compared to anthropomorphic figurines dated from prehistoric times to the Iron Age—and in their emphasized and well-modeled facial elements (eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and beard), and that the same iconographic approach is seen in the two vessels from the Dayan Collection. He connects these attributes to the biblical expression “before the Lord,” reading it as “face of Yhwh,” which he believes might relate to a pilgrimage experience of seeing an actual statue or figure at a cult center.

This argument rests on a mistake in Garfinkel’s drawing of the Moẓa anthropomorphic heads.6 He based his drawings on the published photographs of the items, and, apart from the inherent inaccuracies stemming from drawing artifacts from a photo alone, they depict an erroneous scale for the anthropomorphic heads from Moẓa. In other words, while the Qeiyafa head is larger than average, the Moẓa heads are not, and their facial features are not unique and appear on figures throughout the region. These facial features do not, however, appear on the rider and horse of the vessel from the antiquities market, and yet Garfinkel still includes the vessel in support of his argument.

In short, there is no reason—based on similarity, date, or findspot—to single out the anthropomorphic figures from Moẓa, Qeiyafa, and the antiquities market as unique or as belonging to a single, special class.

 

Interpretative Framework

Anthropomorphic and zoomorphic clay figures of the tenth–ninth centuries B.C.E. exhibit distinctive features that disappear in the mass-produced assemblages of the eighth–sixth centuries B.C.E., and they deserve special and detailed consideration. The main methodological transgression in Garfinkel’s article is the nearly complete disregard of current scholarship on clay figurines and coroplastic art from the ancient Levant and beyond. Although past mainstream interpretation considered anthropomorphic clay figurines as representations of deities, recent scholarship shows that while some clay figurines could represent deities, most served other purposes, such as votive offerings placed by worshippers or charms utilized in rituals.7 Recent research has amassed considerable evidence to prove, for example, that not every naked female figure is a fertility goddess (let alone God’s wife),8 and that while some zoomorphic figures might depict divine attributes, others were most probably used for mundane purposes.

Garfinkel ignores these developments and interprets the objects relying on outdated scholarship and an unsupported assertion. To support the novelty of his claim, he notes a biblical tradition in which Yhwh is portrayed as riding on a horse. Yet there are several issues regarding his interpretative framework of linking uninscribed clay artifacts with written sources.

If the mere association of an anthropomorphic figure with a horse is enough to identify it as divine, then several questions arise:

(1) Since the large horse figurine from Moẓa clearly had a rider that was perhaps represented by one of the human heads, what purpose does the unprovenanced horse-and-rider vessel presented by Garfinkel serve in this discussion?

(2) If the anthropomorphic figures on the unprovenanced strainer jar and the unprovenanced horse-and-rider vessel represent the same type of “new male figurine” as the items from Qeiyafa and Moẓa, why are they not all identified as gods? After all, the horse-and-rider vessel actually depicts a rider, while the Qeiyafa head does not. By Garfinkel’s logic, the unprovenanced objects should depict Yhwh as well.

(3) Furthermore, since the anthropomorphic figure on the unprovenanced strainer jar is part of Garfinkel’s new unique group, despite being neither a figurine nor a rider or even clearly male, should all depictions of anthropomorphic figures with prominent ears, nose, and punctured eyes be identified as gods?

According to Garfinkel’s methodology, shouldn’t all Iron Age horse riders be identified as divine representations, and perhaps depictions of Yhwh, whether figurines or vessels and regardless of their divergent iconography and lack of divine symbols? In fact, by association, shouldn’t all male anthropomorphic heads, even without any associated horse, such as the head from Qeiyafa, be identified as divine representations?

Garfinkel further claims that the physical depiction of Yhwh ceased in the eighth century B.C.E., “because these figurines, resembling the literature of ancient Canaan and Israel, have been discovered in contexts dating to the tenth and ninth centuries B.C.E., but not in the eighth century.” This statement is patently incorrect, since the eighth century is precisely the period in which horse-and-rider figurines become ubiquitous in Judah and throughout the ancient Near East and eastern Aegean.9 If we were to extrapolate from Garfinkel’s suggested new typology, which includes the schematic horse-and-rider vessel from the antiquities market, then there are dozens of horse-and-rider figurines that could be identified as Yhwh from the eighth–sixth centuries B.C.E.10 This is highly unlikely.

Although we cannot rule out the possibility that the anthropomorphic heads from Moẓa and Qeiyafa depicted gods, methodological considerations have hindered the identification of uninscribed clay figures as divine.11 In the absence of identifying inscriptions on clay figurines, scholars have to rely on attributes and visual codes, such as horns, crescents, and bulls, which might point to the divine character of the depicted. In our case, these are absent.

The only putative divine attribute Garfinkel identifies is horse riding, and this leads him to identify the anthropomorphic figures with Yhwh. Yet when ancient Near Eastern gods were depicted with attribute animals, such as Ba‘al with his bull or Ishtar with her lion, they typically did not sit on them. They usually stood on them like throne pedestals or held the animals with their hands, like the mistress of lions on the Ta‘anach cult stand.

In the ancient Near East, male gods depicted on horses are always standing (e.g., Ba‘al and possibly Reshef, a Canaanite deity of plague and war). The notable exception of a seated deity is the Late Bronze Age depiction of a female goddess on horseback in Egyptian stele, ostraca, and glyptic imagery.12 At times standing and at times seated on a throne atop a horse, the divine identification of the goddess is based on defining features, such as the Egyptian double or atef crown, horns, armor, and a smiting position, as well as (in some cases) an accompanying inscription that identifies the goddess as Astarte.

 

Alleged Biblical Metaphor

Furthermore, the biblical texts Garfinkel cites do not support his case. He is correct to say that Yhwh is depicted, like the Canaanite god Ba‘al, as a “cloud rider,” even sharing the same epithet, as many scholars have noted. The entire point of this epithet, for Ba‘al and for Yhwh, is that the cloud (or clouds) is conceived as his chariot. Neither god is ever mounted on his own horse. In fact, storm gods of the ancient Near East were commonly depicted as riding chariots pulled by lion-dragons, bulls, and horses.13

Yet not one of his cited biblical texts supports the idea of Yhwh as a mounted horseman, and while citing most of the verses containing the Hebrew verb rākab (רכב), meaning “to ride [a horse],” he conveniently ignores 2 Samuel 22:11 and Psalm 18:11, where it says Yhwh “rode on his cherub and flew.” Recall that cherubim are winged beings (see Exodus 25:20). Meanwhile, Deuteronomy 33:26 speaks of God (El, not Yhwh) “riding the heavens for your help, the clouds in his majesty.” The Hebrew verb rkb implies that the heavens or clouds are El’s chariot, and the psalm depicts the clouds as El’s vehicle; this is important.

Second Kings 2:11–12, the famous narrative of Elijah’s wondrous departure, specifically says Elijah was taken up in a fiery chariot (rekev; Hebrew: רכב) pulled by fiery horses. Yhwh is not seen by Elisha, but the implication is that the chariot and horses are registered in his name. Garfinkel also cites Psalm 45:3–4, but this famously difficult text almost certainly refers to the human king, not God (called Elohim in this psalm), when it says, “Gird your sword … Ride on in the cause of Truth” (NJPS). And even here, the psalm envisions the king “riding” his war chariot (from which he fires arrows at his enemies in v. 6). Isaiah 19:1 specifies that “Yhwh is riding upon a swift cloud,” where the cloud again is the analogue of the royal war chariot. The exact same point is made in Psalm 68:4, where God is called “rider of the clouds.” After citing these texts, Garfinkel writes, “some biblical traditions, then, describe Yhwh as a rider on the sky or clouds.” Actually, they all do.

So, how can Garfinkel accomplish the feat of getting Yhwh out of his chariot—or off his cloud—and mounting him on an actual horse? To move from Yhwh as chariot or cloud rider to Yhwh as mounted horseman, Garfinkel claims that “some texts [plural] present a new development in which he is riding on a horse.” But this is an interpretive sleight of hand. Garfinkel cites exactly one text, Habakkuk 3:8, and claims that it depicts Yhwh himself riding a horse. This is patently incorrect, as the entire history of scholarship on this text makes clear.

In this poem, dated by many scholars to the early monarchy, and so earlier than the eighth century, Yhwh is depicted as a Divine Warrior going into battle, flanked by his allies.14 In the decisive verse 8, the poet says of Yhwh, “You drove your horses, your chariots, to victory” against the cosmic foes, Sea and River. The Hebrew phrase, tirkab ‘al sûsêkā (תרכב על–סוסיך), does not mean “you rode upon your horses,” but rather “you drove your horses and chariots.”15 The verb for “driving,” again, is rkb and is used here for driving a chariot and its horses (or a cloud by analogy), possibly at the head of a brigade.

Like the king in Psalm 45, Yhwh also fires his bow from his chariot (Habakkuk 3:11). Since the “Sea” (Yamm), is one of Yhwh’s enemies, the poet declares further, “You make your horses [note the plural] tread the sea” (v. 15). These are, of course, his chariot horses. The same idea and identical phrases also appear in Psalm 77:19 where God, mounted on his celestial chariot (“your thunder rumbled like wheels”), fires his arrows (v. 18) and treads upon the sea.

In Habakkuk, therefore, just as in all the other examples, Yhwh drives (rkb) his war chariot, which is powered by his several war horses. Yhwh never rides atop his own horse. And in case there was any doubt, earlier in Habakkuk, the prophet expressly uses the terminology for a mounted horseman: parash (1:8). It is not used of Yhwh, but of Chaldean cavalrymen.

Garfinkel argues that a shift occurred in the depiction of Yhwh: He moved from his chariot and mounted his steed. This step is critical for Garfinkel to make the case that the horse-and-rider figures depict Yhwh. The interpretation of Habakkuk 3:8, however, is completely erroneous. Neither this text, nor any of the biblical references he cites, sustains his argument.

 

Closing Thoughts

The finds from Qeiyafa and Moẓa provide a significant contribution to the study of cult and religion in Israel and Judah, especially during their formative period (tenth–ninth centuries B.C.E.), and allow us to reevaluate previous finds and studies and advance our understanding. However, they are not exceptional in their appearance and do not exist in an intellectual or material void.

It is unfortunate that Garfinkel presents an unfounded and speculative identification as factual. The evidence and argumentation offered above should lay this issue to rest.


Endnotes
1 Garfinkel published this claim earlier in his excavation report. See Yosef Garfinkel, “The Iron Age Clay Figurine Head,” in Yosef Garfinkel, S. Ganor, and M. G. Hasel, eds., Khirbet Qeiyafa Vol. 4, Excavation Report 2009–2013: Art, Cult and Epigraphy (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 2018), pp. 143–163.

2 Shua Kisilevitz, “The Iron IIA Judahite Temple at Moẓa,” Tel Aviv 42 (2015), pp. 156–161; Shua Kisilevitz, “Terracotta Figurines from the Iron IIA Temple at Moẓa, Judah,” Les Carnets de l’ACoST 15 (2016). In light of the foregoing, Garfinkel’s declaration that the only source of information for the description of the figurines from Moẓa are photographs of the large horse figurine and the two anthropomorphic heads while the small horse figurine was not illustrated at all (Garfinkel 2018: 147–148), are baffling and misinforming.

3 For Ashdod, see David Ben-Shlomo, “Material Culture,” in Moshe Dothan and David Ben-Shlomo, eds., Ashdod VI: The Excavations of Areas H and K (1968 – 1969), IAA Reports 24 (Jerusalem: Israel Antiquities Authority, 2005), p. 161, fig. 3.62:1. For Kinrot, see Stefan Münger, Jürgen Zangenberg, and Juha Pakkala, “Kinneret—an Urban Center at the Crossroads: Excavations on Iron IB Tel Kinrot at the Lake of Galilee,” Near Eastern Archaeology 74 (2011), p. 85, fig. 23. For Tell el-Far‘ah (N), see Roland De Vaux, “La quatrième campagne de fouilles à Tell el-Far‘ah, près Naplouse,” Reviue Biblique 59 (1952), pp. 551–583, Pl. XV:1; Alain Chambon, Tell el-Far‘ah I: L’ȃge du fer (Paris: Editions Recherche sur les Civilisations, 1984): plate 65:1; Miyoung Im, Horses and Chariots in the Land of Israel during the Iron Age II (1000–586 BCE), Ph.D. Diss. (Bar Ilan University, 2006), p. 90, cat. no. 7. For Tel Rehov, see Katri Saarelainen and Raz A. Kletter, “Iron Age II Clay Figurines and Zoomorphic Vessels,” in Amihai Mazar and Nava Panitz-Cohen, eds., Tel Rehov, A Bronze and Iron Age City in the Beth-Shean Valley, Volume IV, Pottery Studies, Inscriptions and Figurative Art, Qedem 62 (forthcoming): fig. 34.4:28, photo 34.26.

4 For a discussion regarding horse figurines in the southern Levant throughout the Iron Age, see Im, Horses and Chariots, especially pp. 88–93. For horse-and-rider figurines, see Raz Kletter and Katri Saarelainen, “Horses and Riders and Riders and Horses,” in Rainer Albertz et al., eds., Family and Household Religion: Toward a Synthesis of Old Testament Studies, Archaeology, Epigraphy, and Cultural Studies (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2014), pp. 197–224; Amihai Mazar, “Clay Figurative Art and Cult Objects,” in Nava Panitz-Cohen and Amihai Mazar, eds., Excavations at Tel Beth-Shean 1989-1996, Vol. III (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 2009), pp. 530–555, especially p. 554 on the association with the popularity of cavalry and horse-driven chariots; Deborah O’Daniel Cantrell, The Horsemen of Israel: Horses and Chariotry in Monarchic Israel. History, Archaeology, and Culture of the Levant 1 (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2011) on the appearance and significance of horses and chariotry in the Kingdom of Israel during the ninth–eighth centuries B.C.E.

5 The study of Iron Age figurines in Judah has intensified in the last three decades because of the surge in figurines found in Judah and particularly the astounding amount (more than a thousand fragments) found during Shiloh’s City of David excavations. Horse figurines appear along with the Judean Pillar figurines, depicting females, and various animal figurines and models of beds. See, inter alia, Raz Kletter, “Pots and Polities: Material Remains of Late Iron Age Judah in Relation to Its Political Borders,” BASOR 314 (1999), pp. 19–54; Erin D. Darby, Interpreting Judean Pillar Figurines: Gender and Empire in Judean Apotropaic Ritual (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014); Erin D. Darby, “Seeing Double, Viewing and Reviewing Judean Pillar Figurines through Modern Eyes,” in Stephanie M. Langin-Hooper, ed., “Figuring Out” the Figurines, Occasional Papers in Coroplastic Studies I (Association for Coroplastic Studies of the Ancient Near East, 2014), pp. 13–24; and David Ben-Shlomo and Erin Darby, “A Study of the Production of Iron Age Clay Figurines from Jerusalem,” Tel Aviv 41 (2014), pp. 180–204 on the production of the figurines; Othmar Keel and Christopher Uehlinger, Gods, Goddesses, and Images of God in Ancient Israel (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998), pp. 164–166.

6 Garfinkel, “Figurine Head,” pp. 143–163, figs. 9.6–9.8, and particularly 9.12; these drawings ignore the scale accompanying the illustrated anthropomorphic heads from Moẓa (Kisilevitz 2015: Figs. 5–7).

7 P.R.S. Moorey, Idols of the People: Miniature Images of Clay in the Ancient Near East (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2003); Timothy Insoll, ed., The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Ritual and Religion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011). Regarding the Iron Age southern Levant, see, inter alia, J. Glen Taylor, Yahweh and the Sun: Biblical and Archaeological Evidence for Sun Worship in Ancient Israel, Old Testament Studies 111 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993), p. 59; Garth H. Gilmour, The Archaeology of Cult in the Southern Levant in the Early Iron Age: An Analytical and Comparative Approach, Ph.D. diss. (University of Oxford, 1995), p. 245; Ziony Zevit, The Religions of Ancient Israel (London and New York: Continuum, 2001), pp. 272–274.

8 Zainab Bahrani, Women of Babylon: Gender and Representation in Mesopotamia (London and New York: Routledge, 2001); Stephanie L. Budin, Images of Woman and Child from the Bronze Age: Reconsidering Fertility, Maternity, and Gender in the Ancient World (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2011). Regarding the famous “Judean Pillar Figurines” of the late Iron Age, see Ian D. Wilson, “Judean Pillar Figurines and Ethnic Identity in the Shadow of Assyria,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 36.3 (2012), pp. 259–278; Darby, Interpreting Judean Pillar Figurines; Darby, “Seeing Double,” pp. 13–24.

9 Kletter and Saarelainen, “Horses and Riders,” pp. 197–224.

10 Inter alia, harnessed horse and horse-and-rider figurines, along with cultic artifacts, were found from Cave 1 in Jerusalem; Thomas A. Holland, “A Study of Palestinian Iron Age Baked Clay Figurines, with Special Reference to Jerusalem: Cave 1,” Levant 9 (1977), pp. 121–155.

11 Amihai Mazar, “Religious Practices and Cult Objects during the Iron Age IIA at Tel Rehov and their Implications regarding Religion in Northern Israel,” Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel 4.1 (2015), pp. 25–54, especially pp. 43–45; Tallay Ornan, “Gods and Symbols in the Art of Israel/Palestine c. 1000–600 BCE,” in Menahem Kister, Joseph Geiger, Nadav Naaman, and Shaul Shaked, eds., Ancient Gods: Polytheism in Eretz Israel and Neighboring Countries from the Second Millennium BCE to the Islamic Period (Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute, 2008) (Hebrew); see Ornan’s recent discussions on the iconographic and physical depictions of Yahweh in glyptic art: Tallay Ornan, “The Throne and the Enthroned: On the Conceived Human Image of Yahweh in Iron II Jerusalem,Tel Aviv 46 (2019), pp. 198–210; Tallay Ornan, Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah, Shua Kisilevitz, and Benjamin Sass, “‘The Lord Will Roar from Zion’ (Amos 1:2): The Lion as a Divine Attribute on a Jerusalem Seal and Other Hebrew Glyptic Finds from the Western Wall Plaza Excavations,” ‘Atiqot 72 (2012), pp. 1*–13*.

12 See Izak Cornelius, The Iconography of the Canaanite Gods Reshef and Baal. Late Bronze and Iron Age I Periods (c 1500–1000 BCE), Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 140 (Freiburg, Schweiz: Universitätsverlag; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1994), pp. 209–211; Izak Cornelius, The Many Faces of the Goddess: The Iconography of the Syro-Palestinian Goddesses Anat, Astarte, Qedeshet, and Asherah c. 1500–1000 BCE, Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 204 (Academic Press Fribourg; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2008), pp. 40–41, 73, 77–78, 89, plates 4.1–4.20.

13 For ancient Near Eastern storm gods and their chariots, see Moshe Weinfeld, “‘Rider of the Clouds’ and ‘Gatherer of the Clouds’,” JNES 5 (1973), pp. 421–426; Daniel Schwemer, “The Storm-Gods of the Ancient Near East: Summary, Synthesis, Recent Studies: Part I,Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions 7.2 (2007), pp. 121–168; Daniel Schwemer, “The Storm-Gods of the Ancient Near East: Summary, Synthesis, Recent Studies: Part II,Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions 8.1 (2008), pp. 1–44.

14 See William F. Albright, “The Psalm of Habakkuk,” in H. H. Rowley, ed., Studies in Old Testament Prophecy (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1950), pp. 1–18; Frank Moore Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic (Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 1973), pp. 70–71; Theodore Hiebert, God of My Victory: The Ancient Hymn in Habakkuk 3, HSM 38 (Decatur, GA: Scholars Press, 1986), pp. 284–289.

15 Mowinckel decisively proved this; see Sigmund Mowinckel, “Drive and/or Ride in the OT,” Vetus Testamentum 12 (1962), p. 285. See also Francis I. Andersen, Habakkuk, Anchor Bible (New York: Doubleday, 2001), pp. 318–319.

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Shua Kisilevitz is a research archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority and codirector of the Moẓa Expedition Project. She is a Ph.D. candidate at Tel Aviv University.

Ido Koch is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures, Tel Aviv University, and codirector of the Tel Hadid Expedition.

Oded Lipschits is Professor of Jewish History at Tel Aviv University. He is the Director of the Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology, and codirector of the Lautenschläger Azekah Expedition, and the Moẓa Expedition Project.

David S. Vanderhooft is Associate Professor of Theology at Boston College. His research focuses on the Hebrew Scriptures, especially the Prophets.

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Yosef Garfinkel, The Face of Yahweh?Fall 2020. What does God look like? In the Bible, the Israelites are charged to not create any idol—whether of a deity or living thing. This prohibition, which is clearly articulated in the second of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:4; Deuteronomy 5:8), also extends to depictions of their God. Yet recent discoveries from the Kingdom of Judah challenge the existence or enforcement of this biblical ban. Yosef Garfinkel, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, reveals the head of an anthropomorphic male figurine excavated from the site of Khirbet Qeiyafa in the Kingdom of Judah.

Shua Kisilevitz and Oded Lipschits, Another Temple in Judah! The Tale of Tel Moẓa, January/February 2020. A puzzling discovery of an Iron Age II temple at Tel Moẓa, only 4 miles outside of Jerusalem, challenges the biblical claims that King Hezekiah centralized worship at Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem and eliminated all rival shrines. In reality, the Tel Moẓa temple fits into the greater economic and administrative context of Judah and reflects an advanced level of localized civic administration in the early ninth century B.C.E.

Madeleine Mumcuoglu and Yosef Garfinkel, The Puzzling Doorways of Solomon’s Temple, July/August 2015. Using the rare stone model shrine discovered at Khirbet Qeiyafa to understand the reference to five mezzo on the doorways of Solomon’s Temple. Through analysis of this ancient model, authors Madeleine Mumcuoglu and Yosef Garfinkel surmise what the doorways of Solomon’s Temple might have looked like.

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2 Responses

  1. The above commentary is very well researched and articulated, but there remains a matter is of fairly serious import, since among the many theories provided in the article (“The Face of Yahweh?” Fall 2020, cover story) was that the 2nd commandment had been flouted by the Kingdom of Judah. A perhaps lesser transgression was posited in the suggestion that the 2nd Commandment wasn’t observed as such at the time of the figurine’s crafting. Frankly, these are rather strong accusations in that they are also wholly and demonstrably incorrect. No less than all honor is being unfairly and falsely subtracted from the Kingdom of Judah and its peoples. This is unacceptable!
    This figurine was found in the Kingdom of Judah, which, as most Bible scholars will surely know, was represented by a lion. When the image of the figurine is superimposed over the image of a lions head, face forward for comparative alignment, one can clearly see the figurine was likely the basis of the lion’s head standard (with places to sprout a few whiskers and the other long whisker-type hairs that adorn all cat faces). The flat top of the figurine is perfectly arranged for the mane to be fastened.
    So they did not likely break the 2nd commandment in the Kingdom of Judah, and instead had probably made a model for the Tribe of Judah Standard re: Genesis 49:8-10
    While acknowledging the bulk of Mr. Garfinkel’s efforts, (as well as his impressive collection of credentials), it must be said that when provocative theories take a step into the realm of bearing exceptionally false witness against the entire Kingdom of Judah, some obvious lines have been nonchalantly crossed. While this may be an academic matter to some, there has been a potentially serious breach of due diligence to the obvious truth here in conjunction with a gross mischaracterization on the scale of Biblical proportion. Literally.

    (much of the above was included in letters to the editor via email and re-iterated here)

  2. D Johnson says:

    Looks like an editor-based problem here. Is peer review dead?

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


2 Responses

  1. The above commentary is very well researched and articulated, but there remains a matter is of fairly serious import, since among the many theories provided in the article (“The Face of Yahweh?” Fall 2020, cover story) was that the 2nd commandment had been flouted by the Kingdom of Judah. A perhaps lesser transgression was posited in the suggestion that the 2nd Commandment wasn’t observed as such at the time of the figurine’s crafting. Frankly, these are rather strong accusations in that they are also wholly and demonstrably incorrect. No less than all honor is being unfairly and falsely subtracted from the Kingdom of Judah and its peoples. This is unacceptable!
    This figurine was found in the Kingdom of Judah, which, as most Bible scholars will surely know, was represented by a lion. When the image of the figurine is superimposed over the image of a lions head, face forward for comparative alignment, one can clearly see the figurine was likely the basis of the lion’s head standard (with places to sprout a few whiskers and the other long whisker-type hairs that adorn all cat faces). The flat top of the figurine is perfectly arranged for the mane to be fastened.
    So they did not likely break the 2nd commandment in the Kingdom of Judah, and instead had probably made a model for the Tribe of Judah Standard re: Genesis 49:8-10
    While acknowledging the bulk of Mr. Garfinkel’s efforts, (as well as his impressive collection of credentials), it must be said that when provocative theories take a step into the realm of bearing exceptionally false witness against the entire Kingdom of Judah, some obvious lines have been nonchalantly crossed. While this may be an academic matter to some, there has been a potentially serious breach of due diligence to the obvious truth here in conjunction with a gross mischaracterization on the scale of Biblical proportion. Literally.

    (much of the above was included in letters to the editor via email and re-iterated here)

  2. D Johnson says:

    Looks like an editor-based problem here. Is peer review dead?

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