Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Stone Seal of Temech

Eliyahu forwarded me an interesting JPost article:

A stone seal bearing the name of one of the families who acted as servants in the First Temple and then returned to Jerusalem after being exiled to Babylonia has been uncovered in an archeological excavation in Jerusalem's City of David, a prominent Israeli archeologist said Wednesday.

The 2,500-year-old black stone seal, which has the name "Temech" engraved on it, was found earlier this week amid stratified debris in the excavation under way just outside the Old City walls near the Dung Gate, said archeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar, who is leading the dig.

According to the Book of Nehemiah, the Temech family were servants of the First Temple and were sent into exile to Babylon following its destruction by the Babylonians in 586 BCE.

...

The 2.1 x 1.8-cm. elliptical seal is engraved with two bearded priests standing on either side of an incense altar with their hands raised forward in a position of worship.

A crescent moon, the symbol of the chief Babylonian god Sin, appears on the top of the altar.

There is more there.

The reference in Ezra and Nechemia is actually to Temach, rather than Temech, but there are obviously no vowels on the seal. Or at least we assume the name is Temach, for the name occurs both times at the end of the pasuk, and so it is in pausal form, and is written Tamach, with a kamatz under the Tav and a patach under the Mem. We see it in Nechemiah 7:55:
מו הַנְּתִינִים: בְּנֵי-צִחָא בְנֵי-חֲשֻׂפָא, בְּנֵי טַבָּעוֹת. 46 The Nethinim: the children of Ziha, the children of Hasupha, the children of Tabbaoth;
...
נה בְּנֵי {ר} בַרְקוֹס {ס} בְּנֵי-סִיסְרָא, {ס} בְּנֵי-תָמַח. {ס} 55 the children of Barkos, the children of Sisera, the children of Temah;
...
ס כָּל-הַנְּתִינִים--וּבְנֵי, עַבְדֵי שְׁלֹמֹה: שְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת, תִּשְׁעִים וּשְׁנָיִם. {פ} 60 All the Nethinim, and the children of Solomon's servants, were three hundred ninety and two. {P}
And also in Ezra 2:53:

נג בְּנֵי-בַרְקוֹס {ס} בְּנֵי-סִיסְרָא, {ס} בְּנֵי {ר} תָמַח. {ס} 53 the children of Barkos, the children of Sisera, the children of Temah;
again listed among the Netinim.

There is actually a third reference, in Nechemia 13:14, but it would seem to be a verb:
יד זָכְרָה-לִּי אֱלֹהַי, עַל-זֹאת; וְאַל-תֶּמַח חֲסָדַי, אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתִי בְּבֵית אֱלֹהַי--וּבְמִשְׁמָרָיו. 14 Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for the wards thereof.

According to the Talmud, the Netinim were Giveonim. We find their joining Israel earlier in Yehoshua 9:

ג וְיֹשְׁבֵי גִבְעוֹן שָׁמְעוּ, אֵת אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה יְהוֹשֻׁעַ לִירִיחוֹ--וְלָעָי. 3 But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done unto Jericho and to Ai,
ד וַיַּעֲשׂוּ גַם-הֵמָּה בְּעָרְמָה, וַיֵּלְכוּ וַיִּצְטַיָּרוּ; וַיִּקְחוּ שַׂקִּים בָּלִים, לַחֲמוֹרֵיהֶם, וְנֹאדוֹת יַיִן בָּלִים, וּמְבֻקָּעִים וּמְצֹרָרִים. 4 they also did work wilily, and went and made as if they had been ambassadors, and took old sacks upon their asses, and wine skins, worn and rent and patched up;
ה וּנְעָלוֹת בָּלוֹת וּמְטֻלָּאוֹת בְּרַגְלֵיהֶם, וּשְׂלָמוֹת בָּלוֹת עֲלֵיהֶם; וְכֹל לֶחֶם צֵידָם, יָבֵשׁ הָיָה נִקֻּדִים. 5 and worn shoes and clouted upon their feet, and worn garments upon them; and all the bread of their provision was dry and was become crumbs.
ו וַיֵּלְכוּ אֶל-יְהוֹשֻׁעַ אֶל-הַמַּחֲנֶה, הַגִּלְגָּל; וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו וְאֶל-אִישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל, מֵאֶרֶץ רְחוֹקָה בָּאנוּ, וְעַתָּה, כִּרְתוּ-לָנוּ בְרִית. 6 And they went to Joshua unto the camp at Gilgal, and said unto him, and to the men of Israel: 'We are come from a far country; now therefore make ye a covenant with us.'
ז ויאמרו (וַיֹּאמֶר) אִישׁ-יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֶל-הַחִוִּי: אוּלַי, בְּקִרְבִּי אַתָּה יוֹשֵׁב, וְאֵיךְ, אכרות- (אֶכְרָת-) לְךָ בְרִית. 7 And the men of Israel said unto the Hivites: 'Peradventure ye dwell among us; and how shall we make a covenant with you?'
ח וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֶל-יְהוֹשֻׁעַ, עֲבָדֶיךָ אֲנָחְנוּ; וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵיהֶם יְהוֹשֻׁעַ מִי אַתֶּם, וּמֵאַיִן תָּבֹאוּ. 8 And they said unto Joshua: 'We are thy servants.' And Joshua said unto them: 'Who are ye? and from whence come ye?'
ט וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו, מֵאֶרֶץ רְחוֹקָה מְאֹד בָּאוּ עֲבָדֶיךָ, לְשֵׁם, יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ: כִּי-שָׁמַעְנוּ שָׁמְעוֹ, וְאֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה בְּמִצְרָיִם. 9 And they said unto him: 'From a very far country thy servants are come because of the name of the LORD thy God; for we have heard the fame of Him, and all that He did in Egypt,
י וְאֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה, לִשְׁנֵי מַלְכֵי הָאֱמֹרִי, אֲשֶׁר, בְּעֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן--לְסִיחוֹן מֶלֶךְ חֶשְׁבּוֹן, וּלְעוֹג מֶלֶךְ-הַבָּשָׁן אֲשֶׁר בְּעַשְׁתָּרוֹת. 10 and all that He did to the two kings of the Amorites, that were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, who was at Ashtaroth.
יא וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלֵינוּ זְקֵינֵינוּ וְכָל-יֹשְׁבֵי אַרְצֵנוּ לֵאמֹר, קְחוּ בְיֶדְכֶם צֵידָה לַדֶּרֶךְ, וּלְכוּ, לִקְרָאתָם; וַאֲמַרְתֶּם אֲלֵיהֶם עַבְדֵיכֶם אֲנַחְנוּ, וְעַתָּה כִּרְתוּ-לָנוּ בְרִית. 11 And our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spoke to us, saying: Take provision in your hand for the journey, and go to meet them, and say unto them: We are your servants; and now make ye a covenant with us.
יב זֶה לַחְמֵנוּ, חָם הִצְטַיַּדְנוּ אֹתוֹ מִבָּתֵּינוּ, בְּיוֹם צֵאתֵנוּ, לָלֶכֶת אֲלֵיכֶם; וְעַתָּה הִנֵּה יָבֵשׁ, וְהָיָה נִקֻּדִים. 12 This our bread we took hot for our provision out of our houses on the day we came forth to go unto you; but now, behold, it is dry, and is become crumbs.
יג וְאֵלֶּה נֹאדוֹת הַיַּיִן אֲשֶׁר מִלֵּאנוּ חֲדָשִׁים, וְהִנֵּה הִתְבַּקָּעוּ; וְאֵלֶּה שַׂלְמוֹתֵינוּ, וּנְעָלֵינוּ, בָּלוּ, מֵרֹב הַדֶּרֶךְ מְאֹד. 13 And these wine-skins, which we filled, were new; and, behold, they are rent. And these our garments and our shoes are worn by reason of the very long journey.'
יד וַיִּקְחוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים, מִצֵּידָם; וְאֶת-פִּי יְהוָה, לֹא שָׁאָלוּ. 14 And the men took of their provision, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the LORD.
טו וַיַּעַשׂ לָהֶם יְהוֹשֻׁעַ שָׁלוֹם, וַיִּכְרֹת לָהֶם בְּרִית לְחַיּוֹתָם; וַיִּשָּׁבְעוּ לָהֶם, נְשִׂיאֵי הָעֵדָה. 15 And Joshua made peace with them, and made a covenant with them, to let them live; and the princes of the congregation swore unto them.
טז וַיְהִי, מִקְצֵה שְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים, אַחֲרֵי, אֲשֶׁר-כָּרְתוּ לָהֶם בְּרִית; וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ, כִּי-קְרֹבִים הֵם אֵלָיו, וּבְקִרְבּוֹ, הֵם יֹשְׁבִים. 16 And it came to pass at the end of three days after they had made a covenant with them, that they heard that they were their neighbours, and that they dwelt among them.
and then in II Shmuel 21:
א וַיְהִי רָעָב בִּימֵי דָוִד שָׁלֹשׁ שָׁנִים, שָׁנָה אַחֲרֵי שָׁנָה, וַיְבַקֵּשׁ דָּוִד, אֶת-פְּנֵי יְהוָה; {ס} וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה, אֶל-שָׁאוּל וְאֶל-בֵּית הַדָּמִים, עַל-אֲשֶׁר-הֵמִית, אֶת-הַגִּבְעֹנִים. 1 And there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David sought the face of the LORD. {S} And the LORD said: 'It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he put to death the Gibeonites.'
ב וַיִּקְרָא הַמֶּלֶךְ לַגִּבְעֹנִים, וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵיהֶם: וְהַגִּבְעֹנִים לֹא מִבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הֵמָּה, כִּי אִם-מִיֶּתֶר הָאֱמֹרִי, וּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל נִשְׁבְּעוּ לָהֶם, וַיְבַקֵּשׁ שָׁאוּל לְהַכֹּתָם בְּקַנֹּאתוֹ לִבְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל וִיהוּדָה. 2 And the king called the Gibeonites, and said unto them--now the Gibeonites were not of the children of Israel, but of the remnant of the Amorites; and the children of Israel had sworn unto them; and Saul sought to slay them in his zeal for the children of Israel and Judah--
ג וַיֹּאמֶר דָּוִד אֶל-הַגִּבְעֹנִים, מָה אֶעֱשֶׂה לָכֶם; וּבַמָּה אֲכַפֵּר, וּבָרְכוּ אֶת-נַחֲלַת יְהוָה. 3 and David said unto the Gibeonites: 'What shall I do for you? and wherewith shall I make atonement, that ye may bless the inheritance of the LORD?'
ד וַיֹּאמְרוּ לוֹ הַגִּבְעֹנִים, אֵין-לי (לָנוּ) כֶּסֶף וְזָהָב עִם-שָׁאוּל וְעִם-בֵּיתוֹ, וְאֵין-לָנוּ אִישׁ, לְהָמִית בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל; וַיֹּאמֶר מָה-אַתֶּם אֹמְרִים, אֶעֱשֶׂה לָכֶם. 4 And the Gibeonites said unto him: 'It is no matter of silver or gold between us and Saul, or his house; neither is it for us to put any man to death in Israel.' And he said: 'What say ye that I should do for you?'
ה וַיֹּאמְרוּ, אֶל-הַמֶּלֶךְ, הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר כִּלָּנוּ, וַאֲשֶׁר דִּמָּה-לָנוּ; נִשְׁמַדְנוּ, מֵהִתְיַצֵּב בְּכָל-גְּבֻל יִשְׂרָאֵל. 5 And they said unto the king: 'The man that consumed us, and that devised against us, so that we have been destroyed from remaining in any of the borders of Israel,
ו ינתן- (יֻתַּן-) לָנוּ שִׁבְעָה אֲנָשִׁים, מִבָּנָיו, וְהוֹקַעֲנוּם לַיהוָה, בְּגִבְעַת שָׁאוּל בְּחִיר יְהוָה; {פ}

וַיֹּאמֶר הַמֶּלֶךְ, אֲנִי אֶתֵּן.
6 let seven men of his sons be delivered unto us, and we will hang them up unto the LORD in Gibeah of Saul, the chosen of the LORD.' {P}

And the king said: 'I will deliver them.'

In Yevamot 78b - 79a we read:
David said: As to Saul, there have already elapsed the twelve months of the [first] year and it would be unusual to arrange for his mourning now. As to the nethinim, however, let them be summoned and we shall pacify them. Immediately the king called the Gibeonites, and said unto them … 'What shall I do for you? and wherewith should I make atonement, that ye may bless the inheritance of the Lord'? And the Gibeonites said to him: 'It is no matter of silver or gold between us and Saul, or his house,' neither is it for us [to put] any man etc. … Let seven men of his sons be delivered unto us and we will hang them up unto the Lord etc.' He tried to pacify them but they would not be pacified. Thereupon he said to them: This nation is distinguished by three characteristics: They are merciful, bashful and benevolent. 'Merciful', for is is written, And shew thee mercy, and have compassion upon thee, and multiply thee. 'Bashful', for it is written, That His fear may be before you. 'Benevolent', for it is written, That he may command his children and his household etc. Only he who cultivates these three characteristics is fit to join this nation.
The result of all this is that the Netinim, or Gibeonite converts and their descendants, had the halachic status akin to that of bastards.

Perhaps it is not so surprising that they would be willing to have a seal with the Babylonian moon god Sin represented upon it.

6 comments:

Joe in Australia said...

The page is actually here:
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?c=JPArticle&cid=1200475897717&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull

joshwaxman said...

thanks!

Anonymous said...

What's surprising is that moongod-worshippers, not just "frummies", would want to return with Ezra/Nehemiah.

On second thought, given the success of secular Zionism, maybe this shouldn't be a surprise. Though I can't explain why it would happen that way.

joshwaxman said...

I would suggest one of two answers:

1) If they were Netinim, given over to the Leviim, it is possible that they did not have much choice in the matter.

2) IIRC the gemara makes a similar observation. In Asara Yuchsin, it is specifically those such as mamzerim, netinim, shtukis, bedukis, etc, who came from Bavel, since there was not so much for them in society in Bavel, and they could make a new life there, in Eretz Yisrael.

Kol Tuv,
Josh

Yochanan said...

" If they were Netinim, given over to the Leviim, it is possible that they did not have much choice in the matter."

You'd think that they would be dancing in joy at the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash and been like "so-long suckers!"

joshwaxman said...

It this particular theory I posited above (in 1 rather than 2), they were servants. It is unclear that even people going into exile would be forced to give up their servants. In which case the Netinim would still not have much choice in the matter, and would not have been able to do and say that.

Or perhaps not.

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