The familiar seven-branched menorah known from Second Temple times on numerous Jewish objects, as well as the Arch of Titus, where it is portrayed as part of the spoils of the Jerusalem temple, does not seem to be directly related to the descriptions of the menorah in the Hebrew Bible. But what was that object? Was it a simple stand with lamps on top? Or was it a branched object representing the tree of life, a fertility symbol? Or were the lights symbolic of the “eyes of God,” as the prophet Zechariah says? We will examine the evidence from the perspectives of both text and art.
Stephen A. Geller is the Irma Cameron Milstein Professor of Bible and Ancient Semitic languages, Emiritus, at The Jewish Theological Seminary. Dr. Geller teaches courses in biblical literature, with special emphasis on the Book of Psalms, biblical poetry, and the prophets.
Dr. Geller has published numerous books and articles on biblical language, poetry, literature, and religion. His dissertation, “Parallelism in Early Biblical Poetry,” was published in 1979. His most recent book is Sacred Enigmas: Literary Religion in the Hebrew Bible. Dr. Geller’s article “Wisdom, Nature, and Piety in Some Biblical Psalms” appeared in Riches Hidden in Secret Places: Ancient Near Eastern Studies in Memory of Thorkild Jacobsen (edited by I. Tzvi Abusch). He is currently completing a commentary on the Book of Psalms for the Hermeneia series of commentaries.