Friday, November 7, 2008

Harran Linked to Jerusalem

The first Temple seal found in an excavation in the ancient City of David shows a cresent moon, the emblem of the divinity Sin, regarded as a Babylonian deity. Besides the crescent moon, Sin's symbols include the bull and the lampstand. Some of Sin's temples were called "Houses of Light."

On January 16, 2008, the excavator Eilat Mazar announced that a team she is leading south of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem had uncovered an inscribed seal dating to the time of Nehemiah. She read the name on the seal as “Temech” (tav, mem and het). It was first thought that the seal indicated the Temech family, servants in the first temple in Jerusalem. They were among those taken into Babylonian captivity, as mentioned in Nehemiah: "These are the children of the province, that went up out of captivitiy, of those that had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, had carried away, and came gain to Jerusalem and to Judah, every one to his city." (Nehemiah 7:6)

European scholar Peter van der Veen believes that Mazar erred by reading the inscription. He argues that it should have been read backward, since a seal creates a mirror image when used to inscribe clay. He suggests that the seal bears four letters (shin, lamed, mem and tav) and that the correct reading is "Shlomit". Mazar now acknowledges that the seal should be read as "Shlomit."

The 2,500 year old seal shows two priests standing on the opposite sides of an incense altar. Over the altar there is a crescent moon, and at the bottom of the seal are four Hebrew letters.

The crescent moon represents the lunar phases. Ancient peoples measured time by the sun and the moon, but the lunar phases allow for more exact measurements. The relationship between priests and crescent moons has to do with the role that priests played in making calendars. Priests who observed only a solar calendar were at risk if their calculations were wrong. If priests didn’t perform sacred ceremonies on exactly the right days, they were blamed for everything that went wrong. If the chief died, or the crops failed, or there was a natural disaster, the priests were blamed. They may not have been executed by an unhappy emperor, as happened to Chinese astronomers who failed to predict the 2134 B.C solar eclipse, but ancient priests were still highly motivated to avoid mistakes.

The principal cities for the worship of Sin were Ur and Harran, both mentioned in Genesis 12. Terah, Terah's father Nahor, and another chief named Harran apparently controlled the waterways and commerce in this area during the the Afro-Asiatic Dominion that extended from west central Africa to the Indus River Valley.

The discovery of this seal in David's City supports the Genesis picture of Semites and Babylonians sharing a cosmology.

Read more about the controversy surrounding the temple seal here.


Agnikan said...

Is the "Sin" and "(Mt.) Sinai" similarity of any significance?

Alice C. Linsley said...

I am not aware of a connection between the words. Why? Do you have a theory on how these might be related?

Agnikan said...

My understanding was that the Semitic deity "Sin" was venerated in much of the Levant, and that Mount Sinai was a mountain that the early Semitic peoples associated with Sin.

Alice C. Linsley said...

As far as I know, no diety with the name "Sin" is listed among the Semitic peoples, either pre-Islamic Arabs or Jews. The oldest name for God among the Semitic peoples of the Levant is "El", I believe. There is some question, which I have addressed at Just Genesis, about whether "Baal" was used interchangeably with "El" and I think various biblical texts, as well as archeological finds, suggests that this was so. I'm intrigued by what you have written and will continue to explore this.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Does 'Shlomit' - shin, lamed, mem and tav - represent a numerical code as well as a name?

shin - 300
lamed - 30
mem - 40
tav - 400

The number symbolism seems not to be random.

Alice C. Linsley said...

The Bible also calls Sinai Mount Horeb HRB). That is another connection to the Horites and their Messianic faith.