Face of God? Archaeologist claims to find 10th cent. BCE graven images of Yahweh

A leading Israeli archaeology professor claims in which a handful of little male figurines associated with horse statues dating to the 10th in addition to 9th centuries BCE, discovered in multiple sites by the ancient Kingdom of Judah, are in fact representations of the biblical Israelite God, Yahweh.

Hebrew University Prof. Yosef Garfinkel published his theory on Friday in an article for the well-liked archaeology-themed magazine, Biblical Archaeology Review, in its Fall 2020 issue.

“Yes, I think in which people in ancient times believed these figurines to represent the face of Yahweh,” Garfinkel told The Times of Israel on Friday.

His theory was firmly rejected by all archaeologists who agreed to respond to Garfinkel’s premise. Some might not give the idea the time of day, while others said the idea is usually not coincidental in which his article was printed in a mainstream magazine in addition to not an academic journal.

“Unfortunately, in which article is usually pure sensationalism in which caters to well-liked, money-generating, demand, in presenting an unfounded in addition to (at best) tentative identification as factual as he ignores existing professional research in addition to studies, including avoiding reference to any of the publications by the excavators,” wrote Tel Motza excavation co-directors Shua Kisilevitz (Israel Antiquities Authority in addition to Tel Aviv University) in addition to Oded Lipschits (Tel Aviv University), whose finds served as a major basis for Garfinkel’s article.

Drawings of the various heads in which depict a large mail head by the Kingdom of Judah, dated to the 10th-9th centuries BCE (drawing by Olga Dobovsky)

What has led Garfinkel to believe in which he holds a statue of Yahweh in his hands is usually a combination of an anthropomorphic biblical verse by the Book of Habakkuk, the fact in which neighboring nations inside the biblical era had national gods, in addition to the relative scarceness of male figurines made of clay such as the one his team uncovered at his Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation, some 20 miles or 30 kilometers southwest of Jerusalem.

About a decade ago Garfinkel’s team discovered what he said was a rare male head at his Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation in a layer in which he says is usually securely dated to the 10th century through over 30 radiocarbon dated organic samples.

inside the BAR article, Garfinkel writes: “having a flat top, the head has protruding eyes, ears, in addition to a nose. The eyes were made in two stages. They were first attached to the face as rounded blobs of clay in addition to then punctured to create the iris. Because the ears are pierced, the figure may have worn earrings. Around the top of the head is usually a circle of holes,” which could have been used to hold a crown or different headdress.

The face of Yahweh? Views of a clay head dated to the 10th century BC, found at Khirbet Qeiyafa (Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority)

While thousands of female fertility figures have been discovered by prehistoric times onwards, the discovery of in which sole circa 5-cm (2-inch) clay male statue — there are indications of a beard — made him raise an eyebrow in addition to dig deeper. the idea is usually the lone figurine recovered by the 10th-century layer.

Yosef Garfinkel having a shrine design made of stone, found at Hirbet Qeiyafa (Courtesy of Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

Yosef Garfinkel having a shrine design made of stone, found at Khirbet Qeiyafa (Courtesy of Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

Garfinkel acknowledged in which the Bible is usually very clear on the prohibition against physical representations of god. Whereas neighboring peoples worshipped many gods, “the Kingdom of Judah was a different story in addition to based on two concepts — in which there is usually only one god in addition to not many, in addition to in which you shouldn’t make a statute, a graven image of the idea.”

However, he said the distance between theology in addition to what happened on the ground may be worlds apart. The Bible is usually rife with exhortations of leaders to the people of Israel to stop worshipping household gods in addition to excavation sites are filled with remains of cultic deities.

The fortified city of Khirbet Qeiyafa, in which indicates urban society in Judah at the time of King David, according to Prof. Yosef Garfinkel, Head of the Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew University. (courtesy)

Garfinkel said in which the Canaanite tradition depicts the god “El,” a name also preserved inside the Hebrew Bible, as an older god, a Zeus-like figure often sitting in addition to holding a scepter. He believes in which his clay figurine depicts a god unlike all others because the god riding a horse is usually “a totally different iconography, the horseman is usually something fresh,” he said.

During the Kingdoms of Judah in addition to Israel, neighboring early Iron Age (11th–9th centuries BCE) kingdoms each had a different god: the Moabites (in addition to possibly the Ammonites) had the god Chemosh; the Edomites had Qos. “in addition to here we had Yahweh,” said Garfinkel. “Every territory developed their own god.”

Ancient figurines of people found at Tel Motza (photo credit: Clara Amit/courtesy of IAA)

Images of Yahweh? Ancient figurines of people found at Tel Motza (photo credit: Clara Amit/courtesy of IAA)

Shortly after Garfinkel’s male figurine was discovered, the excavations at the unexpected temple complex at Tel Motza, 9 kilometers or 5.5 miles northwest of ancient Jerusalem, uncovered two similar heads, which were found near to horse figurines. (The temple complex, which might have been active during the First Temple period, is usually not documented inside the Bible, nor is usually a similar compound discovered in Arad inside the 1960s.)

Seeing the heads inside the same context as the horses, Garfinkel was then reminded of another male horseman by former defense minister Moshe Dayan’s collection, today found inside the Israel Museum. The Hebrew Univerity professor began to wonder: Are these figures related? is usually in which a god? in addition to if so, which?

Yahweh on a horse? A pottery vessel inside the shape of a horseman, by the Moshe Dayan collection. the idea was bought inside the Hebron Area in addition to dated to the 10th-9th centuries BCE. (The Israel Museum, Jerusalem)

Saying in which since these presumed horsemen god figures were found inside the Motza temple complex — in addition to not at a home — ruled out in which they were simple household deities. Therefore, the statues must have represented “the religion of the time” in addition to its god, Yahweh.

As for why the depiction of Yahweh might be so rudimentary, Garfinkel said in which whereas Egypt in addition to the Mesopotamia were rich kingdoms with court artists, the Kingdom of Judah was poor, little (between 5,000-20,000 people at its peak), in addition to barely eked out an existence on the 30 kilometers or so of arable land the idea had between Beit Shemesh in addition to Lachish.

“We’re talking about peasant society,” he said, in which was never a big political power inside the Middle East. Aside by the Bible, which preserved regional history, very little remains by the monarchic periods inside the Land of Israel.

“The Kingdom of Judah left a great intellectual contribution,” he said, in addition to influenced morals until today, yet left barely a mark in material culture. “There’s nothing you can put in a museum, definitely.”

As his theory is usually published in international media. Garfinkel is usually aware in which many of his colleagues will dismiss the idea. “Like every discovery, some will accept in addition to some will reject,” he said.

A chorus of dissent

Of the archaeologists The Times of Israel approached, not one might accept the idea in which these little male figurines represented the god Yahweh. Many decided to not comment.

Much of Garfinkel’s theory is usually based on two male heads in which were found inside the same temple complex at Tel Motza.

Aerial photo of the temple at Motza at the end of the 2013 excavation. (P. Partouche, SkyView)

In a preliminary response ahead of the more detailed answer to Garfinkel’s article in which will soon be published on the Biblical Archaeology Review website, Tel Motza excavation co-directors Kisilevitz in addition to Lipschits rejected the theory inside the most absolute of terms in addition to said in which “Garfinkel’s article is usually riddled with factual inaccuracies in addition to a flawed methodological approach.” They likewise castigated Garfinkel for including two unprovenanced items in which were purchased on the antiquities market — a Philistine-type strainer jar in addition to a rider in addition to horse-shaped vessel.

“His claim in which these vessels, along with the figurines by Motza in addition to Qeiyafa, ‘create a fresh type of male figurine, with three of them seeming to represent a rider on a horse,’ overlooks their very obvious typological, stylistic in addition to technological divergences,” wrote the archaeologists.

Israel Antiquity Authority’s Shua Kisilevitz (courtesy)

yet more strikingly, the god Yahweh, they said, simply did not appear inside the region before the 9th century BCE. Garfinkel’s Khirbet Qeiyafa figurine precedes in which date. Likewise, they state in which Garfinkel’s closing argument, “denying the existence of horse in addition to rider figurines after the 8th century BCE, is usually patently incorrect.”

“Although we cannot rule out the possibility in which the human heads by Motza in addition to Qeiyafa depicted gods, they have no markings, symbols or attributes (such as horns, crescents, bulls), found on figures in addition to visual representations throughout the ancient Near East, in which might identify them as divine figures. Furthermore, when gods were depicted on animals, they did not sit on them (they do not need the transport) – they stood on them!” they wrote.

“His association of the figurine heads with Yahweh is usually based on the very late depiction of Yahweh as a rider on a horse in Habakkuk 3:8, in addition to his erroneous statement in which the heads by Motza are ‘outstanding in their large size in relation to almost all known anthropomorphic figurines’ is usually meant to differentiate them by different figurines in order to substantiate his claim in which they are divine,” they wrote.

Yahweh’s horse? A clay figurine of a horse, dated to the 9th century BCE, found at Tel Motza. Two such figurines were found together with two heads (Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority)

The archaeologists said in which while they agree in which one of the two heads found at their site may have once been attached to the larger horse figurine, “Garfinkel’s attempt to relate one of the heads to the little horse disregards the different production technique in addition to scale of these items.”

Furthermore, they claim in which Garfinkel “ignores all the early Iron Age horse in addition to human figurines in addition to figures found throughout the region, some of which provide significantly better parallels for the Motza in addition to Qeiyafa figurines.”

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Source : Face of God? Archaeologist claims to find 10th cent. BCE graven images of Yahweh