The Menorah

Arch of Titus

 But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. Isaiah 9:1-2 

One of the earliest and most detailed representations of the menorah is found on the Arch of Titus in Rome. Carved in relief in one of the panels on the arch is a scene from the Roman Triumph after Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD.  It shows the menorah together with the table of shew bread and the silver trumpets being carried on the backs of Roman soldiers through the streets of Rome. For centuries, the menorah on the Arch of Titus was a symbol of defeat for the Jewish people but it has since been reclaimed by Israel as their state emblem. It remains the closest connection we have to the actual menorah that stood in the 2nd temple.

24" Bronze Menorah
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Instructions for the construction of the menorah are found in the books of Leviticus and Numbers.

It was patterned after a flowering almond tree with a trunk, branches, buds and blossoms. The almond tree is the first to blossom every spring – its profuse delicate white blossoms are among the first signs of spring.

The menorah was hammered from gold – a material whose inimitable luster and sheen, its rarity and its incorruptibility made it the material of choice for the inner sanctuary of the tabernacle and for the menorah.

Its seven branches recall to mind the created order when it existed perfect and whole. As a measurement of time, the seven day week is the only cycle of time that is not determined by nature but has its origin in G-d

As the sole source of light in the Holy Place, the menorah “mediated through the eyes” what the priestly blessing said with words. (1)

May YHWH bles[s]
you and
[may he] keep you.
[May] YHWH make
[his face] shine …

(source Wikapedia ‘Ketef Hinnom’ This text was recently discovered etched into sliver leaf and rolled up into a tiny scroll – It dates to 600 BC – the oldest extant text of the Bible)

The menorah was a symbol of light and life and finds its ultimate meaning in Jesus.  The apostle John said of Jesus, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. (John 1:4)

Heavy Menorah
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This menorah is a fully functioning oil lamp that stands 24 inches tall and weighs 54 lbs.  It is cast from bronze at a premier art foundry in Israel.  Each of the bronze lamps has a removable bronze cover that holds a wick in place. 

Symbols from Jewish coins are incorporated into each of the panels of the base. Many of the symbols come from the 1st Revolt or Bar Kochba Revolt coins. Items that were used in the temple service are incorporated into the lower tier of the base while agricultural symbols were incorporated into the upper tier.

Omer Cup  The omer cup was used in the grain offerings in the temple. It is found on the Great Revolt coins together with the words “Shekel of Israel”. (First Revolt Shekel, Year 1)
Then the priest shall take from the grain offering a memorial portion, and burn it on the altar. It is an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD. Leviticus 2:9

trumpets Silver trumpets were used to signal ‘break camp’ and ‘call to assembly’ and later were blown in the temple during the sacrifices. (Bar Kochaba, silver zuz, 133/134 CE)
Make two silver trumpets for yourself; you shall make them of hammered work; you shall use them for calling the congregation and for directing the movement of the camps. Numbers 10:2
This juglet was used in temple service. It likely contained the oil used to refill the menorah. (Bar Kochba, Eleazar the Priest, silver zuz, 132/133 CE)
“Command the children of Israel that they bring to you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to make the lamps burn continually. Leviticus 24:2

Bronze tripods were used in the temple service. This one is shown flanked by two palm branches. (Herod, prutah)
Each stand had four bronze wheels with bronze axles, and each had a basin resting on four supports, cast with wreaths on each side. 1 Kings 7:30 

The three string lyre used in temple. (Bar Kochba, middle bronze, 132/133 BC)
Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. Psalm 57:8

Lulav Basket with the Lulav (young palm frond, myrtle and willow) and Etrog (a type of citrus used in the celebration of Succot) ‘For the Redemption of Zion’ is inscribed on the face. (First Revolt, 1/8 Shekel?, Year 4)
“On the first day, you must take for yourself a fruit of the citron tree, an unopened palm frond, myrtle branches, and [that grow near] the brook. You shall rejoice before God for seven days.” Lev 23:40

The palm branch was a common motif on coins minted by the Herodian dynasty as well as on the Great Revolt and Bar Kochba revolt coins. The palm branch was part of the Succot celebration. (Herod Antipas)
And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. Lev. 23:40

The pomegranate features prominently on Great Revolt coins along with the words “Holy Jerusalem”. Pomegranates were woven into the hem of the robe of the High Priest and incorporated into the capitals of the two pillars of the temple. (First Revolt, Half Shekel)
And upon its hem you shall make pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet, all around its hem, and bells of gold between them all around… Ex. 28:33

Vine Leaf Both Josephus and Tacitus mention a giant golden vine with grapes the size of a man attached to a huge trellis beside the temple. (First Revolt prutah, Year 3)
He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. Genesis 49:11

Cluster of Grapes Cluster of Grapes. One of the Seven Species mentioned in Deut. 8:8. (Eleazar the Priest, Sliver Zuz, 132/133 CE)
When they reached the Valley of Eshcol, {23 Eshcol means cluster; also in verse 24.} they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs. Numbers 13:23 

Barley Heads Barley is one of the Seven Species mentioned in Deut. 8:8. (Herod Agrippa, bronze prutah)
For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land– a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing… Deut. 8:7-9
A Lily or Rose of Sharon. (Alexander Jannaeus, prutah, circa 78 BCE)
I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys. Song of Solomon 2:1

Images are from Handbook of Biblical Numismatics

(1) “keenest of all our senses is the sense of sight, and that consequently perceptions received by the ears or by reflection can be most easily retained in the mind if they are also conveyed there by the mediation of the eyes.”  Cicero, De Oratore

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