Ezekiel’s Vision of the Dry Bones through the Eyes of an Ancient Jewish Artist

June 30 2017

The synagogue at Dura-Europos—an ancient city in what is now eastern Syria and was then the frontier between the Roman and Sassanian empires—is thought to have been built in the 2nd or 3rd century CE and is one of the oldest synagogues ever discovered, as well as one of the best preserved. Although the synagogue itself has reportedly been destroyed by Islamic State, its elaborate wall paintings of biblical scenes, arranged in three rows (or “registers”) are in a Damascus museum and have been photographed extensively. Jo Milgrom and Yoel Duman explicate a series of these paintings drawn from the book of Ezekiel, which they understand as an artistic “midrash” on the corresponding passages:

Unlike the middle register of paintings in the Dura Europos synagogue, all of whose pictures deal with the Ark of the Covenant and the Temple, the lower register contains a variety of separate scenes whose unifying theme is elusive. The paintings that have survived include: scenes from the life of Elijah, the Purim story, the anointing of David, the saving of the infant Moses, and episodes from the book of Ezekiel.

Some have suggested that miraculous survival is the central theme of the register; others have mentioned rebirth and resurrection. But in each case, the suggestions do not account for all the paintings. As a result, we propose that the underlying motif of this register is “unexpected reversal of fortune that leads to triumph,” in which God’s presence is sometimes overt and at other times implied. It is significant that this register is at the congregation’s eye level, and therefore serves as a continuous subliminal message.

We have here two examples of children, destined for greatness, who are saved from imminent death (baby Moses and the son of the widow of Zarefat [revived by Elijah in I Kings 17]). We have examples of the defeat of the many idolaters by the few faithful (Elijah against the prophets of Baal and the fall of Jerusalem’s apostates [Ezekiel 9]). We have the startling choice of David, Jesse’s youngest son, over his older brothers and in place of Saul, as the new king of Israel; and we have Mordecai’s triumphant parade led by the foiled Haman through the streets of Shushan. And finally, we have the vision of the valley of dry bones.

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More about: ancient Judaism, Archaeology, Ezekiel, Hebrew Bible, Jewish art, Religion & Holidays, Synagogues

 

To Israel’s Leading Strategist, Strength, Not Concessions, Has Brought a Measure of Calm

Aug. 14 2018

Following a long and distinguished career in the IDF, Yaakov Amidror served as Israel’s national-security adviser from 2011 to 2013. He speaks with Armin Rosen about the threats from Gaza, Hizballah, and Iran:

For Israel’s entire existence, would-be peacemakers have argued that the key to regional harmony is the reduction of the Jewish state’s hard power through territorial withdrawals and/or the legitimization of the country’s non-state enemies. In Amidror’s view, reality has thoroughly debunked this line of reasoning.

Amidror believes peace—or calm, at least—came as a result of Israeli muscle. Israel proved to its former enemies in the Sunni Arab world that it’s powerful enough to fill the vacuum left by America’s exit from the region and to stand up to Iran on the rest of the Middle East’s behalf. “The stronger Israel is, the more the ability of Arab countries to cooperate [with it] grows,” Amidror explained. On the whole, Amidror said he’s “very optimistic. I remember the threat that we faced when we were young. We fought the Six-Day War and I remember the Yom Kippur War, and I see what we are facing today. We have only one-and-a-half problems. One problem is Iran, and the half-problem is Hizballah.” . . .

In all likelihood the next Israeli-Iranian confrontation will be a clash with Amidror’s half-threat: the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hizballah, Iran’s most effective proxy in the Middle East and perhaps the best armed non-state military force on earth. . . . “We should neutralize the military capability of Hizballah,” [in the event of war], he said. “We should not destroy the organization as a political tool. If the Shiites want these people to represent them, it’s their problem.” . . .

“It will be a very nasty war,” Amidror said. “A very, very nasty war.” Hizballah will fire “thousands and thousands” of long-range missiles of improved precision, speed, and range at Israeli population centers, a bombardment larger than Israel’s various layers of missile defense will be able to neutralize in full. . . . This will, [however], be a blow Israel can withstand. “Israelis will be killed, no question,” Amidror said. “But it’s not going to be catastrophic.”

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Lebanon