An Archaeologist Argues That Ancient Statues Depict the Biblical God

Often when the Hebrew Bible condemns the Israelites for worshipping idols, these are representations of pagan deities, especially the Levantine rain god Baal. But Moses also takes pains to remind the Jews that at Mount Sinai they “did not see an image, but only [heard] a voice” (Deuteronomy 4:12), suggesting the possibility that they might be tempted to make graven images of the Lord Himself. Yosef Garfinkel, comparing three recently discovered 10th-century figurines with two discovered previously, believes he has found evidence of just that:

Solid and well made, the human heads have detailed facial features. They are rather square in shape with flat tops and prominent noses. The eyes were made in two stages: they were first attached to the face as a rounded blob of clay and then punctured to create the iris. The lower part of the face has a rounded bulb, probably representing the chin and a beard. A row of small punctures run from side to side on the cheek and chin, portraying a beard. Long ribbons of clay attached to the back portray hair.

Two horse figurines were found near [two of these] heads. They were hollow, like pottery vessels. The two horse figurines and the two clay male heads have been understood as four different figurines. However, I [believe there to have been] only two figurines, each representing a rider on a horse.

The concept of a male god represented as a rider first appeared in Late Bronze Age Ugarit, an ancient port city on the Mediterranean Sea in northern Syria. The Canaanite god Baal is described as rkb ‘rpt, “a rider of the clouds,” sixteen times in various Ugaritic texts. The exact same term also appears in Psalm 68:4. In the biblical tradition there are several descriptions, or metaphors, of God as a rider.

While Garfinkel is a highly regarded archaeologist, his conclusions have attracted criticism. The two scholars who led the excavation that uncovered the two aforementioned heads have labeled his conclusions “unfounded” “sensationalism.”

Read more at Biblical Archaeology Review

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Hebrew Bible, Idolatry

An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security