A Defective Weight from the First Temple Period Found Near the Western Wall

The book of Deuteronomy commands that “thou shalt have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have,” and, moreover, states that anyone who uses dishonest weights to cheat his customers is guilty of an “abomination.” Thanks to a recent discovery, we know more about what such weights looked like. But in this case, as Amanda Borschel-Dan explains, its flaws are likely due to incompetence rather than wickedness:

A uniquely inscribed, 2,700-year-old limestone two-shekel weight recently discovered in earth excavated near the Western Wall in Jerusalem is a “very rare” example—of poor craftsmanship. The weight’s inscription, said the excavation’s co-director Dr. Barak Monnickendam-Givon, indicates the craftsman was “not familiar with the international symbol” for such stones, and so instead incised “something close enough.”

During the First Temple period, the coin-sized, 23-gram [0.8oz] round stone was part of a precise set of internationally recognized weights and measures imported from Egypt that were used in the Land of Israel for both Temple worship and the marketplace.

The Egyptian weight system was based on units of eight, as opposed to the more known decimal system that appears often in the Bible. . . . During the Iron Age, the Egyptian weight system was used in international commerce, and its implementation in the Land of Israel is an indication that the fledgling monarchy saw itself as an international player.

While hundreds of two-shekel weighing stones have been uncovered in excavations in and near ancient Jerusalem, this example is “very rare,” Monnickendam-Givon [said]. It . . . points to a “very local manufacture,” he said: the craftsman was apparently ignorant of the proper Egyptian symbol generally used to mark these stones.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Deuteronomy

 

Israel Can’t Stake Its Fate on “Ironclad” Promises from Allies

Israeli tanks reportedly reached the center of the Gazan city of Rafah yesterday, suggesting that the campaign there is progressing swiftly. And despite repeatedly warning Jerusalem not to undertake an operation in Rafah, Washington has not indicated any displeasure, nor is it following through on its threat to withhold arms. Even after an IDF airstrike led to the deaths of Gazan civilians on Sunday night, the White House refrained from outright condemnation.

What caused this apparent American change of heart is unclear. But the temporary suspension of arms shipments, the threat of a complete embargo if Israel continued the war, and comments like the president’s assertion in February that the Israeli military response has been “over the top” all call into question the reliability of Joe Biden’s earlier promises of an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security. Douglas Feith and Ze’ev Jabotinsky write:

There’s a lesson here: the promises of foreign officials are never entirely trustworthy. Moreover, those officials cannot always be counted on to protect even their own country’s interests, let alone those of others.

Israelis, like Americans, often have excessive faith in the trustworthiness of promises from abroad. This applies to arms-control and peacekeeping arrangements, diplomatic accords, mutual-defense agreements, and membership in multilateral organizations. There can be value in such things—and countries do have interests in their reputations for reliability—but one should be realistic. Commitments from foreign powers are never “ironclad.”

Israel should, of course, maintain and cultivate connections with the United States and other powers. But Zionism is, in essence, about the Jewish people taking responsibility for their own fate.

Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship