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

Oct. 14 2020

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.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Deuteronomy

Reforms to Israel’s Judiciary Must Be Carefully Calibrated

The central topic of debate in Israel now is the new coalition government’s proposed reforms of the nation’s judiciary and unwritten constitution. Peter Berkowitz agrees that reform is necessary, but that “the proper scope and pace of reform, however, are open to debate and must be carefully calibrated.”

In particular, Berkowitz argues,

to preserve political cohesiveness, substantial changes to the structure of the Israeli regime must earn support that extends beyond these partisan divisions.

In a deft analysis of the conservative spirit in Israel, bestselling author Micah Goodman warns in the Hebrew language newspaper Makor Rishon that unintended consequences flowing from the constitutional counterrevolution are likely to intensify political instability. When a center-left coalition returns to power, Goodman points out, it may well repeal through a simple majority vote the major changes Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition seeks to enact. Or it may use the legislature’s expanded powers, say, to ram through laws that impair the religious liberty of the ultra-Orthodox. Either way, in a torn nation, constitutional counterrevolution amplifies division.

Conservatives make a compelling case that balance must be restored to the separation of powers in Israel. A prudent concern for the need to harmonize Israel’s free, democratic, and Jewish character counsels deliberation in the pursuit of necessary constitutional reform.

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Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Judicial Reform