What Did Ancient Jewish Priests Look Like?

Although the Bible contains extensive descriptions of the ritual garments worn by Temple priests, artistic renderings are virtually nonexistent. But the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, uses words that suggest how the clothing might have looked. The Greek text also informed Roman artists, helping them create a stereotypical “look” that signified Jewishness. Joan E. Taylor writes (free registration required):

The Septuagint’s Greek words link priestly dress with Persian attire. Persians . . . were known to wear pants and waist-tied tunics, with capes clasped with a brooch, along with floppy “Phrygian” caps, as can be seen in the Arch of Septimius Severus in Rome. So what the Septuagint indicates is that priestly dress was quite Persian/Parthian-looking. Importantly, [1st-century Jewish historian] Josephus—himself a priest—described in detail what he knew priests to wear in his own day. . . .

If in Greek texts Jewish priestly attire is presented as being rather Persian or Parthian in appearance, this might also explain a puzzling image on Roman coins commemorating victory over the Judean revolt. The coin type has Titus on the obverse and a Judean kneeling under a Roman trophy on the reverse.

It is usually assumed that the Romans simply depicted the Judean here as a Parthian, as a kind of one-size-fits-all “conquered rebel” type. Clearly, the figure looks like a subjugated (enslaved) Parthian as found in the statues of the public Gardens of Sallust. However, . . . viewers are supposed to “get” that this man on the coin is a Judean, [even though] there is no date palm (symbol of Judea) to identify him, or the words IUDAEA CAPTA (for the literate), as we find on other coinage.

Read more at ASOR

More about: Ancient Israel, Ancient Rome, Priesthood, Second Temple, Septuagint, Temple

The Possible Death of Mohammad Deif, and What It Means

On Saturday, Israeli jets destroyed a building in southern Gaza, killing a Hamas brigade commander named Rafa Salameh. Salameh is one of the most important figures in the Hamas hierarchy, but he was not the primary target. Rather it was Mohammad Deif, who is Yahya Sinwar’s number-two and is thought to be the architect and planner of numerous terrorist attacks, of Hamas’s tunnel network, and of the October 7 invasion itself. Deif has survived at least five Israeli attempts on his life, and the IDF has consequently been especially reluctant to confirm that he had been killed. Yet it seems that it is possible, and perhaps likely, that he was.

Kobi Michael notes that Deif’s demise would have major symbolic value and, moreover, deprive Hamas of important operational know-how. But he also has some words of caution:

The elimination of Deif becomes even more significant given the current reality of severe damage to Hamas’s military wing and its transition to terrorism and guerrilla warfare. However, it is important to remember that organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah are more than the sum of their components or commanders. Israel has previously eliminated the leaders of these organizations and other very senior military figures, and yet the organizations continued to grow, develop, and become more significant security threats to Israel, while establishing their status as political players in the Palestinian and Lebanese arenas.

As for the possibility that Deif’s death will harden Hamas’s position in the hostage negotiations, Tamir Hayman writes:

In my opinion, even if there is a bump in the road now, it is not a strategic one. The reasons that Hamas decided to compromise its demands in the [hostage] deal stem from the operational pressure it is under [and] the fear that the pressure exerted by the IDF will increase.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas