Thursday, May 16, 2013

Is the Star of David a Magical Talisman?

Gerbern Oegema wrote a very well-documented book entitled "The History of the Shield of David" which examines all ancient sources (written and archeological) for the hexagram.  Here's a few of the highlights related to Judaism:

King David didn't have a hexagram on his shield:

"If someone looks for the Shield of David among the Jewish symbols in antiquity, he may not find it.  Although the legend is well known that in Biblical times king David in his wars had adorned his shield with a six-pointed star, it is without historical proof."

The hexagram was used by Jews as a magical and astrological sign:

 "We may conclude that since late antiquity the six-pointed star has been a universal, magic-astrological sign with no exclusive Jewish meaning, but with a specific magic adaptation within the context of Jewish cosmogony and mysticism.  The sign may have represented the good angels, which were thought to be celestial beings.  It was sent down from heaven to the mystic on earth, where it provided the owner with protective power over the demons...The sign was accompanied with incantations, eulogies, psalms as well as the mystical names of God and the angels....the hexagram became a protective sign against evil in general and, in the case of the popular use of amulets, served to protect the unborn child against demons.  It also served the needs of the ordinary people and thus in medieval and early modern times it became a widely known symbol of magic and superstition."

The hexagram first appears in Judaism in the seventh century B.C.E.:

"The first examples of the six-pointed star in Judaism originate from the seventh century B.C.E.  A first Jewish adaptation of the hexagram together with its astro-magical meaning took place in the first centuries C.E.  As we have no written documents on this process, but only archeological findings, we may assume that the adoption caused no hermeneutical problems, but instead was a rather natural development."

Maimonides was, presumably, against the use of the hexagram:

 "The great Jewish philosopher and commentator Maimonides (1135 till 1204) criticized the use of magic signs on mezuzoth, from which we may conclude that not only the pentagram, but also the hexagram were already in the 12th century or earlier a widely used magic talisman."  

It's odd that Judaism still retains non-Biblical names for the months, names which probably go back to Babylon.  It's even more odd that the Star of David goes back to Babylon.  Still, I'm not going to be the one to denounce the Star of David.  I just wanted to present you, dear reader, with this information.  Besides, if Maimonides already denounced the use of the hexagram then what good would it do for me to denounce it?


25 comments:

  1. We may truly never know its origins (although many anti-semites and even some Hebrew Roots "messianics" happily point to Satan), but the Star of David has become one of the cherished symbols of Jewry.

    This symbol came to represent both our suffering (when our enemies forced us to affix the yellow stars to our clothing) and our hopes for the future (when we adopted the star for the national flag of our resurrected nation).

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    1. Gene,

      The Jewish people are more than a symbol, wouldn't you agree?

      Delete
    2. "The Jewish people are more than a symbol, wouldn't you agree? "

      Peter, I have re-read what I wrote a few times, and I am still not sure what you are referring to (i.e. Jewish people = symbol).

      Delete
    3. Gene,

      If there is a tribe of Jews somewhere that have never even seen a star of David, are they any less Jewish because of this?

      Delete
    4. "If there is a tribe of Jews somewhere that have never even seen a star of David, are they any less Jewish because of this? "

      No too sure what the degree of Jewishness has to do with seeing or not seeing the Star of David...

      Delete
    5. Peter, you are arguing with yourself, not with anything I said.

      Delete
  2. Common, gene, MJ is fraught with people who happily point to Satan. Stop being biased...

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    Replies
    1. "Common, gene, MJ is fraught with people who happily point to Satan. Stop being biased..."

      Dan, for being so "fraught", I am yet to meet or even read a single MJ who subscribes to that idea (but, I can point you to many Hebrew Roots folks who do).

      Delete
  3. And here I though you only attend "mainstream" Judaism synagogues?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dan, are people in your circles confined to places of worship or do they have a life on the outside?

      Delete
  4. You call this a living?...LOL!

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    Replies
    1. "You call this a living?...LOL!"

      Not sure I understand. By "your circles" I was not talking about cemeteries:)

      Delete
  5. Maybe you will understand the joke this way: "What life? You call this a living? Being a shoe repairman is a living?...

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  6. Peter, I appreciate the things you usually write, but this war on the comments section is really starting to annoy me - just saying in case the reader's opinion count.
    So, on the Magen David thing. I would like to point that while finding historical evidence point to the existence of something, not finding it does not point to the non-existence. The Magen David is the juxtaposition of two letters dalet in the paleo-hebrew, and we all know there are two dalets in David's name. Now, I am not denying that it has been used in mystic circles, but i honestly don't believe it is a mystic simbol. Messianics [and I use the term broadly to encompass every brand of messiah Yeshua and Torah centered kind of faith] do tend however to hostilize tradiotional stuff from judaism, and it may as well be the case with the Magen David.

    I don't know if this is the right place for it, but, may I ask why the name of the blog is Orthodox Messianic Judaism?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Matheus,

      Re: "this war on the comments section is really starting to annoy me"

      What do you propose?

      Re: "why the name of the blog is Orthodox Messianic Judaism?"

      Because that's my religion. Judaism is my heritage.

      Delete
    2. Well, I think you guys should really stop fighting, I mean there are issues that don't even call for a comment, and sometimes the comment is just the same thing said in another way - I have this rule for my life when I am discussing something: there is always a point in the debate where all that has to be said has already been said. Then it is time to stop discussing until new things to say come, or the debate becomes a fight!

      On the name issue: The post you put was good, thank you! I asked this because I thought, when I read the title, that it had to do with a orthodox - when it comes to Halacha and the oral Law subject - approach. Now you explained it I understand, Todah!

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    3. Matheus,

      Some things are worth fighting for, my friend.

      Delete
  7. Have you ever noticed that Catholic has the sun, Islam the moon, Judaism the star? I wonder why?

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  8. I don't know about you guys, but the Magen David is the symbol smack in the middle of my country's flag, so i will hold it high, and the heck with all the detractores...

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    1. Dan,

      If this post and subsequent discussion offends you in any way, I hope you know that I won't hesitate to delete it.

      Shalom,

      Peter

      Delete
  9. Not at all Peter...You only present the truth. all Jews know that the Magen David is from pagan past, but so is Christianity....

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  10. http://www.synagoguechm.com/articles/starofdavid.pdf
    I found this article rather interesting, specially the alef-beit part!

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    Replies
    1. They kind of had to squeeze some of the letters in there to make them fit. : )

      Delete