Menorah symbol history and meaning

Menorah Symbol – History And Meaning

As described in the Bible, the menorah is a Hebrew lampstand bearing seven lamps with six branches. It is said to have been made of pure gold.

Since antiquity, the menorah symbol has been used both in Judaism and Christianity. However, in modern times it is mostly associated with Judaism and Jews in general as it is the official emblem of the state of Israel.

If you want to learn more about the Menorah symbol, read on to find out the meaning, history, and significance of this Jewish symbol.

Menorah Symbol – History And Meaning

If you want to learn more about the Menorah symbol, read on to find out the meaning, history, and significance of this Jewish symbol.

Menorah Symbol
Image by Frater5 through Wikimedia | CC

Menorah Symbol History

In the story of Moses in the biblical book of Exodus, this ancient lampstand was used as a lighting fixture in the tabernacle Moses himself set up in the desert. Ancient Hebrews burned fresh olive oil to light a menorah’s lamps.

According to Exodus, God revealed the menorah’s design to Moses on Mount Sinai. Its candlestick was to be made from a single piece of pure gold. It must have six branches. The craftsman Bezalel forged the first menorah to be put in the tabernacle.

In the book of Kings, the Temple of Solomon is described as having 10 candelabras, all forged in gold. The Second Temple was constructed after the Jews returned from exile in Babylon, containing one menorah that was seized by the Greek king Antiochus IV Epiphanes, also called Epimanes, after his desecration of the Temple in 169 BCE.

The Jewish priest Judas Maccabeus had a new seven-branched candelabra built to replace the menorah in the Temple.

The second menorah disappeared when the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 CE. According to the Jewish priest, scholar, and historian Flavius Josephus, this menorah was displayed during the Roman triumphal march.

Because the Romans recognized the menorah as the most Jewish of all symbols, they depicted it on the Arch of Titus in Rome to showcase the spoils they had carried away when they conquered Jerusalem in 70 A.D. However, this is no longer believed to be the one built for the Temple.

Despite the menorah’s disappearance and the Talmud forbidding its reconstruction, it became a popular symbol representing Judaism. This is evident in menorah representations found in tombs, as well as the floors and walls of the synagogues.

In the early modern period, the menorah as a Jewish symbol gave way to the Star of David. However, it was adopted as the symbol of Zionism in the 19th century. In the 20th century, the menorah became the emblem on the state of Israel’s coat of arms.

The Menorah Symbol

Menorah symbol history and meaning
Image by Frater5 through Wikimedia | CC

The seven-branched menorah has always symbolized Judaism. It has become the religion’s most important icon, being stamped on coins and engraved on tombs, as well as inscribed on synagogue decorations, jewelry, and even sundials.

Ancient Jews interpreted the menorah’s seven branches as representative of the five visible planets, the sun, and the moon. Its rounded branches are interpreted as their trajectories across the heavens.

Some have interpreted that the seven brances of the menorah signify the number 7, which is a key number in Judaism.

Menorah Symbol Meaning

The Hebrew word “menorah,” also spelled “menora,” means “lampstand.” It is a seven-branched candelabra used in Jewish religious rituals.

The original seven-branched menorah was found in the desert sanctuary and then later in the Temple in Jerusalem. The menorah has been a prominent symbol in Israel since. It was popularly featured in religious art by the ancient Jews.

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