Israel: Star of David & Seal of Solomon

The 6-pointed star is one of the oldest symbols known to humankind, it represents balance of opposite sides of the universe. For Jewish people, this is the most sacred symbol which gives them power and protection from God Jenovah himself.

map-of-israel
Location of Israel (maphill.com)

Theme song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEnXbRpiZvA

1. History of Israel

Abraham
Abraham patriarch (votaws.com)

Israel, also knows as the Jewish state, is located in the West Asia nearby the Mediterranean Sea. The journey to revive the ‘promised land’ of the Jews is the most incredible story in world history. Israel’s ancient history traces back to the Old Testament, began around 1800 BC when their first leader, Abraham, a priest from Ur ( Ur was located north of the Mesopotamian region – today is southeast Turkey), made a covenant with God Jehovah ( or Yahweh ): the Jews will worship Jehovah and only Jehovah as their supreme God, and in return Canaan will forever be the promised land of Jews, the land filled with milk and honey.

Moses
Moses the Prophet (suara-ppdmcilacap.blogspot.com)

Jacob ( also called Israel ), the grandson of Abraham, is considered the father of 12 Jewish tribes and the one who led Jews to Egypt after a famine struck Canaan. In Egypt, they became slaves under pharaohs’ reign until Moses led them back to Canaan around 1200 BC. Here, they fought with the Philistines (ancestors of modern Palestinians) to gained the right to settle down and create Israel land. Israel enjoyed a wealthy and prosperous era during the reign of 3 kings: Saul, David and Solomon. After the death of king Solomon, Israel was divided and then conquered by the Assyrians, marking the beginning of their exile which lasted until the 20th century.

david-ben-gurion
Prime misnister David Ben Gurion (cafebiz.vn)

The long and arduous journey of the Jews to return to their promised land and restore their nation was only successful after World War II. On 14th May 1948, the Jews under the leadership of their first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, declared independence of the modern state of Israel after thousands years of exile.

The national symbol of Israel is a 6-pointed star composed by 2 equilateral triangles which is called the star of David or the seal of Solomon. This is also one of the most ancient and sacred symbols of mankind, shown today on the national flag of this Israel.

flag-of-israel
Modern national flag of Israel (wikipeida.org)

2. The star of David

king-david
King David (by Gerard van Honthorst)

King David ( means ‘the beloved man’ ), according to the Old Testament, is the 3rd king of Kingdom of Israel. He is the successor of king Saul and the father of king Solomon, described as a righteous king and a glorious warrior, musician and poet. His life and his dynasty have a central significance to Jewish and Christian traditions.

David
‘David’ statue by Michelangelo

The most famous story of king David is the duel between him and Goliath. According to the Old Testament, David was originally a brave and clever shepherd. In a battle between the Jews led by king Saul against the Philistines, Goliath giant, who was the champion of the Philistines, challenged the Jewish army to duel up to 6 times but no one dared to accept his challenge, even king Saul. Until little David heard about this arrogance and blasphemous challenge, he volunteered to stand up and accept the challenge. He prepared only a stick, a sling and 5 stones picked up from a nearby brook.

Everyone thought that Goliath with his physique of a giant, thick armor and a long spear would win the fight easily but the unthinkable happened: David with only one shot by his sling, successfully hit a hard rock on Goliath’s forehead and knocked the giant to the ground. Goliath was beheaded and the rest of Philistine troops were defeated, got kicked out of their land, and this story leads to a territorial dispute between Israel and Palestine to this day. Nowadays, the idiom ‘Goliath and David’ in modern language is used to describe an underdog situation, a contest where a smaller, weaker opponent faces a much bigger, stronger adversary.

david-vs-goliath
David vs. Goliath (bible.wikia.com)
star-of-david
Star of David (army.mil)

The Star of David or Shield of David (‘Magen David‘ in Hebrew language) is widely recognized as a symbol for the Jews and Judaism, known as early as the Medieval period. It is a 6-pointed star formed by 2 equilateral triangles. With the establishment of modern Israel in 1948, the star of David on Israel’s national flag has also become a symbol of Zionism – the movement to re-establish and support for a Jewish state.

shield-of-david
Shield of David (pinterest.com)

Legend says that the Star of David simulated the symbol displayed on the shield that king David used in the wars for national restoration of the Jews. Warriors of king David also has this symbol on their shields, they believe that God will protect them more effectively when this symbol is present in battles. Therefore, the this symbol symbolizes faith, unity and strength of the Jews to conquer all dark opposed forces. The image of a 6-pointed star fostered a courageous fighting spirit for the Jewish people but it also has a more ancient origin, it is the embodiment of the universe’s harmony and balance.

3. Ancient origins of the symbol

hexagram-2-1In fact, the Star of David may even have a more ancient origin than Judaism. A 6-pointed star is known as an archetye signifying divine unity of opposing forces, very much like the yin-yang theory of Eastern culture. It is a collection of basic elements of the universe : fire, water, air and earth. Moreover, it is basically formed by the cross-linking of the ‘water’ and ‘fire’ triangles ( the tenderness of women and the strength of men), this symbol represents the perfect union between the male and the female. Through the image of a 6-pointed star, one can see the symbol of the universe, the image of heaven and earth, the link between the macroscopic and the microscopic world, the mind and the body. The star of David appears as a union of opposite forces, a symbol represents the universe’s unity and complexity.

triangles
2 opposing triangles (victoriacottonblog.wordpress.com)

The divine union’ of 2 opposing sides is the origin of all life on this planet, the 6-pointed star is also an expression of balance and completeness. Many studies showed that the 6-pointed star was used in many different religions and its most popular meaning is related to mysterious magic used to protect people from dark forces.

hexagram-vieAccording to alchemy belief, the star of David also consists of the 7 basic metals, meaning all metals, as well as the 7 classical planets, meaning the whole universe:

  • Gold – Sun in the center
  • Silver – Moon at the top peak
  • Lead – Saturn at the lower peak
  • Iron – Mars at the upper left
  • Copper – Venus at the upper right
  • Tin – Jupiter at the bottom left
  • Mercury – Mercury at the bottom right

The whole idea and work of alchemy is to achieve a transformation from imperfection in the periphery to perfection symbolized by gold and the Sun in the center of the star. The gathering from many to one, from imperfection to perfection is manifested in this 6-pointed star. It is also the process of bringing a human being divided by his own desires back into his spiritual unity.

star-of-david
The star of David on the ‘Wailing wall’ of Jerusalem (biblewalks.com)

Therefore, the star of David from a common symbol of humanity has been received and developed by the Jewish community. Then it began to appear on talismans in the ancient texts of the Jewish community in Prague (capital of Czech Republic today) in the late Middle Ages. From the 14th to the 16th century, this star was present in Central Europe, where the shield of David was used side by side with the seal of Solomon on the flags of the Jews. In 1897, it was officially used as a symbol of Judaism adopted by the First Zionist Congress.

4. Seal of Solomon

king-solomon
King Solomon (mystown.com)

King Solomon, son of king David was the last but also the most eminent and outstanding ruler of the Kingdom of Israel, he was a wise man with great ambition. He is considered to have a vast fortune and is the richest man in human’s history. His reign between 970 and 931 BC was the peak of the Kingdom of Israel, known as the ‘Golden Age of the united Israel‘. He commissioned to build the majestic holy temple in Jerusalem with great cost to house Israel’s ‘sacred treasures‘, which is a stone tablet carved with the 10 Commandments of God to Moses. This temple later became the center of Jewish culture.

second-temple-jerusalem
The second Solomon temple (arounddeglobe.com)

According to a legend, Solomon was the one who was given both ‘wisdom and intelligence‘ by God. Perhaps the best known story of his wisdom is the Judgment of Solomon: 2 women claim to be the mother of a same child. Solomon resolved the dispute by commanding the child to be cut in half and shared between the two. One woman promptly cried out and renounced her claim, proving that she would rather give the child up than see him killed. Solomon declared the woman who showed compassion to be the true mother, entitled to the whole child.

dream-of-solomon
God gave Solomon wisdom and intelligence in his dream (by Luca Giordano)
seal-of-solomon
Seal of Solomon (http://wikipedia.org)

The seal of Solomon is a ring engraved with the name of God (Tetragrammaton – in Greek means ‘4 words‘, implying 4 words YHWH in English, translated into modern English is always capitalized as LORD, the name of the Jewish God) made from brass and iron that he received from God. The seal of Solomon reflects the cosmic order, the sky, the  stars’ movements in the universe, the eternal link between heaven and earth, between natural elements. The seal thus represents the infinite wisdom of man and the divine laws of God.

baal
Baal, king of hell, a demon that Solomon can summon (wikipedia.org)

This seal consists of 2 triangles: one pointing downwards to the earth that can command devils, the other pointing upwards to the sky which can command angels. According to legend, this ring gave Solomon the power to summon and order the 72 demons in hell or talk with animals. From foul souls to the most vicious demon lords, Solomon can summon and control them to his will. Therefore, this symbol is a also seal with the meaning that people can stamp it on themselves to protect againts evil spirits and demons.

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A Tetragrammaton ring (etsy.com)

What distinguishes a Seal of Solomon from a Star of David is the 2 triangles are interlaced giving the appearance of a 3-dimensional figure. This was said in the Bible to make demons confused and dizzy, unable to do Solomon any harm.

sodsealofsolomon

References:

Barton, G. (1906). “Temple of Solomon”. Jewish Encyclopedia. Extracted from http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14310-temple-of-solomon 

Chevailier, D. & Gheerbrant, A. (2016). Từ điển biểu tượng văn hóa thế giới (Dictionary of symbols). Đà Nẵng

Đặng Hoàng Xa. (2016). Lịch sử thăng trầm 4000 năm của người Do Thái (P.1) ( the struggling history of 4000 years of the Jews). Nghiên cứu quốc tế. Extracted from http://nghiencuuquocte.org/2015/10/20/lich-su-do-thai-p1/

Kingfisher. (2014). Bách khoa thư lịch sử (The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia). Hà Nội: Nhã Nam

Jacobs, J. & Seligsohn, M. (n.d.). Solomon, seal of:.  Jewish Encyclopedia. Extracted from http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13843-solomon-seal-of

Newman, Y. & Sivan, G. (1980). Judaism A-Z. Department for Torah Education and Culture in the Diaspora of the World Zionist Organization

Nguyễn Hiến Lê. (2017). Câu chuyện Israel (The lesson of Israel). Tp. HCM: Tổng hợp

 

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