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The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia


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—Biblical Data:

The translation employed for five distinct Hebrew words in the Bible. It renders, first, "zer," a technical term used frequently in the Priestly portions of Exodus for the golden molding with which the Ark (25:11), the table (25:24), its border (25:25), and the altar of incense (30:3) were decorated. While this is an uncommon use, the word is employed secondly and more accurately for the Hebrew "nezer." This carries with it the idea of consecration, and refers solely to the circlet worn on the head by a Hebrew monarch as a symbol of his royal power (2 Samuel 1:10; 2 Kings 11:12), or to that worn by the high priest (Exodus 29:6, 39:30). Because of the significance of the crown, the word is used figuratively for the authority of a king (Proverbs 27:24). A third word, "'aá¹­arah," is used in a perfectly general way both directly (2 Samuel 12:30; Ezekiel 21:31 [A. V. 26] and figuratively (Job 19:9, 31:36). It also refers to wreaths used at banquets for purposes of decoration (Isaiah 28:1), or at games as rewards (Proverbs 4:9). For "crown" in the phrase "crown royal" in the book of Esther, however, there is another Hebrew word, "keter," which seems to be a Persian loan-word.

In the New Testament the words στέφανος and διάδημα are indiscriminately rendered "crown" in the R. V., but distinguished in the R. V. (1 Corinthians 9:25; 2 Timothy 2:5; Revelation 4:4,10). The latter is the real insignia of royalty; the former, a general symbol of superiority. This distinction is not maintained in the Old Testament. Finally, the word occurs not infrequently for "ḳadḳad" in the phrase "crown of the head," referring to the upper part of the head.

In the New Testament a crown symbolizes victory and all that it involves by way of reward. In the Old Testament it is rather a symbol of splendor and dignity (Proverbs 12:4, 16:31). Still, if the Hebrew reading is correct, in Psalms 142:8 the crown is indicative of triumph.

E. G. H.
F. K. S.

Festal Crowns.

—In Post-Biblical Times:

The use of crowns among the Jews in post-Biblical times, both in life and in literature, is varied. Under the influence of Greek custom the guests sat at the festive table with their heads crowned with garlands. In the Book of Wisdom (2:8) the ungodly are quoted as saying, with reference to their festal meals: "Let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they be withered." With these are contrasted the righteous whose reward is with the Lord: "They receive the crown of royal dignity and the diadem of beauty from the Lord's hand (ib. 5:16). The custom of sitting with wreaths round the head at feasts seems to have been quite common among the Jews before the destruction of the Second Temple. Ben Sira describes a Jewish feast at which the symposiarch sits with a crown of honor (Ecclus. [Sirach] 32:1-2). Judith and all the women of Israel celebrated a thanks giving festival after the victory over Holofernes, "dancing, being crowned with olive garlands, and all the men of Israel followed in their armor with garlands" (Judith 15:13; compare 3:7). Thus the Jews of Alexandria, after their miraculous deliverance, celebrated a thanksgiving feast "crowned with garlands of all kinds of sweet-scented flowers" (III Macc. 7:16; compare ib. 4:8, and Josephus, "Ant." 19:9, § 1). Likewise, the Jews in Maccabean times celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles sitting in their booths, "with wreaths upontheir heads," as may be learned from the Book of Jubilees, 14:30, where Abraham is said to have received an ordinance to this effect for all generations. Obviously, this custom gave rise to the belief that the Tabernacle feast was a Bacchic festival (Plutarch, "Symposium," 4:5; compare II Macc. 6:7).

Whether this Greek custom goes back to ancient Semitic life (see Isaiah 28:1-5, and Luzzatto's Hebrew commentary) can not be decided. The Sukkah garlands or crowns of wheat ( and , Yer. Sukkah 1:51d; Tosef., Sukkah, 1:7) appear to be a reminiscence of the older "crowning of the head." Possibly the crowning of the cup of blessing at the saying of grace (, Ber. 51a; Yer. Ber. 7:11d; see also Frankel's commentary) is a survival of the Greek symposium.

Crowns of Glory.

Crowns were placed by the Gentiles upon their idols (Epistle of Jeremiah 9; Acts 14:13); and accordingly, such "crowns of wheat-ears or of roses" placed upon idols were interdicted (Yer. 'Ab. Zarah 3:42c, 43d). The Jews, however, modified the custom by placing crowns of gold upon the forefront of the Temple at the dedication feast (I Macc. 4:57). They also put garlands of olive around the festal steer that led the annual thanksgiving procession, and around the baskets containing the first-fruits (Bik. 3:3,9,10).

God Himself is constantly represented as wearing crowns. The archangel Sandalfon binds wreaths for his Maker (Hag. 13b); and the angel Akatriel (= "the crowning angel") received his name from his charge of holding the crown of glory over the Most High on His heavenly throne (Ber. 7a). According to the Slavonic Enoch (14:2-3), every evening four hundred angels remove the crown from the head of the sun and lay it before the Lord; and every morning they replace the crown before the sun sets forth upon its daily journey. "The king of light," whose head is surrounded with crowns, "places the crowns of light ever anew upon the angels in the heavens" (Brandt, "Mandäische Schriften," 1893, pp. 13-19). The four and twenty elders in heaven have also "crowns of gold" on their heads; and when prostrating themselves before the Lord they "cast their crowns before the throne" (Revelation 4:4,11).

Crowns of Reward.

Most crowns of reward mentioned in Hellenistic and rabbinical literature refer to the world to come. The angel of death says to Abraham (Testament of Abraham, A,; B, ), "If any one is righteous I take crowns and come to him." "The greatness of thy love toward God becomes a crown upon thy head." (Compare "the crowns and thrones of glory" for the righteous in Ascensio Isaiæ, 7:22, 8:26, 9:10; Hermas, "Similitudes," 8:2.) Such crowns are especially accorded to the martyrs (see Testament of Job, 9:13, probably based upon , Job 31:36; Kohler, in Kohut Memorial Volume, p. 284). "When he has been approved he shall receive the crown of life which the Lord promised to them that love him" (James 1:12, R.V., obviously with reference to Judges 5:31, as interpreted by the Rabbis, Yoma 23a). Likewise, 5:4: "Ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not" (compare Revelation 2:10, "a crown of life"). Especially does Paul dwell upon the "incorruptible crown" obtained in the race for the higher things, in contrast to the "corruptible crown" given to the victor in games (1 Corinthians 9:25; 2 Timothy 2:5; compare 2 Timothy 4:8, and Philo, "De Allegoriis Legum," § 26). These older conceptions cast light also on later rabbinical passages concerning the See CROWNS OF THE RIGHTEOUS and the CROWN OF THE LAW.

  • L. LöW, Kranz und Krone, in Ben Chananja, 1867, Nos. 11, 12;
  • Charles, The Ascension of Isaiah, 1900, p. 61;
  • J. B. Mayor, The Epistle of St. James, 1892, notes, pp. 40 et seq.;
  • Hastings, Dict. Bible;
  • Cheyne and Black, Encyc. Bibl. s. Crown.


In the Talmudic Hebrew, is used (compare the English "crown") for the Biblical in the sense of "border" or "rim" (Kelim. 5:3; Oh. 14:1). In the Targumim is usually rendered by the identical or , or sometimes by which in sense is equivalent to "crown" or "wreath." For the insignia of royalty the late Biblical "keter" is used, together with "kisse" (throne) and "sharbiá¹­" (scepter). While the Biblical drops out of use in the Talmudical Hebrew, which restricts the root to its original meaning, "cut off" (hence "devoted," a "nazir"), a new word is introduced, "taga" (), of non-Hebrew stock, in the sense of royal crown and thence of ornament.

The "Three Crowns."

"Keter," as well as "'aṭeret" and its derivatives, has also the applied meaning of ornament, dignity, and distinction. The righteous will wear crowns in the hereafter (Ber. 17a; compare Meg. 15b, where God is the crown on the head of the pious; Lev. R. ). So also prayer is woven into a crown for the head of God (Ex. R. ). "Three crowns there are: the crown of the Torah, the crown of the priesthood, the crown of royalty; but the crown of a good name is higher than these altogether" (Abot 4:13). In explanation of this enumeration of the three degrees of distinction Ex. R. and Num. R. must be kept in mind. The crown of the learned man (Pharisee), that of the priest (Sadducee), that of royal blood, men of good repute not only attain but even surpass; that is, learning, birth, and station are worthless, while character is all. R. Simeon ben Joḥai enumerates these crowns in this order: the crown of royalty, that is, the "table of the showbreads," which had a golden border; the crown of the priesthood, that is, the altar; the crown of the Torah, that is, the Ark of the Covenant. Playing upon the vocalization of (zar and zer), he adds: "If one acquires the Torah, it is for him a zer, a crown; if he does not, it is for him something foreign" (compare Yoma 72b). God is represented in the Talmud as ornamenting the letters , as well as the letters (on ק see Shab. 104a), with "crowns," and refrains from multiplying them in view of R. Akiba's disposition to read into these "crowns" halakic decisions (Men. 29b; Shab. 89b). "Crown" is also used for "kingdom"; for instance, in the parable about the moon's jealousy of the sun, she asks: "Is it possible for two kings to have one 'crown'?" and God, acting upon the suggestion, reduces her to the second rank (Ḥul. 60b). Again, it is used figuratively for a deed entitling one to recognition, as in Yer. Dem. 2:22c, bottom. Hezekiah was privileged by God to "acquire the crown" of the removal of the brazen serpent (Ḥul. 6b, 7b). In the same sense the caution occurs against making the Torah and learning a crown of self-glorification (Abot 4:5).

The most distinguished men are called the crown of their fellows (for instance, in Tosef., Soá¹­ah, ). With the death of R. Eleazar ben Azariah passed away the crown of the wise, for the wealth of the wise consists in the crown of learning (compare Soá¹­ah 49b). So also the distinctions conferred on the first day are designated as its ten crowns (Sifra, Shemini Shab. 87b).

Bridal Crowns.

The bride wore a crown—wreath or chaplet—at the marriage feast, and so did the bridegroom, who, indeed, was regarded as a king during the nuptial ceremonies (Nowack, "Lehrbuch des Hebräischen Archäologie," 1:164). This custom was suspended for a time in consequence of the Roman wars (Soṭah 9:14). These bridal wreaths could not be woven of myrtle or roses, but were made of reeds. The reason for this restriction is found in the idolatrous uses of wreaths of the kind prohibited (Yer. 'Ab. Zarah 4:43d: "Not only wreaths made of wheat-stalks, but also of roses"; compare also Yer. Bik. , toward end 64b, top; Soṭah 49a). In Yer. Soṭah 9:24b, bottom, R. Jeremiah is reported as wearing a crown of olive-branches in order to amuse the bridal party, from which act he came to be known as the rabbi with the (myrtle bridal) crown (compare Gen. R.; Lam. R. 94b; the verse "the crown is fallen from our head" [Lamentations 5:16] was interpreted to refer to him; Lam. R. to the verse, 69d). Mention is also made of ornaments in the shape of wreaths, which were much affected by women (Shab. 5:1 [57a]; Soṭah 49b). Some of these are even said to have shown in engraving the picture of Jerusalem. By later rabbis the custom of placing a wreath or crown on the head of the bridegroom was regarded as a token of mourning for Jerusalem, the olive-branches being bitter" ("'Aṭeret Zeḳenim to "Or ha-Ḥayyim," 560; Ṭur Eben ha'Ezer, 65; Tos. Pes. 36a). CROWN OF THE LAW.

E. C.
E. G. H.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Crown'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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