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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia


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The word "pillar" is used in the English versions of the Bible as an equivalent for the following Hebrew words:

  1. "Omenot," feminine plural of the active participle of = "support," "confirm." This word occurs only in 2 Kings 18:16. In the Revised Version (margin) the rendering is "door-posts."

Memorial Stones.

  1. "Maẓẓebah" (R. V., margin, "obelisk"). This denotes a monolith erected as a monument or memorial stone (as the "pillar of Rachel's grave," Genesis 35:20, and "Absalom's monument," 2 Samuel 18:18; comp. I Macc. 13:27-30), or as a boundary-mark and witness of a treaty (Genesis 31:44-54; comp. Isaiah 19:19), or as a memorial of a divine appearance or intervention. Such stones often acquired a sacred character, and were regarded as dwelling-places of the Deity or were made to serve as rude altars upon which libations were poured (Gen.,35:14, 38:18-22; 1 Samuel 7:12; possibly also Genesis 33:20, where the verb used indicates the original reading to have been = "pillar," instead of = "altar").In the earlier periods of Hebrew history and as late as the reign of Josiah one or more of these stone pillars stood in every sanctuary or "high place." Thus Moses built an altar at Sinai, and "twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel" (Exodus 24:4; comp. Joshua 24:26; Hosea 3:4, 10:1-2; Isaiah 19:19). Similar pillars stood at the Canaanitish altars of Baal (Exodus 23:24, 34:13; Deuteronomy 7:5, 12:3; 2 Kings 3:2, 10:26-27) and in the sanctuaries of Tyre (Ezekiel 26:11) and of Heliopolis, in Egypt (Jeremiah 43:13). The recent excavations of the Palestine Exploration Fund at Gezer have revealed a row of eight monoliths on the site of the ancient high place. These are hewed to aroughly square or round section and one to a sharp point ("Pal. Explor. Fund Quarterly Statement," Jan., 1903).

Deuteronomic and Levitical Prohibitions.

By the Deuteronomic and Levitical codes the use of the maẓẓebah as well as of the asherim at the altars of Jehovah was forbidden as savoring of idolatry (Deuteronomy 16:21-22; Leviticus 26:1). It is probable that these had become objects of worship and as such were denounced by the Prophets (Mic. 5:13-14; comp. 1 Kings 14:23; 2 Kings 17:10, 18:4, 23:14). Some such stone idols seem to be referred to in Judges 3:19,26 (comp. the Arabic "nuṣb"). The term "ḥammanim," rendered "images" and "sun-images," is probably used of later and more artistically shaped or carved pillars of the same character as the maẓẓebah (Leviticus 26:30; Isaiah 17:8, 27:9; Ezekiel 6:4,6; 2 Chronicles 14:3,5; 34:4,7).

  1. "Neẓib" (from the same root as "maẓẓebah"), while rendered "pillar" in Genesis 19:26, is elsewhere translated "garrison" (1 Samuel 10:5) and "officer" (1 Kings 4:19). In the second passage, however, the Septuagint renders it by ἀνάστημα, "e., probably a pillar erected as a symbol or trophy of Philistine domination" (Driver, "Hebrew Text of Samuel," p. 61; so, also, H. P. Smith, Wellhausen, and others).
  2. "Mis'ad" (1 Kings 10:12; R. V., margin, "railing," "prop"). The precise meaning is unknown.

Pillars of the Temple.

  1. "'Ammud," the word which occurs most frequently in this sense, is used of the pillars or columns which support a house or the roof of a house (Judges 16:25-29), of the posts which supported the curtains of the Tabernacle (Exodus 27:10,17; 36:36-38; Numbers 3:36-37), and of the pillars in the Temple (1 Kings 7:2,3,6; comp. Ezekiel 42:6; Proverbs 9:1). They were made of acacia-wood (Exodus 26:32,37; 36:36), of cedar (1 Kings 7:2), or of marble (Esther 1:6; comp. Song of Solomon 5:15). A detailed description is given in 1 Kings 7 of two brass or bronze pillars which were fashioned by Hiram for King Solomon and set up in the porch of the Temple, and to which were given the names "Jachin" ("He [or "It"] shall establish") and "Boaz" ("In him [or "it"] is strength"). The word is used also of the columns or supports of a litter (Song of Solomon 3:10). It denotes, too, the column of smoke rising from a conflagration (Judges 20:40), and particularly the column of smoke and of flame which attended the Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 13:21-22, 14:24; Numbers 14:14). An iron pillar is a symbol of strength (Jeremiah 1:18); and in poetry the earth and the heavens are represented as resting on pillars (Job 9:5, 26:11; Psalms 75:4).
  2. "Maẓuḳ," probably a molten support; hence a "pillar" (1 Samuel 2:8).
  3. "Timarah"; in the plural, "pillars" of smoke (Song of Solomon 3:6; Joel 3:3). Compare "tomer" (Jeremiah 10:5, R. V., margin; Baruch 6:70), which probably means a "scarecrow."
  • W. R. Smith, Rel. of Sem. 2d ed., pp. 201-212, 456-457;
  • Nowack, Hebräische Archäologie; Wellhausen, Reste Arabischen Heidentumes, 2d ed., pp. 101, 141;
  • Conder, Syrian Stone Lore, new ed., p. 86;
  • Driver, Commentary on Genesis 28:22, and on Deuteronomy 16:21;
  • Dillmann, Commentary on the same passages;
  • Whitehouse, Pillars, in Hastings, Dict. Bible.
E. C.
J. F. McL.

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

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