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The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia


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Mentioned as a secular object only in 2Kings 4:10 . The candlestick in the Temple, however, is frequently referred to, although there is no reliable definite information from earlier times concerning its use or its shape.

Candlestick in Pre-Exilic Time.

  1. In the temple of Shiloh a "ner" (lamp) is mentioned, but not a "menorah" (candlestick) according to I. Sam. 3:3, the lamp seems to have burned only at night. In 1Kings 7:49 ten golden candlesticks are referred to, five of which stood to the right and five to the left of the "debir" (oracle) and in Jeremiah 52:19 menorot are also found, though not in the parallel passage, 2Kings 25:14 . By modern critics, however, both 1Kings 7:48-50 and Jeremiah 52:19 have been held to be interpolations. It may be merely accidental that we have no stronger references to the use of candlesticks in Solomon's Temple, for the number ten is undoubtedly based on ancient tradition and if Solomon had no golden candlesticks, he probably had them of bronze, cast for him by Huram (compare Stade's "Zeitschrift," 3:173 et seq. ).

Two Candlesticks of the Second Temple, and of the Tabernacle.

  1. The seven-branched candlestick in the tabernacle, described in Exodus 25:31 et seq. and 37:17 et seq. , is attributed by the critics to post-exilic times, for the description is that of the candlestick of the Second Temple. It was chased of pure gold, and called, therefore, "menorah ṭ ehorah" (Exodus 31:8 , 39:37 Leviticus 24:4 ). From a pedestal ("yarek"), which is not described, rose the trunk, and from this spread the branches("ḳ aneh"), curving upward from the stem at three points in a vertical line on the trunk there are said to have been four, and on each of the branches three, calices shaped like almond blossoms that is, bulbs with opening buds. On the branches were seven lamps ("nerot"), which were removed every day for trimming and refilling, and hence were called "nerot hama' arakah" (Exodus 39:37 ). As the lamps evidently had spouts from which the wicks protruded, thus throwing the light principally to one side, the lamps had to be turned in such a way as to make the spouts point northward, for the candlestick was set over against the southern wall, in order to be to the left of any one entering the sanctuary.

Symbolism of the Candlestick.
V03p532001.jpgEarliest Known Representations of the Golden Candlestick .This candlestick corresponds on the whole to the one described in Zechariah 4:1 et seq. , except that the latter has seven branches, while the one referred to in Exodus 25:31 et seq. has only six branches, the seventh light being fastened in the center. Both, however, represent a tree with six or seven branches respectively, as is evident from the fact that the candlestick in Exodus 25:31 et seq. is ornamented with almond blossoms. The assumption that this seven-branched candlestick has a symbolic meaning is confirmed by Zechariah 4:1 et seq. The seven lights may be said to represent the seven planets, which, regarded as the eyes of God, behold everything. The light in the center, which is especially distinguished, would signify the sun, as the chief of the planets. It is possible that with this was also combined the mystic conception of a celestial tree, with leaves reaching to the sky, and fruit typifying the planets. How the connection with an almond-tree arose is not known, but it may have been through the idea of stars as representing almonds. This symbolism was probably due to foreign influence, for in the Babylonian religion the seven planets are the seven chief gods (compare Gunkel, "Schö pfung und Chaos," pp. 124 et seq. ). Zerubbabel's temple contained only one candlestick, as Ecclus. (Sirach) 26:22 expressly states Antiochus Epiphanes had it removed and broken (1Maccabees 1:22 ), while Judas Maccabæ us restored it (iv:49 et seq. ). Pompey saw the candlestick in the sanctuary (Josephus, "Ant." 14:4, § 4), and it was also in the sanctuary of Herod's temple ("B. J." 5:5, § 5). Illustrations of the seven-branched candlestick are found on the triumphal arch of Titus and on Jewish coins (see Madden, "Jewish Coinage," p. 231). Compare Titus, Arch of.

It was forbidden to make copies of the golden candlestick for ritual purposes and for other uses, only five-, six-, or eight-branched, instead of seven-branched, candlesticks could be made. It is doubtful whether this restriction had anything to do with the fact that Onias hung up a golden chandelier in the temple of Leontopolis (compare Josephus, "B. J." 7:10, § 3).

The symbolism of the almond-tree is probably explained by Jeremiah 1:11 . The traditions of the Rabbis may be found in Men. 28b and Maimonides, "Yad," Bet ha-Beḥ irah, 3:1-5. According to this authority the pedestal rested on three feet other metal could be used than gold, and only when gold was used was the required weight ("kikkar") insisted on. Otherwise the candlestick could even be hollow, but under no circumstance was it permissible to use for its manufacture broken scraps of metal. Josephus says that three of the lamps were kept burning during the day, while at night the entire seven were lighted but his statement conflicts with the explanation of the later rabbinical commentators, who hold that the lamp was lighted only during the night (Ibn Ezra and Rashi to Ex. l.c. ). The prohibition of imitations applies to all Temple or tabernacle utensils (Men. 28b). Of interest as bearing on the distinction between "ner" and "menorah" may be the Midrashic story of the woman married to a man of lower social standing, likened to a "golden candlestick with an earthen lamp on top" (Gen. R. 20: Menorah, Ḥ anukkah. E. G. H.

Bibliography : Reland, De Spoliis Templi Hierosolymitani in Arcu Titiano , 1775, pp. 82 et seq. E. G. H. W. N.

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

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