This series on the Emeq HaMelekh is a continuing look at the Mishnahs that describe the roles of five worthy men, Shimur Ha Levi, Haggai (Chaggai the Prophet), Zechariah son of Iddo, Zedekiah (Zidkiyah), Hezekiah (Hizkiyah), Hilkiyah, Ezra the Cohen, and Baruch son of Neriah the Scribe for Jeremiah who were commissioned on a secret mission to hide the treasures of Solomon’s Temple. The mortality rate was over 50% of the 230 plus priests and other men noted as worthy who were entrusted in this clandestine mission to put the furnishings and vessels of the Lord into long term hiding.
This Mishnah had breathtaking significance seeing the mortality ratio of the Jews that hid these precious artifacts in that they were hidden in a tower in the land of Babylon in the ancient city of Bagdat (Baghdad). The documentation of this hunt for these treasures continues to this day by the rabbabim and has significant subterranean impact in the War against Saddam Hussein in the Nation of Iraq.
Within this cache of treasures, we have a description of the gold and silver bread molds, which give us visual insight into the awesome perfection and specificity of how the Lord of hosts wanted his services to be performed. We will go through a study on bread molds and bread baking ovens in the ancient world of the Egyptians, Syrians, and the Hebrews. The Hebrew Showbread or the Bread of Presence was special to the Hebrew temple service in which the Family of Garmu of the Kohathites became the nationally recognized specialists in Showbread baking. Weekly the fresh showbread was placed on the Table of Showbread along with Frankincense to be used on the Altar of Incense. What was even more spectacular was that the gold and silver bread molds were encrusted with Margaliot pearls and precious gemstones.
The story of David’s ascent to kingship is specifically related to the showbread when he was fleeing from the long arm of King Saul’s assassins and he and his men were given showbread to eat by the High Priest Ahimelech. This resulted in the death of the high priest, yet his son Abiathar fled and Abiathar was soon anointed as the high priest by King David.
Also in Baghdad are to be located thirty-six golden trumpets and the most magnificent specimen of one of the furnishings in the golden lined, gemstone encrusted Holy Place in the Temple of Solomon, an awesome 49 lamped menorah encrusted with upwards to 182 precious gemstones and 36,400 jeweled stones. Yes we do have an eyewitness in the Bible of this menorah as we look at it through the eyes of Zechariah the Prophet son of Ido.
The Menorah was the only source of lighting in the Sanctuary and the Temple. It represented the Glory of God, the seven pipes the eyes of Jehovah, the presence of the Holy Spirit in the lamp oil and a portrayal of the coming messiah (Moschiach) in the life of Jesus (Yeshua), son of Yosef, brother of Jacov (James or Jacob). The preparation for the coming of the anointed one, the messiah (Moschiach) was in the rededication of the Temple of Zerubbabel by the Maccabees, when the golden menorah was abducted at the desecration of the temple during the Abomination of Desolation by Antiochus Epiphanes IV. At this time the festival of Chanukah was instituted, the eight lamped Hanukkah menorah was first made and the Festival of Lights started the Essenes in preparation for the coming of the Moschiach.
The temple Menorah in Solomon’s Temple represented the solar system and the planets known to the ancient world. The almond shaped lamps first made by Bezaleel for the Sanctuary of Moses (Moshe) was a shadow type of Yeshua (Jesus) hanging on the almond tree on the Mount of Olives, when upon his death the Ner-ha-Ma-arabi (Ner Elohim), the Western Lamp quit burning in the Temple during the time of the high priest of Simeon Tzaddik, the Righteous, the crimson cord failed to turn red, and the great temple door, called the Hekel refused to close during the forty years before the fall of Jerusalem in 68-70 CE.
We will then trace the route of one of Herod’s Temple menorahs that was captured by the Roman forces and the portrayal that was engraved on the triumphal Arc of Titus. The modern investigation and request by the National of Israel to the Holy See to return the menorah and other temple artifacts from the archives of the Vatican will be documented.
The city of Opis was connected along the commercial roadway between Susa in Elam and also situated on the so-called Royal road, which connected central Assyria with the Elam capital of Susa then on to Sardis the capital of Lydia.
In October 539, Opis was the theater of an important battle. Just prior to the final conquest of the city of Babylon, at the Battle of Opis, the Babylonian army under the leadership of Nabonidus met the combined forces of the Medes and the Persians under king Cyrus the Great in October 539 BCE. The Babylonians were defeated and Cyrus quickly moved on to the conquest of Babylon. Apparently during the battle the local citizens of Opis revolted and sided with the forces of Cyrus, but as soon as Persians went south, the Babylonian forces returned and massacred the citizens. The contemporary Nabonidus chronicle describes the event:
“In the month of Tashritu, when Cyrus attacked the army of Babylonia in Opis on the Tigris, the inhabitants of Babylonia revolted, but he (Nabonidus?) massacred the confused inhabitants. On the fifteenth day (October 12), Sippar was seized without battle. Nabonidus fled. On the sixteenth day, (the Persian commander) Gobryas, the governor of Gutium, and the army of Cyrus entered Babylon without battle.”
What became of Opis during the Persian empire is unknown. The whole city was massacred by Nabonidus and recovery could have been real slow. Yet Opis has one other claim to fame in the rise and fall of the ancient empires. On August 324 BCE, the forces of the Macedonian conqueror of the Middle East, Alexander the Great came to a standstill at the city of Opis, when the Grecian soldiers mutinied against him because they felt he was giving equal rights to the Persians.
It was near Baghdad that the Syrian general Seleucid, one of Alexander’s four generals who split up his empire after his death, decided to build his new capital, Seleucia. It soon became a major trading center in the Mesopotamian valley. Right after the Maccabean defeat of the Syrian ruler Antiochus Epiphanes IV, the city was destroyed and nearby on the other side of the Tigris, a new city which was growing, Ctesiphon, which became the center of trade with the Asiatic regions of the world. It is near Ctesiphon that modern Baghdad was erected by the Abbasid Caliph al Mansur in 763 CE, who called it the “Garden of Dat.” In the site of old Ctesiphon, the remains of the ancient city walls are still visible plus the remarkable palace with vaulted ceilings. So did Baghdad, or Bagdat, as the Emeq HaMelekh called it exist during the time of the Babylonian ruler of Nebuchadnezzar? By all indication from history and archeology, the answer is yes.
In 1993, Mark Lehner, director of the Gaza excavations and archeologist at the Harvard Semitic Museum and the University of Chicago plus a National Geographic team built a replica of a Pyramid Age bakery, with bread molds in large, conical ceramic molds weighing up to 12 kilograms called a bedja. With the assistance of Ed Wood, an international expert of yeasts and sourdoughs, they uncovered evidence of bread making unique to the Old Kingdom in the tombs of Pharonic Egypt, such as that of the 5th dynasty official Ty at Square. It is this era that this author feels more replicates the era of the Exodus. Shards found of bread molds of this type are found dotting the landscape all the way to Palestine.
Using the life studies of Ed Wood on wild yeasts and the sourdough bread made from the flour of emmer and barley, Ed used local wild yeast from Gaza to leaven the bread found in the ancient bread baking sites at Giza and rebuilt a replicated oven at Saqqara.
The adaptation and sophistication of the Hebrew bread making quickly changed as they moved into Palestine and became acquainted with the Canaanite method of baking bread. Whereas the Egyptians made bread with only emmer and barley, wheat was also introduced in the repertoire of breads, because it has gluten which makes it finer, lighter and fluffier. The bread eventually developed away from thick loaves to thinner cakes, in the post exilic era.
The oven of the Syrians, Canaanites and no doubt the Israelites of the Judge’s era, was a clay cylinder, narrower at the top in which fire was kindled beneath and cakes were stuck on the interior heated walls, while the Egyptians laid the cakes on the exterior walls.
The Showbread or Presence-Bread
This bread making would have been the common variety of bread in which the Children of Israel would have made bread, but was not necessarily how the Lord of hosts wanted the bread that was to be place before his Presence in the Holy Place. The sons of the Kohathites (1 Chron. 9:32) were in charge of baking and presenting the “bread of the row”. We remember the story of David fleeing from the presence of King Saul, presented himself with his men famished for food at the city of Nob to Ahimelech, the high priest, and was given the week old ‘holy’ bread from the Sanctuary. (1 Samuel 21:4-6, Matt. 12:4, Luke 6:4) For this act, the family of Ahimelech lost their lives, leaving only his son Abiathar who escaped.
The Showbread was unleavened bread, which required a skill of dexterity that eventually became the province of a certain family called the Garmu, who were the national experts of baking showbread and as such received high prices for their services. (Yoma 38d) This family of bakers (Exodus 35:30) kept their baking secrets totally within their family and as such had no competition. The temple chiefs, resisting this monopoly brought in baking chefs from Alexandria, but they were no competition to the Garmuites. When the family of Garmu was invited back to their former baking trade, they asked for double the salary and were censured by the temple authorities. When queried why they would not reveal the secrets of their trade, they replied:
Yoma iii. 11, 38a; Tosef. Yoma, ii. 5 - "Our forebears communicated to us their premonition that the Temple would eventually be destroyed; should we instruct others in our art, it might come to pass that our pupils would exercise the art in the service of some idolatrous temple."
History would remember the Garmuites with reverence as model Israelites of scrupulous honesty.
Each loaf of bread was kneaded singly but baked in doubles. According to the baking instructions in the Jewish Encyclopedia, the golden molds or forms were used throughout the entire baking process. The loafs or cakes according to the Mishnah (Men. xi. 4; "Yad," l.c. v. 9), were ten fingers (Maimonides gives "palms") in length, five in breadth, and rims, or upturned "horns," of seven fingers in length. To the modern baker, considering the fact that solid gold dishes, pans, utensils, and implements were used in the cooking and baking process gives a different flavor to gourmet cooking and baking.
Therefore three forms or molds were used, the first for kneading and flour preparation, the second as the baking pan, (ever used a golden baking pan?) and the third for it to be immediately placed while moldable and warm to preserve their final shape and form. (Mem. Xi.1, 94a, see Maimonides, “Yad,” Temidin u-Musafin, v. 6-8)
The baking of the bread was more than likely done on the Temple court, whereas some authorities suggest it was done in the house of Pagi, the suburb where the Garmuites lived, near the courtyard of the temple. (Maimonides)
According to the Torah, twelve cakes, each with two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour, were placed on a ‘pure’ table and remained exposed to view for an entire week in the presence of the Lord. As such the ‘showbread’ was called ‘the presence-bread’. Each Sabbath, the new bread replaced the older bread in two heaps with one loaf leaning against another. The cakes that were removed were placed on a golden take in the hall as the bread itself was holy and not taken out of the temple premises. After the incense was burned the cakes were divided among the Levites. If Yom Kippur, a fast day, fell on the seventh-day Sabbath, the division of the bread was delayed until after the setting of the sun. ("Yad," l.c. v. 5).
According to Josephus on top of each heap of bread, six to a heap, was placed a golden cup of frankincense which was a memorial, ‘azkarah’ that was to be used on the altar of YHWH. (Leviticus 24:4-9) It was at this altar that Zechariah, the priest was offering incense to the Lord when he was met face to face with Gabriel the Archangel, announcing the birth of his son, John the Baptist.
According to the Tosefta, Men. xi, the cups
holding the frankincense, called ‘bezikin’ had flat bottoms or rims so they
could be balanced on top of the heap of bread. The frankincense was then
burned in the sacred fire and a new supply was placed with the fresh loaves of
bread. (Josephus, Antiquities, iii. 10, § 7).
When Solomon built his temple, great care was placed in the precise exhibition of the showbread. (1 Kings 7:48, II Chron. 4:19, 13:11) As leaven was scrupulously excluded from being used upon the altar of the Lord (Leviticus 2:11), it is assumed that the showbread was also unleavened. The showbread cakes were molded into squares, vastly different than the round thick domes breads of the Egyptians. These were piled six to a pile and hollow golden tubes were places between each square loaf so air could be conducted through them. The whole heap of bread was supported by two golden, fork-shaped supports that were attached to the table. (Men. 94b, 96a; “Yad,” I.g. v.2)
Exodus 37:17-24 - "And he made the candlestick of pure gold: of beaten work made he the candlestick; his shaft, and his branch, his bowls, his knobs, and his flowers, were of the same:
"And six branches going out of the sides thereof; three branches of the candlestick out of the one side thereof, and three branches of the candlestick out of the other side thereof:
"Three bowls made after the fashion of almonds in one branch, a knob and a flower; and three bowls made like almonds in another branch, a knob and a flower: so throughout the six branches going out of the candlestick.
"And in the candlestick were four bowls made like almonds, his knobs, and his flowers:
"And a knob under two branches of the same, and a knob under two branches of the same, and a knob under two branches of the same, according to the six branches going out of it.
"Their knobs and their branches were of the same: all of it was one beaten work of pure gold.
"And he made his seven lamps, and his snuffers, and his snuff dishes, of pure gold.
"Of a talent of pure gold he made it and all the vessels thereof"
In the Antiquities of the Jews by Flavius Josephus, he makes a description of the Menorah that was crafted by Bezaleel under the supervision of Moses.
"Over against this table, near the southern wall, was set a candlestick of cast gold, hollow within, being of the weight of one hundred pounds, which the Hebrews call Chinchares; if it be turned into the Greek language, it denotes a talent. It was made with its knops, and lilies, and pomegranates, and bowls (which ornaments amounted to seventy in all); by which means the shaft elevated itself on high from a single base, and spread itself into as many branches as there are planets, including the sun among them. It terminated in seven heads, in one row, all standing parallel to one another; and these branches carried seven lamps, one by one, in imitation of the number of planets. These lamps looked to the east and to the south, the candlestick being situated obliquely.” (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, III, VI, 7)
The Menorah was a symbol of our solar system, created in seven days, in which the center is the Sabbath, the lamp stand of the Menorah. The seven lamps are the seven continents of the earth, the seven heavens and the seven planetary bodies known to the ancients including the sun. As noted in the Zohar, “These lamps, like the planets above, receive their light from the sun.” To the ancients, the visible solar system in the heaven consisted of the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.
The lamps on the Menorah were made in the shape of an almond, a beautiful and distinctive feature. On the narrowest end the wick for the lamps would burn from oil placed in the bowl. All along the branches were leaves, flowers and fruit reminding us of Aaron’s almond rod that budded and according to the legends of the Jews, the rod, without having any roots, overnight burst forth with leaves, flowers and almonds. (Numbers 17:8)
Is it any wonder that the almond in Hebrew is lust, meaning light? Is it any wonder that more and more followers of Christ believe that Y’shua (Jesus) was crucified on a tree in which the crossbeam from whence he hanged was lashed to the tree. Is it any wonder also that many of them believe that the tree was actually the almond tree that rooted and was placed on the Mount of Olives in the days of Aaron the High Priest? About five hundred years later, Y’shua, the Light of the world, was hung on a tree near the Miphkad altar where the ashes of the Red Heifer were collected. This tree was called the Tree of Light, the Almond Tree.
It was in 168 BCE; the Ruler of the Seleucid Empire of Greece, Antiochus Epiphanes IV conquered the city of Jerusalem, desecrated the Temple of the Lord and stole the Menorahs and the Temple Treasury. Josephus gives this account.
"So he left the temple bare, and took away the golden candlesticks, and the golden altar of incense, and table of showbread, and the altar of burnt offering; and did not abstain from even the veils, which were made of fine linen and scarlet. He also emptied it of its secret treasures, and left nothing at all remaining.
"He built an idol altar upon God's altar and slaughtered swine upon it. Josephus wrote that the desecration was considered to be the predicted "abomination of desolation." It was thought to be a fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy in Daniel 8:11-13.
The Maccabean family revolted three and a half years later and on the 25th of Kislev, 165 BCE, Judas Maccabees, the inheritor of his father’s fame and estate, gathered a small mercenary army and eventually drove the hated Seleucid army out of Judea. As Josephus also writes:
"When therefore he had carefully purged it, and had brought in new vessels, the candlestick, the table, and the altar, which were made of gold, he hung up the veils at the gates, and added doors to them. He also took down the altar of burnt offering, and built a new one of stones that he gathered together, and not of such as were hewn with iron tools. So on the five and twentieth day of the month Kislev, they lighted the lamps that were on the candlestick, and offered incense upon the altar, and laid the loaves upon the table, and offered burnt offerings upon the new altar."
And so began the Festival of Hanukah (Chanukah), which was also called the Feast of Lights, the Feast of Dedication. On this day, the newly purified Temple with the ashes of the Red Heifer, was preparing for a special dedication ceremony. To their chagrin, they had only one day’s supply of oil and the preparation time for produce any more oil was eight days. The priest went ahead and lit the lamps and miraculously the lamps continued to burn for eight days on that one day of oil.
Here the non-Torah feast of the Festival of Lights was begun. The Jewish families would bring out their eight lamped menorahs with a servant lamp along with the servant candle used to light the Hanukkah menorah. It was also at the Feast of Dedication that is was recorded in the Synoptic Gospels that the only time Jesus went to Jerusalem to celebrate a Jewish festival outside of his final Passover, when he was crucified, was on the Festival of Dedication. So now we have two Menorahs, the temple menorah of seven candles and the Hanukkah menorah with eight candles and a servant candle.
The Talmud speaking of the Menorah only refers to the lamp stand made by Bezaleel for the Tabernacle of the Wilderness. This Sanctuary Menorah was placed in Solomon’s Temple surrounded by ten Menorots made by the Tyrinian craftsman, Hiram. (Tosef., Sotah, xiii., beginning) The ten menorots made for Solomon’s temple were one denarius above the required weight for the Mosaic menorah, which was called a ‘kikkar’ (Men. 29a)
The Mosaic menorah was 18 teraphim (1 torah = 4 inches) or 6 feet (72 inches) in height, in which the central lamp stand, called the Ner ha-Ma’arabi, or the Western Lamp, because it was on the west side of the eastern branches (Rashi on Shab. 22b) The Talmud states that the Menorah placed the two branches to the east and the west. The wicks on the lamps of each branch were facing the central lamp stand, also called the Ner Elohim, or the Lamp of God. (1 Samuel 3:3)
Daily the lamps on the Menorah were cleaned and re-lit. In the morning, the four lamps on the western side of the branches were cleaned and relit, and after the morning sacrifice, the two lamps on the eastern side were cleaned and relit. (Talmis iii. 9; Yoma 33a) The lamp on the central lamp stand, the Ner ha-Ma’arabi or the “Western Lamp”, remained lit all day and was cleaned and refilled in the evening. It was the fire from the ‘Western Lamp’ that lit the other six lamps and as such was called the Ner Elohim, or the “Lamp of God.”
Each lamp contained a bowl in which to hold the oil for one day's worth of light. All seven lamps were large enough to hold one-half log measure of oil or equivalent to the amount of 3 eggs. This was enough oil to last through the longest night of the year in mid winter. (Men. 89a) It was deemed a miracle that the light of the central lamp routinely burned through the next evening. (Men. 86b)
The lamps and how they were lit and how long they remained lit became filled with all type of mystical and special symbolic meanings and omens. The miracle of the central lamp that remained lit through the next evening ceased to perform that unusual and miraculous event after the death of Simeon the Righteous, the high priest forty years before the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. (Yoma 39a, 43:3)
Zechariah 4:1-10, Tanakh - "The angel who talked with me came back and woke me as a man is wakened from sleep. He said to me, 'What do you see?' And I answered, 'I see a lamp stand all of gold, with a bowl above it. The lamps on it are seven in number, and the lamps above it have seven pipes; and by it are two olive trees, one on the right of the bowl, and one on its left.' I, in turn, asked the angel who talked with me, 'What do those things mean, my lord?' 'Do you not know what those things mean?' asked the angel who talked with me; and I said, 'No, my lord.' Then he explained to me as follows:
"'This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit -- said the LORD of Hosts. Whoever you are, O Great Mountain in the path of Zerubbabel, turn into level ground! For he shall produce that excellent stone; it shall be greeted with shouts of "Beautiful, Beautiful!"'
"And the word of the LORD came to me: Zerubbabel's hands have founded this House, and Zerubbabel's hands shall complete it. Then you shall know that it was the LORD of Hosts who sent me to you. Does anyone scorn a day of small beginnings? When they see the stone of distinction in the hand of Zerubbabel, they shall rejoice.
"Those seven are the eyes of the LORD, ranging over the whole earth"
"And seven pipes to the seven lamps -- feeding tubes, seven a-piece from the 'bowl' to each lamp . . . lit., seven and seven: forty nine in all. The greater the number of oil-feeding pipes the brighter the light of the lamps. The explanation in verse 6 is, that man's power by itself can neither retard nor advance God's work, that the real motive power is God's Spirit. The seven times seven imply the manifold modes by which the Spirit's grace is imparted to the Church in her manifold work of enlightening the world.
The seven pipes here answer to 'the seven eyes of Jehovah in the vision (ch.3:9). The seven-fold supply of oil implies the full and perfect supply of the Holy Spirit granted to Zerubbabel (the representative of the Jewish Church) enabling him to overcome all obstacles: so that as his 'hands laid the foundation of the house,' so 'his hands should also finish' (ch.4:9). Messiah alone, the antitype to Zerubbabel, has the Spirit in infinite fullness; 'for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him' (John 3:34)" (volume 2, page 671).
As we will see later, the articles and vessels that were taken from the destruction of the Temple in 586 BCE, there is no mention of the menorah. When about 50,000 Jews returned from Babylon seventy years later under the leadership of Sheshbazzar, the ruler of Judah, and then later Zerubabbel, Ezra and Nehemiah, there is no mention of a menorah returning to the land.
The temple of Zerubabbel constructed when the Jews returned to Israel had only a faint glory of the former Solomon’s temple. It was eventually remodeled, enlarged and made into one of the most glorious temples in the Roman world by Herod the Great. It is not improbable that one of the ten menorahs of Solomon’s temple that surrounded the Mosaic Menorah. When the Temple was destroyed, a menorah from the Temple of Herod was taken to Rome and there a representation of it was carved on the Triumphal Arc of Titus, north of the Coliseum, commemorating the triumph of the Roman legions against the city of Jerusalem in 70 CE. On the inside of the arch to the left, is a stone arch showing the transport of the Temple Menorah by the Jewish Roman prisoners. If this carving is drawn to scale, this menorah, carried on shoulder of the Jewish prisoners of war, was smaller in height of the average 1st century Jewish person.
Credits and Links:
Vendyl Jones Research Institute Home Page
Ashes for Beauty--The Mysterious Ashes of the Red Heifer by Jim Long
The Gate Between Two Walls, by Vendyl Jones
Vendyl Jones and the Ark of the Covenant by Gerard Robins
Temple Mount Sites
The Temple Mount in Jerusalem by the Temple Mount Organization
The Gihon Springs Temple Site by Ernest Martin
Emeq HaMelekh Sites
The Temple and the Copper Scrolls by the Order of the Nazorean Essenes
The Treasures in the House of the Lord by Lambert Dolphin
Babylon and Baghdad Sites by Jona Lenderling
Opis, ancient Baghdad
The Royal Road to Susa
Nabonidus Chronicles and the Last Years of Babylon
Cyrus the Great, the conqueror of Babylon
Gobryas the commander who conquered Babylon
Babylon and the Exile of the Jews by Robert D. Mock MD
Oracles of Zechariah by Robert Mock MD
Baghdad by Rodney Baird
Baghdad under the Abbasids, c. 1000 CE by Medieval Sourcebook
Pope Asked to Return Temple Menorah by J.R. Church
The Menorah by Wayne Blank
The Table of Showbread
Images of Egypt by Clemson
Garmu, the Temple Bakers by Jewish Encyclopedia
Baking the Showbread by Jewish Encyclopedia
Pyramid Age Baking by National Geographic and Harvard
Architectural Marvels of Ancient Mesopotamia by Joseph MacDonnell
The Baghdad Battery by Ancient Mysteries