The Origins of the Magen David

The Star of David, the symbol of the Jewish fa...
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I recently received an email from a reader of our Hebrew Root site which raised a very typical objection to the most prominent symbol of Judaism and Israel:  The Magen David or Star of David.  The author of the email was very nice and passed along several links that she thought important to the subject in a spirit of brotherhood rather than confrontation, which I appreciate.

The Synagogue of Capernaum
The Synagogue of Capernaum

In reviewing the links, I found two separate arguments that were only loosely connected.  The first was that the Magen David did not appear as a symbol of Israel until the Medieval period or after.  The second admits that it may well go back to Solomon, but connects it with his apostasy and descent into paganism and occultism.

The first argument is pretty easy to answer.  While in Israel a couple of years ago, my group visited Capernaum.  Standing there was a third century synagogue that had been built on the ruins of the synagogue that Yeshua Himself taught in.  You can actually see where the lighter stone of the third century synagogue rests on the almost black stone of the original.

A Third-Century Magen David

Among the ruins was the awning which once decorated the roof of this synagogue.  Here is a picture of it.  Do you notice anything in particular?  That’s right, the Magen David is right there in the center, surrounded by various other fruits associated with Israel.  The builders of this synagogue were very serious about not putting anything on it that could be considered idolatrous; that’s why there are pictures of pomegranates and grape vines rather than of, for example, the Patriarchs or the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.  Obviously, if there was anything occultic in the Magen David, they were not aware of it.

To me, this means that pretty much any claim that the Magen David was not a symbol of Judaism until the rise of Kabbalism automatically disqualifies the claimant from any serious hearing on the subject.  I’m not saying this lightly, since I know of at least a couple of prominent Christian teachers that I have great respect for who have made this mistake.

*Not* the Origin of the Cross

But could it be that the Magen David was a magic circle introduced by Solomon, as some authors suggest?  Perhaps.  But on the other hand, pretty much any symbol used by anyone anywhere can be connected to an occultic origin or similar symbol if you try hard enough.  For example, there are groups that will claim that the Cross is really just a stylized Ankh.  One could also easily connect the Jesus Fish to Dagon, if one were so inclined.

The opposite also happens:  The rainbow, originally a symbol of the Eternal One’s covenant with Noah, has been co-opted by the homosexuals.  How many conservative, Biblically-based churches are willing to use the rainbow as their symbol now?

Symbols ultimately mean whatever they mean to the viewer.  As a Messianic synagogue, we don’t use the symbol of the Cross–not because of any alleged pagan origin, but because to our people, the Cross has become a symbol of persecution, assimilation, and death.  For Christians, on the other hand, it is a symbol of grace, of the deepest shame turned into the highest honor.  Who is right?  Both.

Another strange argument is that the Magen David is the “Star of Remphan” referred to in Amos 5:26 and Acts 7:43.  So then, every vaguely stylized star-like shape must be assumed to be a reference to a pagan god?  Why could it not instead be a reference to Num. 24:17 instead?

I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob, A scepter shall rise from Israel, And shall crush through the forehead of Moab, And tear down all the sons of Sheth.

Given that the prophecy goes on to describe this Star of Jacob destroying the enemies of Israel, would it be at all surprising if it was in fact adopted as a symbol during the time of David and Solomon as Israel’s symbol?

And Israel’s symbol it is–the most recognized in the world today.

Those who try to claim that because it has six points it must therefore be connected to the Mark of the Beast are stretching, to say the least.  Scripture states that the person we call the Antichrist will come out of Rome (Dan. 7) and Greece (Dan. 8) to oppress Israel, not that he will arise in Israel.  Like Antiochus, he will come from without to defile what the Apostle Paul calls “the Temple of God” (2Th. 2:4) and what Yeshua Himself declared to be the Holy Place (Mat. 24:15) in Judea.

It does not surprise us when we see Islamists and other avowedly anti-Semite groups slandering the symbol of Israel.  It does surprise us somewhat when such slander–and that’s what it is, whether presented in ignorance or outright malice–comes from those claiming to be citizens of Israel’s King.

Shalom.

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