Biblical Archaeology Review 15:2, March/April 1989

Glossary: Standing Stones

By Neil Asher Silberman

Biblical Archaeology Review

Masseboth and Stelae


mat-zey-VAH, plural masseboth, mat-zey-VOTE

Derived from the Hebrew root “to set up” or “to stand,” the term massebah is used to describe the upright stones erected to commemorate important religious events or sacred covenants in the lands of the Bible during the Bronze and Iron Ages (3150–1200 B.C. and 1200–586 B.C., respectively). In the patriarchal narratives of the Book of Genesis, masseboth are mentioned both as burial monuments—“Jacob set up a pillar at Rachel’s grave” (Genesis 35:20)—and as memorials to direct encounters with God—Jacob “set up a pillar at the site where [God] had spoken to him” (Genesis 35:14).

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