Biblical Archaeology Review 18:3, May/June 1992

The Pomegranate Scepter Head—From the Temple of the Lord or from a Temple of Asherah?

In 1988 the Israel Museum paid $550,000 for a small ivory pomegranate in the belief that it was once the head of a scepter that had been used by the priests in Solomon’s Temple.a In so doing, the museum relied heavily on the authentication and judgment of one of Israel’s most highly respected senior archaeologists, Hebrew University’s Nahman Avigad.1

Now a prominent Tel Aviv University archaeologist and former Avigad student, Aharon Kempinski, has suggested that the museum got taken—not only because the price was exorbitant, but because the little scepter head probably came from a temple of Asherah, the consort of Baal, and not from a temple of the Hebrew God Yahweh;b and, in any event, says Kempinski, it did not come from Yahweh’s Temple in Jerusalem.2 In a caustic retort, Avigad has defended his original judgment.3

The 1.68-inch-high ivory pomegranate was not uncovered in an excavation; rather, it turned up in the shop of a Jerusalem antiquities dealer. No one knows where it was actually found.

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