why did the jews never make statues of abraham, moses and all the other important old testament saints?
The weird thing is that the bible states that the Jews would render cult to other cults, to their image. Don’t know why not have an image of bigger men who did more for their faith like Moses and Abraham
I don’t know of any Semitic culture-- Jewish or pagan-- that made statues of their great men. The Mesopotamians, Egyptians and the Greeks all did, but statue making (except for the small cultic images that some of the pagans worshipped and which Israel sometimes copied) doesn’t seem to have been part of their culture-- even BEFORE the 10 Commandments were given.
And don’t forget: for most of Old Testament history, the Israelites were nomadic and rather primitive. You don’t see a lot of nomadic and primitive tribes making statues.
except for the temple of solomon… there seemed to be plenty of statues there, just not of moses, abraham or any oef the other important people
Out of fear, their honouring the Patriarchs would turn into worship just as they fear saying God out loud (which is why they type it as G-d) in case they violate the commandment not to take the Lord’s name in vain.
With all respect to my Jewish brothers and sisters there’s too much scrupulosity and not enough trusting love in the Lord.
Here is a Judaica statue of Moses:cyberattic.com/stores/gebelein/items/976794/item976794cyberattic.html
Here is another:kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/lodz/tour26.htm
Here is an image of Moses on a coin:commem.com/prod06mine.htm
Coins, hundreds of years old:historama.com/online-history-shop/israeli_zionist_judaic_exonumia/jewish_biblical_theme_medals.html
Obviously the Protestant fundamentalist interpretation of the Jewish prohibition of images is a bit off.
I really like this old Jewish religious medal:historama.com/online-history-shop/israeli_zionist_judaic_exonumia/0130919%20a.jpg
The only freestanding statuary in the Temple of Solomon are the two gigantic cherubim inside the Holy of Holies. Most of the others described are more like relief carvings.
First, the Israelites didn’t make any statues of important people because the idea of purely commemorative statuary was simply unknown in their culture. In much of the Ancient Near East the only ones who get represented on statues are usually only gods or kings, who, to be fair, are themselves considered to be gods or mediators in some cultures - although in some places a distinction was maintained between offerings made to the statues of the gods and to the statues of kings which made it clear that the king (or his statue) was not being worshipped. In Mesopotamia sometimes people could also make votive figurines that could be symbolically presented to the god.
As you would notice, these statues are made for purposes of worship than simple commemoration. Apparently, ‘statue’ or ‘figurine’ had a religious connotation. You can see it in the syncretic folk religion practiced by Israelites on a popular level (as opposed to the ‘orthodox’ worship represented by the priests and the prophets).
The cherubim on the Holy of Holies (and the Ark) themselves also had a religious connotation: God is envisioned to ‘sit’, to ride upon these cherubim as in a throne or a footstool.
The interpretation of the prohibition of images fluctuated from lax to strict and then back to lax throughout Israelite/Jewish history. Before the Exile, it was interpreted more along the lines of not being allowed to depict God - which even then wasn’t always followed on the popular level - and not to worship other gods. So apparently, representations of stuff like cherubim, lions, bulls and trees weren’t considered to be a violation of the commandment. We even have seal impressions on the handles of royal Judahite storage jars and even some personal seals (such as those of pious King Hezekiah - see below) which carry images of winged sun disks and scarabs (dung beetles; Egyptian/Phoenician) and later, rosettes (Assyrian-Babylonian):
Things got strict after the Exile: the Jews who returned to the land now increasingly interpreted the commandment in such a way that any portrayal of any living thing was taboo. This strict view became the norm starting from the late Hellenistic (312 BC-63 BC) to the Hasmonean period (140 BC-37 BC), just as Jewish monotheism finally becomes consolidated, down to the 2nd-3rd century AD, although the trend was already slowly moving towards it for quite some time. We don’t know why the views changed: it might be a reaction against the forced eradication of Jewish customs by the Seleucids and foreign influences. In other words, the Jews wanted to forge a unique identity of their own - in the face of the Greeks and their many gods and sophisticated artistic culture, the Jews asserted the belief in only one God and refused to make concrete representations of any living creature. In fact, they now considered it offensive and an affront to their religion. To this end, most locally-minted Jewish currency at the time did not feature images of gods, men or animals as was common in other places, but images of plants or inaminate objects - pomegranates, cups, etc. - as a concession. (The exceptions to this ‘no-images’ rule were later Roman coins and, rather curiously, the Tyrian shekel in use at the Temple.) Even the houses of priestly and aristocratic families in Jerusalem, while built and decorated in the Greco-Roman style, only had frescoes of geometric patterns, imitations of architectural elements, or floral motifs on their walls - there were no depictions of people at all, like what you would find in, say, Pompeii. Animals were only rarely represented.
Things began to loosen up a bit once again after the Bar Kochba revolt (which the Jews lost) in AD 132-135. That was when Jews began to embrace art once more (cf. the Dura Europos synagogue in Syria ca. AD 244, as well as Byzantine-era synagogues in Palestine). Again, there are a number explanations for the reintroduction of figural representation (not necessarily mutually exclusive): increasing Hellenization, increasing minority status which made the need the accomodation to the outside world more pressing, the slow decline of paganism and the perception that images are not really a threat to Jews and Judaism after all.
Patrick, thanks for the fascinating info. The above medal gave me chills for some reason…I really like it, but when I clicked for the info I couldn’t find it.
I recognized the Slovak “hospodin”(“Lord”).
I disagree with the statement that the Israelites were nomadic for most of their history, and that they were primitive.
Abraham was certainly a nomad and his family went into Egypt while the patriarch was still alive. The tribes stayed in Egypt however for 450 years, wandered the desert for only 40 years, and were then given their portion of the promised lands by Joshuah immediately after crossing the Jordan river. There they stayed until the exile hundreds of years later. The ten northern tribes never came back from exile but the tribe of Judah and Benjamin returned to Judea where they stayed until 70 AD. For most of their history they stayed put.
The Israelites built a water system for Jerusalem under King Hezekiah (2 Kings 20) which was highly advanced for its time. They built the temple and had experience in most trades and crafts with the exception of iron working - they were not that good with making things from metal.
I didn’t say for most of their history, I said for most of the time described in the Old Testament (which is what the OP was asking). From Abraham to David was about 1000 years, but from David to to the destruction of the Temple and the Exile (the 1st Temple period) was less than 400 years. Even during the time of the First Temple period, when the city of Jerusalem was the capital and there were a couple of other good-sized towns, most Israelites were rural-- shepherds and farmers.