Looking for a nice piece of Judaica? Why not go for something really Jewish, like a Star of David. This ancient symbol of Judaism is...well, actually, although the Star of David is a popular Jewish symbol today, it isn’t an ancient Jewish symbol at all
The Star of David, also known as the Magen David (Shield of David), is supposedly the shape of the shield that was carried by King David. However, there are no Biblical descriptions of King David’s shield, nor have any archeological artifacts of such a shield ever been found. While there have been some ancient Jewish sites discovered with designs similar to a modern day Star of David, interlocked triangles were not an uncommon symbol in the ancient Middle East and North Africa.
It was not until some time in the 17th century that the Star of David began to appear as a Jewish symbol, particularly outside synagogues, possibly in contrast to the cross placed on the doors of a church.
The 1600s were also a time when kabbalistic (mystical) study flourished. As the Magen David became common, the kabbalists saw great meaning in its design. For instance, the six points represent six directions (East, West, South, North, Up and Down) while the empty space created in the middle represents the world as a whole.
Because this six-pointed star was associated with King David, the famed warrior who greatly expanded the borders of ancient Israel, it is not at all surprising that it was quickly adopted as a symbol by the early Zionist movement and is today the central symbol on the Israeli flag.
While the history of the Jewish star may surprise us, today it is almost universally accepted as a symbol of Judaism.
This Treat was last posted on December 8, 2008.