The Assyrian Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III (in the British Museum) could have associated the nation of Yisrael with a Menorah, but chose to distinguish Yehudim with an encircled star similar to the מָגֵן דָּוִד "Shield [of] David".

The British Museum claims the Obelisk (excavated by Sir Austen Henry Layard in Nimrud) was constructed in 825 BCE, and provides the following description :

Black limestone obelisk of Shalmaneser III; glorifies achievements of king and minister; inscription; illustrations show tribute from all directions; tribute bearers in five rows, identified by captions; each row has four panels, one on each side of the obelisk;
Images obelisk Object Type obelisk Museum number 118885 Title Object: Object: The Black Obelisk Description Black limestone obelisk of Shalmaneser III; glorifies achievements of king and minister; inscription; illustrations show tribute from all directions; tribute bearers in five rows, identified by captions; each row has four panels, one on each side of the obelisk; 1. Gilzanu (North West Iran) tribute includes horses; 2. House of Omri (Ancient Israel- tribute from Biblical King Jehu 841BC); 3. Musri, or Egypt tribute or gift of elephant, ape and other exotic animals; 4. Suhi on the Euphrates, scene of animal hunting; 5. Patina in Southern Turkey.
  • Additional information provided by the British Museum.

  • In contrast to the British Museum's dating of 825 BCE, a detailed illustration of The Assyrian Black Obelisk ""Jewish Delegation on to Shalmaneser III" as illustrated by Friedrich Delitzsch; Joseph McCormack; William Herbert Carruth; Lydia Gillingham Robinson, published 1906. (First panel:Steven G. Johnson; Second panel: Gary Todd; Third panel: Gary Todd; Fourth panel:Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg)) - dating the artifact to 840 BCE.

In the illustrated panel of the "Jewish Delegation on to Shalmaneser III", the Symbol shown above "Yaua of Bit Omri" (Jehu of the House of Omri) matches the design of a מָגֵן דָּוִד "Magen David".

Based on the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III, Did Assyrians of 825 (or) 840 BCE associate the מָגֵן דָּוִד Magen David as a symbol of Yisrael?

1 Answer 1



Look closely and see that it is merely a multi-pointed star, not the familiar hexagram of the Magen David/Star of David:

enter image description here
WP File:Black_Obelisk_Yehu_in_front_of_Shalmaneser_III.jpg

It would run counter to established knowledge about the associations between Jewish faith or people and the hexagram symbol, Magen/shield of David or 'Star of David':

Unlike the menorah, the Lion of Judah, the shofar and the lulav, the Star of David was never a uniquely Jewish symbol. […]
The earliest Jewish usage of the symbol was inherited from medieval Arabic literature, where it was known as the Seal of Solomon among Muslims, […]
The hexagram does appear occasionally in Jewish contexts since antiquity, apparently as a decorative motif. For example, in Israel, there is a stone bearing a hexagram from the arch of the 3rd–4th century […]
The use of the hexagram in a Jewish context as a possibly meaningful symbol may occur as early as the 11th century, in the decoration of the carpet page of the famous Tanakh manuscript, the Leningrad Codex dated 1008.

And while the person depicted is supposed to be Jehu, the insignias on display on the relief belong to Shalmaneser III, they are:

Examining the Jehu Panel

  1. It reveals how King Jehu paid tribute to Shalmaneser III.

  2. King Jehu grovels in the dust before the Assyrian king.

  3. Shalmaneser is making a libation to his god.

  4. Behind Shalmaneser III stand two officers, one holds a parasol (a royal umbrella) and the other a club.

  5. Opposite the monarch two grooms-in-waiting have taken up their stance, one waves a fan and a censer, the other, carrying a scepter under his arm, has his hands respectfully clasped in front of him.

  6. There is a bearded officer with an attendant, leading a procession of 13 Israelites laden with precious gifts for the Assyrian king.

  7. All the Israelites have beards, and wear peaked caps and bandeaux. A long robe with fringes round the hem and a girdle, a long cloak with a fringed end thrown over the shoulder, and pointed shoes.

  8. Shalmaneser beneath a parasol, accepts "the tribute of Iaua of the House of Humri" in 841 BC. This is King Jehu of Israel (2Ki 9-10).

  9. The inscription reads: "The tribute of Jehu, son of Omri: I received from him silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden vase with pointed bottom, golden tumblers, golden buckets, tin, a staff for a king [and] spears."

  10. The symbols of the gods Assur (winged sun disc) and Ishtar (star) hover overhead.

The star in a drawing:

enter image description here

The symbols relating to Ishtar/Inanna relating to stars:


The eight-pointed star was Inanna/Ishtar's most common symbol. Here it is shown alongside the solar disk of her brother Shamash (Sumerian Utu) and the crescent moon of her father Sin (Sumerian Nanna) on a boundary stone of Meli-Shipak II, dating to the twelfth century BC.

Inanna/Ishtar's most common symbol was the eight-pointed star, though the exact number of points sometimes varies. Six-pointed stars also occur frequently, but their symbolic meaning is unknown. The eight-pointed star seems to have originally borne a general association with the heavens, but, by the Old Babylonian Period (c. 1830 – c. 1531 BC), it had come to be specifically associated with the planet Venus, with which Ishtar was identified. Starting during this same period, the star of Ishtar was normally enclosed within a circular disc. During later Babylonian times, slaves who worked in Ishtar's temples were sometimes branded with the seal of the eight-pointed star. On boundary stones and cylinder seals, the eight-pointed star is sometimes shown alongside the crescent moon, which was the symbol of Sin (Sumerian Nanna) and the rayed solar disk, which was a symbol of Shamash (Sumerian Utu).

  • 3
    Technically, it's a seven pointed star.
    – Lucian
    Jul 22, 2021 at 15:27
  • A short look at the relevant encyclopedic article reveals the number seven to have played an important part in the goddess' mythology; see also star of Ishtar.
    – Lucian
    Jul 22, 2021 at 15:33
  • 2
    Also worth noting that exactly the same pair of symbols seems to be used in the top panel on the obelisk (Gilzanu?) Jul 22, 2021 at 15:36
  • 1
    @Andrew The 'same' symbols, but reversed left/right. Plus: In the top panel I'll definitively count eight points around the star? Jul 22, 2021 at 16:08

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