Pope Asked to
Return Temple Menorah


By J. R. Church
April 1996


THE ARCH OF TITUS, built in Rome to honor the conqueror of the Jews, shows a stone carving of the Menorah and other Temple items carried by Jewish slaves in a parade in downtown Rome following the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
ISRAEL'S MINISTER OF RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS, Shimon Shetreet, has asked Pope John Paul II to help him locate Israel's ancient Menorah - the seven golden candlesticks (as the Bible calls it). Shetreet met with the Roman Catholic Pontiff in late January to ask the Pope's assistance. The news article about this historic request appeared in the January 27, 1996 Jerusalem Post.

Shetreet claimed that recent research at the University of Florence indicated the Menorah may still be among the treasures in the Vatican's underground vaults. He said, "I don't say it's there for sure, but I asked the pope to help in the search as a goodwill gesture in recognition of the improved relations between Catholics and Jews."

He noted that the pope plans to visit Jerusalem in 1997 on a religious pilgrimage to encourage the peace process.

Is the golden Menorah preserved in an underground catacomb? I once met an exCatholic priest that told me he saw several Temple relics in a vault four stories under the West Wing of the Vatican. The West Wing houses a dormitory for priests from the United States.

What happened to the Menorah, the golden lampstand, that graced the early Tabernacle and the Temple of King Solomon? What information was found in the University of Florence that led Israel's minister of Religious Affairs to think it might still be under the Vatican? In A.D. 70, the Romans carried the booty of the Jerusalem Temple to Rome. A stone relief of that Menorah can be viewed in the Triumphal Arch of Titus, located just north of the Coliseum in Rome.

According to Edward Gibbon, author of THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE, Herod's Temple Menorah now lies at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, somewhere between Italy and the northern coast of Africa.

Gibbon wrote, "At the end of 400 years, the spoils of Jerusalem (the holy instruments of Jewish worship, the gold table and the gold candlestick with seven branches) were transferred from Rome to Carthage, by a Barbarian ... the haughty Vandal; who immediately hoisted sail, and returned ...to the port of Carthage." However, the twelve ships that carried the loot encountered a storm at sea. We are told that "the vessel which transported the relics of the Capital was the only one of the whole fleet that suffered shipwreck ... this cargo ... was lost in the sea."

Gibbon indicated that the spoils of the Jewish Temple went down with the ship, including the Menorah. Was Gibbon right? Were his sources correct? Or is the Menorah still in Rome? It seems that bringing up the subject of Temple furnishings during the celebration of "Jerusalem 3000" is quite significant. Psalm 96 was the psalm used to celebrate the establishment of Temple liturgy in Jerusalem in 1004 B.C.- just 3,000 years ago. That was the year King David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. If the Menorah and perhaps even other Temple furnishings were returned to Israel during this year, it would be a highly significant fulfillment of Bible prophecy.

Did the Romans rob Herod's temple of the original lampstand built at Sinai? According to some Jewish historians, it may have been one of Solomon's ten menorahs built to embellish and enhance the original Mosaic Menorah which was placed among them. There are many strange stories about the Servant Lamp that stood in the center of the Menorah. One such story has the "Lamp of God" mysteriously extinguished about the same time the Ark of the Covenant was captured by the Philistines. Do such stories have a prophetic significance for us today?

The History of the Menorah

In order to better understand the spiritual significance of the Menorah, let us review its history. We are told in the book of Exodus that Moses was instructed to build a golden lampstand upon which seven lamps were positioned:

"And he made the candlestick of pure gold: of beaten work made he the candlestick; his shaft, and his branch, his bowls, his knobs, and his flowers, were of the same:

"And six branches going out of the sides thereof; three branches of the candlestick out of the one side thereof, and three branches of the candlestick out of the other side thereof:

"Three bowls made after the fashion of almonds in one branch, a knob and a flower; and three bowls made like almonds in another branch, a knob and a flower: so throughout the six branches going out of the candlestick.

"And in the candlestick were four bowls made like almonds, his knobs, and his flowers:

"And a knob under two branches of the same, and a knob under two branches of the same, and a knob under two branches of the same, according to the six branches going out of it.

"Their knobs and their branches were of the same: all of it was one beaten work of pure gold.

"And he made his seven lamps, and his snuffers, and his snuffdishes, of pure gold.

"Of a talent of pure gold he made it, and all the vessels thereof" (Exodus 37:17-24).

The almond tree figured prominently in the design of the Menorah. The leaves, flowers and fruit were featured, perhaps reminding us of Aaron's rod that budded. When the miracle occurred, the rod, having no root, bore leaves, flowers and almonds overnight (Numbers 17;8). Furthermore, the Hebrew word for almond (luz), means light.

The first-century Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, also described the Menorah built for Moses by Bezaleel:

"Over against this table, near the southern wall, was set a candlestick of cast gold, hollow within, being of the weight of one hundred pounds, which the Hebrews call Chinchares; if it be turned into the Greek language, it denotes a talent. It was made with its knops, and lilies, and pomegranates, and bowls (which ornaments amounted to seventy in all); by which means the shaft elevated itself on high from a single base, and spread itself into as many branches as there are planets, including the sun among them. It terminated in seven heads, in one row, all standing parallel to one another; and these branches carried seven lamps, one by one, in imitation of the number of planets. These lamps looked to the east and to the south, the candlestick being situated obliquely."

The Menorah was placed adjacent to the south wall, just across the room from the table of shewbread in the Holy Place of the Mosaic Tabernacle. It stood obliquely toward the east and toward the south. Some rabbinic sources say the three eastern lamps faced northwest - toward the center lamp and the three western lamps faced south east - toward the center lamp. The fourth or center lamp faced northeast toward the middle of the room.

This middle lamp was called Ner Elohim, the "Lamp of God" as well as Shamash, the "Servant Lamp." It was also called the "Western Lamp" because it stood just west of the three eastern lamps. Each lamp held "six eggs" measure of oil which would last one day.

The Miracle of the Menorah

Each morning, a priest would service the lamps, except the two most easterly. If he found any lamps extinguished, he relighted them. The two eastern lamps were left burning until after the morning service. The Servant Lamp was left burning all day and was refilled in the evening. There are stories that the Shamash would continue to burn for as much as a day longer on the same amount of oil. Rabbis called this "the miracle of the Menorah."

Solomon's Temple

When Solomon built his Temple, the Mosaic Menorah served in the new Holy Place. It was given a prominent position in Solomon's Temple, though several lampstands were built and used throughout the complex. What happened to that first Menorah remains a mystery. One accounts suggests an angel hid the Mosaic Menorah and other Temple artifacts in an underground chamber, beneath the Most Holy Place, just prior to the Babylonian destruction of the Temple in 587 B.C. When the third Temple is built, the angel should return, open the mysterious chamber, and retrieve the Temple furnishings.

Zerubbabel's Temple

After the Babylonian captivity, the exiles returned to Jerusalem and restored Temple worship. It is likely that one of Solomon's menorahs was used in the sanctuary built by Zerubbabel.

Antiochus Epiphanes

In 168 B.C., the Syrian general, Antiochus Epiphanes, sacked Jerusalem and stole the Menorah, along with the rest of the Temple treasury. Josephus wrote:

"So he left the temple bare, and took away the golden candlesticks, and the golden altar of incense, and table of shewbread, and the altar of burnt offering; and did not abstain from even the veils, which were made of fine linen and scarlet. He also emptied it of its secret treasures, and left nothing at all remaining.

"He built an idol altar upon God's altar and slaughtered swine upon it. Josephus wrote that the desecration was considered to be the predicted "abomination of desolation." It was thought to be a fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy in Daniel 8:11-13.

Three years later, on the 25th of Kislev, 165 B.C., Judas Maccabaeus drove the Syrians out of Jerusalem and proceeded to cleanse the Temple. They replaced the Menorah, altar, table, and other furnishings with new items. Josephus reported:

"When therefore he had carefully purged it, and had brought in new vessels, the candlestick, the table, and the altar, which were made of gold, he hung up the veils at the gates, and added doors to them. He also took down the altar of burnt offering, and built a new one of stones that he gathered together, and not of such as were hewn with iron tools. So on the five and twentieth day of the month Kislev, they lighted the lamps that were on the candlestick, and offered incense upon the altar, and laid the loaves upon the table, and offered burnt offerings upon the new altar."

The Feast of Lights

But they found only one day's oil supply for the Menorah. It would take eight days to produce another batch of oil. However, the priests serviced the lamps and lit them anyway. Those lamps burned for eight days on one day's oil supply!

The miracle was looked upon as a special blessing from God. So the priesthood established the festival of Dedication (Hanukkah) to commemorate the miracle. The festival is also called the Feast of Lights. Jewish families celebrate the festival of Hanukkah with small menorahs at home featuring eight candles plus a Servant Candle for a total of nine. One candle is lit each day during the eight days of Hanukkah, using the fire of the Servant Candle.

Pluto Fizzles as a Planet

For many years Americans were told that there were nine planets in our Solar System. With the advent of the Hubble telescope, however, we have learned that Pluto is just an overgrown asteroid - only about a thousand miles in diameter - too small to be a planet.

How fascinating! With the sun as the great Servant Lamp of our universe, and only eight planets, we have a marvelous Hanukkah Menorah! Concerning the original seven lamp Menorah, Josephus wrote that it was designed after the sun and the planets. During the era of the Bible, man could only see seven wanderers through the heavens - the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. But the festival of Hanukkah lends a divine element to the age of Gentile Christianity. No man could have known that two more planets would be discovered. Yet two extra lamps were added to the Menorah just before the advent of the Christian era!

Herod's Temple

The Menorah that stood in Herod's Temple might have been the one built by Judas Maccabaeus, because the Servant Lamp on that Menorah was said to burn longer than the other lamps. Upon the destruction of Herod's Temple in A.D. 70, the Romans carried the Menorah to Rome and paraded it through the streets. A stone relief of that parade, along with the Menorah, was carved into the Arch of Titus that stands along the Appian Way near the Forum in Rome to this day (see picture above).



THE ARCH of Titus stands in Rome, just south of the Forum. Through it runs the Appian Way, site of the processional of Jewish slaves after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Just inside the arch, on the left, stands a stone carving showing Jewish prisoners carrying the Temple Menorah and other Jewish artifacts.
The Miracle of the Servant Lamp

A STRANGE STORY is told about that Menorah and its Servant Lamp. According to the Jerusalem Talmud, Yoma 43:3, the "miracle of the Servant Lamp" ceased about 40 years before the Romans burned the Temple. The Servant Lamp simply refused to burn.

Simeon, the Righteous

The Jewish Encyclopedia says that the Lamp went out upon the death of "Simeon, the Righteous, who was high priest in those days." And who was this Simeon? Was he the Simeon of Luke 2:25-36? The account tells of a certain Simeon, who was in the Temple when the one-month-old Jesus was brought in by Joseph and Mary for his "Redemption of the Firstborn" ceremony.

According to certain details in the story, Simeon, the Righteous, and the Simeon in Luke's account could very well be one and the same.

"... the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.

"And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ" (Luke 2:25-26).

Note that his death was divinely delayed until he could see the promised Messiah. And in the Jerusalem Talmud account, when Simeon, the Righteous, died, the Servant Lamp went out. Both stories were centered around a death experience.

Luke's account does not refer to him as the high priest, but the story is set in the Temple. Furthermore, he had to be a priest in order to preside over the "Redemption of the Firstborn" ceremony. If he was not the high priest, and if he believed Jesus was the Messiah, he should have immediately fetched the high priest. Since the account does not say that he reported his find to the high priest, one may assume that he, himself, was the high priest.

Simeon took the child up in his arms and said, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word" (Luke 2:29). Again, the subject concerns Simeon's impending death. Simeon continued:

"For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel" (Luke 2:30-32).

He called Jesus a "light to lighten the Gentiles!" Indeed! It appears that Jesus was the fulfillment of this mystery surrounding the Menorah!

The story in the Jerusalem Talmud places the time frame for the failure of the Servant Lamp at about 40 years before the destruction of the Temple. It seems odd that the lamp would fail during the ministry of Jesus.

Furthermore, as I understand the story, the problem continued for 40 years. Perhaps the crucifixion had something to do with it. The Talmud account says nothing about Jesus being the cause - only that "the miracle of the Menorah ceased upon the death of Simeon the Righteous, who was high priest in those days."

But the opening chapter of the book of Revelation gives a view of Jesus standing in the middle of a Menorah. He stood upon the Servant Lamp and "his countenance was like the sun shining in its strength" (Revelation 1:16).

John attributes to Jesus the position of Servant Lamp. Somehow, this Servant Lamp must be connected to the events surrounding His crucifixion.

The Mystery!

We realized that we had learned something here that could not be found in Christian theological commentaries. The concept begged for further investigation. That's when we began to see that almost all of the sevens in the Bible display a symbolic Servant Lamp in the middle position!

Once we came to realize the significance of the lampstand, we began to see dozens of menorahs throughout the Bible. Many of those finds are published in our book, THE MYSTERY OF THE MENORAH. I recommend that you get the book and read about this fascinating subject.

Questions or Comments:
JR Church

Reprinted with the permission of the author



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