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New moon takes bull by the horns

(Times of Israel) It’s easy to walk past the gray-brown slab of basalt in the Israel Museum’s archaeology wing and pay it no heed. (I confess to have done so numerous times; the silver amulets bearing ancient renditions of the priestly blessing garner far more attention.) But etched into the monumental stele’s pocked surface is a mysterious figure central to understanding the significance of the lunar god in ancient Canaan and the origins of the Jewish veneration of the new moon.

The nearly four-foot-tall volcanic stone is marked with a striking bull-headed figure whose powerful gaze bores through the viewer. Its horns bend inward like the sliver of a day-old moon. Beneath its massive skull stands a vertical line transected by two downward facing curves which appear to be limbs. Girt at its midsection is a sword of a style typical of the period (examples of which are found in display cases just feet away). At its right hip sits a tiny rosette believed to represent the four phases of the moon.

Discover the signs of blood in the heavens as well, some that may be coming to pass right now, with Pastor John Hagee’s new book, “Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change.”

What deity it represents, or in fact what the figure is at all, remains the subject of scholarly debate.