"Set me as a seal upon thy heart"
(The Song of Songs which is Solomon's, 8:6)
King Solomon, the son of King David,
established Jerusalem as the city of justice and peace. His name reflects the
original name of the city, Shalem. Solomon is said to have been given
both "wisdom and knowledge", this is usually taken to mean wise government,
the ability to distinguish morally between good and evil, and a thorough
understanding of the universe. "Behold I have given you a wise and
understanding heart; there has been none like you before you, nor after you
shall any arise like you" (Kings 1, 3, 12).
The legend of King Solomon's Seal, of the
wondrous signet ring which he received from heaven, is common to Judaism, to
Christianity and to Islam. King Solomon's Seal, whose base is on the ground
and whose tip reaches heaven, symbolizes a harmony of opposites, whose
significance is manifold as much as it is multi-cultural. It reflects the
cosmic order, the skies, the movement of the stars in their spheres, and the
perpetual flow between heaven and earth, between the elements of air and fire.
The Seal, therefore, symbolizes super-human wisdom and rule by divine grace.
In 1536 ce, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent
ordered extensive restorations on the Temple Mount and converted the church
which had been built on Mount Zion during the Crusader conquest into a mosque.
By building this mosque, Suleiman linked himself both to Solomon the son of
David and the Davidic Messiah who, according to Christian belief, is Jesus. It
was Sultan Suleiman's messianic consciousness which led him to develop the
link between himself and King Solomon. On the walls which be built around
Jerusalem are stone decorations in the form of two interlocking triangles
Stars of David, known to Moslems as Khatam Suleiman and to Jews as
Khatam Shlomo (King Solomon's Seal) whose function was to protect the
city. The symbol of the hexagram, the star-like figure formed by two
triangles, has many connotations, especially when it is enclosed by a circle;
super-natural powers have been attributed to it in many parts of the world
since ancient times. Beyond the Jewish national associations which have only
become attached to it in the last few hundred years, the abstract element of
the figure (which is connected to the celestial stars) and its geometrical
completeness make it a universal symbol. Together with the five-pointed star
(the pentagram, which is of much earlier origin) the hexagram represents the
development of mathematics and geometry by the Greeks and their successors
around the Mediterranean.
Through geometry, in which the Pythagoreans
and their followers saw cosmic symbolism, the hexagram and the pentagram
became an expression of heaven and its reflection on earth, the divine and its
reflection in creation and of the connection between heaven and earth, between
the macrocosm and the microcosm, and between spirit and matter.
Islamic civilization was a vibrant crossroads
of culture through which the achievements of the ancient world flowed into
modern-day Europe, through which information passed from east to west and back
again, and in which various ethnic groups of different languages and religions
lived side by side and contributed to cultural advancement.
King Solomon's Seal combines strength and
beauty, symbolism and illustrative quality and all within a geometric figure,
the most important characteristic of Islamic art. The Moslem artist's love of
geometry allows the true essence of King Solomon's Seal as a symbol of the
connection between the two worlds to be expressed; in this context, it
symbolizes the link between science, beauty and metaphysics, with elements of
medicine and magic, astronomy and astrology, the art of irrigation and its
influence on the garden, and the symbolic connection between pleasure gardens
and the Garden of Eden, between the sky and architectural domes and on
traditional cosmology and its connection to religion.
Today, the hexagram is known as the "Star of
David" and is seen as the definitive symbol of Judaism the term is even used
in Islamic countries. There is a degree of confusion about its origins, name
and associations. In Europe, the pentagram is usually known as King Solomon's
Seal, while the hexagram is known as the Star of David; and it is often
assumed that this was always the case. However, the evidence points to the
gradual evolution of the hexagram from a Roman cosmological symbol to a
religious and magical symbol which was not specifically connected to one
religion or people. Research suggests that both motifs were used by different
religions and that the clearest meaning of the hexagram is associated with
magical techniques to ward off evil forces. Professor Gershom Scholem, the
noted scholar of the Kabbalah (Jewish mystic writings) studied the
protective function of the hexagram and its entry into Judaism from Islamic
traditions. In a series of articles on the Star of David and its history,
Scholem made the following claims:
First: The hexagram is a universal symbol,
whose Jewish associations developed gradually. It began as the symbol of the
Jewish community in Prague, probably in the 14th century, though it might have
been only in the 17th century. It was recognized as the symbol of the Jews as
a whole in the 19th century.
Second: Several Jewish and Christian examples
of the hexagram and other decorative motif, exist from the ancient period and
later on in Islamic art. In the 13th century, the motif passed from copies of
the Bible, which had been transcribed in Islamic countries, to Hebrew
manuscripts in Germany and Spain. In Spain, until the 13th century, the
hexagram was known as King Solomon's Seal by the Jews; from the 13th until the
15th century, both names were used simultaneously. It was only later that the
term Star of David gradually became dominant in Ashkenazi communities, while
King Solomon's Seal became identified with the pentagram.
Third: The hexagram or the pentagram, appear
first on "magic" mezuzot (doorpost scrolls) and later on various
talismans in literature. The magic drawings of the hexagram and the pentagram
were known as seals, in keeping with the idea that a person "stamps himself"
with these signs in order to protect himself from harmful spirits. This term
is connected to the legend of King Solomon who controlled the demons by means
of a special signet ring on which was engraved the Tettragrammaton. The seal
only had power for one thing to provide protection from malevolent forces.
It is possible that the hexagram served as a
symbol of the Temple at an early stage in its development. A Jewish drawing
from the tenth century is the earliest example of the connection between the
two symbols; we do not know whether its origins in Jewish tradition were
earlier, or whether it reflected a connection with Islamic art. In Spain,
starting in the 13th century, Jewish religious books were decorated with Stars
of David, sometimes as the colophon in books written in micrography. The
hexagram had appeared earlier as a decoration used to fill spaces or to show
the divisions within chapters in both Hebrew and Arabic manuscripts. In some
Hebrew manuscripts from Spain, several Stars of David have been drawn next to
verses which speak of the longing to return to Zion.