Did You Know?
How were the services at Jehovah’s temple in Jerusalem financed?
▪ The various temple services were maintained through taxation, mainly obligatory tithing. But other forms of taxation were also used. For example, at the time of the construction of the tabernacle, Jehovah instructed Moses to collect half a silver shekel from every registered Israelite, as a “contribution to Jehovah.”—Exodus 30:12-16.
Apparently, it became customary for each Jew to contribute this fixed amount as an annual temple tax. It was this tax that Jesus instructed Peter to pay with a coin taken from a fish’s mouth.—Matthew 17:24-27.
Several years ago, two silver coins of types used to pay the temple tax were discovered in Jerusalem. One coin, minted in Tyre in 22 C.E., was found in a first-century drainage channel. This shekel bears the head of Melkart, or Baal, the chief deity of Tyre, on one side and an eagle perched on a ship’s prow on the other. The second coin, found in rubble removed from the temple mount, dates to the first year of the Jewish revolt against Rome, 66-67 C.E. It bears a chalice and three budding pomegranates, as well as the inscriptions “Half Shekel” and “Holy Jerusalem.” Regarding this find, Professor Gabriel Barkay says that the coin has “signs of having been damaged by fire, most likely the fires that destroyed the Second Temple in 70 CE.”
How impressive were the building projects of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon?
▪ The Bible book of Daniel records Nebuchadnezzar as saying: “Is not this Babylon the Great, that I myself have built for the royal house with the strength of my might and for the dignity of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30) Was this ancient city truly great?
Historians credit Nebuchadnezzar with the building of temples, palaces, city walls, and a magnificent terraced garden. The principal temple at the center of Babylon had a tower, or ziggurat, that was probably over 230 feet (70 m) high. However, “the most famous of [Nebuchadnezzar’s] achievements are the Processional Way and the Ishtar Gate,” says the book Babylon—City of Wonders. The Processional Way, which ran through the Ishtar Gate, was flanked by reliefs of striding lions. Of the gate itself, Babylon’s grandest entrance, the same book states: “Clad entirely in deep blue glazed bricks and bedecked with relief images of hundreds of marching bulls and dragons, the sight greeting an ancient visitor to the capital must have been unforgettable.”
At the start of the 20th century, archaeologists excavated thousands of fragments of the Processional Way and the Ishtar Gate and then reconstructed many of them in the Pergamon Museum, in Berlin, Germany.
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Top: Clara Emit, Courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority; bottom: Zev Radovan
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Reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate