Between the death of Joshua and the era of the prophet Samuel, the Bible tells us that Israel was “judged” by a series of charismatic leaders, each guided by the spirit of Yahweh. These individuals were not juridical officials, nor were they true kings, since their authority was only temporary and could not be passed to their descendants. Rather, judges were chosen by Yahweh to deliver the wayward Israelites from different episodes of Canaanite, Ammonite, Moabite, Midianite and Philistine oppression. For some of these heroes—Samson, Deborah, Gideon, Ehud, Othniel and Jephthah—the Book of Judges recounts remarkable tales of leadership and physical prowess. For others—Shamgar, Tola, Jair, Ibzan, Elon and Abdon—barely anything is noted at all.
Although there is no historical evidence for these figures outside of the Bible, their stories paint an accurate portrait of premonarchic Israel during the Iron Age I (1200–1000 B.C.), a period often identified as the era of the Judges. As the early Israelites settled in the highlands of Canaan, they found themselves surrounded by the newly established Philistines, remnants of the Canaanite city-states and the new Trans-jordanian kingdoms. Since the Israelites had not yet coalesced into a single political group, the highland villagers turned to local strongmen (and strongwomen) for leadership and guidance whenever their mutual interests were threatened. The archaic Song of Deborah in Judges5 preserves perhaps the oldest account of the Israelite tribes coming together around a heroic figure to defend their common interests.h It was only during the period of the United Monarchy under Solomon that these originally disparate legends and stories were collected and then edited into a single tale of Israel’s earliest history.
Answer: a) Roman scabbard chape
This chape—a piece that fits on the bottom tip of a scabbard, or sheath, to secure the tip of a blade—was used by a Roman soldier in the first century A.D.
This example was discovered in a tower room at Masada and dates to the time of the Jewish revolt against Rome (66–70 A.D.). Although it belonged to a Roman soldier, it might have been taken as loot by the rebels. Or it might have been left by a Roman soldier encamped there after the rebels were defeated in 73–74 A.D.
Measuring roughly 3 by 1 inches, this chape is decorated with a delicate cutout design whose ornamental pattern suggests a floral or vegetal motif; the sides of the chape terminate in palmettes. The incised details were likely gilded. The chape was attached to a leather-covered, wooden sheath by a hole in the upper edge of its front side.
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