David Harris

Bes with a Lyre

Legs akimbo, this 8-inch-tall statuette of the Egyptian god Bes stands upon a papyrus column that was probably attached to a scepter. Found in Egypt, dated to between 664 and 332 B.C.E., the dwarf strumming a lyre has a large masklike face, a crown of feathers and a lion’s mane. A similar image of Bes playing a lyre appears on a fragment of a pottery vessel discovered in an Israelite ninth- or eighth-century border fortress at Kuntillet ‘Ajrud, an isolated site in northern Sinai (see “Did Yahweh Have a Consort?” BAR 05:02, by Ze’ev Meshel). An enigmatic inscription, possibly referring to a consort of Yahweh, and the image of the Egyptian god Bes gave evidence that Israelite worship was not yet universally monotheistic.