Zev Radovan

YHWH enthroned? One of the earliest Jewish coins, this fourth-century B.C.E. drachma from Judea depicts a male figure seated on a winged chariot and holding a falcon in his left hand. The silver coin bears the Aramaic inscription YHD, or Yehud, the name of the province of Judea in the Persian Period. Some numismatists have suggested the seated ruler might be YHWH himself. One interpretation of the second commandment might allow this: Only images of other gods are condemned.

The coin also reflects greater comfort with representing humans and animals in two-dimensional images—as at Dura-Europos (see photo at beginning of article). But while coins from the Persian period (538–332 B.C.E.) frequently bear figural images, such motifs do not appear on later coins dating to the turn of the era. Apparently the prohibition against images, regardless of whether two-dimensional or not, was more narrowly interpreted as a preventive measure from the time of the Maccabees (142–37 B.C.E.) until after the Bar-Kokhba revolt (132–135 C.E.).