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HOME : Biblical Antiquities : Miscellaneous : Roman Period Terracotta Oil Lamp
Roman Period Terracotta Oil Lamp - PF.5579a
Origin: Israel
Circa: 100 AD to 300 AD
Dimensions: 5.5" (14.0cm) high
Collection: Biblical
Medium: Terracotta

Location: United States
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In the Old Testament, Chapter 3 in the Book of Daniel details the story of King Nebuchadnezzar' golden statue. After erecting his monument, the king orders the crowd of dignitaries who gathered to bow down and worship or else face the flaming furnace. When the band began to play, signaling the moment to bow, three Jewish officials refused to bow. After Nebuchadnezzar repeated his command and the band struck up again, the Jews still refused to worship the golden statue. Nebuchadnezzar became enraged and ordered the furnace to bum seven times stronger than normal. When the three Jews (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) were sent to the furnace, the flames were so hot that they burned everyone, including their captors. However, as the King watched, he suddenly saw four men in the flames, and one looked like a god. Nebuchadnezzar approached the furnace and called out to the men who emerged completely unscathed, not even a single hair on their head was singed. Nebuchadnezzar then praised the god of the Jews and the three men themselves who refused to bow down to any god except their own.

This moving tale is expertly rendered in the center of this terracotta oil lamp. Nebuchadnezzar is represented on the far left sitting on a throne, next to his golden statue, which rises over the heads of the figures. On the right are depicted four men, the three on the far right are probably Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego since they all wear similar headdresses. The other man could be a captor, another dignitary, or perhaps most intriguing, the image of their god who protected them. The artist who crafted this utilitarian object masterfully conveyed all the essential elements of this legend in a tight, confined space. A decorative band or foliage represented in low relief embellishes the border of the main scene. When lit, the flames of the lamp would appear to scorch the three men, however come morning when the fires have expired, they would remain unscathed just as in the story. This oil lamp is truly a stunning work of art on so many levels.
- (PF.5579a)


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