Star of David, known in Hebrew as the Shield of
David or Magen David (Hebrew ????? ??????; Biblical
Hebrew Ma?en Dawi?, Tiberian [m?'?en d?'við],
Modern Hebrew [ma'gen da'vid], Ashkenazi Hebrew
and Yiddish Mogein Dovid ['m?ge?n 'd?vid] or Mogen
Dovid) is a generally recognized symbol of Jewish
identity and Judaism. Its shape is that of
a hexagram, the compound of two equilateral triangles.
The hexagram has been in use as a symbol of Judaism
since the 17th century, with precedents in the
14th to 16th centuries in Central Europe, where
the Shield of David was partly used in conjunction
with the Seal of Solomon (the hexagram) on Jewish
flags. Its use probably derives from medieval
(11th to 13th century) Jewish protective amulets
term "Shield of David" is also used
in the Siddur (Jewish prayer book) as a title
of the God of Israel.
Jewish Encyclopedia cites a 12th-century Karaite
document as the earliest Jewish literary source
to mention the symbol. Its use as a symbol
of the Jewish community dates to the 17th century.
Early use as an ornament
The Star of David in the oldest surviving complete
copy of the Masoretic text, the Leningrad Codex,
hexagram does appear occasionally in Jewish contexts
since antiquity, apparently as a decorative motif.
For example, in Israel, there is a stone bearing
a hexagram from the arch of a 3rd–4th century
synagogue in the Galilee. Originally, the hexagram
may have been employed as an architectural ornament
on synagogues, as it is, for example, on the cathedrals
of Brandenburg and Stendal, and on the Marktkirche
at Hanover. A pentagram in this form is found
on the ancient synagogue at Tell Hum. In the synagogues,
perhaps, it was associated with the mezuzah.
use of the hexagram in a Jewish context as a possibly
meaningful symbol may occur as early as the 11th
century, in the decoration of the carpet page
of the famous Tanakh manuscript, the Leningrad
Codex dated 1008. Similarly, the symbol illuminates
a medieval Tanakh manuscript dated 1307 belonging
to Rabbi Yosef bar Yehuda ben Marvas from Toledo,
Spain. A Siddur dated 1512 from Prague displays
a large hexagram on the cover with the phrase,
"…He will merit to bestow a bountiful gift
on anyone who grasps the Shield of David."
Origin of the name
Star on a window
name 'Shield of David' was used by at least the
11th century as a title of the God of Israel,
independent of the use of the symbol. The phrase
occurs independently as a Divine title in the
Siddur, the traditional Jewish prayer book, where
it poetically refers to the Divine protection
of ancient King David and the anticipated restoration
of his dynastic house, perhaps based on Psalm
18, which is attributed to David, and in which
God is compared to a shield (v. 31 and v. 36).
The term occurs at the end of the "Samkhaynu/Gladden
us" blessing, which is recited after the
reading of the Haftara portion on Saturday and
earliest known text related to Judaism which mentions
a sign called the "Shield of David"
is Eshkol Ha-Kofer by the Karaite Judah Hadassi,
in the mid-12th century CE:
Seven names of angels precede the mezuzah: Michael,
Gabriel, etc. …Tetragrammaton protect you! And
likewise the sign, called the "Shield of
David", is placed beside the name of each
book is of Karaite, and not of Rabbinic Jewish
origin, and it does not describe the shape of
the sign in any way.
Page of segulot in a mediaeval Kabbalistic grimoire
(Sefer Raziel HaMalakh, 13th century)
Shield of David has been noted on a Jewish tombstone
in Taranto, Apulia in Southern Italy, which may
date as early as the third century CE. The
Jews of Apulia were noted for their scholarship
in Kabbalah, which has been connected to the use
of the Star of David.
Kabbalistic grimoires show hexagrams among the
tables of segulot, but without identifying them
as "Shield of David".
the Renaissance Period, in the 16th-century Land
of Israel, the book Ets Khayim conveys the Kabbalah
of Ha-Ari (Rabbi Isaac Luria) who arranges the
traditional items on the seder plate for Passover
into two triangles, where they explicitly correspond
to Jewish mystical concepts. The six sfirot of
the masculine Zer Anpin correspond to the six
items on the seder plate, while the seventh sfira
being the feminine Malkhut corresponds to the
these seder-plate triangles are parallel, one
above the other, and do not actually form a hexagram,.