Dolmens, Cairns (Tamrurim), and Double-Meanings (10 November, 2014, 17 Cheshvan, 5775)
2. Dolmens as Burial Places and Pagan Structures
3. The Deliberate Use of the Double-Meaning of a Word in the Bible.
4. Megalithic Monuments
5. Prophetic Messages that Superficially Appear Contradictory
6. Megalithic Monuments in Biblical Times
7. The Line of King Ahab as an Example of Divine Judgement of a Deed that was both Good and Bad.
There exist pathways of megalithic monuments, especially dolmens, leading from the Middle East to Western Europe. We see significance in this. The edifices trace a trail of migrating Hebrews. This is confirmed by the Bible and from archaeological findings.
This is something we are convinced of but it requires much more research and deliberation to stabilize the case since little work has been done on it from our point of view here-to-fore.
One of the problems concerns Chronology. Conventional academia assumes that megaliths mostly date from long before the exile of the Ten Tribes.
We know this to be mistaken. In fact many megaliths may well date from Roman times, making them almost too recent. Proving this is another question.
Other points of possible contention include the fact that dolmens are sometimes defined as burial places and associated with pagan practices.
Concerning burial places:
Tens of thousands of dolmens have been found. From one place to another the surrounding cultures influence how we relate to them. Some did serve as burial places but relatively speaking not that many and even then mainly as a secondary usage. They therefore remain as what they were, deliberate signifying points.
As for pagan associations,
Here too this is not something that is blatantly obvious but in some areas it did exist.
The question arises, if to some degree the dolmens are pagan how can we relate them to the Hebrews and how can we ascribe them a positive role from the Biblical point of view?
The Bible itself leads us to such questions. The prophet Hosea appears to condemn Ephraim for setting up dolmens (Hosea 12:14), as we shall show below. Jeremiah on the other hand exhorts the exiled Israelites to raise these monuments up so that in future generations they may serve as evidence of Israelite origin (Jeremiah 31:21).
Hosea uses the same word to describe dolmens and cairns as concrete erections as well as causes of embitterment in the eyes of heaven.
14 Ephraim provoked Him to anger most bitterly [Hebrew: tamrurim];
Therefore his Lord will leave the guilt of his bloodshed upon him, And return his reproach upon him.
EPHRAIM PROVOKED HIM TO ANGER MOST BITTERLY. In Hebrew this is, 'Hicis [Made anger] Ephraim tamrurim'. The word translated as MOST BITTERLY is 'tamrurim'. There is a play on words here as pointed out by the Commentary "Me'am Loaz". Tamrurim may be understood to derive from two different word roots and consequently have two different meanings:
(1) It may be derived from the word root MaR or MRR connoting 'bitter'.
[This may be the source of our English word 'mar' meaning to blemish. The etymology is given as related to the West Saxon 'mierran' meaning to waste, spoil.]
From the Hebrew word-root MaR we may derive 'tamrurim' which is the equivalent in translation of 'most bitterly'.
This is how it is translated above, "Ephraim provoked Him to anger most bitterly [Hebrew: tamrurim]".
(2) The word 'tamrurim' also means edifices, high heaps, and altars as 'Me'am Loaz' notes. The word root used in this case is AMR 'rise up', 'exalt' or the related word root HMR 'heap'.
This is the way of Hebrew Scripture, to deliberately use a word or even a group of words with several possible meanings.
All the meanings merge into one: Ephraim caused God to anger most bitterly [tamrurim] through the idolatrous edifices [tamrurim] they set up.
4. Megalithic Monuments
We saw that the word tamrurim connotes monuments. 'Me'am Loaz' points out that this word 'tamrurim' is also found in Jeremiah 31:21.
21  Set up road markers [Hebrew: tsionim] for yourself,
make yourself waymarks [Hebrew: tamrurim];
consider well the highway,
the road by which you went.
Return, O virgin Israel,
return to these your cities.
14 EPHRAIM PROVOKED HIM TO ANGER MOST BITTERLY.
Ephraim made God angry with his tamrurim [waymarks] meaning altars in the form of heaps of stones and edifices as it says, Set up road markers [Hebrew: tsionim] for yourself, make yourself waymarks [Hebrew: tamrurim] (Jeremiah 31:21). This expression is also to be explained in the sense of 'merurim' [from tamrurim, 'mar' i.e. bitter] meaning cause wrath with anger and bitterness. ...
Abarbanel (on Jeremiah 31:21): The prophet therefore spoke concerning the Kingdom of Israel [of the Ten Tribes] MAKE YOURSELF WAYMARKS saying that when you go into Exile make signs by the routes and waymarks like piles of rocks [i.e. cairns] or stone monuments [Hebrew: Matzavah, i.e. dolmen] so that you may set your heart to the route and remember in order that you may return in the way you went in, return to your city.
"Radak" (Rabbi David Kimchi, 1157-1236, of Narbonne, France, on Jeremiah 31:21):
SET UP ROAD MARKERS [tsionim] (Jeremiah 31): This was directed to the Community of Israel, that in the generation when they would be exiled they should set up waymarks [i.e. "tsionim"] such as PILED-UP STONES OR STONE MONUMENTS. The purpose of these monuments was to mark the paths [of migration for the sake of future recognition]. The meaning was to say that even though you will be exiled, hope is not lost and you are still destined to return to these your cities.
MAKE YOURSELF WAYMARKS [HIGH HEAPS] [Hebrew: "tamrurim"]. The same message is repeated though the wording is changed since both "tamrurim" [i.e. "high heaps"] and "tsionim" (i.e. "waymarks") connote elevated-height [from the root "tamar", 'amar']... #
These high heaps of stones are cairns and the tsionim are dolmens and menhirs. Dolmens are two or more raised stones with another stone laid across them like a table. These were often covered in part with heaps of stones known as cairns. Menhirs are raised stone pillars. Such megalithic monuments were to be found throughout the land of Israel and what is now Jordan and Syria. When the Ten Tribes went into Exile they laid down paths of dolmens and menhirs along the way. These pathways describe their migrations. They lead from the Middle East through the Mediterranean, Spain, Portugal, up into Ireland, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Northern Germany and Scandinavia. Another group leads from Northern Syria, the Caucasus, Bulgaria, to France, Britain, and Ireland. They were set up after the Israelites went into Exile despite claims to the contrary. This is proof of Israelite ancestry and of Israelites moving in the said directions. These proofs may be used as evidence for the Lost Israelites to regain their ancestral identity and eventually return to their cities, as Jeremiah prophesied.
5. Prophetic Messages that Superficially Appear Contradictory
The above discussion brings up the question of Prophecies appearing to contradict each other from the moral viewpoint.
On the one side Hosea 12:14 condemns Ephraim for setting up 'tamrurim' in the sense of pagan monuments. On the other hand Jeremiah 31:21 exhorts them to do so. The answer is obvious. Hosea speaks from the moral point of view. To the degree that setting up these structures involved idolatry they are condemned. The Patriarchs had also erected similar monuments but for righteous reasons. Ephraim will have done so for purposes of idolatry. Whatever the motivating factor these monuments will exist. Their places of location will serve to indicate pathways of migration. From the point of view of Jeremiah concerning the future return of Ephraim their existence is positive.
6. Megalithic Monuments in Biblical Times
Concerning megalithic monuments in Biblical times cf.
18 And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had set up for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.
19 And he called the name of that place Beth-el: but the name of that city was Luz at the first.
Jacob later set up a pillar and a heap of stones together cf.
14 And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he talked with him, even a pillar of stone: and he poured a drink offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon.
44 Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant, I and you; and let it be for a witness between me and you.
45 And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar.
46 And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there upon the heap.
47 And Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha: but Jacob called it Galead.
In Ireland several centuries ago the County of Down and the County of Loth settled a dispute between themselves and erected a mound of stones or 'cairn'. One side had coveted the flocks and herds and possessions of the other. After making peace they erected a 'cairn of immense size' to commemorate the covenant of faithfulness they had formed between each other2. This is similar to the stone pillar and pile of stones that Jacob and Laban set up as a witness between themselves in Gilead in the Land of Israel (Genesis 31: 45-46).
Joshua set up 12 stones in Gilgal (Joshua 4;3) and the name "Gilgal" connotes both circle and heap. Single pillars (menhirs), or Heaps of stones (cairns) or one stone upon another (dolmens) and stone circles are types of monuments known from both Israel and western Europe. In popular parlance the said structures are collectively often all referred to as "dolmens". The setting up of pillars and stone heaps and monuments is mentioned in several other Biblical passages (Joshua 7:25-26, Joshua 8:29ff., Joshua 14:26, 1-Samuel 7:2, 2-Samuel 18:17). The intention of these monuments was the establishment of a concrete sign commemorating some event whose memory was worthy of perpetuation. The monument had to be obviously man-made, apparent, and blatant to all and not much more than that. On occasion it is mentioned (Genesis 35:7-14, Joshua 24:26, Judges 6:11,21) that these stone monuments were in the proximity of an oak tree and oak trees were to be important in Celtic Druidical worship. cf.
26 And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the LORD.
Megalithic monuments and dolmens were once found throughout the Land of Israel though many have been destroyed and most of those remaining are in the Golan and east of the Jordan where they are known to the Arabs as "Kubur Beni Israil", i.e. "Graves of the Children of Israel"3. Certain features of these monuments, such as the existence of cupholes, a ca. 23 degree inclination of the roof stone, etc, etc., are also found on similar structures in Britain and the west. Until recently cairns were still being set up in Ireland and superstitious customs linked with these stone monuments in Scotland and Ireland were similar to those known from the Middle East4.
We see that megalithic monuments were not wrong in principal BUT they could be used for wrong purposes in which case they were condemned. Even if they were to be set up for idolatrous motivations (which is a possibility though doubtful) they could still serve a positive purpose. An example of similar dicthotomy in Scripture as that of the dolmens is to be seen in the case of King Ahab.
King Ahab of Israel because of his sins had been condemned to destruction (1-Kings 21: 21). Ahab however repented so the punishment was delayed until the reign of his successor (1-Kings 21: 28) . Jehoram son of Ahab went in the way Ahab had gone before his repentance. The decree of destruction therefore went out against him. The Prophet Elisha sent one of his students to a meeting of the Israelite generals and anointed one of them, Jehu, in place of Jehoram as King (2-Kings 9:5-6, 11-14). Jehu then hurried to Jezreel, killed Jehoram and ordered Jezebel, the mother of Jehoram, put to death (2-Kings 9:35-7). Jehu then had the seventy sons of Ahab (brothers of Jehoram) who were in Samaria executed. Jehu also caused the death of King Ahaziah of Judah and his brothers who were in the area and slaughtered another forty-two people connected to the House of Omri to which Ahab and Jehoram belonged (2-Kings 10:12-14). This took place in the valley of Jezreel. As a reward for wiping out the House of Ahab, Jehu was promised that the throne would remain in his family for four generations (2-Kings 10:30).
Rabbi David Kimchi (known as the "Radak", 1160-1234, Italy) explains (Commentary on Hosea 1:4) that even though the family of Ahab deserved what they got Jehu and his offspring had not justified they being their replacement. Jehu himself had strayed from the path he should have adhered to.
31 But Jehu was not careful to follow the law of the LORD the God of Israel with all his heart; he did not turn from the sins of Jeroboam, which he caused Israel to commit.
At the end of four generations the line of Jehu was also to be wiped out. Because they had not been a sufficiently significant improvement on those they had replaced they were to be punished for the way they had replaced them even though this had been done with Divine Sanction!
The Prophet Hosea was told, "Call his name Jezreel, For in a little while I will avenge the bloodshed of Jezreel on the house of Jehu, And bring an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel" (Hosea 1:4).
From the above we see an important principle enacted:
(a) A certain deed may be in accordance with the Will of the Almighty.
(b) If the deed in question is carried out for the wrong reasons and is not justified by subsequent conduct then it may be condemned.
There is no contradiction here.
Applying this principle to the case of dolmens, we see that setting up dolmens and thus creating a recognizable trail of migration was the will of God (Jermeiah 31:21).
To the degree that the erection of dolmens was associated with idolatry then the action shall be excoriated (Hosia 14:12).
2. P.A. O. Neymo, 'Similitudes; or the Israelites, the Scotch and the Irish', (1850?), Galway; NMS 111b.
3. BEN-ZVI, I. "The Exiled and the Redeemed", London 1958.
4. C.R. Conder, 1889, "Palestine", pp.142-157, NMS 76e.