Exhibitions/ Art Object

Hebrew Bible: Menorah of Zechariah's Vision (fols. 316v-317)

Illuminated by Joseph the Frenchman
Made in Spain
Tempera, gold, and ink on parchment
Overall: 11 7/16 x 8 7/8 x 3 15/16 in., 9.464lb. (29 x 22.5 x 10 cm, 4.293kg)
Manuscripts and Illuminations
Credit Line:
Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal, Lisbon (BNP, IL.72)
Not on view
Most of the decoration in this bible appears in the supplementary texts that precede and follow the sacred text. A notable exception is this full-page image of a menorah fueled by oil flowing directly from two fruit-laden olive trees. It illustrates the prophet Zechariah’s vision of a golden candlestick with seven lamps flanked by olive trees that feed the lamps through two golden tubes. Medieval Jewish commentators interpreted the passage as a messianic vision evoking the longed-for moment when the Temple will be rebuilt—just as the olives were pressed into oil for the lamps without human intervention, so too will the Temple be rebuilt by the spirit of God. The golden menorah was also understood as a metaphor for the Jewish people, who serve as a shining lamp among nations.