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Ariel As Biblical Name For Jerusalem and Cultic Object

By Tikva S. Frymer]

Ariel (Heb. אֲרִיאֵל) is (1) The name given to Jerusalem in Isaiah 29:1–2, 7, where God will bring distress upon Ariel and will make her like an ariel (for meaning, see below). Ariel in this sense is probably connected with the form erellam in Isaiah 33:7, understood as the plural form arielim ("Jerusalemites"), parallel to "messengers of Shalom" (i.e., of Jerusalem; cf. Gen. 14:18; Ps. 76:3). (2) A cultic object in Ezekiel 43:15–16, where it occurs in the forms ariel and harel. This is apparently an altar hearth superimposed upon the base of the altar, having horns at its four corners. Alternatively, it may be viewed as the top two sections of a three-tiered altar, again with the function of a hearth. This usage has been connected by some with the ʾrʾl dwdh which *Mesha of Moab dragged before Chemosh from a captured town (Mesha Stele, 1:12). It may also be connected with II Samuel 23:20 = I Chronicles 11:22 "The two Ariels of Moab." (3) One of the chief men summoned by Ezra in Ezra 8:16 (cf. also Gen. 46:16; Num. 26:17). The etymology of this word is the subject of some dispute. Three principal modes of interpretation have been proposed: (a) from ari-el, "lion of God," or "Great Lion." This is the most probable derivation for the personal name in Ezra; (b) from a posited root ari, "to burn," with lamed afformative, thus meaning "hearth," similar to the Arabic ʿiratun, "hearth"; and (c) as a loanword from the Akkadian arallû-, the name for the netherworld and allegedly the world mountain. (In this view, the altar is understood as a miniature ziggurat, which is taken to be the symbol of the world mountain.) However, arallû does not mean "mountain." In addition, the Akkadian, a loanword from Sumerian, would not have shown up in Hebrew in the form attested. Regardless of the ultimate derivation of the word, the meaning of Isaiah 29:1–2 seems to be that Jerusalem, here (prophetically?) called Ariel, is to become like the altar, i.e., a scene of holocaust.


de Vaux, Anc Isr, 412–3; E. Kissane, The Book of Isaiah, 1 (1960), 362–3; EM, 1 (1955), 558–60. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: J. Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 1–39 (ab; 2000), 399–402; S. Muenger, in: DDD, 88–89.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.