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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

Bells

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The use of Bells for summoning seems to have arisen in the Far East, and was not customary in countries bordering the Mediterranean until late Roman times (Sittl, "Archäologie der Kunst," p. 246). Small disks, however, were generally attached to pet animals, which, being struck together, emitted a sound supposed to frighten away the evil spirits (L. Mortillet, "Etude sur l'Emploi des Clochettes chez les Anciens," Dijon, 1888).

The only use known to the ancient Hebrews similar to this was the attachment of Bells and pomegranates to the lower hem of the high priest's ephod (Exodus 28:33), the object of which was that he might be heard on entering the high place, or, according to Sirach 45:9, "for a memorial to the children of his people." It is probable that the sound was caused by the Bells striking against the adjacent pomegranates, and not by a clapper. The two together form an ornamental design resembling that of the lotus and bud border, used in Egyptian decorative art. According to the Rabbis there were seventy-two Bells. In Talmudic days Bells were used to summon people. (See Naz. 6:1, where a distinction is made between the outer shell of the bell and the clapper.) In Shab. 54b is a reference to a bell stuffed with wool so that it could make no sound. Mention is also made of cattle-bells and doorbells (Tosef Kelim, B. M. , at end). Small Bells in the form of a ball with a split in it have been found in the excavations at Tell el-Hesy.

The word "bells" was also used in the A. V. to translate in Zechariah 14:20, where the correct translation is probably "bridles" as in the margin. Since they were necessarily inscribed with the words "Holiness to the Lord," there were probably flat pieces of brass attached for ornament to horses, as in the East at the present day (Rosenmüller, "Morgenländische Forschungen," 4:411), and corresponding to (Isaiah 3:18; Judges 8:21).

Bibliography:
  • Winer, Bibl. Lexicon s. Schellen;
  • Levy, Neuhebräisches Wörterbuch, s. ;
  • Jahn, Biblische Archäologie, § 96.
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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Bells'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tje/b/bells.html. 1901.

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