According to the detailed accounts in the books of Kings and Chronicles, the laver must have been both architecturally impressive and aesthetically memorable, especially in its decorative details.It is not easy to discern the development of what may be termed native Hebrew art in the period of the Monarchy.These enigmatic figures, also a feature of the First Temple until its destruction, were the outstanding exception which proved that the ancient Hebrews did not absolutely shun figurative and plastic art.In addition to these and similar decorative cherubim, the great laver in Solomon's Temple, called the "molten sea," was supported on the backs of twelve oxen cast in bronze, a construction to which at some later age there were objections.Hence the Hebrews arrived in a country which already had, if not an artistic tradition, at least a number of artistic expressions, most of them associated with cult purposes. The sanctuary in the wilderness, whose appurtenances and decoration were traditionally associated with the names of Bezalel son of Uri and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, was presumably designed in accordance with contemporary Egyptian artistic fashion.According to the Pentateuch, there were among the Hebrews who left Egypt artificers of genius, capable "in all manner of workmanship, to devise curious works, to work in gold and in silver and in brass, and in the cutting of stones for setting, and in carving of wood, to make any manner of skillful work" (Ex. This fashion no doubt continued to exercise considerable influence on the Hebrews even after they entered Canaan.Artistically, the most memorable detail was the pair of cherubim , apparently with human faces, whose wings extended over the Ark.The making of these has to be considered as art in the more restricted sense and not as mere skilled craftsmanship.
At the same period, in other areas, the inhibitions were so strong as to exclude such objects even from secular use.
The meticulous obedience or relative neglect of the apparent biblical prohibition of representational art seems in fact to have been conditioned by external circumstances, and in two directions – revulsion, or attraction.
In the later biblical period and throughout classical antiquity, in an environment in which the worship of images by their neighbors played a great part, the Jews reacted strongly against this practice and up to a point representational art was sternly suppressed.
But it is not easy to explain the sudden emergence in recent generations of a flood of artists of outstanding genius, largely of Eastern European origin, in France, the United States, and elsewhere.
Until the 19 It is known that there was a relatively high development of art in Ereẓ Israel even before the coming of the Hebrews.