Jacob’s sons depicted on three round plates. A fourth plate is decorated with the struggle between Jacob and the angel. The four round plates decorated with narrative depictions of Jacob and his sons, form a set.
A raised rim surrounds each plate.
In the centre of the first plate is the Angel of God blessing Jacob after their nightlong struggle at the Fords of the Yabbok (Gen. 32:23-33; fig.1; See: Remarks, no. 1). It is surrounded by a biblical verse, engraved on the rim:
"שלחני כי עלה השחר ויאמר לא אשלחך כי אם יאמר [ברכני]" (בראשית לב:כו).
“Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou [bless me]” (Gen. 32:26).
The other three plates depict eleven of Jacob’s sons. Each appears with an identifying attribute and his name, following Jacob’s blessing of his sons (Gen. 49; figs. 2, 3, 4).
The second plate (fig. 2) shows the four eldest sons of Jacob, standing below a central tree. Reuben is leaning on the tree (see: Remarks no. 4), hoisting a banner. While Simeon and Levi, to his left are holding swords (based on Gen. 49:5). On the right is Judah, bearded and holding a lion (verse 9).
Their names appear on the raised rim in square filled letters, each separated by a flower and read counter clockwise:
"ראובן / שמעון ולוי / יהודה"
“Reuben / Simeon and Levi / Judah”
Asher is depicted in the middle of the third plate, among his three brothers: Zebulun to his right, Dan to his left and Gad behind. He is standing under an olive tree and carries a sack on his back, probably illustrating the verse: “…his bread shall be fat” (verse 20; fig. 3).
Zebulun is holding oars (verse 13), while Dan holds a snake (verse 17). Gad walks behind Dan, with a banner and a sword in his hand (verse 19).
As on the other plates, the raised rim bears their names: Asher’s name is preceded by the Hebrew letter “mem” (“out of”), and is taken directly from the blessing in verse 20: “Out of Asher”
While the three other names appear in the following sequence:
"זבולון / דן / גד"
“Zebulun / Dan / Gad “
Naphtali, Joseph, and Benjamin are represented in the fourth plate. In the centre is Joseph represented as a ruler, seated upon a throne with a crown and a scepter (verse 26; see: Remarks no. 5), in his right hand. He is bearded and wears a long robe. To his right is Naphtali riding a hind (verse 21), while Benjamin to his left is holding a wolf (verse 27; fig. 4).
1. All of Jacob’s sons are defined by their attributes following Jacob’s blessing in Gen. 49, except for that of Reuben who here may represent one of the four Princes (Numbers 1; 21), and that is why he is holding a flag.
2. Joseph is also described as a king in a narrative cycle which describes his life and which appears on similar pewter plates (reference?). The style of the figures engraved on these plates is similar to those described above, which may indicate that they were produced in the same workshop. Some of those plates are marked with similar hallmarks. For similar plates depicting Joseph and his brothers’ see: Franzheim, Liesel, Judaica, Kolnishes Stadtmuseum, Koln 1980, pp. 282 – 293, figs. 109 – 113.
3. Visual depictions of the sons of Jacob are not common during this period, and this set of plates is unique.
4. The use of these plates is not clear. Similar pewter plates decorated with themes connected to Purim and Passover were meant for those holidays.
Summary and Remarks
The marks are stamped on the back side of the plate (See: Remarks, no.2).