The six-pointed Star of David is known in Hebrew as Magen David. Today it is universally associated with Judaism, Jewish identity and the State of Israel but this association is only a couple-hundred years old. Before this, it was largely connected to magic or was the insignia of certain families or communities.
The Magen David is geometrically symmetrical and was therefore a popular symbol in many cultures from early times. In fact, anthropologists view the triangle pointing downwards as representing female sexuality and the upward-pointing triangle as representing male sexuality. The combination of the two opposites symbolizes harmony and unity.
The Magen David appears for the first time in a Jewish context as a seal in sixth century ancient Israel and in a Synagogue frieze eight centuries later in Capernaum. However, it could very well be that the Magen David appeared simply as an ornamental design, in the same way that ancient motif the swastika ironically appears alongside the Magen David on the Capernaum synagogue wall. In the Middle Ages, the Magen David featured in churches and only rarely in Synagogues.
Jewish ritual objects would feature the Menorah up until the post-Renaissance period.
There is absolutely no literature or artifacts available to trace the Star of David back to King David himself or even to Rabbi Akiva and Bar Kokhba as many scholars have tried to. The Magen David can be traced back to the sixth century when it was used in practical Kabbalah. Legends connect the Magen David to a magical signet ring known as the “Seal of Solomon “as well as to a magic shield possessed by King David that protected him from his enemies.
The Magen David is also widely recognized as a Messianic symbol, due to its legendary connection to David who is the ancestor of the Messiah. In fact, on Shabbat eve German Jews would light a star-shaped lamp which reflected the idea that Shabbat is a foretaste of the Messianic Age.
In Medieval times the Magen David symbol was also used as a Jewish printer’s mark or heraldic emblem in Prague. Nowadays, the Magen David is well-known as being central to the State of Israel’s flag but it is less well-known that it also featured in 1354 in Prague in the same way when the Emperor allowed the Jews to display their own flag on state occasions. To this day, a similar flag can be found in the oldest Synagogue in Prague, the Altneuschul.
We have provided but a glimpse into the captivating history of the Magen David.
For more information, be sure to check out the source of this essay http://www.menorah.org/starofdavid.html