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covenant between the Jews and their god, and the Jews' status as the chosen people of a god who protects them against the non-believers.110 The designer's intention was to reaffirm for Jewish worshipers the supreme importance of this historic covenant with their god by illustrating the relationship of the righteous believers with their chosen deity.111 In order to ensure that people remained faithful to that covenant, the paintings portrayed quite clearly the protection that the Jewish god awarded his pious believers, as well as the violent punishment he would mete out to anyone who desecrated him.112 The figures displayed on the walls were some of the most prominent from the Pentateuch--Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, and Elijah--and the scenes focused on the history of the Ark, the exodus from Egypt, the defeat of pagan rivals, and other stories, as well as such an everlasting symbol of the Jewish faith as the Temple in Jerusalem.113 One scene explicitly depicts the destruction of pagan idols, two of which resemble statues of the gods Adonis and Bel found withing the city.114 Images of victorious deities were common in other temples at Dura, and in the synagogue the Jews are depicted as overcoming the oppressive Egyptians, as well as the pagan idol worshipers around them.115 The entire scheme, stressing loyalty and punishment, must be seen not only as a celebration of the Jewish people and their god, but also as a conscious piece of propaganda necessary for any religion to survive at Dura.


110. Weitzmann and Kessler, 180-181.
111. Bickerman, 136; Gates 173, 175-176.
112. Moon, 600.
113. Kelley, 58; Narkiss, 185. Joseph Gutmann (1975) also claims that "many of the scenes contain non-biblical homiletical embellishments, called aggadoth," or folk tales (213).
114. Goldstein, 142.
115. Goranson, 29.

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