A standard or banner having a certain color, emblem, and sometimes an inscription, and carried before a marching army to distinguish its nationality. Flags are of ancient origin. According to the Bible, each of the twelve tribes of the Israelites had its special banner.
The Midrash (Num. R. ii.) on the passage "Every man of the children of Israel shall pitch by his own standard, with the ensign of their father's house" (Num. ii. 2), explains that the emblems and colors corresponded to the twelve precious stones set in the breastplate worn by the high priest, as follows:
|Tribe.||Representative Stone.*||Color of Banner.||Emblem.|
|Simeon||Topaz||Green||City of Schechem.|
|Levi||Carbuncle||Tricolor of white, black, and red.||Urim and Thummim.|
|Issachar||Sapphire||Black||Sun and moon.|
|Asher||Beryl||Pearl-color||Female figure and olive-tree.|
|Benjamin||Jasper||The above colors combined||Wolf.|
The Targum Yerushalmi says that the flag of Judah bore, over a roaring lion, the inscription "Rise up, Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate thee flee before thee" (Num. x. 35). A legend ascribes the origin of the name "Maccabee" to the phrase (abbreviated", Who is like thee among the mighties, O Lord"), written on the banner of the Hasmoneans.
In the synagogue at the Festival of the Rejoicing of the Law it is customary for children to carry in the procession together with the holy Scrolls flags of various designs.
The Zionists have adopted a flag made up of a white ground with a blue horizontal stripe on each side, and the shield of David in the center in blue.