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    Default Ugarit and the Bible

    Ugaritic Torah -- Old Testament

    Introduction:

    The ancient Canaanite city-state of Ugarit is of utmost importance for those who study the Old Testament. The literature of the city and the theology contained therein go a very long way in helping to understand the meaning of various Biblical passages as well as aiding in deciphering difficult Hebrew words. Ugarit was at its political, religious and economic height around the 12th century BC and thus its period of greatness corresponds with the entry of Israel into Canaan.

    Why should people interested in the Old Testament want to know about this city and its inhabitants? Simply because when we listen to their voices we hear echoes of the Old Testament itself. Several of the Psalms were simply adapted from Ugaritic sources; the story of the flood has a near mirror image in Ugaritic literature; and the language of the Bible is greatly illuminated by the language of Ugarit. For instance, look at M. Dahoods brilliant commentary on the Psalms in the Anchor Bible series for the necessity of Ugaritic for accurate Biblical exegesis.

    Note: It must be noted that in the technical sense the Torah represents the five books of Moses (the Pentateuch); however, the Torah came to be considered the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament in its entirety which included oral and written tradition or revelation of God.


    The Discovery of Ugarit and the Ugaritic Texts.

    In 1928 a group of French archaeologists journeyed with 7 camels, one donkey, and some burden bearers towards the tel known as Ras Shamra. After a week at the site they discovered a cemetery 150 meters from the Mediterranean Sea. In the graves they discovered Egyptian and Phoenician artwork and alabaster. They also found some Mycenean and Cypriot materials.

    After the discovery of the cemetery they found a city and a royal palace about 1000 meters from the sea on a tel 18 meters high. The tel was called by the locals Ras Shamra which means "fennel hill". There also Egyptian artifacts were discovered and dated to the 2nd millennium BC.

    The greatest discovery made at the site was a collection of tablets carved with (a then) unknown cuneiform script. In 1932 the identification of the site was made when some of the tablets were deciphered; the city was the ancient and famous site of Ugarit.

    Ugarit experienced a very long history. A city was built on the site in the Neolithic period around 6000 BC. The oldest written evidence of the city is found in some texts from the nearby city of Ebla written around 1800 BC. At that time both Ebla and Ugarit were under Egyptian hegemony, which shows that the long arm of Egypt extended all along the west coast of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. The population of Ugarit at that time was roughly 7635 people. The city of Ugarit continued to be dominated by the Egyptians through 1400 BC.

    All of the tablets found at Ugarit were written in the last period of its life (around 1300- 1200 BC). The kings of this last and greatest period were:

    1349Ammittamru I
    1325Niqmaddu II
    1315Arhalba
    1291Niqmepa 2
    1236Ammitt 1193 - Niqmaddu III
    1185Ammurapi

    In the period 1200 - 1180 the city steeply declined and then mysteriously came to an end.

    The texts which were discovered at Ugarit aroused interest because of their international flavor. That is, the texts were written in one of four languages; Sumerian, Akkadian, Hurritic and Ugaritic. The tablets were found in the royal palace, the house of the High Priest, and some private houses of evidently leading citizens.

    Ugaritic literature provides an open window on the culture and religion of Israel in its earliest period.

    From the Literature of Ugarit to the Literature of the Bible

    The style of writing discovered at Ugarit is known as alphabetic cuneiform. This is a unique blending of an alphabetic script and cuneiform; thus it is a unique blending of two styles of writing. Most likely it came into being as cuneiform was passing from the scene and alphabetic scripts were making their rise. Ugaritic is thus a bridge from one to the other.

    One example of this is found in Proverbs 26:23. In the Hebrew text Mygys Psk is divided just as it is here. This has caused commentators quite a bit of confusion over the centuries, for what does "silver lips" mean? The discovery of the Ugaritic texts has helped us to understand that the word was divided incorrectly by the Hebrew scribe (who was as unfamiliar as we are with what the words were supposed to mean). Instead of the two words above, the Ugaritic texts lead us to divide the two words as Mygysps k which means "like silver". This makes eminently more sense in context than the word mistakenly divided by the Hebrew scribe who was unfamiliar with the second word; so he divided into two words which he did know even though it made no sense.

    Another example occurs in Ps 89:20. Here the word rz is usually translated "help" but the Ugaritic word "gzr" means "young man" and if Psalm 89:20 is translated this way it is clearly more meaningful.

    Besides single words being illuminated by the Ugaritic texts, entire ideas or complexes of ideas have parallels in the literature. For example, in Proverbs 9:1-18 wisdom and folly are personified as women. This means that when the Hebrew wisdom teacher instructed his students on these matters, he was drawing on material that was commonly known in the Phoenician environment (for Ugarit was Canaanite/Phoenician). In point of fact, KTU 1,7 VI 2-45 is nearly identical to Proverbs 9:1ff. (The abbreviation KTU stands for "Keilalphabetische Texte aus Ugarit", the standard collection of this material. The numbers are what we might call the chapter and verse). KTU 1.114:2-4 says:

    hklh. sh. lqs. ilm. tlhmn
    ilm w tstn. tstnyn `d sbí
    trt. `d. skr. yí.db .yrh

    "Eat, o Gods, and drink,
    drink wine till you are sated,
    Which is very similar to Proverbs 9:5;
    "Come, eat of my food and drink wine that I have mixed".

    Ugaritic poetry is very similar to Biblical poetry and is therefore very useful in interpreting difficult poetic texts. In fact, Ugaritic literature (besides lists and the like) is composed completely in poetic metre. Biblical poetry follows Ugaritc poetry in form and function. There is parallelism, qinah metre, bi and tri colas, and all of the poetic tools found in the Bible are found at Ugarit. In short the Ugaritic materials have a great deal to contribute to our understanding of the Biblical materials; especially since they predate any of the Biblical texts.

    The Ugaritic Pantheon

    Baal_Ugarit.jpgThe prophets of the Old Testament rail against Baal, Asherah and various other gods on nearly every page. The reason for this is simple to understand; the people of Israel worshipped these gods along with, and sometimes instead of, Yahweh, the God of Israel. This Biblical denunciation of these Phoenician gods received a fresh face when the Ugaritic texts were discovered, for at Ugarit these were the very gods that were worshipped.

    El was the chief god at Ugarit. Yet El is also the name of God used in many of the Psalms for Yahweh. Yet when one reads these Psalms and the Ugaritic texts one sees that the very attributes for which Yahweh is acclaimed are the same for which El is acclaimed. In fact, these Psalms were most likely originally Ugaritic or Phoenician hymns to El which were simply adopted by Israel, much like the American National Anthem was set to a beer hall tune by Francis Scott Key. El is called the "father of men", "creator", and "creator of the creation". These attributes are also granted Yahweh by the Old Testament.

    In 2 Kings 22:19-22 we read of Yahweh meeting with his heavenly council. This is the very description of heaven which one finds in the Ugaritic texts. For in those texts the "sons of god" are the sons of El.

    Other deities worshipped at Ugarit were El Shaddai, El Elyon, and El Berith. All of these names are applied to Yahweh by the writers of the Old Testament. What this means is that the Hebrew theologians adopted the titles of the Phoenician gods and attributed them to Yahweh in an effort to eliminate them. If Yahweh is all of these there is no need for the Phoenician gods to exist! This process is known as assimilation.

    Besides the chief god at Ugarit there were also lesser gods, demons, and goddesses. The most important of these lesser gods were Baal (familiar to all readers of the Bible), Asherah (also familiar to readers of the Bible), Yam (the god of the sea) and Mot (the god of death). What is of great interest here is that Yam is the Hebrew word for sea and Mot is the Hebrew word for death! This is most likely so because the Hebrews also adopted these Phoenician ideas as well.

    One of the most interesting of these lesser deities, Asherah, plays a very important role in the Old Testament. There she is called the wife of Baal; but she is also known as the consort of Yahweh! That is, among some Yahwists, Ahserah is Yahweh's female counterpart! Inscriptions found at Kuntillet `Ajrud (dated between 850 and 750 BC) say:

    I bless you through Yahweh of Samaria,
    and through his Asherah!

    And at `El Qom (from the same period) this inscription:

    Uriyahu, the king, has written this.
    Blessed be Uriyahu through Yahweh,
    and his enemies have been conquered
    through Yahweh's Asherah.

    That Yahwists worshipped Asherah until the 3rd century before Christ is well known from the Elephantine Papyri. Thus, for many in ancient Israel, Yahweh, like Baal, had a consort. Although condemned by the prophets, this aspect of the popular religion of Israel was difficult to overcome and indeed among many was never overcome.

    As had already been mentioned, one of the more important lesser deities at Ugarit was Baal. Baal is described as the "rider on the clouds" in KTU 1.3 II 40. Interestingly enough, this description is also used of Yahweh in Psalm 68:5.

    In the Old Testament Baal is named 58 times in the singular and 18 times in the plural. The prophets protested constantly against the love affair the Israelites had with Baal (cf. Hosea 2:19, for example). The reason Israel was so attracted to Baal was that, first of all, some Israelites viewed Yahweh as a God of the desert and so when they arrived in Phoenicia they thought it only proper to adopt Baal, the god of fertility. As the old saying goes, "whose land, his god". For these Israelites Yahweh was useful in the desert but not much help in the land.

    There is one Ugaritic text which seems to indicate that among the inhabitants of Ugarit, Yahweh was viewed as another son of El. KTU 1.1 IV 14 says:

    sm . bny . yw . ilt

    "The name of the son of god, Yahweh."

    This text seems to show that Yahweh was known at Ugarit, though not as the Lord but as one of the many sons of El.

    Among the other gods worshipped at Ugarit there are Dagon, Tirosch, Horon, Nahar, Resheph, Kotar Hosis, Shachar (who is the equivalent of Satan), and Shalem. The folks at Ugarit were also plagued by a host of demons and lesser gods. The people at Ugarit saw the desert as the place which was most inhabited by demons (and they were like the Israelites in this belief). KTU 1.102:15-28 is a list of these demons.

    One of the most famous of the lesser deities at Ugarit was a chap named Dan'il. There is little doubt that this figure corresponds to the Biblical Daniel; while predating him by several centuries. This has led many Old Testament scholars to suppose that the Canonical prophet was modeled on him. His story is found in KTU 1.17 - 1.19.

    Another creature which has ties to the Old Testament is Leviathan. Isaiah 27:1 and KTU 1.5 I 1-2 describe this beast. Also see Ps 74:13-14 and 104:26.

    Worship at Ugarit and in Ancient Israel

    asherah.jpgIn Ugarit, as in Israel, the cult played a central role in the lives of the people. One of the central Ugaritic myths was the story of Baal's enthronement as king. In the story, Baal is killed by Mot (in the Fall of the year) and he remains dead until the Spring of the year. His victory over death was celebrated as his enthronement over the other gods (cf. KTU 1.2 IV 10)

    The Old Testament also celebrates the enthronement of Yahweh (cf. Ps 47:9, 93:1, 96:10, 97:1 and 99:1). As in the Ugaritic myth, the purpose of Yahweh's enthronement is to re-enact creation. That is, Yahweh overcomes death by his recurring creative acts.

    The major difference between the Ugaritic myth and the Biblical hymns is that Yahweh's kingship is eternal and uninterrupted while Baal's is interrupted every year by his death (in the Fall). Since Baal is the god of fertility the meaning of this myth is quite easy to understand. As he dies, so the vegetation dies; and when he is reborn so is the world. Not so with Yahweh; for since he is always alive he is always powerful (Cf. Ps 29:10).

    Another of the more interesting aspects of Ugaritic religion which has a parallel in Hebrew religion was the practice of "weeping for the dead". KTU 1.116 I 2-5, and KTU 1.5 VI 11-22 describe the worshippers weeping over the departed in the hopes that their grief will move the gods to send them back and that they will therefore live again. The Israelites also participated in this activity; though the prophets condemned them for doing so (cf. Is 22:12, Eze 7:16, Mi 1:16, Jer 16:6, and Jer 41:5). Of particular interest in this connection is what Joel 1:8-13 has to say:

    Lament like a virgin dressed in sackcloth for the husband of her youth. The grain offering and the drink offering are cut off from the house of the Lord. The priests mourn, the ministers of the Lord. The fields are devastated, the ground mourns; for the grain is destroyed, the wine dries up, the oil fails. Be dismayed, you farmers, wail, you vine dressers, over the wheat and the barley; for the crops of the field are ruined. The vine withers, the fig tree droops. Pomegranate, palm, and apple tree -- all the trees of the field are dried up; surely, joy withers away among the people.

    Yet another interesting parallel between Israel and Ugarit is the yearly ritual known as the sending out of the "scapegoats"; one for god and one for a demon. The Biblical text which relates this procedure is Leviticus 16:1-34. In this text a goat is sent into the wilderness for Azazel (a demon) and one is sent into the wilderness for Yahweh. This rite is known as a "eliminatory" rite; that is, a contagion (in this case communal sin) is placed on the head of the goat and it is sent away. In this way it was believed that (magically) the sinful material was removed from the community.

    KTU 1.127 relates the same procedure at Ugarit; with one notable difference -- at Ugarit a woman priest was involved in the rite as well.

    The rituals performed in Ugaritic worship involved a great deal of alcohol and sexual promiscuity. Worship at Ugarit was essentially a drunken orgy in which priests and worshippers indulged in excessive drinking and excessive sexuality. This because the worshippers were attempting to convince Baal to send rain on their crops. Since rain and semen were seen in the ancient world as the same thing (as both produced fruit), it simply makes sense that participants in fertility religion behaved this way. Perhaps this is why in Hebrew religion the priests were forbidden to partake of wine while performing any rituals and also why females were barred from the precincts!! (cf. Hos 4:11-14, Is 28:7-8, and Lev 10:8-11).

    The Cult of the Dead at Ugarit

    In Ugarit two stela (stone monuments) have been discovered which demonstrate that the people there worshipped their dead ancestors. (Cf. KTU 6.13 and 6.14). The Prophets of the Old Testament likewise protested against this behavior when it occurred among the Israelites. Ezekiel denounces such behavior as godless and pagan (in 43:7-9).

    Yet the Israelites sometimes participated in these pagan practices, as 1 Sam 28:1-25 clearly shows.

    These dead ancestors were known among both the Phoenicians and Israelites as "Rephaim". As Isaiah notes, (14:9ff),
    Sheol beneath is stirred up
    to meet you when you come;
    it rouses the Rephaim to greet you,
    all who were leaders of the earth;
    it raises from their thrones
    all who were kings of the nations.
    All of them will speak and say to you:
    "You too have become as weak as we!
    You have become like us!"
    Your pomp is brought down to Sheol,
    and the sound of your harps;
    maggots are the bed beneath you,
    and worms are your covering.

    KTU 1.161 likewise describes the Rephaim as the dead. When one goes to the grave of an ancestor, one prays to them; feeds them; and brings them an offering (like flowers); all in hopes of securing the prayers of the dead.

    The prophets despised this behavior; they saw it as a lack of trust in Yahweh, who is God of the living and not god of the dead. So, instead of honoring dead ancestors, Israel honored their live ancestors (as we clearly see in Ex 20:12, Deut 5:16, and Lev 19:3).

    One of the more interesting aspects of this ancestor worship at Ugarit was the "festive meal" that the worshipper shared with the departed, called the "marzeach" (cf. Jer 16:5// with KTU 1.17 I 26-28 and KTU 1.20-22). This was, to the dwellers of Ugarit, what the Passover was to Israel and the Lord's Supper to the Church.

    International Relations and Seamanship in Ugarit

    International diplomacy certainly was a central activity among the inhabitants of Ugarit; for they were a sea-going people. Akkadian was the language used in international diplomacy at that time and there are a number of documents from Ugarit in this language.

    The King was the chief diplomat and he was completely in charge of international relationships (cf KTU 3.2:1-18, KTU 1.6 II 9-11). Compare this with Israel (at I Sam 15:27) and you will see that they were very similar in this respect. But, it must be said, the Israelites were not interested in the Sea and were not boat builders or sailors in any sense of the word.

    The Ugaritic god of the sea, Baal Zaphon, was the patron of sailors. Before a journey Ugaritic sailors made offerings and prayed to Baal Zaphon in hopes of a safe and profitable journey (cf. KTU 2.38, and KTU 2.40). Psalm 107 was borrowed from Northern Canaan and reflects this attitude towards sailing and trade. When Solomon needed sailors and ships he turned to his northern neighbors for them. Cf. I Kings 9:26-28 and 10:22.

    Art in Phoenicia and Israel

    In many of the Ugaritic texts El was described as a bull, as well as a human form.

    The Israelites borrowed art, architecture, and music from their Phoenician neighbors. But they refused to extend their art to images of Yahweh (cf. Ex 20:4-5). God commanded the people to make no image of himself; and did not forbid every kind of artistic expression. In fact, when Solomon constructed the temple he had it engraved with a great number of artistic forms. That there was a bronze serpent in the temple as well is well known.

    The Israelites did not leave as many artistic pieces behind as did their Phoenician neighbors. And what they did leave behind show traces of being heavily influenced by these Phoenicians.

    The Hebrews (including the Moabites) adopted not only the Canaanite language but also the Phoenician alphabet for writing it. ... The discovery of the Ugarit texts shows that the Biblical Psalms, whatever their date, are indebted to a Phoenician hymnology that had a long tradition behind it. The Phoenicians also seem likely to have been the intermediaries through whom some of the Egyptian proverbs of Amenemope found their way into the Biblical Book of Proverbs almost verbatim. And the Canaanite origin of chapters viii-ix of the Book of Proverbs, on the theme of Wisdom, is attested by echoes here of themes in the Phoenician literature disinterred at Ugarit. The Sumero-Akkadian story of the creation of the World must have found its way to Palestine long before the Israelites' advent there, and must have been learnt by them from the Canaanites on whom they imposed themselves. Canaanite elements have not been detected in the eighth-century B.C. prophetic literature of Israel and Judah. But they reappear thereafter. 'There is a veritable flood of allusions to Canaanite (Phoenician) literature in Hebrew works composed between the seventh and the third century B.C.: e.g. in Job, Deutero-Isaiah, Proverbs, Ezekiel, Habakkuk, the Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Jubilees, and part of Daniel.

    A Study of History VOLUME XII RECONSIDERATIONS, Oxford University Press, London 1961. p. 423

    Conclusion

    Since the discovery of the Ugaritic texts, study of the Old Testament has never been the same. We now have a much clearer picture of Phoenician religion than we ever had before. We also understand the Biblical literature itself much better as we are now able to clarify difficult words due to their Ugaritic cognates.

    Sources:

    1. Handbook of Ugaritic Studies by Wilfred G. E. Watson; Nicolas Wyatt, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 320 (Nov., 2000), pp. 49-86
    2. Aharoni, Y and Avi-Yonah, M, The Macmillan Bible Atlas, third edition revised by A F Rainey and Z Safrai, MacMillan 1993
    3. Albright, William Foxwell, Yahweh and the gods of Canaan; a historical analysis of two contrasting faiths. Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday, 1968.
    4. Assmann, Jan, Moses the Egyptian : the memory of Egypt in western monotheism,
    5. Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1997.
    6. BS 580 .M6 A79 1997
    7. Athanassiadi, Polymnia and Frede, Michael editors, Pagan monotheism in late antiquity, Oxford : Clarendon Press ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1999.
    8. Avishur, Yitzhak, Studies in Hebrew and Ugaritic psalms; [translated from the Hebrew]
    9. Jerusalem : Magnes Press, Hebrew University, c1994.
    10. Bronner, Leah, The stories of Elijah and Elisha as polemics against baal worship.
    11. Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1968.
    12. Cassuto, U.,The goddess Anath; Canaanite epics of the patriarchal age. Texts, Hebrew translation, commentary and introd. by . Translated from the Hebrew by Israel Abrahams.
    13. Jerusalem : Magnes Press, Hebrew University, [1971]
    14. Cohen, Harold R. (Chaim), Biblical hapax legomena in the light of Akkadian and Ugaritic,
    15. Missoula, Mont. : Scholars Press for the Society of Bibliocal Literature, c1978
    16. Cohen and Troeltsch : ethical monotheistic religion and theory of culture / by Wendell S. Dietrich.
    17. Atlanta, Ga. : Scholars Press, c1986.
    18. Craigie, Peter C., Ugarit and the Old Testament, Grand Rapids : Eerdmans, c1983.
    19. Cross, Frank Moore, Canaanite myth and Hebrew epic; essays in the history of the religion of Israel, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1973. BS 1171.2 .C76 1973
    20. Day, John, Yahweh and the gods and goddesses of Canaan, Sheffield Academic Press, 2000.
    21. Edelman, Diana Vikander Edelman (ed.). The triumph of Elohim : from Yahwisms to Judaisms,
    22. Kampen : Pharos, 1995. BS 1192.6 .T75 1995
    23. Fisher, Loren R. Fisher, editor, Ras Shamra parallels : The texts from Ugarit and the Hebrew Bible, Rome : Pontificium institutum biblicum, 1972-
    24. Gray, John. The Legacy of Canaan: The Ras Shamra Texts and their Relevance to the Old Testament, Second, Revised Edition, E. J. Brill, Leiden, 1965.Gnuse, Robert Karl, No other gods : emergent monotheism in Israel, Sheffield Academic Press, c1997.
    25. Herrick, Greg, Baalism in Canaanite Religion and Its Relation to Selected Old Testament Texts
    26. Lewis, Theodore J, Cults of the dead in ancient Israel and Ugarit
    27. Atlanta, Ga. : Scholars Press, c1989.
    28. Marsman, Hennie J. Women in Ugarit and Israel : their social and religious position in the context of the ancient Near East, Leiden : Brill, 2003.
    29. Oldenburg, Ulf, The conflict between El and Ba'al in Canaanite religion, Leiden : E. J. Brill, 1969.
    30. Pardee, D, Ugaritic by in The Semitic Languages ed. R. Hetzron, Routledge, London 1997
    31. Pfeiffer, Charles F, Ras Shamra and the Bible, Baker Studies in Biblical Archaeology, Baker Book House, 1962
    32. Pope, Marvin H., El in the Ugaritic Texts, BY , E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1955
    33. Smith, Mark S, The early history of God : Yahweh and the other deities in ancient, San Francisco : Harper & Row, 1990.
    34. Smith, Mark S., The origins of biblical monotheism : Israel's polytheistic background and the Ugaritic texts, New York : Oxford University Press, 2001
    35. Smith, Mark S. ed. The Ugaritic Baal cycle, Leiden ; New York : E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1994-
    36. Smith, Mark S, Untold stories: the Bible and Ugaritic studies in the twentieth century
    37. Peabody, Mass. : Hendrickson Publishers, 2001.
    38. Steinberg, David Why Were There Two Trees in the Garden of Eden? 2004 [/URL]
    39. Oldenburg, Ulf. The Conflict Between El and Bacal in Canaanite Rrligion, E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1969


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    Default The ancient Canaanite chief of the gods.


    EL


    el-cannanite-god.jpg

    El was was the ancient Canaanite chief of the gods, and was was often called Tôru ‘Ēl or “the bull god”. A tablet dated to 2300 CE has El listed at the top of a list of 70 gods.

    He is believed to a god of the desert since his myths say that he built a sanctuary with his children in the desert. He is also depicted as residing on top a mountain.

    Canaanite El worship appears to have syncretized with Hebrew mythology, the later perhaps evolving out of the former, and there are instanced of this evolution present in the Hebrew bible. In the earlier texts, their god is refereed to as El, or variations of the name. In Exodus 6:3-4, their god makes this statement:

    And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob by the name of Ēl Shaddāi, but by My name Yahweh was I not known to them. And I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers.

    This announcement of a name change appears to have been a scriptural method of converting the Canaanite followers of El to Yahweh worship. Originally, these appear to have been two separate gods, Yahweh being a sky/storm god, El a desert/creator god.

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    Default Who were El and Baal?



    This is one brief excerpt from the book Dont Know Much about Mythology of Kenneth C. Davis. I disagree with the author that the name El means God there is no support for this, since it would mean that El, Yahweh or Baal were the same name: God in different languages, while I believe that it is more correct to assume that different tribes living in different geographical areas had different gods, which had different names: e.g. Odin for Nordic people.

    We also wouldnt say that Yahweh is the same God as Zeus, since evidently the traditions are different, also if both are name for Gods believed by different populations. What instead is important to notice is the fact that there was not that homogeneity that western readers of the Bible tend to believe. Different tribes had different gods, with different stories, and today ignorantly we just use 1 name for all of them, which evidently doesnt make sense. But then the question arises: why we use 1 name if they are many? Maybe someone is interested in making us to believe they are only 1 god? Why? Well, I believe we all know the reason, also if some people evidently will deny it, because reality is unpleasant, especially when they realize how they have been conned!

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    Default Re: Ugarit and the Bible

    Lost And Forgotten Goddess Asherah –
    Queen Consort Of The Sumerian God Anu And Ugaritic God El


    Known as Lady of the Sea and mother goddess, Asherah is one of the oldest deities in the Sumerian and Ugaritic pantheon.

    Goddess Asherah was worshipped by many ancient civilizations in the Near East.

    Was goddess Asherah also the lost bride of Yahweh? Some biblical scholars believe that Asherah was at one time worshipped as the consort of Yahweh. Who was the lost goddess of the Hebrews?

    In Ugaritic mythology, this lost and forgotten deity is referred to as The Lady Asherah of The Sea. Several unearthed ancient clay tablets and writings from Ugarit, which was once an ancient port city in what is today called Ras Shamra, in northern Syria describe goddess Asherah as the wife of chief god El, the West Semitic counterpart of god Anu.

    God El was the ruler of heaven and goddess Asherah had the sea as her domain. It is said that she had as many as 70 children and among them were important gods such as Baal, Anath and Mot. There are also ancient references to one of her servants who was a fisherman named Qadesh was-Amrur. He used to bring her fish and help her saddle her donkey.

    Although goddess Asherah was worshipped in many ancient cities, there is little information about her before the period of Ugaritic myths. Her history is complex and shrouded in mystery.

    To the Hittites this goddess appears as Asherdu(s) or Asertu(s), the consort of Elkunirsa (“El the Creator of Earth”) and mother of either 77 or 88 sons.

    In one Sumerian inscription set up in honor of Hammurabi, King of Babylon, about 1763 B.C., she is mentioned as Ashratum, the bride of Anu. Since the Sumerian and Akkadian god Anu most likely corresponds to the Canaanite god El, historians think that goddess Asherah held the position of the chief or mother goddess for at least three centuries prior to the Ugaritic period.

    In the Amarna letters, also known as Amarna Tablets as well as in the Bible the names of Asherah and Astarte interchange which creates confusion among scholars.

    Among the Amarna letters a King of the Amorites is named Abdi-Ashirta, “Servant of Asherah”. Ashtart is believed to be linked to the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar who is sometimes portrayed as the daughter of Anu while in Ugaritic myth, Ashtart is one of the daughters of El, the West Semitic counterpart of Anu.

    Raphael Patai writes in his book The Hebrew Goddess that it is almost inevitable that the cult of the great Canaanite mother-goddess should penetrate Hebrew religion as well. “While it is not easy to reach a definite conclusion as to the physical shape in which Asherah was represented among the Hebrews, a careful perusal of Biblical references to the “Asherahs” seems to indicate that they carved wooden images which were set up by implanting their base into the ground. In early times they often stood next to altars dedicated to Baal, later a “statue of Asherah” was set up in the Jerusalem Temple itself. The word Asherah in Biblical usage can refer to either to the goddess herself or to her image.”

    In his book, Did God Have A Wife?, author William G. Dever demonstrates that a cult of Asherah did flourish in ancient Israel. According to Dever, “some of the biblical references to “asherah” are downplayed in the texts, reducing her as it were to only a “shadow of herself” — merely a symbol of the goddess, a pole or tree.”

    The word Asherah is translated in Greek as alsos, grove, or alse, groves, or occasionally by dendra, trees. Asherah poles, which were sacred trees or poles, are mentioned many times in the Hebrew Bible. Asherah poles were also known in Scripture as the “high places.” This is likely due to the connection of worship upon hilltops and mountains.

    The first mention of the Asherah pole is in Exodus 34:13 (NIV): “Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles.”

    The Israelites were commanded to destroy any Asherah pole they found among the other people in the land.

    In Deuteronomy 16:21, the Lord commanded the people of Israel to not make Asherah poles of their own. However, it did not take long for the Israelites to disobey this command. In Judges 3:7, we read, “And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. They forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth.” Instead of obeying God’s commands, they worshiped the gods of the people God sent them to drive out.

    It is believed that many Asherah poles were raised in honor of the mother-goddess Asherah. The purpose of the objects remains a subject of heated debate among scholars.

    The whole subject becomes even more complicated due to the discovery ancient inscriptions unearthed at Kuntillet ‘Ajrud. The inscriptions are religious in nature, invoking Yahweh, El and Baal. What created an intense debate are the inscriptions that include the phrases “Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah” and “Yahweh of Teman and his Asherah.

    Who or what was Asherah? The answer to this question depends on scholars’ interpretation of Asherah in relation to Yahweh.

    AncientPages

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    Default Re: Ugarit and the Bible

    Asherah

    Asherah-04.jpgAsherah is the consort of El. She is the Goddess (Elat), and the Queen of Heaven to whom cakes are baked.

    As the bride of God, it is Asherah who goes before him while riding on a donkey. The feminine aspects of divinity in Canaanite religion are closer to humans than the masculine, and so Asherah serves as an intercessor between her children and El. She being the primal womb of the deep, all mortals and gods are her children. She is worshiped as the consort of El and independently as the Mother Goddess.

    Asherah is shown as a woman with curly hair holding leaves in both of her hands. This is in her aspect as the Tree of Life and the Tree of Wisdom. All who seek her will find wisdom and life, as if eating fruit from the date palm tree, with which she is associated. She is also shown as flanked by goats or ibexes, which are associated with her as sacred animals. Asherah is also called the Lioness or Lion Lady (Labi'atu) due to her protective nature with her children. Another animal associated with Asherah is the serpent.

    Along with El, Asherah was a creator of all life and the world. She rules her children as a loving mother, and is approached by both humans and deities. Despite this, she can have a fierce side as well, particularly in regard to cosmic order (as the story of Keret shows). She has several names or forms, including Shekhinah (the feminine form called the dwelling of God, the habitation of his holiness on earth) and Tanit (who is worshiped in the form of the Tanit sign).

    She is worshiped in the home in the shrine of the Teraphim, where prayers are said to her in order to grant fertility to family members and to flocks of animals. Asherah is also worshiped on the shore of the sea, where she sits and weaves. Her epithet is 'Great Lady Who Treads Upon The Sea' (Rabatu ’Athiratu Yammi). Women serve her in the temples by weaving. Sailors coming into port also offer prayers to her, and at sea she is associated with dolphins. Asherah is also worshiped in the form of an Asherah Pole, a wooden pole carved with an image of the goddess places on green hills and under trees alongside stone altars to El or Baal.

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    Default Re: Ugarit and the Bible

    El

    El-03.jpg

    El (meaning 'God') is the highest god, father god, and King of the Heavens in the Canaanite pantheon. In Canaanite religion, he is the creator of the heavens and the earth, under his epithet Creator of Creatures.

    El is called the Ageless One, and is also called by the epithet Olam (Eternal). He is Elyon (the Most High), and ruler of the elohim, the gods, who number 70. El presides over the Divine Assembly as the patriarch and elder.

    The early creation myths say that El came to power as leader of the younger generation of gods, under his father Shamem, in whom he made his heavenly dwelling with the gods. He carried off heaven and held him above earth. Still other myths imply that El preceded the heavens and the earth.

    El resides atop Mount Kasu in the Hammon mountain range between Canaan and Khilikku in the Hurrian parts of Anatolia. He dwells in a tent, or else in a palace behind seven doors, at the source of the two world oceans. Occasionally he is visited here by his consort Asherah, who rides on a donkey. But El is very far away, and has lived here since creation. His remote location makes him seem distant in the lives of mortals.

    He is portrayed as an old man with white hair and beard. This shows his endless wisdom as the universe's supreme creator. He wears robes and a tall crown or hat. In his hand he carries a cup of wine and raises the other hand in a blessing, granting long life and a life of good fortune to his devotees.

    El is described as a benevolent and kind god, very slow to anger. His mercy is infinite, and he is called Kindly El the Compassionate (Lutipanu ’Ilu Du Pa’idu).

    He is the Father of Years (Abi Shanima), and is associated with the Bull as a sacred animal of kingship, being called Bull El or Thoru Ilu. El is a drinker of wine and a lover of banquets, and he dines with the gods his children. He is their father, the father of all mortals, and of all creation. All of the gods bow to his authority, and his word is absolute, establishing with it the natural laws of the universe. He also concerns himself with kings, anointing them with olive oil.

    Other texts describe El as having four eyes, two opened and two closed, so he can see even while resting or sleeping. This is because El is all-seeing. He also has four wings, so he can rest with traveling. Upon his head are two more wings, one for the ever-ruling mind and the other for sensation. These were a gift to him by Baal Ta'awat, and he was pleased with these.

    Despite his remoteness, El does communicate through dreams. His worshipers, the Elohists, worship El as supreme.

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    Default Re: Ugarit and the Bible

    Fragments of 'The Babylonian History' of Bel-re'ushunu

    Bel-re'ushunu was a Babylonian priest of Marduk and historian. He came from a priestly family and had access to the temple records and king-lists of the Esagila temple. He was born in Babylon during Hellenistic times, and grew up to be Marduk's priest. He wrote a history of the Babylonians in Greek based on his access to the temple records, and dedicated it to the current reigning monarch, King Antiochus I Soter. In later years he moved to the island of Kos and there set up a school of astrology.

    Here I have collected fragments of this book from various authors, though substituted the Greek corruptions of the Babylonian names with their Babylonian or Sumerian originals:

    Bel-re'ushunu, in the first book of his history of Babylonia, informs us that he lived in the age of Alexander the son of Philip. And he mentions that there were written accounts, preserved at Babylon with the greatest care, comprehending a period of above fifteen myriads of years: and that these writings contained histories of the heaven and of the sea; of the birth of mankind; and of the kings, and of the memorable actions which they had achieved.

    And in the first place he describes Babylonia as a country situated between the Idiqlat and the Purattu: that it abounded with wheat, and barley, and ocrus, and sesame; and that in the lakes were produced the roots called gongre, which are fit for food, and in respect to nutriment similar to barley. That there were also palm trees and apples, and a variety of fruits; fish also and birds, both those which are merely of flight, and those which frequent the lakes. He adds, that those parts of the country which bordered upon Arabia, were without water, and barren; but that the parts which lay on the other side were both hilly and fertile.

    At Babylon there was (in these times) a great resort of people of various nations, who inhabited Chaldea, and lived in a lawless manner like the beasts of the field. In the first year there appeared, from that part of the Erythrean Sea which borders upon Babylonia, an animal destitute of reason, by name Uanna, whose whole body was that of a fish; that under the fish's head he had another head, with feet also below, similar to those of a man, subjoined to the fish's tail. His voice too, and language, was articulate and human; and a representation of him is preserved even to this day.

    This Being was accustomed to pass the day among men; but took no food at that season; and he gave them an insight into letters and sciences, and arts of every kind. He taught them to construct cities, to found temples, to compile laws, and explained to them the principles of geometrical knowledge. He made them distinguish the seeds of the earth, and shewed them how to collect the fruits; in short, he instructed them in every thing which could tend to soften manners and humanize their lives. From that time, nothing material has been added by way of improvement to his instructions. And when the sun had set, this Being Uanna, retired again into the sea, and passed the night in the deep; for he was amphibious. After this there appeared other animals like Uanna, of which Bel-re'ushunu proposes to give an account when he comes to the history of the kings. Moreover Uanna wrote concerning the generation of mankind; and of their civil polity; and the following is the purport of what he said:

    "There was a time in which there existed nothing but darkness and an abyss of waters, wherein resided most hideous beings, which were produced of a two-fold principle. There appeared men, some of whom were furnished with two wings, others with four, and with two faces. They had one body but two heads: the one that of a man, the other of a woman: and likewise in their several organs both male and female. Other human figures were to be seen with the legs and horns of goats: some had horses' feet: while others united the hind quarters of a horse with the body of a man, resembling in shape the hippocentaurs. Bulls likewise were bred there with the heads of men; and dogs with fourfold bodies, terminated in their extremities with the tails of fishes: horses also with the heads of dogs: men too and other animals, with the heads and bodies of horses and the tails of fishes. In short, there were creatures in which were combined the limbs of every species of animals. In addition to these, fishes, reptiles, serpents, with other monstrous animals, which assumed each other's shape and countenance. Of all which were preserved delineations in the temple of Bel at Babylon.

    The person, who presided over them, was a woman named Tiamat, the sea; but which might equally be interpreted the Moon. All things being in this situation, Bel came, and cut the woman asunder: and of one half of her he formed the earth, and of the other half the heavens; and at the same time destroyed the animals within her. All this (he says) was an allegorical description of nature. For, the whole universe consisting of moisture, and animals being continually generated therein, the deity above-mentioned took off his own head: upon which the other gods mixed the blood, as it gushed out, with the earth; and from thence were formed men. On this account it is that they are rational, and partake of divine knowledge. This Bel, by whom they signify Zeus, divided the darkness, and separated the Heavens from the Earth, and reduced universe to order. But the animals, not being able to bear the prevalence of light, died. Bel upon this, seeing a vast space unoccupied, though by nature fruitful, commanded one of the gods to take off his head, and to mix the blood with the earth; and from thence to form other men and animals, which should be capable of bearing the air. Bel formed also the stars, and the sun, and the moon, and the five planets."
    (From the account of Bel-re'ushunu's first book.)

    Bel-re'ushunu, in the first book of his Babylonian History, says that in the eleventh month, called Arah Dumuzu, is celebrated in Babylon the feast of Zagmuk for five days, in which it is the custom that the masters should obey their slaves, one of whom is led round the house, clothed in a royal garment, and him they call Zagmuku.

    (In the second book was contained the history of the ten kings of the Chaldeans, and the periods of the continuance of each reign, which consisted collectively of an hundred and twenty sari, or four hundred and thirty-two thousand years; reaching to the time of the Deluge.)

    He tells us that the first king was Alulim of Babylon, a Chaldean: he reigned ten sari: and afterwards Alalgar, and Ameluanna from Bad-tibira: then En sipazianna the Chaldean, in whose time appeared the abomination Uanna the Repulsive from the Erythrean Sea. Then succeeded Dumuzi from the city of Bad-tibira; and he reigned eighteen sari: and after him Ebneduranki the shepherd from Bad-tibira reigned ten sari; in his time (he says) appeared again from the Erythrćan Sea a fourth Repulsive One, having the same form with those above, the shape of a fish blended with that of a man. Then reigned Ubartutu from Bad-tibira, for the term of eighteen sari; in his days there appeared another personage from the Erythrean Sea like the former, having the same complicated form between a fish and a man, whose name was Uanduga. Then reigned Enmenduranna, a Chaldean from Larsa: and he being the eighth in order reigned ten sari. Then reigned Shuruppak, a Chaldean, from Larsa; and he reigned eight sari. And upon the death of Shuruppak, his son Ziusudra reigned eighteen sari: in his time happened the great deluge. So that the sum of all the kings is ten; and the term which they collectively reigned an hundred and twenty sari.

    In his time happened a great Deluge; the history of which is thus described. The deity, Ea, appeared to him in a vision, and warned him that upon the fifteenth day of the month Arah Simanu there would be a flood, by which mankind would be destroyed. He therefore enjoined him to write a history of the beginning, procedure, and conclusion of all things; and to bury it in the city of the Sun at Sippar; and to build a vessel, and take with him into it his friends and relations; and to convey on board every thing necessary to sustain life, together with all the different animals; both birds and quadrupeds, and trust himself fearlessly to the deep. Having asked the deity, whither he was to sail? he was answered, "To the gods:" upon which he offered up a prayer for the good of mankind. He then obeyed the divine admonition: and built an ark five stadia in length, and two in breadth. Into this he put every thing which he had prepared; and last of all conveyed into it his wife, his children, and his friends.

    After the flood had been upon the earth, and was in time abated, Ziusudra sent out birds from the ark; which, not finding any food, nor any place whereupon they might rest their feet, returned to him again. After an interval of some days, he sent them forth a second time; and they now returned with their feet tinged with mud. He made a trial a third time with these birds; but they returned to him no more: from whence he judged that the surface of the earth had appeared above the waters. He therefore made an opening in the vessel, and upon looking out found that it was stranded upon the side of some mountain; upon which he immediately quitted it with his wife, his daughter, and the pilot. Ziusudra then paid his adoration to the earth: and having constructed an altar, offered sacrifices to the gods, and, with those who had come out of the vessel with him, disappeared.

    They, who remained within, finding that their companions did not return, quitted the vessel with many lamentations, and called continually on the name of Ziusudra. Him they saw no more; but they could distinguish his voice in the air, and could hear him admonish them to pay due regard to religion; and likewise informed them that it was upon account of his piety that he was translated to live with the gods; that his wife and daughter, and the pilot, had obtained the same honour. To this he added, that they should return to Babylonia; and, as it was ordained, search for the writings at Sippar, which they were to make known to all mankind: moreover that the place, wherein they then were, was the land of Armenia. The rest having heard these words, offered sacrifices to the gods; and taking a circuit, journeyed towards Babylonia.

    The vessel being thus stranded in Armenia, some part of it yet remains in the Ararat mountains of Armenia; and the people scrape off the bitumen, with which it had been outwardly coated, and make use of it by way of an alexipharmic and amulet. And when they returned to Babylon, and had found the writings at Sippar, they built cities, and erected temples: and Babylon was thus inhabited again.

    They say that the first inhabitants of the earth, glorying in their own strength and size, and despising the gods, undertook to raise a tower whose top should reach the sky, in the place in which Babylon now stands: but when it approached the heaven, the winds assisted the gods, and overthrew the work upon its contrivers: and its ruins are said to be still at Babylon: and the gods introduced a diversity of tongues among men, who till that time had all spoken the same language: and a war arose between Ea and the giants. The place in which they built the tower is now called Babylon, on account of the confusion of the tongues; for confusion is by the Hebrews called Babel.

    After the deluge, in the tenth generation, was a certain man among the Chaldeans renowned for his justice and great exploits, and for his skill in the celestial sciences.

    From the reign of Nabu-nasir only are the Chaldeans (from whom the Greek mathematicians copy) accurately acquainted with the heavenly motions: for Nabu-nasir collected all the mementos of the kings prior to himself, and destroyed them, that the enumeration of the Chaldean kings might commence with him.

    When Nabu-apal-usur, Nabu-kudurri-usur's father, heard that the governor, whom he had set over Egypt, and the provinces of Canaan, had revolted, he was determined to punish his delinquencies, and for that purpose entrusted part of his army to his son Nabu-kudurri-usur, who was then of mature age, and sent him forth against the rebel: and Nabu-kudurri-usur engaged and overcame him, and reduced the country again under his dominion. And it came to pass that his father, Nabu-apal-usur, was seized with a disorder which proved fatal, and he died in the city of Babylon, after he had reigned nine and twenty years. Nabu-kudurri-usur, as soon as he had received intelligence of his father's death, set in order the affairs of Egypt and the other countries, and committed to some of his faithful officers the captives he had taken from the Judahites, and Canaanites, and Syrians, and the nations belonging to Egypt, that they might conduct them with that part of the forces which had heavy armour, together with the rest of his baggage, to Babylonia: in the mean time with a few attendants he hastily crossed the desert to Babylon. When he arrived there he found that his affairs had been faithfully conducted by the Chaldeans, and that the principal person among them had preserved the kingdom for him: and he accordingly obtained possession of all his father's dominions. And he distributed the captives in colonies in the most proper places of Babylonia: and adorned the temple of Bel, and the other temples, in a sumptuous and pious manner, out of the spoils which he had taken in this war. He also rebuilt the old city, and added another to it on the outside, and so far completed Babylon, that none, who might besiege it afterwards, should have it in their power to divert the river, so as to facilitate an entrance into it: and he effected this by building three walls about the inner city, and three about the outer. Some of these walls he built of burnt brick and bitumen, and some of brick only. When he had thus admirably fortified the city, and had magnificently adorned the gates, he added also a new palace to those in which his forefathers had dwelt, adjoining them, but exceeding them in height and splendor. Any attempt to describe it would be tedious: yet notwithstanding its prodigious size and magnificence it was finished within fifteen days. In this palace he erected very high walks, supported by stone pillars; and by planting what was called a pensile paradise, and replenishing it with all sorts of trees, he rendered the prospect an exact resemblance of a mountainous country. This he did to gratify his queen, because she had been brought up in Media, and was fond of a mountainous situation.

    Nabu-kudurri-usur, whilst he was engaged in building the above-mentioned wall, fell sick, and died after he had reigned forty-three years; whereupon his son Amel-Marduk succeeded him in his kingdom. His government however was conducted in an illegal and improper manner, and he fell a victim to a conspiracy which was formed against his life by Nergal-shar-usur, his sister's husband, after he had reigned about two years.
    Upon his death Nergal-shar-usur, the chief of the conspirators, obtained possession of the kingdom, and reigned four years.
    He was succeeded by his son Labashi-Marduk who was but a child, reigned nine months; for his misconduct he was seized by conspirators, and put to death by torture.
    After his death, the conspirators assembled, and by common consent placed the crown upon the head of Nabu-na'id, a man of Babylon, and one of the leaders of the insurrection. It was in his reign that the walls of the city of Babylon which defend the banks of the river were curiously built with burnt brick and bitumen.

    In the seventeenth year of the reign of Nabu-na'id, Kurush came out of Persia with a great army, and having conquered all the rest of the east, advanced hastily into the country of Babylonia. As soon as Nabu-na'id perceived he was advancing to attack him, he assembled his forces and opposed him, but was defeated, and fled with a few of his adherents, and was shut up in the city of Borsippa. Upon this Kurush took Babylon, and gave orders that the outer walls should be demolished, because the city appeared of such strength as to render a siege almost impracticable. From thence he marched to Borsippa, to besiege Nabu-na'id: but Nabu-na'id delivered himself into his hands without holding out the place: he was therefore kindly treated by Kurush, who provided him with an establishment in Karmana, but sent him out of Babylonia. Nabu-na'id accordingly spent the remainder of his life in that country, where he died.


    What fragments we have of the history conclude here.

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