I recently finished my new book on Canaanite mythology. Here are some excerpts:
The Epic of Baal the God of Thunder
Stephen Andrew Missick
© 2012 Stephen Andrew Missick
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.
Thousands of years ago there was a great conflict that has affected the lives of everyone living today. This conflict was between the worshipers of the Baal pantheon and the worshipers of Jehovah (Yahweh) in Canaan. In this region, the worshipers of Yahweh ultimately prevailed. This struggle is alluded to in several places in the Holy Bible. Now, due to archeological discoveries, we are able to reconstruct many of the beliefs of the pagan Canaanites. Knowing these stories helps us to understand the story of the Bible fully and in a way it enables us to read the Bible like the ancients. There is a great deal of confusion regarding and also false information about the Canaanite gods that are mentioned in several places in the Bible. Due to archeological discoveries we now know that Dagon was a god of grain and not a fish god. (The rabbis made this mistake because a Hebrew word for "fish" is "dag.") Tammuz was a shepherd god and not a sun god. Baal was a god of thunder and of the rain and not a sun god. Asherah was a mother goddess and the Asherah pole was most likely a sacred tree or a symbol of a sacred tree and not a phallus symbol. These misunderstandings of Canaanite religion often cause people to be confused in their reading of the Bible and knowing the Canaanite myths can clarify some Bible stories.
The Israelites worshiped God and called him El or Elohim and identified him with Yahweh. The Canaanites also worshiped God, whom they also called El, but they had a different conception of who God was than that which was preached by certain of the Israelite prophets.
Outside of the land of Israel, Canaanite religion continued. The "Baal Cycle" and other Canaanite myths were discovered in the ancient Canaanite city of Ugarit. (The city of Ugarit was destroyed around 1200 BC and the Canaanite texts discovered there date to that era.) One Roman Emperor, named Elagabalus, attempted to make Canaanite religion the religion of the Roman Empire. Fragments of a Canaanite religious text written by a Canaanite priest named Sanchuniathon have been preserved by the early fathers of the Christian church.
The story of the Canaanite gods is fragmentary. (Gaps exist in the texts.) For this reason I had to use many different sources to construct this story. I referenced Canaanite, Phoenician, Babylonian, Punic/Carthaginian mythologies, Hellenistic versions of Semitic mythology and allusions to Canaanite mythology found in the Hebrew Bible. (The Phoenicians were Canaanites and the Carthaginians were descendents of the Phoenicians. The Romans called the Canaanite language spoken by the Carthaginians "Punic." Punic is an extinct variety of the Phoenician language spoken in the oversea Phoenician empire in North Africa, including Carthage, and the Mediterranean. Augustine of Hippo is generally considered the last major ancient writer to have some knowledge of Punic, and is considered our primary source on the survival of late Punic. According to him, the Punic language was still spoken in his region (Northern Africa) in the 5th century AD, centuries after the fall of Carthage, and there were still people who called themselves "chanani" (Canaanite, i.e: Carthaginian) at that time. (So, as late as the early Church period, the Carthaginians considered themselves to be Canaanites.) In the Amarna tablets of the 14th century BC, people from the region of Canaan called themselves Kenaani or Kinaani (Canaanites), although these letters predate the invasion of the Sea Peoples (which included the Philistines) by over a century. Much later, in the 6th century BC, Hecataeus of Miletus writes that Phoenicia was formerly called Khna, a name Philo of Byblos later adopted into his mythology as his eponym for the Phoenicians: "Khna who was afterwards called Phoinix". The Phoenicians were among the greatest traders of their time and owed much of their prosperity to trade. At first, they traded mainly with the Greeks, trading wood, slaves, glass and powdered Tyrian purple. Tyrian purple was a violet-purple dye used by the Greek elite to color garments. In fact, the word Phoenician derives from the ancient Greek word phoínios meaning "purple". The Philistines were among the "Sea Peoples" who came from the Aegean. Some time after settling in Philistia they likely began speaking Canaanite and worshiping the Canaanite gods. The etymology of the word "Canaan" is uncertain. One explanation is that it has an original meaning of "lowlands", from a Semitic root kna "to be low, humble, depressed", in contrast with Aramaic "highlands".
An alternative suggestion derives the term from Hurrian Kinahhu, purportedly referring to the colour purple, so that Canaan and Phoenicia would be synonyms ("Land of Purple"), but it is just as common to assume that Kinahhu was simply the Hurrian rendition of the Semitic knan.) There are many places in the Bible, particularly Psalms, Job and Isaiah, were Canaanite myths are referenced. Some people might view these allusions as a "pagan substratum" of the Bible. The Bible describes the ancient Israelites worshiping Yahweh but at the same time worshiping Asherah, Ashtoreth and Baal. We will learn who these gods were in this story. Also, the Israelites in the north worshiped El, or God, in a way not pleasing to the Judeans of the south. The struggle between the prophets of Yahweh and how the Hebrews worshiped was a long and difficult struggle. In a Judean community at Elephantine in Egypt we find that the Israelites there worshiped Yahweh along with Canaanite gods and some Israelites apparently did worship Asherah as a consort of Yahweh. While I have attempted to be faithful to the ancient stories, this version of the Epic of Baal is also a product of my imagination. I had to make artistic decisions in order to create a comprehendible narrative and to fill in some of the blanks that exist in the texts. However, after you read this story you will have an accurate basic understanding of Canaanite religion. The aim of this book is to give the reader the gist of Canaanite religious beliefs and to make these stories more accessible. I have a list of references listed in the back of the book if the reader is interested in more comprehensive and technical works on Canaanite myth and religion. Hopefully, more archeological discoveries will be made and more scholars will work in this field and our knowledge of Canaanite beliefs will be expanded. The Israelites did not exist in a "cultural vacuum." They were familiar with the stories in this book and many of the Israelites believed in them. Perhaps, what we have here is what the Bible would have looked like if the worshipers of Baal triumphed among the Israelites instead of the worshipers of Yahweh or if the Judaism of the Jews of Elephantine had become normative in Judaism rather than the Judaism of Jerusalem. (The Elephantine Papyri date from 495-399 BC.)
In this book I will be examining Levantine Mythology. The Levant is the area covered by modern Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine and Jordan. In the region of Mesopotamia in modern day Iraq, their mythology was different. Baal was a major god worshipped by the Semitic people in the ancient Levant. (These myths are also called "Canaanite" or "Syrian" Mythology.) These beliefs influenced the ancient Israelites and are referred to in the Holy Bible. These are the beliefs that the prophets of Yahweh had to compete with in their battles for the hearts and minds of the people of Israel and Judah. Once again, knowing these stories helps us to understand the worldview of Bible times and provides context to the Biblical stories. The ancient Israelites knew these stories and the prophet Elijah alludes to them when he says, "Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked" while he mocks the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:27). These myths we held by the Canaanites and by the Syrians. There are also similarities between these myths and Babylonian mythology, although, the Babylonians were influenced by the beliefs of the earlier Sumerians. A large number of Semitic people settled in Egypt and brought their religious beliefs with them and they influenced the religion of the Egyptians. The Egyptians began worshiping Semitic gods. The Hebrews were obviously a part of the Semitic population of Egypt, as the Bible attests. The Jews would recite every year, "My ancestors were nomadic Syrians who settled in Egypt…" (Numbers 26:5). In this story we will learn about what these nomadic Syrians that settled in Egypt, the ancestors of the Israelites, believed. When Yahweh appeared to Moses, Moses asked him, "Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, 'What is his name?' What shall I say unto them?" (Exodus 3:14). The Hebrews in Egypt worshiped many gods while in Egypt. Their forefathers did as well. They would want to know which of the gods had appeared to Moses. Joshua makes it very clear that the Israelites were worshiping pagan gods in Egypt when he says, "put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the river, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord…as for me and my house we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:14).
The Epic of Baal the God of Thunder
Elohim creates the world and all life within it
In the name of El Elyon, the God Most High, the compassionate, the merciful, the Lord of Creation and the Ancient of Days. El
Elyon is called El Shaddai, God Almighty. (The name El means "God." El is God. El is also called Elohim.) El, the King of the Universe, created the heavens and the earth and all that dwells therein. He is Baal Shamayim, which means, the Lord of Heaven. (The word Baal means "Lord.")
In the beginning El created the heaven and the earth. He is the Supreme Being and the Creator of the Universe and all that is seen and unseen.
At the start of all things El Elyon, the God Most High, stood upon the waters of chaos. All was formless void. And El created an expanse to separate the waters above the firmament from the waters below the firmament. The tannim dragon, a chaos demon named Rahab, that vile and twisting serpent, desired to rule in chaos and resisted God and the establishment of order. El Elyon fought her with the strength of a mighty bull. As his first act, God created the seed of wisdom. He then created the Staff of God and his sword. With it he smote the Rahab. (Due to his strength and virility a young bull is used as a symbol of God and his power.) Finally, he tore Rahab asunder. Two creatures emerged from within her body and were born of her as she was ripped in two. El Elyon threw down her body and it became as dry land. Rahab's son Leviathan swam into the waters to dwell. Her other son, Behemoth, went to dwell on the dry land, formed from his mother's carcass. Leviathan and Behemoth fought against Elohim. God subdued both of these creatures but spared their lives. And so God then stilled the raging waters of chaos. El used the magic power of his staff to calm and divide the waters. He conquered the Leviathan and gave him the name Yam, meaning Sea, and allowed him to rule the seas under His authority.
God laid the foundation of the earth. He marked off its dimensions and stretched a measuring line across the earth. He set the earth's foundations and it's cornerstones. He created the oceans and the springs that abound with water. He settled the mountains in place and secured the fountains of the deep. And El took what had been the breasts of Rahab and established them as mountains that securely hold up the firmament that he created. These twin peaks were called Targhizizi and Tharumagi, which hold the firmament up above the earth-circling ocean, thereby bounding the earth. These mountains, at the far corners of the earth, both have entrances to the underworld. He set the heavens in place and established the clouds above. He marked out the horizon upon the face of the deep. He subdued Yam and shut the sea behind bars and doors and created a boundary for it and commanded Yam the sea, "Here you shall go and no further." He marked out the foundations of the earth.
Elohim walked alone upon the surface of the earth that he created. As He walked along the shore and he looked and saw an object bobbing up and down as it floated upon the waters. It washed ashore. El came upon it and lifted it up. It was a seed. He took it and planted it upon the earth. Suddenly, a tree grew up from the seed upon the surface of the earth. This was the first tree, the Tree of Life. It was the goddess Asherah (she is Elath-the goddess and is the Queen of Heaven). Asherah is also called Qudshu or Qedeshet, meaning "the Holy One." God saw the Tree of Life that it was beautiful. The spirit of Asherah emerged from the tree and assumed the form of a woman, perfect in beauty. (Asherah is the Tree of Life. Although she assumed a human form, the Tree is the extension of her being. She is the Sacred Grove. She can assume the form of a tree at will and she can merge again with the original Tree of Life at will. Her human form is that of a naked woman. She is the Naked Goddess of Heaven and Earth and Hawa, the Great Life and the Mother of All Living. Asherah is the source and the giver of the Water of Life.) El made love to Asherah. She gave birth to Shachar ("Dawn" or "the Morning") and Shalim ("Dusk"). He gave orders to the Morning and assigned Dawn to his place. Then El lay with her again and she gave birth to a son, Shamash, the god of the Sun, and Lillith, the mistress of the night. And Shalim took his place before the night. Then it was the first day. That first evening, El and Asherah produced another son, Yerich, the moon. And he ruled over the night. The next day, El and Asherah had another son, Dagon, the god of vegetation. Dagon settled upon Mount Hammon and was known as Baal Hammon, meaning the Lord of Hammon. And then the earth brought forth vegetation and plants bearing seed and fruit trees of every kind. El created the earth's features. He created the springs of the sea and the recesses of the deep. And Elohim created the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, cattle, and all kinds of animals and all the creeping things of the earth.
El lay with Asherah and she conceived and bore a daughter in her exact image. She named her Tanith. Dagon loved his sister and made her his wife. Tanith then was called pene baal meaning the "face of Baal" and "Rabat," which means "female chieftan." And Tanith (who is also known as Tanit) approached her father and made a request of him. "Give me children," she asked. "I shall give you children," he answered her, "but the children of Dagon will be counted as my own." And he lay with her and she conceived and bore triplets. Her first born was a son who was named Haddad. He is the God of Thunder and he gave rain to water the face of the earth. Haddad had two sisters Anath and Ashtoreth. Anath and Ashtoreth were identical twins. Anath became the goddess of sexual love and warfare and Ashtoreth became the goddess of lust, lovemaking, beauty and military pomp. While they were identical in appearance as they grew older the differences between their personalities became more pronounced. Anath was fierce,couragous and passionate while Ashtoreth became vain, fickle, temperamental and self-centered. God then created storehouses for hail and snow and created a path for the thunderstorm, where Baal Haddad could exercise his power. Haddad is Baal the god of thunder.
And again El and lay with Asherah and Asherah then gave birth to Mot, the god of death, and Sheol, the goddess of the afterlife, who ruled the regions under the earth. Mot and Sheol were born together. And God saw that the both of them were creatures of darkness and that they despised the light and life. And God sought a dwelling place for them, a place where light is withheld. He then entered into the springs of the sea in the realms beneath the earth and he walked in the search of the deep. There in the abode of darkness, slime, mire and phlegm, a miry pit, he created the realm of Sheol, and a place for his son Death (Mot) and daughter Hell (Sheol) to dwell. The created seven levels in Hell, each one deeper than the other. He formed seven gates, which he gave to his son Mot. The gates confined Sheol to the Netherworld. The deepest pit in Hell is where Sheol sat upon her throne and ruled her kingdom. The gates of death were opened up before God and he gazed within the doors of the shadow of death. God perceived all that is above, within and beneath the earth. He perceived the breadth of all creation. And so God also created the realm of Sheol, the Netherworld, and the Gates of Death. Sheol was imprisoned within the realm El created for her as a domain for her to rule over as queen with her brother Mot within the deep places under the earth. Mot dwelt within the realm of Sheol as his abode but, unlike his sister, he come and go as he pleased.
In all, El and Asherah begat and gave birth to seventy gods and also goddesses. These divine beings were the children of El and Asherah and their descendents. Chief among the sons of God were Resheph, the god of pestilence and divine judgment, Athtar, the Morning Star, who was the god of war and the son of Shachar, the god of dawn, Shamash, the Sun god and the god of justice, Dagon, the god of vegetation, Haddad, the god of the life-giving rain, Rahmay, the goddess of mercy, the Ashtoreth, who is also called Astarte and Ishtar, who is the goddess of lust, beauty and sexual pleasure, and Anath, the goddess of sex and warfare. Ashtoreth is also called Baalat meaning "the Lady." Notable among the sons of God was the craftsman of the gods. He had many names including Elisha and Kothar-wa-Khasis which means "Skillful and Wise." His dwelling place was Memphis in Egypt and there he was known as Ptah. The sons of God were called Bene Elohim. God assigned all of his children their place in the night sky as his heavenly host.
In the east El created the Mountain of God. This mountain is called Mount Laila, the Mountain of the Night. This Cosmic Mountain is located at the source of the two rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, and at the spring of two seas. At the base of this mountain is Eden, the Garden of God, where the Tree of Life was planted. God's throne is by the Tree of Life. God sits enthroned between two cherubim. The cherubs are winged sphinxes. God also created the wilderness in which he would dwell at times in his sacred tent as his dwelling place. And God also erected Mount Zaphon and built upon it a hall in which all of his children could come and hold counsel. Haddad was the favored son of El, who presided over El's divine assembly in his absence. El presides over all, including the counsel of the sons of God. El would, at times, delegate his authority to Baal. The divine assembly of the sons of Elohim held court on the northern side of Mount Zaphon. God has a throne in the highest heaven but he has his holy places upon the earth.
El set the length of the day and number of days for the year. He organized the planets and stars, he established them for signs and seasons and he determined the phases of the moon, the course of the sun, the seasons and weather. And then God forged the Tablets of Destiny that determined the fate of men and the gods. He wore the Tablets upon his chest beneath his garments.
And so God completed his creating and the looked upon all that his hands had made and delighted in it and said, "It is good." And then the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy delighting and rejoicing in all that God had made.
[Buy the Book for the Complete story!!!]
The story of the conflict between the worshipers of Yahweh and those of Baal is an important part of the story of the Old Testament. But with the Old Testament, it is hard to get a picture of who these Baal-worshiping people they were attacking were and what they believed. The Bible doesn't give a complete picture of the beliefs or the cult of the worshipers of Baal, but only mention them in passing. The Old Testament takes a strong polemical stance against Baalism and therefore gives an extremely pejorative point of view.
Anyone who has read the Old Testament is familiar with Baal. Baal was the false god who competed with Yahweh for the hearts and minds and the worship of the people of Israel. People who read the Bible would be familiar with the name of Baal but the identity of this god is a little more unclear. People who read the Bible would probably imagine that Baal was some sort of an idol and a false god. Baal was worshiped with idols and I do believe that he is indeed a false god but he is significant in the Scriptures in ways most readers of the Bible do not realize. The ancient Israelites were very familiar with Baalism, its typology and symbolism. By knowing the story of Baal we know the culture background of the Scriptures and enable ourselves to read the Bible like the ancients.
The information we have from the Greeks and Romans about Canaanite religion is also fragmentary and garbled and will be discussed below. That all changed in 1928 when the ancient city of Ugarit was discovered at Ras Shamra by a farmer. Ras Shamra is north of Latakia near the Syrian coast by the Mediterranean Sea. After its destruction in the early 12th century BC, Ugarit's location was forgotten until 1928 when a peasant accidentally opened an old tomb while ploughing a field. Religious texts describing the mythology of Baal were discovered. While there are holes in the texts, a great amount has survived. These texts are inscribed on clay tablets. Some of the tablets are missing. Others are broken or worn.
Scribes in Ugarit appear to have originated the "Ugaritic alphabet" around 1400 BC: 30 letters, corresponding to sounds, were inscribed on clay tablets; although they are cuneiform in appearance, that is, impressed in clay with the end of a stylus, they bear no relation to Mesopotamian cuneiform signs. A debate exists as to whether the Phoenician or Ugaritic "alphabet" was first. While the letters show little or no formal similarity, the standard letter order (preserved in the Latin alphabet as A, B, C, D, etc.) shows strong similarities between the two, suggesting that the Phoenician and Ugaritic systems were not wholly independent inventions. The Ugaritic language is attested in texts from the 14th through the 12th century BC. Ugaritic is usually classified as a Northwest Semitic language and therefore related to Hebrew, Aramaic, and Phoenician, among others. Its grammatical features are highly similar to those found in Classical Arabic and Akkadian. Significant works of literature found at Ugarit include the Baal Cycle, the Legend of Kirta, and Book of Aqhat, that features Daniel. (The Canaanite Daniel is not the same person as the Daniel in the biblical book of Daniel, but the Canaanite Daniel is mentioned in the Old Testament.) The people of Ugarit, and their language, were Canaanite.
The discovery of the Ugaritic archives in 1929 has been of great significance to biblical scholarship, as these archives for the first time provided a detailed description of Canaanite religious beliefs, during the period directly preceding the Israelite settlement. These texts show significant parallels to Biblical Hebrew literature, particularly in the areas of divine imagery and poetic form. Ugaritic poetry has many elements later found in Hebrew poetry: parallelisms, metres, and rhythms. The discoveries at Ugarit have led to a new appraisal of the Hebrew Bible as literature. Ancient Israelites did not exist in a cultural vacuum. There were links between the ancient Israelites, the Canaanites, and the Egyptians.
In the Baal Cycle and in Sanchuniathon we see an Egyptian influence. In the Baal Cycle, Ptah is a major figure. In Sanchuniathon, Thoth is an important character.(Sanchuniathon is an account of Canaanite mythology dating to the Greco-Roman period.) In Egypt, Baal was identified with Seth and a version of the Epic of Baal (with Baal going by the name of Seth) has been discovered in Egypt. Ramesses II compared his glory in war to that of Baal in his monuments in which he boasted of his exploits at the Battle of Kadesh. Rameses also named one of his daughters "Bint-Anath" which means "Daughter of Anath" in Semitic languages. We see that Semitic mythology had a profound influence in ancient Egypt and its impact is seen in the court of Pharaoh. In the Epic of Baal we also see some Egyptian influence. Kothar-wa-Khasis is Ptah, the Egyptian creator god and patron of craftsmen.
Yahweh verses Baal
In the Ugaritic texts, Baal is called "the rider of the clouds." The same description is used of Yahweh in Psalm 68:4. (Some scholars believe that certain of the Psalms were originally hymns to Baal, that were revised to praise Yahweh.)
Since Baal simply means 'master', there is no obvious reason for which it could not be applied to Yahweh as well as other gods. In fact, Hebrews generally referred to Yahweh as Adonai ('my lord') in prayer. 1 Chronicles 12:5 mentions the name Beʿaliah (more accurately be'alyâ) meaning "Yahweh is Baal."The judge Gideon was also called Jerubaʿal, a name which seems to mean 'Baal strives', though the Yahwists' explanation in Judges 6:32 is that the theophoric name was given to mock the god Baal, whose shrine Gideon had destroyed, the intention being to imply: "Let Baal strive as much as he can ... it will come to nothing." At first the name Baal was used by the Jews for their God without discrimination, but as the struggle between the two religions developed, the name Baal was given up in Judaism as a thing of shame, and even names like Jerubbaʿal were changed to Jerubbosheth: Hebrew bosheth means "shame". (The Masoritic scribes changed the text of the Bible by substituting the word bosheth, meaning "shame," where the Bible originally read "Baal" in personal names.) Baal appears in theophoric names. One also finds Eshbaʿal (one of Saul's sons) and Beeliada (a son of David). The last name also appears as Eliada. This might show that at some period Baal and El were used interchangeably; even in the same name applied to the same person. More likely a later hand has cleaned up the text. Editors did play around with some names, sometimes substituting the form bosheth 'abomination' for banal in names, whence the forms Ishbosheth instead of Eshbaal and Mephibosheth which is rendered Meribaal in 1 Chronicles 9:40. In 2 Samuel 23:8 Josheb-basshebeth is mentioned. The name was altered by the Masoretic scribes from Jeshbaal, which means "the Lord exists." The scribe thought, perhaps mistakenly, that the name meant "Baal exists," but it may have meant "the Lord [Yahweh] exists." One of King Saul's sons was named Ishbaal (2 Samuel 2:8) which meant "Man of Baal." Since Baal means "Master" or "Lord" it was probably used to refer to Yahweh in Saul's day. (This means that the use of the name "Baal" in the name of Saul's son, does not indicate that Saul worshiped Baal, especially since there are no passages of Scripture that indicate that he did.) Since the name Baal later came to be associated with Haddad, the Masoretic scribes altered Baal to "Bosheth," meaning "shame," thus renaming Saul's son, "son of shame." While the Masorite scribes altered the Hebrew text of Scripture, here and in other places, we have older texts of the Old Testament that predate those that were produced by the Masorites. These texts include the Greek Septuagint, the Syriac Peshitta, The Aramaic Targums, the Latin Vulgate and the Dead Sea Scrolls. These versions of the Old Testament are older that the Masoretic texts and help us to restore the original readings in the places where the Masorites tampered with the Sacred Texts.)
In modern Israeli Hebrew, the word for husband is "baal." (Which means "lord" or "master.") This reminds us of 1 Peter 3:6 "Even as Sarah
obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well..." (Genesis 18:12) Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? (In the Hebrew, Sarah calls Abraham "Adonai.")
According to "The Oxford History of the Biblical World," "Excavations at Samaria produced a hundred ostraca (inked notes on sherds) dating probably from the first part of Jeroboam II's reign (roughly 770 BCE)…From these records scholars have reconstructed a roster of the names of Samaria residents. These names furnish significant historical evidence. A large minority of them are compounded from the divine name Baal, but the majority are Yahweh-compound names." (page 280-281). Ahab and Jezebel gave their children "Yahweh-compound names" as we find in King Jehoram and Queen Athaliah. (But some scholars think that Athaliah may have been Ahab's sister rather than his daughter.) Perhaps, their intention was to have Baal worshiped with Yahweh, while Elijah and his prophets had in mind a more exclusive devotion to Yahweh. Jezebel slaughtered Yahweh's prophets and later Elijah and Jonadab the Kenite retaliated by slaughtering Baal's prophets. Eventually, as we know, the followers of Yahweh were triumphant.
Interestingly, the scribe who wrote down the Baal Cycle signed his work. He wrote, "the scribe was Ilimilku from Shubbani; the reciter was Attanu-Purliaani, the chief priest and chief herdsman, and the sponsor was King Niqmaddu of Ugarit, master of Yargub, Lord of Tharumani."
Ancient Israel and Canaanite Religion
Thus saith the LORD God to Jerusalem, "Your origin and your birth are of the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite." Ezekiel 16:3
Egypt had a huge number of Semitic settlers. They were called Hapiru, Asiatics and Syrians. In Deuteronomy 26:5-8 the Scripture says, "Then you shall declare before the LORD your God: "My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, subjecting us to harsh labor. Then we cried out to the LORD, the God of our ancestors, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders." So the Israelites identified themselves with the Syrians of Egypt. It is also interesting that the word "Hebrew" is rarely used in the Bible to refer to the Israelites. Most of the places where it is used are in the Exodus narrative. Perhaps this is because the Israelites are identifying themselves with the people the Egyptians called the Hapiru. It is possible that the meanings of the word Hebrew and the word Hapiru are connected.
Many people incorrectly imagine that the "Children of Israel" were worshiping the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob during their sojourn in Egypt. The Bible is clear that the Israelites in Egypt were worshiping the gods of Egypt-which included Egyptian gods and the Semitic gods. I explore the Egyptian mythological framework in my book "The Ennead." Here, in the Epic of Baal we will get the Semitic mythological framework. This will enable us to understand the historical background of the Exodus story and give us additional perception into Moses, a man who grew up with his feet in two worlds-the ancient Egyptian culture and the culture of the Semites who had settled in Egypt. Archeological discoveries in Egypt and Syria have left us with factual evidence about the religious beliefs of these ancient peoples in Egypt. In the Epic of Baal we see an Egyptian god, Ptah, playing an important role in Canaanite myth. We see the same thing in Sanchuniathon with Thoth playing an important role. The same is true in Egypt. Anath was so important that Ramesses the Great named his daughter Bint-Anath which means "Daughter of Anath. " Qudshu, Astarte, Anath and Resheph were all worshiped in Egypt. Egyptians believed that Seth was the same god as Baal Hadad and may have equated El with the god Min.
In the Bible Moses asks the Voice from the burning Bush which god he was and what god he should tell the Israelites had sent him unto them (Exodus 3:13). This was because the Israelites were worshiping many gods. When Joshua led the people into the Promised Land he challenged them to put away the gods that they had worshiped in Egypt (Joshua 24:14). This included not only the Egyptian gods but also Baal, Anath and Ashtoreth.
Part of the reason that "Baalism," was such a seduction for the ancient Israelites is because the beliefs and practices of the Canaanites were very similar to their own.
Indeed, some Bible scholars believe that the Israelites were Canaanites. This idea is affirmed in the Old Testament. The Israelites made no secret of the Canaanite roots. The Bible does teach that the Hebrews intermarried with the Canaanites during the Patriarchal period. Therefore the Bible does teach that the Hebrews were descended from the Canaanites. The name "Jew" is derived from Judah, a dominant Israelite tribe. The Bible is very clear that the Jewish people are descended from Tamar, a Canaanite woman Judah impregnated when he took her for a sacred prostitute (Genesis 38:6). The Bible also says that the tribe of Simeon was half-Canaanite. It says that Simeon's son Shaul was born of a Canaanite woman (Genesis 46:11). So we see, according to the Bible, Israel's Canaanite roots are from the Patriarchal period and not later inter-marrying. (It is interesting that Chronicles doesn't have an Exodus account. The author seems to be stressing that the Israelites were native to the land of Canaan. It should also be remembered that the Tribe of Joseph is of mixed descent, having Egyptian blood. The two Israelite tribes of Joseph, which are Ephraim and Manasseh, are descended from Asenath, the daughter of the Egyptian priest of Heliopolis (Genesis 41:50). (The gods of the Ennead were worshiped at Heliopolis, which is called On in Hebrew. Asenath probably means "Holy to Anath" or perhaps "Holy to Neith." Anath is a Semitic goddess that was worship in Egypt. Neith is an Egyptian goddess, but like Anath, she was a warrior goddess.) It is interesting that Chronicles has the Patriarch Ephraim migrate and settle in Canaan long before the Exodus (1 Chronicles 7:20-22). Also, 1 Chronicles 7:14 says that the Patriarch Manasseh took an Aramaic wife. The Israelites thought of themselves as being descended from Syrian (which is synonymous with "Aramaic" or "Aramaean") nomads. In the Patriarchal accounts in Genesis, Rebecca, the wife of Isaac is from Syria as are the four wives of Jacob (Genesis 25:19, Genesis 35:22-26). At the Feast of First-fruits the Israelites were required to recite a liturgy that declared, "My father was an Aramaic nomad. And he went down to Egypt and sojourned there…"(Deuteronomy 26:5).) The Hebrew language is now classified by linguists as a Canaanite dialect and so the Bible could be viewed as Canaanite literature. This means that Canaanite, Phoenician, and Carthaginian are basically different dialects of the same language. Cassuto in "The Goddess Anath: Canaanite Epics of the Patriarchal Age" states, "the Bible is but a continuation of Canaanite literature, which antedates the former. Just as the Hebrew language is simply one of the dialects that grew from the ancient Canaanite stem, and just as it continues-with some dialectical differences that arose in the course of the development of the various Canaanite dialects in the second millennium B.C.E-the oldest and most homogeneous Canaanite idiom, so Hebrew literature is heir to the Canaanite literary tradition, which had already taken shape among the Canaanite-speaking populations before the people of Israel came into being." (page 19).
From archeological discoveries and from writings from antiquity, we find that the Temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem was similar to temples to the pagan gods. Herodotus describes a temple of Baal Melqart that has two columns at its entrance, similar to the Temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem. (In the "Greek Interpretation," Baal Melqart was the same as Hercules.) The historian Herodotus recorded (2.44):
In the wish to get the best information that I could on these matters, I made a voyage to Tyre in Phoenicia, hearing there was a temple of Heracles [Baal Melqart] at that place, very highly venerated. I visited the temple, and found it richly adorned with a number of offerings, among which were two pillars, one of pure gold, the other of emerald, shining with great brilliancy at night. In a conversation which I held with the priests, I inquired how long their temple had been built, and found by their answer that they, too, differed from the Hellenes. They said that the temple was built at the same time that the city was founded, and that the foundation of the city took place 2,300 years ago.
The Canaanite gods were still worshiped during the time of Jesus, the Apostles and the early church. The early church disapproved of the worship of Ashtoreth at Baalbek. Eusebius of Caesarea, down the coast, complained that "men and women vie with one another to honor their shameless goddess; husbands and fathers let their wives and daughters publicly prostitute themselves to please Astarte." Astarte is Ashtoreth.
The Baal Cycle speaks of the Divine Assembly. El is the head of the pantheon but Baal serves beneath him sort of like a chief executive officer. The Divine Assembly is made up of El, Baal and the seventy sons of Asherah. The Divine Assembly is also alluded to in the Bible.
Deuteronomy 32:8 says, "When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. For the Lord's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance." But according to the Septuagint version and the Dead Sea Scrolls, this verse reads, "When El Elyon divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the sons of God. For the Lord's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance." This could have been understood as meaning that God divided up mankind and apportioned them to the gods but Israel was designated as the Lord's people. (The rest of Deuteronomy 32 argues that the Lord alone is God and no other gods really exist.) Psalm 82 seems to make an overt allusion to the Divine Assembly. It reads, "God standeth in the Divine Assembly; he judgeth among the gods. How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah. Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked. They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course.
I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes. Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations." It seems that in this verse God is condemning the gods to death. In the Book of Job, the Lord holds counsel and the "sons of God" appear before him. This is seen by some scholars as an allusion to the Divine Assembly.
In the story of Melchizedek, Canaanite religion is looked upon as legitimate. Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek, who is described as a priest of El Elyon (Genesis 14:18-20, Hebrews 7). (The rabbis tried to get around this by falsely identifying Melchizedek with Shem, the son of Noah. Of course this is baseless. This erroneous identification made Melchizedek the ancestor of Abraham instead of a Canaanite priest of El Elyon.)With the name Zadok, which is seen in the Jebusite rulers of Jerusalem Adonai-zedek and Mechizedek (whose names mean "Zadok is Lord" and "Zadok is King" respectively, Joshua 10:1) some scholars believe that Zadok was the god of the Jebusites in Jerusalem. In Sanchuniathon, Zadok is the name of a Canaanite god. Some scholars suppose that David and Solomon allowed the Jebusite priest Zadok to become the High Priest in Jerusalem. (Notice, that the other Jebusite priest and Jebusite ruler also had Zadok in their names.) Zadok shared the high priesthood with the Aaronic priest (2Samuel 8:17, 1 Kings 1:38, 2:35). Zadok means "righteous," "holy" or "just" in Hebrew and Aramaic. Rather than being viewed as a god, Zadok came to be seen as an attribute of the one true God. Some scholars think that the Canaanite god Zadok came to be identified (or merged) with the God of Israel.
In the Bible, Yahweh identified himself with El. Yahweh, which is often translated the LORD or Jehovah, was the God worshiped by the Kenites who were a nomadic people whose home was the desert. (I personally believe that the correct pronunciation of YHWH is Yahoo-wah and not Yahweh.) Yahweh revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush and said he was the same God that the Hebrews worshiped by the name of El Shaddai (often translated as "God Almighty" but some scholars argue "God of the Mountain" is a more proper translation.) Exodus 6:2-3 reads, "And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the Lord: And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name Jehovah was I not known to them." Some aspects of El were accepted by the prophets of Yahweh while other attributes of El, as held by the Canaanites, were rejected. It was a long period of conflict that finally resulted in our concept of God being firmly established among the Israelites. The Israelites were devoted to El (hence "Isra-El"). The Yahwists identified El, or God, with Jehovah, and slowly led the Israelites to Ethical Monotheism.
The sacrifice of children seems to have been practiced by the Canaanites and by the Phoenicians/Carthaginians. The Romans often condemned the practice of child-sacrifice carried out by the Carthaginians. However, the Romans were capable of equally heinous acts as can be seen in the brutalities in the coliseum that the Romans entertained themselves with. The Spartans, as well as the Romans, regularly practiced infanticide if the baby was weak, sickly or unwanted because she was female. The Greeks and the Roman exaggerated infant sacrifice among the Carthaginians for propagandistic purposes, however, child sacrifice was not unknown among the Carthaginians and it was based on ancient practices derived from their earlier Phoenician ancestors. The Bible also mentions the practice of child-sacrifice. Elohim told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac (Genesis 22). In the Bible, an angel stops the sacrifice at the last moment and a ram is substituted. (Some Bible scholars do believe that the account originally had Abraham carrying out the human sacrifice.) Later on in the Bible, Jephthah, a judge, pledges a "rash vow" that he will sacrifice the first creature that he sees when he arrives home victorious after a battle. It turns out to be his only daughter, who was a virgin (Judges 11). Some people believe that Jephthah pledged his daughter as a virgin to service to Yahweh as if she were forced to become a nun. Most people interpret the passage of Scripture to mean that he sacrificed his daughter as a blood sacrifice to Yahweh. If this is so, it shows how great the Canaanite religious practices influenced the worship of Yahweh, even if these practices were not sanctioned by certain prophets, priests and other religious leaders.
According to the Law of Moses, the child "that opens the matrix" belongs to Yahweh. A substitute sacrifice could be made to redeem the child. (Exodus 34: 19-20 states, "All that openeth the matrix is mine; and every firstling among thy cattle, whether ox or sheep, that is male.
But the firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb: and if thou redeem him not, then shalt thou break his neck. All the firstborn of thy sons thou shalt redeem. And none shall appear before me empty.") The Law of Moses condemns the practice of child sacrifice in Deuteronomy 18:10. This Scripture states, "There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch. Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee." (Notice that this Scripture also condemns the practice of necromancy. The Old Testament mentions the Rephaim and spirits descending into Sheol. The Bible contains the story of a woman who brought up the spirit of Samuel up from Sheol so that King Saul could consult him (1 Samuel 28:3-24). The Old Testament teaches that it is possible to consult the spirits of the dead, but such practices were forbidden to the Israelites according to the religious leadership. Of course, many Israelites did practice necromancy. Part of the reason why the afterlife seems to be discussed in a vague way is that the prophets of Yahweh didn't want to encourage ancestor worship, which was widely practiced by Israelites. The prophets of Yahweh wanted the Israelites to worship Yahweh alone and not to worship their deceased ancestors. In the book of Job, Eliphaz the Temanite alludes to an experience he had when he was visited by a spirit (Job 4:12-17).) Jeremiah also condemns the practice of child sacrifice. Jeremiah 19:5 states, "Hear ye the word of the Lord, O kings of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem; Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, the which whosoever heareth, his ears shall tingle. Because they have forsaken me, and have estranged this place, and have burned incense in it unto other gods, whom neither they nor their fathers have known, nor the kings of Judah, and have filled this place with the blood of innocents; They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind: Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that this place shall no more be called Tophet, nor The valley of the son of Hinnom, but The valley of slaughter." The reason these Scriptures were written is because Israelites were carrying out child sacrifices and as is likely described in the story of Jephthah, were even sacrificing children to Yahweh. Some Israelites believed that Yahweh demanded the sacrifice of firstborn children. Micah countered this saying, "Wherewith shall I come before Yahweh, and bow myself before the most high God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6:6-8).
The Bible tells the story of a war of the Israelites against a Moabite king named Mesha. In the story, Mesha suffered a defeat and his capital was under siege and on the verge of falling. Then Mesha sacrificed his son to the gods in the sight of the besieging armies. Upon seeing King Mesha sacrifice his eldest son, the Bible says a "great wrath" came upon the Israelites and they then retreated (2 Kings 3:26-27). An important archeological discovery regarding King Mesha of Moab has been made. He erected a monument in which he boasts of his accomplishments and of his service to his god Chemosh. In the Bible, Chemosh is spoke of as "the abomination of the Moabites." Mesha speaks of Yahweh, the way the Bible speaks of Chemosh. (Apparently, "Mesha" is a form of the name "Moses.") King Solomon allowed the worship of the Canaanite gods in Jerusalem (1 Kings 11:7). Solomon also worshiped Yahweh upon the "high places" (1 Kings 3:3). Although worship was centralized at Solomon's temple in Jerusalem, and later kings closed all temples to Yahweh, except for the one in Jerusalem, a Temple to Yahweh at Arad, likely built by Solomon, and destroyed by King Hezekiah, in his campaign to centralize worship in Jerusalem, has been discovered (2 Kings 18:22).
It is possible, that when Jeroboam the First led Israel to independence from Judah, he was, in his view, restoring a more primitive form of Yahweh worship. He established two sanctuaries to El, one at Beth-el, which had been earlier established by the Patriarch Jacob (who was renamed Israel) and the other at Dan. I have been to Dan. Dan was a "High Place." There are remains of an Israelite sanctuary there. (The Israeli government has put up signs there that depict the priestly rituals that were performed there and has the scriptural references upon the signs.) Where the sanctuary was is now a flat platform. It should be remembered that El's sanctuary is a tent or a tabernacle. The "Oxford History of the Biblical World," contains additional information, "From a more neutral point of view, Jeroboam probably intended to employ earlier iconography of Yahweh drawn from that of El; El as a designation for the god of Israel was doubtless current in the north-hence the validity of using the name Isra-El for the northern political entity. Jeroboam's move the, was not idolatrous or even newly syncretistic, but probably invoked from ancient Israelite traditions, including a legitimate enlistment of priests from among the people. Frank Cross has proposed that Bethel and Dan served a compromise agenda. Jeroboam, he surmises, reestablished the Bethel sanctuary as the locus of Aaronite priestly family hegemony, and Dan (Judg. 18:30) for priests of the Moses line-the two families whom David had placed in Jerusalem (2 Sam. 8:15). In short, Jeroboam's moves were calculated but (from a non-Jerusalem perspective) legitimate. Only from the perspectives of the DH [the Deuteronomical History] and Chronicles were they idolatrous...At Dan…excavations have recovered an elevated platform…It is unclear whether a masonry superstructure rose above this platform, or a structure of less permanent material; conceivably what sat on the platform conformed to the tabernacle, not the Solomonic Temple, in contrast to the Jerusalem religious establishment but in accord with "Moses" standards." (pages 282-283).
According to the Judeans, sculptures of Cherubim, upon which Yahweh sat enthroned, were legitimate, but sculptures of young bulls representing El, or perhaps pedestals upon which El stood, were not. But it is interesting that the Molten Sea (or Yam) in Solomon's Temple, was erected upon twelve bulls. The Judeans also believed that beaten images were authorized but molten images were not. The Cherubim were of beaten gold while the golden calves (and the golden calf of Aaron) were molten. Aaron and Jeroboam probably believed that since Yahweh was El and since El was symbolized with a young bull (or "calf") then the iconography of the young bull was legitimate in the iconography of Yahweh. Moses begged to differ. It had been noted that neither Elijah nor Elisha attacked the golden calves but that is, in my opinion, an argument from silence. It is interesting that the Judean prophets protested the building of a temple, saying that the dwelling place of Yahweh was a tent, and they also opposed the rebuilding of the temple after its destruction (2 Samuel 7:4-7, Isaiah 66:1-2). As has been seen, the Canaanites also believed El's abode was a tabernacle.
Interpretatio Graeca: The Interpretation of the Greeks
When the Greeks spread out, they were very curious about the various people groups they encountered and their religious beliefs. They often would identify "barbarian" gods with their own. For example, the Egyptian god Thoth was the scribe of the gods. Hermes (or Mercury) was the messenger of the gods in Greek and Roman mythology. The Greeks then identified Thoth with Hermes. However, although there are similarities in function between Hermes and Thoth, there are also profound differences in these mythological figures. So, the Greeks may have misidentified certain "barbarian" (Egyptian/Canaanite/Mesopotamian) gods with their own.
An example of this may be in the Ennead. In one account of the story of the Ennead, Geb rapes his mother Tefnut. This may not have been a part of the original version of the story but rather a re-telling that attempted to conform it to Greek mythology. So, myths were changed in the process of the "Greek Interpretation" or "Interpretatio Graeca." Another example of this would be Adonis. The Greek myth of Adonis may have been originally loosely based on the story of Damuzi (Tammuz) but it is a different myth. (Some scholars believe that it may have been based on Eshmoun instead.) We see the same trend in Mithraism. Mithra is a demigod in the Zoroastrian religion, but some scholars believe that Mithras and Mithraism, although based loosely upon a Zoroastrian basis, was a Roman god and a Roman religion.
El had fathered many gods, but most important were Hadad, Yam, and Mot, each share similar attributes to the Greco-Roman gods: Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades respectively. Sometimes El is compared with Kronos, the Father of Zeus. But El is not a "wholly other" god the way Kronos was. He is actively involved with his creation. Some speculate that the image of Zeus throwing is thunderbolt is ultimately derived from Baal Haddad in Canaanite religion.
As the Greeks and Romans had an impact upon Canaanite religion, in an earlier period, Canaanite and Mesopotamian myth had an impact upon Greek and Roman Mythology. For instance, it seems that Perseus verses the Kraken is based upon the Myth of the Battle between Baal and Yam. In the Perseus myth, the battle takes place in Joppa, a city in ancient Canaan.
The mythology of the Levant and Mesopotamia influenced Greek mythology. (Perhaps in a similar manner to the way Greek mythology influenced Roman mythology.) Later, when the Greeks rose to dominance, Greek mythology in turn influenced the mythologies of the Middle East. The Greeks would often identify (or misidentify) Middle Eastern gods with their own gods.
This book, along with my version of the story of the Egyptian gods of the Ennead, is part of my Bible study on the Exodus. While they were slaves in Egypt, the Hebrews worshiped the gods of the Syrians. They also worshiped Egyptian gods. I am attempted to understand the cultural background to the Exodus story. An Egyptian version of the Epic of Baal, with Baal going by the name of Seth, has been discovered.
While we are familiar with Greek and Roman mythology, most people are not familiar with Canaanite myth. There are two reasons for this. It completely died out and the records left of it were, until the twentieth century, fragmentary. There is some difficulty with reconstructing Levantine or Canaanite Myth for two reasons. First, some of our findings are fragmentary. Secondly, as is recounted in the essay "Early Non-rabbinic Interpretation of the Bible" in the Jewish Study Bible during the classical era, "Near Eastern cultures, which enjoyed the mystique of antiquity and exoticism, could legitimize themselves by identifying their gods with Greek gods and their teachings with Greek teachings." (Page 1840). This means that sometimes, once a near eastern culture came into contact with Greek culture their mythology and religion in a sense came into conformity with Greek religion. For instance, Baal Shamayim, was identified with Zeus and later with Jupiter. The Egyptian god Thoth was identified with Hermes by the Greeks, although they are very different gods. The Greeks saw a similarity in the Thoth was the Scribe of the Gods and Hermes was the Messenger of the Gods. It has been argued that the Egyptian myths concerning Shu, Tefnut and Geb were later changed to bring their mythology into conformity with Greek myth. So, sometimes we must ask ourselves, when dealing with later sources, from the Greek period, such as the story of Adonis and the Theogony of Sanchuniathon have these versions of Canaanite myth been Hellenized?
There may have been some cross-fertilization between Semitic and Greek mythology. The Greeks were profoundly influenced by the ancient Phoenicians, who were Canaanites. For instance, the Greek alphabet was clearly adopted from the Phoenician alphabet. The image of Zeus hurling his thunderbolt probably had its origins in Baal. The image of Perseus battling the Kraken to rescue Andromeda is possibly based on the myth of Baal rescuing Astarte from Mot and his battling Lotan. Also, the journeys or labors of Hercules may also be based on exploits of Baal Melqart. The Greeks found similarities between Baal Melqart and Hercules and identified Baal Melqart with Hercules. We know very little about Baal Melqart. Some scholars think that the "Baal" that the Yahwist prophet Elijah did battle with was Baal Melqart. But some theorize that Baal Melqart may have been a local version of Baal Haddad or basically another name for Baal. In my version of the story, I incorporated stories of Baal Melqart and operated under the assumption that Baal Melqart is Baal Haddad. Some scholars believe that Baal Haddad is the same god as Baal Melqart but this may be incorrect.
One important source on Canaanite mythology that may have suffered from the Interpretatio Graeca is Sanchuniathon. The fragments we have of Sanchuniathon are from a book that Philo of Byblos claimed to have translated from an ancient Phoenician text. Sanchuniathon is the reputed author of the text that Philo of Byblos claimed to have translated. The sequence of the gods and their genealogy among the Phoenicians, as gleaned from Philo's Sanchuniathon, were for long recognized as supporting the general scheme in Hesiod's Theogony. (Hesiod's Theogony is a large-scale synthesis of a vast variety of local Greek traditions concerning the gods, organized as a narrative that tells how they came to be and how they established permanent control over the cosmos.) Sanchuniathon probably represents Canaanite mythology but slightly altered in order to bring it more in line with Greek mythology. As in the Greek and Hittite theogonies, Sanchuniathon's Elus/Cronus overthrows his father Sky or Uranus and castrates him. However Zeus Demarûs, that is Hadad Ramman, purported son of Dagon but actually son of Uranus, eventually joins with Uranus and wages war against Cronus. To El/Cronus is attributed the practice of circumcision. Twice we are told that El/Cronus sacrificed his own son. At some point peace is made and Zeus Adados (Hadad) and Astarte reign over the land with Cronus' permission. (Note that El becomes Elus in Greek. Greek nouns, such as names, must have case endings for the purpose of declension. In a similar manner Yeshu became Iesus in Greek. The Y became an I, the Sh and s and another s was added to the end of the name because of declension. So, Elus is El.)
Philo of Byblos lived from about 64 until 141 AD. He is chiefly known for his translation of the Phoenician history of Sanchuniathon, which he may have written and not translated. Sanchuniathon was said to have lived before the Trojan War. Of this work considerable fragments have been preserved by the church father Eusebius in the Praeparatio evangelica.
Philo's Greek Phoenician History was so extensively quoted by Eusebius of Caesarea in his 4th century work Praeparatio Evangelica that the fragments have been assembled and translated. These few fragments comprise the most extended literary source concerning Phoenician religion in either Greek or Latin. Phoenician sources, along with all of Phoenician literature, were lost with the parchment on which they were habitually written. Eusebius's quotations often have an agenda contrary to Philo's original intentions: the sources of Phoenician religion are quoted simply in order to disparage.
According to Eusebius, Philo discovered secret mythological writings of the ancient Phoenicians assembled by the Phoenician writer Sanchuniathon who, according to Eusebius/Philo, transcribed the sacred lore from pillars in the temples of Byblos. (This is very interesting because the brass two pillars erected in front Solomon's Temple were called Joachim and Boaz in 1 Kings 7:21. Some say Jachin (Joachim) means "He shall establish." Boaz means "In it is strength." Others believe that Jachin (Joachim) means "Justice." Boaz means "Mercy." Some Bible scholars have theorized that the words Joachim and Boaz were part of a longer inscription found upon the columns.) Eusebius also quotes the neo-Platonist writer Porphyry as stating that Sanchuniathon of Berytus (Beirut) wrote the truest history about the Jews because he obtained records from "Hierombalus" (this name is perhaps "Jerubbaal" or "Hiram'baal"? priest of the god Ieuo (Jevo or Jehovah/Yahweh), that Sanchuniathon dedicated his history to Abibalus (Abelbal or Abibal ) king of Berytus, and that it was approved by the king and other investigators, the date of this writing being before the approaching close to the time of Moses, "when Semiramis was queen of the Assyrians." (Semiramis ruled over Assyria in the 800s. The Exodus most likely took place around 1200 BC. Some scholars date the Exodus to around 1400, but the evidence points to the 1200s.) Thus Sanchuniathon is placed firmly in the mythic context of the pre-Homeric heroic age, an antiquity from which no other Greek or Phoenician writings are known to have survived to the time of Philo. Curiously, however, he is made to refer disparagingly to Hesiod at one point, who lived in Greece ca. 700 BC. (It is interesting that Porphyry speaks of a non-Israelite priest of Yahweh in Phoenicia. But we have found three kings, two Phoenician and one Syrian, with what seems to be Yahweh-compound names. These kings were Yehimilk and Yehawmilk, both of Gebal, or Byblos, and Yahubidi of Hammath. On a stele, Yehawmilk is shown worshiping the Baalat of Gebal. So, he wasn't worshiping Yahweh as the one God. However, according to the Bible, neither did many of the kings of Israel and Judah, who also had Yahweh-compound names. Some believe that the god Ieuo mentioned here by Porphyry is Jehovah, and that seems to be bourn out by the context. Others believe that Ieuo here is Yaw. Yaw is given as an alternate name of Yam in the Ugarit texts. Yam was closely identified with the Greek god Poseidon by the Greeks. There seems to be no connection between the name Yaw and the name Yahweh. Sanchuniathon was from Beirut, where Yam (or Poseidon) was worshiped. Yam was most likely identified with Poseidon in the Interpretatio Graeca.)
The supposed Sanchuniathon claimed to have based his work on "collections of secret writings of the Ammouneis (priests of Ammon) discovered in the shrines", sacred lore deciphered from mystic inscriptions on the pillars which stood in the Phoenician temples, lore which exposed the truth—later covered up by invented allegories and myths—that the gods were originally human beings who came to be worshipped after their deaths and that the Phoenicians had taken what were originally names of their kings and applied them to elements of the cosmos as well as also worshipping forces of nature and the sun, moon, and stars. Eusebius' intent in mentioning Sanchuniathon is to discredit pagan religion based on such foundations. (The attempt to rationalize or find historical explanations of mythology, such as we find in Sanchuniathon, is called euhemerism.) Sanchuniathon also includes information about the Egyptian god Thoth and how Semitic peoples used serpents as a symbol of rejuvenation due to its shedding of its skins and other symbolism snakes possessed in their cultures.
The modern consensus is that Philo's treatment of Sanchuniathon offered a Hellenistic view of Phoenician materials written between the time of Alexander the Great and the first century BC, if it was not a literary invention of Philo. Much of what has been preserved in Sanchuniathon is supported by the finds from Ugarit. It is likely that Philo based Sanchuniathon on ancient sources but that it is his own re-telling of Canaanite/Phoenician myth and an attempt to bring it into conformity with Greek mythology. It is sometimes difficult to tell whether Eusebius is citing Philo's translation of Sanchuniathon or speaking in his own voice. Another difficulty is the use of Greek proper names instead of Phoenician ones and the possible corruption of some of the Phoenician names that do appear. There may be other garblings.
In Sanchuniathon, El Elyon (Elion) is a different god than El (Elus). El Elyon is the grandfather of El according to Sanchuniathon. There does seem to be support for El Elyon and El being two different gods in some ancient texts, but this isn't clear because of the practice of parallelism, or repetition, in Semitic poetry. This means the text could be referring to two different gods, El and El Elyon, or it could be repeating the name of El, or two forms of his name, in a poetic fashion. A family tree of the Canaanite gods can be constructed from Sanchuniathon. Bethel (Baetylus) appears as a god. As does Shaddai (Sadidus) and Tzaddick (Sydyc or Zadok) which are also different gods. El, El Elyon, Bethel, Shaddai and Tzaddick are names used for God in the Hebrew Bible. Mot (Muth), Dagon, Haddad (Adodus) and Melqarth (Melcarthus) also appear in Sanchuniathon's genealogy of the gods. Sanchuniathon is an important source for Canaanite myth but it is likely that in Sanchuniathon, Canaanite mythology was brought into greater conformity with Greek mythology.
Another important source on Canaanite myth from the Greco-Roman period is Elagabalus.
Elagabalus (Varius Avitus Bassianus/Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus, ca. 203 – 11 March 222), also known as Heliogabalus, was Roman Emperor from 218 to 222. A member of the Severan Dynasty, he was Syrian on his mother's side, the son of Julia Soaemias and Sextus Varius Marcellus. In his youth he served as a priest of the god El Gabal (or Elagabal, in Latin, Elagabalus) in the hometown of his mother's family, Emesa. The god "Elagabalus" was initially venerated at Emesa in Syria. The name is the Latinized form of the Aramaic Ilāh hag-Gabal, which derives from El or Ela "god" and gabal "mountain" (Gebal is Mountain in Hebrew and Jebel is Mountain in Arabic) resulting in "the God of the Mountain," the Emesene manifestation of the deity. Some scholars believe that "Shaddai" means "mountain" and that the name "El Shaddai" means "the God of the Mountain." If this is true Elagabalus and El Shaddai mean the same thing. The cult of the deity spread to other parts of the Roman Empire in the second century. For example, a dedication has been found as far away as Woerden, in the modern-day Netherlands. The emperor "Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus" is now known by the name of the God he worshiped.
Elagabalus attempted to unify Rome under the worship of "El of the Mountain." He identified El Gabal with a Roman sun-god. (During the late Greco-Roman period, worship of the sun was growing in prominence.) Since the reign of Septimius Severus, sun worship had increased throughout the Empire. Elagabalus saw this as an opportunity to install Elagabal as the chief deity of the Roman pantheon. According to Chris Scarre in "Chronicle of the Roman Emperors: The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Rulers of Imperial Rome," "Every dawn he used to sacrifice large numbers of cattle and sheep" at the altar of El. Notice that these were the same animals that were sacrificed to El by the Hebrews. Scarre says, "His great religious initiative, [was] aimed at making Elagabalus the chief and only god…The eastern god was to take precedence 'even before Jupiter himself,' the ruler of the Roman pantheon." (See pages 149-151.) The god was renamed Deus Sol Invictus, meaning God the Undefeated Sun, and honored above Jupiter. As a token of respect for Roman religion, however, Elagabalus joined either Astarte, Minerva, Urania, or some combination of the three, to El Gabal as the wife or wives of El. In AD 220 the emperor's plans became known, that he intended to make his god El-Gabal the first and foremost god (and master of all other gods!) of the Roman state cult. Elagabalus had in fact brought the 'Black Stone' with him from Emesa. This stone was in fact the most holy object of the cult of the Syrian god El-Gabal and had always resided in its temple at Emesa. With it coming to Rome it was made obvious to everyone that the new emperor intended to continue his duties as a priest of El-Gabal while residing at Rome. To the Romans, this was unimaginable. But in spite of such public outrage it did happen. A great temple was built on the Palatine hill, the so-called Elagaballium - better known as the 'Temple of Elagabalus', to hold the holy stone. Before constructing a temple in dedication to El Gabal, Elagabalus placed the meteorite of El Gabal, the Black Stone, next to the throne of Jupiter at the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus. As if this was not enough, it was also decided that El-Gabal was to marry. In order to achieve symbolical step, Elagabalus had the ancient statue of Minerva from the Temple of Vesta taken to the Elagaballium where it was to be married to the Black Stone.
In order to become the high priest of his new religion, Elagabalus had himself circumcised. He forced senators to watch while he danced around the altar of Deus Sol Invictus to the accompaniment of drums and cymbals. (Dancing before it as King David had danced before the Ark of the Covenant.) Each summer solstice he held a festival dedicated to the god, which became popular with the masses because of the free food distributed on such occasions. During this festival, Elagabalus placed the Emesa stone on a chariot adorned with gold and jewels, which he paraded through the city. A six horse chariot carried the divinity, the horses huge and flawlessly white, with expensive gold fittings and rich ornaments. No one held the reins, and no one rode in the chariot; the vehicle was escorted as if the god himself were the charioteer. Elagabalus ran backward in front of the chariot, facing the god and holding the horses' reins. He made the whole journey in this reverse fashion, looking up into the face of his god. In the worship of his god El-Gabal, cattle and sheep were sacrificed in great numbers every day at dawn. High ranking Romans, even senators, had to attend these rites.
Elagabalus was reputably sexual degenerate. He was rumored to have been bi-sexual, to have prostituted himself in the streets and to have offered doctors a large some of money if they could perform a sex change operation upon him. These stories may have been only malicious rumors. Some of the stories Romans told about Elagabalus are so sensational that it is obvious that they are untrue and are doubtless character assassination and defamation. These outlandish tales were probably invented by people who were angry about his religious innovations. Although homosexuality was not unknown among the Greeks and the Romans, it was widely looked down up by them. On 11 March AD 222, when visiting the praetorian camp, the emperor and his mother Soaemias were set upon by the troops and killed. They were beheaded and their bodies were then dragged through the streets of Rome and thrown into the Tiber. A large number of Elagabalus' friends and associates subsequently also met with a violent death. The black stone of god El-Gabal was sent back to its true home at the city of Emesa. (There is a ancient coin that has been discovered that bears an image of the Black Stone of Emesa.)
Elagabalus's religious reforms died with him. However, the Emperor Constantine about a hundred years later succeeded in uniting the empire under a Semitic religion.
Another purported witness to ancient Canaanite myth is De Dea Syria or "On the Syrian Goddess," a book attributed to Lucian of Samosata. This ancient Greek book is disputed on two levels. Many scholars doubt that it was actually written by Lucian of Samosata and they also dispute that it accurately reflects Syrian religious beliefs and practices. In this writing, a temple in northern Syria and its rites are described. Lucian of Samosata (circa A.D. 115 – after AD 180) was a rhetorician and satirist who wrote in the Greek language. He is noted for his witty and scoffing nature. Although he wrote solely in Greek, he was ethnically Assyrian. In his works, Lucian refers to himself as a "Syrian", and "barbarian", perhaps indicating he was from the Semitic and not the imported Greek population of Samosata. Lucian was also one of the earliest novelists in Western civilization. In A True Story, a fictional narrative work written in prose, he parodied some fantastic tales told by Homer in the Odyssey and some feeble fantasies that were popular in his time. He anticipated "modern" fictional themes like voyages to the moon and Venus, extraterrestrial life and wars between planets, nearly two millennia before Jules Verne and H. G. Wells. His novel is widely regarded as an early, if not the earliest science fiction work.
Lucian also wrote a satire called The Passing of Peregrinus, in which the lead character, Peregrinus Proteus, takes advantage of the generosity and gullibility of Christians. This is one of the earliest surviving pagan perceptions of Christianity. (Peregrinus Proteus was a real person who was a member of the Ebionite Jewish Christian community but was later excommunicated.) His Philopseudes ("Lover of Lies or Cheater") is a frame story which includes the original version of The Sorcerer's Apprentice. (This story was made popular by the Disney Cartoon featuring Micky Mouse.)
Lucian almost certainly did not write all of the more than eighty works attributed to him — declamations, essays both laudatory and sarcastic, satiric epigrams, and comic dialogues and symposium with a satirical cast, studded with quotations in alarming contexts and allusions set in an unusual light, designed to be surprising and provocative. His name added luster to any entertaining and sarcastic essay: over 150 surviving manuscripts attest to his continued popularity. The first printed edition of a selection of his works was issued at Florence in 1499. His best known works are A True Story (a romance, patently not "true" at all, which he admits in his introduction to the story), and Dialogues of the Gods and Dialogues of the Dead.
Lucian was trained as a rhetorician, a vocation where one pleads in court, composing pleas for others, and teaching the art of pleading. Lucian's practice was to travel about, giving amusing discourses and witty lectures improvised on the spot, somewhat as a rhapsode had done in declaiming poetry at an earlier period. In this way Lucian travelled through Ionia and mainland Greece, to Italy and even to Gaul, and won much wealth and fame.
Lucian wrote Attic dialect with a facility almost equal to Plato. If he wrote "De Dea Syria," he imitated Herodotus' Ionic dialect so successfully in his work The Syrian Goddess that some scholars refuse to recognize him as the author.
Lucian is important as one of the earliest non-Christian historians to write about Jesus. He mocks the followers of Jesus for their ignorance and credulity, although he does credit Christians with a certain level of morality. He is considered important to Christians for giving insight into the Historical Jesus. We have three quotes about Jesus and his followers. The first quote tells of the lore of the Christians, who worship a man crucified in Palestine because he introduced a new cult to the world. Speaking of Peregrinus, Lucian says, "He was second only to that one whom they still worship today, the man in Palestine who was crucified because he brought this new form of initiation into the world." He continues, "Having convinced themselves that they are immortal and will live forever, the poor wretches despise death and most willingly give themselves to it. Moreover, that first lawgiver of theirs persuaded them that they are all brothers the moment they transgress and deny the Greek gods and begin worshiping that crucified sophists and living by his laws." Lucian's final quote criticizes Christians, "They scorn all possessions without distinction and treat them as community property. They accept such things on faith alone, without any evidence. So if a fraudulent and cunning person who knows how to take advantage of a situation comes among them, he can make himself rich in a short time."
De Dea Syria ("Concerning the Syrian Goddess") is the conventional Latin title of a work, written in a Herodotean-style of Ionic Greek, which has been traditionally ascribed to the Hellenized Syrian essayist Lucian of Samosata. It is a description of the various religious cults practiced at Hierapolis Bambyce, now Manbij, in Syria. Because of its supposed connection to Lucian, whose reputation as a civilized witty scoffer is well born out by his many genuine essays and dialogues, the value of De Dea Syria as an authentic picture of religious life in Syria in the 2nd century has been diminished.
De Dea Syria describes the orgiastic luxury of the sanctuary and the tank of sacred fish, of which Aelian also relates marvels. According to De Dea Syria, the worship was of a phallic character, votaries offering little male figures of wood and bronze. There were also huge phalli set up like obelisks before the temple, which were ceremoniously climbed once a year and decorated. The story begins with a re-telling of the Atrahasis flood myth where floodwaters are drained through a small cleft in the rock under the temple.
For the rest the temple was of Ionic character with golden plated doors and roof, and much gilt decoration. Inside was a holy chamber into which only priests were allowed to enter. Here were statues of a goddess and a god in gold, but the first seems to have been the more richly decorated with gems and other ornaments. Between them stood a gilt xoanon, which seems to have been carried outside in sacred processions. An xoanon is an archaic wooden cult image of Ancient Greece. Sometimes they were wooden beams that were later crudely carved. None has survived but stone and marble replicas have survived. They often represented goddesses such as Hera. They were probably very similar to Asherah poles. Other rich furniture is described, and a mode of divination by movements of a xoanon of Apollo. A great bronze altar stood in front, set about with statues, and in the forecourt lived numerous sacred animals and birds (but not swine) used for sacrifice. Some three hundred priests served the shrine and there were numerous minor ministrants. The lake was the centre of sacred festivities and it was customary for votaries to swim out and decorate an altar standing in the middle of the water. Self-mutilation and other orgies went on in the temple precinct, and there was an elaborate ritual on entering the city and first visiting the shrine under the conduct of local guides. Similar public self-mutilation is still practiced during the Ashura festival of the Shiite Muslims. Ashura is mourning for Hussein, also known as Husayn ibn Ali. Hussein was killed and beheaded by the Umayyah Muslims at the Battle of Karbala in 680 AD. Hussein was the grandson of the so-called prophet Mohammed. During Ashura, Shiite men perform self-flagellation, and also cut and stab themselves as they run down the streets in frenzied mobs. In the Classical period, some men would castrate themselves in honor of the goddess. When Mesopotamian converted to Christianity, the Syriac Christian rulers abolished the practice of genital mutilation. This is mentioned in Aramaic Christian histories. According to Bardaishan, "In Syria and in Edessa men used castrate themselves in honor of Tharatha [Atargatis/Atharetha]; but when King Abgar (VIII) became a believer he commanded that everyone that did so should have his hand cut off, and from that day until now no one does so in the country of Edessa." (Books of the Laws of the Countries, Bardaishan). Jesus spoke of self-castration as a metaphor for taking a vow of celibacy. Jesus said, "For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it." (Matthew 19:12). There are traditions, perhaps untrue, that the Church Father Origin of Alexandria, took this statement of Jesus literally, and not figuratively, and took it to be Jesus condoning the practice of self-castration, and then he castrated himself. Concerning circumcision, circumcision was not a uniquely Israelite practice, Egyptians and some Canaanites, also practiced circumcision. Genesis 34 discusses the introduction of the practice of circumcision among the Canaanites of Shechem. The Canaanites in this story circumcise themselves as adults. Among many Muslims groups, males are circumcised from ages 7-13. Muslims still perform these public genital mutilation ceremonies. For many Muslim groups, circumcision is a rite of passage. The ritual is often performed at a party in which many people are invited to attend. (I am not opposed to the practice of circumcision of infant males.)
I don't place much value in "comparative mythology" because those who find comparisons usually ignore important differences. But here, for sake of argument, I want to look at similarities between this Syrian temple and the Temple of Jerusalem and the Tabernacle. The Israelites offered sacrifice upon a bronze altar (Exodus 27:1-8) similar to what we find in this temple. They also offered similar animals for sacrifice. Note that pigs are not acceptable. Solomon's Temple was also gold plated (1 Kings 6:21-22). Notice that this temple has a "holy place" that only priests were allowed to enter the same way that the Temple and the Tabernacle had a holy place and a "holy of holies" (Exodus 25:10-30,1 Kings 6:15-30). In this temple as well as other temples in Egypt and throughout the ancient Near East, there was a sacred pool. Solomon's temple also had a "Yam"- a Sea of Brass. It was a large tank that stood almost eight feet high and was fifteen feet wide. It held 12,000 gallons of water (1 Kings 7:23-26). But what was it for? Some people suppose that it was to wash in. However, the Bible is very clear that there were ten bronze wheeled basins that were for washing (1 Kings 7:27, 2 Chronicles 4:6). The English Standard Version Study Bible says that the "sea of cast metal was a large metal basin designed to contain water, representing the forces of chaos, subdued and brought to order by the Lord, who is the Creator of the world (cf. Genesis 1:1-2:3, Psalm 74:12-17, Psalm 89:5-12, 93:1-5) (Page 609). The Bronze basins each held 240 gallons. These mobile basins were called mechonot. They were decorated with cherubs (winged sphinxes). A bronze wheeled laver stand matching the biblical description has been found in Cyprus. (It was likely for a pagan temple. The Jerusalem Temple is basically a typical temple from the ancient Near East. As we have already seen, the temple of Baal Melqart, had two columns at the entrance of the temple, similar to King Solomon's Temple. (It should be noted also, that Solomon's Temple was built by Phoenicians from Tyre (1 Kings 5, 7:13-14). Some have argued (although I disagree) that the two columns were phallus symbols. (It is also argued that obelisks are phallus symbols. But the scholarly consensus among Egyptologists is that obelisks represented a beam of light to the ancient Egyptians. People who follow the teachings of Alexander Hislop seem to see everything as either a phallus symbol or a symbol of sun worship, which they mistakenly believe all ancient religion is derived from.) Many pagan temples have been discovered in the Near East that closely resemble Solomon's Temple. An example a temple found at Tel Tainat in Syria that was build in the ninth or eighth century before Christ. Like Solomon's Temple, it was oriented towards to east. It has two columns at the entrance. Like Solomon's Temple it had a porch (ulam), a main room (heikhal), and a small sanctuary (debir). Other temples that are similar to Solomon's Temple have been found at Ain Dara, Tel Munbaqa, Ebla, Emar, Hazor, Shechem, Lachish and Arad. Interestingly, the walls of the Temple of Solomon were decorated with cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers (1 Kings 6:32) and the brass basins were decorated with "cherubim, lions, and palm trees and wreaths" (1 Kings 7:36). Pagan temples had similar iconography.
According to Canaanite myth, El's sanctuary was a tent. We know that the Canaanites used tabernacles, or tent sanctuaries. A depiction of a tent-shrine can be seen at the Temple of Bel, or Baal, at Palmyra. Remains of a Midianite tabernacle have been excavated by archeologists at Timna in southern Israel. At Timna there is a full scale recreation of the Tabernacle that is described in the Torah of Moses. So, what did a Tabernacle of El look like? If Solomon's Temple was a typical Ancient Near Eastern temple and archeological evidence does show this to be the case, then most likely, tent shrines of El were probably similar in appearance to the Tabernacle described in the Bible. The Tabernacle described in the Bible has cherubim embroidered into the tent, it has a table with cakes of bread, called the Table of Shew-bread, a tree-shaped lamp, called the Menorah, and a throne for the Deity in the inner sanctum, which was the Ark of the Covenant. (The Table of Shew-bread is also called the "Table of the Bread of the Presence." The Story of Enki and Inanna features the Table of Heaven with sacred bread. Exodus, the Epistle of Hebrews, and the Revelation of John, teach that Moses saw of vision of these items in the Tabernacle in a heavenly vision. The iconography of the Biblical Tabernacle was most likely that of the Garden of Eden. The idea is that, in a sense, the relationship that God and Man enjoyed in the Garden of Eden is restored to a certain extent in the Tabernacle. It is likely that much of the iconography found in the Tabernacle was also shared with the pagan Canaanites.
We also know that there was an Asherah pole in Solomon's Temple and Sacred Prostitution went on there, although these practices were denounced by the prophets of the Lord as corrupt practices introduced by evil kings. So, perhaps Lucian (or Pseudo-Lucian) would have written a similar description of Solomon's Temple had he visited it during the reign of King Manasseh, who is condemned in the Bible for allowing similar practices in the Temple of Jerusalem (2 Kings 21:1-18). It seems that even when these pagan rites were not in the temple, after the reforms of King Hezekiah and King Josiah, that an ancient tourist who visited temples across Syria and Canaan probably wouldn't notice much difference in the temple architecture and ritual between the Temple of Solomon and the other temples that he had seen.
Canaanite Religion, Elagabalus, and the Pagan Roots of Islam
Three other vestiges of Canaanite religion survive in Islam. This includes the name of Allah and his titles, the Black Stone idol worshiped by Moslems in the Kabah and the Islamic pilgrimage ritual. Another example of the influence of paganism upon Mohammed is the "Satanic Verses" incident, during which time Mohammed allowed Moslems to venerate three Semitic goddesses who were analogous to Canaanite goddesses Asherah, Ashtoreth, and Sheol.
The name "Allah" is clearly derived from the name "El." Moslems recite, "In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful." This is very similar to the wording we find in the Ugaritic texts where it often says, "El, the kindly and merciful." Also, the Arabic word for merciful is "Rahman." This was the name of a pagan god. In Ugaritic texts we find this name in a feminine form with the goddess of mercy who is named Rahmay.
The next similarity we see with Islam and Canaanite religion is the Islamic veneration of the Black Stone.
We have several misconceptions about ancient paganism. One of these misconceptions is the nature of idolatry. In the ancient world, as has already been demonstrated, an idol many not have been a sculpture. Stones and meteorites were used as idols as well. Before the time of Mohammed, there was a pagan shrine called the Kaba in Mecca. When Mohammed conquered Mecca, the destroyed the 360 idols kept in the Kaba, but kept one idol-the Black Stone. Mohammed commanded Muslims to venerate his Black Stone. Interestingly, we find a similar "Black Stone" used as an idol by Elagabalus. (Mohammed centralized Islamic worship around the pagan Kaba shrine of Mecca. Other Arab towns had Kaba shrines.)
During the rule of Elagabalus, a temple called the Elagabalium was built on the east face of the Palatine Hill, to house the holy stone of the Emesa temple, a black conical meteorite. Herodian writes of that stone, "This stone is worshipped as though it were sent from heaven; on it there are some small projecting pieces and markings that are pointed out, which the people would like to believe are a rough picture of the sun, because this is how they see it." The Black Stone of Islam is a comparatively small meteorite, being roughly one foot in diameter. However, it can be instantly recognized by a large silver band wrapped around it. The stone is actually broken into several pieces. It was damaged when Qarmatian warriors sacked Mecca and carried the Black Stone away to their base in Bahrain in 930. The Black Stone idol was returned to Mecca 22 years later. During the process, the Black Stone was cracked and it is now held together by a silver band which is fastened by silver nails to the Stone. Some Muslims believe that the Black Stone has supernatural power. They believe that this stone fell from heaven during the time of Adam and Eve, and that it has the power to cleanse worshipers by absorbing their sins into itself. Muslims believe that the Black Stone was once a pure and dazzling white and that it has turned black because of all the sins that it has absorbed over the centuries. When pilgrims circle the Kaaba as part of the ritual of the Hajj, many of them try, if possible, to stop and kiss the Black Stone. (The Muslims claim that the Kaaba, a Cube shaped pagan shrine, was built by Abraham. The Kaaba is not nearly that old. It was built thousands of years after the time of Abraham and was built closer to Mohammad's lifetime than to Abraham's. There is no evidence that Abraham migrated anywhere near to Mecca, which didn't exist during his time.)
Muslim pilgrims jostle for a chance to kiss the Black Stone; if they are unable to kiss the stone because of the crowds, they can point towards the stone on each circuit with their right hand. In each complete circuit a person says "In the name of God, God is Great, God is Great, God is Great and praise be to God". Once people have kissed the stone a guard stands ready to push them away.
Some scholars believe that the Kaaba was a temple to the god Hubal-whose name probably means "Spirit of Baal" or "Hu-Baal." His idol was a human figure, believed to control acts of divination, which were made by tossing arrows in front of the statue. The direction in which the arrows pointed answered questions asked of the idol. A "red stone" was associated with the deity of the south Arabian city of Ghaiman, and there was a "white stone" in the Kaaba of al-Abalat (near the city of Tabala, south of Mecca). Worship at that time period was often associated with the reverence of stones, mountains, special rock formations, or distinctive trees. To the pagan Arabs, the Kaaba marked the location where the sacred world intersected with the profane, and the embedded Black Stone was a further symbol of this as an object that linked heaven and earth. The Black Stone was built into the wall of the Kaaba while it was a temple of Baal. It is now encased in a silver frame that is shaped like a vulva. The silver frame is sculpted around the stone in a way that creates the image of the stone emerging out of a birth canal.
The Black Stone plays an important role in the central ritual of the Hajj, a pilgrimage to the Kaaba at Mecca that all Muslims are required to perform at least once in their lives if able, when pilgrims must walk seven times around the Kaaba in a counterclockwise direction. They attempt to kiss the Black Stone seven times, once for each circumambulation of the Kaaba, emulating the actions of Muhammad, who participated in these pagan rites. In modern times, large crowds make it practically impossible for everyone to kiss the stone, so it is currently acceptable for pilgrims to simply point in the direction of the Stone on each of their circuits around the building. Some even say that the Stone is best considered simply as a marker, useful in keeping count of the ritual circumambulations (tawaf) that one has performed.
Muslims adamentally claim that they are not idolaters. But, from the non-Muslim viewpoint, it seems that Muslims clearly worship the Black Stone, which was clearly an ancient pagan idol.
Despite praying towards it, kissing it and marching around it, Muslems claim that this isn't idolatry but that the Stone's role in hajj (pilgrimage) is simply representative and symbolic in nature, not related to belief in the stone itself as having any special power. (Although we have seen that many Muslims do believe that the stone possesses supernatural power. Regardless, many religions that do use idols say the similar things about the idols that they use in worship.) A hadith (an old Islamic tradition about the life of Muhammad) records that, when the second Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab (580-644) came to kiss the Stone, he said in front of all assembled: "No doubt, I know that you are a stone and can neither harm anyone nor benefit anyone. Had I not seen Allah's Messenger [Muhammad] kissing you, I would not have kissed you."
A Baetylus (also Bethel, or Betyl) is a Semitic word denoting a sacred stone, which was supposedly endowed with life. According to ancient sources, these objects of worship were meteorites, which were dedicated to the gods or revered as symbols of the gods themselves.
In the Phoenician mythology related by Sanchuniathon, one of the sons of Uranus was named Baetylus. The worship of baetyli was widespread in the Phoenician colonies, including Carthage, even after the adoption of Christianity, and was denounced by St. Augustine of Hippo.
In Greek mythology, the term was specially applied to the Omphalos Stone, the stone supposed to have been swallowed by Cronus (who feared misfortune from his own children) which he mistook for his infant son Zeus, for whom it had been substituted by Uranus and Gaea, his wife's parents. (Cronus thought that he had eaten Zeus, but he had eaten the Omphalos Stone, so then Zeus was secreted away from Cronus and hidden away until he grew up. When he was grown, he defeated Cronus and forced him to disgorge his brothers and sisters, including Poseidon, Hera, and Hades, whom he had previously consumed.)
An omphalos is an ancient religious stone artifact, or baetylus. In Greek, the word omphalos means "navel." According to the ancient Greeks, Zeus sent out two eagles to fly across the world to meet at its center, the "navel" of the world. Omphalos stones used to denote this point were erected in several areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea; the most famous of those was at the oracle in Delphi. The Omphalos Stone, or an ancient copy of it, has survived and can be viewed at the museum of Delphi. This stone was carefully preserved at Delphi, anointed with oil every day and on festal occasions covered with raw wool. The stone itself has a carving of a knotted net covering its surface, and has a hollow centre, which widens towards its base. Omphalos stones were said to allow direct communication with the gods. (Since Jerusalem was viewed as the "center of the earth" there are omphalos stones there.)
In some cases an attempt was made to give a more regular form to the original shapeless stone: thus Apollo Agyieus was represented by a conical pillar with pointed end, and Zeus Meilicirius was represented in the form of a pyramid. Other famous baetylic idols were those in the temples of Zeus Casius at Seleucia Pieria, and of Zeus Teleios at Tegea. Even in the declining years of paganism, these idols still retained their significance, as is shown by the attacks upon them by ecclesiastical writers. Among monotheists, the practice survives today with Islam's Black Stone.
An example is Bethel in Genesis 28:11-19: "Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord, and he said: "I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.
I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it." He was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God ["Beth-El" in Hebrew]; this is the gate of heaven." Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's household, then the Lord will be my God and
this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.""
Look at what happens in the story. Jacob takes a stone and puts it under his head. He attributes the dream to the stone that he used as a pillow and anoints it will oil. He then erected it as a monument and said it would be "El's House"-or "Beth-El." Since he used it as a pillow, it is likely that Jacob's Bethylus stone was approximately the same size as the stone of Mecca. It seems likely that Jacob's monument was reverenced in a similar way to the way that Gideon's Ephod later was (Judges 8:27).
Still another example is found in the Book of Acts of the Apostles. The silver-smiths at Ephesus felt threatened by Paul's preaching against idolatry and threatened to riot. The city clerk of Ephesus tried to calm the mob by praising "Diana of the Ephesians" who was the goddess Artemis. In Acts 19:35, he describes the idol saying, "Ye men of Ephesus, what man is there that knoweth not how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Jupiter?" So, it seems that this idol was also a meteorite that bore a resemblance to a woman.
The use of a Baetylus is similar to the use of Shiva linga, or Lingam, in Hinduism. These sacred stones were portrayed in the movie "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom." Some Lingam are phallus symbols.
The Black Stone and the Hajj pilgrimage rituals were ancient pagan practices that Mohammed adopted into his religion. Mohammed's ultimate goal was to become the king of Arabia. He was willing to make concessions with the pagans to achieve this goal, including allowing Muslims to worship pagan goddesses for a time.
Mohammed actually taught his followers to worship three pagan Semitic goddesses. Verses praising these goddesses were included in the Koran. Later, Mohammed changed his mind about allowing Muslims to serve the goddesses. The period in which Islam taught goddess worship is called the "Satanic Verses." The Satanic Verses are verses that allowed Muslims to worship three Semitic goddesses that were temporarily included in the Qur'an by the Islamic prophet Muhammad, only to be later removed. Narratives derived from hadith involving these verses can be read in official Islamic sources such as, the biographies of Muhammad by al-Wāqidī, Ibn Sa'd (who was a scribe of Waqidi), al-Tabarī, and Ibn Ishaq (the last as reconstructed by Alfred Guillaume).
There are numerous accounts reporting the incident, but they may be broadly collated to produce a basic account. In its essential form, the story reports that Muhammad longed to convert his kinsmen and neighbors of Mecca to Islam. As he was reciting Sūra an-Najm, (Koran, Sura 53), considered a revelation by the angel Gabriel, he uttered the following lines after verses 19 and 20:
Have ye thought upon Al-Lat and
Al-'Uzza and Manāt, the third, the other?
These are the exalted flying cranes, whose intercession is hoped for.
Allāt, al-'Uzzā and Manāt were three goddesses worshipped by the Meccans and were gods of the Quraysh tribe, which was Mohammed's own tribe. The subtext to the event is that Muhammad was backing away from his otherwise uncompromising monotheism by saying that these goddesses were real and their intercession effective. He taught that these three goddesses were the "daughters of Allah." The Meccans were overjoyed to hear this and joined Muhammad in ritual prostration at the end of the sūrah. The Meccan refugees who had fled to Abyssinia heard of the end of opposition and started to return home. But before they made it back, Mohammed had changed his mind. Mohammad's hope was that his concession would lead the Meccans to submit to his rule. (The word "Islam" means "submit.") When allowing Muslims to worship the daughters of El, or Allah, didn't accomplish Mohammed's goals, he changed his mind. Islamic tradition holds that Gabriel chastised Muhammad and revealed to him that the verses allowing the worship of the goddesses were a temptation from Satan. But the "Daughters of Allah" still made it into the Koran in the end. Mohammed mocks them and mentions them by name in Koran, Surah 53:19. So we see, that under Mohammed's instruction, Muslims were allowed to worship for a time Asherah, called Al-lat in Arabic, Ashtoreth, called Al-Uzza in Arabic, and Sheol, called Al-Manat in Arabic. (Note that the Arabic word "Al-lat," meaning "the goddess," is cognate with Elat, which has the same meaning in other Semitic languages.)
Sanchuniathon: The Theology of the Phoenicians
Eusebius's Introduction to his Excerpts from Sanchuniathon
This is what our holy Scriptures also teach, in which it is contained, that in the beginning the worship of the visible luminaries had been assigned to all the nations, and that to the Hebrew race alone had been entrusted the full initiation into the knowledge of God the Maker and Artificer of the universe, and of true piety towards Him (Deuteronomy 32:8-9). So then among the oldest of mankind there was no mention of a Theogony, either Greek or barbarian, nor any erection of lifeless statues, nor all the silly talk that there is now about the naming of the gods both male and female.
In fact the titles and names which men have since invented were not as yet known among mankind: no, nor yet invocations of invisible daemons and spirits, nor absurd mythologies about gods and heroes, nor mysteries of secret initiations, nor anything at all of the excessive and frivolous superstition of later generations.
These then were men's inventions, and representations of our mortal nature, or rather new devices of base and licentious dispositions, according to our divine oracle which says, The devising of idols was the beginning of fornication.
In fact the polytheistic error of all the nations is only seen long ages afterwards, having taken its beginning from the Phoenicians and Egyptians, and passed over from them to the other nations, and even to the Greeks themselves. For this again is affirmed by the history of the earliest ages; which history itself it is now time for us to review, beginning from the Phoenician records.
Now the historian of this subject is Sanchuniathon, an author of great antiquity, and older, as they say, than the Trojan times, one whom they testify to have been approved for the accuracy and truth of his Phoenician History. Philo of Byblos, not the Hebrew, translated his whole work from the Phoenician language into the Greek, and published it. [Here Eusebius is distinguishing Philo of Byblos from Philo of Alexandria.] The author in our own day of the compilation against us mentions these things in the fourth book of his treatise Against the Christians, where he bears the following testimony to Sanchuniathon, word for word:
[PORPHYRY] 'Of the affairs of the Jews the truest history, because the most in accordance with their places and names, is that of Sanchuniathon of Berytus [Beirut], who received the records from Hierombalus the priest of the god Ieuo [most likely Yahweh but perhaps Yaw, an alternate name of Yam/Poseidon]; he dedicated his history to Abibalus king of Berytus, and was approved by him and by the investigators of truth in his time. Now the times of these men fall even before the date of the Trojan War, and approach nearly to the times of Moses, as is shown by the successions of the kings of Phoenicia. And Sanchuniathon, who made a complete collection of ancient history from the records in the various cities and from the registers in the temples, and wrote in the Phoenician language with a love of truth, lived in the reign of Semiramis, the queen of the Assyrians, who is recorded to have lived before the Trojan war or in those very times. And the works of Sanchuniathon were translated into the Greek tongue by Philo of Byblos.'
So wrote the author before mentioned, bearing witness at once to the truthfulness and antiquity of the so-called theologian. But he, as he goes forward, treats as divine not the God who is over all, nor yet the gods in the heaven, but mortal men and women, not even refined in character, such as it would be right to approve for their virtue, or emulate for their love of wisdom, but involved in the dishonor of every kind of vileness and wickedness.
He testifies also that these are the very same who are still regarded as gods by all both in the cities and in country districts. But let me give you the proofs of this out of his writings.
Philo then, having divided the whole work of Sanchuniathon into nine books, in the introduction to the first book makes this preface concerning Sanchuniathon, word for word:
[PHILO] 'These things being so, Sanchuniathon, who was a man of much learning and great curiosity, and desirous of knowing the earliest history of all nations from the creation of the world, searched out with great care the history of Taautus [Thoth], knowing that of all men under the sun Taautus was the first who thought of the invention of letters, and began the writing of records: and he laid the foundation, as it were, of his history, by beginning with him, whom the Egyptians called Thoyth, and the Alexandrians Thoth, translated by the Greeks into Hermes.'
After these statements he finds fault with the more recent authors as violently and untruly reducing the legends concerning the gods to allegories and physical explanations and theories; and so he goes on to say:
'But the most recent of the writers on religion rejected the real events from the beginning, and having invented allegories and myths, and formed a fictitious affinity to the cosmic phenomena, established mysteries, and overlaid them with a cloud of absurdity, so that one cannot easily discern what really occurred: but he having lighted upon the collections of secret writings of the Ammoneans which were discovered in the shrines and of course were not known to all men, applied himself diligently to the study of them all; and when he had completed the investigation, he put aside the original myth and the allegories, and so completed his proposed work; until the priests who followed in later times wished to hide this away again, and to restore the mythical character; from which time mysticism began to rise up, not having previously reached the Greeks.'
Next to this he says:
'These things I have discovered in my anxious desire to know the history of the Phoenicians, and after a thorough investigation of much matter, not that which is found among the Greeks, for that is contradictory, and compiled by some in a contentious spirit rather than with a view to truth.'
And after other statements:
'And the conviction that the facts were as he has described them came to me, on seeing the disagreement among the Greeks: concerning which I have carefully composed three books bearing the title Paradoxical History.'
And again after other statements he adds:
'But with a view to clearness hereafter, and the determination of particulars, it is necessary to state distinctly beforehand that the most ancient of the barbarians, and especially the Phoenicians and Egyptians, from whom the rest of mankind received their traditions, regarded as the greatest gods those who had discovered the necessaries of life, or in some way done good to the nations. Esteeming these as benefactors and authors of many blessings, they worshipped them also as gods after their death, and built shrines, and consecrated pillars and staves after their names: these the Phoenicians held in great reverence, and assigned to them their greatest festivals. Especially they applied the names of their kings to the elements of the cosmos, and to some of those who were regarded as gods. But they knew no other gods than those of nature, sun, and moon, and the rest of the wandering stars, and the elements and things connected with them, so that some of their gods were mortal and some immortal.'
Philo having explained these points in his preface, next begins his interpretation of Sanchuniathon by setting forth the theology of the Phoenicians as follows:
HE supposes that the beginning of all things was a dark and condensed windy air, or a breeze of thick air and a Chaos turbid and black as Erebus: and that these were unbounded, and for a long series of ages destitute of form. But when this wind became enamored of its own first principles (the Chaos), and an intimate union took place, that connexion was called Pothos: and it was the beginning of the creation of all things. And it (the Chaos) knew not its own production; but from its embrace with the wind was generated Môt; which some call Ilus (Mud), but others the putrefaction of a watery mixture. And from this sprung all the seed of the creation, and the generation of the universe.
And there were certain animals without sensation, from which intelligent animals were produced, and these were called Zophasemin [Zopha-Shamayim], that is, the overseers of the heavens; and they were formed in the shape of an egg: and from Môt shone forth the sun, and the moon, the less and the greater stars.
And when the air began to send forth light, by its fiery influence on the sea and earth, winds were produced, and clouds, and very great defluxions and torrents of the heavenly waters. And when they were thus separated, and carried out of their proper places by the heat of the sun, and all met again in the air, and were dashed against each other, thunder and lightnings were the result: and at the sound of the thunder, the before-mentioned intelligent animals were aroused, and startled by the noise, and moved upon the earth and in the sea, male and female. (After this our author proceeds to say:) These things were found written in the Cosmogony of Taautus [Thoth], and in his commentaries, and were drawn from his observations and the natural signs which by his penetration he perceived and discovered, and with which he has enlightened us.
(Afterwards, declaring the names of the winds Notus, Boreas, and the rest, he makes this epilogue:)—But these first men consecrated the productions of the earth, and judged them gods, and worshipped those things, upon which they themselves lived, and all their posterity, and all before them; to these they made libations and sacrifices. (Then he proceeds:—Such were the devices of their worship in accordance with the imbecility and narrowness of their souls.)—Euseb. Præp. Evan. lib. I. c. 10.
Of the wind Colpias, and his wife Baau, which is interpreted Night, were begotten two mortal men, Æon and Protogonus so called: and Æon discovered food from trees.
The immediate descendants of these were called Genus and Genea, and they dwelt in Phœnicia: and when there were great droughts they stretched forth their hands to heaven towards the Sun; for him they supposed to be God, the only lord of heaven, calling him Beelsamin [Baal-Shamayim], which in the Phœnician dialect signifies Lord of Heaven, but among the Greeks is equivalent to Zeus.
Afterwards by Genus the son of Æon and Protogonus were begotten mortal children, whose names were Phôs, Pûr, and Phlox. These found out the method of producing fire by rubbing pieces of wood against each other, and taught men the use thereof.
These begat sons of vast bulk and height, whose names were conferred upon the mountains which they occupied: thus from them Cassius [Mount Zaphon], and Libanus, and Antilibanus, and Brathu received their names.
Memrumus and Hypsuranius were the issue of these men by connexion with their mothers; the women of those times, without shame, having intercourse with any men whom they might chance to meet. Hypsuranius inhabited Tyre: and he invented huts constructed of reeds and rushes, and the papyrus. And he fell into enmity with his brother Usous, who was the inventor of clothing for the body which he made of the skins of the wild beasts which he could catch. And when there were violent storms of rain and wind, the trees about Tyre being rubbed against each other, took fire, and all the forest in the neighborhood was consumed. And Usous having taken a tree, and broken off its boughs, was the first who dared to venture on the sea. And he consecrated two pillars to Fire and Wind, and worshipped them, and poured out upon them the blood of the wild beasts he took in hunting: and when these men were dead, those that remained consecrated to them rods, and worshipped the pillars, and held anniversary feasts in honour of them.
And in times long subsequent to these; were born of the race of Hypsuranius, Agreus and Halieus, the inventors of the arts of hunting and fishing, from whom huntsmen and fishermen derive their names.
Of these were begotten two brothers who discovered iron, and the forging thereof. One of these called Chrysor, who is the same with Hephæstus [seen as the Greek equivalent of "Kothar-wa-Khasis"], exercised himself in words, and charms and divinations; and he invented the hook, and the bait, and the fishing-line, and boats of a light construction; he was the first of all men that sailed. Wherefore he was worshipped after his death as a God, under the name of Diamichius. And it is said that his brothers invented the art of building walls with bricks.
Afterwards, of this race were born two youths, one of whom was called Technites, and the other was called Geïnus Autochthôn. These discovered the method of mingling stubble with the loam of bricks, and of baking them in the sun; they were also the inventors of tiling.
By these were begotten others, of whom one was named Agrus, the other Agrouerus or Agrotes, of whom in Phœnicia there was a statue held in the highest veneration, and a temple drawn by yokes of oxen: and at Byblus he is called, by way of eminence, the greatest of the Gods. These added to the houses, courts and porticos and crypts: husbandmen, and such as hunt with dogs, derive their origin from these: they are called also Aletæ, and Titans.
From these were descended Amynus and Magus, who taught men to construct villages and tend flocks.
By these men were begotten Misor and Sydyc [Zadok], that is, Well-freed and Just: and they found out the use of salt.
From Misor descended Taautus, who invented the writing of the first letters: him the Egyptians called Thoor, the Alexandrians Thoyth, and the Greeks Hermes. But from Sydyc descended the Dioscuri, or Cabiri, or Corybantes, or Samothraces: these (he says) first built a ship complete.
From these descended others; who were the discoverers of medicinal herbs, and of the cure of poisons and of charms.
Contemporary with these was one Elioun [El Elyon], called Hypsistus, (the most high); and his wife named Beruth, and they dwelt about Byblus [Gebal].
By these was begotten Epigeus or Autochthon, whom they afterwards called Ouranus (Heaven); so that from him that element, which is over us, by reason of its excellent beauty is named heaven: and he had a sister of the same parents, and she was called Ge (Earth), and by reason of her beauty the earth was called by the same name.
Hypsistus, the father of these, having been killed in a conflict with wild beasts, was consecrated, and his children offered libations and sacrifices unto him.
But Ouranus, succeeding to the kingdom of his father, contracted a marriage with his sister Ge, and had by her four sons, Ilus [El] who is called Cronus, and Betylus [Beth-el], and Dagon, which signifies Siton (Bread-corn,) and Atlas.
But by other wives Ouranus had much issue; at which Ge, being vexed and jealous of Ouranus, reproached him so that they parted from each other: nevertheless Ouranus returned to her, again by force whenever he thought proper, and having laid with her, again departed: he attempted also to kill the children whom he had by her; but Ge often defended herself with the assistance of auxiliary powers.
But when Cronus arrived at man's estate, acting by the advice and with the assistance of Hermes Trismegistus, who was his secretary, he opposed himself to his father Ouranus, that he might avenge the indignities which had been offered to his mother.
And to Cronus were born children, Persephone and Athena; the former of whom died a virgin; but, by the advice of Athena and Hermes, Cronus made a scimitar and a spear of iron. Then Hermes addressed the allies of Cronus with magic words, and wrought in them a keen desire to make war against Ouranus in behalf of Ge. And Cronus having thus overcome Ouranus in battle, drove him from his kingdom, and succeeded him in the imperial power. In the battle was taken a well-beloved concubine of Ouranus who was pregnant; and Cronus bestowed her in marriage upon Dagon, and, whilst she was with him, she was delivered of the child which she had conceived by Ouranus, and called his name Demarous.
After these events Cronus [El] surrounded his habitation with a wall, and founded Byblus [Byblos or "Gebel"], the first city of Phœnicia. Afterwards Cronus having conceived a suspicion of his own brother Atlas, by the advice of Hermes, threw him into a deep cavern in the earth, and buried him.
At this time the descendants of the Dioscuri, having built some light and other more complete ships, put to sea; and being cast away over against Mount Cassius [Mount Zaphon], there consecrated a temple.
But the auxiliaries of Ilus [El], who is Cronus, were called Eloeim
[Elohim], as it were, the allies of Cronus [El]; being so called after Cronus. And Cronus, having a son called Sadidus [Shaddai], dispatched him with his own sword, because he held him in suspicion, and with his own hand deprived his child of life. And in like manner he cut off the head of his own daughter, so that all the gods were astonished at the disposition of Cronus.
But in process of time, whilst Ouranus was still in banishment, he sent his daughter Astarte, being a virgin, with two other of her sisters, Rhea and Dione, to cut off Cronus by treachery; but Cronus took the damsels, and married them notwithstanding they were his own sisters. When Ouranus understood this, he sent Eimarmene and Mora with other auxiliaries to make war against Cronus: but Cronus gained the affections of these also, and detained them with himself. Moreover, the god Ouranus devised Bætulia [Bethel], contriving stones that moved as having life.
And by Astarte Cronus had seven daughters called Titanides, or Artemides; by Rhea also he had seven sons, the youngest of whom was consecrated from his birth; also by Dione he had daughters; and by Astarte again he had two other sons, Pothos and Eros.
And Dagon, after he had found out bread-corn, and the plough, was called Zeus Arotrius.
To Sydyc [Zadok], who was called the just, one of the Titanides bare Asclepius [Eshmoun]: and to Cronus there were born also in Peræa three sons, Cronus [El] bearing the same name with his father, and Zeus Belus, and Apollo.
Contemporary with these were Pontus, and Typhon, and Nereus the father of Pontus: from Pontus descended Sidon, who by the excellence of her singing first invented the hymns of odes or praises: and Poseidon.
But to Demarous was born Melicarthus [Melkart], who is also called Heracles.
Ouranus then made war against Pontus, but afterwards relinquishing the attack he attached himself to Demarous, when Demarous invaded Pontus: but Pontus put him to flight, and Demarous vowed a sacrifice for his escape.
In the thirty-second year of his power and reign, Ilus [El], who is Cronus, having laid an ambuscade for his father Ouranus in a certain place situated in the middle of the earth, when he had got him into his hands dismembered him over against the fountains and rivers. There Ouranus was consecrated, and his spirit was separated, and the blood of his parts flowed into the fountains and the waters of the rivers; and the place, which was the scene of this transaction [the Adonis River?], is shewed even to this day.
(Then our historian, after some other things, goes on thus:) But Astarte called the greatest, and Demarous named Zeus, and Adodus [Haddad?] who is entitled the king of gods, reigned over the country by the consent of Cronus: and Astarte put upon her head, as the mark of her sovereignty, a bull's head: and travelling about the habitable world, she found a star falling through the air, which she took up, and consecrated in the holy island of Tyre: and the Phœnicians say that Astarte is the same as Aphrodite.
Moreover, Cronus [El] visiting the different regions of habitable world, gave to his daughter Athena the kingdom of Attica: and when there happened a plague with a great mortality, Cronus offered up his only begotten son as a sacrifice to his father Ouranus, and circumcised himself, and compelled his allies to do the same: and not long afterwards he consecrated after his death another of his sons, called Muth [Mot], whom he had by Rhea; this (Muth) the Phœnicians esteem the same as Death and Pluto.
After these things, Cronus gave the city of Byblus [Byblos] to the goddess Baaltis [Baalat], which is Dione, and Berytus [Beirut] to Poseidon, and to the Caberi who were husbandmen and fishermen: and they consecrated the remains of Pontus at Berytus [Beirut].
But before these things the god Taautus [Thoth], having portrayed Ouranus, represented also the countenances of the gods Cronus, and Dagon, and the sacred characters of the elements. He contrived also for Cronus the ensign of his royal power, having four eyes in the parts before and in the parts behind, two of them closing as in sleep; and upon the shoulders four wings, two in the act of flying, and two reposing as at rest. [Isaiah 6:2, Ezekiel 1:11] And the symbol was, that Cronus whilst he slept was watching, and reposed whilst he was awake. And in like manner with respect to the wings, that he was flying whilst he rested, yet rested whilst he flew. But for the other gods there were two wings only to each upon his shoulders, to intimate that they flew under the control of Cronus; and there were also two wings upon the head, the one as a symbol of the intellectual part, the mind, and the other for the senses. [Isaiah 6:2]
And Cronus visiting the country of the south, gave all Egypt to the god Taautus [Thoth], that it might be his kingdom.
These things, says he, the Caberi, the seven sons of Sydyc [Zadok], and their eighth brother Asclepius [Eshmoun], first of all set down in the records in obedience to the commands of the god Taautus [Thoth].
All these things the son of Thabion, the first Hierophant of all among the Phœnicians, allegorized and mixed up with the occurrences and accidents of nature and the world, and delivered to the priests and prophets, the superintendants of the mysteries: and they, perceiving the rage for these allegories increase, delivered them to their successors, and to foreigners: of whom one was Isiris, the inventor of the three letters, the brother of Chna [Canaan] who; is called the first Phœnician.—Euseb. Præp. Evan. lib. I. c. 10.
OF THE MYSTICAL SACRIFICE OF THE PHŒNICIANS.
It was the custom among the ancients, in times of great calamity, in order to prevent the ruin of all, for the rulers of the city or nation to sacrifice to the avenging deities the most beloved of their children as the price of redemption: they who were devoted this purpose were offered mystically. For Cronus, whom the Phœnicians call Il [El], and who after his death was deified and instated in the planet which bears his name, when king, had by a nymph of the country called Anobret an only son, who on that account is styled Ieoud, for so the Phœnicians still call an only son: and when great dangers from war beset the land he adorned the altar, and invested this son with the emblems of royalty, and sacrificed him.—Euseb. Præp. Evan. lib. I. c. 10.—lib. IV.
OF THE SERPENT.
Taautus [Thoth] first attributed something of the divine nature to the serpent and the serpent tribe; in which he was followed by the Phœnicians and Egyptians. For this animal was esteemed by him to be the most inspirited of all the reptiles, and of a fiery nature; inasmuch as it exhibits an incredible celerity, moving by its spirit without either hands, or feet, or any of those external members, by which other animals effect their motion. And in its progress it assumes a variety of forms, moving in a spiral course, and darting forward with whatever degree of swiftness it pleases. It is moreover long-lived, and has the quality not only of putting off its old age, and assuming a second youth, but of receiving at the same time an augmentation of its size and strength. And when it has fulfilled the appointed measure of its existence, it consumes itself; as Taautus [Thoth] has laid down in the sacred books; upon which account this animal is introduced in the sacred rites and mysteries.—Euseb. Præp. Evan. lib. I. c. 10.
Sanchuniathon also wrote "On the Phoenician Alphabet" which has not survived from antiquity.
When I began writing this story, I realized that I wanted to begin with a creation story. There is a fragmentary story found at Ugarit, with El at a beach and two goddesses wash ashore that I alluded to. I also took my inspiration from the Enuma Elish story found in Mesopotamia.
This story begins with "e-nu-ma e-liš la na-bu-ú šá-ma-mu, šap-liš am-ma-tum šu-ma la zak-rat… When the sky above was not named, When the sky above was not named, And the primeval Apsû, who begat them, And the primeval Apsû, who begat them, And chaos, Tiamat, the mother of them both, their waters were mingled together, Their waters were mingled together, and no field was formed, no marsh was to be seen; when of the gods none has been called into being." Tiamat, a chaos monster representing the oceanic waters, threatens to destroy her descendents the gods. Marduk offers to save the gods if he is appointed as their leader and allowed to remain so even after the threat passes. When the gods agree to Marduk's conditions he is selected as their champion against Tiamat, and becomes very powerful. Marduk challenges Tiamat to combat and destroys her. He then rips her corpse into two halves with which he fashions the earth and the skies. Marduk then creates the calendar, organizes the planets and stars, and regulates the moon, the sun, and weather. Slicing Tiamat in half, he made from her ribs the vault of heaven and earth. Her weeping eyes became the source of the Tigris and the Euphrates, her tail became the Milky Way. With the approval of the elder deities, he took from Kingu, the husband of Tiamat, the Tablets of Destiny, installing himself as the head of the Babylonian pantheon. Kingu was captured and later was slain: his red blood mixed with the red clay of the Earth would make the body of mankind, created to act as the servant of the deities.
In the Enuma Elish, the creator-god created the world out of the body of the chaos monster. This story is similar to the Epic of Baal. Murdock became the supreme god by destroying the chaos monster that represented the sea. In the Baal Cycle, Baal becomes supreme by destroying Yam, the god of the sea. The Bible also alludes to the story of Yahweh destroying the chaos monster. In the Bible, this chaos monster is called Rahab.
Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon? (Isaiah 51:9)
Thou hast broken Rahab in pieces, as one that is slain; thou hast scattered thine enemies with thy strong arm. (Psalm 89:10)
Rahab is also mentioned in Psalm 87:4.
Now, let us examine another Biblical Archeological mystery. The Roman's left us a replica of the Menorah upon a monument called "The Arch of Titus." This monument depicts dragons on the base of the Menorah. Why would images of dragons be depicted upon the base of the Menorah? Some scholars try to dismiss the evidence. The Romans had no motivation to depict the Menorah in any way other than how it actually appeared. But let us try to find a biblical explanation. The chaos monsters under the Menorah, which is shaped with branches like a tree, represent the chaos monsters destroyed by God in the beginning when He created order out of chaos and created the world.
Yahweh defeats Yom at creation It is believed that Yam was represented by the Lotan monster which we know as the Leviathan.
Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness. (Psalms 74:14) Note that Leviathan had heads. Leviathan/Lotan was depicted as having seven heads.
In that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea. (Isaiah 27:1)
There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein. (Psalm 104:26)
The Leviathan is also described in Job 41. In apocalyptic literature we see symbolism that was common in Canaanite religion and also in the Old Testament. This includes the Book of Revelation, with the dragon of Revelations 12:7-9 and the "beast from the sea" in Revelations 13:1, "And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy." There is also a "beast from the earth," the behemoth, in the Apocalypse (Revelations 13:11). The Book of Daniel also has beasts emerging from the sea in chapter 7.
There are approximately 89 references to the god Baal in the Old Testament. Further, the OT makes reference to other Canaanite deities including the goddess Asherah (40 times) as well as the goddess Ashtoreth (10 times).
Mount Zaphon is also mentioned in the Bible. It is mentioned as an abode of the Lord. The Bible says, "Great is the LORD [Yahweh], and greatly to be praised, in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion on the sides of the north, the city of the Great King." (Psalm 48:1-2). What is the significance of "sides of the north"? The Hebrew actually says "summit of Zaphon." Zaphon is the mountain whereupon Baal resided. (It is sort of the Syrian equivalent of Mount Olympus in Greek Mythology.) In Isaiah 14:13, Mount Zaphon is described as the "mountain of Assembly." Today Mount Zaphon is called Mount Aqraa, or "Jebel Aqra" in Arabic. The Greeks called it Mount Casius. It is near the modern border of Syria and Turkey in what was Hatay. Mount Zaphon is close to the historic city of Syrian Antioch and could be seen from Ugarit when that city was still standing.
Yahweh defeats Yom at the Red Sea Crossing
Some scholars believe that the Red Sea Crossing in the Exodus account evokes the conquering of Yam by the Lord. The Lord defeated Yam and allowed the Israelites to pass through the sea safely. It is interesting that a place called "Baal-Zaphon" is mentioned in the account of the Red Sea Crossing (Exodus 14:2).
Scholars often state that there are two different creation accounts in the Book of Genesis. Genesis 1 represents the creation of the world in seven days. Genesis 2 is a different account with the creation of the Garden of Eden then man, the animals and then Eve. To create my Creation story for this story I used two other "creation accounts," the destruction of Rahab as mentioned above and then I used the parallels that I found in descriptions of the act of creation in Job 38 and Proverbs 8.
When I wrote this story, I wanted to not just go directly from the Ugaritic texts. I wanted to try to get closer to what the Israelites pagan neighbors in Canaan believed about El, Asherah, and Baal.
Daniel the Father of Aqhat
Daniel, the Father of Aqhat, is apparently mentioned in Ezekiel 14:12-23. Speaking of the land of Israel, God says, "even if Noah, Daniel, and Job, these three, were in it, they would save only their own lives by their righteousness." Later, speaking of the King of Tyre, God says, "you are indeed wiser than Daniel; no secret is hidden from you" (Ezekiel 28:3). The Harper/Collins Study Bible notes, "Noah, Daniel and Job, figures known widely in the ancient Near East as especially righteous. Their righteousness worked itself out in the behalf of others, namely their children. Noah enabled his children to survive the deluge, Job's children exist at the end of the book. Danel, the righteous king described in the Ugaritic Aqhat epic, who is unrelated to the Biblical Daniel, is apparently able to engender life for his son." Noah, and Job were non-Israelites, as was the Daniel, or Danel, mentioned by Ezekiel.
The expulsion of Man from the Garden of Eden according to Ezekiel
In Ezekiel 28, the Prophet is speaking of the King of Tyre:
Because your heart is proud and you have said, "I am a god; I sit in the seat of the gods, in the heart of the seas," yet you are but a mortal, and no god, though you compare your mind with the mind of a god. You are indeed wiser than Daniel [the Ugaritic Danel], no secret is hidden from you…You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, carnelian, chrysolite, and moonstone, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sappire, turquoise, and emerald, [and jacinth, an agate, and a jasper]; and worked in gold were your settings and engravings. On the day you were created they were prepared. With an anointed cherub as guardian I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked among the stones of fire. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, until iniquity was found in you…so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and the guardian cherub drove you out from among the stones of fire. You heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor."
The Bible does not describe Satan as being in the Garden of Eden. This account is about a fall. Did Satan fall in the Garden of Eden? No, he fell from heaven. This is not an account of the fall of Satan. The passage of Scripture here describes "precious stones as a covering." The stones are set in gold and engraved. The stones mentioned are the stones that the Jewish High Priest had in his breastplate, which was part of a garment called an Ephod. Here nine of the twelve stones are mentioned in the Hebrew. (In the Septuagint Greek Version, all twelve stones are listed. What may have happened here was the Hebrew scribe accidently skipped a line in a scribal error but the Greek version here in this case preserved the original reading.) Like the story of the "Fall of Man," or "the Expulsion from the Garden" in Genesis, we have here a story about a person who is created and placed in Eden and is cast out of Eden by the Cherubim. Ezekiel seems to be alluding to the story of the Fall of Man and not the fall of Satan. If this is true, Adam is wearing a breastplate similar to the one the Jewish High Priest wore and we have additional symbolism and links between the Tabernacle/Temple and the Garden of Eden. If Ezekiel 28 is about the "fall" and expulsion of Man from the Garden of Eden, this reinforces the understanding of the Tabernacle/Temple as a re-creation of the Garden of Eden complete with the jewel embedded golden plate. According to the Harper/Collins Study Bible, "Ezekiel attests to a variant form of the Eden story that focuses on the expulsion of the king from the primal garden. Verse 13, Eden here as in Genesis 2:8-10 of precious stones and metals (Genesis 2:11-12) The Harper/Collins Study Bible continues, "The description of the Ephod, Exodus 28:17-20. In Ezekiel 31, Ezekiel once again speaks of the Garden of Eden metaphorically when he prophecies the fall of Pharaoh, king of Egypt.
Ezekiel is speaking of the King of Tyre in Ezekiel 28. Here we have a story about a king wearing an "ephod" with twelve jewels embedded in a golden breastplate. In 2 Samuel 2:16, King David is described as wearing an Ephod. So, that gives us two instances of a king, rather than a priest, wearing an Ephod. The idea of a "separation of church and state" is a new idea. In ancient times, kings had religious as well as civil duties. In ancient Egypt, Pharaoh was the high priest who delegated his priestly duties to a priesthood. (We are not just dealing with ancient history. Even today, the monarch of England is the head of the Anglican Church.) Many monarchs in the ancient world could be described as priest kings. The Bible judges the kings of Israel and Judah upon how they fulfilled their religious obligations. Historians believe that King Omri was a capable ruler, but he is condemned in the Bible for his failures, in the view of the prophets, in the religious arena. (The Ephod is discussed more in depth below.)
In the Book of Proverbs, Wisdom is personified as a woman-but not just a woman, as almost a goddess, who was the first of God's creation. In Proverbs 8 Wisdom speaks. In Proverbs 3:18, Wisdom is described as a "Tree of Life." The words used to describe Wisdom are reminiscent of how the Canaanites viewed Asherah.
Although some have imagined the Asherah pole to be a phallus symbol, this doesn't seem to be the case. Asherah was a goddess and not a male god. Also, the symbol is described as a tree. The pole perhaps was a stylized "tree of life" symbol or a sculpture of the goddess. The Asherah pole is described in Deuteronomy 16:21-22, "Thou shalt not plant thee a grove of any trees near unto the altar of the Lord thy God, which thou shalt make thee.
Neither shalt thou set thee up any image; which the Lord thy God hateth." But an Asherah was erected in the Temple of Yahweh. According to the Bible, King Josiah "brought out the grove [Asherah in Hebrew] from the house of the Lord, without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and stamped it small to powder, and cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people.
And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the Lord, where the women wove hangings for the grove." Women were weaving decorations or hangings for Asherah. Here we may also have a reference to sacred prostitution. In this case, the cult prostitutes might have been homosexuals or perhaps eunuchs or both. In Genesis 38:21, Judah, the son of Jacob, slept with his Canaanite daughter-in-law, when she posed as a "temple prostitute." (Rebuking pagan practices, the Prophet says in Jeremiah 2:27 that the Judeans would speak to idols of wood and stone, "Saying to wood, `My father art thou!' And to a stone, `Thou hast brought me forth,'" Actually, the Canaanites said to the wood you are my mother and to the stone, a stele to Baal, you are my father." Jeremiah mocks them by reversing the genders of their religious iconography.) Josiah also destroyed the Tophet where child sacrifices were made to Molech (2 Kings 23:10).
The prophet Isaiah had a vision of Yahweh seated upon his throne (which was the Ark of the Covenant) and Seraphim, which were winged fiery serpents, which guarded the presence of Yahweh (Isaiah 6:1-6). Near where Isaiah had his vision, the Israelites had erected the Nehushtan, a brass serpent made by Moses, (2 Kings 18:4, Numbers 21:8-9). Several brass serpents from ancient time have been discovered in the Near East. Hezekiah broke the Brazen Serpent into pieces because people were worshiping it and burning incense to it.
In the Temple of Jerusalem, there were sculptures of the horses and chariots of the sun-god Shamash. According to 2 Kings 23: 11, "And he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun [Hebrew is "Shamash"], at the entering in of the house of the Lord, by the chamber of Nathanmelech the chamberlain, which was in the suburbs, and burned the chariots of the sun with fire." Yahweh himself is described as if he were a solar deity in Psalm 84:11 and Malachi 4:2.
The prophet Ezekiel also describes Canaanite practices that were practiced by the Israelites in his rebukes and condemnation of these practices. In Ezekiel 8:14-15, Ezekiel describes Israelite women at the temple "weeping for Tammuz." In Ezekiel 8:16, Ezekiel describes Israelites as facing the east (the direction the Temple faced) and worshiping Shamash. Perhaps, Yahweh describes this practice when he rebukes the Israelites for "turning their backs" upon him (Jeremiah 2:27). Ezekiel also points this out saying, "with their backs toward the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun [Shamash in Hebrew] toward the east." If they faced the sun in worship, their backs would be turned to the holy of holies. Ezekiel also describes the Canaanite practice of "hunting for souls." They used magical wristbands to capture souls. (I incorporated this practice in my story with Abaddon the Anakin.)
Like Ezekiel, Jeremiah attacks the Israelites for their worship of the Queen of Heaven. In Jeremiah 7:18 it states, "The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the Queen of Heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger." After Jeremiah's prophecies concerning the fall of Jerusalem were fulfilled, the worshipers of Asherah, (or Ashtoreth) confronted him. (We are not certain if the Queen of Heaven here is Asherah or Ashtoreth. Perhaps by this time, the two goddesses had been merged into a single goddess.) The Scripture states, "Then all the men which knew that their wives had burned incense unto other gods, and all the women that stood by, a great multitude, even all the people that dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying, "As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee.
But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the Queen of Heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil.
But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have lacked all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine." And then the women said, "And when we burned incense to the Queen of Heaven, and poured out drink offerings unto her, did we make her cakes to worship her, and pour out drink offerings unto her, without our husbands' knowledge?" (Jeremiah 44:15-19). In this passage we see that the worship of Asherah was widespread among the Israelites and was practiced by the Israelite royalty.
(Some Canaanites worshiped Anath as the Queen of Heaven, others Ashtoreth. It is possible that Asherah and Ashtoreth became merged. In Egypt, over time Isis took over the attributes, characteristics, and symbolism of Hathor. Eventually, Isis assumed the very identity of Hathor. Perhaps a similar transition took place in the worship of Asherah and Ashtoreth. )
In Elephantine in Southern Egypt, archeologists have found the remains of a Jewish settlement and a collection of ancient Jewish documents written in the Aramaic language. This Jewish settlement in Egypt built a temple to Yahweh. While they worshiped Yahweh as the Supreme Being, they also still worshiped the pagan gods along with Yahweh and it seems that they viewed Anath as the wife of Yahweh. It seems that during the Old Testament period, some Israelites viewed Asherah as the wife of Elohim and viewed Elohim as the same god as Yahweh. An inscription by an Israelite pilgrim to Sinai in the Old Testament period describes "Yahweh of Teman" and "Yahweh and his Asherah." (This is the famous eighth century BC Kuntillet Ajrud discovery.)
The Bible speaks of a religious object, apparently a vestment, called the "Ephod." What was an Ephod and what it its significance? An Ephod seems to have been a pectoral (a breastplate). (Or the breastplate was a component of the Ephod.) Pectorals worn by priests, similar to the breastplate described in the Bible have been found by archeologists in Egypt. While Egyptian pectorals resembled the Israelite High Priest's breastplate, there were some differences. Egyptian pectorals were square and embedded with jewels but they didn't have twelve stones in rows in the same manner as the Israelites priestly pectoral.
The Ephod is described in the Bible, at Exodus 28:6-14:
"And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother, for glory and for beauty. And thou shalt speak unto all who are wisehearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron's garments to consecrate him, that he may minister unto Me in the priest's office. And these are the garments which they shall make: a breastplate and an ephod, and a robe and an embroidered tunic, a turban and sash; and they shall make holy garments for Aaron thy brother and his sons, that he may minister unto Me in the priest's office.
And they shall take gold and blue and purple and scarlet, and fine linen; and they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue and of purple, of scarlet and fine twined linen, with skillful work. It shall have the two shoulder pieces thereof joined at the two edges thereof, and so it shall be joined together. And the embroidered girdle of the ephod which is upon it shall be of the same, according to the work thereof: even of gold, of blue and purple and scarlet and fine twined linen. And thou shalt take two onyx stones, and engrave on them the names of the children of Israel: six of their names on one stone, and the other six names of the rest on the other stone, according to their birth. With the work of an engraver in stone, like the engravings of a signet, shalt thou engrave the two stones with the names of the children of Israel. Thou shalt make them to be set in clasps of gold. And thou shalt put the two stones upon the shoulders of the ephod for stones of memorial unto the children of Israel; and Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord upon his two shoulders for a memorial. And thou shalt make clasps of gold,
and two chains of pure gold at the ends; of wreathed work shalt thou make them, and fasten the wreathed chains to the clasps.
The Breastplate of Judgment
And thou shalt make the breastplate of judgment with skillful work; according to the work of the ephod thou shalt make it: of gold, of blue and of purple, and of scarlet and of fine twined linen shalt thou make it. Foursquare it shall be, and doubled: a span shall be the length thereof and a span shall be the breadth thereof. And thou shalt set in it settings of stones, even four rows of stones: the first row shall be a sardius, a topaz, and a carbuncle; this shall be the first row. And the second row shall be an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond; and the third row a ligure, an agate, and an amethyst; and the fourth row a beryl and an onyx and a jasper. They shall be set in gold in their enclosings. And the stones shall be with the names of the children of Israel, twelve according to their names, like the engravings of a signet; every one with his name shall they be according to the twelve tribes.
And thou shalt make upon the breastplate chains at the ends, of wreathed work of pure gold.
And thou shalt make upon the breastplate two rings of gold, and shalt put the two rings on the two ends of the breastplate. And thou shalt put the two wreathed chains of gold in the two rings which are on the ends of the breastplate. And the other two ends of the two wreathed chains thou shalt fasten in the two clasps, and put them on the shoulder pieces of the ephod at the front of it. And thou shalt make two rings of gold, and thou shalt put them upon the two ends of the breastplate in the border thereof, which is on the inner side of the ephod. And two other rings of gold thou shalt make, and shalt put them on the two sides of the ephod underneath, toward the forepart thereof, over against the other coupling thereof, above the embroidered girdle of the ephod. And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel on the breastplate of judgment upon his heart when he goeth in unto the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually.
Other Priestly Vestments
And thou shalt make the robe of the ephod all of blue;
and there shall be a hole in the top of it, in the middle thereof. It shall have a binding of woven work round about the hole of it, as it were the hole of a jacket of mail, that it be not rent. And beneath upon the hem of it thou shalt make pomegranates of blue and of purple and of scarlet round about the hem thereof, and bells of gold between them round about:
a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe round about. And it shall be upon Aaron when he ministers; and his sound shall be heard when he goeth in unto the holy place before the Lord and when he cometh out, that he die not."
"The Breastplate" seems to be described separately from the Ephod but if you read the entire chapter together, it seems that the breastplate is part of the Ephod. (At a brief glance, artistic recreations of the High Priest's vestments look the same. But on a closer examination, I haven't found two renditions that look the same.)
The Jewels on Aaron's Breastplate are
- Red Jasper (Sardius)
- Citrine Quartz (Topaz)
- Ruby (Carbuncle)
- Lapiz Lazuli (Sapphire)
- Rock Crystal (Diamond)
- Gold Sapphire (Ligure)
- Blue Sapphire (Agate)
- Yellow Jasper (Chrysolite)
- Golden Beryl (Onyx)
- Chrysoprase (Jasper)
A more simplified description of the Ephod is found in Exodus 29:4-6, "And Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shalt wash them with water. And thou shalt take the garments, and put upon Aaron the tunic, and the robe of the ephod, and the ephod, and the breastplate, and gird him with the decorated girdle of the ephod: And thou shalt put the turban upon his head, and put the holy crown upon the turban."
1 Samuel 2:27 the Lord says he chose Aaron, "to wear" or "to carry" the "Ephod before me."
According to Leviticus 8:7, the Urim and Thummim, were placed within the breastplate. The Urim and Thummim were apparently lots that were cast to get a "yes" or "no" answer from God. (The practice of casting lots for divination is called Cleromancy.) As we shall see, the Ephod was an oracle. It may be through the Urim and Thummim, that were kept in the breastplate of the Ephod that the answer from God came. Urim and Thummim has traditionally been translated as "lights and perfection." The singular forms - ur and tumm - have been connected by some early scholars with the Babylonian terms urtu and tamitu, meaning oracle and command, respectively. Many scholars now believe that Urim simply derives from the Hebrew term Arrim, meaning curses, and thus that Urim and Thummim essentially means cursed or faultless, in reference to the deity's view of an accused—in other words Urim and Thummim were used to answer the question innocent or guilty.
According to Islamic sources, there was a similar form of divination among the Arabs prior to the beginning of Islam. There, two arrow shafts (without heads or feathers), on one of which was written command and the other prohibition or something similar, were kept in a container, and stored in the Kaaba at Mecca; whenever someone wished to know whether to get married, go on a journey, or to make some other similar decision, one of the Kaaba's guardians would randomly pull one of the arrow shafts out of the container, and the word written upon it was said to indicate the will of the god concerning the matter in question. Sometimes a third, blank, arrow shaft would be used, to represent the refusal of the deity to give an answer. This practice is called rhabdomancy, after the Greek roots rhabd- "rod" and -mancy ("divination").
A passage of the Books of Samuel mentions three methods of divine communication - dreams, prophets, and the Urim and Thummim; the first two of these are also mentioned copiously in Assyrian and Babylonian literature, and such literature also mentions Tablets of Destiny, which are similar in some ways to the Urim and Thummim (1 Samuel 28:5). The Tablets of Destiny had to rest on the breast of deities mediating between the other gods and mankind in order to function, while the Urim and Thummim had to rest within the breastplate of the priest mediating between God and mankind. Marduk was said to have put his seal on the Tablets of Destiny, while the Israelite breastplate had a jeweled stone upon it for each of the Israelite tribes, which may derive from the same principle. Like the Urim and Thummim, the Tablets of Destiny came into use when the fate of king and nation was concerned. According to a minority of archaeologists, the Israelites emerged as a subculture from within Canaanite society, and not as an invading force from outside, and therefore it would be natural for them to have used similar religious practices to other Semitic nations, and these scholars suspect that the concept of Urim and Thummim was originally derived from the Tablets of Destiny.
The Tablets of Destinies are mentioned in Babylonian Mythology. It is possible that the Canaanites were familiar with the myths concerning the Tablets of Destinies since the stories were told by the Amorites. I incorporated the Tablets into this retelling of the Baal Cycle to make a more logical plot. The Ugaritic Texts are not clear concerning why Baal submitted himself to Mot. An explanation, perhaps, can be found in Jeremiah 9:21, which states, "For death [Mot] is come up into our windows, and is entered into our palaces, to cut off the children from without, and the young men from the streets." When Baal has his palace built, he at first refuses to allow Kothar-wa-Khasis to put windows in it, but later changes his mind. The Baal Cycle states, "Kothar-u-Khasis is sent. After Kothar-u-Khasis arrived, And Aliyan Baal declares: "Hurry, let a house be built. Hurry, let a palace be erected! Hurry, let a house be built. Hurry, let a palace be erected in the midst of the heights of Saphon! A thousand acres the house is to comprise, a myriad hectares, the palace!" And Kothar-u-Khasis declares: "Hear, O Aliyan Baal! Percieve, O Rider of Clouds! I shall surely put a window in the house, A casement in the midst of the palace!" And Aliyan Baal replies: "Do not put a window in the house, A casement in the midst of the palace!..." [After Baal hosts a feasts and then goes out and conquers several cities the text continues.]… As Baal went into the midst of the house Aliyan Baal declared: "I would install, Kothar, son of the Sea, Yea Kothar, son of the assembly! Let a casement be opened in the house; A window in the midst of the palace, and let the clouds be opened with rain on the opening of Kothar-u-Khasis." Kothar-u-Khasis laughed. He lifts His voice and shouts: "Did I not tell Thee, O Aliyan Baal, that Thou wouldst return, Baal, to my word? Let a casement be opened in the house, a window in the midst of the palace!" Baal opened the clouds with rain, His holy voice he gives forth in the heavens." Soon after having built and opened the window, Baal is taken by death.
It is interesting that the Jewish High Priest did not wear the Ephod or the priestly vestments when he entered the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). Instead he wore a plane linen robe with a linen sash and a linen turban (Leviticus 16:4). He would wear the Ephod with the breastplate and all the sacred vestments when he officiated in the Holy Place but apparently not when he entered the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement.
Although Josephus argues that the Urim and Thummim continued to be used until the era of the Maccabees, Talmudic sources are unanimous in agreeing that the Urim and Thummim were lost much earlier, when Jerusalem was sacked by the Babylonians. In a passage from the part of the Book of Ezra which overlaps with the Book of Nehemiah, it is mentioned that individuals who were unable to prove, after the Babylonian captivity had ended, that they were descended from the priesthood before the captivity began, were required to wait until priests in possession of Urim and Thummim were discovered; this would appear to confirm the Talmudic view that the Urim and Thummim had by then been lost. Ezra 2:63 states that certain priests had no genealogical records so they were excluded from the priesthood "until there should be a priest to consult Urim and Thummim." This means that there wasn't such a priest at that time, most likely because the Urim and Thummim were lost. The appearance of the Urim and Thummim isn't described in the Bible. In the Richard Gere movie "King David," they are portrayed as smooth stones, one of which glows when it gives an answer.
According to classical rabbinical literature, in order for the Urim and Thummim to give an answer, it was first necessary for the individual to stand facing the fully dressed high priest, and vocalize the question briefly and in a simple way, though it wasn't necessary for it to be loud enough for anyone else to hear it. The Talmudic rabbis argued that Urim and Thummim were words written on the sacred breastplate. Most of the Talmudic rabbis, and Josephus, following the belief that Urim meant lights, argued that divination by Urim and Thummim involved questions being answered by great rays of light shining out of certain jewels on the breastplate; each jewel was taken to represent different letters, and the sequence of lighting thus would spell out an answer (though there were 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet, and only 12 jewels on the breastplate); two Talmudic rabbis, however, argued that the jewels themselves moved in a way that made them stand out from the rest, or even moved themselves into groups to form words. These rabbinic traditions are very late and contradict how the Bible describes how the Urim and Thummim were used. The Urim and Thummim gave a "yes" or "no" answer.
It seems that the Ephod/Urim and Thummim were used to identify Achan in Joshua 7:16-19 and it is clearly referenced regarding Jonathan in 1 Samuel 14:41 regarding their transgressions.
An interesting reference to the Ephod is in Hosea 3:4, "The Israelites shall remain many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or teraphim." It is interesting here that the Ephod is mentioned in connection with a teraphim. The meaning of teraphim is unclear, but most scholars believe it refers to idols or household gods. Perhaps they were also tools of divination. Rachel stole her father Laban's teraphim and Michal used a teraphim as a mannequin to fool the guards into thinking it was David while he escaped (1 Samuel 19). Some scholars have argued that the inheritance was symbolized by who received the teraphim from their father. By stealing the teraphim, perhaps Rachel was stealing the inheritance in a similar manner to how Jacob had stolen the inheritance from his brother Esau. (The teraphim were portrayed in the Matthew Modine movie "Jacob.")
Doeg the Edomite slaughtered 85 priests who wore an Ephod (1 Samuel 22:18). This is interesting because it shows that the high priest was not the only person who wore an Ephod.
In 1 Samuel 2:18, the child Samuel is described as "a boy wearing a linen ephod."
David wore an ephod when he danced before the Ark of the Covenant. This is interesting because Michal accused him of being immodest while dancing before the Lord so attired (2 Samuel 16:4). 1 Chronicles 15:27 says that David was wearing a "linen ephod." It may have been like an apron or a short skirt. Perhaps when David danced he wore the Ephod as a tunic/apron without the robe that the Ephod was usually worn over.
An interesting passage is found in 1 Samuel 21:9, where the Sword of Goliath is described as being "wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod." So, where was the Ephod for the Sword to be behind it? Was it hung up on display like a trophy or on some type of hanger? Was it in storage? Or was the Ephod at Nob a type of box or chest like the Ark of the Covenant?
Abiathar the son of Ahimelek, escaped Saul's massacre of the priest of Nob and brought with him a/the Ephod. David consults the Ephod in 1 Samuel 23:9 and gets an answer-the men of Keilah were preparing to surrender David to King Saul. With this news he escaped.
In the Book of Revelation we see the stones of the Breastplate of the Ephod as building stones in the new heavenly Jerusalem. (Revelations 21:16-21).
An Ephod is also described as an idolatrous image in the Bible.
Gideon the judge had an Ephod made seemingly as a trophy to celebrate his victories over Israel's enemies (Judges 8:22-28). This ephod is described as "prostitution" and a "snare." Perhaps in this instance the Ephod was worn by an idol.
In the story of Micah and the Levite (Jonathan the grandson of Moses), Micah made a shrine, and an ephod and Teraphim, and installed one of his sons as his priest-until he met Jonathan (Judges 17:5). The Danites forcibly took Jonathan and made him their priest when they migrated to Tel Dan. When they kidnapped him, they took Micah's idol, the ephod and the Teraphim along with him (Judges 18:17).
Some scholars think the word "Ephod" may refer to a container that held oracular devices.
The use of "casting lots" is found in several places in the Bible. Lots were used to chose the Scapegoat in Leviticus 16:8 (this is probably a reference to the Urim and Thummim). Joshua used lots to apportion the land of Canaan to the Israelites according to Joshua 18:6. Sailors used lots to identify Jonah according to Jonah 1:7. The Bible also describes the use of lots to assign guard duty according to 1 Chronicles 26:13. Book of Proverbs 16:33: The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from Yahweh and 18:18: The lot settles disputes, and keeps strong ones apart. But the use of lots for divination (excepting the Urim and Thummim used by the High Priest) is condemned in Leviticus 19:26 and Deuteronomy18:10. Hamman used lots to choose the day of Purim (on which he planned to exterminate the Jews) according to the Book of Esther. An example in the New Testament occurs in the Acts of the Apostles 1:23-26 where the eleven remaining apostles cast lots to determine whether Matthias or Barsabbas (surnamed Justus) would be chosen to replace Judas. (Roman soldiers also used lots to gamble over Christ's garments at the crucifixion.) In the Eastern Orthodox Church this method of selection occasionally still used. In 2012, the new Coptic pope was chosen from three candidates in a similar manner. In the Taoism religion of China, lots are still used for divination in a process called "I Ching."
Who were the Israelites?
The Israelites were worshipers of El. We can see this in their name "Isra-El." The Book of Deuteronomy describes the Israelites as Aramaic nomads that settled in Egypt.
These Israelites were devoted to El Shaddai as their national god. (The meaning of El Shaddai is disputed. Majority consensus now is that it means "God of the Mountain." Others believe that it means "God Almighty.") Most Israelites believed that El was the high god of a pantheon and that while he was the god most worthy of worship, other gods existed. There was a large Syrian minority population in Egypt that was present for centuries. They came to worship some Egyptian gods, as we have seen, such as Ptah and Thoth. And the Egyptians came to worship Syrian gods such as Qudshu, Reshep, Astarte, Anath and Baal. Ramesses the Great was especially devoted to Anath and to Baal. It is possible that he was descended from Syrian mercenaries that settled in northern Egypt. However, it also seems that Ramesses was one of the Pharaohs described as oppressing the Israelites in the Exodus account.
After spending some considerable time in Egypt, a strong leader named Moses emerged among the Israelites. Moses was descended from the Israelite tribe of Levi, perhaps the dominant Israelites group in Egypt, but he was raised in the Egyptian court. After he killed an Egyptian who was abusing a Hebrew, Moses fled Egypt and settled with a tribe of Arabs in the Sinai who were called the Kenites. The Kenites were worshipers of Yahweh. Moses had an encounter with Yahweh and Yahweh told Moses that he was the same god that the Israelites knew as El Shaddai. In his conversation with the Lord that is recorded in the Bible, Moses describes the Israelites as being polytheistic. He asked the Lord how he should answer the people when they ask him which of the gods had sent him to them.
Moses led Israelites out of Egypt and to a mountain shrine of Yahweh. There they were instructed not to worship any other god but Yahweh. A problem developed because the Israelites were accustomed to worshiping Elohim along with the other gods that they worshiped. To these Israelites, El was the husband of Asherah and the father of the gods. They were used to worshiping the "Bull El." A young strong bull was the symbol of El. This is illustrated in the story of the "Golden Calf." (A better translation would be a "young bull" rather than an infant calf.) The Israelites used a young bull to symbolize El while they were in the wilderness. Moses opposed this practice. Later, when the Israelites settled in Canaan, they again built images of these bulls, one was in Bethel and the other was in Dan. The question is what did the bull mean to the Israelites? Was the bull a pedestal that El stood upon or a creature that carried or stood before El such as how the Israelites viewed the Cherubim and Seraphim? Some scholars believe that the Israelites viewed the bull as a type of incarnation of El. This would be similar to how the Egyptians viewed the Apis and Mnevis bulls. The god Ptah was anthropomorphic and dwelt in the spiritual realm and yet the Apis bull was viewed as an incarnation of Ptah. (Later on the Apis bull became identified with Osiris.) The Mnevis bull was seen as an incarnation of Ra (or Atum-Ra). (In Genesis 49:24, the Hebrew describes God in a phrase that is now translated "The Bull of Jacob," but has traditionally been translated as "The Mighty One of Jacob.")
The followers of Yahweh struggled for centuries to bring the Israelites to their idea of ethical monotheism. While the prophets of Yahweh worshiped Yahweh alone, other Israelites viewed Yahweh as El and thus as the husband of Asherah and part of the pantheon that included Baal, Anath, Shamash, Reshep and the "heavenly host" of many other gods and goddesses. Many of the Israelites were "henotheistic," worshipers of one god, rather than monotheistic, meaning those who believe in the existence of only one god. Others have described the Israelites practice as "monalatry," the worship of one god while conceding the existence of other gods. There was a great variety of worship among the worshipers of Yahweh in ancient times. By examining the books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, we see that it wasn't until after the Babylonian Captivity that monotheism became firmly entrenched among the Israelites. We see in the records of the Elephantine Jews that certain communities continued to exist that maintained what they viewed as the "old ways."
The "elite" or "priestly" Israelite religion (the source of most of the "Old Testament" writings) and the "popular," or "folk" Israelite religion differed, and, while priestly religion may have been more or less "monotheistic" (or "henotheistic"), Israelite folk religion was essentially POLYTHEISTIC, and honored/worshipped Yahweh/El's divine consort, Asherah, IN ADDITION to Yahweh, along with many other lesser gods. This is why the priest of Yahweh were always so busy denouncing paganism. In his book "The Goddess Anath," Cassuto says, "The name El Elyon became a designation for the God of Israel, particularly in connection with the Temple of Jerusalem. However, the Canaanites' conception of their deity was, needless to say, different from that of the Israelites." (Page 55). The conception may have been different between the Prophets of Yahweh and the Canaanites, but some Israelites shared the conception of El Elyon that the Canaanite had. This is why there was so much conflict between the prophets of Yahweh and the Israelites and why we find constant rebukes of the Israelites for their "pagan" ways.
Elohim wa Baalim: The Gods and Lords of Canaanite Mythology
The Elohim (gods) and Baalim (lords) 0f
Glossary of the Canaanite Gods and Goddesses
This book is not intended to be an exhaustive treatment about all the Canaanite gods. In fact, my main concern in writing the story was narrative flow and to tell the basic story and not to create a comprehensive and authoritative account. If a god or goddess didn't serve that end, I left them out of my version of the Baal Cycle. More in depth information can be found in the books listed in the references section. In the story I had to fill in the gaps using my imagination where our knowledge is fragmentary. Scholars do disagree in some of the interpretations of these ancient texts and these issues are discussed academically in several helpful books that are listed below. At times, I restructured the myths in order to create a coherent narrative. I want to be accurate but I was also motivated by the desire to make these ancient stories more accessible to a modern audience. But, on the other hand, there is debate about the structure of these myths.
Ambrosian Stones: According to Nonnus (late 4th or early 5th century) in his epic poem Dionysiaca in which he tells the story of the god Dionysus and his journey to India and triumphal return, Melqart tells Dionysus how he taught the primeval, earthborn inhabitants of Phoenicia how to build the first boat and instructed them to sail out to a pair of floating, rocky islands. On one of the islands there grew an olive tree with a serpent at its foot, an eagle at its summit, and which glowed in the middle with fire that burned but did not consume. Following the god's instructions, these primeval humans sacrificed the eagle to Poseidon [Yam], Zeus [Baal Haddad], and the other gods. Thereupon the islands rooted themselves to the bottom of the sea. On these islands the city of Tyre was founded. The story is found in the 40th book of the Dionysiaca. In this version of the Baal story, I have the "Ambrosian Stone" as a manifestation of the goddess Asherah.
Anath: Goddess of war and sexuality. Anath is mentioned in the Holy Bible. The daughter of El, Anath is the sister and lover of Baal. Anath was worshiped with Yahweh (called Yahu) in Elephantine in Egypt by the Judean settlers there. These Judeans apparently viewed Anath as the wife of Jehovah. Anath is mentioned in the Bible in Judges 3:31 and 5:6 and in the book of Jeremiah Anath is also mentioned in toponyms in Beth Anath in Naphtali (Joshua 1:33) and Beth-Anath in Judah (Joshua 15:59) and Anathoth, north of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 1:1). Anath was worshiped by the Syrians who settled in Egypt and by the Egyptians. Cassuto describes Anath in his book as a "goddess distinguished for her heroic spirit and courage. She is a mighty fighter, who devastates her foes and loves to bathe her feet in the blood of those she has slain. She is a loyal sister to Baal, supports him in his struggle against Mot, inflicts terrible blows upon the confederates of Mot, and when Mot succeeds in flaying Baal, she avenges him with unrestrained fury." (Page 64).
Annakin: A race of brutes that was created to serve the gods but who later rebelled. The Anunnaki (also transcribed as: Anunna, Anunnaku, Ananaki and other variations) are a group of deities in ancient Mesopotamian cultures (i.e., Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian). The Annakim are lesser deities that were created to perform labor at the behest of the gods. The name is variously written "a-nuna", "a-nuna-ke-ne", or "a-nun-na", meaning something to the effect of "those of royal blood" or 'princely offspring'. Their relation to the group of gods known as the Igigi is unclear — at times the names are used synonymously but in the Atra-Hasis flood myth the Igigi have to work for the Anunnaki, rebelling after 40 days and replaced by the creation of humans. In the Bible there are the sons of Anak, called the Anakim, who are described as being a race of giants and as being Nephilim (Numbers 13:33, Joshua 15:13). The Bible describes the Anakites as Rephaim in (Deuteronomy 2:11).
Ariel: The Lion of El. (Arya-El in Canaanite.) The protector of Ashtoreth.
Arsay: A "woman of Baal," either his wife or daughter.
Her name has been translated as "maid of floods" in the past, but now it is often translated as "earth-maiden." Her name may indicate a relationship with Baal due to his time under the earth in the netherworld.
Asherah: Mother goddess and sacred tree. She is Elat-the goddess. In this re-telling of the story, I decided to portray her as like a wood nymph (a Dryad/Hamadryad) in Greek mythology. I also decided to make the tree on the Ambrosian Stones in the Melqart myth into Asherah. She is also the Lady of Byblos (Balaat Gebel).
Ashtoreth: Also called Astarte. Ashtoreth is the goddess of sex and sensuality. She is the Morning star. The Sumerians called Isthtar Inanna. Inanna was associated with the celestial planet, Venus. There are hymns to Inanna as her astral manifestation. It also is believed that in many myths about Inanna, including Inanna's Descent to the Underworld and Inanna and Shukaletuda, her movements correspond with the movements of Venus in the sky. Also, because of its positioning so close to Earth, Venus moves rather irregularly across the sky, and never travels all the way across the dome of the sky as most celestial bodies do, instead, Venus rises in the East and the West in both the morning and evening. Because of Venus's erratic movements (it disappears behind the sun from 90–3 days at a time and then reappears on the other horizon), some cultures did not recognize Venus as single entity, but rather two separate stars on each horizon as the morning and evening star. The Mesopotamians, however, most likely understood that the planet was one entity. A Cylinder seal from the Jemdet Nasr Period expresses the knowledge that both morning and evening stars were the same celestial entity. The erratic movements of Venus relate to both mythology as well as Inanna's erratic nature. Like Venus, Inanna seems unpredictable in her actions, being both the goddess of love and war, having both masculine and feminine qualities, and occasionally having temper tantrums. Mesopotamian literature, however, takes this comparison one step further, explaining Inanna's physical movements in mythology as similar to the movements of Venus in the sky. Inanna's Descent to the Underworld explains how Inanna is able to, unlike any other deity, descend into the netherworld and return to the heavens. The planet Venus appears to make a similar descent, setting in the West and then rising again in the East. In Inanna and Shukaletuda, in search of her attacker, Inanna makes several movements throughout the myth that correspond with the movements of Venus in the sky. An introductory hymn explains Inanna leaving the heavens and heading for Kur, what could be presumed to be, the mountains, replicating the rising and setting of Inanna to the West. Shukaletuda also is described as scanning the heavens in search of Inanna, possibly to the eastern and western horizons. Inanna was associated with the eastern fish of the last of the zodiacal constellations, Pisces. Her consort Dumuzi was associated with the contiguous first constellation, Aries.
Athtar: A god of war. Athtar seems to be a male form of Ishtar/Ashtoreth. Both Ishtar and Athtar descend into hell. This is because of astrological reasons described above. Both Athtar and Ashtoreth are the Morning Star/the planet Venus. The story of Athtar and Sheol in this book is based on the story of Nergal and Ereshkigal. Nergal is mentioned in the Bible at 2 Kings 17:30. Some scholars believe that certain texts in the Bible thought to refer to the fall of Lucifer are actually alluding to myths about the fall of Athtar.
Baal: A title meaning "lord" that could refer to many different gods. Most often refers to Haddad, the god of thunder. He was called Adad in Akkadian, the language of Assyria and Babylonia. He was also called Rimmon, Aramaic for "the Thunderer." Baal sustains life and is a god of life and the embodiment of forces that give, preserve and renew life.
Behemoth: A chaos monster of earth.
Cherubim: Winged sphinxes that guard the gods.
They are the guardians of El and of the Garden of Eden.
Dagon: The god of grain. Incorrectly identified by rabbis who knew nothing of Canaanite mythology as a fish god. Dagan or Dagon (two pronunciations of the same god) is described as being the father of Baal. Probably known as Baal Hammon.
El: "God." Ēl is the grey-bearded ancient one, full of wisdom, the kindly and compassionate one. Ēl is called again and again Tôru 'Ēl ("Bull Ēl" or "the bull god"). He is bātnyu binwāti ("Creator of creatures"), 'abū banī 'ili ("father of the gods"), and 'abū 'adami ("father of man"). He is qāniyunu 'ôlam ("creator eternal"), the epithet ôlam appearing in Hebrew form in the Hebrew name of God 'ēl 'ôlam "God Eternal" in Genesis 21.33. He is ḥātikuka ("your patriarch").El is called malku ("king"), 'abū šamīma ("father of years"), and 'ēl gibbōr ("Ēl the warrior"). There was a temple to Baal Hadad and to Dagon that have been discovered at Ugarit but no temple of El has been discovered there yet. However, this may have been because the holy sanctuary of El was a tabernacle or a tent. Some have postulated that perhaps El was the same god as Dagan as being the reason that there is no temple of El at Ugarit.
Elohim: Literally "gods." In the Ugaritic texts "Elohim" means gods and is used in reference to all the gods. In the Holy Bible, the word "Elohim" is used to refer to the God of Israel.
Eshmoun: God of healing. A great God of Sidon. Son of Tsaddick (or Zadok). Photius in Bibliotheca Codex 242 summarizes Damascius as saying that Asclepius of Beirut (Asclepius was the Greek god of medicine so here we have another example of Interpretatio Graeca) was a youth who was fond of hunting. He was seen by the goddess Astronoë (thought by many scholars to be a version of Ashtoreth) who so harassed him with amorous pursuit that in desperation he castrated himself and died. Astronoë then named the youth Paeon 'Healer', restored him to life from the warmth of her body, and changed him into a god. A village near Beirut named Qabr Shmoun, "Eshmoun's grave," still exists.
Gupin-wa-Ugar: This name means "Vine and Cultivated Field" and belongs to a servant of Baal.
Leviathan: A chaos monster of the waters.
Nehustan: The serpent. The word "Nahash" is an old Canaanite word for snake. The word Nehustan is used in the Bible to describe the bronze snake that Moses made and is sometimes translated as "brass thing." The snake, and the snake on a pole, was in ancient times, and is still today, used as a symbol of healing or of the healing/medical profession.
Nephilim: The Nephilim are demigods, half-man, half-god creatures. They are described in the Bible as the offspring of the "Sons of God and the Daughters of Men." (Genesis 6:1-4).
Nikkal: Nikkal is the Canaanite Goddess of Fruits and Fertility, who is a Goddess of Orchards. Her husband is the Moon-God Yarikh, who causes the dew to fall each night and water Her trees so that they may thrive. The oldest complete annotated piece of ancient music is a Hurrian song dedicated to Nikkal, a hymn in Ugaritic cuneiform syllabic writing. This was published upon its discovery in Ugarit by Emmanuel Laroche, first in 1955 and then more fully in 1968, and has been the focus of many subsequent studies in palaeomusicology by, amongst others, Anne Draffkorn Kilmer, who gave it the title of "The Hymn to Nikkal."
Mot: The God of death. Mot, or Muth, means "death." We find names with the word "Mot" in them that some scholars see as Mot-compound names. This includes Methuselah, the longest living man in Genesis, and Methushael. In Akkadian, Mot is used to refer to men probably an equivalent to the word "mortal," which is used for human beings in English and also means "to die," which is an important aspect of our humanity in this realm. Another Mot-compound name is found in the Bible. This is Azmaweth, or Azmaveth, which means, "Mot is Mighty." This personal name is found in 2 Samuel 23:31, 1 Chronicles 8:36, 9:42, 11:33, 12:3, 27:25. The place-name "Beth-Azmaweth" is mentioned in Ezra 2:24 and Nehemiah 7:28, 12:29. Sanchuniathon says that of the waters of chaos "Mot was produced, which some say is mud, and others a putrescence of watery compound; and out of this came every germ of creation, and the generation of the universe. So there were certain animals which had no sensation, and out of them grew intelligent animals, and were called "Zophasemin," that is "observers of heaven"; and they were formed like the shape of an egg. Also Mot burst forth into light, and sun, and moon, and stars, and the great constellations." The language here is confusing, a bad summary and possibly corrupt, and the form Mot here is not the same as Muth which appears later in the Greek and in the later section in the Greek, Muth is clearly identified with Death. But it may be that the full and coherent account would have made clear that muddy and putrescent Death is the source of life. In our world, as it exists now, there is a connection between life and death in earth's biological system. In the Canaanite myths of Ugarit, Mot is a destroyer and isn't a creator of life. The prophet condemns the Judeans for making a covenant with Death (Mot) and an agreement with Hell (Sheol) in Isaiah 28:15-18.
Pidray: Pidray is the maid of light. Her name probably means "misty" or "cloudy" and shows a connection with Baal who is the giver of rain.
She is a "woman" (meaning a wife or daughter) of Baal.
Ptah: Ptah is the god of construction, metalworking, and sculpture. He was also the patron god of carpenters and shipbuilders in general. He gave his name to Egypt. (The PT in Egypt is from the name Ptah.) The English name Egypt derives from an ancient Egyptian name for Memphis, Hikuptah, which means "Home of the Soul of Ptah". This entered Ancient Greek as Aiguptos, which entered Latin as Ægyptus, which developed into English as Egypt. In some Egyptian myths, Ptah is the Creator-god, who spoke the Universe into existence as Elohim is portrayed as doing in Genesis 1. He was called Ptah lord of truth, Ptah master of justice, Ptah who listens to prayers, Ptah master of ceremonies, and Ptah lord of eternity. The Canaanites called Ptah, Kothar-wa-Khasis, which means skillful and wise, and perhaps Elisha. Ptah is the creator god par excellence: He is considered the demiurge who existed before all things, and by his willingness, thought the world into existence. It was first conceived by Thought, and realized by the Word: Ptah conceives the world by the thought of his heart and gives life through the magic of his Word. That which Ptah commanded was created, with which the constituents of nature, fauna, and flora, are contained. He also plays a role in the preservation of the world and the permanence of the royal function. Ptah is generally represented in the guise of a man with green skin, contained in a shroud sticking to the skin, wearing the divine beard, and holding a scepter combining three powerful symbols of Egyptian mythology: the Was scepter, the sign of life, Ankh and the Djed pillar. These three combined symbols indicate the three creative powers of the god: power (the was), life (ankh) and stability (djed). In this story Kothar-wa-Khasis is Elisha, which is what the scholars originally thought. But now, Elisha is seen as the "herald god" and perhaps a distinct god. In this story I have expanded the role of Ptah. (I wanted to include him in the Ennead story but I thought that by doing so, it wouldn't portray the story as the people of Heliopolis believed it. I did mention Ptah in the Ennead commentary.) In this story, Kothar-wa-khasis is Elisha the herald god, although some scholars now view them as different gods. Kothar and Elisha as the same character helped me stream-line the story and emphasize a character I liked. Some scholars believe Elisha (or Ilisha) to mean "Cyrus." In the Bible Elisha is one of the greatest prophets. The name Elisha means "My God (El) is Salvation."
Qodesh-wa-Amrur: This name means "Holy and Blessed" and belongs to a servant of Baal.
Rahab: The chaos monster defeated by God at creation.
Rephaim: The Rephaim are the immortal souls of departed spirits. The Rephaim, the Spirits of the Dead, rest in Sheol but the glorified dead can interact with the world of the living. Rephaim are the residents of the Netherworld (in the Hebrew Bible - Sheol). They are the departed spirits of human beings. In the Bible, possible examples of this usage are Isa. 14:9, 26:14,19; Ps. 88:11; Prov. 2:18, 9:18, 21:16; Job. 26:5; and possibly 2Chron. 16:12, where we may read "Repha'im," i.e. "dead ancestors," as opposed to Rophe'im, "doctors." Heb. Root Rapha means "heal," and thus the masc. plural nominalized form of this root may indicate that these deceased ancestors could be invoked for ritual purposes that would benefit the living. Ugaritic texts important evidence for understanding Ugarit's cult of the dead, wherein beings called rapi'uma, the long dead, and malakuma, recently dead kings, were invoked in a funeral liturgy, presented with food/drink offerings, and asked to provide blessings for the reign of the current king. The many references to repha'im in the Hebrew Bible in contexts involving Sheol and dead spirits strongly suggests that many ancient Israelites imagined the spirits of the dead as playing an active and important role in securing blessings, healing, or other benefits in the lives of the living. The Bible and archeological discoveries show that the Israelites did believe in the immortality of the soul. The reason that the issue of the afterlife seems vague in the Old Testament is because it was de-emphasized because the authors of the Bible wanted to encourage worship of Yahweh alone and discourage ancestor worship, which was widely practiced. There are many who misunderstand the Bible on this issue and incorrectly think that the Israelites did not believe in the immortality of the soul.
Resheph: A god of pestilence. An attendant of Yahweh in Habakkuk 3:5.
Seraphim: Winged serpents that serve as the guardians of the gods.
Shamash: The god of the sun and of justice. Later, there was a tendency among the Greeks and the Romans to identify the sun-god as the high god. In ancient times, the sun was an important deity but was not always indentified with the high god.
Shapash: A female version of Shamash that was worshiped in the Canaanite city of Ugarit.
Sheol: In this version of the Epic of Baal she is the goddess of the Netherworld. The term in Hebrew means a grave or pit, was the place where the dead gathered, as thought by the early Hebrews, and was believed located beneath the earth, perhaps at the roots of mountains. The dead were thought to lead a conscious shadowy existence there, they were not in torment, but had neither hope nor satisfaction. Some thought they remained cut off from God. Sheol was seen as being beneath the earth, where the dead go to, a place of the gathering of the dead. People went sorrowfully to Sheol and it contained sorrows; therefore, it was viewed as gloomy. It was thought both the good and evil went there. According to the Scriptures, God's rulership over it is recognized (Amos ix. 2; Hos. xiii. 14; Deut. xxxii. 22; I Sam. ii. 6 [Isa. vii. 11]; Prov. xv. 11). God has the power to save the just in Sheol (Ps. xvi. 10).
Sheol is spoken of as a land (Job x. 21, 22); but ordinarily it is a place with gates (ib. xvii. 16, xxxviii. 17; Isa. xxxviii. 10; Ps. ix. 14), and seems to have been viewed as divided into compartments (Prov. vii. 27), with "farthest corners" (Isa. xiv. 15; Ezek. xxxii. 23, Hebr.; R. V. "uttermost parts of the pit"), one beneath the other, Here the dead meet (Ezek. xxxii.; Isa. xiv.; Job xxx. 23) without distinction of rank or condition—the rich and the poor, the pious and the wicked, the old and the young, the master and the slave—if the description in Job iii. refers, as most likely it does, to Sheol. The dead continue after a fashion their earthly life. Jacob would mourn there (Gen. xxxvii. 35, xlii. 38); David abides there in peace (I Kings ii. 6).
In this story the character of Sheol is based largely upon Ereshkigal.
Tallay: Her name means "dewey" and is called the maiden of rain.
She is related to Baal as a deity of precipitation. She is either a wife or a daughter of Baal.
Tammuz: Tammuz is Dammuzi in Sumerian/Akkadian. A Shepherd god. The Canaanite ritual of "mourning for Tammuz" is mentioned in the Book of Ezekiel. Tammuz was probably based on a real person, a Mesopotamian "shepherd king." There are two men named Tammuz on the Sumerian king list. Damuzi the Shepherd King is called Dumuzid of Bab-tibira. He is said to have ruled for 36,000 years and was the fifth king before the great flood. There is also a Dumuzid of Kuara who was the fifth king of the Uruk dynasty and ruled a mere 100 years. There is no connection between Tammuz and Semiramis except that perhaps Semiramis probably worshiped Tammuz, since Tammuz had been deified centuries before her birth. Tammuz is the son of Enki, the god of wisdom and of the water, and Sirtur, the sheep goddess in Mesopotamian mythology. The texts telling the story of Tammuz can be read in "Inanna: Queen of Heaven and Earth" by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer. In the stories it is very clear that Tammuz is a shepherd god. I made him the son of Baal in this story. I was inspired by a translation of the Baal cycle where the heifer Anath conceives the "lord" by Baal. Adonis is a word for lord, and is a Greek god that may (or may not be) loosely based on Tammuz. The reason I felt that I had to include Tammuz is because he is mentioned in the Bible and because of the obsession with Tammuz among the "restorationist" cults.
Tanith: Tanith was the patron goddess of Carthage and Numidia. Tanit was worshiped in Punic contexts in the Western Mediterranean, from Malta to Gades into Hellenistic times. She was, as well as a consort of Baal Hammon, a heavenly goddess of war, a mother goddess and nurse, and a symbol of fertility. There is significant, albeit disputed, evidence, both archaeological and within ancient written sources, pointing towards child sacrifice forming part of the worship of Tanit and Baal Hammon.
Watchers: In Apocrypha, the Books of Enoch refer to both good and bad Watchers, with a primary focus on the rebellious ones. In Daniel 4:13, 17, 23 there are three references made to the class of "watcher, holy one" (watcher, Aramaic `iyr, holy one Aramaic qaddiysh). In the Aramaic Book of Enoch, the Watchers (Aramaic, iyrin), are angels dispatched to Earth to watch over the humans. The Watchers are called Zopha Shamayim, meaning "watchers of heaven" in Sanchuniathon.
Yam: The god of the sea. Yam seems to be identified with the Leviathan, a chaos monster that dwells in the waters.
You can read the actual Ugaritic texts themselves in English translation. (As opposed to my spin on them which you find in this book.) These stories in a direct translations can be read in "Stories from Ancient Canaan" edited and translated by Michael David Coogan. There is now "Stories from Ancient Canaan, Second Edition" Edited and Translated by Michael D. Coogan and Mark S. Smith. The second edition includes "El's Drinking Party" and "The Lovely Gods." "The Lovely Gods" seems to be a fragmentary creation story. In "The Lovely Gods," El fathers Shachar and Shalim from the goddesses. The second edition updates the book and brings it closer to where Ugaritic scholarship is at today. Coogan also made improvements such as changing the chapter previously entitled "The Healers" to the more accurate "The Rephaim." "Canaanite Myths and Legends" by John C. Gibson is also available. Gibson work has the Ugaritic texts transliterated into English letters with a parallel translation into English.
The story of Tammuz can be read in "Inanna: Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer" by Diane Wolkstein and Sameul Noah Kramer. Inaana is the name for Ashtoreth/Isthar used in Sumer.
There are Bible Study tools that are very helpful that deal with the "Baal Cycle" and other ancient texts. These include "Readings from the Ancient Near East: Primary Sources for Old Testament Study" by Bill T. Arnold and Bryan E. Beyer and "Old Testament Parallels: Laws and Stories from the Ancient Near East" by Victor H. Matthews and Don C. Benjamin.
A detailed investigation into the Bible and Canaanite Mythology can be found in "Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan" by John Day. I found John Day's book very helpful and a thorough examination of the Bible and Canaanite mythology. An earlier book by the famous Bible scholar, the late William Foxwell Albright is similarly entitled "Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan: A Historical Analysis of Two Contrasting Faiths."
Mark S. Smith has written "The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel's Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts." I do not agree with all of his conclusions. However, I like the way he challenges Frazer's "The Golden Bough" with its incorrect notions of dying and rising gods. While there are similarities in these myths of supposed "dying and rising gods" there are also very important differences. I enjoyed reading "The Birth of Monotheism: The Rise and Disappearance of Yahwism" by Andre Lemaire and I found this book to be very helpful.
To understand the Canaanites and the Israelites beliefs about the Afterlife you can read Rachel S. Hallote's "Death, Burial, and the Afterlife in the Biblical World." To understand the world-view of the ancients I recommend John Gray's "Near Eastern Mythology" and "Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible" by John H. Walton.
A survey of Mesopotamian mythology is found in "Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia" by Stephen Bertman.
The Goddess Anath: Canaanite Epics on the Patriarchal Age (Texts, Hebrew Translation, Commentary and Introduction) by Umberto Cassuto
Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel by William G. Dever (In this book, the author is not merely recounting the archeological finding but is advocating what I view as radical feminist ideology.)
Dictionary of Deities and Demons of the Bible by Karel Van Der Toorn, Bob Becking and Pieter W. Van Der Horst (May 30, 1999)
Carthage Must be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization by Richard Miles (Viking, 2010)
Carthage by Serge Lancel
"Peoples of the Past"
Canaanites by Jonathon N. Tubb (University of Oklahoma Press, 1998)
Phoenicians by Glenn Markoe (University of California Press, 2000)
"Peoples of the Ancient World"
Carthaginians by Dexter Hoyos (Routledge, London and New York, 2010)
Israelites by Anthony Kamm
Biblical Archeology Review
Edward L. Greenstein "Texts from Ugarit Solve Biblical Puzzles" BAR, November/December 2010
Victor Hurowicz "Solomon's Temple in Context" BAR, March/April 2011
William W. Hallo "The Origin of Israelite Sacrifice" BAR, November/December 2011
Baalism in Canaanite Religion and Its Relation to Selected Old Testament Texts by Greg Herrick
The Religion of the Canaanites
An Interview with the Author
What was your goal in writing this book?
My goal in the writing of this book is to enable to read the Bible like the ancients. We are thousands of years removed from the writing of the Bible. When we read the Bible, we are not familiar with stories that the people of the Biblical era were, such as the story of Baal.
What was your purpose for writing this book?
This book is part of my study on Moses and the Exodus. I believe that one of the proofs of the historicity of the Exodus account in the Holy Bible is the fact that Semitic peoples who settled in Egypt so profoundly affected ancient Egypt that the ancient Egyptians began to worship Semitic gods. There were large numbers of Semitic settlers in Egypt. I believe that the Israelites were part of this group. This book will also serve two other purposes. First, it will clarify Biblical stories about the conflicts of those who worshiped Baal and those who worshiped Yahweh. Secondly, there is a great deal of misunderstanding about who the god "Ba'al" was. He was not a sun god but rather he was the god of thunder and of rain.
What motivated you to write this book?
I was motivated to complete this project by seeing a video on YouTube in which a speaker tried to argue that Christmas was actually a "pagan" holiday celebrating the "sun god Ba'al." In ancient Semitic mythologies, Shamash is the god of the sun and Shapash is the goddess of the sun. Part of the reason I put "the God of Thunder" is because all of this misinformation put out about Baal being a solar deity.
There are those who perpetuate falsehoods about Baalism and the supposed "pagan roots" of Christianity. This book was written to dispel the inaccurate information put out by Restorationist sects. Unfortunately, I am sure that factual information won't stop these people from spreading their lies but now with this book they can be counteracted. If you are confronted by one of these cultists rambling on about Baal, Nimrod, Tammuz and Semiramis you can ask them if they have read Sanchuniathon or the Ugaritic texts. I believe in the Bible and in Jesus the Messiah. These Restorationist cults are not edifying people or helping people to get closer to God. What they need to realize that, even if what they are saying were true, and it isn't, if Christianity has pagan roots-then so does Judaism. I believe you can make stronger arguments for pagan roots of Judaism than you can for Christianity. The historical Semiramis, or Shammuramat, was ruled over Assyria in the ninth century BC. She was the queen of Shamshi-Adad V (ruled 824 BC–811 BC), King of Assyria and ruler of the Neo Assyrian Empire, and its regent for four years until her son Adad-nirari III came of age. Other chronologies suggest that her regency lasted from 809 to 792 BCE. Historically, she has no connection with Nimrod or Tammuz. But, she may have worshiped Tammuz, since Damuzi worship had long been firmly established long before she was born. Centuries after her rule, the Greeks developed myths and lurid and erotic legends based upon Queen Semiramis. These legends have no historical value.
What do you think about the "sacred feminine" and the role of the goddess in these stories?
I think that it is important that we let these myths speak for themselves and use them to try to understand people of the ancient world and what they thought and believed. I do have an opinion and here is what it is. Obviously, I came to admire the character of Anath for her courage and devotion and I came to despise Ashtoreth for her selfishness, perversity, and betrayal. Therefore, I decided that, to me anyway, Anath in the story would represent a good woman and Ashtoreth a dishonorable woman. (Although, Anath is the villain in the story of Aqhat.) Women have made great progress, but I do not like modern radical feminism. You have a leftist organization that styles itself the "National Organization of Woman." It is very presumptuous of them to claim to speak for all women. They don't. I think a lot of negative messages come from radical feminists. They encourage women to live selfish lives in the pursuit of wealth and greed. They encourage bitterness, anger and hatred towards men. They discourage women from having children. In America there have been over 50 million abortions since 1973. This is horrific. But the radical feminists think this is a good thing and seem enraged that any child has emerged from the womb alive. The love between a man and a woman is the most beautiful thing in the world. Having and raising children is the most meaningful thing that anyone can do. It also disturbs me how that radical feminists are not concerned about serious issues facing women around the world today. This includes sex-selection abortions that target females. Another challenge is how women are treated in the Islamic world. When I lived in the Middle East, I was deeply disturbed with the things women are subjected to there. It deeply grieved my heart to see how women are treated in the Islamic world. In the Islamic world, women are forced to wear burqas that are sensory deprivation chambers that hinder their experiencing life and their ability to relate to other human beings in a normal way. Also, women are often beaten and stonings are not uncommon. We see these cruel practices being introduced into the west and radical feminists don't seem to mind. I think these strong female characters in the Baal Epic are very interesting but I find trends in modern feminism disturbing. I think modern radical feminism has lost its way and needs to moderate. I am not opposed to Feminism, but I believe that thousands of women have been harmed by radical Feminism and radical Feminism is harming society and culture. Radical Feminism is a dangerous and harmful ideology.
I do think is very interesting is how Tiamat, the chaos demon, is female in the Enima Elush story. In Daoism, the female force is seen as a negative force. The male force represents order and the female force chaos. This concept is symbolized by the "yin/yang," which represents the two sexual forces in a balance or equilibrium. In the Gnostic texts, Jesus says, "I have come to destroy the works of the female." I believe these Gnostic texts are very sexist and that Jesus never said that. The historical Jesus accepted women as disciples and gave them an important role in his fellowship. Gnostics believed that procreation perpetuated the physical bodies that imprisoned the soul. The idea was for the Gnostics was for the spirit to be liberated from the body. Sexual production was the "work of the female" that must be ended. This is part of the reason why Gnosticism died out. The one Gnostic sect that did accept reproduction was the Mandaean sect, which has survived. In this version of the Baal story, Rahab, the chaos demon, like Tiamat, is female. Elohim destroys the chaos demon. This is a necessary act to bring order out of chaos. In turn, earth is formed from Rahab's carcass and mankind is formed out of the earth. In Egyptian mythology there is also the concept of the chaos demon which must be defeated. In Egypt the chaos demon is called Apophis (or Apep). Some ancient Egyptians taught that eventually Apophis would again prevail and order would descend again into chaos.
We also see strong female characters in the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments. This includes Miriam, Deborah, Ruth, Esther, Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene among others. Until the dawn of Islam, women in the Near East were able to emerge to positions of great power. This would include Zenobia, who ruled Palmyra and posed a serious threat to Roman Imperialism. After Mohammed died, Arab women celebrated his death and womenled the Arab armies in the ill-fated Arabic "War of Apostasy" against Islam. I believe that God has created men and women in his image and that every human life is precious and that all are equal before God. Men and women are very different even in the way we think. But differences are good and men and women complement each other in beautiful and wonderful ways.
You have written another book on mythology, the Ennead. What do you think of comparative mythology?
Myths should be allowed to speak for themselves. The first thing we should look for when we study myth is what it tells us about the society and culture that produced the myth. How does it explain how they viewed and explained the world? Moses grew up with his feet in two different cultures-that of the Egyptians and that of the Semitic slaves in Egypt. I thought that understanding the two cultures that Moses grew up in would help me to understand Moses better. Finding universal truths from mythology should not be the primary goal of the historian who studies myth. Myths may tell us about the culture of those who created the myths in the point in history in which they emerged. It is a very dangerous business to try to re-construct history out of mythology, as some have foolishly attempted to do. If cultures are related then similarities between their myths should be examined. If the cultures were not related in any way the similarities in myth do not have any historical value and the similarities most likely arose from the common human experience. Those who focus on the similarities between various myths often ignore profound differences. This means that there are usually more differences than similarities between various myths. I don't agree with the ideas that were promoted by Joseph Campbell and by James George Frazer and find their methodology flawed.
Another thing that I believe is important is that these stories are not politically correct. If you impose modern politically correct language upon our ancestors you are imposing a political ideology upon them that is totally foreign to them. It misrepresents the ancient world and what our ancestors felt and thought. Putting political correct language in their mouths does a great disservice. It also misrepresents the story and how our ancestors spoke and thought. It is inaccurate. It doesn't represent modern English usage either. Real people don't speak that way-only ideologues do. I think political correct language impoverishes language and represents an Orwellian newspeak and is something that needs to be abandoned.
How did you deal with the fragmentary nature of Canaanite mythology?
First off, we do have a great deal of information, especially due to the Ras Shamra discoveries. We also have the story of Ishtar and Tammuz found on tablets in Mesopotamia. Some of these texts were too erotic so I quoted from the Song of Solomon instead, which is similar to the Courtship of Ishtar and Tammuz poems. Due to my upbringing and my moral code, I don't feel comfortable being too sexually explicit. I consulted a great variety of Ancient Near Eastern myths and I also drew inspiration from biblical texts. I supplemented the story with material from Babylonian, Punic, Biblical, or Greek sources. Sometimes I even consulted Egyptian sources. The story of "Astarte and the Insatiable Sea" has been found in Egypt. This seems to be the story of Baal (called Seth in the text) and his battle against Yam. I omitted some things. For instance, in the text El seems to initially support Yam against Baal. However, later El weeps at Baal's death! I thought it was best in this version not to present El as vacillating in his support between Yam and Baal. El's indecisiveness is confusing. If we had the complete text we might understand his behavior better. I decided that El's vacillating didn't add anything important to the story and it would have disturbed the narrative flow and continuity. The ending of Aqhat has not been found. The tablet breaks off as soon as Pagat finds Yatpan. So I had to use my imagination to finish the story. I drew inspiration to create my ending to the story from the apocryphal book of Judith and the similar story of Jael the Kenite found in the book of Judges. There are fragments of a text from Ras Shamra that are entitled the "Rephaim" that probably describes the resurrection of Aqhat. The Rephaim seem to be appearing at Aqhat's rising but this is uncertain due to the fragmentary nature of these particular tablets. I wanted to be faithful to the story but I did use some creative license with an intention of making these stories more accessible to a modern audience.
Who is Baal's father?
The Baal Cycle texts discovered at Ugarit often describe Dagan as Baal's father. However, Anath and Ashtoreth are his sisters, but they seem to be daughters of El. In some places it seems that Baal is the son of El. So, it seems unclear. There are two theories. One is that Baal is a foreign god that has been added to the Canaanite pantheon. The other is that El is called the 'father" of Baal because he is Baal's grandfather and father of Dagan, Baal's father. Others suppose that maybe Dagan was another name for El at Ugarit. I decided to make it as ambiguous in my retelling of the story as it is in the Ugaritic texts. Also, in the texts Yam is the son of El. When I wrote the story, I thought of Leviathan and Behemoth as growing out of the body of Rahab. My original idea was that they have one parent and that was Rahab. Then I thought that perhaps El is the father of these two chaos monsters but I decided against putting that in the story. Myths are not always logical or consistent and often there are many alternate versions of myths. This is a natural tendency in an oral culture.
What is the meaning of the orgy scene?
In ancient times, when a man inherited the throne, he inherited the prior king's harem. Sleeping with the girls of the harem was a way of laying claim to the throne. In 2 Samuel 16:22, Absalom, slept with his father's concubines on the roof of the palace after David fled Jerusalem. Rizpah (2 Samuel 3:7) and Abishag (2 Kings 2:17) were royal concubines that were used in attempts to make a claim to the throne. In 2 Samuel 21, Rizpah had to watch her children executed by David, which was the usual fate of rival claimants to the throne in ancient times. El is bequeathing some of his authority to Baal. The idea is that Baal inherits some of El's harem when he inherits rule as king.
Also, we have depictions of Semitic goddesses exposing their breasts. The symbolism in the culture that produced these works of art was likely that of a nursing mother giving nourishment to her baby. In our Western culture, we seem to view breasts as being obsecen and some seem to view a mother nursing her child as being somehow obscene, which isn't a concept that our ancestors' shared.
This book is about Canaanite culture. As an Evangelical Christian, what do you think of the commands in the Bible to slaughter all of the Canaanites?
The first thing to remember is that the Israelites never carried out this command and that it was revoked by the Lord (Judges 2:1-5). Even before it was revoked, certain Canaanite groups, such as the Gibeonites and the Kenites allied themselves with the Israelites. Also, the Canaanites extended all the way up north to Ugarit. The Israelites also allied themselves to the Tyrians, who were Canaanites. The Israelites intended to take what they viewed as their Promised Land and it didn't include all of the regions in which Canaanites lived. It wasn't their mandate to exterminate all Canaanites off of the face of the earth. War is a horrific thing and in the ancient world in some ways it was more terrible than it is today. I do believe that the Old Testament is part of God's revelation to Mankind even though I believe that the God of Mercy and Compassion who is our Abba-Father preached by Jesus Christ is the culmination of all of the Revelation that came before. Many Christians struggle with the command God gave to the Israelites to exterminate some of the Canaanites. This issue is dealt with in the book "Show them no Mercy: Four Views on God and the Canaanite Genocide" edited by Stanley N. Gundry. However, I did find an article on the internet entitled "The Religion of the Canaanites," that used the Ugaritic texts to argue that the Canaanites were so depraved and wicked that they needed to be destroyed for the good of mankind. The writer of this article was horrified and dismayed by the actions of Anath and other Canaanite gods and goddesses in the Ugaritic texts. Of course, certain liberal scholars believe that the Israelites were Canaanites and that the massacres never happened.
As a Christian, how do you feel about the similarities found in the Epic of Baal with some of the stories in the Bible?
I think that the differences are more important. But, some people may find it troubling. Especially, those who belong to Restorationist cults who are constantly attacking the church for being "pagan." They think that Western Christianity is somehow derived from paganism. If they knew more about the ancient world, they would realize that a stronger case could be made that Judaism emerged from paganism than Christianity emerged from paganism. In our culture we are familiar with Greek and Roman mythology but many people are unaware of Canaanite mythology. In ancient Greece, Plato seemed to be moving towards monotheism from his pagan background and he attacked Greek Mythology, especially the stories found in the Illiad. The prophets similarily struggled for monotheism from within a polytheistic culture. Most Bible readers have very limited knowledge about the Canaanite myths that the Israelites had to struggle against. We need to realize that while we are not familiar with these stories, the writers of the Bible and early readers of the Bible were intimately acquainted with these stories. These cultural similarities didn't cause the worshipers of Yahweh in the ancient world to have any crisis of faith. We tend to read the Bible divorced from the cultural context in which it emerged. This occurs for two reasons. First, most don't know the cultural context of the Bible. Secondly, many look upon the cultural context of the Bible with suspicion, perhaps due to the frequent denunciations of paganism found in the Bible. But, as has been said, the Bible did not emerge in a cultural vacuum. The way I look at it is that God condescended to man. I believe in progressive revelation. God revealed himself to Moses and the prophets but the full and perfect revelation of God's nature is found in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it says in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high."
Death and Resurrection seems to be an important theme in Canaanite religion. What is the relevancy of that?
Actually, you have four deaths and four resurrections, Eshmoun, Aqhat, Tammuz and Baal. With the exception of Eshmoun, they all seem to be tied to the fertility of the earth. I did use the myth of Eshmoun as inspiration in the resurrection of Baal. (Some have argued that Eshmoun was Adonis.) I decided to include the story of Daniel because this Daniel is alluded to in Ezekiel. What I wanted to do in this book is to explore the "pagan" beliefs that many Hebrews/Israelites held. Ezekiel also alludes to Tammuz. I think that it was necessary to include Tammuz because of the great deal of misinformation that is put out about Tammuz by Restorationist cults. According to false information circulating among "Restorationist" cults, Tammuz is the posthumous son of Nimrod and Semiramis. This form of the myth was constructed from the imagination of a cult leader named Alexander Hislop back in the 1850s. The ancients had different beliefs which are explained in this book. As I have stated before, using myths to attempt to reconstruct history is often foolish.
The overwhelming interest in fertility rites helps us to understand why there is a highly acute survival instinct of people in the Ancient Near East. Life was often "miserable, nasty and short." Infant mortality rates and mortality rates in general were very high. The average life expectancy was often 16 years. (If you survived to adulthood, which many didn't, you could reach old age in ancient times.) People had to fight hard to survive. They took agricultural and fertility rites very seriously. They knew that food and heirs are keys to survival not only of their families, but for their civilization. With our modern conveniences and luxuries, we cannot understand the hardships of life that our ancestors endured. The Ugaritic literature contains something that we in the modern world have frequently taken for granted.
Eternal life represents the eternal longing of man's heart. The afterlife holds the secret to what is the meaning of life. It also holds the promise of knowing peace and an intimacy with the creator and comfort in the hope that we will be reunited with our loved ones who have been separated from us by death. C.S. Lewis noticed the mythic themes that seem to parallel the spiritual themes in the Gospel. To C.S. Lewis the Gospel represented "true myth." It answers the longings of the heart of Man but is truth and not a fantasy or a false hope. I believe that the spiritual world exists and is as real, or perhaps more real, that the reality we experience in this world. The ancient Semites were reaching out to the spiritual world, with the limited understanding that they had. Later, God did reveal himself more fully. Paul discusses this issue in his famous Mar's Hill sermon. He said, "Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead."
I find it very interesting that Jesus actually traveled to and lived and ministered in Phoenicia, called Tyre and Sidon. Christ's ministry in Lebanon is mentioned in Mark 7:24. I find that very fascinating that Jesus visited Tyre. I have been to the Holy Land and Lebanon-but I haven't seen the rock of Tyre yet, as Jesus did, and I hope to. Lebanon is a beautiful country as Galilee is a beautiful country-side and lake-side.
Death and Resurrection is an important theme of the Bible. A resurrection is spoken of in Hosea 6:2-3, 13-14, Isaiah 26:19 and Ezekiel 37 in the Old Testament. Of course, in the New Testament, we see the theme in the death and resurrection of Jesus. We also see the symbolism of grain and death and resurrection in the Bible and in the Baal Cycle. This theme is discussed by Jesus of Nazareth and Saint Paul (1 Corinthians 15:36-37). Jesus said, "Unless a grain of wheat dies, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." (John 12:24).
What is next?
"The Epic of Baal the God of Thunder" is part of my series on Moses and the Exodus. "The Baal Cycle: The Art of the Epic of Baal" will include my illustrations that I have created to accompany the story. I may also do a comic book series on Canaanite mythology entitled "Elohim" with color pictures.
About the Author
Reverend Stephen Andrew Missick is the author of The Assyrian Church in the Mongol Empire, Mar Thoma: The Apostolic Foundation of the Assyrian Church in India, and Socotra: The Mysterious Island of the Church of the East which were published in the Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies (Volume XIII, No. 2, 1999, Volume XIV, No. 2, 2000 and Volume XVI No. 1, 2002). (See www.jaas.org.) He is the author of The Words of Jesus in the Original Aramaic: Discovering the Semitic Roots of Christianity, Christ the Man, The Secret of Jabez, Saint Thaddeus and the King of Assyria, The Ascents of James: A Lost Acts of the Apostles, The Hammer of God: The Stories of Judah Maccabee and Charles Martel and The Ennead: The Story of King Osiris the Vindicated, the Beloved Enchantress Isis and Horus the Avenger. He is an ordained minister of the gospel. He graduated from Sam Houston State University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Rev. Missick has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East and has lived among the Coptic Christians in Egypt and Aramaic Christians in Syria. He also served as a soldier in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and 2004. While serving as a soldier in Iraq he learned Aramaic from native Aramaic-speaking Iraqi Assyrian Christians. Rev. Missick is the writer and illustrator of the comic book "The Assyrians: The Oldest Christian People," the comic strip Chronicles: Facts from the Bible and the comic book series The Hammer of God which are available from www.comixpress.com. The Hammer of God comic book series dramatizes the stories of Judah Maccabee and Charles Martel. He has also served as a chaplain in the Army National Guard in Iraq during his second deployment in 2009 and 2010. He participated in an archeological excavation of Bethsaida in Galilee in 2011 and went on a missionary trip to Uganda in 2012.
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