The Great Sun God

The Great Sun God
The Great Sun God

The Great God Sun

“The evidence for the sun cult manifests itself in Europe from as long ago as the fourth millennium BC, when Neolithic farmers recognized the divine power of the solar disc...

“…Solar religion manifested itself not only in acknowledgement of the overt functions of the sun—as a provider of heat and light—but also in recognition of influences that were more wide-ranging…

“To early communities, the sun was an enigma, with its nightly disappearance from the sky and the withdrawal of its heat for half the year. The sun’s value as a life-force was revered….”1344

Dr. Miranda J. Aldhouse-Green, The Sun: Symbol of Power and Life

“As the bestower of light and life, ancient cultures generally identified the sun as the symbol of Truth, the all-seeing ‘one eye’ of justice and equality, the fountainhead of wisdom, compassion, and enlightenment, the healer of physical and spiritual maladies, and, above all, the fundamental source of fecundity, growth, and fruition, as well as of death and the renewal of life.”1345

Dr. Federico Mayor, The Sun: Symbol of Power and Life

“To the ancients...heaven was the land of gods and mystery. The sky...was itself living. The stars were the abode of the gods. The shining stars were indeed themselves luminous gods. Astronomy was the knowledge not of heavenly bodies, but of heavenly beings: It was the heavenly, celestial cosmic or divine knowledge— knowledge of devas—the bright luminous gods.”

Dr. S.B. Roy, Prehistoric Lunar Astronomy (1)

ONE OF THE principal objects of adoration over the course of human history has been the sun, worshipped in countless cultures globally for thousands of years. Solar worship has been particularly popular in areas plagued with cold, darkness or cloudiness, as well as in fertile agricultural lands dependent on knowledge of the sun’s movements across the sky. These sunworshipping locales extend from the farthest reaches north, through the equator and into the southern hemisphere. Not only gods but also many goddesses were said to possess solar attributes, and, by the process of syncretism, numerous deities of the Mediterranean and beyond were perceived to be solar. Desert regions too displayed reverence for the sun, although less so because the unbearable heat also made the solar orb an enemy and pestilence. Even though like other desert religions it was significantly lunar in nature,1346 Judaism too has been part of this great global solar tradition.

The epithets for the “God Sun” have included virtually all the names and titles held to be holy by thousands of cultures for millennia, such as “Almighty,” “Healer,” “King of kings,” “Lord of lords,” “Prince of princes,” “Savior” and so on.1347 Hence, these divine epithets in the Bible are not original or unique to Yahweh or his son, Jesus.

Shamash, Lord of the World

As indicated, the Sumero-Babylonian sun god and divine lawgiver Šamaš/Shamash has been identified with El, Baal and Yahweh, three designations for God in the Old Testament. Shamash’s worship extends back some 5,000 years to the kings of Ur, as related by University of Pennsylvania Assyriologist Dr. Morris Jastrow (1861–1921):

In Ur itself, Shamash was also worshipped in early days by the side of the moon-god. Eannatum, of the dynasty of Isin (c. 2800 B.C.), tells of two temples erected to him at that place; and still a third edifice, sacred to both Nannar (the moon-god) and Shamash at Ur, is referred to by a king of the Larsa dynasty, Rim-Sin (c. 2300 B.C.).1348

Shamash’s Sumerian equivalent is UD, or “Utu” in Akkadian, the solar son
of the moon god and “lord of truth” dating back thousands of years and depicted as wearing a horned helmet, reflecting the solar-rays theme.1349 University of Cambridge professor Dr. John H. Rogers describes a scene with the “sun-god, Shamash…shown as a bearded man with rays flaring from his shoulders, cutting his way through the eastern horizon with his characteristic serrated knife.”1350

With his worship extending into the Neo-Babylonian period (626–539 BCE), Shamash was a dominant force for millennia in the very area where the protoIsraelite Amorites thrived and merged with various peoples, absorbing, adopting and demoting their deities.

שםש Shemesh

As also discussed, the Semitic solar god-name “Shamash” has been passed along in Hebrew, denoting “sun.” Gesenius notes that  שםש shemesh or shamash is a “primitive word, found under the radical letters sm, sr, sn, sl, in very many languages, compare the old Germ. Summi (whence Summer, Sommer), Sanscr. sura, surja, Germ. Sunne, Sonne, Eng. sun, Lat. sol...”1351

When one considers the assertion that the radical sm serves as a very ancient root signifying “sun,” as also in “summer,” the relationship between  שם shem —signifying “name” and often used to designate Yahweh—and שםש shemesh, meaning “sun,” ranks as noteworthy.

Shamash’s name itself derives from the Babylonian word for “sun,” shamshu,1352 which indicates that the later Hebrew word for “sun,” שמש sh.m.sh, actually reflects the Babylonian sun god, not just a term for the solar orb. In this regard, then, we are justified in reading “Shamash Yahweh” at Psalm 84:11 as a theophoric title, rather than a designation of Yahweh “merely” as the sun. In other words, the Hebrew appears to state: “Shamash is Yahweh” or vice versa.

It is interesting that  שמש shemesh/shamash also means “officiant, minister, attendant, helper,”1353 since these roles too were those of the sun, as well as of various (solar) priesthoods.

God of My Father

As we have seen, in the Amarna letters discovered in Egypt, written mostly in Akkadian cuneiform and dating to the 14th century BCE, there appear solar hymns invoking “the King my lord, my sun, my god.” Another text found at Amarna includes a poem (138) to Shamash in which he is referred to repeatedly as “the god of my father.”1354 This designation is not unique to the Bible, therefore, but preceded the Jewish texts by centuries to millennia.

Semitic Sun Goddess

Shamash is related to the name of the sun goddess of the Ugaritic/ Canaanite pantheon, Shapsh, Shapash or Šapšu, transliterations of the Ugarit word for “sun,” špš.1355 In his index entry for “špš sun,” Schniedewind notes: “cp. Akka šamšu; Heb. ,שםש ” in other words shemesh.1356 The transition from shapash to shamash evidently reflects the Babylonian/Amorite origin of, or influence on, the southern Israelites, as opposed to the Canaanitish northern tribes.

Fig. 92. Shapash/Shipish, sun goddess of Ugarit and Ebla, winged and in cruciform or cross shape, 2nd millennium BCE

Archaeologist and linguist Dr. Cyrus Gordon explicates this relationship:

špš שםש —The p in špš “sun” originated as a transitional intrusion between -m and -š:šampš- > šapš-; cf. Eng. “Sampson” for “Samson.”1357

Hence, the sun goddess’s name is comparable to “Sampson” or “Samson,” the moniker of another solar biblical hero.

As is logical for a solar deity, Shapash was involved in dividing the seasons of the year: “In Ugaritic myth and ritual, the Sun goddess played a crucial role at the transition of the seasons, marking off the time of the festivals.”1358 The sun goddess’s epithets included “the luminary, the lady,” “the lamp of the gods,” “the scorcher, the power of the sky” and “the eternal Šapšu.”1359

Shapash/Shamash the Lightbringer and Lawgiver

The role of the sun god/dess includes that of the “upholder of the law” and “deity of justice”:

The Akkadian/Babylonian sun god Shamash or Shemesh, also a bringer of light, upholder of law and order, and prophetic oracle, was originally an eagle-shaped Sun-goddess, as seen in an Sumerian artifact, and as demonstrated in personal names UmmiShamash, which means “My Mother is Shamash.” Phoenicians called her Shapash, and [She] was the goddess of the Sun. Called the Luminary of the Deities, the Torch of the Gods, She sees all that transpires on Earth by day and guards the souls of the dead in the underworld by night. Like the Akkadian Shamash, She is a deity of justice, often serving to mediate for the deities in disputes. She is related to Shamsh, Chems, an Arabic Sun-goddess worshipped at sunrise, noon, and sunset.1360

Shapash is mother, luminary, torch, bringer of light, all-seeing by day and guardian by night. In essence, she is the omniscient light of the world that every eye can see.1361

Whether female or male, Shapash/Shamash is the just and righteous upholder of the law, therefore the lawgiver or legislator. As noted, in ancient
mythology, the Code of Hammurabi was provided to the Babylonian lawgiver by Shamash, in a similar manner in which Moses/Mosheh was said to receive the 10 Commandments from the solar Yahweh.

Thus, for eons, the divine legislator or lawgiver role was traditionally held by the sun, in numerous manifestations globally. This legislative role can be found in Babylonian sun hymns that sound much like the Egyptian and biblical solar hymns previously discussed, such as:

     The law of mankind dost thou direct,

     Eternally just in the heavens art thou,

     Of faithful judgment towards all the world are thou.

     Thou knowest what is right, thou knowest what is wrong...

     O Shamash! Supreme judge of heaven and earth are thou...

     O Shamash! Supreme judge, great lord of all the world art thou;

     Lord of creation, merciful one of the world art thou...

     O Shamash! on this day purify and cleanse the king, the son of his god.

     Whatever is evil within him, let it be taken out....1362

In another hymn, Shamash is called “judge of the world” and “director of its laws.”1363 We have seen already the epithet of “judge of man” or Dian-nisi.

In these Babylonian hymns, as in the Akkadian, Assyrian, Egyptian, Phoenician and Ugaritic/Canaanite, we can find many correspondences with the depiction of the biblical “LORD God,” whether Yahweh, El, Elohim, Baal, Adonai or a combination thereof. Hence, there appear many “biblical” themes, such as the “law of mankind,” justice in heaven, divine righteousness, the concept of a supreme judge, the “lord of all the world,” the “lord of creation,” the “merciful,” God as purifier, and the idea of the son of God, as well as the divine king.

These solar poems sound very monotheistic, with the high god in his heaven; here we can see whence our traditional concepts of God come. These numinous notions are repeated in the Bible and are clearly related to, if not derived from, Babylonian, Canaanite, Egyptian and other sources, not arising as a result of unique “divine revelation” to the “chosen people.”

Samson the Sun

As a blatant example of how a sun god has been turned into a biblical hero, we can cite the story of Sampson or Samson (Jdg 13–16), written שמשון Shimshown, meaning “like the sun.”1364 The first three letters of Samson are שמש sh.m.sh, and we noted previously the relationship also to the Semitic sun goddess Shapash.

Samson’s story possesses a number of solar and lunar elements, such as the tearing down of the two pillars of the temple, a solar motif likewise found in the myth of Hercules/Herakles. In this myth, the Greek son of Zeus/God legendarily erects the two “columns” or mountains on either side of the Strait of Gibraltar, the western edge of the world and opening to the underworld, where the sun sets.1365 This same theme can be seen in the images of UrNammu, Shamash and other figures between two mountains and/or columns.

Another soli-lunar theme is the loss of strength when the sun god or solar hero’s “hair” or rays are cut by the moon goddess, the significance of the story of Samson and Delilah (Jdg 16:19).

King, Shepherd and Raiser of the Dead

In the Ugaritic texts, the king is called “the sun” or “my Sun,” as was the case traditionally in Egypt and other places, where the king and sun deity or deities frequently were intertwined, syncretized, identified and equated with each other.

As seen, so too is the Amorite/Babylonian Shamash the ruler or king, among other divine attributes, recounted by Jastrow:

The titles given to Shamash by the early rulers are sufficiently definite to show in what relation he stood to his worshippers, and what the conceptions were that were formed of him. He is, alternately, the king and the shepherd... In the incantations, Shamash is frequently appealed to, either alone, or when an entire group of spirits and deities are enumerated. He is called upon to give life to the sick man. To him the body of the one who is smitten with disease is confided. As the god of light, he is appropriately called upon to banish “darkness” from the house, darkness being synonymous with misfortune; and the appeal is made to him more particularly as the “king of judgment.”

From this, it is evident that the beneficent action of the sun, was the phase associated with Shamash. He was hailed as the god that gives light and life to all things, upon whose favor the prosperity of the fields and the well-being of man depend. He creates the light and secures its blessings for mankind. His favor produces order and stability; his wrath brings discomfiture and ruin to the state and the individual. But his power was, perhaps, best expressed by the title of “judge”—the favorite one in the numerous hymns that were composed in his honor....

He loosens the bonds of the imprisoned, grants health to the sick, and even revivifies the dead. On the other hand, he puts an end to wickedness and destroys enemies. He makes the weak strong, and prevents the strong from crushing the weak. From being the judge, and, moreover, the supreme judge of the world, it was but natural that the conception of justice was bound up with him. His light became symbolic of righteousness, and the absence of it, or darkness, was viewed as wickedness. Men and gods look expectantly for his light. He is the guide of the gods, as well as the ruler of men.1366

Italicized here are numerous attributes of Shamash that are expressed later of Yahweh, as well as many other deities around the Middle East and beyond. A number of these traits also feature prominently in the Christ myth, such as the king, shepherd, light of the world, dispeller of darkness, beneficent judge and wrathful avenger, healer of the sick, raiser of the dead, and ruler of men. It could not be clearer where the numerous divine attributes come from that are used to describe the biblical god and his son: Very ancient mythology and religion, especially sun worship or heliolatry.

Jesus as Shamash

In consideration of how many of the same characteristics the two figures share, it may come as no surprise that King Jesus is identified with Shamash biblically. In the book of Malachi (4:2)—which precedes directly the first New Testament text, generally the gospel of Matthew—the prophet writes of the coming “Sun of Righteousness” who will arise with “healing in its wings.” This solar symbolism ranks as highly ancient, long predating the composition of the Old Testament, as shown, with the sun viewed since remote antiquity as the righteous judge and guardian of the world, as well as the savior and healer, frequently depicted as winged because of the fact that birds fly high, towards the solar orb.

Fig. 93. Egyptian winged sun disk, like the biblical ‘Sun of Righteousness’ (Mal 4:2), surrounded by two serpents, like the caduceus or symbol of healing

The “Sun of Righteousness” in Malachi is considered to be the coming messiah, Jesus Christ, whose solar attributes rate as extensive. Malachi’s original Hebrew uses the word  שמש sh.m.sh or shemesh/shamash to describe the savior, serving as a divine title, not just the physical sun. Hence, Jesus basically is Shamash.

The Greek translation of Malachi 4:2 renders “sun” as ἥλιος helios, the same as the Greek sun god’s name. Thus, Jesus is Helios, an identification demonstrated throughout the ages since Christianity’s inception, including in Christ’s replacement of the sun god’s central position in zodiacs.1367 Jerome’s Latin rendering of  שמש shemesh is “sol,” as at Malachi 4:2, connoting that Jesus is Sol, the Roman sun god.1368

El the Canaanite High God

Another Semitic solar deity was El, whose Eblaite predecessor probably can be found in “personal names written il, i-lum...”1369 One of the gods of the Israelite fathers, El was depicted as worshipped by the Hebrews at a variety of locations, including Jerusalem, Beerlahai roi, Bethel, Penuel and Shechem, according to the Bible.1370 Referring to the relevant biblical verses, Gray comments: “Such instances definitely relate the worship of the patriarchs and their contemporaries in Palestine to the particular deity El, whom we now know as the supreme god of the pantheon of ancient Ugarit.”1371

In the Ugaritic pantheon, as expressed in the Ras Shamra texts from the 13th or 14th century BCE, El is the “senior god” among the Elohim. In Canaanite writings, El is the “Creator” and “Builder of Built Things,”1372 precisely the same role as played by the later Yahweh. As he does in the Jewish scriptures, in the earlier Ugaritic texts El bears many epithets, one of which, ab šnm, appears to mean “father of the years,” which, Gray points out, resembles the “Ancient of Days” of Daniel 7.13.1373 As did many other places, pre-Israelite Jerusalem possessed a shrine to El,1374 in later centuries syncretized to Yahweh.

The word ' אל el meaning “God” or “god” appears 238 times in the Old Testament,1375 demonstrating its importance. The plural ' אלהים elohiym or “gods” is used in many more instances, 2606 times.1376 Other examples of Hebrews worshipping multiple gods include the verses at Genesis 31:19, where Rachel is said to have stolen her father’s “household gods” or “idols,” תרפים teraphim, a word used 15 times in the Old Testament, eventually meaning “disgraceful things” in rabbinical Judaism.

Yahweh and Saturn

Like Yahweh constantly meddling in the Israelites’ lives, El was the “paramount authority in social affairs.”1377 Also like Yahweh, El has been surmised to be both a solar and lunar deity,1378 identified as well with the planet Saturn,1379 one of the gods of the Israelites as well, as at Amos 5:26:

You shall take up Sakkuth your king, and Kaiwan your star-god, your images, which you made for yourselves…

The “Sakkuth” or “Sikkuth” is both a “Babylonian deity” and the word used to describe the Jewish “tent,” “booth” and “tabernacle,”1380 explaining the latter’s sacredness, as they were associated evidently with a god or goddess of nature. The term “Kaiwan,” “Kiyuwn,” “Chiun” and so on means “pillar”1381 and represents the Babylonian version of Saturn or Kronos/Cronus, as well as the Syrian god Adar/Ninib.1382 Since this verse indicates Jews were worshipping Kaiwan, we may say they were worshipping also Saturn and Adar, the latter of whom was called “Masu,” the same spelling as “Moses,” to be discussed.

The Amos passage (LXX) is reflected at Acts 7:43 as well:

And you took up the tent of Moloch, and the star of the god Rephan, the figures which you made to worship; and I will remove you beyond Babylon.

Again, the New Testament writers rendered the word at Amos 5:26 not as “king” but as Molech, validating that some of the mentions of “king” in the OT in reality are references to the Semitic god, a number of whose attributes Yahweh absorbed. According to the Bible, Molech/Moloch is equivalent with Sakkuth, also worshipped by Jews. Rephan or Ῥαιφάν Rhaiphan is surmised to be an incorrect transliteration of Kiyuwn and representative also, therefore, of Saturn.1383

Israelite Saturn worship is reflected in the fact that the Jewish weekly holy day occurs on the god’s traditional day, called “Saturday” in English, the end of which is heralded by the “appearance of three stars in the sky.”1384

Israelite Syncretism

Regarding the syncretism of Israelite polytheism, Mark Smith remarks:

…Israelite religion apparently included worship of Yahweh, El, Asherah and Baal.... El and Yahweh were identified... Features belonging to deities such as El, Asherah and Baal were absorbed into the Yahwistic religion of Israel.1385

At Joshua 22:22, we read  אל אלהים יהוה אל אלהים יהוה or “El Elohim Yahweh,” invoked twice. The same phrase,  ,אל אלהים יהוה is used at Psalm 50:1, again “El Elohim Yahweh.”

A Handy Concordance of the Septuagint lists Greek epithets for Yahweh, such as theos theos (“god god”) and theos theos kurios, (“god god lord”) both of which are used to render the biblical phrase “El Elohim Yahweh.” Under its entry for θεός theos, the LXX concordance cites numerous instances of several gods or god-names associated, identified or syncretized with Yahweh in the Bible. These gods/epithets include:

Adonai; El; El Elohim; El Jehovah; El Shaddai; Elah; Eloah; Elohim; Jah Jah; Jah Jehovah; Jehovah; Jehovah Elohim; Shaddai, Trooz, etc.1386

Genesis 46:3 speaks of El as the “God of thy father,” the word for “God” here being the plural Elohim, as it is also at Genesis 33:20, shortened to אלהי elohey.

Majestic Plural

The usage of Elohim in the Old Testament as referring to “God” in the singular is styled the “majestic plural,” also known as the “royal we.” The comparable Ugaritic/Canaanite term ‘l-h-m likewise was used to designate both a singular “God” and plural “gods.” Hence, the concept of Elohim as “God” would remain unoriginal to the Jewish religion and would constitute not “divine revelation” but a continuation of pre-Judaic Semitic religion.

The God of Exodus?

Further indicating that there exists an Ugaritic/Canaanite myth at the core of the Exodus tale, Mark Smith explores the question, “Was El the Original God of the Exodus?” Says he:

...C.F.A. Schaeffer has written, followed by N. Wyatt and me, that El may have been the original god connected with the Exodus from Egypt and that this event was secondarily associated with Yahweh when the two gods coalesced. Numbers 23:22 and 24:8 (cf. 23:8) associate the Exodus not with Yahweh but with the name of El: “El who freed them from Egypt has horns like a wild ox.” (This description also evokes El’s attribute animal at Ugarit, the ox, reflected in his title “Bull El.”) The poems in Numbers 23:24 contain the name of Yahweh (23:8, 21; 24:6), but it is considerably rarer than the name of El (23:8, 19, 22, 23; 24:4, 8, 16, 23). Indeed, El is attested almost three times as often as Yahweh. Accordingly, B.A. Levine seems correct in suggesting that these poems preserve an old repertoire of El tradition, now synthesized with references to Yahweh. If so, these texts contain a valuable witness to El as the god of the Exodus, at least in one of the Israelite traditions.1387

The Exodus story evidently represents largely a reworking of an Egyptian and Canaanite cosmological themes, including among the latter one that originally had as its god, El, not Yahweh. The Yahwist tribal deity was intruded into the tale with his purported introduction on Mt. Sinai, even though he was introduced already to Abraham, who built a shrine to him at Shechem. Both tales are mythical devices used to demote pre-Yahwist gods under the Judean tribal deity.

The Bull

As we can see, among the Canaanite divine epithets appears “Bull El” or ṯ r 'el, interestingly similar to the much later el toro in Spanish, although the Ugaritic apparently would be pronounced more like “Thor.” We are also reminded of tauros and taurus, meaning “bull” in Greek and Latin, respectively. In this regard, J. Brown comments that “names of wine...and the bull…are in the oldest stratum of the vocabulary common to Semitic and Indo-European.”1388

Concerning this title “the Bull,” Gray comments:

However we may explain this title ṯ r 'el, it is remarkable that the God of Jacob is spoken of as '[ אביר abiyr, “the Strong”], which also means “a bull.” Since we find the fertility-god Baal in the Ras Shamra texts mating with a heifer, presumably as a bull, this may be a point at which El and Baal were assimilated, as Jahweh and Baal were at Dan in the time of Jeroboam and possibly earlier....1389

At Genesis 49:24, in which Yahweh is called by the epithet meaning “Strong/Mighty” or “Bull,” ' אביר abiyr,1390 he is labeled also “the Shepherd” ( רעה ra`ah), a title likewise held by the Egyptian pharaohs and various gods and godmen, including Jesus.

Any gods revealing themselves to humanity in the industrialized world today likely would not go by the epithet of “the Bull” or “the Shepherd.” Indeed, these sacred names for divinity are appropriate mostly for a certain time and locale, and would not be perceived by, say, Alaskan natives, who traditionally had no bulls or sheep. Hence, we can see that the Bible is a cultural artifact, a product of its era and location.

Ram

The word  אל el or al, meaning “strong” or “mighty,” is part of the name “Israel,” as in ' אל אלהי ישראל El 'elohey Yisra'el (Gen 33:20), “the mighty God of Israel” a “name given to an altar, a location, by Jacob.”1391 The term אל el/al is said to derive from the root ' איל ayil, meaning “ram.”1392

As is evident, the Hebrew words for  אל el “mighty” and ' אל El, referring to the god or god-name, are the same. Thus, the Hebraized El was identified as or with the Ram, appropriate for a cult created or promulgated widely during the precessional age of Aries (c. 2300–c. 150 BCE).1393

El the Merciful

Unlike the fire-snorting and intolerant later god of the Bible, who lays waste to countless cities and villages, slaughtering millions, El is depicted in the Ras Shamra texts as tolerant and kindly.1394 It may be that, as the environment around the Jews became more hostile both naturally and manmade, so too did their combined El-Yahweh become less kindly and tolerant, eventually losing his Canaanite roots.

In the earlier, Ugaritic texts, El is called “the Kindly One, El, the Merciful,” which is almost verbatim with a much later Quranic text in Arabic.1395 As Gray says, “Here we are very close to the God of the patriarchs who called Abraham to be his friend.”1396 The pericope at Isaiah 41:8 about “Abraham the friend”1397 may be part of the changeover from when Aristotle/Josephus’s Kalanoi or “Syrian Jews” from India demoted their god “Father Brahma” and accepted the Canaanite “Father of All,” El.

Holy Mount of Elohim

At Ezekiel 28:14, we find a reference to the “holy mountain of Elohim,” again, the latter term denoting “the gods.” This “mountain of the gods” evokes the myths of Mount Olympus with the 12 Greek gods and the Scandinavian assembly of the 12 in Asgard,1398 among many others. The mountain home of the Ugaritic pantheon was said to be Mt. Zaphon, known modernly as Jebel al-Aqra and in the Bible at Isaiah 14:13,1399 which refers to the “mount of assembly…of the north” ( צפון tsaphown),1400 indicating the heavens and stars.1401

70 Sons of El

In Genesis 6 and at Deuteronomy 32:8, we read about the “sons of God” or bene Elohim, which epithet has its counterpart in Ugaritic (b'n il or “sons of El”) and in Phoenician writings, in reference to the Western Semitic “council of the gods.”1402 The Elohim are shown by the Ugaritic tablets to be the 70 sons of the Ugaritic deities Ilu (El) and Athiratu (Asherat), also the 70 brothers of Baal.1403

Regarding El’s sons, Oldenburg remarks:

In Job 38:7, we read that at the foundation of the earth “the morning stars sang together, even all the sons of Elohim shouted for joy.” Thus the morning stars are the sons of El...1404

Hence, El is the sun, while his offspring represent the stars, as well as Venus and other elements.

Genesis 10 depicts around 70 nations, each of which would have its own deity, one of whom was Yahweh.1405 Biblical verses starting at Numbers 29:13 describe sacrifices “offered on each of the days of Sukkot.”1406 Adding together the number of bullocks sacrificed, on the seventh day the total number reaches 70, “one for each of the Gentile nations.” Interestingly, the sacrifice of 70 bulls occurs in the myth of Baal, the “mighty one,”1407 centuries before the Bible was composed.

As we have seen, there are also 70 Jewish elders, like Jesus with his 70 disciples in the New. In this regard, John Day remarks:

It is in connection with the Canaanite god El and his pantheon of gods, known as “the sons of El,” that a direct relationship with the Old Testament is to be found. That this is certain can be established from the fact that both were seventy in number.1408

Thus, as have many other gods, El/Ilu had a son;1409 hence, the “son of God” motif is not unique to the much later Christianity. El is also styled ’ab ’adm or “father of men,”1410 the latter word being adam. In this “Father of Adam” epithet, again we can see whence biblical tradition derives.

Yahweh as El’s Son

In The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel’s Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts, Mark Smith evinces that Yahweh is one of the “sons of the Elohim,” as at Deuteronomy 32:8–9, part of the “Song of Moses”:

When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of men, he fixed the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. For the LORD’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.

The “bounds of the peoples” refers to the numbering of 70 nations, after the 70 Canaanite gods. As one of El’s sons, Yahweh would be the “son of the sun,” a solar attribute.

Sons of the Most High

The verse at Deuteronomy 32:8 may be related to Psalm 82:6, in which the “sons of the Most High” ( ' עליון elyown) are discussed, appearing as bene Elyon in the Hebrew. After analyzing this passage in Psalms, Smith remarks: “If this supposition is correct, Psalm 82 preserves a tradition that casts the god of Israel in the role not of the presiding god of the pantheon but as one of his sons.”1411 Moreover, biblical and Semitic languages scholar Dr. Michael S. Heiser notes that Psalms 82 and 89 reflect the “council of Elohim” in the clouds,1412 as is appropriate for astrotheological entities.

In the next verse in Deuteronomy (32:9), in which El assigns “the bounds of the peoples” (ethnoi), the tribal Lord to whom Jacob/Israel is allotted is יהוה Yĕhovah. In this pericope, then, Yahweh is evidently designated a “divine son” of El Elyon, the high god of the Canaanite pantheon given dominion over a “chosen people,” much as El’s sons were allotted lands or tribes in Canaanite mythology. This passage was written possibly during the time of Amos in the eighth century BCE, when Yahweh begins to dominate at Jerusalem.

In describing the “royal figure” of King El, “Father of the Exalted Ones,” Gray remarks that “we may recognize ‘El Elyon, called the Most High,’ who, according to Eusebius’ citation from Philo of Byblos was senior god in the Canaanite pantheon, or El Elyon, El the Most High, Creator of Heaven and Earth...locally worshipped in Jerusalem before David occupied the city.”1413 Thus, El Elyon was the high god of Jerusalem before Jews took it over, adopting and adapting the deity by absorbing his characteristics into Yahweh, his “son.”

In this regard, Gray states further of El Elyon that “many of his attributes were inherited by Yahweh through local association, the phraseology and imagery of many of the old hymns finding new expression in the liturgy of the cult of Yahweh.”1414 It should be recalled that El Elyon was a solar god of wine in particular, syncretized with other Semitic wine gods such as Eshkol, and the “most high” part of the mythology generally relates to the sun at its zenith. Hence, Yahweh too takes on solar and vinicultural attributes.

Several texts entitled the “Enthronement Psalms”1415 are “enriched” by Canaanite liturgies, and Gray also cites Psalm 72:8 as reflecting “the Canaanite conception of El reigning,”1416 establishing divine dominion: “May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth!” Thus, El prevails, as is the meaning of “Israel.”

Yw, son of El

A northern Canaanite or Ugaritic text (KTU 2.4.13–14) includes the word “Yw,” juxtaposed with the god-name Ym or Yamm,1417 suggesting Yw too is a theonym.1418 The Ugaritic text in question is titled “El’s Proclamation of Yamm,” which reads:

And Latipan El the Benefi[cient] speaks:

The name of my son (is?) Yw, O Elat. And he pronounces the name Yamm....1419

Here it appears that Yw is one of El’s sons or bene Elohim, previously discussed.

In a Canaanite myth, we read about the “building of a ‘house’ for a certain god.” Concerning this god, Gray comments: “This favoured deity is apparently the son of El named Yw, the Beloved of El.”1420 The resemblance between YHWH and YW is suggestive, and, again, it is contended that the subordinate Yahweh was considered originally the son of El, like Yw. The epithet “beloved of El” is also noteworthy in that much later we find in Christianity the “beloved son of God,” Jesus Christ.

El’s Wives Asherat and Anat

Like Abraham and Moses, El lived in the desert with two wives, Asherah and Anat, the latter of whom is called “virgin” yet bears El a son, as does Asherah. In Canaanite, Asherah is aṯrt, transliterated also as Aṯerat, Atherat or Asherat, serving as the mother goddess and “lady of the sea” who appears in later times as Astarte and Ishtar. Biblically, she is both Asherah1421 and Astoreth, also called Elat in Ugarit, cognate with the Arabic Allat. Aṯerat/Asherat/Asherah is depicted in Canaanite texts as prostrating herself before El and, like the Virgin Mary with God the Father, bearing him sons,1422 as noted.

Sons and Venus

One of Asherah and El’s sons, Aṯtar or Athtar/Ashtar, was styled “king” and identified with Venus as the morning star,1423 the same as Shahar in the Ugaritic texts. Ashtar is pre-Ugaritic, however, appearing in the Ebla texts centuries earlier.1424

The two “sons” thus are aspects of Venus, equivalent to the son of Yahweh, King Jesus, called the “morning star” in the biblical book of Revelation (2:28, 22:16). Thus, we have a God the Father of the Morning Star over 1000 years before Jesus supposedly walked the earth.

In the Ugaritic texts, the morning and evening stars are also named “the cutter twins, sons of one day, the most beautiful sons of the Sun, who suck the nipple of Asherah’s breasts.”1425 Here these two are specifically named as sons of the sun, which is El.

These twin faces of Venus also marked the seasons within archaeoastronomy.1426 Similarly, in Isaiah 14 Venus is deemed “Lucifer” or Helel,1427 representing both Eosphoros and Phosphoros, the morning and evening aspects of Venus. At Isaiah 14:12, this figure is called “Hêlēl ben Šaḥar,” the latter phrase denoting “son of Shahar,” the morning aspect of Venus.

This situation is similar to that of Jesus’s biblical father, Yahweh, who, unbeknownst to his many faithful, was also the consort of Asherah, as evidenced by a number of artifacts, including biblical inferences. For example, at 2 Kings 23:7, we learn that Yahweh and Asherah had been paired in the temple, much like the hierogamy or sacred marriage of Asherah and El or, later, Baal.1428 This inference is validated by inscriptions from the site of Kuntillet Ajrud in the northeastern Sinai (9th–8th cents. BCE), saying, “Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah” and “Yahweh of Teman and his Asherah.”1429 Here we also see Yahweh’s reign from northern Israel, the capital of which was Samaria, to Teman, in the southeastern kingdom of Edom.

This switchover from El to Baal represents one of many instances of “jockeying for position” by various gods and goddesses that indicate mergers of different tribes and peoples, with their various tribal or familial deities demoted or raised according to social status. In such mergers, dominant cultures usually will receive the honor of “top god,” so to speak. If we see, for example, the intrusion of a “father” or “son” in myths about gods, we can infer that, at that point, a new tribe or culture has been incorporated into the demographics. The same can be said with the prostration of gods or goddesses to each other, as a sign of respecting a higher authority under whose dominion the other deities must now fall.

Wine

When Asherah, the “mother of the gods,” arrives at El’s door and prostrates herself at his feet, he offers her food and drink:

     Are you hungry...

     or thirsty...?

     Have something to eat or drink:

     eat some food from the table,

     drink some wine from the goblet,

     blood of the vine from the golden cup.1430

Here we can see the focus on wine, as the “blood of the vine” to be drunk from a “golden cup,” another holy chalice/grail. These ideas obviously maintained currency for thousands of years before they were adopted into Christianity.

King

Biblically (1 Sa 12:12) and elsewhere, El (or Elohim) is called melek, denoting “king” but also serving as the name of the dreaded Molech and a title of Yahweh. Gray remarks that it is “now recognized by an increasing number of responsible scholars that Yahweh, the god of a militant tribal group, was first subordinated to El the Canaanite high god before he took over his attributes and functions as King and Creator.”1431

Yahweh’s ultimate supremacy ranks not as a divinely revealed reality but as a cultural development asserting that the Jewish tribal deity represents the God of the universe. This fact of El’s initial supremacy over Yahweh had been surmised by many earlier scholars, confirmed later by more modern discoveries such as the Ras Shamra texts.

One verse in which Yahweh is called “king” appears at Psalm 95:3:

For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

׃ כי אל גדול יהוה ומלך גדול על־כל־אלהים

Here we see the words “El Yahweh Melek Elohim,” in that order, reading only the bolded text right to left. The term  מלך melek is utilized 2523 times in the Hebrew Bible, most of which are translated as “king” (2518).1432 Other renderings include “royal,” “Hammelech,” “Malcham,” “Molech” and “Moloch.”

As another example, Psalm 10:16 begins with  יהוה מלך or “Yahweh melek.” As we might expect with the emphasis of divine kingship, Yahweh receives this epithet of  מלך melek many times in the Old Testament,1433 as noted. Since biblically we are told that the Israelites in fact did worship Molech, some of the uses of  מלך melek to describe Yahweh may represent in reality an epithet reflecting the god’s reverence, rather than simply denoting “king,” as at Amos 5:26, previously noted.

Molech represented the brutal and fierce, burning aspect of the sun, reflected in the cruel and harsh nature of his worship.

El Shaddai

As seen, at Exodus 6:3 the god of Abraham was “God Almighty,” ' אל שדי el Shadday in the Hebrew, the name of a Mesopotamian tribal deity. Again, this epithet appears several times also in Genesis,1434 while the divine name שדי Shadday alone is used four dozen times in the OT/Tanakh to describe Yahweh. Cross notes that “Shaddai” is used as an epithet of God in the book of Job some 30 times, while “Yahweh” only appears in Job at the beginning and end of the book, as well as “in rubrics of the Yahweh speeches where it probably is secondary.”1435 In reality, Shaddai serves as the name of a West Semitic god, another of the many Canaanite Elohim, possibly one of El’s sons.

Mountain God?

The word shaddai not only connotes “almighty” but also appears to be related to the Akkadian term šadû, meaning “mountain.”1436 Concerning El Shaddai, Meissner remarks:

The Shaddai element seems to mean “the mountain one” and to be related to other Western Semitic divine epithets known from Ugaritic sources. It also seems to refer to the cosmic mountain. Shaddai may be an epithet of Ba’al-Hadad... It cannot be established whether Shaddai was an old Amorite deity, brought to Palestine by the patriarchs and early identified by them with the Canaanite ’El, or whether Shaddai was originally a cultic epithet for the Canaanite ’El.1437

El Shaddai seems to serve as a bridge between the Amorites and Canaanites, a perfect combination for his later Israelite followers. Meissner summarizes the Hebrew worship of El Shaddai thus:

In the pre-Mosaic religion of the Hebrews, the chief god of the patriarchs was Shaddai.... The evidence suggests, first, that the principal deity of the pre-Mosaic patriarchs was a mountain god or a god cloaked with mountain imagery. ’El Shaddai was “the god of the mountain.” Second, the Hebrews, like their Semitic ancestors, had a keen sense of relationship between a patriarchal group and its deity. The deity was actually a member of the clan and could be addressed as “father” or “brother.” Albright (1957) has rejected the notion of an El monotheism among early Western Semites. El was probably a father-god in early Hebrew popular tradition. A son, Shaddai, appears in the form of a storm god.1438

The inference that the early Hebrews were followers of El of the mountain seems logical for hill settlers. Mountains frequently create their own stormy weather, which explains that connection, while they also often are associated with the sun.

The Archer

Shaddai also may have been the name of an archer god or epithet of Yahweh as an archer. At Job 6:4, we read about Shaddai’s poisonous arrows, as in the myth of the Syro-Palestinian god Resheph, whose menacing bow full of troubles and pestilence was stopped by Baal.1439 The “archer” is also a solar epithet, as in Apollo’s title of “far-shooter” or “far-darter,”1440 signifying the sun’s rays penetrating the atmosphere and earth, especially as piercing through the black, dragonlike storm clouds. The “darts” or flashes of lightning are also dangerous solar aspects cited in the myth of Dionysus.1441

Enlil and Ellil

Another storm god evidently connected to El is the Sumero-Babylonian lawgiver Enlil, whose name evidently was rendered “Ellil” in later Akkadian, Assyrian, Canaanite and Hittite texts. Ellil first appears in Assyrian writing during the reign of Amorite king Shamshi-Adad I in the 19th to 18th centuries BCE.1442 Ellil is surmised also to be the same as the Helel of Isaiah 14:12–15, in other words, Lucifer/Venus.1443

Like Moses and Jesus, Enlil/Ellil was the mediator between the heavenly God (Anu) and man, and was the “king of kings.”1444 Other epithets for Enlil/Ellil include “king of lands,” “king of heaven and earth” and “father of the gods.”1445 Like Yahweh, Enlil sends a flood to kill all of humanity, with one hero, Utnapishtim or Ziusudra/ Xisuthros—clearly a Noah precursor— surviving with the help of the god Ea. Concerning the Utnapishtim-Noah connection, scholars such as Dr. Ben Foster, an Assyriologist at Yale University, assert unequivocally that “the details of the two stories are unmistakably the same story.”1446 It is noteworthy that in the original Sumerian myth it is the sun god, Utu, who rescues humanity,1447 revealing Yahweh’s solar nature in the same role as well.

Lord of the Storm

Enlil/Ellil means “Lord of the Storm,” equivalent to Hadad/Adad. Enlil’s role is also similar to that of the Egyptian atmospheric god Shu, who shares some basic symbolism with the Christian savior, called “Yeshua” in Hebrew.

As seen, it is probable that some of the Moses story was adapted from the storm-god mythos, such as the drowning of the prophet’s enemies by conjuring the waters with his magic rod, which causes the Red Sea to part and then close upon the “dragon” pharaoh and his legions.

Adad/Hadad

Depicted as mounting a bull in a similar way as the Persian god Mithra was portrayed later in Roman art, Adad is “the deity who became Baal par excellence in Canaan,” originally “the god manifest in the violent rain- and thunder-storms of autumn and late winter.”1448 Concerning Adad as storm god, Gray states:

This is the role he seems to play in the Execration Texts, as indeed also in the Ras Shamra myth of the conflict with the Unruly Waters. It was only later that he was identified with the vegetation which was stimulated by the winter rains and he became a dying and rising god, as in the Ras Shamra myth of his conflict with Mot….1449

The Egyptian “Execration Texts” are inscribed sherds and other artifacts from the second and third millennia BCE1450 that name enemies and alien disturbers of Egypt, used for magical purposes to end such troubles. It is in an execration text from around the 20th century BCE that we discover the first mention of “Jerusalem,” then a proto-Israelite enclave, predating the purported time of David by 1,000 years.1451

Gray specifically deems Adad/Hadad a “dying and rising god,” as were many deities in antiquity, both male and female.1452 Again, the Ras Shamra texts with the related Adad-Mot myth date from the 13th or 14th century BCE.1453 Thus, the prophet, savior or god controlling and calming the “unruly waters” is a very ancient motif that predates Moses and Jesus’s purported similar miracle by many centuries. This storm-calming is naturally an attribute of the sun and storm god, again often the same entity.

Baal

Adad was the quintessential Baal, “the thunderer who mounts the clouds”1454 and “rider of the clouds”1455 who fertilized the earth with his life-giving rain. In the Ras Shamra texts, Baal is depicted as dying and rising out of the underworld in his victory over the drought and pestilence god Mot.1456 He also appears with the “Virgin Anat,”1457 again, a goddess who is portrayed also as a mother. A

gain, in the OT, Baal is equated with Yahweh, and Yahweh was assimilated to to the Canaanite god at the village of Dan in northern Israel during the sixth century BCE at the latest. It is important to note that in “many regions of the ancient Near East, not least in Upper Mesopotamia, Syria and Anatolia where agriculture relied mainly on rainfall, storm-gods ranked among the most prominent gods in the local panthea or were even regarded as divine kings, ruling over the gods and bestowing kingship on the human ruler.”1458

Conclusion

As part of the great solar tradition that can be found in many places globally, the peoples of the ancient Near and Middle East revered a wide variety of sun deities, including the Babylonian Shamash and “god of the fathers,” as well as the Canaanite goddess Shapash. These deities possessed numerous divine epithets and attributes adopted by biblical figures such as Yahweh, Samson and Jesus.

Among these solar deities was the Semitic high god El, identified with Yahweh and Saturn, and appearing in the Bible numerous times as part of Israelite syncretism. Indeed, El may be the god of Exodus, associated with the bull and ram. El and the 70 Canaanite gods and “sons of El” thrived mythically on a holy mount, again part of ancient solar mythology signifying the sun and dodecans.

One of these “sons of God” appears to be the Jewish tribal god Yahweh, while others are the two aspects of Venus, dawn and dusk, born to El’s dual wives. Another biblical god is El Shaddai, a mountain and solar deity as well, while storm gods such as Enlil and Adad often possess solar attributes as well, since it was believed in antiquity that the sun had a part in creating and controlling storms of various types.

El as the “Most High” or El Elyon was especially sacred to the Israelites and is not only solar but also a wine god, revealing the significance of that sacred libation as well.

Fig. 94. Shamash between Mashu’s Twin Peaks, wearing a horned helmet and with solar rays from shoulders and arms, 3rd millennium BCE. Akkadian, British Museum
Fig. 95. Storm god Baal–Zephon holds a thunderbolt and stands on two mountains, with a serpent below, c.s 16th cent. BCE. Cylinder seal from Tell el Daba/Avaris
Fig. 96. Mount Sinai (right), with St. Catherine's monastery at foot of Horeb (left), 1570–2. Oil painting by El Greco, Historical Museum of Crete, Iraklion
Yahweh and the Sun

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