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  Imagen:Baal Ugarit Louvre AO17330.jpg

              BAAL DE    UGARIT,   LOUVRE

Ba'al (baʕal;Arabic,بعل; Hebrew: בעל) (ordinarily spelled Baal in English) is a Northwest Semitic title and honorific meaning "master" or "lord" that is used for various gods who were patrons of cities in the Levant, cognate to Assyrian Bēlu. A Baalist means a worshipper of Baal.

Nombre jeroglífico:    


Transliteración: bal


Iconografía: Dios cananita y del área semítico occidental que penetró en Egipto con los hiksos y se identificó con el dios egipcio Set

"Ba'al" can refer to any god and even to human officials; in some texts it is used as a substitute for Hadad, a god of the rain, thunder, fertility and agriculture, and the lord of Heaven. Since only priests were allowed to utter his divine name Hadad, Ba'al was used commonly. Nevertheless, few if any Biblical uses of "Ba'al" refer to Hadad, the lord over the assembly of gods on the holy mount of Heaven, but rather refer to any number of local spirit-deities worshipped as cult images, each called ba'al and regarded as a false god.

Ancient Near Eastern deities  
Levantine deities
Adonis | Anat | Asherah | Ashima | Astarte | Atargatis | Ba'al | Berith | Dagon | Derceto | El | Elyon | Eshmun | Hadad | Kothar | Mot | Moloch | Qetesh | Resheph | Shalim | Yarikh | Yam Photo of Statuette of the god Baal
Statuette of the god Baal
Photo by Jacques Lessard,
Musée de la civilisation de Québec
Mesopotamian deities
Adad | Amurru | An/Anu | Anshar | Ashur | Abzu/Apsu | Enki/Ea | Enlil | Ereshkigal | Inanna/Ishtar | Kingu | Kishar | Lahmu & Lahamu | Marduk | Mummu | Nabu | Nammu | Nanna/Sin | Nergal | Ningizzida | Ninhursag | Ninlil | Tiamat | Utu/Shamash




Ba'al of Carthage

The worship of Ba'al Hammon flourished in the Phoenician colony of Carthage. Ba'al Hammon was the supreme god of the Carthaginians and is generally identified by modern scholars either with the northwest Semitic god El or with Dagon, and generally identified by the Greeks with Cronus and by the Romans with Saturn.

The meaning of Hammon or Hamon is unclear. In the 19th century when Ernest Renan excavated the ruins of Hammon (Ḥammon), the modern Umm al-‘Awamid between Tyre and Acre, he found two Phoenician inscriptions dedicated to El-Hammon. Since El was normally identified with Cronus and Ba‘al Hammon was also identified with Cronus, it seemed possible they could be equated. More often a connection with Hebrew/Phoenician ḥammān 'brazier' has been proposed. Frank Moore Cross argued for a connection to Khamōn, the Ugaritic and Akkadian name for Mount Amanus, the great mountain separating Syria from Cilicia based on the occurrence of an Ugaritic description of El as the one of the Mountain Haman.

Classical sources relate how the Carthaginians burned their children as offerings to Ba'al Hammon. See Moloch for a discussion of these traditions and conflicting thoughts on the matter. Such a devouring of children fits well with the Greek traditions of Cronus.

Scholars tend to see Ba'al Hammon as more or less identical with the god El, who was also generally identified with Cronus and Saturn. However, Yigal Yadin thought him to be a moon god. Edward Lipinski identifies him with the god Dagon in his Dictionnaire de la civilisation phenicienne et punique (1992: ISBN 2-503-50033-1). Inscriptions about Punic deities tend to be rather uninformative.




In Carthage and North Africa Ba'al Hammon was especially associated with the ram and was worshiped also as Ba'al Qarnaim ("Lord of Two Horns") in an open-air sanctuary at Jebel Bu Kornein ("the two-horned hill") across the bay from Carthage.

Ba'al Hammon's female cult partner was Tanit. He was probably not ever identified with Ba'al Melqart, although one finds this equation in older scholarship.

Ba'alat Gebal ("Lady of Byblos") appears to have been generally identified with ‘Ashtart, although Sanchuniathon distinguishes the two.

Priests of Ba'al

The Priests of Ba'al are mentioned in The Bible numerous times, including a confrontation with the Prophet Elijah (1 Kings 18:21-40), the burning of incense symbolic of prayer (2 Kings 23:5), and rituals followed by priests adorned in special vestments (2 Kings 10:22) offering sacrifices similar to those given to honor YaHWeH (Jehovah in English). The confrontation with the Prophet Elijah is also mentioned in the Qur'an (37:123-125)

 Ba‘al as a divine title in Israel and Judah

At first the name Ba'al was used by the Jews for their God without discrimination, but as the struggle between the two religions developed, the name Ba'al was given up in Judaism as a thing of shame, and even names like Jerubba'al were changed to Jerubbosheth: Hebrew bosheth means "shame". Zondervan's Pictorial Bible Dictionary (1976) ISBN 0-310-23560-X

Since Ba‘al simply means 'Lord', there is no obvious reason why 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 (the word Hashem - 'The Name' - is substituted in everyday speech). The judge Gideon was also called Jeruba'al, a name which seems to mean 'Ba‘al strives' though Judges 6:32 makes the claim that the name was given to mock the god Ba‘al, whose shrine Gideon had destroyed, the intention being to imply: "Let Ba‘al strive as much as he can ... it will come to nothing."

After Gideon's death, according to Judges 8:33, the Israelites went astray and started to worship the Ba‘alîm (the Ba‘als) especially Ba‘al Berith ("Lord of the Covenant.") A few verses later (Judges 9:4) the story turns to all the citizens of Shechem — actually kol-ba‘alê šəkem another case of normal use of ba‘al not applied to a deity.



De Filistijnen stuurden de ark van God door naar Ekron (1 Sam. 5:10)

In Ekron werd Baal-Zebub vereerd, de vliegengod.Ekron was de meest noordelijke plaats van de Filistijnen en lag daarom  het dichtst bij Samaria, de hoofdplaats van het tiennstammenrijk.De invloed op Israel was groot.Vooral  in de tijd van Achab

Koning Achazja, de opvolger van Achab van Israël was op een kwade dag uit het venster van zijn paleis gevallen (2 Kon. 1:1-6). Daarom stuurde hij boden naar Baal-Zebub, (spreek uit Baal Zebóeb) de vliegengod van Ekron om te weten of hij weer zou herstellen van die val.Dan komt Elia de profeet naar hem toe: Is er geen God in Israel dat u helemaal naar Ekron moest gaan om Baal-Zebub te raadplegen?


Heiligdom van de haardgod.Alle goden  bij de Filistijnen heetten Baal. En Baal betekent heer, of eigenaar. Je had een Baal van de koeien, een baal van de rivier, een baal van het land, een baal van je huis. Die laatste  baal was de haardgod aan wie je offers moest brengen om veilig te kunnen wonen. De Filistijnen hadden de natuurgodsdienst van de Kanaänieten overgenomen.

In een museümpje bij de ruïne van Ekron kun je deze reconstructie zien van een Filistijnse woning: een cooking area en een pottenbakkers wiel.


De ark die door de Filistijnen bij Eben-Haëzer was uitgemaakt, werd eerst gebracht naar Asdod en uiteindelijk kwam hij in Ekron terecht. Van meetaf  kregen de bewoners van Asdod   en Gat  last van een vreselijke ziekte.(1 Sam. 5:12) De NBG vertaling heeft ”builen”en de NBV  “aambeien”

These citizens of Shechem support Abimelech's attempt to become king by giving him 70 shekels from the House of Ba‘al Berith. It is hard to dissociate this Lord of the Covenant who is worshipped in Shechem from the covenant at Shechem described earlier in Joshua 24:25 in which the people agree to worship Yahweh. It is especially hard to do so when Judges 9:46 relates that all "the holders of the tower of Shechem" (kol-ba‘alê midgal-šəkem) enter bêt ’ēl bərît 'the House of El Berith', that is, 'the House of God of the Covenant'. Was Ba‘al then here just a title for El? Or did the covenant of Shechem perhaps originally not involve El at all but some other god who bore the title Ba‘al? Or were there different viewpoints about Yahweh, some seeing him as an aspect of Hadad, some as an aspect of El, some with other theories? Again, there is no clear answer.


One also finds Eshba'al (one of Saul's sons) and Be'eliada (a son of David). The last name also appears as Eliada. This might show that at some period Ba‘al 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 substuting the form bosheth 'abomination' for ba‘al in names, whence the forms Ishbosheth instead of Eshba'al and Mephibosheth which is rendered Meriba'al in 1 Chronicles 9:40. 1 Chronicles 12:5 mentions the name Be'aliah (more accurately be‘alyâ) meaning "Yahweh is Ba‘al."

It is difficult to determine to what extent the false worship which the prophets stigmatize is the worship of Yahweh under a conception and with rites which treated him as a local nature god or whether particular features of gods more often given the title Ba‘al were consciously recognized to be distinct from Yahwism from the first. Certainly some of the Ugaritic texts and Sanchuniathon report hostility between El and Hadad, perhaps representing a cultic and religious differences reflected in Hebrew tradition also, in which Yahweh in the Tanach is firmly identified with El and might be expected to be somewhat hostile to Ba'al/Hadad and the deities of his circle. But for Jeremiah and the Deuteronomist it also appears to be monotheism against polytheism (Jeremiah 11:12):



                            Baalbeck,  Líbano 



Then shall the cities of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem go and cry to the gods to whom they offer incense: but they shall not save them at all in the time of their trouble. For according to the number of your cities are your gods, O Judah; and according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem you have set up altars to the abominination, altars to burn incense to the Ba‘al.

Does this refer to other gods and one particular god, perhaps Hadad, who is especially "the Ba‘al"? Or does it refer to altars to burn incense to "the Ba‘al" to which each altar is raised, that is to as many different Ba‘al's as there were altars?


Multiple Ba‘als and ‘Ashtarts

One finds in the Tanach the plural forms bə‘ālîm 'Ba‘als' or 'Lords' and ‘aštārôt '‘Ashtarts', though such plurals don't appear in Phoenician or Canaanite or independent Aramaic sources.

One theory is that the folks of each territory or in each wandering clan worshipped their own Ba‘al, as the chief deity of each, the source of all the gifts of nature, the mysterious god of their fathers. As the god of fertility all the produce of the soil would be his, and his adherents would bring to him their tribute of first-fruits. He would be the patron of all growth and fertility, and, by the use of analogy characteristic of early thought, this Ba'al would be the god of the productive element in its widest sense. Originating perhaps in the observation of the fertilizing effect of rains and streams upon the receptive and reproductive soil, Ba'al worship became identical with nature-worship. Joined with the Ba'als there would naturally be corresponding female figures which might be called 'Ashtarts, embodiments of 'Ashtart. Ba'al Hadad is associated with the goddess "Virgin" Anat, his sister and lover.

Les dieux de Carthage (pdf)



Through analogy and through the belief that one can control or aid the powers of nature by the practice of magic, particularly sympathetic magic, sexuality might characterize part of the cult of the Ba'als and 'Ashtarts. Post-Exilic allusions to the cult of Ba‘al Pe'or suggest that orgies prevailed. On the summits of hills and mountains flourished the cult of the givers of increase, and "under every green tree" was practised the licentiousness which was held to secure abundance of crops. Human sacrifice, the burning of incense, violent and ecstatic exercises, ceremonial acts of bowing and kissing, the preparing of sacred cakes (see also Asherah), appear among the offences denounced by the post-Exilic prophets; and show that the cult of Ba'al (and 'Ashtart) included characteristic features of worship which recur in various parts of the Semitic (and non-Semitic) world, although attached to other names. But it is also possible that such rites were performed to a local Ba'al 'Lord' and a local 'Ashtart without much concern as to whether or not they were the same as that of a nearby community or how they fitted into the national theology of Yahweh who had become a ruling high god of the heavens, increasingly disassociated from such things, at least in the minds of some worshippers.

Another theory is that the references to Ba'als and 'Ashtarts (and Asherahs) are to images or other standard symbols of these deities, that is statues and icons of Ba'al Hadad, 'Ashtart, and Asherah set up in various high places as well as those of other gods, the author listing the most prominent as types for all. The Deuteronomistic editor is as angered and saddened by worshiping of images as by worshiping divinities other than Yahweh and wishes to emphasize the plurality of false deities as opposed to true worship of Yahweh at his single temple in Jerusalem as called for in the reforms of Josiah.

A reminiscence of Ba'al as a title of a local fertility god (or referring to a particular god of subterraneous water) may occur in the Talmudic Hebrew phrases field of the ba'al and place of the ba'al and Arabic ba'l used of land fertilised by subterraneous waters rather than by rain.


                        Paris - Musée du Louvre: Stèle du "Baal au foudre"




48°51' 42" N, 2°20' 14" E
The stela depicting the storm god Baal is the largest and the most significant of the stelae discovered at Ras Shamra (ancient Ugarit). It was found, along with eight others, not far from Temple de Baal by the Schaeffer archaeological mission, 1932. Four others were discovered near the Temple of Dagon and another ten in various locations around the city. All date to the Late Bronze Age, eighteenth-fifteenth centuries BC.

The God Baal:

Neo-Punic Baal.jpg (89620 bytes)







The large stela bears the relief carving of a monumental male figure, towering over a much smaller figure standing on a pedestal. The bearded lion-clothed main figure is wearing a horned headdress, indicating that he is a god. He is brandishing a club in his right arm, with left outstretched carrying a spear, the head of which is stuck in the ground, while vegetation sprouts out its shaft. Today it is generally agreed that the scene depicts the god, Baal, unleashing a storm from the club in the the traditional pose of the storm gods worshiped throughout the Levant - the Greek god Zeus and the Roman god Jupiter would later take up the same pose and attributes. The metaphor of the spear sprouting a plant alludes to the beneficial effects of the rain. The small figure crouching on the small horned altar is believed to be the king of Ugarit, in ceremonial dress, his arms crossed in prayer and the recipient of divine protection. The motifs carved on the two-tiered altar on which the god stands are more difficult to interpret: is the monstrous snake who will cause the death of Baal depicted above the carved waves of the ocean? Or is it the horizon of mountains that surrounded the kingdom of Ugarit, protected by Baal, whose home is "in the innermost reaches of Mount Sapon."

Ugarit was an ancient cosmopolitan port city, sited on the Mediterranean coast of northern Syria a few kilometers north of the modern city of Latakia. Itsent tribute to Egypt and maintained trade and diplomatic connections with Cyprus (called Alashiya), documented in the archives recovered from the site and corroborated by Mycenaean and Cypriot pottery found there. The polity was at its height from ca. 1450 BC until 1200 BC




 Common confusion over Ba'al

Because the word Ba'al is used as a common substitute for the sacred name Hadad, confusion often arises when the same word is used for other deities, physical representations of gods and even people.

Historically, this confusion was resolved in the nineteenth century as new archaeological evidence indicated multiple gods bearing the title Ba'al and little about them that connected them to the sun. In 1899, the Encyclopædia Biblica article Baal by W. Robertson Smith and George F. Moore states:

That Baal was primarily a sun-god was for a long time almost a dogma among scholars, and is still often repeated. This doctrine is connected with theories of the origin of religion which are now almost universally abandoned. The worship of the heavenly bodies is not the beginning of religion. Moreover, there was not, as this theory assumes, one god Baal, worshipped under different forms and names by the Semitic peoples, but a multitude of local Baals, each the inhabitant of his own place, the protector and benefactor of those who worshipped him there. Even in the astro-theology of the Babylonians the star of Bēl was not the sun: it was the planet Jupiter. There is no intimation in the OT that any of the Canaanite Baals were sun-gods, or that the worship of the sun (Shemesh), of which we have ample evidence, both early and late, was connected with that of the Baals ; in 2 K. 235 cp 11 the cults are treated as distinct.


 The demon entitled Baal

Main article: Baal (demon)
  The Dictionnaire Infernal illustration of Baal.

The Dictionnaire Infernal illustration of Baal.



Other spellings: Bael, Baël (French), Baell.








Baal's Temple - The god of Sun

Palmyre, Syria

Baal is sometimes seen as a demon in Christianity. This is a potential source of confusion.



Until archaeological digs at Ras Shamra and Ebla uncovered texts explaining the Syrian pantheon, the demon Ba‘al Zebûb was frequently confused with various Semitic spirits and deities entitled Baal, and in some Christian writings, it might refer to a high-ranking devil or to Satan himself.

In the ancient world of the Persian Empire, as monotheistic strains of thought were gaining steam, from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea, worship of inanimate idols of wood and metal was being rejected in favor of "the one living God". In the Levant the idols were called "ba'als", each of which represented a local spirit-deity or "demon". Worship of all such spirits was rejected as immoral, and many were in fact considered malevolent and dangerous.

Early demonologists, unaware of Hadad or that "Ba'al" in the Bible referred to any number of local spirits, came to regard the term as referring to but one personage. Baal (usually spelt "Bael" in this context; there is a possibility that the two figures aren't connected) was ranked as the first and principal king in Hell, ruling over the East. According to some authors Baal is a duke, with 66 legions of demons under his command.



During the English Puritan period, Baal was either compared to Satan or considered his main lieutenant. According to Francis Barrett, he has the power to make those who invoke him invisible.

While the Semitic high god Ba'al Hadad was depicted as a human, ram or a bull, the demon Bael was in grimoire tradition said to appear in the forms of a man, cat, toad, or combinations thereof. An illustration in Collin de Plancy's 1818 book Dictionnaire Infernal rather curiously placed the heads of the three creatures onto a set of spider legs.

 Ba'al Zebûb

Main article: Beelzebub
Beelzebub as depicted in Collin de Plancy's Dictionnaire Infernal (Paris, 1825).
Beelzebub as depicted in Collin de Plancy's Dictionnaire Infernal (Paris, 1825).

Another version of the demon Baal is Beelzebub, or more accurately Ba‘al Zebûb or Ba‘al Zəbûb (Hebrew בעל-זבוב, Ba'al zvuv), who was originally the name of a deity worshipped in the Philistine city of Ekron. Ba‘al Zebûb might mean 'Lord of Zebûb', referring to an unknown place named Zebûb, a pun with 'Lord of flies', zebûb being a Hebrew collective noun meaning 'fly'. This may mean that the Hebrews were derogating the god of their enemy. Later, Christian writings referred to Ba‘al Zebûb as a demon or devil, often interchanged with Beelzebul. Either form may appear as an alternate name for Satan (or the Devil) or may appear to refer to the name of a lesser devil. As with several religions, the names of any earlier foreign or "pagan" deities often became synonymous with the concept of an adversarial entity. The demonization of Ba‘al Zebûb led to much of the modern religious personification of Satan as the adversary of the Abrahamic God.

Some scholars have suggested that Ba'al Zebul which means 'lord prince' was deliberately changed by the worshippers of Yahweh to Ba'al Zebub ('lord of the flies') in order to ridicule and protest the worship of Ba'al Zebul. (NIV Study Bible published by Zondervan)


Non-religious usage of Ba'al

Ba'al (Bet-Ayin-Lamed; בַּעַל / בָּעַל, Standard Hebrew Báʕal, Tiberian Hebrew Báʕal / Báʕal) is a northwest Semitic word signifying 'The Lord, master, owner (male), husband' cognate with Akkadian Bēl of the same meanings. The feminine form is Phoenician בעלת Baʕalat, Hebrew בַּעֲלָה Baʕalah signifying 'lady, mistress, owner (female), wife'.

The words themselves had no exclusively religious connotation, just as "father" or "lord" are used in religious meaning today—but they were not used in reference between a superior and an inferior or of a master to a slave. The words were used as titles in reference to one or various gods and goddesses, either in declaration of the deity as the Lord or Lady of a particular place (or rite), or standing alone as a term of reverence.

In the British Isles, there are many Phoenician place names left over from previous colonization and centers of trade established by these Mediterranean based sea farers (who visited Brittania primarily for tin, an important component in the manufacture of bronze) along with surviving customs (such as the British festival of Beltane, which may viably be translated as "Bel's (Ba'al's) Fire"). There is a village called Bryn-y-Baal between Buckley and Mold in Flintshire in Wales. However the 'Baal' has no religious connection. Bryn-y-Baal takes its name from the a Middle English word 'bale' (rhymes with non-rhotic 'Carl') meaning small hill. It was then written in a Welsh form as 'bâl' with a tor bach ('little roof' or 'circumflex' in English) over the 'â'. This has the effect in Welsh of lengthening the 'a' rather than the usual short 'a' (as in cat) in Welsh. This form appears on early Ordnance Survey maps. Eventually it was written in the Anglised form 'Baal' - still correctly pronounced to rhyme with 'Carl' and not 'bale' (as in hay) or bail (as in 'get out of jail') !! For full details of the researched origins - see 'Flintshire Place Names' by Hwyl Wyn Owen ISBN 978-0-7083-1242-1 published in 1995.

Also, Ba'al is a fictional Goa'uld portrayed by Cliff Simon in the television series Stargate SG-1 who makes appearances in seasons 5 through 10.

Baal is the Lord of Destruction, one of the three brother demons and rulers of Hell called the 'Prime Evils' in the video game Diablo II: Lord of Destruction.

Baal is the name of an outdoor-game not often played today.

In the RPG In Nomine Baal is hell's Demon prince of war.

Baal appears (along with Oribas, Gaap, Asmodeus, Astaroth, and Amon) as one of the six most powerful demon crests in the game Shadow Hearts: Covenant. It is a boss creature found in Gepetto's subquest, and is depicted with bird-like features and with sadistic illusionist tendencies (pretending to be Gepetto's deceased daughter/wife to get him to commit suicide). It is given no element, although his powers coincide with the element of wind and he exhibits a weakness toward Earth. Ironically, he was depicted (with the other 63 demons available) to be controlled by King Solomon.

 Ba'al in Judaism

From the Tanach: Genesis 14:13 ba‘alê bərît-’Abrām 'lords of the covenant of Abram', i.e. 'holders of an agreement with Abram', i.e. 'confederates of Abram' or 'allies of Abram'; Genesis 20:3: bə‘ulat bā‘al 'lady of a lord', i.e. 'wife of a man'; Genesis 37:19: ba‘al haḥalōmôt 'lord of the dreams', i.e. 'the one who made himself important in his dreams' or simply 'the dreamer'; Exodus 21:3: ba‘al ’iššâ 'lord of a woman', i.e. 'married man'; Exodus 21:22: ba‘al hā’iššâ 'lord of the woman', i.e. 'husband of the woman'; Exodus 24:14: mî-ba‘al dəbārîm 'who (is) lord of matters', i.e. 'whoever possesses some matter', i.e. 'whoever has a problem'; Leviticus 21:4: ba‘al bə‘ēmmāyw 'lord in his people', i.e. 'man of importance among his people'; Deuteronomy 24:4: ba‘lāh hārišôn 'her lord the former', i.e. 'her former husband'; and so forth. But these should suffice to show the range of the words.

In medieval Judaism, a rabbi versed in mysticism was called Ba‘al Shem 'Master of the Name' with no perception of any connection with Ba‘al as a title for a pagan god. Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer (16981760) who founded the Hassidic movement, was commonly known during his later life as Ba‘al Shem Tov ("Good Master of the Name") and is still commonly called by that title today.

                Baal Hammon

                            Royal Ontario Museum,Canadá

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Phoenician influence in Cyprus.

"The Phoenician deity Baal Hammon became popular in Cyprus starting around 600 B.C.

"He was a god of cattle and his name meant 'Lord of the perfumed altar.'

"This deity was usually depicted crowned with rams' horns, wearing a beard, seated on a throne flanked by rams, and holding a cornucopia." 

[edit] See also


  1. ^ "This mountain on the northern horizon of Ras Shamra, modern Jebel el-Aqra and Mount Kasios of the Greeks, was the seat of Baal, who was thus Baal-Saphon. Classical and archaeological evidence suggests that Baal Zephon mentioned in the Exodus from Egypt (Exod. xiv.2) was a shrine of the Canaanite Baal". J. Gray, "Texts from Ras Shamra" in D. Winton Thomas, Documents from Old Testament Times

 External links


In the middle course of the masonry on the outer wall of the Acropolis at Baalbek in Lebanon, there are three great stones each measuring 63 ft. long by thirteen feet high by 10ft. thick.

Baalbek Wall
user posted image

user posted image

Baalbek is located about halfway between Beirut and Damascus.

user posted image

The Acropolis is supposed to have been a Roman Temple dedicated to the god Jupiter-Baal, but no classical scholar has yet been able to explain how three massive cut stones could have been lifted to rest on a substructure 23ft. high.

Neither Bechtel nor the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the leading experts on heavy lifting and moving can do that feat today even with the most sophisticated machinery. Each stone after all weighs in the region of 1,200 tons.

user posted image

Even more puzzling is the largest cut-stone known to exist anywhere which is found in the quarry within sight of the Acropolis, about half a mile away. This quarry was presumably the origin of the massive stones in place in the Acropolis. This stone is 68ft. long and roughly 14 ft. square. Its enormity can be judged by noticing the small figure of a man sitting on its top with his friend just below and slightly to the right.

user posted image

The challenge is clear. Who and what can move any of these stones today and more importantly how were they moved in the first place?


                                      Temple of Baal Shamin


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                                            Babylonian Gods

© Dr M D Magee
Contents Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2001


Marduk was one of the offspring of Ea. Marduk was also Bel or Lord. He is the equivalent of Mithras in Persian religion, and Christ in Christianity. His name is shortened from Amar-uduk, “the young steer of day”, suggesting he was the morning or rising sun, the sun god in his beneficient aspect. Many hymns were written to him. Just as Bel meant “lord”, and was used, like the Ph�nician Baal, of the chief god of any city, so Beltu meant “lady”, the chief goddess. Aruru was one of the names of the “lady of the gods”, and aided Marduk to make the seed of mankind. Ama, Mama and Mami are her other names probably so called as the mother of all things. The Hebrew “Am ha Eretz” can be read as “Mother Earth”. The various gods of pre-Persian Babylon and Assyria.


Do not expect total logic in any natural mythology. They evolved, they were not devised to be sensible. In times before the empire formed, cities each had their own god, and the roles of the gods were pretty much the same, albeit with a local emphasis. When the cities joined into a nation, the gods became a pantheon and the temples specialized. Thus myths exist in which the name of a god is one then another in different versions. Ea and Enlil had the same role, for example, in different versions of a myth.


The name of this divinity is derived from the Sumerian “ana”, “heaven”, of which he was the principal deity. Anu was the visible sky, but was also the invisible heavens considered beyond the sky, so already the Sumerians had the idea of transcendence. He is called the father of the great gods, though, in the creation-story, he is the son of Ansar and Kisar. In early names he is described as the father, creator, and god, probably meaning the supreme being. His consort was Anatu, and the pair are regarded in the lists as the same as the Lahmu and Lahame of the creation-story, who, with other deities, are also described as gods of the heavens. Anu was worshipped at Erech, along with Ishtar.

Ea (Aa, Yah, Yehouah)

Ea is “king of the Abyss, creator of everything, lord of all”. Aa is a word which may mean “waters”, or if read “Ea”, “house of water”. The Abyss is not sinister as it sounds to us. It is the watery foundation of the world (compare Genesis 1). Ea was the ocean stream that surrounded the earth like a serpent and fed all the rivers and lakes. He, like Anu, is called “father of the gods”. As “Lord of Wisdom” (the meaning of Ahuramazda), his son Marduk went to him for advice.

Ea as the Waters of Life denoted by a Serpent-like Zig-Zag Assyrian priest in the role of Oannes

He was depicted as a serpent (zig-zag, waves) and held to be a benefactor of humanity, but his jealousy deprived humanity of immortality. Ea had given to humanity culture and skills, and was the god of healing who had revealed medicines to mankind. He was the god of artisans in general—potters, blacksmiths, sailors, builders, stone-cutters, gardeners, seers, barbers, farmers. This is the Aos (a form which confirms the reading Aa) of Damascius.


He was depicted as a goat-headed fish—the zodiacal sign Capricorn, December being the onset of the main rains, when the seed is sown. The Greeks called him Oannes (John), and his priests wore a scaly cloak. This is the Oannes of Berosus, who states that he was “a creature endowed with reason, with a body like that of a fish, and under the fish’s head another head, with feet below, like those of a man, with a fish’s tail”. This description applies fairly well to certain bas-reliefs from Nimrud in the British Museum. Berosus said he lived in the Persian Gulf, landing during the day to teach the inhabitants the building of houses and temples, the cultivation of useful plants, the gathering of fruits, and also geometry, law, and letters. A H Sayce, the Assyrialogist, tells us judgements in Assyrian legal cases were to be made “according to the statutes”, “the law book”, and the “writing of the god, Ea”.

Adam and Eve with Tree of Life?

He was worshipped at Eridu, called the Holy City, which was the centre of the world, and had a sacred grove or garden where a single tree of life and knowledge grew. He is Yehouah (Ea, Yah)!

The name of his consort, Damkina or Dakina, probably means “the eternal spouse”, and her other name, “Lady of the earth”, indicates her province. She is often mentioned in the incantations with Ea. The water god fertilised the earth goddess. Ea was the god of fertility, hence this ending to the poetical description of the ship of Ea:

May the ship before thee bring fertility, May the ship after thee bring joy, In thy heart may it make joy of heart.

Among the passengers in the ship were Enki (Ea), and Asari-lu-duga, who is Osiris evidently identifed with Marduk here. All through the story of the Flood it was the god Ea who favoured Utnapistim, the Babylonian Noah, for his faithfulness, and afterwards gave him salvation from the Flood and immortality with the gods.

Bel (Enlil, El) and Beltis

The deity mentioned next in this list is called “older Bel”, by Tiglath-pileser I in describing the temple which he built for him at Assur (about 1200 BC) to distinguish him from Bel-Marduk. Bel, whose name means “the lord”, was so called because he was regarded as chief of the gods. Being a god of the rain or storm, he is regarded as having formed a trinity with Anu, the god of heaven, and Ea, the god of the deep, and prayer to these three was as good as invoking all the gods of the universe.

Beltis was properly only the spouse of the older Bel, but as Beltu, her Babylonian name, simply meant “lady” in general (just as Bel or Belu meant “Lord”), it became a title which could be given to any goddess, and was in fact borne by Zerpanitum, Ishtar, Nanna, and others. The name of the city over which the special Beltu presided had to be given to distinguish them. Besides having her earthly seat with the older Bel in Nippur, the Assyrians sometimes name Beltu the spouse of Assur, their national god, suggesting an identification with Bel, latterly Bel Marduk.

The Older Bel is also Enlil or En-lilla, pronounced Illila (Ilum, Il, El), “lord of mist”, god of the underworld, his consort being Nan-lilla, “the lady of the mist”, Beltu, “the Lady”, the original Lilith, the Jewish “night-monster”. The Mesopotamian night monster, Lilu or Lila, was masculine but had a companion called his handmaid or servant. The original Sumerian, “lila”, seems to mean “mist”, though the Semitic root, “lil” or “layl”, whence the Hebrew “layil” and Arabic “layl”, means “night”. To the word “lilu” the ancient Babylonians formed a feminine “lilithu”, perhaps Lilu’s handmaid, which entered the Hebrew language under the form of “lilith”. According to the rabbis, she was a beautiful woman who lay in wait for children by night—Lamashtu.

Enu-restu or Nirig

Enu-restu means “primeval lord”, and “lord” that of the first element, “ni” in the Sumerian form. One of the descriptions of this divinity is “assarid ilani ahe-su”, “the eldest of the gods his brothers”. This deity was a special favourite among the Assyrians, many of whose kings, to say nothing of private persons, bore his name as a component part of theirs. He is described as being the son of Bel, and in the likeness of Anu. The inscriptions call him “god of war”, though, unlike Nergal, he was not at the same time god of disease and pestilence. Apparently, he rode in a chariot of the sacred lapis-lazuli against the gods of hostile lands. Anu having endowed him with terrible glory, the gods of the earth feared to attack him, and his onrush was as that of a storm-flood. He was “the hero, whose net overthrows the enemy, who summons his army to plunder the hostile land, the royal son who caused his father to bow down to him from afar”. “The son who sat not with the nurse, and eschewed(?) the strength of milk”, “the offspring who did not know his father”. “He rode over the mountains and scattered seed—unanimously the plants proclaimed his name to their dominion, among them like a great wild bull he raises his horns”.


This deity was popular in both Babylonia and Assyria. He was the great messenger of the gods, and is variously given as “the offspring of the abyss, the creation of Ea”, and “the likeness of his father, the first-born of Bel”. Gibil, the fire-god, has the same diverse parentage, so two gods were probably the same. Nusku was the god whose command is supreme, the counsellor of the great gods, the protector of the Igigi (the gods of the heavens), the great and powerful one, the glorious day, the burning one, the founder of cities, the renewer of sanctuaries, the provider of feasts for all the Igigi, without whom no feast took place in E-kura. Like Nebo, he bore the glorious sceptre, and it was said of him that he attacked mightily in battle. Without him the sun-god, the judge, could not give judgment.

Nusku may not have been the fire-god, but the brother of the fire-god, either flame, or the light of fire. The sun-god, without light, could not see, and therefore could not give judgment. No feast could be prepared without fire and its flame. As the evidence of the presence of the shining orbs in the heavens—the light of their fires—he was the messenger of the gods, and was honoured accordingly. He became the messenger especially of Bel Marduk, the younger Bel, whose requests he carried to the god Ea in the Deep. In one inscription he is identified with Nirig or Enu-restu, who is described above.

Nebo and Tasmetum

Marduk’s son was Nebo (in Semitic Babylonian, Nabu), the messenger, Mercury. As “the teacher” and “the hearer” Nebo and Tasmetum were among the most popular of the deities of Babylonia and Assyria. Nebo achieved his greatest importance after 800 BC. In men’s names, this god occurs more than any other, even including Marduk himself—a clear indication of the estimation in which the Babylonians and Assyrians held the possession of knowledge. Many of the Neo-Babylonian kings bore his name in theirs (Nebuchadnezzer, Nabonidus) and during the neo-Babylonian dynasty Nebo may have been replacing Marduk as the most important of the gods, just as Marduk had replaced Bel.

Ziggurat: Tower of Babel

His special cult city was Borsippa, now the Birs Nimrud, near Babylon. Nebo was worshipped at the temple-tower known as Ezida, “the everlasting house”, at Borsippa, traditionally regarded as the site of the Tower of Babel, though that title, would best suit the similar structure known as Esagila, “the house of the high head”, in Babylon itself.

Under the name of Dim-sara he was “the creator of the writing of the scribes”, as Ni-zu, “the god who knows” (zu, “to know”), as Mermer, “the speeder(?) of the command of the gods”—on the Sumerian side indicating some connection with Addu or Rimmon, “the thunderer”, and on the Semitic side with Enu-restu, who was one of the gods’ messengers.

There was a mountain bearing his name in Moab, upon which Moses—an “announcer”—died. Besides the mountain, there was a city in Moab so named, and another in Judaea, both of which meaning the Babylonian Nebo because the corresponding word in Hebrew is “nabi”.

A seal-impression on an early tablet shows a male figure with wide-open mouth seizing a stag by his horns, and a female figure with no mouth at all, but with prominent ears, holding a bull in a similar manner. Here we have the “teacher” and the “hearer” personified, perhaps meaning these two deities.

The worship of Nebo and the gods associated with him continued until the fourth century of the Christian era



 This Temple was dedicated to Baal Shamin, the god of storms and fertilising rains.;Palmira

Los dioses de Palmira

Shamash (Shamash) and his Consort

God of the Heavens (Baal Shamayim?) flanked by Sin and Shamash. Phœnician

The worship of the sun in Babylonia and Assyria was always popular, but Shamash did not become chief god, as in Egypt. Marduk was also a sun-god, but with broader attributes.

The lunar inclinations of the Jews under the Greeks illustrated by their preference for counting days from the onset of night, suggests they derived their ideas of God from the god Sin, rather than the sun, but evidence from the Scrolls shows that some Jews still oriented towards a solar god and counted days from dawn. In Mesopotamia, the sun was the offspring of Nannara or Sin, the moon. Shamash is described as “the light of things above and things below, the illuminator of the regions”, “the supreme judge of heaven and earth”, “the lord of living creatures, the gracious one of the lands”. He was the constantly righteous in heaven, the truth within the ears of the lands, the god knowing justice and injustice, righteousness he supported upon his shoulders, unrighteousness he burst asunder like a leather bond. The sun-god was the great god of judgment and justice. He is constantly called “the judge”, the reason being, that the sun shines upon the earth all day long, and his light penetrates everywhere, so he knew and investigated everything, and was therefore best in a position to judge aright, and deliver a just decision. His image appears at the head of the stele inscribed with Hammurabi’s laws, and legal ceremonies were performed within the precincts of his temples. The chief seats of his worship were the great temples called E-babbara, “the house of great light”, in the cities of Larsa and Sippar.

The consort of Shamash was Aa, whose chief seat was at Sippar, side by side with Shamash. Aa, with the name of Burida in Sumerian, was more especially the consort of Sa-zu, “him who knows the heart”, one of the names of Marduk, who was probably the morning sun, the night time sun or the winter rainy sun.

The sun god had several other non-Semitic names, including “the light”, “the rising sun”, Mitra, identifying him with the Persian Mithras, and Sahi, the Kassite name of the sun. He also has the names of his attendants Kittu and Mesaru, “Truth” and “Righteousness”, who guided him upon his path as judge of the earth


Tammuz and Ishtar

Tammuz is always called “the shepherd”, and had a domain where he pastured his flock. According to the classic story, the mother of Adonis (Tammuz) had offended Aphrodite, who, in revenge, made her have incestuous intercourse with her own father. Pursued by her father, who wished to kill her for this crime, she prayed to the gods, and was turned into a tree, from whose trunk Adonis was afterwards born. Aphrodite was so charmed with the infant that, placing him in a chest, she gave him into the care of Persephone, who, however, when she discovered what a treasure she had in her keeping, refused to part with him again. Zeus was appealed to, and decided that for four months in the year Adonis should be left to himself, four should be spent with Aphrodite, and four with Persephone, or six should be spent with Aphrodite on earth and six with Persephone in Hades. He was afterwards slain, whilst hunting, by a wild boar.

Whilst on earth, he was the one who nourished the ewe and her lamb, the goat and her kid, and also caused them to be slain—probably in sacrifice. Ishtar, the Babylonian Venus, went in search of him in Hades, but little more is known. However, the whole story will have spread from Babylonia to Phœnicia, and thence to Greece. In Phœnicia, Tammuz encountered the boar in the mountains of Lebanon, where the river named after him, Adonis (the Nahr Ibrahim) ran red with his blood, really the earth washed down by the autumn rains. The descent of Tammuz to the underworld, typified by the flowing down of the earth-laden waters of the rivers to the sea, was not only celebrated by the Phœnicians, but also by the Babylonians, who had at least two series of lamentations which were used on this occasion, and were probably the originals of those chanted by the Hebrew women in the account in Ezekiel. “He has gone, he has gone to the bosom of the earth”, the mourners cried, “he will make plenty to overflow for the land of the dead, for its lamentations for the day of his fall, in the unpropitious month of his year”. The various religious days were recognized in commerce and the Egibi bank, for example had in its calendar, entries like:

2 Tammuz (June)—a day of weeping.

There was also lamentation for the cessation of the growth of vegetation, and one of these hymns, after addressing him as the shepherd and husband of Ishtar, “lord of the underworld”, and “lord of the shepherd’s seat”, goes on to liken him to a germ which has not absorbed water in the furrow, whose bud has not blossomed in the meadow, to the sapling which has not been planted by the watercourse, and to the sapling whose root has been removed. In the “Lamentations” in the Manchester Museum, Ishtar, or one of her devotees, seems to call for Tammuz, saying, “Return, my husband”, as she makes her way to the region of gloom in quest of him. Ereshkigal, “the lady of the great house” (Persephone), is also referred to, and the text seems to imply that Ishtar entered her domain in spite of her. In this text other names are given to him, namely, “son of the flute”, and “life of the people”.

In an incantation for purification, the subject is told to get the milk of a yellow goat which has been brought forth in the sheep-fold of Tammuz, recalling the flocks of the Greek sun god Helios, the clouds illuminated by the sun, likened to sheep. A Sumerian expressions for “fleece” was “sheep of the sky”. The name of Tammuz in Sumerian is Dumuzi, or in its rare fullest form, Dumuzida, meaning “true” or “faithful son”, the reason for the title being lsot to us. Sayce says a title of Tammuz was “Only Begotten”.

Ishtar, the spouse of Tammuz, best known from her descent into Hades, had to pass through seven gates, and an article of clothing was taken from her at each, until she arrived in the underworld quite naked, typifying the teaching, that man can take nothing away with him when he departs this life. On her arrival in Hades, Ereskigal commanded Namtaru, the god of fate, to smite Ishtar with disease in all her members—eyes, sides, feet, heart, and head. During her absence, love left the earth and things began to go wrong. The gods had to intervene, sending a messenger to demand her release, which was ultimately granted. When the messenger reached the land of No Return, the queen of the region threatened him with all kinds of torments—the food of the gutters of the city were to be his food, the oil-jars of the city (naptha?) his drink, the gloom of the castle his resting-place, a stone slab his seat, and hunger and thirst were to shatter his strength.

These were evidently the punishments inflicted there, but as the messenger threatened was a divine one, they could not be effected, and he obtained his demand, for Ishtar was set free. At each gate, as she returned, the clothing and adornments which had been taken from her when she had descended there were given back to her, in reverse order. Whether Tammuz, for whom she had gone down, was set free also, is unclear in the parts of the legend we have but the end implies that Ishtar was successful in her mission, and must therefore have been reunited with her husband. The Greek myths of Adonis, outlined above, and Persephone seem to replace the God with the Maiden who is herself reunited with her mother, Demeter for a season. It is hard to imagine the stories have different origins and conclusions.

Ishtar, as goddess of love and war, was more generally popular than her spouse, Tammuz, who was adored by women rather than the men. She was also Innanna, Ennen, and Nina, whilst a not uncommon name in other inscriptions is Ama-Innanna, “mother Ishtar”. The principal seat of her worship in Babylonia was at Erech, and in Assyria at Nineveh, but also at Arbela, and many other places. She was also honoured under the Elamite names of Tispak and Susinak, “the Susian goddess”.


From the name Nin, Ishtar is also Nina. Identified with Aruru, the goddess who helped Marduk to create mankind, Ishtar was also regarded as the mother of all, and in the Babylonian story of the Flood, she is made to say that she had begotten man, but like “the sons of the fishes”, he filled the sea. Nina, as another form of Ishtar, was a goddess of creation, typified in the teeming life of the ocean, and her name is written with a character standing for a house or receptacle, with the sign for “fish” within. Her earliest seat was the city of Nina in southern Babylonia, from which place, in all probability, colonists went northwards, and founded another shrine at Nineveh in Assyria, which became the great centre of her worship, and was called Ninaa or Ninua after her. As their tutelary goddess, the fishermen in the neighbourhood of the Babylonian Nina and Lagas were accustomed to make to her, as well as to Innanna or Ishtar, large offerings of fish.

Nin-Gursu and his Consort

This deity was son of Enlila or Bel, and was identified with Nirig or Enurestu. He was a sun deity. In an incantation for the Sumerian “Take a white kid of En-Mersi (Nin-Gursu)”, the Semitic translation is “of Tammuz”, showing that he was identified with the latter god. Nin-Girsu is the name of the god of agriculturalists, confirming this identification, Tammuz being also god of agriculture.

She was the “mother” of Lagas, and spouse of Nin-Girsu. Like Nin-Girsu, she planted grain and vegetation, but she also also planted the seed of men, sounding like Aruru. In her character of the goddess who gave life to men, and healed their bodies in sickness, she was identified with Gula, one of those titles is “the lady saving from death”.

Ereshkigal or Allatu

The meaning of her name is “lady of the great region”, a description which means the land of the dead, and of which a variant, “lady of the great house”, occurs in the Hymns to Tammuz in the Manchester Museum. One of the El-Armana tablets states that the gods once made a feast, and sent to Ereshkigal, saying that, though they could go down to her, she could not ascend to them, and asking her to send a messenger to fetch away the food destined for her. This she did, and all the gods stood up to receive her messenger, except one, who seems to have withheld this token of respect.

The messenger, when he returned, related to Ereshkigal what had happened, and angered thereat, she sent him back to the presence of the gods, asking for the delinquent to be delivered to her, that she might kill him. The gods then discussed the question of death with the messenger, and told him to take to his mistress the god who had not stood up in his presence. When the gods were brought together, that the culprit might be recognised, one of them remained in the background, and on the messenger asking who it was who did not stand up, it was found to be Nergal.

This god was duly sent, but was not at all inclined to be submissive, for instead of killing him, as she had threatened, Ereshkigal found herself seized by the hair and dragged from her throne, whilst the death-dealing god made ready to cut off her head. “Do not kill me, my brother, let me speak to thee”, she cried, and on his loosing his hold upon her hair, she continued, “thou shalt be my husband, and I will be thy wife—I will cause you to take dominion in the wide earth. I will place the tablet of wisdom in thine hand—thou shalt be lord, I will be lady”. Nergal thereupon took her, kissed her, and wiped away her tears, saying, “Whatever thou hast asked me for months past now receives assent”.

Ereshkigal did not treat her rival in the affections of Tammuz so gently when Ishtar descended to Hades in search of the “husband of her youth”. Not only was Ishtar deprived of her garments and ornaments, but by the orders of Ereshkigal, Namtar smote her with disease in all her members. Not until the gods intervened was Ishtar set free.


He is “lord of the great habitation”, in parallel to his spouse Ereshkigal. He ruled Hades, and was god of war and of disease and pestilence. As “the warrior, the fierce storm-flood overthrowing the land of the enemy”, he fought on the side of those who worshipped him. He differs from Nirig, another god of war, in symbolizing the misery and destruction which accompany the strife of nations. As a consequence of this side he is also god of fire, the destroying element. He was god of the midday or of the summer sun, and therefore of all the misfortunes caused by an excess of his heat.

The chief centre of his worship was Cuthah, Sumerian Gudua, near Babylon, now represented by the mounds of Tel Ibrahim. He is the equal of the Greek Ares and the Roman Mars.


Amurru is “Lord of the mountains”, and his worship became popular in the dynasty to which Hammurabi belonged, about 1800 BC, when Amurru was much combined with the names of men, and is found both on tablets and cylinder-seals. It is Martu in ideograms, a word that is used for Amurru, the land of the Amorites, which stood for the West. Amorites entered Babylonia in number during this period.

Sin or Nannara

The cult of the moon-god was one of the most popular in Babylonia, the chief seat of his worship being at Uru (now Muqayyar) the Biblical Ur of the Chaldees. The origin of the name Sin is unknown, but it is thought that it may be a corruption of Zu-ena, “knowledge-lord”, as the compound ideograph expressing his name may be read and translated. Sin and Sinai in the bible are the same word, and Zion probably is too. Besides this compound ideograph, the name of the god Sin was also expressed by the character for “30”, provided with the prefix of divinity, an ideograph which is due to the thirty days of the month, and is thought to be of late date.

Nannar is described as “the lord, prince of the gods, who in heaven alone is supreme”, and as “father Nannar”, “great Anu”, “lord of Ur”, “lord of the temple Gisnu-gala”, “lord of the shining crown”. He is also said to be “the mighty steer whose horns are strong, whose limbs are perfect, who is bearded with a beard of lapis-stone, who is filled with beauty and fullness (of splendour)”.

Besides Babylonia and Assyria, he was also worshipped in other parts of the Semitic east, especially at Harran, to which city Abraham migrated, scholars say, in consequence of the patron-deity being the same as at Ur of the Chaldees, where he had passed the earlier years of his life. The Mountain of Sinai and the Desert of Sin, both bear his name.

The spouse of Sin or Nannara was Nin-Uruwa, “the lady of Ur”. Sargon of Assyria (722-705 BC) calls her Nin-gala. Their children were Shamash, Ishtar, and Adad.

Aku is the moon-god among the heavenly bodies. It is this name which is regarded as occurring in the name of the Babylonian king Eri-Aku, “servant of the moon-god”, the biblical Arioch (Gen 14).

Addu or Rammanu

Hadad bears many names in the inscriptions, testifying to his popularity. Among his non-Semitic names may be mentioned Mer, Mermer, Muru. Addu is explained as being his name in the Amorite language, and a variant form, apparently, which has lost its first syllable, namely, Dadu, also appears—the Assyrians seem always to have used the terminationless form of Addu, namely, Adad. Addu, Adad, and Dadu might be derived from the West Semitic Hadad, but the other name, Rammanu, is native Babylonian, and cognate with Rimmon, which is thus shown by the Babylonian form to mean “the thunderer”.

He was the god of winds, storms, and rain. In his name Birqu, he appears as the god of lightning. He is sometimes associated with Shamash, was a “god of justice”. In the Assyrian inscriptions he appears as a god of war, and the kings constantly compare the destruction which their armies had wrought with that of “Adad the inundator”. For them he was “the mighty one, inundating the regions of the enemy, lands and houses”, and was prayed to strike the land of the person who showed hostility to the Assyrian king, with evil-working lightning, to throw want, famine, drought, and corpses therein, to order that he should not live one day longer, and to destroy his name and his seed in the land.

The original seat of his worship was Muru an unknown place. The consort of Addu was Sala, whose worship was likewise popular, and to whom there were temples, not only in Babylonia and Assyria, but also in Elam, seemingly always in connection with Addu.

Abil-addu was “the son of Hadad”, the equivalent of the Syrian Ben-Hadad. A tablet in New York shows that his name was weakened in form to Ablada.


The Assyrian religion was mainly that of Babylonia, and that was mainly Sumerian. so, none of these gods are specifically Assyrian, though worshipped by the Assyrians. Assur, the national god of Assyria, who was worshipped in the city of Assur, the old capital of the country, however, is not found in the Babylonian lists of gods.

Assur was the local god of the city whose name he bore, and became chief god of the Assyrian pantheon just as Marduk became king of the gods in Babylonia—because Assur was the capital of the country. Around the eighth century BC, Assur, seems to have been seen as Ansar of the first tablet of the Creation-story, the “host of heaven”. Damascius transcribed Ansar as Assoros, suggesting the pronunciation was Assur. So, Assur the god of the city of the same name became associated with Ansar, and thus a local city god became a god of heaven. Assur was called the “Lord of the Hosts of Heaven and Earth”, the title used in the bible of Yehouah—Lord of Hosts.

Temples to him were to be found all over the Assyrian kingdom, Assyria being more closely united than Babylonia. The god followed the king on warlike expeditions, and the king stood for the god on earth in engaged in religious ceremonies. God and king were probably thought of as inseperable. On sculptures, Assur accompanies the king in the form of a winged circle, in which is shown sometimes a full-length figure of the god in human form, sometimes the upper part only, facing towards and drawing his bow against the foe.

As a sun-god, but not Shamash, he resembled the Babylonian Marduk, and was possibly identified with him, especially as, in at least one text, Beltu (Beltis) is described as his consort, which would possibly identify Assur’s spouse with Zerpanitum. His identification with Marduk, if that was ever accepted, may have been helped by the likeness of Assur to Asari, one of Marduk’s names.

Assur also meant or came to mean “holy” and sometimes is repeated three times. Asur as another form of Asir found in early Cappadocian names, a form of Asiru, a title of Marduk, apparently meaning Lord in the sense of overlord or guardian. Persian Ahura means Lord, from Asura.

As he represented no personification or power of nature, but the general protecting spirit of the land, the king, the army, and the people, the capital of the country could be transferred from Assur to Calah, from there back to Assur, and finally to Nineveh, without affecting the position of the protecting god of the land in any way. He had no need to fear that he should suffer in esteem by the preference for some other god. If he was the “host of heaven”, all the deities might be regarded as having their being in him.

The spouse of Assur does not appear in the historical texts, and her mention elsewhere under the title of Beltu, “the lady”, does not allow of any identification being made. In one inscription, Assuritu is called the goddess, and Assur the god, of the star Sib-zi-anna, possibly Regulus, which was apparently the star of Marduk in Babylonia.


An ancient god, Dagan, is generally identified with the Phœnician Dagon. Hammurabi seems to speak of the Euphrates as being “the boundary of Dagan”, whom he calls his creator. In later inscriptions the form Daguna, which approaches nearer to the West Semitic form, is found in a few personal names. Phœnician statues showed him with the lower part of his body in the form of a fish (1 Sam 5:4). Whether the deities clothed in a fish’s skin in the Nimrud gallery are Dagon or not is uncertain—they may be intended to be Ea or Aa, the Oannes of Berosus, who was represented in this way. The two deities might have been the same.


Marduk was one of the offspring of Ea. There is little to connect him with Shamash, but he was originally a sun god, as the etymology of his name shows. The form is shortened from “Amar-uduk”, “the young steer of day”, a name which suggests that he was the morning or rising sun, the sun god in his beneficient aspect. Marduk was also Bel or Lord. He is the equivalent of Mithras in Persian religion, and Christ in Christianity. Many hymns were written to him.

Marduk had many other names, among which may be mentioned Asari, which has been compared with the Egyptian Osiris, Asari-lu-duga, “Asari who is good”, compared with Osiris Unnefer—Namtila, “life”—Tutu, “begetter, renewer”—Sarazaga, “the glorious incantation”—Mu-azaga, “the glorious charm”. Sayce says he is also the “Restorer to Life” and the “Raiser from the Dead”.

Professor Edward Chiera translated the original Babylonian Creation myths from a Sumerian tablet. A serious conflict arose among the gods over whether a slave race (humanity) should be created or not. They disagree. The dragon, Tiamat, was against it, and fought Bel until it was overcome by Bel’s thunderbolts. Then God, Bel, created humanity. The New testament makes fresh use of the ancient tale in this way:

And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought, and prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world. He was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
Revelation 12:7

Here it is plain that Bel, who is also Marduk, is Michael, and Tiamat is the Devil, Satan. He was considered the intermediary between Ea and the human world, advising Ea on what went on, and on mankind’s suffering. By his kindness, he obtained from his father Ea, dwelling in the outer world or abyss, instructions on how to relieve the suffering, and charms and incantations to do it, and restore the sick to health. So he is “the merciful one”, but most merciful was he in that he spared the lives of the gods who had sided with Tiamat. E A Wallis Budge (Babylonian Life and History) says:

The omnipresent and omnipotent Marduk (Merodach) was the god, who “went before Ea” and was the healer and mediator for mankind. He revealed to mankind the knowledge of Ea; in all incantations he is invoked as the god “mighty to save” against evil and ill.
Marduk Defeats Chaos in the form of the Monster Tiamat

In connection with the fight, he bore also the names, “annihilator of the enemy”, “rooter out of all evil”, “troubler of the evil ones”, “life of the whole of the gods”. From these names it is clear that Marduk, in defeating Tiamat, annihilated, at the same time, the spirit of evil. So, he is the redeemer of mankind who fought the powers of evil. In a bas relief in the British Museum, Marduk pursues Tiamat who was chaos, and was depicted with a tail, claws and horns! She was the Babylonian Satan, the idea underlying the identity of Eve and the serpent. Sanskrit has a number of words meaning darkness formed from the root TM, and one wonders whether our word “time” and “Tiamat” are related in that time causes corruption or chaos.

A Canaanite God like Marduk separates the Forces of Chaos

As “king of the heavens”, he was identified with the largest of the planets, Jupiter, as well as with other heavenly bodies. Jupiter seemed to superintend the stars, and Marduk was seen as shepherding them—“pasturing the gods like sheep”, as the tablet has it.

In images of the creation epic, Marduk often has two faces, showing him to have been a likely model for the Sabine god, Janus, adopted by the Romans, also a god of the morning. The Babylonian creation epic was enacted each new year, the two faces looking backwards on to the pre-creation chaos and forwards to the order created. Despite Marduk being the chief of the gods, Nabu, judging by theophoric names, was the most popular.


Marduk’s consort was Zerpanitum (Zer-banitum) considered the “seed-creatress”. She was also called Aru’a in an inscription of Antiochus Soter (280-260 BC) read as “the queen who produces birth”. She seems to be identical with Aruru, who created the seed of mankind along with Marduk. She was also called “the lady of the abyss”, and elsewhere “the voice of the abyss” for no known reason. Zerpanitum was one of the most important goddesses in the Babylonian pantheon. The tendency of scholars has been to identify her with the moon, Marduk being a solar deity and the meaning “silvery”—Zerpanitum, from sarpu, one of the words for “silver”, was regarded as supporting this idea. She was identified with the Elamite goddess named Elagu, and with the Lahamum of the island of Bahrein, the Babylonian Tilmun.

Just as Bel meant “lord”, and was used, like the Phœnician Baal, of the chief god of any city, so Beltu meant “lady”, the chief goddess of any place. Aruru was one of the names of the “lady of the gods”, and aided Marduk to make the seed of mankind. At first she was “Aruru, lady of the gods of Sippar of Aruru”, in the time of the dynasty of Hammurabi called Ya’ruru. Another was “Nin-hur-saga, lady of the gods of Kes”. Mama and Mami are other names of “the lady of the gods”, equated with the creatress of the seed of mankind, Aruru, probably so called as the “mother” of all things. Another name of this goddess is Ama, “mother”. The Hebrew “Am ha Eretz” can be read as “Mother Earth


Ampliar la imagen

Scanned from:
The Sea Traders
Time-Life Books
Copyright 1974
Pages 104-122

Of Gods, Priests and Sacrifices

Ugarit, that ancient Canaanite city up the coast from Byblos, was sacked and leveled by invading sea people or by pirates in about 1234 B.C., probably within a few decades of the fall of Troy. It could even be called an unsung Troy because Ugarit had neither a Homer nor a later history; it was never reoccupied or rebuilt. Rich as it was, it might never have been remembered at all except as a mound of earth-covered rubble had it not been excavated by the archeologist Claude Schaeffer in 1929.

What Schaeffer found at Ugarit was by far the largest collection yet discovered of proto-Phoenician clay tablets dealing with religion and myths. Scholars argue over whether the Ugaritic texts properly can be called Phoenician. They do not argue over the many insights these valuable texts gave into what the Phoenicians believed.

An important fact that the Ugaritic texts help confirm is the connection between many of the religions of that time and that part of the world. Whether Canaanite, Assyrian, Babylonian or primitive Greek, the general structure of the pantheon was the same, although the names of the gods and goddesses-and some of their specific attributes-changed from place to place. Thus, though it cannot be established for certain that the cults that emerged in the various Phoenician cities are descended directly from those described in the Ugaritic texts, it is clear that the cults are closely related. It can be assumed that they had a common Canaanite origin and diverged increasingly through the passage of time. With this model in - mind, the Phoenician pantheon can be described.

Its head was a male deity called El in Ugarit. His name meant simply "god," and he seems to have incorporated within himself the widest aspects of a universal deity. He was called "the father of the gods," "the creator of creators." For all this, he seems to have been a rather passive deity who continued to exist as a shadowy father figure for the other gods and goddesses in the later pantheons of the many Phoenician cities.

The active role was taken by Baal, the god of storms. It is Baal's identification with strength, violence, youth, dynamism that characterizes his position as the leading male god throughout Phoenicia, 13aa1 has come down to us as the Phoenician god, the one who personified for the Hebrew prophets a faith that was all too competitive with their own. The Bible is full of thunderous declamations against the evils of Baal. He represents, by extension, the entire non-Hebrew Semitic pantheon, with all its trappings of multigods, infant sacrifice, idol worship and so on.

Actually there was a great deal more to the Phoenician religion than Baal. It had a basic structure similar to those of a number of contemporary faiths, based on a very old myth that attempted to explain the mystery of the cycle of the seasons. El had a consort, the mother goddess, Asherah-of-the-Sea, whose son died each year to symbolize the cutting of the harvest and the drying up of the land. The son was then reborn to signal the return of spring and a new crop.

Elaborations on this myth are varied and interesting. In the Ugaritic texts Baal, who is associated with rain and life-bringing water, is the young god who dies: I-Ie disappears underground. There Baal's sister Anat comes to his rescue, finds his body and retrieves it. In another text, cited by the Canaanite scholar J: Gray, Baa1 himself fights with Mot:

They glare at each other like glowing coals: Mot is strong, Baal is strong:
They thrust at each other like wild oxen; Mot is strong, Baal is strong;
They bite like serpents;
Mot is strong, Baal is strong; They kick like stallions;
Mot is down, Baal is down on top of him.

The symbolism of the text is clear. The earth has managed to survive death and drought. The young god will appear, alive and healthy, at the time of the sprouting of the new crop in the spring.

In addition to these gods and goddesses, the Phoenician pantheon had a large number of others, some in charge of specific activities, like the Sidonian Eshmun, whose particular province was healing. Another, Dagon, was associated with wheat; still another, Reshef, with plague, and so on. To complicate matters further, identities were not stable. El and Baal, for example, assumed different names and somewhat different characteristics from city to city. In Tyre Baal became Melqart, and as such was duly exported to Carthage. The name derives from "mlk," meaning king, and "qrt," meaning city. But the god inside the new name was the same old Baal, active lord of storms, the presiding deity in most Phoenician cities. The leading female deity was the fertility goddess Astarie. Her name varies from country to country, even froin one Phoenician city to another. In the Bible she is known as Ashtoret; in Babylon, Ishtar; in ancient Greece, Aphrodite. But in Byblos she was known as Baalat, or simply "lady," clearly the feminine form - of Baal, which means "lord."

An important characteristic the Phoenician faith had in common with others of its day was sacrifice. The ceremonies had two purposes. The simpler and more direct intention was to appease the god, make him think well of you, smile on your hopes, temper his wrath. The second purpose of the rites was the strengthening of the god himself. Giving up something to him, particularly something that was extremely valuable to you, enhanced his own worth and ultimately his power. Failure to honor the god regularly aAd properly not only weakened his desire to do well by you but also weakened his ability to do so.

The Phoenicians-it must be admitted of them practiced the ultimate in sacrifice: human lives. Other faiths succeeded in getting away from human sacrifice, as did the Phoenicians eventually. But they were late to do so. The Hebrews knew they practiced it and were revolted. Even after Phoenicia East apparently abandoned human sacrifice, it continued in Carthage-and revolted the Romans.

For evidence of human sacrifice in Phoenicia East we have only a couple of references in the Old Testament. For Phoenicia West the evidence is irrefutable: hard evidence dug out of the earth. There is an old burial ground in Carthage from which thousands of small clay pots containing the remains of babies and young children have been recovered. Mixed with - these urns are others containing the remains of young animals: kids, lambs, kittens, puppies. Clearly the Carthaginians had been making infant sacrifices but were also using substitutes in the form of those young animals. But-and here is the interesting and compelling part-the substitutes were deemed ineffective. As late as about 320 B.C. noble families who had fallen into the habit of substituting young slaves, or perhaps animals, for their own children were blamed for a military disaster that had overtaken them. Since they had slighted the gods, they were forced to make restitution, and 500 infants from the best families were offered up.

By that time religious sacrifice in Carthage had been going on for about 400 years. Infants were brought to the Tophet, a sacred place containing an idol or a very old and holy stone, and killed there. As in the case of other contemporary faiths, sacrifice of flesh was accompanied by burning. This accounts for the many references to fiery furnaces, to "passing through the flames." Apparently the tiny child was brought to the idol, calmed by a priest and its throat cut. It was then placed in the arms of a bronze statue that had a furnace or grate beneath it. There are hints that the arms of the god may have been operated mechanically in such a way as to drop the dead infant into the flames.

Certainly devices of one kind or another were used to heighten the awe of the worshipers and their belief that the deity was responding to acts of piety. In the case of a hollow statue of one goddess (page 128), holes were bored in her breasts, then plugged with wax. At an appropriate point in the rite, the wax would melt under the influence of heat, and milk, which had previously been poured into the statue, would then begin to flow miraculously from the holes.

In a harsh faith, interpreted to fearful people only by priests, the priestly power was obviously very great. Priests were numerous and divided into a hierarchy, with a high priest in charge of each temple
and other subordinate priests under him. In addition the temples had scribes, butchers for cutting up sacrificial animals, lamp-tenders, barbers whose job it was to shave the heads of high priests, plus great numbers of general workers, temple assistants, gardeners, craftsmen and slaves.

The preoccupation of the Phoenicians with their faith was enormous. As a result, the priesthood had great financial as well as political and religious clout. Offerings were served up constantly: wine, perfume, incense, animals and sometimes simply fruits or vegetables. (Humans were reserved for special occasions or dire calamities.) The priests maintained lists of the tariffs imposed for each type of sacrifice. They prescribed the proper offering to expunge a particular offense, also the fee that went to the priest for accepting the offering and for performing the ritual that went with if.

One such listing provided that for every ox sacrificed the priest would get a fee of 10 pieces of silver, and if the sacrifice were being made to relieve a sin (rather than being a mere expression of devotion to the god) a portion of the ox would also go to the priest. By such customs both temples and priests became wealthy, and the office of high priest became a plum jealously secured by certain noble families.

The size of the priestly hierarchy and its varied duties suggest that temples were large and elaborate places, This is not necessarily so. Indeed there is evidence that much Phoenician worship took place at small open-air shrines, which very often were simply designed. A rock or altar or small enclosure located in some exposed "high place" served very well. "Place" was important since divine powers were attributed to specific waters (springs or rivers), groves of trees and stones. The oldest-known shrine at Carthage is a small square space cut into a rock. Devoted to the goddess Tanit, the shrine is scarcely a yard wide. Like many another Phoenician holy place, it drew its strength from its age and quite possibly from the sacred objects on or near the site. It may be, of course, that the unusually small size of this shrine reflects only the extreme poverty of those who first settled in Carthage.

A slightly larger shrine, recently discovered by James Pritchard at his exciting new dig at Sarepta, is in the form of a small oblong building with a raised altar at the back. Running around the inside perimeter of this building is a stone bench or platform with a plastered top. It juts from the wall like a low counter on which worshipers set out their offerings to the god. In addition to the foods and incenses that they regularly put down, the Sareptans also left a great number of small clay statuettes. Such little figurines have been found in a number of Phoenician sites, and were undoubtedly votive offerings of some kind. Whether they were actual images of the gods themselves is not easily answered. One of the figurines is nude, and that fact eliminates it as a god or goddess; in the long tradition of Semitic religions gods and goddesses were always represented fully clothed in rich garments appropriate to their station.

Even the clothed figurines may not be gods. Some of them are very full-breasted, others have swollen bellies-clearly they represent pregnant women. These features suggest that the little figurines were statues representing the petitioners, not the gods. They were carrying messages to the gods, pleas for answers to prayers. "Make me fertile," they seem to say; "ensure the safe delivery of my child."

Once placed in a shrine and dedicated to a god, a clay figurine became a holy object, the property of the god. It could not be destroyed. Over many decades-perhaps centuries-the pile-up in a small shrine must have been extremely awkward. How some of the figurines were disposed of at Sarepta was discovered by Pritchard when his team dug through the plaster floor of the shrine. There, carefully buried in a rectangular excavation, were nearly 30 of them-three-dimensional prayers, one might almost call them, preserved for some 2,500 years.

Sarepta may also hold the answer to another important question about Phoenician religious life: the nature of Phoenician temples. There are indications that a far larger structure-as yet unexcavated-lies alongside the little shrine just described. Pritchard can scarcely wait to get at this larger building, for up to now knowledge of Phoenician temples has been meager. Elsewhere in Phoenicia several temple sites have been discovered, but all of them exist only as foundation outlines, their walls nowhere more than a few feet high. But they do follow so regular a pattern that it begins to be possible to describe the floor plan of a "typical" Phoenician temple.

It was an oblong building with three rooms: first a small anteroom, then a large main hall, finally a small holy-of-holies at the back. The latter was reached by a short flight of steps and contained an altar and an idol, or whatever object was worshiped there. Sometimes it was simply a sacred stone called a betyl. Pritchard's small shrine at Sarepta apparently had a betyl standing directly before the altar; there is a place for it there in the floor, but the stone has long since been wrenched out and carted away.

l1 Phoenician temple probably was a rather high, narrow; boxlike building with a tall entrance door. Steps went up to this door, which was flanked on either side by a free-standing column of wood, stone or bronze. The columns seem to have had names and distinct personalities of their own, and conceivably godlike properties.

The most detailed description of a Phoenician temple is in the Bible. It is not a direct piece of evidence since it describes a building commissioned by Solomon in Jerusalem and intended for Hebrew worship. Nevertheless, it was designed by Tyrian architects and built by Tyrian craftsmen. It fits the overall three room -model, even to the flights of steps and the columns at the front door, and adds many other details of a distinctly Phoenician flavor. It was made of heavy blocks of dressed stone, finished off inside with cedar, to which a good deal of gold ornamentation was added. It had large wooden doors, whose flanking columns were made of bronze by a Tyrian metalworker who also fabricated a number of bronze water troughs and other containers for use both inside and outside the temple. Despite fundamental differences in the two faiths, the similarities of some of the temple details are remarkable.

An important aspect of the Phoenician religion was belief in an afterlife. Evidence to this effect is abundant and varied and shows strong Egyptian influences. The Egyptians took great care to preserve the bodies of the dead. They became master embalmers, employing methods and materials that are not entirely understood today. Embalmed bodies were sometimes put in wooden mummy cases shaped like human bodies and with the owners' faces painted on them
-; sometimes in bulky coffins hollowed out of solid blacks of stone, which were also body-shaped andhad faces carved on their lids. Archeologists call the body-shaped cases "anthropoid" coffins.

At some point in their history the Phoenicians, who had previously been using large clay burial urns or tombs built up of brick or stone, began adapting the anthropoid models of the Egyptians. A few have shown up in Phoenicia East, notably a superb black basalt coffin that was used for the burial of the Sidonian king Tabnit. It was discovered, along with some other extraordinary finds, in a burial ground outside Sidon in 1887, The find was unusual because it had not been broken into previously and looted by grave robbers.

For more than 2,000 years Sidon has been plagued by tomb robbers. Worse in a way, local vandalism and the need for handy blocks of stone to build houses, walls, sheds for animals, even to pave roads and make gutters has done irreparable damage to a vast honeycomb of underground tombs that was a thousand years abuilding. So rich was the store of dressed stone buried in the ground that local farmers had long made a practice of renting out their fields to anyone who wanted to come and quarry them.

Sidon was a city as old and rich as Tyre. Through a good part of its later history its prominent people were using two kinds of coffins. One was roughly house-shaped and was supposed to provide a domicile for the corpse after death. The other, an anthropoid coffin, was a substitute body in case the one inside decomposed completely. Efforts to prevent decomposition were taken by borrowing embalming methods from the Egyptians. Since the Phoenicians had long been supplying the Egyptians with cedar oil for embalming purposes, it is a near certainty that they were thoroughly familiar with Egyptian tech-
niques. However, no method of embalming could be depended upon to counteract the dampness of the coastal climate in Phoenicia and the slow seepage of water into a tomb and, finally, through its cracks into the coffin itself. The few Phoenician mummies so far recovered are, with one exception, badly decomposed, and the linen bands that they were wrapped in have almost entirely rotted away. What bits of bone or cloth have been found are all from stone sarcophagi. If [he coffin was made of wood-and many probably were-then coffin, along with body, disappeared long since.

At Sidon the cemeteries were in the low hills surrounding the city. There shafts were sunk into the ground and chambers for the coffins led off from them. Sometimes these chambers were vaulted with stone blocks, sometimes cut from the mother rock. Often several were connected to a single shaft, branching off at different levels. Steps were cut into the sides of the shafts so that the grave workers could get up and down. When a sarcophagus was finally in place, the chamber was walled off and the shaft sealed at its entrance with stone and then completely covered with earth.

The Sidonian stone sarcophagus that came into being about the Fifth Century B.C. was an extraordinary object. It took the Egyptian anthropoid shape, with a human face carved on the lid, but that face was in the Greek style. The result was a unique form of sculpture, not limited solely to Sidon but nevertheless peculiarly and characteristically Sidonian. Of the few score recovered from throughout the Phoenician world and now in museums in Europe and the Near East, nearly every one comes from Sidon.

Clues to the nature of Sidonian burial practices began to surface in the middle of the last century. At the time Sidon, like other coastal Lebanese cities, had resident foreigners. Many of them were amateur archeologists, and there was a lively clandestine traffic in grave objects and statuary not only among some of the foreigners but also between local dealers and collectors in Europe. I say ``clandestine" because the graves were nominally the property of Turkey. What is now Lebanon was then part of Turkey-the once great Ottoman Empire in the last stages of imperial decay: Places like Sidon were of little interest to the corrupt and listless sultans rotting in their capital at Constantinople (now Istanbul) some 600 miles north. The sultans were either powerless to hinder the steady despoilment of Sidonian treasures or unconcerned by it. As early as 1860 this indifference began to frustrate European archeologists working in the area. One, the Frenchman Ernest Renan,- explored more than a hundred tombs at one necropolis, only to find that all had been looted, their sarcophagi smashed and their carved stone ornaments hacked off and carted away. Within seven years the necropolis itself had been totally vandalized, with most of the stones that made up its vaults showing up in new buildings in downtown Sidon. A fascinating historical site had disappeared.
In that same year an American missionary and antiquarian, William Eddy, was sitting at his home- in Sidon one evening when local workmen burst in to tell him of a stunning discovery, a number of extralarge and beautifully ornamented sarcophagi in a series of connected chambers at the bottom of a shaft that was a full 20 feet across. Eddy went immediately to the site, had himself lowered down the shaft and by the light of a lantern examined the coffins.
Poking about in mud and dripping water, and nearly asphyxiated by bad air, he was able to explore five separate chambers with no less than seven sarcophagi in them. One was a black Egyptian design, a couple were of the Phoenician anthropoid type. But the others were of Hellenic design, far outstripping in richness of detail anything previously found at Sidon. They were large marble caskets, their sides richly decorated with figures in high relief.

After recording as careful a description of them as he could under the circumstances, Eddy was hauled up again and a message sent to Constantinople. Luckily, the director of antiquities for the museum there was a French- educated, honorable official named Hamdy Bey. Instead of allowing the finds to be broken up and trickle into the black market, he went immediately to Sidon; posted round-the-clock guards and in the name of the sultan took possession of everything at the site. Eventually all the sarcophagi found a safe resting place in the Imperial (or Topkapi) Museum at Istanbul, where they may be examined by scholars today.

The superb Hellenic-style coffins represent the last gasp of Phoenician art as it surrendered to the overpowering influence of Greek esthetics. As to who commissioned them or who ultimately occupied them there can be only
-conjecture. They date from about 300 13.C, and were obviously made for very important -people, perhaps for the local dynasts or governors who inherited this part of Alexander's empire after his death. They are made of Pentelic and Parian marble of the -highest quality, the former imported from mainland Greece, the latter from one of the Aegean Islands: But they probably were carved on the spot by Phoenician craftsmen. As in everything else they came in contact with, the Phoenicians down to their very last days were still adapting either the materials or the artistic innovations of others-sometimes both-and turning them to their own use.

Getting the sarcophagi out of their underground chambers was a difficult job because of the delicacy of their carvings and their great size and weight, One -now known as the Sarcophagus of Alexander because its friezes show the Macedonian king in combat and on a lion hunt-is 11 feet long and weighs 15 tons. Hamdy Bey solved the problem of removal by digging a slanting tunnel into the hillside and hauling out the sarcophagi on rollers, one at a time. While he was underground supervising this work he happened to glance at the ceiling of one of the chambers and noticed that some time in the past a small hole had been cut there by tomb robbers. Forcing his way up through the hole, he found himself in another chamber at the bottom of a second and entirely unsuspected tomb shaft about 2.0 feet away from the other larger one. This was not as deep as the other and was entirely unconnected to it. It, too, had its separate burial chambers. The one that Hamdy Bey had crawled into was empty; tomb robbers had cleaned it out. But by some fluke they had not noticed that one of the walls had been bricked up. Hamdy Bey ordered the bricks removed and found another room with a floor made of thick, close-fitting flagstones. He ordered them pried up, only to find another layer of flagstones and beneath them a third layer. Below it was a great stone slab. Apparently somebody--or his heirs-had taken great pains to make sure he would not be disturbed.

That somebody turned out to be a Sidonian king. When the last slab was removed and Hamdy Bey was able to shine a lantern into yet another chamber, he found himself staring at the black basalt face of an Egyptian anthropoid sarcophagus. When it was taken out of the vault, it proved to have carved on it a long inscription in the Phoenician language. It identified itself immediately:
"I, Tabnit, priest o f Astarte, King o f Sidon, the son o f Eshmunazar (who was also) priest o f Astarte and King o f Sidon, am lying in this (coffin). Whoever you are who might find this (coffin), don't, don't open it and don't disturb me, for no silver has been given me, no gold, no jewelry whatever has been given me. Only I myself am lying in this (coffin).
"Do not open it, do not open it, do not disturb me, for such a thing would be an abomination to Astarte. But i f you do open it and i f you do disturb me, may you not (have any descendants) among the living under the sun, nor any rest (with the dead)."
This inscription recalls others that have been taken from Phoenician tombs and coffins. It is clear from the sorry record of Phoenician tomb desecration that such a curse almost never worked. But in this case it did. When Tabnit's sarcophagus was opened, there lay King Tabnit inside. He was stretched out, almost intact, on his back on top of a sycamore board with a depression carved in it as a resting place for his head. His body had been strapped to this board with rope laced through six silver rings attached to the board. Two of the rings were still in place and there were bits of rope still in the coffin. Both body and board were floating in an oily brownish liquid.
Here, at last, was a chance to learn something firsthand about the secrets of Egyptian and Phoenician embalming, for Tabnit was extraordinarily well preserved. He was a slender but strongly muscled man about five feet five inches tall. His skin was still intact, soft to the touch, and revealed that he had had smallpox. He had a large aquiline nose, a prominent chin and wavy reddish-brown hair that showed signs of having been tinted. An incision had been made in his chest to remove his stomach. The eyes were missing. Otherwise, except for bits of his nose, lips and chest that had been exposed to the air, his body was in remarkably good shape, Even more surprising, the organs were also in good condition. That strange oily fluid, plus a quantity of fine sand in which Tabnit's body was partially embedded, had done a good job of preservation.

Hamdy Bey supervised the careful rolling-out of Tabnit's sarcophagus through the tunnel he had dug, then wont off to lunch. While he was gone some overzealous members of the work crew succeeded in upsetting the coffin. All the fluid ran out onto the ground and was lost. With it went the secret of Tabnit's preservation.
Tabnit was the son of the Sidonian king Eshmunazar-his coffin inscription makes that clear. He was also the father of another Eshmunazar who was buried nearby in another black basalt sarcophagus that is now in the Louvre. The sarcophagus of the second Eshmunazar has a very long inscription on it that confirms descent from his father, Tabnit. It also contains the interesting information that his mother, Tabnit's wife, was also Tabnit's sister, a priestess of Astarte. Here again is that strong suggestion of the close linkage between priestly and royal power in Phoenicia, and of the attempts to keep as much as possible of both in the hands of a single family.

Two Eshmunazars and a Tabnit. Three names are added to the list of Sidonian kings, bringing the known total to 18. But they are sprinkled over a thousand-year span and show once again how sparse our knowledge is of the details of Phoenician city history. The typical Sidonian anthropoid coffin-that marble object with an Egyptian shape and a Greek face-is of no help in enriching that history, for it never carried any inscription at all. It was simply an oblong block of marble, vaguely body-shaped and with a removable lid. It was turned up at the foot, Egyptian style, and in some instances actual feet were carved there. Usually the face was stylized to a certain degree but, as the examples on page 116 show, attempts were made at portraiture.

Looking at those calm, smooth countenances with their staring eyes, we do get glimpses of the individuals who lay beneath them. And that individuality and a sense of lifelikeness were once far stronger than they are now, for the Phoenicians-again following Greek tradition-carefully painted the statues. Traces of color remain on many of them. One in particular, dug up at Sidon, has its paint extraordinarily well preserved. The hair is dark red, a pale flesh tint has been given the face and the lips are red. The eyes have been done with great care: brown iris and black pupil, very pale blue for the white of the eye, a dot of red in the corner, and individual eyelashes-painstakingly painted in. This sarcophagus was jarringly lifelike when found and was the gem among a memorable hoard of 11 anthropoid coffins unearthed in a network of two tomb shafts near Sidon in 1901. Although work has continued sporadically at Sidon ever since and many further finds have been made, nothing compares to this single haul or to the spectacular Tabnit-Alexander finds of 1887.

A curious fact revealed by the excavations at Sidon is that the Phoenicians were expert dentists. The upper jaw of a woman found in one sarcophagus had two teeth from another individual neatly fastened to her own with gold wire. Whether the dental work was for cosmetic purposes (the new ones were front teeth) or to give her something to bite with is not clear, But in the case of a man found in another sarcophagus the utilitarian nature of his dental work is obvious (page 219). He was suffering from pyorrhea and was faced with the loosening or loss of six of his teeth. All these were held in place with a single strand of gold wire woven most dexterously among and around adjacent firmer ones. Their owner wore this device for years, for the teeth are well worn down, showing extended use.

Although the fashion for anthropoid coffins flourished in the east, it never caught on in Carthage and other western Phoenician cities. Only a few scattered examples have been found in these places. What Carthage did do was to take the tomb shaft west and develop it. Some shafts in burial grounds in and around Carthage are as much as 100 feet deep and reflect the efforts to which people went to keep their graves from being disturbed. There usually are only three or four coffin chambers in each of these monster shafts, indicating that accommodation of large numbers of corpses was not their purpose.

Where and when the Phoenicians first turned to cremation-as a substitute for regular burial, or inhumation-is not clear. The older coastal Canaanite practice, strongly influenced by the Egyptians, was interment. Cremation seems to have crept in during the upheavals and invasions of the 12th Century B.C., for isolated instances of it crop up here and there
throughout the Levant after that time. The practice probably was carried west to Carthage and there strengthened by contact with local North African custom, because there is a great deal more evidence of cremation in Phoenicia West than there ever was in burial sites in Phoenicia East.

Though the westerners may have lagged as makers of sarcophagi, they were very active makers of gravestones, or steles. Steles are known throughout Phoenicia East and reflect a long tradition of erecting votive shafts or commemorative stones of one kind or another. In Phoenicia West they are enormously abundant. Motya alone has produced hundreds of them; Carthage, thousands. Steles come in a great variety of sizes and shapes, but a typical one is a rough oblong of sandstone or limestone, sometimes with a pointed top, usually with some decorative elements crudely carved on its face. Many a Carthaginian stele bears the symbol of the goddess Tanit: a triangle topped by a horizontal bar and with a circle over that (page 131). These three elements easily combine to suggest a human figure dressed in a skirt. Tanit apparently also had some lunar connection, for her symbol is often surmounted by a crescent moon.

Just who Tanit was, or how she crept into the Carthaginian pantheon, is something of a mystery. When the Tyrian princess Elissa fled to found Carthage, she took with her a high priest of the goddess of Astarte and 80 young maidens. Thereafter Astarte's cult, with local modifications to absorb the names and traits of Greek and Roman gods that make the Phoenician pantheon so confusing, persisted in one way or another throughout the history of Carthage.

Tanit may even have made her way back east and into the pantheon of the eastern cities. In 1971 a car go of small clay Tanit figurines was found scattered over the sea bottom only a mile off the coast of Israel near the ancient Phoenician city of-Akka. The ship that carried them had vanished. The Israeli archeologists who made this find think that the vessel was traveling east-perhaps from Carthage, the heart of Tanit worship-and was swamped in a storm just before it could make it into a safe harbor. If it had been going west to Carthage, the archeologists reason, it would not have sunk so near the point of departure; its captain never would have left home port in the teeth of a storm.

Baal himself was carried from the east to Carthage, but emerged there with the name Baal Hammon, or "lord of the perfume altar," reflecting the great amount of incense offered up in his rites. His exact status in Carthagc; is muddled, for the chief male god of the mother city Tyre was Melqart, who also was transported to Carthage and worshiped there for many centuries. Indeed, in the early years of Carthaginian history a devout contingent reportedly went back to Tyre every year on a state visit for the express purpose of paying Carthage's respects to Melqart at his temple there.

Melqart; then, represents ties with the old regime back home and is thus an expression of political conservatism in the new western city. He was the patron god of the old noble families in Carthage, particularly of the Barcids, from whom a succession of brilliant generals descended: Hamilc;ar Barca, two Hasdrubals, a Hannibal and a Mago. We get faint echoes of political struggles within Carthage, of class against class, in the ups and downs of the gods in whose names the various factions fought with each other. In the long run the older pair-Melqart and Astarte-losl popularity to 'Baal Hammon and Tanit.

They also lost something in function. In time Tanit took the place of Astarte as earth mother to the Carthaginians. She became the consort of Baal Hammon in the familiar Phoenician trinity of father, mother and son. According to Gilberi: and Colette CharlesPicard, Tanit's sudden surge to supremacy can be traced to a catastrophic defeat the Carthaginians suffered at I
-limera in 4(i0 B.C., when they tried to drive the Greeks out of Sicily. This repulse turned Carthage inward, more and more toward Oriental and African things. In that atmosphere Tanit sprang to prominence. Some scholars believe that she had African origins and that her rise to supremacy reflects Carthage's own geographical position: a small Phoenician enclave, set down in the midst of a large native population of Libyans, Numidians and Berbers, and inevitably affected by both intermarriage and exposure to local beliefs.

However that may be, the great number of votive - stones dedicated to the holy Tanit found in Carlhage after about 500 B.C. attests to her supremacy from [hat time on. But she, in turn, had her day. Though the Carthaginian p.riests were determined to keep the purity and distinctiveness of their religion (not to mention their own authority), they were forced by circumstance to give ground gradually to Greek and Roman gods, who were not only overpoweringly attractive in themselves but who also bore the standards of a more progressive, more flexible and more interesting society, with livelier art forms and a more enlightened policy with respect to manufacturing and trade-and finally, in the case of the Roman gods, an overwhelming army.

In the east the Phoenician gods and the Phoenician way of life were rapidly cannibalized by Greek gods and Greek ways. By Alexander's time Melqart was already half a Heracles, as he was in Carthage too. Baal Hammon, the last of the cruel idols to whom babies were sacrificed, was absorbed into the Romans' Saturn. Mother Tanit became Mother Juno. After the fall of Carthage in 146 B.C, its priests still hung on for a few generations, turning their attentions more and more to an African constituency. They kept their language alive for a while among the Numidians, but only for a while. The great god Baal, who had spoken with a brazen clang in many cities for a thousand years, toppled. His retinue of priests faded into anonymity. The tongue in which he had been worshiped fell to a whisper, then into silence


G-Syr 7: Rock Crystal Cylinder Seal With Naked, Winged Ishtar

An unclothed, winged Ishtar stands holding the rod and circle of justice in each hand. There is a lion and crescent moon on each side, drilled stars and a table (?). The boxed inscription is in two horizontal registers; the top a linear cuneiform, but the bottom appears to be Egyptian hieroglyphics. Nonsense hieroglyphics appear frequently on Syrian seals of this period as magical signs, and so these may have no decipherable meaning. The cloudy rock crystal is a scarce material for cylinder seals, although it could polish up to more transparent. An attractive and unusual seal in many ways. 30 x 16 mm, c. 1000-600 B.C.


G-Syr 8: A Chalcedony Neo-Assyrian or Neo-Babylonian Stamp Seal

An attractive, translucent quartz seal in the usual late first millennium style — domed, pierced for suspension and far smaller than earlier seals. Groove around the base and a god holding a staff on the bottom. 20 x 15 mm x 24 mm tall, c. 800-500 B.C.


G-Syr 9: Hard Black Stone Neo-Babylonian Domed Seal

Another Neo-Babylonian date domed stamp seal in a hard black stone, perhaps basalt. An oval occulus motif on the bottom. This lower, small shaped seal was to become the standard in the Parthian and Sassanian Empires up to the Arab conquest. 18 x 10 mm x 154 mm tall, c. 800-500 B.C.


G-Syr 10: Pottery Statuette of Tanit

A hollow pottery votive statuette of the Phoenecian goddess Tanit, also a key goddess in Carthage. Originally this would have been painted. The hands are held in the same offeratory pose as with the ancient Sumerian stone statues. 149 mm tall, c. 900-400 B.C. Location unknown.


Babylonian deities surmounted by Sin,
surrounded by Shamash and Ishtar
and ascended by Nabu the wise serpent (Contineau 261).
King Naram-sin is horned as a god in victory (Mellenkoff).


The Sumerian form of the Geneaology of the Deities (Wolkenstein).


Temple of the Moon God Hazor Palestine (Gray)



The Moon, the Luminary of Heaven sends
To Hrhb, the Summer's King;
Give Nikkal; the Moon will pay the brideprice-,
Let the Fruitful One enter his house,
And I will give her brideprice to her father,
A thousand pieces of silver, yea ten thousand of gold;
I will send gems of lapis lazuli;
I will make her fallow field into a vineyard,
The fallow fields of her love into orchards.
These overtures are met with becoming reluctance:



Then replied Hrhb, the Summer's King:
Gracious One among the Gods,
Affiance thyself to Baal,
Wed the Plump Maiden, Daughter of Mist
I will introduce thee to her father Baal ...



Nay but let Nikkal answer me,
Then afterwards make me thy son,in,law.



The Moon paid the brideprice for Nikkal,
Her father set the beam of the balances,
Her mother set the pan of the balances (Gray 113)


Sin and Ishtar: Rumblings of Descent
The relationship between the Moon God and his daughter Inanna of the Sumerians, Ishtar of Babylon, Athirat of Canaan, al-Uzza of Arabia, Hathor of Egypt and Hekate of Greece is complex and holds the key to the gender difficulties that have accompanied the emergence of the monotheism of Yahweh, the downfall from Eden and ultimately the patriarchal tradition of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Inanna, or Ishtar, although she is Queen of Heaven arose out of the sea as did Aphrodite the Canaanite Athirat and Mari the Goddess of the Sea from Cyprus, Crete and Syria, identifiable with Anath, so Sin is also in this sense God the father of the 'virgin' Mary.

Of course father and daughter indicate that an evolution took place in which the daughter underwent a resurgence, just as with El and Ba'al in Canaan. Nannar appears very early in the history of Ur, consistent with an origin as a nomadic God of the Shepherd Kings who formed a cultural complementation to the planter Queens in the emergence of the Sumerian civilization. Although associated with ancestor worship and sacred tombs, the courtship of Nannar and Ningal is not characterised by seasonal male human sacrifice. Subsequently this position shifted back towards sacrifice of the agrarian Fertility Goddess, who was originally a chthonic deity of the earth and underworld. With the rise of Uruk Inanna (Ishtar) wrested the seve me  or sacred power objects and began the descent of the seasonal sacrifice and resurrection of Dumuzzi (Tammuz). In this respect, she becomes the goddess making her journey from heaven to earth and finally to the realms of death - the almighty woman of the three spheres.

"[Sin's] supreme character passed in later times to his female counterpart, who finally replaced him. When the female aspect of the lunar deity came to displace the male, the wife of the moon-god became identified with the moon itself, while the goddess Ishtar maintained her association with the planet Venus. This identification is symbolically represented by the lunar crescent, enclosing the star within its horns, which is still the crest of Islam" (Briffault v3 78).

This identification of Ishtar with the moon and the evening star throws an interesting light on the origin of goddesses. It ... derives from the common idea, ... that the morning and evening stars are the two wives of the moon . When the morning and evening star came to be identified they became in Ishtar her two complementary aspects: love in the evening and death in the morning (Briffault v3 82).

The relationship between the male and female counterpart of the moon was, however, variable. Ishtar is sometimes the daughter of the moon god. Sometimes he is her son and male avatar. In one liturgy, Tammuz is expressly addressed as the moon-god. Ishtar was horned, and was brought up out of the foam by water-gods, like Aphrodite, thus explaining her close connection with Mari, goddess of the sea. The votaries of Harran, despite worshipping the Queen of Heaven alongside the Moon God had a pertinent saying: 'if they were to honour the moon as a female they would become subject to their women' (Briffault v2 596).

This diverging relationship between the Moon God and the Fertility Goddess becomes pivotal in understanding the breakdown in relations between Yahweh and his Asherah later in Old Testament times. The Fall from Eden is specifically associated with the sacrificial cycle of Inanna and Dumuzi. Dumuzi becomes the dying Adam, doomed to mortality by the original sin of Eve, in accepting the advice of the Serpent and eating the Fruit. This re-fomented the link between male death and sex, the original sin of Eve, human sacrifice, which reverberated in the vulnerable line of patriarchal inheritance. In the above cylinder seal we see the four key components of the Eden myth, Dumuzzi and the Horned Inanna, the serpent and the seven-limbed Tree of Life from which the Menorah is derived, both reflected in the seven days of the lunar week and the seven levels of the descent. The three days of the descent also represent the three days between the old and new moon. Sin himself is the chythonic 'green one' (Briffault v3 90) and is threatened by the seven devils of the underworld (Green T 196).


The 'Temptation Seal' Akkadian circa 2200 BC (Wolkenstein and Kramer 3)
It is difficult to decide whether this is Sin (Naramsin) and Ningal (consort) performing
the rite of the sacred tree as did Ur Nammu or whether it is Inanna and Dumuzzi.
The seven branched tree echoes the menorah, the serpent Nabu.


While the story of Nannar and Ningal is the story of continuing love and marriage unto death, the descent instead elaborates male mortality in the face of the sexual fertility rites and sacrificial cycle of the Goddess. Neither Nannar nor the Egyptian Moon God Thoth approved of the descent. Nannar would not help his daughter. Thoth would not weep for Osiris. A close link is thus made between the sexual rites, male mortality and the reaction of the jealous male Godhead - banishment from the garden of fertility. Having become a root myth in the Old Testament world view, the downfall became portrayed in the apocalyptic vision many centuries later as a theme to be finally undone by the Son of Man in ushering in the Kingdom of Immortality by undoing the mortal sin of Eve. There is thus a close and intimate link between the sacrifice of Dumuzzi by Inanna and the crucifixion of Jesus of Mary.


Arab Gold Necklace with Crescent and Lamb's Head (Zehren 345)


The God of the Semites
The moon was from earliest times the foundation of all theological development among the whole Semitic race, even after the Semites had become agriculturists. Moses Maimonides expressed this by saying that moon-worship was the religion of Adam; and the crescent is still the badge of Islam, as it was once the emblem of Israel. Arab women even now insist that the moon is the parent of mankind. Herodotus said "Arabs have no other divinities than Dionysius and Urania" (Ishtar or Aphrodite), both lunar deities". (Briffault v3 78)

The cult of the moon-god Sinn is found in every Semitic land, and he was 'the father of the great gods, the Lord of Heaven' - the sun-god being merely an attendant deity. Numerous ancient Arabian inscriptions show the moon-deity as the most prominent object of cult everywhere, whether in the Hadramaut, Kataban or Afinaean kingdoms. (Briffault v3 79)

"In the faith of ancient Arabia," remarks Prince Teano, 'in the cult of the, moon, regarded as supreme male deity, conceived as a cause to which all worship refers, there lies manifestly the germ of monotheism, although only the Jews first, in Judaism and in Christianity, and Muhammad afterwards in Islam, attained to a clear enunciation of the monotheistic formula'. There are abundant indications," observes again Prince Teano, 'which seem to demonstrate that the Jehovah of the Hebrews and the Allah of Islam are merely transformations of the primitive lunar deity of Arabia' " (Briffault v3 106). Genesis 9:26 specifically concedes the god of Noah is the God of Shem - i.e. the universal god of the Semites and therefore Sin.

Harran, City of the Moon God
At the Northernmost end of the Sumerian empire the city of Harran likewise had the Moon Deity as patron God, under the name of Sin. From about 2000 BC to 1200 AD Harran continued an evolving tradition of Moon God worship. Harran is the place of Abraham's family and ancestors and the centre of many of the early events of genesis, including the naming of Israel. As described by Ezekiel 27:23, Harran along with Sheba and other cities were traders 'in blue clothes and broidered work, in chests of rich apparel , bound with cords and made of cedar.'

The status of Sin was so great that from 1900 BC to 900 BC his name is witness to the forging of international treaties as the guarantor of the word of kings. The temple was resotred by Shalmanester of Assyria in the 9th century BC, and again by Asshurbanipal. About550 BC, Nabonidus the last king of Babylon, who originated from Harran, rebuilt the temple of the Moon God, directed by a dream. His mother was high priestess at Harran and his daughter at Ur. Ironically his devotion to the Moon God caused a rfit between him and his people and contributed to his defeat by the Persians. The worship of the Moon God at Harran evolved with the centuries. It included E-hul-hul, the Temple of Rejoicing, and a set of temples of distinctive shape and colour dedicated to each of the seven planets as emissaries of the cosmic deity. Many of the descriptions of Harran through Christian and Moslem eyes include exaggerated tales of sacrifice which are probably not factual. It was said by one writer that they sacrificed a different character or type of human to each planet. A garlanded black bull was however sacrificed in public ceremony, as the bull was at Ur, and Moslem sources refer to seasonal weeping for Ta'uz at Harran, and up to the 10th century among bedouin in the desert.


Stele of Nabonidus, Star and Crescent of Harran coin, Sign of Sin (Beaulieu, Segal 1963)


After the conquests of Alexander, Harran came to be a centre of intellectual and religious activity which continued into the Christian era. The form of the worship evolved into a philosophical tradition centred around Hermes Trismegistus - Hermes thrice-great who knows the past, present and future.

The Hermetic view is one in which god is conceived both as idea and as embodied world: he is the supra-individual source of a particular world-experience and world-configuration. The experience of the world in this manner is open to the possibility of a transcndent guide ... who is also able to provide impressions to consciousness that are palpable and manifest and in no way contradict the observations and conclusions of natural science, yet extend beyond the idea that "man stands in the world alone endowed only with conciousness that is exclusively restricted to the ability to receive scientifically-evaluated sense impressions". The Hermetic aspect is thoroughly empirical, and it remains within the realm of natural experiences of the world, ... the accidental falling into your lap - how could these be merely psychic realities? They are the world and they are one world - the one Hermes opens to us (Kerenyi 3, 46).

Orphic traditions were also popular. Harran remained solidly pagan when Edessa and other centres fell to monotheism, largely because of the unified devotion of its people to the astral deity.

Sin's powers of illumination, are revealed in his title 'the lamp of heaven and earth'. ... Illumination is not only the physical light of the moon, but also revealing the will of the gods, enlightenment, especially through oracles. In a Assyrian prayer ... in an eclipse, Sin is beseeched to give the oracle of the gods. As such, Sin becomes the Lord of Knowledge, the tablet on which Nabu, the scribe of the gods, ... writes the divine decrees. ... Because of this overlap of functions as a giver of oracles, Nabu was closely associated with Sin. His name appears as an clement in the names of many neo-Babylonian kings from Nebuchudnezzar to Nabonidus. ... The stele of Nabonidus depicts the royal sceptre topped with a wedge symbol commonly associated with Nabu; He is the inventor of writing, the divine scribe, and the patron of all the rational arts. He is the transmitter of the decrees of the gods to mankind, the possessor of the tablets of destiny which fix the length of human life, and the giver of oracles that reveal the cosmic order of existence, and thus he serves as a link between the divine and human worlds. It was Nabu as scribe who recorded the destiny of the coming year at the aki'tu festival (Green T 33). [Nabu] came to be linked with those deities in other religious systems whose chief function was as bestowers of a revealed wisdom: the Greek Hermes, the Egyptian Thoth and the Persian Hoshang, as well as Apollo and Orpheus in the Hellenistic and early Christian periods, Enoch or Idris later under Islam (Green T 71).


Hermes staff, the Caduceus (Britannica), the entwined serpents of healing
of the medical profession, is homologous with Moses staff and brazen serpent (Glueck).


"Constructed from the complex functions and nature of the Egyptian Thoth, and drawing upon the similar roles of Hermes, Nebo, Sin and other deities whose spheres of power encompassed the revelation of hidden wisdom, Hermes Trismegistus [ Hermes, who knows the past, present and future] was the inspiration for, ... a vast body of literature. Treatises of philosophical and scientific revelation about the nature of the cosmos, and handbooks of practical magic, with recipes for drawing down the power of the planets and the stars, curing illness, making talismans and amulets. [He] was the source of all knowledge previously known only to the gods: the explicator of the stars, the sacred healer, the master alchemist" (Green T 85).

"Although ... Hermeticism does not begin to emerge ... until the late Hellenistic period, its origins are to be found in ... the ancient magical and religious traditions of Egypt and Mesopotamia; the quest of Greek science for the cosmic glue; the religious philosophy of Pythagoras and his disciples, of Plato and his successors, and of the Stoic doctrines of fate and universal sympatheia; the rites of the mystery cults of Asia Minor and beyond; the astral and planetary worship of the Semites that found a home in both Greek philosophy and the westernized cult of Mithra, as well as the dualism of Persian Zoroastrianism; and finally, the figure of the savior-messiah that emerged within Hellenistic Judaism" (Green T 85).

"The mystical powers of Hermes exerted themselves far beyond the pagan world of late antiquity, transmuting medieval Christian and Islamic understanding of the relationship between rational knowledge and revelation. As the Greek messenger of the gods who became the conductor of the souls of the dead to the underworld, the playful child-like spirit of fertility who became the companion of triple-faced Hecate and a patron of the magical arts, Hermes had been identified by the Greeks from Herodotus on with the Egyptian god Thoth, whom Plato in the Phaedrus had credited with being the inventor of the alphabet and the art of memory. Thoth was the master of wisdom, made manifest in the moon, the divine scribe, "the tongue of ptah," who recorded the judgments of the dead; and he thus finds his Mesopotamian counterpart in both the moon god Sin, and Nebo" (Green T 85). Hermes shares with Thoth an ancient ithyphallic fertility nature complementary to the Great Goddess.


Harran female dress was essentially unchanged from 4 th century to the 19 th (Segal 1963).
Temple and relief figure with frock coat - Sumatar Harabesi. The statues show inscriptions to Sin.


An epitaph at neighbouring Edessa reads "Pleasant is the resting place of Shalman son of Kawab (star). They have answered thee and called thee, and thou hast answered them whom thou hast touched. Thou hast seen the height and the depth, the distant and the near, the hidden and the evident. And they - they know well the usefullness of thy reckonings."

In 363 the Emperor Julian stopped at Harran and took the oracle of the Moon God before being defeated in battle against the Persians. This story was expanded later to the effect that he had sacrificed the High Priestess, hung her by her hair and read her liver for an omen (Green T 51). In 545 the Bedouin Mundhir fighting for the Persians sacrificed his enemies son to Uzzai (Venus). Fearful tales also were told that they had sacrificed 400 virgins seized from Emesa and sacrificed them to the Goddess. It is unclear what credence to place in such Christian war stories, as mass female sacrifice is most unusual (Segal 145).

Ahmed ibn al-Tayyib noted "A single power, single and eternal was the primal cause of the universe. He is beyond the worship of men; and he has delegated the administration of the universe to the planets who proclaim his supremacy. He has sent prophets, Arani Agathodaemon (Seth and Orpheus) and Hermes (Idris and Enoch) to guide mankind. Sabian views on the nature of deity, natural phenomena and dreams were similar to Aristotle (Segal 1963 211). They did not accept the idea of a human prophet who could mediate between mankind and the supreme deity.

They celebrated a calendar of fesitvals and mystery cults to which only initiates were allowed access. "According to the Catalog, at the time that they celebrate the birthday of the Moon and the mystery to the North in II Kanun, the Harranians burn rods of pine (al-dadhi') for the gods and the goddesses. Both the pine tree and cone are, of course, symbols of eternal life, and appear in the cults of Mithra, Attis and Dionysus, among others, as the embodiment of the prize of immortality." In some of these later cults there was a Mithraic or Zoroastrian influence apparent, in which the worship of the sun in the "Mystery of the North" (Shamal) occurred at the same time as the Birth of the Moon was celebrated elsewhere at Harran (Green T 192).

Shamal may also have been a lord of the djinn. There is a reference in the Mysteries of the North to the Lord of Time. Time as Greek Chronos or Persian Zurvan can be equated with Nergal the Lord of the Underworld. Dionysus has similarly been equated with Hades. There is a compelling logic to worshipping time, for it is in time that all opportunities arise and all disasters befall. It is thus to time that we should turn to deal with the tings that matter and the things which threaten. By contrast the eternal deity of heaven is lost in an unchanging constancy. In this sense, evil is entropy, the Lord of the Second Law.

The Harranians were not circumcised, avoided contaigon, washed with soda, and believed procreation was the purpose of marriage. Close-relative marriges were forbidden, they were not polygamous and divorce was granted only after clear evidence of shameful behaviour. Women enjoyed equality under the law and appear prominently in archaeological records. They had a characteristic costume. The women wore high hats, the men frock coats and long hair. They had similar slaughter rituals to Islam, but were very selective in their foods, rejecting camels, dogs, pigs, chickens, fish, garlic, beans, brassicas and lentils on medical grounds. They liked wine and made wine a part of their religious life, in wine-pressing and lunar offerings.

The awe of Abraham gave Harran a special status among Christians and Moslems alike. When the Islamic conquests flowed north, Harran diplomatically surrendered without hostility and paradoxically became unique as the only pagans who were accepted by the new faith. Muhammad had, in developing Islam, reached back to the religion of Abraham whom he called a hanif - a worshipper of the true god before the time of monotheism. He also reserved a special place for the Sabians as people of the book along with the Christians and the Jews.

Sura 2.62: "Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve."

Sura 2.135: "And they say: Be Jews or Christians, you will be on the right course. Say: Nay! (we follow) the religion of Ibrahim, the Hanif, and he was not one of the polytheists."

The Moon worshippers of Harran came to inherit both these titles and to retain much of their identity after the Muslim conquest. A Christian story relates they they adopted these titles as a legal defence against being executed as pagans, after the Moslem general came through telling them they could convert to Islam or a path of the book by the time he came back or all be slaughtered. Somne converted and some lamented but a few took a very powerful lawyer and claimed the Qur'anic heritage: "The Harrians possessed a sacred book called the book of of the hanpe or Haniphites. True the book was concerned ... with ritual and not with ethics or law, and the prophets were legendary rather than human, but the Harranians satisfied the conditions required by Islam for recognition as a tolerated community".

The term Sabian, which is believed to be Syriac (rather than referring to the Sabeans or Shebans of Yemen who were also Moon God worshippers) may originate from the Soba, the Syriac-speaking pagan Semites of Northern Mesopotamia, who in Sin trended towards a single supreme godhead (even if not exclusive) and an afterlife and had similar practices to the Moslems. "Hanif is in some measure a synonym of Sabian.; the latter is a member of this religious community, the former the professed beliefs of this community" (Segal 1963 214).


(a) Tell Halaf 5 th to 4 th millennium BC, near Harran, at the source of the Charbur, Euphrates.
2 Kings 17:6 "they carried Israel away into Assyria and placed them in Halah and in Habor"
(Zehren 154) (b) Centre of Topkapi coat of Arms, Turkey


The Harranians were centrally placed to impart the intellectual advances of Egyptian and Greek civilization to the Islamic world and became famous astronomers, alchemists and physicians at the court of the Caliph. Sabian beliefs also found their way into esoteric teachings of Islam. "There is much in the developed Shi'ite position in general, and among the Isma'ilis in particular, that is sympathetic to the Hermetic doctrine..." including the prophesy of the Mahdi (Green T 169). Harran was abruptly erased from history in the 12th century AD by the Mongol conquests.

Another group called the Subbha, (baptisers), Mandaeans (gnostics) or Nazarenes were also identified as the Sabians. They claim to be followers of John the Baptist, who migrated to Harran and adopted some Harranian practices, later moving to the southern marshes of the Tigris and Euphrates. They believe the upper world is ruled by the Great King of Light the great life. Inferior to him are beneficent and demonic spirits. The earth was created out of black waters. The light-giving powers seek to direct humans to good actions, while the spirit of physical life and the planets incite them to error through false religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Their gnostic emphasis would tend to support the idea that Christian gnosticism was also the inner path of Jesus teachings.

Continue with Next part of the The Origin of Sin Part 2


Return to Genesis of Eden?


Fig. 18 Baal was the principle god of Babylon. The name, Baal, was contracted from BA`ILI.  IL, the root name, was the primal god from the tower of Babel and Sumer. Ba`al's consort was BA`ILAT. These names were the source of the names of ALLAH and ALLAT in North and South Arabia and later in Islam.


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"Awe-inspiring even in ruin, the splendor of Baalbek [40 miles (64 kilometers) northeast of Beirut] must have defied description in its time of glory. Rome began erecting the huge sanctuaries in the first century A.D., on a site previously dedicated to the Canaanite god Baal."(Text from and photograph shot on assignment for, but not published in, "Lebanon: Little Bible Land in the Crossfire of History," February 1970, National Geographic magazine) 



Hebrew Goddesses & Origin of Judaism

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Where, Oh Where Has the Mother God Done?

In pre-historic and primitive societies in which men and women are segregated into their own living quarters, and children live with the women, it is not surprising that women are seen as dominant and provide the image of the supreme being. To children, women were the source of sustenance and discipline. Men were mainly out of sight, following their own vain pursuits and the concept of father did not exist. Any of the men could have been the father of a child but no one ever knew which was. All children knew their mother and a mother knew her own children, but all women had the nurturing and caring role of mother, and there were enough for all children to be treated equally. So God was a goddess for myriads of years.

When we come to Judaism and then Christianity, women have almost gone out of sight. Both religions have a masculine God and no goddess, masculine priests and no priestesses. Christianity also has a masculine son of God and what appears to be a masculine Holy Ghost. This trio constitutes the Christian “mystery” of the Trinity, but the logic of any such trinity is to have a father god, a mother god and a baby son god. Where, oh where has the mother god gone?

The answer is that it was expunged by the Persian administrators who set up the Jewish religion—in the image of Zoroastrianism—in the fifth century BC. Zoroaster had abolished all gods except one—Ahura Mazda—and some angels and demons of various descriptions, around two centuries before. Now that the Persians were conquering the world, they thought it a good idea to have everyone on earth subject to one God of Heaven, whatever his local name might have been, to match the one king of earth—the king of kings of Persia. Since the only God of Heaven had manifestly approved the appointment of the Persian king, everyone would recognize it as an unchallengeable divine appointment, and peace would reign!

Family squabbles could not be admitted into this scheme, and so goddesses were written out of sacred history. Of course, no Jew or Christian will accept this because they have accepted the propaganda that there is only one, masculine god, and, if it was ever different, it was because people were ignorant! Only the Jews were not ignorant because they had been specially selected by God in the time of Abraham, about 2000 BC to carry out His plan for human religious revelation. Unfortunately for all this, the Jews, or rather their predecessors often called Hebrews, did worship goddesses as even the Jewish scriptures admit! But, they were only the backsliders who refused to accept God’s word—for thus the Persian “restorers” of Judaism painted the inhabitants of the land into which the Persians transported the “returners from exile”.

The truth, as scholars know but do not publicly divulge, is that the religion of the people in the Hill Country of Palestine before the Persians arrived was recognisably the same religion as that of everyone else who lived in the Levant and its hinterland. The richer parts of the eastern Mediterrenean left plentiful archaeological remains in the form of clay tablets, most famously at Ugarit, that tell us a lot about ancient Canaanite religions and their practice. The people here were called Canaanites and they worshipped a pantheon of gods and goddesses, led by the supreme god, El, and his wife, Athirat (Asherah) and their son, Baal Hadad.

Canaanite Religion

The paucity of archaeological remains from the Hill Country confirm the picture underlying the bible stories—the practices of the small population that lived there were the same as their neighbours. The accessible gods were called Baal, meaning Lord, just as Yehouah is habitually called and actually translated as Lord (Yehouah Elohim, Lord God). The Persians admitted one god only and eventually Yehouah prevailed, but it seems that bodies of people for some time preferred other gods, notably El (Elohim). The Canaanite title for their son of god, Baal, was villified by the “restorers” as the name of all false gods, whatever their real name, Hadad, Eshmun, Dagon, Milcom or whatever, and that is what we find in the bible.

Reading the bible carefully tells us that three goddesses were worshipped in the Hill Country later called Israel and Judah. The three were Asherah, Astarte and the Queen of Heaven. Possibly the latter is the title of one or both of the other two, but all three are mentioned, and the Queen of Heaven was so loved that the people refused Jeremiah’s pleas to turn from her to Yehouah!

Hundreds of small, mainly female figurines often of terracotta are found all over Palestine, many datable to the period of the supposed divided monarchy from 900 to 600 BC. Of these figurines of goddesses, some are Astarte from the symbolism, and they can be dated from 2000 BC to the capture of Jerusalem when they cease. Some Christian and Jewish “scholars” try to make out that these figurines are not goddesses at all but are magical talismans or primitive pornography, being models of prostitutes, but it is impossible to imagine that they do not have some ritual significance and must therefore be images of a goddess.

The images that seem identifiable with Astarte come in the form of plaques that seem to show a recess within which the image is displayed and therefore suggest that they are models of an image in a shrine. The plaques are impressed in terracotta using a mould and show the goddess with upraised arms holding serpents or lilies or both, though sometimes she holds her abdomen and sometimes has her hands by her sides. Often she is standing on the back of a lion. Her hair is dressed in the flicked style, looking rather like ram’s horns, typical of the Egyptian goddess Hathor, who had been popular in the south of the country—many of these plaques have been excavated at Devir near Hebron. In the Iron Age period, the preferred form of the goddess was that of an elongated bust, looking like a head and shoulders on a pillar, and therefore looking more phallic like the presumed Asherahs.

Commentators try to claim they are not Israelite but Canaanite, the two types of people living side by side for hundreds of years. Honest scholars today are asking how these populations can be so surely distinguished. All of the cultural evidence is that there was only one population. The need for two only arises to explain how what is read in the bible differs from what happened according to the evidence. So, only the need to fulfil biblical expectations makes anyone think that there were two different peoples in Palestine at this time. And the people that lived there were Canaanites who worshipped Baal and several goddesses.


Asherah was the Canaanite Venus, the Goddess of the Sea and the Mother of All the Gods. A lot is known about her from the Ugarit tablets that go back to the fourteenth century BC. She was the wife of the supreme god, El, whence her alternative name, Elath, the Goddess. Semitic deities commonly have two names, or rather a name and a title, and are known by either. The parallelism that characterizes Semitic verse might be the reason for the perpetuation of this habit, if not its origin, thus:

He cries to Asherah and her children,
To Elath and the company of her offspring.

A stele has an the inscription, “Qudsu   Astarte   Anat”, suggesting that Qudsu was a name or title of Anat who is herself identified with Astarte. Asherah and Qudsu also appear in the parallelism of Semitic verse where Asherah says in one place:


I myself have not a house like the gods
A court like the sons of Qudsu,

and elsewhere:

He came to qds
Athirat of the Tyrians.

Qudsu” (“qds”), the same as the biblical “qadesh” or “kadesh”, means “holy” or “sacred”, or the “Holy One”, or “Sacred One”. Moreover, the biblical Asherah is given as Ashtaroth in the plural, seemingly a plural of Astarte, though another plural is a masculine one, Asherim, doubtless part of the patriarchal plan to eliminate any hint of female deities. Asherim is conventionally translated as “groves”. The Sumerians had a goddess called Ashratim who was also the consort of their supreme god, Anu, and so she is likely to be an earlier and perhaps the original epiphany of Asherah.


Asherah is also mentioned in the Amarna letters from fourteenth century BC Egypt. They are records of reports and correspondence from Egyptian officials and emissaries outside the country, and so are an importance resource. They show that already Asherah was either being confused with Astarte or the two goddesses were always the same one, differently named. The names are used interchangeably in the Amarna tablets. The letters make it clear that her worshippers regarded themselves as her “slaves”. To this day Christians accept that they are “slaves” of God, although they wrongly translate the Greek for “slaves” as “servants”.

Asherah was, then, a goddess known throughout the Fertile Crescent, but not according to traditionalists for God’s plan, in Judah or Israel—at least officially. The seventeenth century translators of the King James Version of the bible hid the goddess quite from the view of the faithful by translating “Asherah” as “grove”. Judges 3:7 admits that Baal and Asherah were worshipped in Israel (and God of course punished the Israelites for it). The goddess, Asherah, is actually mentioned forty times in the scriptures.

Several passages in the scriptures describe Asherahs being built or torn down, or uprooted. It seems they were pillars, usually of wood, occasionally of stone, effectively phallic symbols but of the form of a woman, though in Micah 5:14, they are masculine and therefore surely phallic objects. In fact, each locality had its shrine to the goddess and doubtless had local peculiarities, so that we read in the Amarna letters of the “Asherah of here” and the “Asherah of there”, some of which might have been tree trunks still rooted in the earth, others of which were set up under trees and others of which were set up on the “high places”.


Judges 6:25,28 says they also stood next to the altars of Baal, suggesting that Asherah was thought of as the consort or mother of Baal, and 2 Kings 21:7 and 23:6 admit they stood in the Jerusalem temple. None of these Asherahs have survived, because they were deliberately destroyed by the priests of the Ezra school and its successors. But the terracotta dolls mentioned above seem likely to be household models of the full sized Asherahs, so we can get an idea of them.

In the scriptures, the stories about Asherah worship, the constant destruction and reintroduction of the symbols of the goddess, simply show the immense popularity she had among the Am ha Eretz (indeed the name “Am ha Eretz”, usually understood to be the men of the land, the simple folk, might well be intended to signify Mother Earth.

In Jewish myth, Asherah worship was first introduced by women, the wife of Solomon or the wife of Ahab, the latter being the infamous Jezebel. The prophet Elijah took exception to the prophets of Baal and defeated them in a gratuitous show of supernatural power on Mount Carmel, but the prophetesses of Asherah seem to have been left to continue their practices. Prophetess might have been used in the accepted sense here because a fifteenth century BC Akkadian text speaks of a “wizard of Asherah” forecasting the future, so Asherah might have had a reputation for fortune telling.

The Asherah of Samaria, supposedly set up by Ahab for Jezebel (1 Kgs 16:33), was still standing a hundred years later. Indeed, the impression is that the devotion of the people to Asherah was constant while the devotion to the male god fluctuated between Baal and Yehouah. Since, notwithstanding the fact that Asherah was properly the Mother of the Gods, she was also the consort of Baal or Yehouah—both mere sprogs of the supreme god—Asherah remained the female deity whichever of the male sons of god took precedence.

Bearing in mind the passages about the Queen of Heaven in Jeremiah, the reason why the shrines to Baal kept getting torn down might have been because Baal was the Lord (Baal) Yehouah, being pressed on to the Am ha Aretz by the priests of Yehouah, and being rejected repeatedly by the people who were devotees of the Goddess. The destruction of the sanctuaries to Baal therefore meant the destruction of the sanctuaries to Baal Yehouah. When the Yehouists eventually asserted their power at the beginning of the fourth century BC, the scriptural stories were anachronistically altered to suit the Yehouists.

Be that as it may, the scriptures record that the worshippers of this god of the Jews and Christians, Yehouah, invited all of the worshippers of Baal to a solemn assembly for their god at his sanctuary in Samaria, fitted them out in fresh vestments, then murdered them every one! The shrines to the bull god in Dan were not destroyed however and nor were the shrines to Asherah. If Yehouah was the only god allowed, one can only conclude that he was identified with the bull god and the goddess was his consort. In the story of the Exodus, the Israelites worshipped images of a bull, and a bull was a symbol of fertility.

The presence of the Asherah in Samaria for so long was made the mythical reason why the state of Israel was lost to the Assyrians, together with the ten lost tribes of Israel, but this is propaganda to justify the worshippers of Yehouah at Jerusalem—the Jews—hating the worshippers of Yehouah in Samaria—the Samaritans. In fact, the scriptures credit the king of Judah, Joshiah, with “burning” the Samaritan Asherah about forty years before Jerusalem was finally sacked by the Babylonians. This was about a hundred years after Israel had supposedly ceased to exist and its people had been deported to be lost forever. In truth, it was probably only after the Persian administrators had imposed monotheism that the goddess was harmed, and the Asherah of Samaria destroyed.

In Judah, Ashtaroth are not mentioned at all, but king Asa finds it necessary to destroy them, so they must have been there all the time. His son, Jehoshaphat however, finds he has to destroy them all again! His son, Joash allowed them back and even placed an Asherah in the Jerusalem temple where it remained until the pious monarch, Hezekiah removed it over a hundred years later (2 Kgs 18:4). Hezekiah also destroyed a brass serpent that Moses had given the Israelites to worship! Hezekiah’s son, Manasseh, restored the Asherah but not the brass snake, despite it having been a gift of the great Israelite leader.

The Book of Deuteronomy was then found, supposedly lost and forgotten since the time of Moses, but discovered “by accident” in the time of king Josiah, just 35 years before Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians. Plainly, the book was written by the returning “exiles” sent by the Persian king, who pretended that this law book had been discovered before they had even appeared on the scene. It forbade the building of Asherahs and pillars and had been just the sort of thing that would motivate a good Yehouist as Josiah was depicted as being. Yet, despite it, if Jeremiah is taken to be historical, the people still preferred the goddess and he later found himself defending Yehouah against the Queen of Heaven!


An Astarte plaque showing the goddess Astarte or Anath holding lilies or lotuses

Anath was the sister of Baal Hadad and the daughter of Asherah in Canaanite mythology, and was identified with Astarte (Hebrew, Ashtoreth). She seems also to be Anahita, the later Persian goddess. It is curious to the modern mind why goddesses should be distinguished then evidently confused or conflated again, and it seems more than likely that the patriarchal religious leaders divided the original Great Mother Goddess into her aspects to weaken her, but the people effectively refused to see all the goddesses thus created as anything other than what they were—the Great Mother. Thus, Anath, Astarte and Asherah might have had different names but were seen as the same. We saw from the Amarna letters and the bible itself that Asherah was confused with Ashtoreth. The ancient tablets, using the Semitic parallelism mentioned above, have:

Whose fairness is like Anath’s fairness;
Whose beauty is like Ashtoreth’s beauty.


The two goddesses are equated in these lines of verse, and such parallels led foreigners, the Egyptians for example, to think that here were two separate goddesses, whose equality must have meant they were sisters. According to Albright, however, Ramesses III called Anath and Astarte, his shield (singular) suggesting that he knew they were one goddess only.

Anath (Anthat, Anaitis) was a goddess of war and love in the Ugaritic tablets, a virgin goddess yet promiscuous and vicious. Anath’s main lover was her brother, Baal Hadad, with whom she had intercourse by taking the form of a heifer. Baal is therefore a bull, just as Yehouah was at Dan and Bethel, and in the wilderness. As a war goddess she is ferocious, killing wildly and with glee until she has to wade in blood and gore, rather like the Indian goddess, Kali, also known as Annapurna. She has characteristics almost identical to those of Inannu of Sumeria and Ishtar of Akkadia who were called “Lady of Heaven” and “Mistress of the Gods”, just as Anath and Astarte were in Egypt.

Ashtoreth refers to the womb, an appropriate reference for a fertility goddess, but one which shows that it is a descriptive title of the goddess Anath—Anath of the Womb, one could call her according to Raphael Patai (PAT-THG). Anath is often also called the “maiden”, so, although a womb, she is a virgin. The Egyptians described them as the goddesses “who conceive but do not bear” because they were permanently virgins. Ashtoreth was also a goddess of war as the scriptures declare also when the Philistines offered Saul’s armour in the temple of Ashtoreth (1 Sam 31:10) presumably as a token of appreciation for her assistance in the battle.

Anath is not mentioned in the scriptures and Ashtoreth or Astarte are mentioned only nine times, but she was much more important than such a small number of citations suggests. In Judges 2:13 and 10:6, Astarte and the Ashtaroth are respectively mentioned in conjunction with Baal, as warnings to the Israelites. Solomon is similarly warned by Yehouah (1 Kgs 11:5,33) for adopting Ashtoreth and other foreign gods.

Anath does appear in the scriptures as the place names Beth Anath and Anathoth or Anatha (even today still called Anata), the birthplace of Jeremiah, amongst others. Anathoth is simply the plural of Anath, a convention among the Hebrews in naming towns. Thus Ashtaroth, the plural of Ashtoreth is also a place name. These names arose because they were the place of a shrine (a house or “beth”) for the deity, and were therefore the place where the deity’s devotees lived—the Anaths (Anathoth) or the Astartes (Ashtaroth). One of the Judges, according to the scriptures, was a “son of Anath”, taken by the fathful to be literally true, but merely disguising that he was a follower or devotee of Anath.

Queen of Heaven

Jeremiah tried to persuade the Israelite worshippers of the Queen of Heaven in Egypt to turn to Yehouah but they refused. Anath and Astarte were “Lady (Lady being the feminine of Lord, therefore meaning “ruler”) of Heaven” throughout the Near East, including Egypt. The people, in reply, think it is not through any neglect of Yehouah that they have had misfortune but because of their neglect of the goddess!

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 wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine.

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 men?
Jeremiah 44:16-19


Elsewhere in Jeremiah, the author adds more detail:

Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 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.
Jeremiah 7:17-18


These are small windows into the genuine religion of Palestine before the Persians altered it. The author, clearly a propagandist for the Persian “returners” from “exile”, admits to the longstanding practice of the cities of Judah, and of Jerusalem itself. Their fathers—meaning in the first passage, ancestors, not just their immediate dads—their kings and princes had burnt incense to the Queen of Heaven and poured libations for her (the equal of the wine of the Eucharist). The women add that they made cakes for her (the equal of the Eucharist wafer), and insist that they did not worship the goddess only as a female indulgence but did it with their menfolk. The earlier passage in Jeremiah shows that the whole practice was communal.

The cakes will have been made in moulds just like the moulds used to cast the terracotta figures of the goddess, found everywhere, or perhaps the terracotta figurines were themselves used to make an impression on the cakes, which were then baked and eaten or burnt as an offering. That the Queen of Heaven was Ashtoreth is suggested by the use of these cakes, because an ancient Babylonian text to Ishtar refers to sacrificial cakes using a name that seems to be cognate with the Hebrew word.

The people had been happy and well fed under the care of the goddess, but latterly had suffered hardship under the Babylonians and then the Persian administrators’ efforts to bring in an exclusive new god, the Persian version of Yehouah. No one intelligent can read books like Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel and other prophetic books without seeing them as propagandistic pseudepigraphs written by the schools of Nehemiah and Ezra to persuade the native Palestinians to adopt the monotheistic religion the Persians were promoting for political reasons. These books nominally come from the two centuries before the “restoration” but were obviously anachronistically cast back in time to justify Persian novelties. The priestly schools blamed the troubles of the Am ha Eretz on to their old religious habits—and they laid it on thick—they were abominations!

In Ezekiel, the prophet is transported from Babylon to Jerusalem by God himself to see the abominations that are happening. The Persian reformers composed this to justify Ezra’s alterations to worship in the city of Jerusalem. The abominations are a phallic image (“an image of jealousy that provokes jealousy”), presumably an Asherah; the worship of a variety of images; the worship of Tammuz, the dying and rising god whose consort was Ishtar (Ashtoreth); the worship of the sun that was doubtless an aspect of El, Baal and Yehouah as sky gods. The Persians apparently were not against the vision of the sun being used as an aspect of their transcendental god, Ormuzd, because Mithras was apparently exactly that, but they would not have anything worshipped except for the God of Heaven himself. Mithras transformed himself for the Jews into the archangel Michael, guardian angel of the faithful of Yehouah, a mighty prince of the heavenly hosts but only an angel.

An Aramaic papyrus from the Jewish military colony at Hermopolis in Egypt speaks of a temple to the Queen of Heaven in the fifth century BC, just when the priests of Nehemiah or Ezra would have been forging the Jeremiah pseudepigraph, on our surmise. We know from the Elephantine papyri that the Jews of Elephantine were still worshipping other gods and goddesses besides Yehouah, including Anath, around 400 BC!

Yehouah’s Spouse

Utterance of Ashyaw the king: Say to Yehallel and to Yaw’asah

and to… I bless you by Yahweh of Samaria and his asherah


At Kuntillet Ajrud in the Negeb 30 miles from Kardesh Barnea, excavation of an eighth century sanctuary by the University of Tel Aviv in 1975-1976 revealed inscriptions, including Hebrew prayers, that have still not been published 30 years later. The text of one prayer was illustrated with two rough figures like the brutish Egyptian god, Bes, and spoke of “Yehouah and his Asherah”. This was a severe kick in the teeth for traditional Jewish and Christian monotheists of the “God’s Plan” variety. Asherah is a Ugaritic goddess, the consort of El. The people of eighth century BC Palestine had this same goddess, and she was considered the consort of Yehouah. Yehouah seemed even closer than ever to Baal or El. The Arabs before the foundation of Islam also had a goddess Asherah, and the Nabataean Arabs, judging by many inscriptions they made in Sinai in the second and third centuries AD, worshipped a god called “Ywh”. The fifth century Jewish colony at Elephantine on the Nile, similarly had Yehouah paired with a goddess Anath-Yehouah.

In the bible, Asherah is depicted as a cult object apparently a wooden pillar or tree trunk, but translated often as “grove”. Fighting fires and painting over cracks or whatever other metaphor comes to mind—they all apply—biblicists claim that God’s asherah was just a candlestick or altar, or they concede that some evil Jews did allow Yehouah to have a wife and that is why they Jews were always being punished, or anything that sounds plausible as long as it does not mean that Yehouah was not a perpetual batchelor. But as Theodore Lewis points out in the Oxford Companion to the Bible:

The asherah symbol in its origin is not easily divorced from the goddess Asherah.


The archaeological evidence is that the “pre-exilic” Israelites worshipped first and foremost, a goddess whose spouse was titled Baal and sometimes called Yehouah—the causer of being (meaning existence, life). The people saw the goddess as the accessible deity, even if notionally Yehouah or El were superior gods in the hierarchy. In the same way, Christians pray to Jesus or to Mary or even to saints instead of the omniscient god because they clearly do not believe that God is omniscient. And they obviously finish up just as satisfied praying to an old dead bishop as they do to the Almighty God of heaven Himself!

The Persians stopped goddess worship and replaced the old Baal Yehouah with a new god of heaven in the image of Ahuramazda. The constant theme of the Jewish scriptures of apostasy began here, Ezra’s priests portrayed the old religion as a perversion and an abomination of the wishes of the new god, and created an imaginary history of relapsing into religious perversion to justify the change. The prophets were pseudepigraphic propaganda supporting this scheme. Interestingly, later on, after the new god had been accepted, Jews became so protective of the new god that they refused to accept the gods of the Greeks and eventually started the Maccabaean wars. The works written to persuade the Am ha Eretz to adopt the new god were now seen as directed against the Hellenizing Jews who wanted to adopt Greek ways.

Yet, despite this manipulation, the Jews would not give up their attachment to a goddess. It simply had to find new forms, acceptable to those whose only deity was a lonely and invisible Almighty.

One way that is plain in the scriptures, is that the land and people of Yehouah, Israel itself, appeared in place of Asherah or Anath as the betrothed or the wife of God. The goddess remained in the Jewish world view but as a metaphor for the object of the love of Yehouah—his people. This fitted in so well with Persian aims that it is conceivable that they used it as a way of weaning the native Israelites off their attachment to the Goddess, just as Christians permitted Pagan gods to be seen as Christian saints. At any rate it is a strong theme through many of the Persian books of the scriptures.

Those who refused to abandon the old ways in favour of the new Yehouah were portrayed as a wanton wife, a promiscuous Israel, an unworthy bride or wife. If “His people” abandoned the old ways, then Yehouah would forgive them of their sins and repent of His anger, and approach Israel to unite with her, his erstwhile unfaithful wife, in a grand marriage, to which the faithful would be invited but not the remaining apostates. We have suggested elsewhere that this marriage ceremony was celebrated as a ritual by the Essenes, at least (the wedding at Cana), but whether it is a carry over of some older ceremony in which Baal Yehouah “married” his consort is unclear, though quite likely. The older ceremonies were blatantly sexually promiscuous and the new symbolic ceremony which replaced the previous Bacchic-like revels was doubtless seen as a progression to total decorum.

The old goddess became personified as Zion, the city of Jerusalem representing those who worshipped Yehouah—the Jews or Yehudim, a word apparently related to “yahad” meaning a tightly knit community. Zion was a loving mother or a tender and affectionate daughter to Yehouah—the roles of the goddesses Asherah (mother of Baal) and Anath (daughter of El). She became even more important in the Hellenistic period when she represented the aspirations of the Jews for a kingdom of God—independence from the Greeks.


The reputation of Judaism as an aniconic relgion—one which does not permit images—evidently was built after the Persian “restoration”. The making of “any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth (Ex 20:4)” was written in by the priests of Ezra to prevent the people of the Hill Country from reverting to their Asharoth. Yet cherubim decorated the walls of Jewish temples until the end of the temple of Herod in 70 AD. Surely these were “graven images”.

Christians, unassailable in their perpetual ignorance, think cherubim are baby angels like the putti of the medieval illustrators. Well they were indeed winged creatures but they were more like the griffins, winged bulls and winged lions of Assyria than podgy baby angels, though angelic figures were also cherubs. These fabulous creatures were popular all over the ancient Near East for thousands of years, but perhaps reached their artistic zenith under the Assyrians. They were certainly brought by the Persian priests of Ezra from Babylonia, where they decorated thrones, gates and walls. Support for this is the word itself which is not from a Hebrew root. The nearest word for it is found in Akkadian tablets where it stands for an intermediary between humans and god—an winged beast that carries human prayer to god.

Cherubs are first mentioned as having been set to guard the entrance to the Garden of Eden with a flaming sword after the expulsion of humanity (Gen 3:24). In Exodus (25:18-22; 37:7-9), lengthy instructions are giving for the construction of the Ark of the Covenant with its Mercy Seat and decorated curtains. Cherubim were the decorative motif. In 2 Samuel 2:11, God rides on a cherub and in Ezekiel’s vision four cherubim carry the throne of God.

Elsewhere, God sits enthroned on the Ark’s cherubim (2 Sam 6:2; 1 Chron 13:7;Ps 80:1) or sits between them (Ex 25:22; Num 7:89). And in the Psalms, Yehouah “rides on the wings of the wind” (Ps 104:5) or “upon the clouds” (Ps 68:5) or “makes the clouds his chariot” (Ps 104:5). In 2 Samuel 22:11, we read:

And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: and he was seen upon the wings of the wind.


Psalms 18:10 is equally explicit and emphatic that a cherub stands for the wings of the wind:

And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.

These descriptions explain to us what the cherubim that supported god or his throne were. The Jewish scriptures are describing the common near eastern representation of God, or His Fravashi, used by the Persians and other nations like the Assyrians. The Egyptians also used a similar device—a winged disc that was often shown hovering over a dead person or a religious scene, standing for the soul of the dead or perhaps, more abstractly, for the protective power of god—holiness.

The Egyptians liked to picture Horus between the twin goddesses, Isis and her sister, Nephthys, shown as mirror images of female cherubim, with the winged disc floating above, doubtless representing god as Ra. Equivalent pictures are found in Mesopotamia with two winged gods or goddesses (cherubs) tending a sacred palm tree overlooked by the holy ideogram. This is doubtless the type of scene described as the one on the cover of the Ark of the Covenant. Furthermore, it sounds like the scene repeated several times in 1 Kings as being the general motif of the chambers of the temple:


Goddesses in the form of cherubim with stylized palm tree like the description of those decorating the temple; from Nimrud, Assyria, 900 BC


And he carved all the walls of the house round about with carved figures of Cherubim and palm trees and open flowers, within and without… The two doors also were of olive tree and he carved upon them carvings of Cherubim and palm trees and open flowers, and overlaid them with gold, and spread gold upon the Cherubim, and upon the palm trees. So also made he for the door of the temple posts of olive tree… And he carved thereon Cherubim and palm trees and open flowers: and covered them with gold fitted upon the carved work. (1 Kings 6:29-35)


Gods in the form of cherubim with stylized palm tree like the description of those decorating the temple; from Nimrud, Assyria, 900 BC



The description of the visionary temple in Ezekiel matches this (doubtless it was written first) and adds the detail that the cherubs faced alternately just as they do in the Assyrian pictures. Only the Janus-like nature of the heads differs:

And it was made with Cherubim and palm trees, so that a palm tree was between a cherub and a cherub; and every cherub had two faces; So that the face of a man was toward the palm tree on the one side, and the face of a young lion toward the palm tree on the other side: it was made through all the house round about. From the ground unto above the door were Cherubim and palm trees made, and on the wall of the temple… And there were made on them, on the doors of the temple, Cherubim and palm trees, like as were made upon the walls; and there were thick planks upon the face of the porch without. (Ezek 41:18-20;25)


Even the ten wash stands in the temple were set on bases which had a decorative motif of palms, bulls, lions and cherubim.

The two cherubs placed in the Holy of Holies of the temple, however, from their description in the scriptures, seem more like the ideogram of Ahura Mazda:

And in the most holy house he made two cherubim of image work, and overlaid them with gold. And the wings of the cherubim were twenty cubits long: one wing of the one cherub was five cubits, reaching to the wall of the house: and the other wing was likewise five cubits, reaching to the wing of the other cherub. And one wing of the other cherub was five cubits, reaching to the wall of the house: and the other wing was five cubits also, joining to the wing of the other cherub. The wings of these cherubims spread themselves forth twenty cubits: and they stood on their feet, and their faces were inward. (2 Chronicles 3:10-13; see also 1 Kings 6:23-28)

Is this how the cherubim in the temple Devir at Jerusalem looked?

The cherubim were miraculous because they faced each other only when Yehouah favoured Israel but the faced away from each other when Israel had earned God’s ill will. But why were there two when there is only one god? In Rabbinic tradtion, there are two cherubim to stand for each of God’s holy names, Yehouah and Elohim, and, though this is much later than the origin of these images with the Persians, it could be true. There seem to have been two factions, each rooting for their preferred god, further proof that the religion of the Israelites before the arrival of the Persians was polytheistic.

Now Judaeo-Christian tradition has always been that the Holy of Holies of the temple was empty, once the Ark of the Covenant had disappeared from it, despite the descriptions of the cherubim in the scriptures. In fact, there must always have been fires burning in there if only for the burning of incense, but fires were holy themselves in Persian tradition and considered to be good spirits that took the prayers of the faithful up to god along with the sweet incense. Rabbi Hanina in the first century AD reports that there was a fire on the altar, and this was obviously not the altar for burnt offerings which stood outside the Holy Place, and necessarily had a fire. This altar is distinguished in Exodus 38:1 from the altar of incense of Exodus 37:25. The Holy of Holies and the Holy Place were a single room, separated only by a veil.

The Ark was meant to rest beneath the touching outstretched wings of the cherubs, but the loss of the Ark would not have stopped the temple authorities from maintaining the cherubs. Only the Ark was unique and irreplaceable. These cherubs are both shown as masculine in appearance, just as Yehouah is always taken to be masculine in every respect. A later reason for there being two images was that one of the cherubim in the Holy of Holies of the second temple was female—the goddess had not really disappeared at all!

The basis for this belief is also the Talmud, which talls us that the two cherubs in the Devir of the temple were a copulating couple! Well, the Talmud actually says they were “entwined” like a man and his wife. This explicit sculpture was displayed to the pilgrims on each of the three major festivals—Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles.

Both Philo of Alexandria and Josephus must have known what was in the Devir, but both are cagey or contradictory. Philo says that the High Priest is so blinded by the incense smoke when he enters that even he cannot see what is in there, and Josephus says that nothing is there, then that what is there is quite respectable, and lastly he admits that there are some items of sacred paraphernalia in there.

Both must have known, because Josephus had served as a priest and Philo had visited Jerusalem as a pilgrim. Rabbi Quetina, according to Raphael Patai, says that the priests would role up the veil separating off the Holy Place when pilgrims arrived to show them the “cherubim that were intertwined with one another”, and declare:

Behold! Your love before God is like the love of male and female.


The pilgrims would then indulge in orgiastic behaviour, as they had done under the old religion, as the incident of the golden calves proves:

And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings, and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play. (Ex 32:6)


No prizes are offered here for the real meaning of the mistranslation “play”. The same Hebrew word is mistranslated differently when the Philistine king, who thinks Rebekah is Isaac’s sister, sees them through his window (Gen 26:8):

Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife.


Yes, the word “l’zaheq” means having nooky. The Jews had been subject to the same relgious influences as everyone else in the ancient Near East. Their original religion was a fertility religion based on the cycle of the seasons. If these people wanted the rains to come and the land to be fertile, what reason could they have had for not showing the gods precisely what they required? The sexual act was a sacred act of the cycle of living, and the hierophants revealed the sacred object that stimulated the act. It would have been impossible for them to have remained chaste when they wanted the land to be fertile.

Doubtless the Persian schools could not have tolerated such behaviour, which suggests it only resumed after Alexander’s conquest. The priests were, of course, interested in multiplying the seed of Abraham, who were their bread and butter, and the Greek regime was sexually liberal, so that the new generation of Hellenized priests had good reason for promoting occasional orgies, even if the Jews had become otherwise prudish under Zoroastrian influence. Effectively they were re-admitting the old religion of Baal and the Queen of Heaven, but under the guise of a mystery religion in which the cult objects were revealed periodically only to the faithful. Naturally, traditional Jews—those now committed to the religion introduced by the Persians—would have seen all of this as abominable. They became the Hasidim who split into Pharisees and Essenes.

Elsewhere, the Talmud describes the discovery of the entwined cherubs by foreigners violating the temple’s sanctity:

They entered the Holy of Holies and found there the two cherubim, and they took them and put them in a cage and went around with them in the streets of Jerusalem and said: “You used to say that this nation was not serving idols. Now you see what we found and what they were worshipping”.


These violators are supposed to have been Ammonites and Moabites, but the only historical event that it could correspond to before the restoration was the capture and robbing of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar, and the Persian “restorers” would have included evidence of such an abomination in the salutary works they wrote that now constitute the prophetic books of scripture. The event therefore took place in the Greek period when it became normal for Jews to refer to the Greeks by the scriptural names of their gentile enemies. The Ammonites and Moabites must therefore have been really Greeks and the desecration and parading of the sculptures in cages must have happened before the Maccabaean war. The desecration of Antiochus Epiphanes in 170 BC seems the likely occasion.

The old cherubim in the shape of the ideogram of Ormuzd must have been replaced by the sensuous statue of copulating cherubs after the defeat of the Persians by the Greeks. Patai suggests that the change was effected by Ptolemy Philadelphus who made several expensive gifts to the Jewish temple and began the translation of the Torah into Greek. Perhaps more likely is his son Ptolemy III Euergetes, who was a noted Judaeophile and even worshipped at the Jerusalem temple, according to Josephus. His son, Ptolemy Philopator, wanted also to worship in the temple but was prevented from doing so and planned to massacre Jews in revenge. He regarded the Jews as being devotees of Dionysos and therefore had Jewish slaves tattooed with a vine leaf.

When the Maccabees rededicated the temple in 165 BC, did they restore the statuary destroyed by Antiochus Epiphanes? It seems they did, because the cageyness of Philo and Josephus suggest it, and the fact that the Hasids fell out with the Hasmonaeans has the same implications. The excuse given by apologists is that some Hasids objected to the Maccabees taking the priesthood, reserved for the Zadokites, but the real reason will be that they had returned the institutions to those of the Greek inclined sect of the Sadducees, who claimed they were the heirs of the Zadokites, instead of back to the religion introduced by the Persians.

Nevertheless, for many Jews the attraction of the goddess remained and she had had a metaphorical existence as the bride of God, Israel. The explicit statue must have seemed to many a graphic illustration of the intimacy of Yehouah and His people, and therefore did not seem in the least improper. And a goddess equal to Yehouah had reappeared as the female cherub in the statue. It took the growing strength of the Persian parties, the Pharisees and the Essenes to pressurize the priesthood into segregating men and women and preventing them from indulging in sexual flippery when the mysteries were revealed.

Women, who had previously had a temple court of their own giving direct sight of the revealed cherubs, were relegated to second class citizens in galleries having no view of it. The goddess was to fade again into metaphor and the poetic constructions of the Shekinah, the Wisdom of God and the Holy Ghost before the Christians even masculinized even that.





Book 2: How Persia Created Judaism


The people danced and danced.

The people shouted and shouted.

They danced and shouted for the whole day.

There was no fire.
Ampliar la imagen

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Hazor estelas




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