- Religion and Philosophy
Yahweh - the inconvenient truth: Part 1
El, the father of Yahweh
Who is Yahweh? Is he the Father of Jesus or just one of many pagan gods? This hub delves into this and examines how the Israelites went from polytheistic to monotheistic.
In order for us to fully appreciate the evolution of Yahweh to result in the Jewish religion and ultimately Christianity, we need to differentiate between El and Yahweh. This causes confusion as most believe that El and Yahweh are interchangeable and they just had different names, being one and the same. In order to understand that they are, in fact, two separate beings, we need to look at the Canaanite history.
El was the chief Canaanite god. He was depicted as a kind and gentle being living on a tent on the mountain. From his base, all the waters of the world came. He presided over the Assembly of the Gods along with this wife, Asherah. They were the top tier. They were the owners of the universe and it was their duty to establish and appoint rulers of their cosmic world. They begot 70 sons which comprised of the second tier. Baal was prominent. He had the military power while his father, El, had the executive power. He was a god of thunder and the god of agriculture. The second gods were considered the “active gods”. As mentioned, these sons governed the natural functions of the cosmos each getting their own jurisdiction. These gods basically had carte blanche to do whatever they wanted which often meant arguing, killing and insubordination to superiors. Not unlike what rulers do today.
The third tier was made up of craft-man and trader deities. Yahweh was not in the original Canaanite pantheon but later joined the pantheon. He was, however, a son of El, not El himself. Each son of El had dominion under a human nation to govern.
An important passage to consider is DEUTERONOMY 32:7 which have some ambiguity.
"Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations. Ask your father, and he will show you; your elders, and they will tell you: 8 When the Most High divided their inheritance to the nations, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the CHILDREN OF ISRAEL. 9 For the LORD's portion is His people; Jacob is the place of His inheritance. (NKJV)
From this, we assume that Yahweh divided the 70 nations as listed in Genesis among the sons of Adam and kept Israel for himself . However, this is an English translation from the traditional Hebrew text of the Old Testament. That includes the words, “…children of Israel.” However, the manuscripts of Deuteronomy found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, much older than the Hebrew Text of the Old Testament says:
DEUTERONOMY 32:7 Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you; your elders, and they will tell you. 8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of men, He fixed the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the SONS OF GOD. 9 For the LORD's portion is His people, Jacob His allotted heritage.
Likewise, the Septuagint, the 3rd century translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek states:
DEUTERONOMY 32:7 Remember the days of old, consider the years for past ages: ask thy father, and he shall relate to thee, thine elders, and they shall tell thee. 8 When the Most High divided the nations, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the nations according to the number of the angels of God. 9 And His people Jacob became the portion of the Lord, Israel was the line of His inheritance. (Brenton's LXX)
Earlier manuscripts of the Septuagint have “houin theou” (sons of God) instead of the extant Septuagint manuscripts ,which is read as “aggelon theou” (angels of God). Therefore the Septuagint translators knew “sons of God” and “angels of God” were interchangeable. For the sake of clarity, the former description was used in response to passages like Job 1:6:
One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them.
The Book of Jasper 9:31-32 supports this:
Jash 9:31 And they built the tower and the city, and they did this thing daily until many days and years were elapsed.
Jash 9:32 And God said to the seventy angels who stood foremost before him, to those who were near to him, saying, Come let us descend and confuse their tongues, that one man shall not understand the language of his neighbor, and they did so unto them.
This supports that El, or God, was addressing his 70 sons.
So what is it? Is the Hebrew Text of the Old Testament correct? I think not because Israel could not have been one of the 70 nations as Israel is not listed as one in Genesis. It did not exist then. Therefore it is logical to assume that the Septuagint and the Deuteronomy found with the Dead Sea Scrolls at Quram are correct.
The seventy nations should rather be read as the 70 sons of God. Deuteronomy speaks of the Most High giving out inheritance. It is therefore illogical for Yahweh to give an inheritance to himself. He was a recipient. He received ancient Israel for his own.
The divine assemblies and the Most High.
The Deuteronomy passages clearly illustrate a theme of a divine assembly. El, the most High, and his council to whom he is dividing nations as an inheritance, is the divine assembly. The concept is not unique to the Bible. These concepts come from the Ugaritic text from which the Old Testament sourced. Ugaritic is an ancient near eastern language related to biblical Hebrew. Ugarit was an ancient city located in modern Syria.
The religious culture of Ugarit gave an insight to the religious philosophy of other Semitic people that the Israelites were in direct contact with. The Ugaritic text shares the same vocabulary, morphological and syntactical features as does biblical Hebrew. Much of the Ugaritic tablets share the same words and phrases that are conceptually and linguistically like the Hebrew Bible.
There are texts from the Old Testament and the Ugaritic text that reconcile with one another.
The heavenly host in the Old Testament is regarded as the angels of the Lord. However, in the Ugaritic text, the heavenly hosts were the sons of El. The Ugaritic text says:
..."That the sons of 'AL (El) may know and the assembly of the stars may understand"...
In Job, 38:7 says:
..."When the morning stars sang together, and shouted for joy all the sons of 'Alohim (YHWH)"...
-JOB 38: 7
Yahweh and El were merged into one in the Biblical history which I will touch upon later.
The sons of El were the morning stars. Ashtar, a son of El and Asharah, was known as the morning star. Likewise, Chemosh, another son of El, was also identified with the morning star, the Lord of Heaven.
The Old Testament and the Ugaritic text also share some familiar terms.
In the Ugaritic text, phr ‘ilm means “the assembly of El/the gods”. phr bn ‘ilm means "the assembly of the sons of El/ the gods”. mphrt bn ‘il means the assembly of the sons of El. dr bn’il (or phr bn’il) means “assembly of the sons of El” and dt ‘ilm ( or phr’ilim) means “assembly of El/ the gods.”
Understanding these keys concepts, let’s examine what the context of Psalm 82 is.
In Psalms 82
A psalm of Asaph. God presides in the great assembly; he renders judgment among the "gods":
It uses the same expression for council (dt ‘ilm) and the plural use of the words “gods”, which is Elohim. It sets the stage for judgement as like a court.
It is Yahweh who is lambasting the other sons of El for their unsatisfactory governance over the nations. They have allowed oppression to flourish and have neglected the poor. In verse 5, Yahweh accuses the gods of knowing nothing and being completely inept, walking in darkness. In verse 6, Yahweh tells them that the gods are condemned to death just like mortal man. Yahweh subsequently rises up and takes control over the now condemned gods and takes their inheritance. He is now not only the King of Israel but the ruler of all nations.
The Christian version of Psalm 82.
Instead of gods being the sons of El, the gods as in “I have said, ye are gods” are not divine beings at all but mere mortals. They constituted judges, magistrates and others in authority including royalty representing God. They were referred to as Elohim in the Old Testament. For example, Exodus 21:6:
Then his master shall bring him unto the judges who acted in God’s name
But you will die like mere mortals;
you will fall like every other ruler.”
In Christianity, this is meant as God saying they will die like the lay person. He is reminding them that they are mortal. Even though they had high authority, they will still die. This doesn’t make any sense. Why is God telling them that they will die when they will die anyway being good or evil? The key is the comparison. If one dies like a mortal, there must be a distinction in the first place from a mortal. I can’t say, “I will die like a mortal. I am a mortal. I am not distinct from anyone else. If God’s authority had been just and he was pleased with them, would they still die like mere mortals? Then the verse is saying that the immortal gods will become mortal. That in itself seems contradictory but perhaps the gods are extra-terrestrials with enormous life spans as alluded to in Genesis.
Those of high rank also had the title of Son of God as well as gods. Many rulers have the title of sons of god from other cultures. In ancient Egyptian, pharaohs were called sons of Horus/sons of God. The pharaoh was not deity like Horus but a human representative of the divine as the Jewish people were for Yahweh. The Pharoah’s role was to preserve justice, keep the people secure, tend to the adequate rising of the Nile and had to uphold the divine order, Maat and fight Isfet.
In this role he had to keep his people safe, dispense justice, ensure the adequate rising of the Nile, care for the continued existence of those in the beyond by bringing them offerings to feed on, i.e. he had to uphold the divine order, Maat and fight Isfet.
This goes back to El and his sons where each son was giving a nation to run and care for which Yahweh, as illustrated in the relevant psalm, the sons of gods were not doing well.
El is a royal parent of the Canaanite pantheon, with the dominant deities being the royal children. As we can see that the gods were closely associated with royalty, we can now understand why the Psalms illustrate kings as having such a strong relationship with Yahweh.
He gives his king great victories;
he shows unfailing love to his anointed,
to David and to his descendants forever.
"Lord, give victory to the king!"
"Answer us when we call!"
"The king rejoices in your strength, Lord."
"How great is his joy in the victories you give!"
Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god.
Where do the divine assemblies take place?
Quite simply, the same place Christians recognize God to meet his chosen ones – the mountains. At Ugarit, the divine counsel of the gods met on a cosmic mountain where the heaven and earth intersect. It is here that the divine decrees were issued. The place was at the source of the two rivers. As mentioned, El dwelt on this mountain in a tent. El’s mountain was seen as a source of water that gave fertility to the earth. In fact, El Shaddai, means “God of the Mountain”. His throne rested on a Cherubim. He was known as the god of covenants and blessings.
El’s son, Baal, lived on Mount Zaphon, far north of Palestine. It was on this location that Baal battled his enemies.
Mountain motifs are rife in the Old and New Testament.
Mount Gerizim and Ebal
Moses instructed the Israelites to build an altar on Mount Ebal after entering the Promised Land and give sacrifices to the Lord. On Mount Gerizim, the Levites would announce the blessings of the people who obeyed the covenant and on Mount Ebal, would declare the curses for disobedience.
This is the location where Elijah battled the prophets of Baal.
Ezekiel mentions that Eden was on the Holy Mountain of God.
You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones.
You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones.
Jesus was tempted on a mountain in the wilderness, healed on mountains and the transfiguration occurred on a mountain. It is symbolic of divine encounters.
On Mountain Sinai, the Lord gives Moses the Law to Israel in the form of the Pentateuch. This is reminiscent of El issuing divine decrees on the mountain.
God also gave instructions on how to make the tabernacle, the place built for worship during the forty year exile after leaving Egypt. Another name for the tabernacle was the “tent of meeting”. It is God who gave the instructions on the design and pattern for this tent. The tent was mobile and was deconstructed and reconstructed by the Levites during the journey. God detailed the maintenance, also. We see the connection of tents the Canaanite El and the Hebrew god. There are many more examples.
To be continued