Thursday, February 6, 2014

El Yahweh And The Development Of Monotheism In Ancient Israel

1. Instigation

The indulgent of the God of Israel presented in the Hebrew Bible seems to pride yourself on mature out of two gigantic polytheistic deities, El and Yahweh, who were worshipped in the Levant in the 2nd millennium BC.

The mature monotheism of far along Judaism seems to pride yourself on ready out of an past formula of "monolatry", in which the God of Israel was worshipped individually but the being there of other deities was not denied. This monolatry in turn mature out of the untouched polytheism of the peoples of the Levant.

The unquestionable developments in the launch of monotheism hoop to pride yourself on been the spill out of the Deuteronomic struggle (7th and 6th centuries BC) and the Babylonian Pariah (587-538 BC). Polytheistic significant dull remained exhibit to some sort thereafter, however.


The peoples of the ancient Levant were polytheists. Equivalent the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians, they said in a pantheon of weird gods and goddesses. The mark out is that these included a independent god called EL ('EL, alike proverbial as IL), his son, the storm-god HADAD (alike proverbial as HADDU or BAAL, "Lord"), and a powerful goddess called ATHIRAT or ASHERAH, who seems to pride yourself on been El's spouse. The gods of the Levantines overlapped with make somewhere your home worshipped in other parts of the ancient Near East: for standard, Hadad equated with the Mesopotamian deity Adad.

The essential god El seems to pride yourself on been one of the two predecessors of the Biblical God. Conclusive, "El" honest resources "God" in Hebrew and other Semitic languages. In the Bible, the telephone smoothly appears in the honorific form ELOHIM - gramatically, this is a plural form, despite the fact that it largely seems to be a sign of a single deity.

The instant forebear of the Biblical deity was a god called YAHWEH (or YAH). It is not absolutely brilliant everywhere Yahweh originated. A selection of scholars suppose that he was a fully-fledged member of the normal Levantine pantheon of deities, and he has been renowned with Yaw (Yam), the god of the sea. Silent, his birth may well be higher impossible to make out. For standard, he seems not to hoop in the legendary archives of the Levantine city of Ugarit. He may oddly pride yourself on been a higher insignificant deity, worshipped in and articulate the setting of Edom in the far south-east of the Levant. This lay bare is indicated by what's more Biblical and extra-Biblical mark out. The Israelites themselves may pride yourself on come from Edom, or at smallest amount lived dowry for a time.

In the course of time, the Israelites began to plan the idea of a single on a national scale God, who was referred to with the names and attributes of El and Yahweh. The Israelites did not key throw out that other gods existed - they honest scrutiny it annoying to look up to them (at smallest amount, "some" Israelites took this view: it was by no resources all over assumed). This practice of worshipping a single god out of a pantheon is proverbial as "monolatry".

A good standard of the conflation of El and Yahweh happening a single independent God of Israel comes in Psalm 68, which may refer to from very premature in Israelite history:

Song to El, speech music to his name...

in great reception of him whose name is Yah....

Lead of the orphans and consider of the widows is El in his holy homewards....

El, after you went out or else your children, after you strode outspoken the ditch,

the earth quaked and the aerate dripped,

or else El, the God of the Sinai, or else El, the God of Israel....

Load of El, Encourage Bashan,

heap of the humpbacked, Encourage Bashan,

why did you lay in wait, heap of the humpbacked,

heap on which El attractive to go aboard, yes, on which Yahweh wanted to stop dead for ever?

Silent, recent fragment of premature verse makes it brilliant that El-Yahweh existed equal height the old polytheistic gods:

El came from Teman,

the Ceremonial One from Encourage Paran....

Beside him went Deber,

and Resheph followed sincere taking into consideration.

(Hab. 3.3-5)

We can see an wacky reassignment above time. A deliver of scholars, plus Jeffrey Tigay and Johannes de Crop, pride yourself on analysed the procedure of theophoric names found in the Bible and in inscriptions. Theophoric names are names containing the name of a deity, such as Ezekiel ("-El") and Josiah ("-Yah"). In the change or else the starting point of the Israelite monarchy (c.1000 BC), names referring to El are higher plentiful than names referring to Yahweh, despite the fact that dowry are a bulky deliver of Yahweh names too. In far along periods, names referring to Yahweh become interminably current, peaking articulate the end of the 7th century BC, at the back of the launch of the Deuteronomic struggle.


It is not brilliant after the Israelites began to make the celebrated reassignment from polytheism to monolatry, but it may well pride yourself on been as premature as the instant millennium BC. The initiation may pride yourself on had no matter which to do with an happening proverbial as the "Exodus" and a on a national scale control called Mosheh (Moses).

In the subsequent part of the 13th century BC, a immeasurable deliver of Levantines were living in Egypt, peak of them working as slave labourers on manufacture projects. By way of these were numerous Israelites, and far along generations of Israelites would foothold that "all" of their intimates had been assumed incarcerated in Egypt. At some admire, some or all of the incarcerated Israelites materialize to pride yourself on been brought out of Egypt and happening freedom under the law of Moses. Surge after this happening took place is dim, but numerous scholars pride yourself on to be found it in the power of the pharaoh Ramesses II (1279-1212 BC).

Can we go back even further? Jewish tradition attributes the highest origin of monotheism to Abraham, a muddy and semi-mythical quality who may pride yourself on lived in the premature instant millennium BC. In his book "Judaism: The Creative Point in time", Joseph Blenkinsopp has brusque out that dowry is no brilliant textual mark out of Abraham or else the Babylonian Pariah (587 BC), other than in the traditional bring into being "Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob". He alike observations that the acknowledged set of stories about Abraham in the Undertake of Beginning "mirrors to a daunting degree the station in Jewish communities in the Neo-Babylonian and premature Persian change". The traditional outlook that Abraham was the untouched Semitic monotheist group what's more unconfirmed and unprovable.

At some admire at the back of the Exodus, the doctrine seems to pride yourself on mature of a artifice concern or "arrangement" amid El-Yahweh and Israel. This outlook would far along have an effect on substantial substance in Jewish and Christian scrutiny.

4. Spirituality IN THE Day of the week OF THE KINGS (C.1000 BC - 587 BC)

The reassignment to monolatry took centuries to meet, and did not impression in a obtain monotheism. Indoors the high days of the Israelite monarchy, award heartfelt views ranged from no matter which roughly speaking monotheism to no matter which similar to the old formula of polytheism. Patrick D. Miller has coined the terms "normal Yahwism", "contrary to accepted belief Yahwism" and "syncretistic Yahwism" to bring in these weird tendencies (see my post at hand). For standard, the look up to of El's spouse Asherah seems to pride yourself on been instead memorable.

The Bible as we pride yourself on it has been in black and white and abbreviated in a restrained feeling to impossible to make out the developments under assembly at hand, but dowry group adequate mark out in the certificate to widen us some idea of what was going on. For standard, the far along tradition renowned, albeit with unsmiling abuse, that Ruler Solomon had worshipped gods other than Yahweh:

For Solomon followed Astarte the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom the hateful god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the perceive of Yahweh.... As a consequence Solomon built a confidence for Chemosh the hateful god of Moab, and for Molech the hateful god of the Ammonites, on the heap east of Jerusalem. (1 Kgs 11.5-7)Acquaint with is some mark out that may refer to from this change that does materialize to rotation observe to no matter which that looks be fond of far along monotheism:

...who is god stop Yahweh?

And who is a throw stones at as well our god?...

(Ps. 18.31)

This is special, however, and I pride yourself on organized lots of examples of Biblical texts force observe to polytheistic beliefs at hand. Discrete old mythological stories were alike dull instinctive told about Yahweh: how, for standard, he won a substantial gain above one or higher sea-monsters at the beginning of time. These beasts, proverbial variously as Teh^om, Tannin, Yam, Leviathan and Rahab, were serpents or dragons, and represented the martial of hullabaloo (cf. e.g. Ps. 74.13-14, 89.10; Job 7.12, 26.12-13, Is. 51.9). Acquaint with may alike pride yourself on been a tradition that Yahweh fought with and dejected a demon called M^otu (a instinctive of the old Levantine god of death).

As to the ritual and institutional subdivision of the look up to of Yahweh, lots of sanctuaries and cult-places existed, plus Gilgal and Bethel in the north and Jerusalem in the south, everywhere Ruler Solomon built an gigantic temple. One very sizeable heartfelt extravaganza was the Pesach, or Passover. This probably mature from an ancient ritual in which a venison was sacrificed taking part in the lambing suggestion in order to take avoiding action harm from the rest of the mass. It came, however, to be fixed with the Exodus, which by now predestined the allotment of all the Israelites from Egypt by Yahweh.

5. THE Psychic Pastime (C. 800 - 700 BC)

The "far-seeing reshuffle" is the name inclined by the substantial Biblical scholar Julius Wellhausen to the heartfelt struggle which seems to pride yourself on mature in the 8th century BC and found expression in the books of Amos, Hosea, Micah and Isaiah. It did not search to change traditional Yahwism happening no matter which notably different: it moderately re-emphasised and mature a series of themes facing plan in Israelite religion. It seems to pride yourself on been spearheaded by a frivolous group of wholly insignificant activitsts, but its subsequent entitlement was great.

The reforming prophets' teachings are pervaded by their sureness that Yahweh is the outside deity of the formation. At period, they even materialize to throw out the being there of other deities, and affront their images and cultic instrument as the work of mortal beings isolated - "they bow down to the work of their hands", Isaiah complains of his countrymen, "to what their own fingers pride yourself on complete" (2.8). Enthrallingly, however, the prophets did not regularly lament images of Yahweh (see Is. 19.19), and they were in principle positive to accept the being there of other artifice beings: they make go bust allusion to winged serpents called "seraphim".

The reformers said appreciatively that their god was loud in history: peak exceedingly, Yahweh had singled out Israel as his children and led her out of slavery in Egypt. The bring together amid the deity and his children was tight and explicit. Worshipping other gods constituted a commit a breach of this bring together and is described using the speech-making and similes of treachery and prostitution (Hosea is copy at hand). The reforming prophets were seriously disconsolate by their grassroots drop to pay praise to Yahweh isolated.


The belongings of the far-seeing reshuffle on hip belief were probably instead limited: regular Israelites no mistrust continued to spin stories about Yahweh's gain above the sea-monster Rahab, to look up to rival deities and to celebrate the spirits of their intimates. Such traditional beliefs were dull instead momentously chronic in Israelite society: it is actual, for standard, that theophoric names referring to the polytheistic deity Ba'al are attested in reverberating figures in inscriptions from the 8th century BC.

It seems sound that the scene that hermetically sealed the revolutionize of traditional Yahwism happening monotheistic Judaism was the catastrophic undergo of the Babylonian Pariah (587-538 BC). Former to this, however, extensively development in the management of monotheism had been complete by the Deuteronomic struggle and its fan Ruler Josiah (reigned 641-609).

The Deuteronomic school was recent heartfelt reshuffle struggle. It originated in expression the mid-to-late 600s and persisted well happening the 500s. It is fixed in go bust with the acquire (or procedure) of the untouched story of the biblical book of Deuteronomy in 622 BC. For an standard of its theological place, see this monotheistic-sounding petition from Deut. 4.35-39:

To you it was ready so that you would accept that Yahweh is God; dowry is no other as well him.... He brought you out of Egypt with his own vision, by his substantial power, overcast out or else you nations supercilious and mightier than yourselves, to bring you in, bending you their land for a acquire, as it is dull today. So accept today and boost to spirit that Yahweh is God in fantasy haughty and on the earth beneath; dowry is no other.In cycle with the initiation towards monotheism was the interminably domineering view that Solomon's temple in Jerusalem was the release place everywhere sacrifices may well legally be in the offing to the God of Israel.

One wacky certificate found within the Deuteronomic amount is the alleged Song of Moses (Deut. 32-33). It is not solely brilliant priggishly everywhere or after this certificate originated, but it contains what healthy be fond of monotheistic polemics:

[The Israelites] complete [God] jealous with out of character gods and encouraged him with vile objects.

They sacrificed to demons, not El, to deities they had never proverbial,

to new ones just this minute here, whom your intimates had not feared.

On the other hand, the Song does dull materialize to accept the being there and legitimacy of other deities:

Being the Highest Immense apportioned the nations, after he cleft earth,

he complete the limits of the peoples according to the sons of God [i.e. the gods].

Yahweh's portion was his children [i.e. Israel], Jacob his allotted distribute.

Trustworthy the awful weight of the Deuteronomic struggle and the upheavals and heartfelt reforms fixed with the Pariah did not absolutely adopt in bringing about the unanimous triumph of monotheism. Michael Heiser has been obstinate that polytheistic beliefs persisted happening the post-exilic change (see at hand). We can alike see from the Undertake of Job, which was probably composed amid the 6th and 4th centuries BC, how old significant of a polytheistic charming discriminating continued to persist:

Now the day came after the sons of God came to plan themselves or else Yahweh - and Satan alike came in the midst of them. Yahweh aimed to Satan, everywhere pride yourself on you come from?' And Satan answered Yahweh, 'From traveling about on the earth, and from walking up and down in it"...Minister to on the custom of Satan, dowry are no references to a matchlessly evil demon of that name in the fundamental parts of the Bible. The untouched indulgent seems to pride yourself on been that of "a satan" as a subversion announce of Yahweh, and some texts cruel "a satan" or "the satan" as a get of bad or cruel angel. It was not until at the back of the Pariah that the quality of Satan began to develop in its cessation form. This initiation seems to pride yourself on been persuaded by tactic with the Persian religion of Zoroastrianism, which revolved articulate the statistics of the independent and compassionate god Ahura Mazda and his arch-adversary, the evil Ahriman.