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The Evolution Of Yahweh




The ancestral Semitic peoples from whom sprang the various Canaanite peoples, the Babylonians, Assyrians, Chaldeans and the Hebrews borrowed the Sumerian pantheon, substituting Semitic names for the various gods and goddesses. Maintaining the general structure, including the separation of the Divine Progenitors and the Assembly of Gods, the various peoples substituted their chief god for the king of the Assembly. A good example is the Babylonians, the chief god was El and his children were known as the Elohim, who individually presided over their individual stars, planets and earthly estates. Chief among the Babylonian Elohim was Marduk, originally the Thunder God and represented by the planet Jupiter. Know simply as Ba’al (Lord) to the Canaanites, his true and secret name Hadu was known only to his priests. Ba’al’s chief rival was the storm god Yamm, whose secret name was Yaw (also Yawu in some texts). The similarity of the name Yamm (Yaw/Yawu) and Yahweh (short form Yah) has led some scholars to speculate that the two (Yamm and Yahweh) are the same god, especially since Ba’al is shown in the bible as Yahweh’s chief competitor (mirroring the rivalry between Ba’al and Yamm in Canaanite mythology).


As did their Canaanite relatives, the Hebrew held idea that the name of their god (in this case Yahweh) was too sacred for common usage and instead referred to him as “Lord”, which was adonai or baal in Hebrew. Having become a separate peoples from the Canaanites during the Great Mycenaean Drought and the following aftermath of the civic collapse caused by that natural occurrence, the probability of Ba’al and Yahweh being the same deity is quite strong, especially considering the parallels between them. Most likely Yahweh is the Hebrew equivalent of the Canaanite Ba’al. He (Yahweh) was originally a son of Ba’al, as attested by a document from the library of the city of Ugarit (discovered in the 1920s). It reads sm, bny, yw, ilt, which translates as “The name of the son of God is Yahweh” (KTU 1.1 IV 14). This is borne out in Deuteronomy 32:8-9: “When the Elyon (another name of El and the name used in the Hebrew language version) apportioned the nations, when he divided humankind, he fixed the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of gods (i.e., each god controlled one nation of people0; Yahweh’s own portion was his people, Jacob (i.e., the nation of Israel) his allotted share.” That Yahweh ruled as as the preeminent god over El’s other children is repeatedly asserted in Psalms. In the Hebrew language version of Psalms 86:8, we are told that “There is none like you among the gods, O Yahweh” and in Psalms 89:5-7, we see more specifically that the gods in question are the sons of El, met as the Assembly of the God; “The heavens praise your wonders, O Yahweh

Your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones.

For who in the skies can be compared to Yahweh?

Who among the sons of god is like Yahweh?

A god feared in the council of the holy ones,

Great and awesome above all that are around him?


A major step towards monotheism was the elevation of the term Elohim to the role of a personal title (Elohim) form the supreme God. It was in the post-exilic temple-state that those involved in Temple worship of Yahweh in Jerusalem that the first usage occurred as exemplified in Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth…”, a text that was likely first written for use in the Temple cults. No longer is it the collective Elohim who are involved in the creation, but Elohim (the Supreme God), who is portrayed as the Creator. The name Elohim retains the plural suffix – im, but its use for a single god is indicated by the verb form of “created” being in the singular vice plural. Despite the official recognition of Yahweh’s supremacy as the Elohim, the term of elohim was still used to refer to the pantheon of lesser gods, that included the gods of the other Semitic nations (these gods being the offspring of El who stood above them all). It is especially notable in Psalm 82’s early declaration of the Hebrew religion’s emphasis on justice and morality, "El has taken his place in the Divine Council; in the midst of the elohim he holds judgment: `How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked." The Hebrew God, El, speaks scornfully of the gods of the Assembly, "They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk around in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken" and speaks prophetically to them, "I say, `You are gods, children of the Most High [i.e., of El, himself], all of you; nevertheless you shall die like mortals, and fall as one man, O princes." Though El, the Father of the gods, is supreme, this is clearly not the "monotheism" of our modern understanding. Much of the primary information in the above is from Dr. Peter Crapo’s volumous works, combined with the findings of such archaeologists as Dr. Finklestein of Israel.




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Thank you for the very informative and enlightening essay Heimdall. I'll definitely have to do some further reading on the subject. What are some books you'd suggest?

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