Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible Online

Get access Subject: Biblical Studies And Early Christianity
Edited by: Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking and Pieter W. van der Horst

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The Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible Online contains academic articles on the named gods, angels, and demons in the books of the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint and Apocrypha, as well as the New Testament and patristic literature. This online version contains the second extensively revised edition.

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Nabû נבו

(2,064 words)

Author(s): A. R. Millard
I. Name Nabû is the Babylonian god of writing, occurring in Isa. 46.1 with his father Marduk, and as a theophoric element in Babylonian personal names rendered into biblical Hebrew such as Nebuchadrezzar and Nebuzaradan. II. Identity Nabû appears in Akk. sources from early in the second millennium bce as Na-bi-um, a form which suggests his name comes from the base nbʾ, ‘to call’, and may mean ‘herald’ (see AHW 697–698). There is no trace of Nabû in the texts from Ebla, or in Old Akkadian. In the latter part of the Old Babylonian period, Nabû’s name becomes a regu…


(9 words)

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(9 words)

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(9 words)

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(282 words)

Author(s): K. van der Toorn
I. Name It has been speculated that the city of Nahor ( Gen. 24.10) was named after a deity Nahor. Nahor the grandfather of Abraham ( Gen. 11.22–25; Josh. 24.2) and Nahor the brother of Abraham ( Gen. 11.26–29; Gen. 22.20–24; Gen. 24.15, Gen. 24, Gen. 47; Gen. 29.5; Gen. 31.53) would have been named after the city of Nahor, and thus, indirectly, after the god of that name (Lewy 1934). II. Identity There is no extra-biblical evidence whatsoever attesting to the cult of a god Nahor. Lewy’s argument is based on circular reasoning. He writes: “In view of the evidence that the cities of Ḫarrān, Naḫur…

Name שׁם

(1,384 words)

Author(s): H. B. Huffmon
I. Name Name ( Heb. šēm, representing a common Semitic noun) refers to a designation of a person, an animal, a plant or a thing. It also refers to reputation, progeny (as continuation, remembrance), and posthumous fame. The name of a person or deity is especially closely associated with that person or deity, so that knowledge of the name is connected with access to and influence with—even magical control of—the named. In particular, God’s name, which in some traditions is specifically revealed, can…

Nanea Ναναία

(1,350 words)

Author(s): M. Stol
I. Name Nanēa is the goddess in whose temple Antiochus IV Epiphanes was killed by the priests according to one tradition about his obscure death, the letter to Aristobulus, 2 Macc. 1.13 (the fullest discussion remains M. Holleaux, REA 18 (1916) 77–102; cf B. Z. Wacholder, HUCA 49 [1978] 89–133; criticisms: J. M. Goldstein, II Maccabees [AB 41A; New York 1983] 163). Her name is only mentioned here; her temple had the name Naneion (v 15). This happened in 164 bce in ‘Persis’, actually Elymaïs, as is clear from other sources, like 1 Macc. 6.1–4. Pretending to perform a sacred marriage ( sunoikein)…

Narcissus Νάρκισσος

(504 words)

Author(s): J. N. Bremmer
I. Name Narcissus is a Greek hero, whose name is carried once in the Bible by a Roman ( Rom. 16.11). The etymology of his name is probably pre-Hellenic (Chantraine 1980), as of so many plants. II. Identity The aetiological myth of Narcissus is only attested in relatively late sources and is hardly older than Hellenistic times. The mythographer Conon ( FGH 26 F 1.26), who lived under Augustus but had access to many local myths, relates the fate of a handsome youth from Boeotian Thespiae who rejected all male advances, even of Eros himself. When his admirer…


(9 words)

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(9 words)

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Nehushtan נחשׁתן

(743 words)

Author(s): R. S. Hendel
I. Name The word nĕḥuštān occurs once in MT, in 2 Kgs. 18.4, where it is the name of the bronze (or copper) serpent ( nĕḥaš hannĕḥōšet) that Moses had made in the wilderness (as related in Num. 21.8–9) and that King Hezekiah destroyed. The word is a compound of *nuḥušt (Hebrew nĕḥōšet), ‘bronze, copper’, plus the *-ān affix (preserved as -ā- in Hebrew by dissimilation from the -o- type vowel in the previous syllable). The word nĕḥuštān literally means ‘the (specific) thing of bronze/copper’ (cf. the similar morphology of liwyātān, Leviathan). Implicit in this…


(1,315 words)

Author(s): J. Assmann
I. Name Neith (|I.EI.F|, Nj.t, Gk. Νηιθ) occurs as a theophoric element in the name אסנת, Asnath, Gk. Ασεννέθ, the daughter of Potiphera, a priest in Heliopolis, and wife of Joseph ( Gen. 41.45, see el Sayed 1982 II:400–401 doc. 446). The etymology of the name is not clear, but associations point in two entirely different directions: 1. both the name of the goddess and the name of the crown of Lower Egypt ( N.t) might go back to a fuller form Nr.t, meaning ‘the terrible one’. This meaning connects well with the typical attribute of Neith: a shield with two crossed arrows; 2. In its form, N.t the nam…

Nephilim נפילים

(1,576 words)

Author(s): P. W. Coxon
I. Name The bald allusion to the Nephilim (lit. fallen ones) in Gen. 6.3 (‘The Nephilim were on the earth in those days …’) fits uneasily into a context that has always presented a challenge to exegetes. Although designated an ‘antiquarian gloss’ (Skinner 1910:147) the sentence in which it appears does bind it to the theological scene which depicts a fresh threat to the God-given distinction between divine beings and humans. It raises again the worst fears expressed at the close of Gen. 3 (‘the man has become like one of us … and now he might … eat, and live forever’) but in …

Nereus Νηρεύς

(594 words)

Author(s): J. N. Bremmer
I. Name Nereus is a minor Greek god, whose name may be connected with Lithuanian nérti ‘to dive’ (Chantraine 1980). As a theophoric name, it occurs once in the Bible ( Rom. 16.15). It is also the name of Job’s brother in Test. Job 51:1. It remains unclear why the author of this Jewish pseudepigraph chose precisely this name. II. Identity Nereus has only a shadowy role in Greek mythology. He is a typical ‘Old Man of the Sea’, a category which is usually anonymous in Homer ( Il. 1.358, 18.141 etc.), who also uses it for other sea-deities like Proteus ( Od. 4.365) and Phorkys ( Od. 13.96). These deitie…

Nergal נרגל

(828 words)

Author(s): A. Livingstone
I. Name Nergal with his city Cutha is mentioned in 2 Kgs. 17.30 within the description of the cults of the foreign settlers in Samaria. The particular relevance of Nergal in this context is to be explained by the fact that inhabitants of Cutha had been settled in Samaria while Samarians had been deported to Assyria (H. Winckler, Die Keilschrifttexte Sargons [Leipzig 1889] 100:23–24; C. J. Gadd, Iraq 16 [1954] 179–180 iv:25–41; Becking 1992:25–31.97). The deity also occurs as theophoric element in the personal name Nergal-sharezer ( Jer. 39.3, Jer. 13). II. Identity An early attestation …