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Yahweh יהוה

(6,733 words)

Author(s): K. van der Toorn
I. Name Yahweh is the name of the official god of Israel, both in the n…

Gabnunnim גבננים

(297 words)

Author(s): K. van der Toorn
I. Name The expression har gabnunnîm in Ps. 68.16, literally ‘mountain of peaks’ and usually translated as ‘mighty mountain’ (RSV), is interpreted by del Olmo Lete (1988:54–55) as ‘mountain of the Gabnunnim’, the latter being a designation of underworld deities. II. Identity The reasoning that lies behind del Olmo Lete’s suggestion is based on the opposition in Ps. 68 of Mt. Sinai versus Mt. Bashan, the one being the holy mountain of Yahweh, the other the holy mountain of a group of Canaanite gods (vv 15–17). For his interpretation of Bashan as a dwe…

Jael יעל

(367 words)

Author(s): K. van der Toorn
I. Name Jael at whose hands Sisera met his death ( Judg. 4–5) has been interpreted as a demythologized incarnation of the goddess Amaltheia (Garbini 1978). II. Identity The principal motive for speculations about the mythological background of Jael is the conjectural connection between the name Sisera (…


(318 words)

Author(s): K. van der Toorn
I. Name According to Hommel (1929), the field of Machpelah ( Gen. 23.9, Gen. 17, Gen. 19; Gen. 25.9; Gen. 49.30; Gen. 50.13) was named after the goddess Ma-Cybele. II. Identity Cybele (Κυβέλη) or Cybebe (Κυβήβη) is a goddess of the fertile earth originating from Asia Minor, where she was known in the second millennium bce as Kubaba (Laroche 1960). Having made her way into the Greek world, the deity was identified with a number of other ‘mother goddesses’ such as Rhea, Agdistis, Ma, and Bellona. Her cult had orgiastic traits. The latter were accentuated in the course of t…

God (I) אלהים

(8,580 words)

Author(s): K. van der Toorn
I. Name The usual word for ‘god’ in the Hebrew Bible is ʾĕlōhîm, a plural formation of ʾĕlōah, the latter being an expanded form of the Common Semitic noun

Keseʾ כסא

(700 words)

Author(s): K. van der Toorn
I. Name The Hebrew word keseʾ ‘full moon’ (?) occurs in two Bible passages ( Ps. 81.4; Prov. 7.20), and possibly in a third as well ( Job 26.9). The word is also known in other West-Semitic languages. J.-M. Durand identifies a Mesopotamian divinity Kisa with West-Semitic keseʾ

Arvad ארוד

(386 words)

Author(s): K. van der Toorn
I. Name The city of Arvad (modern Ruad) is the most northern of Phoenician cities, situated on an island two miles off-shore. Less illustrious than Tyre and Sidon, Arvad and its inhabitants are mentioned only a few times in the Bible ( Gen. 10.18//1 Chr. 1.16; Ezek. 27.8, Ezek. 11). It has been said that the city is homonymous with an Assyrian deity (Lewy 1934). II. Identity In Neo-Assyrian annals, the city of Arvad is sometimes referred to as Ar-ma-da (S. Parpola, Neo-Assyrian Toponyms [AOAT 6; Neukirchen-Vluyn 1970] 37). This spelling corresponds exactly to that of the god Armada whose name has been read in a dedicatory brick inscription of Shalmaneser III (858–824 bce). The text in question (O. Schroeder, Keilschrifttexte aus Assur historischen Inhalts, Vol. 2 [WVDOG 37; Leipzig 1922] no. 103) quotes the king as …

Eternity עלם

(992 words)

Author(s): K. van der Toorn
I. Name The Hebrew term ʿôlām, customarily translated as ‘eternity’, corresponds etymologically with the divine name Oulomos occurring in a Phoenician cosmology attributed to Mochos of Sid…


(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…

Euphrates פרת

(1,572 words)

Author(s): K. van der Toorn
I. Name The MT refers to the Euphrates as Pĕrāt, ‘Euphrates’, nĕhar Pĕrāt, ‘River Euphrates’, and as (

Viper אפעה

(285 words)

Author(s): K. van der Toorn
I. Name The viper ( ʾepʿeh) occurs three times in the Hebrew Bible, always in poetic contexts to describe negative environments or sensations. Third-millennium texts from Mesopotamia attest to the veneration of a god Ibaʾum, etymologically related to Heb. ʾepʿeh. II. Identity A third-millennium Akkadian seal depicting a fully developed snake-dragon is dedicated to a god i-ba-um (R. M. Boehmer, Die Entwicklung der Glyptik während der Akkad-Zeit [Berlin 1965] Tafel XLVIII no. 570). This snake-god is probably identical with d ip-pu, the vizier of the chthonic deity Ningišzida…


(515 words)

Author(s): K. van der Toorn
I. Name Rakib-El is known to have been the god of the kings of Samʾal, a Neo-Hittite dynasty in South-East Anatolia. It has been suggested that the Rechabites, a religious minority group in ancient Israel, were originally named after Rakib-El (Ramey 1968). A variant proposal connects the name with the god Rkb, presumably short for Rakib-El or the epithet rkb ʿrpt, ‘Rider of the clouds’ (Blenkinsopp…


(553 words)

Author(s): K. van der Toorn
I. Name The word hyn occurs a number of times in Ugaritic texts as an epithet of Kothar-wa-Hasis (Kothar). It has been suggested that the same word is found in Hab. 2.5 (Albright 1943; 1968) and Job 41.4[ Job 12] (Pope 1965) as a divine title. II. Identity The word hyn occurs in KTU 1.3 vi:22–23; 1.4 i:23; 1.17 v:18, each time in a synonymous parallelism with Kothar-wa-Hasis. The interpretation of the term is based on comparative Semitic philology: Syr. hawnâ

Shepherd רעה

(753 words)

Author(s): K. van der Toorn
I. Name On the basis of Gen. 49.24, Maag reconstructed the expression Rōʿeh Yiśrāʾēl, ‘Shepherd of Israel’ as the name of the personal god of Israel/Jacob, comparable in his view to the ‘Fear of Isaac’ and the ‘Mighty One of Jacob’ (1980:121). Since the name can only be obtained by textual emendation, Maag’s proposal is hardly convincing (cf. Köckert 1988:65–67). Though ‘shepherd’ is not unusual as an epithet for Near Eastern gods, it has …

Shahan שׁאן

(408 words)

Author(s): K. van der Toorn
I. Name II. Identity In Old Babylonian texts the god Šaḫan occurs a number of times as theophoric element in personal names and place-names; it is always preceded by the divine determinative (references Krebernik 1984). So far,…


(1,430 words)

Author(s): K. van der Toorn
I. Name Amurru is the eponymous god of the nomadic peoples of the western desert that began to manifest themselves in Mesopotamia from the late third millennium bce onward. These peoples are known in cuneiform sources as ‘Amorites’ ( Amurru, Sum. mar-tu). Their god, known as Amurru (Akkadian) or Martu (Sumerian), is best characterized as a storm god, comparable in type with Hadad or Yahweh. References to Amurru in the Hebrew Bible are either indirect or debated. As the god is eponymous, his name can be heard in the ethnic designation


(479 words)

Author(s): K. van der Toorn
I. Name Hebat (or Hepat) is an important goddess venerated by the Hurrians as well as the Hittites. Her name is found as a theophoric element in the biblical anthroponym Eliahba ( 2 Sam. 23.32 = 1 Chr. 11.33),…

Beltu בלתי

(869 words)

Author(s): K. van der Toorn
I. Name The name of the Babylonian goddess Beltu (var. Belit, Belti) is the feminine form of Bel (‘Lord’), and means ‘Lady’. She is identified either with Ishtar or Ṣarpanitu. Her mention in the Hebrew Bible is conjectural; P. de Lagarde ( Symmicta [Göttingen 1877] 105) was the first to emendate biltî in Isa. 10.4 into bēltî, ‘my Lady’. The proposal cannot be seen in isolation from the emendation, in the same verse, of ʾassîr (‘prisoner’) into ʾōsîr (Osiris). II. Identity Since the name Beltu is not really a name but an epithet (‘Lady’), the identification with a specific deity is beset with proble…

Mouth פה

(342 words)

Author(s): K. van der Toorn
I. Name The mouth or utterance of a god—the two notions are often expressed with the same word (Sum. ka, Akk. pû)—is sometimes made into an independent deity in Mesopotamia. The etymological equivalent in Hebrew ( peh) does not seem to have enjoyed a comparable divine status. II. Identity In third millennium texts the Akkadian word pûm…

Meriri מרירי

(430 words)

Author(s): K. van der Toorn
I. Name On the basis of the alleged parallelism of mĕrîrî with Resheph and Behemoth in Deut. 32.24, Gordis has urged that “it seems highly reasonable to assume that Meriri is also a mythological term, probably representing a type of demon” (1943:178). Others make a similar suggestion (cf. HALAT 601 s.v. מרירי); it is without solid foundation, though. II. Identity Since a supposed demon Meriri is not attested in extrabiblical texts from the ancient Near East, the proof rests entirely on Deut. 32.24. It cannot be denied that this verse lists a number of demons known from…
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