The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
Book 2. How Persia Created Judaism
The Communication of Israel
In 1 Kings 8, the legend of bringing of the Ark of the Covenant to the temple for its dedication is related. The context of these verses is that of the Ark being put in place beneath the wings of the cherubims in the Holy of Holies. Then a cloud filled the temple and the priests had to leave their duties while the glory of God filled the temple. Then Solomon spoke a prayer that parallels the sun in heaven with Yehouah in the temple. It suggests that the occasion was the transition from al fresco worship beneath the skies to enclosed worship within the temple.
The Ark was received into the temple in the seventh month, about mid-September just at the time of the autumn equinox. In Egyptian ritual mythology, according to Plutarch, a great festival marked the body of Osiris being placed in an ark in the month when the sun was in Scorpio—September. Osiris was the winter sun or the dark sun, the ruler of the underworld and therefore the dead. The winter sun was associated with the underworld because it was, of course, below the celestial equator, which marked off the upper hemisphere of life from the lower one of death—summer and winter. The occasion of Yehouah entering the Ark seems to have been an occasion for mourning, as it was for Osiris. The sun god was passing from the upper world of life into the lower world of death—he was dying at the autumn equinox, and rituals had to be enacted to make him revive in spring. Fortunately, the rituals worked because he always did! Osiris in Greece became Bacchus, and Pausanius says his image was found in an ark.
Earlier, the Ark of the Israelites had been kept in Shiloh, which oddly enough, is the ancient name of a star in the constellation of the Eagle, now the constellation of Scorpio. When it was moved from there, the Israelites supposedly lost a battle. This Ark was supposed to contain nothing more than the tablets that were inscribed with the commandments of God, but why was that a reason for forbidding everyone from looking in? The answer is that the power of the sun was supposed to have been kept in the box and would be released at the wrong time instantly killing the viewer and throwing the seasons into chaos. The legend had the effect of stopping people from looking in and finding the Ark empty, but just in case they did, they were killed anyway. An ark is also a boat, and the sun gods of Egypt and of Assyria were supposed to traverse the heavens each day in a boat.
The authors of the Jewish scriptures have again played down the importance of Gibeon. The Ark is allowed to have spent time in the city Kiriath-jearim, a Gibeonite city, also called Kiriath-Baal, but it is not allowed to have spent time in Gibeon. “Jearim” is always rendered as forests but can imply a place of meetings.
And the men of Kiriath-jearim came, and fetched up the ark of Yehouah, and brought it into the house of Abinadab in the hill, and sanctified Eleazar his son to keep the ark of Yehouah.
Even so, the Ark was housed (1 Sam 7:1; 2 Sam 6:3) at “Bet Abinadab Baggiba”, translated as “the house of Abinadab in the hill”. “In the hill” could, of course, mean Gibeon. As for the supposed proper name Abinadab, “Abi” is “my father”, a likely solar reference, and “nadab” pertains to a “willing sacrifice!” In 2 Samuel 6:3, “in the hill” becomes “gibeah”, which does not differ from Gibeon. The journey of the Ark to Beth Shemesh (1 Sam 6:7-18) must have solar significance, Beth Shemesh being the House of the Sun God. Beth Shemesh has a great stone (1 Sam 6:15,18) and the men of Beth Shemesh were sacrificing to Yehouah, but shortly afterwards 50,000 were killed for looking into the Ark! By coincidence, a great stone is mentioned also at Gibeon (2 Sam 20:8). Phallic stones are often linked with fertility sun worship. Solomon stands before the Ark making offerings immediately after returning from Gibeon (1 Kgs 3:15).
Then spake Solomon, Yehouah said that he would dwell in the thick darkness. I have surely built thee an house to dwell in, a settled place for thee to abide in for ever.
This is the AV translation of a poetic fragment which can be reliably constructed from extant sources including the Hebrew underlying the same passage in the Septuagint (1 Kgs 8:53):
Then Solomon said:
The reconstruction places the sun in parallel with Yehouah, just like Joshua 10:12-14, and even with the slight emendment, mentions the book of Jashar. H G May comes to something close to the proper conclusion that the distinction is between Shemesh, the summer sun god, and Yehouah, the winter sun god. It is the winter sun with its clouds, storms and rain that brings life to the parched land. So, the reader should realise that the growing season in that part of the world is winter, not summer as it is in northern climates. The first rains come at the autumn equinox from Tishri onwards, the main rains are around the winter solstice, and the rains peter out by the beginning of Nisan, the vernal equinox. Ploughing begins in Tishri and the first harvest of barley is reaped in Nisan, inviting the festival of unleavened bread for seven days, following the Passover.
No one religion in the ancient Near east can be studied in isolation.
So, in passing, note that Yehouah Sabaoth is Enoi Saboi or Sabazius, the same as the Phrygian God. Sabazius was a barleycorn god, who was bewailed like Tammuz when he was cut down in the field. He was also identified with Cronus or Saturn, and with Dionysus in an aspect as a beer god rather than the more familiar wine god. It is this Dionysus that was celebrated along with Demeter at Eleusis. In early Greek vase paintings, Dionysus carries a winnowing fan, associating him with grain, not the grape bucket of later depictions. Dionysus is supposed to have visited Phrygia in his myth, and been initiated there by Rhea, who is Diana, the Great Mother. He also has the name Bromius which appears at Eleusis as Brimus, the boyhood Dionysus whom Demeter makes immortal with fire. Saturn is the night time sun, equivalent to the dark sun or the winter sun which brings the rains. Cronus is surely to be identified with Chronus and so is a time god, the god of the sun in its yearly path through the heavens. That equates him with Iao, the eastern Mediterranean god of the four seasons—the year again. Yehouah Seboath is the meaning of the short form, Joseph.
Idolatrous priests had been appointed (2 Kgs 23:5) to burn incense in the high places of the towns of Judah to Baal, the sun, the moon and all the host of heaven. The second commandment was opposed to idolatry—worshipping what had been made by human hands, but the host of heaven had not been made by human hands. They had been made by God’s hands. Baal means “Lord”, and it is most likely that many of the instances of Baal worship condemned in the scriptures is actually Yehouah worship, but worship later considered improper by the Jerusalem cult. Thus Yehouah here is equated with Baal Zebul, the Exalted Lord who dwells in thick darkness. Yehouah is always translated as “Lord” by biblicists still!
Some might argue that Yehouah cannot have been the sun because, in the creation narrative as apparently here, He it is that puts the sun in the heavens. It does not work. All of the eastern religions have sun gods who are not the sun itself. The Indian religion has a whole zodiac of sun gods and several more besides but the sun, Surya, is distinct from them. The sun was a physical manifestation of the god, or was the chariot or the boat in which the god traversed the heavens on the lookout for injustice. In Egypt Ra was never mistaken for his disk. In both the Joshua poem and the one here, the word Shemesh has no article so is unequivocally the god not merely the sun.
The author of Solomon’s prayer was aware that God was much greater than any temple:
But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?
There is no contradiction in the theology that the priests accepted. The temple was heaven, or a ladder to it. Like the Ziggurats of Babylon, it was constructed on a rising plan, with the Holy of Holies at the apex. It was not such a steep pyramid as the Babylonian ones, but it was nevertheless built on several ascending levels. Yehouah was the God of the Hosts of Heaven, and Yehouah dwelt in the temple, but the temple aspired to be heaven, and reached towards it.
God was always more accessible in high places and revealed Himself on mountains, and the people were used to the idea. Here was a special high place. It was on a mountain, and stepped upwards towards the sky, and the sun god entered it over the top of a mountain. People who had been used to praying to god in the sky, had to get used to praying to Him in the temple, and its construction was meant to facilitate that. People within the temple courts were to face the Holy of Holies, and people outside the temple were to pray towards it just as Moslems still pray towards Mecca. The Essenes, it seems refused this idea and preferred still to pray directly to the sun, or perhaps they rejected the innovations at some schism, and returned to the earlier practice.
The Essenic concept of Yehouah was conspicuously tied in with solar reverence, if not worship. Josephus describes how the Essenes uttered no words before their dawn prayers urging the sun to rise. They also used a solar calendar that was probably the Persian one, or based on it. The Essenes must have regarded the sun as Yehouah, or some acceptable aspect of Him. Josephus also explains the Essene habit of using a small spade they always carried to cover up their excrement “that they did not offend the rays of God”! Professor Morton Smith accepted this as a clear acknowledgement that Yehouah was the sun, and so His rays were holy. The Temple Scroll also describes a gilded staircase to the roof of the temple. The Essenes were contemporaries of Jesus, and it is scarcely possible to believe he was not one, although Christians contrive to do it. The Romans were certain the Christianity was a solar religion.
The Dedication of the Temple
The temple was really dedicated in 417 BC, but in the myth the whole event has been set back in antiquity, half a millennium before, in the pretence that the real temple is the second temple. If it was, the first temple was not dedicated to Yehouah. The dedication took place in the month Ethanim, the seventh month—September to us. At one time, Ethanim had been the first month, showing that the religious year had begun in September. Now the civil year begins in September and the religious year begins in Nisan. Nisan is the month of the spring equinox and Tishri (Ethanim) is the month of the autumnal equinox. Nisan 1 was the “New Year of Kings” and reigns were reckoned from then. The Persians similarly had their two New Year celebrations at the time of the equinoxes, and similarly changed the occasions around. Nisan has the sign of the lamb not a ram, and even Maimonides accepts that the Pascal lamb is the lamb of the Persian zodiac.
The rabbis do not like to admit it openly though, and have invented a myth to explain the slaying of a lamb. It was that the Egyptians worshipped the sun in Aries as a Ram—the god Ammon—and the slaying of a sheep was a deliberate insult to the Egyptians and barrier to the Israelites worshipping a sheep god. Herodotus said that Ammon was a god with the head of a ram, and Alexander the Great was declared a god at the temple to Ammon at Siwa, and was thereafter depicted with a ram’s horns emerging from his tousled hair.
The rabbis’ point is that, through totemism, the worshippers of a sheep god would not sacrifice sheep, and would object to the practice. The same is said to have been the cause of the dissension between the priests of the Jewish temple at Elephantine on the Nile and the Egyptian priests of Khnum, another ram-headed god, but it is probably part of the same myth. By sacrificing lambs, the Israelites were cocking a snook at the Egyptians, and building a Chinese wall between them.
It is a nice story, but cannot be based on fact because the Egyptians certainly did sacrifice sheep. Herodotus and Strabo both admit it, but suggest that there were regional, and probably seasonal, variations in practices. That it was done anywhere in Egypt, though, shows that Egyptians were not generally offended by it, though there might have been times in the religious year when they would not do it. Perhaps they would not do it in the season of the zodiacal sign, Aries. Herodotus says, however, that each year at the festival of Jupiter Ammon, the sun in Aries, that the Egyptians actually did kill a ram. The occasion can hardly have been any other than the vernal equinox—the very time that the Jews were slaying a lamb!
Both Jews and Egyptians had a festival at the same time of the year, when the sun was in Aries, and both sacrificed a sheep. The Egyptians apparently also had the habit at this time of marking everything in red using something like henna as part of the ritual symbolism. The Jews had the same habit, justified as the marks of the sacrificed animal made on doors and windows to warn off a murderous angel sent to kill the new born children of native Egyptians.
What really happened must have been that the Persians wanted the natives of their temple state in Judah to reject their Egyptian cultural background. For much of recorded history, Canaan had been in the sphere of Egyptian influence, and for many centuries had been part of Greater Egypt. Egypt was, of course, a hugely powerful country in its own right, and the Persians were never able to digest it fully. It took the Greeks and Romans to do that.
The Egyptians had been rebelling for decades under prince Inaros, and after a period of quiescence had again rebelled at the start of the reign of Darius II. This was the time that the Jerusalem temple was dedicated by Ezra. Not many years later, Egypt was to get independence under prince Amyrtaios. Much of the reason for setting up the temple state was as a bulwark against the Egyptians, and the Persians naturally wanted the Jews to hate the Egyptians.
That is why anti-Egyptian myths were written to justify ancient equinoctial ceremonies. Henna came to signify Egyptian blood, and God’s vengeance against the cruel Egyptians, and a ram became a lamb to follow the Persian zodiacal sign but appear as an insult to Ammon. This was all pro-Persian propaganda, but was doubtless elaborated and partly ameliorated 200 years later by the Ptolemies who wanted to depict the Jews as expatriate Egyptians, led by a man educated by the Egyptians and brought up as a royal prince in the Egyptian culture.
Feast of Booths
And he brought me into the inner court of Yehouah’s house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of Yehouah, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of Yehouah, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east. Then he said unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger: and, lo, they put the branch to their nose. Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them.
The prophet is shown worshippers with their backs to the temple, between the porch and the altar, worshipping the sun towards the east. The context is that of the glory of God making preparations and then leaving the temple towards the east that it had earlier entered from the east. Seven executioners were called to wreak vengeance on the apostate Jerusalemites—the seven spirits of the Persian god that became in Judaism the seven archangels, but originally were the seven planets. W Zimmerle, in his commentary on Ezekiel, sensibly took this passage to mean that some of Yehouah’s worshippers understood Him to be associated with the sun, and the prophet was warning against it. Yehouah lived in the temple, a part of heaven on earth, and worshippers should adopt the practice of worshipping Him there, not in the sky.
T H Gaster and others have taken the ceremony to be equinoctial, at the autumn equinox. Gaster points to parallels in the Ugaritic legends, notably of Shaher (the god of the dawn sun) and Shalim (the god of the evening sun, the same name as Solomon), with the rites mentioned here in Ezekiel. A Mishnah tradition is that a solar rite like this happened at the Feast of Booths which was in September.
Tractate Sukkoth 5:2-4 has the details of the festival. It begins with a festival of lights in which four huge wicks burnt while priests danced with torches before a merry throng of people. As dawn approached, two priests blew their horns at various places on their way to the east gate, where they turned west towards the temple and recapitulated to the assembly the practices of their “fathers”, who had prostrated themselves to the sun, as this passage describes. If the correction ceremony was held at the Feast of Booths, it stands to reason that the original error had been.
S Mowinckel saw the Feast of Booths as the new year festival when the Ark was led in procession and Yehouah was celebrated entering the temple. None of it applied to the Canaanite kingdom of Israel but it was introduced by the Persians when they established the temple state. Most of the older legends in the Jewish scriptures are merely retroscripted for polemical and propaganda purposes by the Persian and post-Persian authors. A small amount, especially of poetic material, might be older having been considered suitable for retention from the Canaanite religion of Yehouah, and some materials have perhaps been brought from other sources at a later date even though the material itself was older—the Egyptian tale of the two brothers for example. The new year rituals however seem to be fairly direct adaptations from Persian and Babylonian precursors.
The date at the beginning of Ezekiel 8 is about September, signifying the autumn equinox, although the description of the women crying for Tammuz must have denoted June. Either the views given to the prophet are a portfolio of scenes from the temple year or the weeping for Tammuz had been transferred to weeping for Yehouah at the equinox.
The curious expression about holding branches to Yehouah’s nose suggests also the Festival of Booths when branches were waved. The pilgrims called out, “Save us we beseech thee, O Yehouah”. Branch waving is supposed to be a late tradition, but it all is in the sense that it is post-Persian.
Deciding exactly when these rituals happened is not possible, because no one knows the nature of the calendar used. Nearly all biblical scholars turn to Egypt for parallels, when for at least 50 years since the discoveries were made at Qumran, they should have been looking towards the east, to Persia, particularly the later empire when it was based on Babylon, as the scriptures almost unanimously presume, and perhaps for clues about earlier times to Assyria. The Essenes used a solar calendar that was probably Persian based and not Egyptian, because their form of Judaism has so many points of contact with Zoroastrianism, and was still strongly held at the time of Christ. So Zoroastrianism was certainly not a temporary fad. Persia had ceased to be the world leader 400 years before the crucifixion, but it still had a huge influence on this sect that plainly influenced the Christian god in his incarnation on earth.
While the original calendar was presumably the Persian solar one, at some stage, perhaps in the Greek period the luni-solar calendar was adopted, albeit evidently not by the Essenes. Doubtless, those occasions when the moon was full exactly at the equinox had been noted as special because the full moon would set just as the equinoctial sun appeared on the horizon. When the calendar became luni-solar they would have been more important still.
It can be taken as a measure of lateness of the editor’s alterations to the scriptures that they condemn the worship of the “Host of Heaven”, especially in Jerusalem (2 Kgs 21:3-5). Yehouah is Yehouah Sebaoth or Yehouah of Hosts, and that is evidently acceptable, but not the hosts of heaven themselves. A stage must have arrived when the cult leadership wanted Yehouah divorced from His identity with the sun, moon and planets. The books were altered to reflect this, possibly as late as the Maccabees.
The inconsistency is illustrated in 2 Kings 23:12 where “altars” made by the “kings of Judah” are mentioned in the reign of good king Josiah, showing that good king Hezekiah must have tolerated Pagan practices on the roof of Ahaz’s Chamber. The palace of Ahaz had obviously survived until this time. Since the authors were keen to show the wickedness of bad king Manasseh, Manasseh cannot have been included because they would not have muted his crimes by adding them in with the kings of Judah, and he was listed separately. Altars on roofs are likely to be for worshipping celestial objects, the hosts of heaven. If that means Yehouah of Hosts, it necessarily includes the sun.
It begins to seem that the Holy of Holies was involved only rarely—in equinoctial rituals—but that, for the rest of the year, worship was conducted on the roofs. Hezekiah was also happy to accept a solar sign of the confidence Yehouah had in him allowing him to recover. The sign was given on the roof of Ahaz’s Chamber where the altars were. It was obviously a sun dial consisting of a step like pyramid or cone surrounded by a wall which cast a shadow on the steps. As the sun rose, the shadow stepped down the steps of the pyramid facing east, and then ascended the steps facing west as the sun sank to the horizon.
Manasseh worshipped the host of heaven (2 Kgs 21:3:5). 2 Kings 23:12 is the reflex of 2 Kings 21:3:5. Josiah pulls down the altars erected by Manasseh. Much of the history of Judah and Israel described in the scriptures is like this. It is making theological points of propaganda and not recording history as truth—the serial apostasy of the Israelites and their kings. Manasseh erected altars to the host of heaven but the removal of them does not mention who the altars were for. The reader has to be interested and dedicated enough to remember the passage two chapters earlier, or simply assume they were idolatrous as the authors intended. Why is venerating the host of heaven apostasy but venerating Yehouah of hosts not?
Eventually, the story has it that Josiah removed the horses dedicated to the sun, and burnt the chariots that had been at the entrance to the temple (2 Kgs 23:11). These sound like living horses and functioning chariots—images were unlikely to have been of wood and otherwise were unlikely to have been combustible. They must have been ritual or processional objects like the British coronation coach. The Persians had horses and chariots dedicated to their main deities with different colours and liveries. These chariots went before the Shahanshah’s armies when they were on the march. One was to Ahuramazda, and one to Mithras, and later one to Anahita was also introduced. Marduk also had processional chariots, and in Persian times he was identified with Ahuramazda and/or Mithras. The god of the Jerusalem temple was the same. The gods who always had chariots were sun gods! The passage says it was the “kings of Judah” who had given these chariots to the sun, again implicating the good king Hezekiah. Finally the reference here (2 Kgs 23:12) to two temple courts implies the Persian period temple.
The later part of the Deuteronomistic History seems to be an allegory of the reforms needed in the Persian, Hellenistic and Maccabean periods that took Yehouah worship more and more into aniconism and transcendence. It seems that the first redacters, who had reverted to a puritanical view of the original Persian introductions, wrote up Josiah as the ultimate reforming king, purging all images of Yehouah from the religion, whereas earlier, Yehouah had been visualised, like Ahuramazda, as the “massy heavens”, and particularly, like Mithras, the sun.
Succoth in Transjordan is supposed to have nothing to do with the Feast of Booths, being so called because Jacob built booths there for his livestock (Gen 33:17) immediately following the journey to Esau. This might have been a priestly denigration of a rival site.
Sun Worship in the Prophets
The five cities thet Isaiah speaks of in Egypt (Isa 19:18) suggest that it was written knowing that there were five cities of Canaanites in Egypt, and so it was after the diaspora had started. We read that one will be called “Destruction”, but the Septuagint calls it “Righteousness” and the Masoretic Text calls it “The Sun!” “City of the Sun” is the reading found in an Isaiah scroll (1QIsaa) at Qumran. It would seem to mean On (Heliopolis), but once Yehouah is accepted as a divine sun to some at least of His worshippers, then the reference could have been to Leontopolis.
Josephus understood this verse to refer to the temple of Leontopolis, a rival temple to that at Jerusalem and therefore hated by the Jerusalem priesthood, whence their name of “Destruction”. “Destruction” is one of those instances like Molech and bosheth when the editors have deliberately given a shameful name to something they did not like, and the other two names from old sources suggest that the sun was equated with righteousness. A shameful name is senseless in the original context and can be immediately discarded. Elsewhere (Isa 1:26), Isaiah calls Jerusalem the “City of Righteousness”.
Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of Yehouah is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but Yehouah shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
This is quite unmistakable solar imagery, indeed, imagery of the rising sun. Here appears again the word “zerah” translated here as “to rise”, but in other versions as “to dawn” and to “shine”. Yehouah is unmistakeably the sun! Even supposing it was intended purely metaphorically, it cannot be denied that the God of All was being compared with one of His creations, that solar imagery was seen as actually exalting Yehouah and was not considered idolatrous. Such imagery is replete in the Jewish scriptures, and is uniformly favourable. There could have been no problem with describing Yehouah as the sun but apparently there came to be a grave problem with regarding Yehouah as the sun. It is easier to think that Yehouah was for long equated with the sun, but at a late stage such equations were deemed idolatrous, and Yehouah became invisible except to those who were adept at seeing metaphorical light.
These verses actually sound as if they refer to the sun rising at one of the equinoxes, and they might have been taken from a new year liturgy. The dawn radiance of the sun illuminates the scene at the climax of this ceremony. J Morgenstern saw it as the dawn sun shining directly from its appearance over Olivet—the very place where Jesus ascended into heaven!—through the east gate and into the Holy of Holies, brightly illuminating the normally dark room. The Glory of God (Shekinah) had entered. The solar temple, designed fairly uniformly over the ancient Near East is now acepted as a womb—the womb of the earth. Its three parts were:
The solar penis had penetrated the vagina of the Daughter of Zion, Israel. Yehouah arrived from the east to enter the temple, consumating the marriage of the sun and Israel. There is no doubt that it is the sun who is the bridegroom:
He has set up a dwelling-place for the sun, and he comes forth like a bridegroom from his canopy. He rejoices like a hero to run a race; his going forth from the end of the heavens, and his orbit to their ends; and nothing is hidden from his heat.
Equinoctial Sunrise over the Mount of Olives
The Hebrew mystical concept called the Shekinah literally means the “indwelling”. It is the presence of Yehouah in the midst of Israel, and plainly refers to this sacred act of consummation. The equinoctial ceremony representing Yehouah impregnating Israel via the entering of His Shekinah into the Holy of Holies, was obviously a ritual fertility act, but it also allowed that the universal god could be localised, in a sense, in the Jerusalem temple. The earth is “eretz” and also means the land of Israel. This it is that Yehouah fertilises by entering the Holy of Holies.
Yehouah thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.
The Shekinah is a feminine concept and, dwells only in Israel according to the rabbis. It was originally a vaginal orgasm on a cosmic scale, but since the destruction of the temple (70 AD), it has been given many different meanings, essentially akin to the spirit of God.
The autumnal equinoctial entry of the dawn sun into the holy of holies was the symbolic union of the god and the land, after which the rains came. The people believed that the male’s spermatazoa was analogous to the winter rains watering and thus fertilising the parched land. The womans’s womb was barren like a dry field until it was watered by the male’s life giving fluid making life grow in it. Rain was therefore considered the ejaculation of God fertilizing the earth. Men would go out into the fields to copulate with their wives to encourage the God’s climax, a habit of some mid-Western farmers even in the Christian USA still.
Morgernstern thought the ceremony was used from 516 BC onwards, assuming the conventional date for the “return” of the “exiles”. But no temple had been constructed at this early date, even if some colonists had arrived and had consecrated an altar or even a foundation stone. In short, there was no vagina of Israel until the temple was built and dedicated in 417 BC. Later in Isaiah (Isa 60:19-20), Yehouah is described as more than the sun or the moon, but an eternal sun and and an eternal light. This shows that Yehoauh was a sun god in the mould of the other ANE examples like Mithras and Apollo. They were not merely the sun but the power or a light illuminating the heavenly lights.
I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place, and the name of the Chemarims with the priests; And them that worship the host of heaven upon the housetops; and them that worship and that swear by Yehouah, and that swear by Malcham; And them that are turned back from Yehouah; and those that have not sought Yehouah, nor enquired for him.
In this passage from Zephaniah, the host of heaven is worshipped from the housetops, and God says He will cut them off, but among those being attacked are those who “swear by Yehouah”. Now, it seems that worshipping Yehouah in certain ways was being forbidden. The word Malcham also appears, often rendered as Milcom, an Ammonite god, but better understood as “their king”, meaning Yehouah, but a Yehouah understood in an erroneous way—as the sun? The notion is supported by the worshippers evidently turning their backs on Yehouah in the penultimate sentence. They were facing the sun with their backs to the temple, and in some technical sense therefore were not seeking Him or enquiring of Him. They were the people described in Ezekiel.
And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
This is the chapter of the prophets so important in the foundation of Christianity—the prophecy that Jesus thought he would see happening when he kept vigil in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was forsaken! The imagery is obviously solar and Jesus gave up his vigil at dawn when the sun rose and the mount of Olives remained intact. Yehouah was supposed to have arrived from the east splitting the mount of Olives like a melon. Once the mountain was removed, the observer would have seen an essentially level plain to the Dead Sea and the horizon, right across the camps of the Essenes.
And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, Yehouah of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.
So, this event happens at the Feast of Booths, the equinoctial celebration of the indwelling of Yehouah. The Persian New year celebration was a rehearsal of the eschaton when the new year fought and conquered the old, just as Marduk battled Tiamat.
But unto you that fear my name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.
The sun, Shemesh, and righteousness are explicitly related in an apparently theophoric name. Yehouah is Shemeshzedaqah. Not only that but this sun has wings, reminding us of the ubiquitous image in the ANE of the winged solar disc, particularly those unmistakeably showing the god or the king emerging from it, as in Assyria and Persia. The simpler solar disk without a figure is known in Judah, particularly in the post Persian period, as markers on jar handles and seal impressions. In many ways, the Jewish concept of “Righteousness” is the same as the Persian idea of “Arta”, namely harmony, truth and order—the “Logos” of the Greeks:
Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven. Yea, Yehouah shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase. Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of his steps.
You shall hear in Heaven, and shall act, and shall judge Your servants, to declare the wicked to be wicked, to put his way on his head, and to declare the righteous to be righteous, to give him according to his righteousness.
Here is the sun god as judge, the dispersement of justice being a function that sun god’s generally have because their rays are thought to touch everything just as the hands of the Aten did in Egypt. This is the sun of righteousness of Malachi.
J Tigay could find no evidence that Israelites ever worshipped foreign gods, seemingly a main concern of the prophets. The prophets were railing against those who did not worship Yehouah in the fashion prescribed by the Persian colonists. These apostates were the native Canaanites, worshipping Yehouah, most probably the Baal of the scriptures, in the way that they had been accustomed to over the centuries. Now that was wrong, and the Persdian fashion was right. That was the propaganda message of the prophets. The Baal of the natives was depicted as an alien god but was none other than Yehouah worshipped in the traditional way.
Sun Worship in the Psalms
For Yehouah Elohim is a sun and shield.
The sun here is directly equated with Yehouah. In Psalms 19, the law of Yehouah is depicted with the attributes of an ANE sun god, as N Sarna has noted:
The law of Yehouah is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of Yehouah is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of Yehouah are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of Yehouah is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of Yehouah is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of Yehouah are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Since the thesis of these pages is that the Persians introduced the law only when Ezra dedicated the temple in 417 BC, it seems that the law of Moses is being identified with Ahuramazda, or perhaps Mithras. It adds to the suspicion that the “law of Moses” in Hebrew is a mishearing of Ahuramazda, and therefore that Moses is Mazda.
In the first line, the host of heaven praise their creator, who is called El and translated as God, although “elohim” is normally considered to mean God. The central part of the psalm is the image of the bridegroom leaving his chamber noted above, and meaning the sun rather than its supposed creator. The “heat” (“chammah”) mentioned in verse 19:6 is commonly translated in the scriptures as the sun, so the verse could end as, “nothing is hidden from the sun”!
Psalms 104 has long been known to be part of the Egyptian Hymn to Aten, though the beginning sounds remarkably Persian in its metaphors and references to angels and fire. Aten parallels the roles of Yehouah in being the creator and sustainer of life. Aten is the sun, as the multiple allusion in the poem prove. What brings on the seasons, and what brings on the darkness when beasts roam?
The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens.
Even in the very beginning of the bible, the allusions are to light. Darkness is upon the face of the earth, and “Let there be light!” is the first commandment uttered by God. The light was good and God separated the light from the darkness. Later, though, Elohim made lights in the heavens including the sun and the moon, so the author is distinguishing God from the heavenly host, including the sun. It again matches the ANE concept of a sun god who is not the sun itself, but the power of it or behind it.
And he said, Yehouah came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them.
This is called a difficult passage because the words “esh dath” translated “fiery law” are peculiar. The reason is that it is a Persian phrase, and Hebrew scholars are not interested in the Persian origins of their holy books and so refuse to learn Avestan, Old Persian or Sanscrit. The words really means something like “truthful decree”, and doubtless it is a reference to the law that Ezra was giving them, decreed by the shah. The familiar words “zerah” meaning “to rise” or “to dawn” and “hopia” meaning to “shine forth”, often used in the scriptures in the context of the sun occur, again confirming the solar meaning.
Another passage that seems partly solar but largely storm is Habakkuk 3:3-15, which also has a god coming from mount Paran. Even F M Cross saw in these examples of theophanies, Baal, the Canaanite storm god, who is possibly the original Yehouah anyway—that is, the Yehouah whom the Persian colonists took to model into a type of Ahuramazda. Baal, which is a title not the god’s name, is a divine warrior, who, like Marduk, fights chaos in the form of Yam, “the waters”, and Mot, “death”. Both Baal and Yehouah are associated with thunder, lightnings and flood (Ps 29:3,10), and ride the clouds as here in Habakkuk.
Is it possible for a god to be a storm god and a sun god? P E Dion denies it, but how many examples does he want? In passages like these, Yehouah seems to be it. There are others, though. Baal Shamem, noted by Philo of Byblos, and Zeus Heliopolis at Baalbek, described ny Macrobius, might fit the bill too. J G Taylor thinks that the solar aspects of these latter gods might have been a late development. Presumably he takes it that Yehouah was forever constant and had no late developments himself. The fact is that Yehouah, the God of the Jews, is a late development, certainly Persian, and the Persian books—Ezra and Nehemiah—are almost the last in the Jewish scriptures in terms of their own chronology (not that all of them were not substantially edited and even re-written later). Moreover, M S Smith has seen examples of joint solar and storm imagery applied to Assur—on a decorated Assyrian tile—and Marduk in the Enuma Elish. The significance is that the god is the winter sun—the sun of the season when thunder and lightning accompany the rains that fertilise the fields. Those are the storms that are admired in Him.
A fascinating theophany is that of Jacob (Gen 32:23-33) where the hero wrestles with a “man” until dawn when the “man” has to go and Jacob releases him for a blessing. There are many curiosities about the story which are pondered over in many midrashic interpretations, but they all need not be considered. Jacob is left alone but immediately is wrestling with the “ish” (man), and does so until the god Shahar (the Dawn) brings up when he sees “the face of God”. The author actually writes explicitly that “the sun (Shemesh) rose on him” as he passed Penuel (“the face of God”).
The “ish” has to yield at dawn. Is the “ish” meant to be God, and he has to go so that the sun can rise? Is it the full moon, which necessarily has to go when the sun rises. This might be true in the sense that the moon is the night sun or dark sun that traverses the underworld in order to rise again at the next dawn. In any event, how can any such god wrestle and be overcome by a mere mortal? Not the modern concept of Yehouah! That is what embarasses the rabbis.
Is the aetiological explanation why the people could not eat the thigh just an addition to the myth? The thigh is a euphemism for a penis. The word “naga” for “touch” can be read as much more violent an act, one more likely to leave Jacob limping, but at its worst would have ended the rest of the myth because there could never have been twelve tribes! Was this an early justification for circumcision?
Or does the whole episode have some significance in fertility terms? Was this “ish” originally an “ishshah”, a woman? Is she the personification of the earth and the wrestling match was originally a sexual act of fertilisation, necessarily suppressed by the patriarchal priesthood? It is possible, but the inky pens of the patriarchal editors have blotted out the original. All that can be said is that some such tale would fit the ritual of the equinoxes. Might the original be sought in the Ugarituc myths?
After he has seen god, Jacob confronts Esau as being like the face of God, but Esau is the twin of Jacob, so Jacob must have been like the face of God too! These two twins begin to look like the summer sun and the winter sun, the harsh sun and the kind sun. Israel is soon to have twelve sons, the twelve constellations. Meanwhile Esau marches from Seir with 400 men to the north, rather as Yehouah came from Seir in Deuteronomy 33:2, also seemingly accompanied by attendants, thousands of saints. Esau seems to stand for the summer sun moving higher in the sky and rising further north each morning after the spring equinox and until the summer solstice.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.
References to the gates and eternal doors in this psalm, in Christian tradition and possibly the Talmud, mean the eastern gates of the temple, and so they must be if they are admitting the dawn sun. The eastern gates have had names like the “Sun Gate”, the “Golden Gate” and the “Eternal Gate”, reflecting the solar connotations of this psalm and the other passages discussed here. The King of Glory can only mean the sun and is identified with Yehouah of Hosts. We also find out in verse 24:6 that Jacob is the sun god too!
This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob.
So, Jacob is the face of God. Dishonest translations often put this as “the face of the god of Jacob”, but that just tells the story of the crooked nature of the religious professionals of Judaism and Christianity. They are not interested in the truth but what suits their scam.
A Cult Stand
A tiered cultic stand has been found at Tell Taanach dated to the tenth century on the basis that it was covered by a destruction layer supposedly the result of Shishak’s invasion. A storage jar was found with it containing grain but no opportunity seems to have been taken to take a C-14 reading. None is reported! The stand is also made of clay, presumably baked, offering other opportunities for dating but again no physical method seems to have been used. The cynic would guess that the dates would come out to be several hundred years lower than the ones assumed on the basis of damage putatively from Shishak’s rampages.
The stand has four tiers. Tiers two and four have a tree of life and a naked woman respectively. Asherah was the Israelite goddess, usually associated with trees or trunks of wood, and she it is who is taken to be represented in these tiers. These tiers have lionesses flanking them, tending to confirm the identity of the goddess as Asherah because she had the title “Lion Lady”, like Cybele.
Tier one, the top tier, has what seems like a crude prancing horse with a winged solar disk on its back. At the flanks are two griffins, a fabulous beast associated with sun gods like Horus, Helios and Apollo. The are also fertility symbols.
Tier three is simply a blank space flanked by two cherubs. The modelling is not damaged here so nothing seems to be missing from the stand, and the space is intentional. The assumption is that here is the invisible god, Yehouah, and in tier one, is a plain represention of a sun god. If alternate tiers are meant to be the same diety as two and four seem to be, then the invisible god is equated with the sun god. There seems no reason to doubt this, though it seems most likely that the space was filled with a living flame in the form of a lamp, and if that was so, there should be traces of soot that would betray its former presence. No mention is made of this. Psalms 80:1 has:
Thou that dwellest between the cherubim, shine forth.
It could almost have been a direct reference to the lamp in this recess. Since the stand is hollow, a lamp placed within it would give the whole object a flickering vitality. It would also have been a reasonable model of Yehouah being the light or power behind the sun, and not the sun itself.
The prohibition for Jews on depicting Yehouah in any form is based on Horeb where Yehouah had no form but spoke from the midst of fire. The implication was then that Yehouah did have form, that of a flame, though presumably because the flame constantly changed, it notionally had no form at all. The flame was sacred to the Persians, who are often wrongly called fire-worshippers. The seven branched lamp is part of the holy paraphernalia and theophoric names including lamps and light have been noted.
Disks and Scarabs
Seals on jar handles marked “lmlk” and accompanied by a two winged solar disk or a four winged scarab have been dated to the time of Sennacherib, c 700 BC. About 100 years later they were replaced by rosettes with no “lmlk” inscription. The scarab is the dung beetle, a solar symbol in Egypt since ancient times.
The two winged solar disks are in the shape of the falcon images of Horus, and have a crudely shaped (triangular) head and a more precisely cut tail. They look like some of the depictions seen from Phoenicia, Assyria and Persia. Often Phoenician examples are more obviously bird-like, the body not being disk shaped, and even having what seem like legs, but these Palestinian examples are clearly disk shaped and have no legs, just the tail feathers, possibly standing for rays shining to earth.
Sir Alan Gardiner identified the symbol of Horus the Behdetite with Ra and with Egyptian royalty. The symbol stands for the king as an aspect of God. The seals stand for the sun in its morning phase (Ra-Horachty) when it arises from its night phase (Osiris, Atum) and before it enters its day phase (Ra). The morning sun defeats the dragon of night, and so was seen with attributes like Yehouah’s as a warrior and protector. These qualities are transferred to the king through the use of this symbolic Ba (or fravashi) of the sun god. The Persian versions seemed to show the god in the image of the king. Yehouah was therefore signified by the solar disk, and the king was His son.
Excavating Ophel in Jerusalem, Kathleen Kenyon discovered many baked clay figurines. Over 400 of 1300 found in a cave were human or animal figures. Again no physical measurements seem to have been reported to date them, but simple terracotta figurines are found all over Palestine. Some have said they are toys. One might be tempted to agree in the case of crudely fashioned clay horses, but crudely fashioned naked clay women either show these people were pornographers, or these figures are fertility goddesses.
Often the clay figures are broken, and this with their crude construction suggests they were made to be broken in some ritual. Indeed moulds have been found from which they could have been rapidly made. The horses sometimes have what seems to be a disk on their heads, and Kenyon took them to be models of the “Horses of the Sun”. It is hard to be convinced by these supposed disks however, most being partial or possibly simply badly modelled manes or bridles.
Seal impressions of a bull with a sun disk between its horns have been found near Jerusalem. Seven seal impressions found in a stratum considered to be fifth century compared with similar Persian motifs found at Persepolis. The Persians were cattle herders and had the concept in their cosmogony of the Ox-soul which was a primaeval source of all life. The killing of the primaeval bull by the evil spirit introduced change to the static perfection of the original creation, so Persians were keen on oxen. There is a growing acceptance that Yehouah was a bull in His early depictions.
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