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PERSIA & CREATION OF JUDAISM

Book 4. Sacred History or Phoney History?

Judges: a Book of the Persian Period


  Back to Table of Contents Page

 

 

The Setting and Nature

 

The 480 years from the Exodus to the building of the temple is based on 12 40 year generations from Moses to David. The period of Judges has to be long enough for this to work, but the actual period of Judges when Ezra impressed the law was only about 100 years long. If any of the names in the book represent real judges under the Persians, they must have been local magistrates not rulers over the whole country. Roman writers tell us that the ruling magistrates in Carthage in this same period were called “suffetes”. The Hebrew word for judge is “shophet”. The only difference is about 800 years of time if the biblical chronology is to be believed.

The Persian judges were probably the same as the Roman procurators—men appointed to local taxation districts to keep order by dispensing justice but also collecting tithes. It seems they failed and the idea of a central collection point for taxation in the temple state of Jerusalem was substituted. The period of the judges was then mythologized when the tales of the combating factions were substituted for the more mundane administration by the agents of the Persian king. The writers and compilers of the book were later than Ezra and intended to use the book as propaganda to get the natives to adopt the new religion of the temple.

Judges is a mixed bag of stories purporting to be about the time before Israel had a king, as the final section emphasizes repeatedly, collected together in three parts the central one of which was original and contains the stories, the beginning being a later introduction and the end a later appendix, or rather not an appendix but an artificial way of splitting the beginning of Samuel from the last of the judges. Eli and Samuel were judges themselves and so ought to be part of the book of Judges, and the enemy continues to be the Philistines from Samson into Samuel. The discourse in Samuel 12 looks to be the proper end of Judges.

Divisions and Editions

The three parts are 1:1-2:5, 2:6 to 16:31 and chapters 17 to 21. The first part gives some information about the supposed tribal areas by way of scene setting, but was probably written in the Greek period as Greek words like Talmai (Ptolemy) and Kitron suggest. Indeed, if Kitron refers to the citron (Citrus Medica), the place and the text is dated to after the fourth century when these citrus fruits were introduced from Persia (whence the qualifier “Medica” or Medea), where they had come to from India. The second is the stories of thirteen judges. The main six tell of God’s wrath at the apostasy of Israel. This is the method of the Deuteronomic writer in the Persian period. The last part is not about judges but about the religious and social conditions, and shows antipathy to Dan and the Benjaminites. The author’s interests are Levitical. He is of the Priestly school (P) and the appendix was therefore written in the Greek period.

The traditional sources seen in the Pentateuch are labelled J, E, D, and P. Often the J source (Yehouah) is seen as southern and Yehouistic while the E source is northern and prefers Elohim as the name of God. While there is some truth in this, the main point is that there were two initial factions when these legends were being considered for publication. One faction preferred El as the name of God and one preferred Yehouah. This could hardly have mattered to Canaanites for whom both were perfectly respectable gods, El the High God, and Yehouah one of his sons.

It came to matter when the Persian colonists came to impose a single high god as a god of heaven and the univesrse and whose agent was the Persian Shahanshah. El, the Canaanite High God seemed the obvious choice, but there was a faction who preferred Yehouah, perhaps the Persian administrators themselves, and eventually the Yehouah faction succeeded. Before God was named as Yehouah however, there was a period when both factions wrote their own accounts, and there was probably a period when it was expedient to use a combined name Yehouah Elohim—“Yehouah of the Gods”, the gods being sons of El. For that reason we have a J source and an E source.

Whatever was written by these original sources has been overwritten or edited by D (the Deuteronomic school of editors) and then by P the Priestly school of editors). The creator of Judaism was the editor D, who followed the strict law imposed in the Persian period by Ezra, called Deuteronomy.

The Deuteronomic editor probably compiled the assembly of stories and gave them their moralistic slant because they were meant for the native people, who worshipped their own Baalim and Ashtaroth, and this was depicted as an apostasy from their proper god who was Yehouah. The Priestly editors refined the sacerdotal cult of Jerusalem at a later date, when the innovations of the Deuteronomists had been generally accepted. The likely time of the Priestly school was in the mid-third century BC when the Egyptian Greek kings, the Ptolemies, favoured the Jerusalem cult, and published its books of laws in Greek.

Ezra and Chronology

The chronology is utterly artificial and the Deuteronomic style is continuous in the main part of the book: the people offend God by apostasy, God punishes them by the hand of an enemy, the people cry to God in distress, God sends a saviour, and the people have a period (typically 40 years) of peace before the cycle begins again. Joshua is obedient to God’s wishes and is victorious, but the people are disobedient and suffer even though God patiently sends saviour after saviour. The Deuteronomist has the idea in his mind of a saviour, and the salvation pattern is repeated. The idea of saviours was well established in Zoroastrian religion, so its origin is evident and proof that the stories are from the Persian period. If salvation was so popular 700 years beforehand, it is hard to see why it took until the Persians came for it to catch on.

A legendary saviour is recorded in the biblical books as returning with Zerubabel—he is the High Priest, Joshua (“Yehouah Saves”). This is the time when the rulers of the Canaanites in the Palestinian hills placed an emphasis on salvation. In fact, we argue elsewhere that Joshua is probably merely another title of Zerubabel who is himself the mythical Saoshyant of the Zoroastrian religion—Zoroaster reincarnated. The purpose seems to have been that the colonists who “returned” to Yehud were participating in an eschatological act by setting up a temple to Yehouah and making it work. By doing so they would make the path of the Saoshyant easier. The leading magi of Zoroastrianism, those from the holy city of Rhages itself, were entitled “Zoroaster” and it seems that a Zoroaster returned to give the native people of the land a new covenant with God and the law to accompany it that they all had to obey. The man was Ezra, the Zoroaster of Babel or Zerubabel. In Judges, we read that the natives were not impressed and resisted the imposition by banditry and sedition, though the nature of the resistance has been exaggerated too.

In the years between the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadrezzar and the imposition of the Law of Moses by Ezra, the native inhabitants of the Palestine hills had been bypassed by history. They were few and unimportant, but they were Canaanites and followed the religious customs of the Canaanites whose most famous people were the Phœnicians. Naturally, they had their own stories based on their own religious myths and doubtless some heroes, but history did not start for them until the Persians conquered the Babylonians.

The Babylonians had never bothered to rebuild Jerusalem and used Mizpah as the regional capital. According to Nehemiah, the city was still ruined in the middle of the fifth century. So, desoite the much vaunted decree of Cyrus, the Persians had done little for about a hundred years to restore Jerusalem. The natives were later to be called the Am ha Eretz, a disparaging term meaning the men of the land, and probably punning on Mother Earth, a goddess of whom they were fond. They had tales to tell about their poor treatment under various conquerors, the most immediate of whom were the Persians. The Persians sent in colonists to set up a temple and administrative district in their midst in the time of Darius II, and the locals were expressly denied any chance to participate in the project, probably unless they converted to the new cult. Most did not want to.

The two threads therefore were that of the natives who saw El as the high god, even though they also worshipped others too such as the goddesses and Yehouah, and the “returners” who preferred Yehouah, perhaps because it had echoes of Vohu and Vahu (“v” pronounced “oo”) and therefore of Darayavahu, the Persian king.

The school of the Deuteronomists no doubt worked at their didactic history for a long time, so even though Ezra returned and dedicated the new city and temple in 417 BC, much of the history will not have emerged till considerably later, towards the end of Persian rule, which ended with the victory of Alexander in 332 BC after the seige of Tyre.

In Judges we find a mish-mash of stories from the viewpoint of the native Canaanites mainly. They are stories of heroes and gods, brought down to earth by an editor who has only one god of significance, yet allowed to stand in these legends with some nobility as a foil to the apostasy of the people. The Persian aim was to keep the people peaceful, and they hoped that in a generation or two, under the new Persian admiring God, they would be. They were.

The Introduction

The introduction, Judges 1-2:5, tells that Judah was declared to have been sent to clear out the Canaanites, and it depicts the conquest as occurring through two tribal movements, that of Judah and its allies founding the temple state of Judah, and that of the tribes of Joseph settling in what was to become Samaria (Israel). It thus gives a spurious basis for the two kingdoms that contradicts the conquest of Joshua, a more elaborate attempt to justify the kingdoms. All the other tribes are in Canaan subject to the Canaanites. That is unsurprising—they all were Canaanites.

The settlers are trying to displace the locals from whole swathes of land, and the author blames their failure on a universal apostasy. The hand of two different editors seems clear by the personification of Judah and Israel, or the use of sons of Judah and sons of Israel, translated as “men of” or “people of”. The very first sentence is plainly added because the story resumes from Joshua where he is dismissing the people after his speech in Judges 2:6.

This introduction was probably written by the priests at a much later date than the main compilation, in the third or even the second century BC. Various parts of Palestine had been named, doubtless as taxation districts. The basis of the names was mythologized as the names of the original tribes. In the first five verses of chapter 2 the author establishes his theme—entrapment—God provides the old gods to tempt the people into apostasy, thereby inviting his anger!

In the historical myth of the Jews, David captures Jerusalem sometime before the millennium, but in Judges 1:8, supposedly around 100 years earlier, Jerusalem is already captured and burned by the sons of Judah, showing that the myths of David were additions. The sons of Judah will have originally been the sons of Yehouah, meaning worshippers of the new god—the colonists sent to rule Yehud, probably as a punishment for the natives rebelling (with the Egyptians in all probability, whence the depiction of the Egyptians as natural enemies of the Israelites). The city was destroyed by Nebuchadrezzar, and supposedly stayed destroyed until the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, but here might be evidence that the Am ha Eretz had begun to restore Jerusalem and the colonists destroyed it again. That would offer an explanation of why Nehemiah reacted to the destruction, apparently 150 years after Nebuchadrezzar, as if it was recent (Neh 1:3).

Judah moves into Palestine from Jericho, the city of palm trees, along with the Kenite, Moses’s father in law, Jethro, whose own ancestor was Midian (Mede). Kenite in the accepted mythology is a blacksmith, as Cain was, but what does it really mean? The root pertains to “owning” or “possession” and “begotten”, so seems related to our word “kin”. If that is the case, it is unlikely to be Semitic and probably is a Persian word. The Kenites are supposed to have settled in the Negeb—Numbers 24:21-22 might imply Petra—but evidently came from across the Euphrates, for Heber (Eber), the Kenite of Judges 4:11, lived in the far north, Hemath (Hamath) was the Kenite who founded the sect of the Rechabites, and Balaam prophesied their abduction by Assyria. The Kenites were shown mercy when the Amalekites were destroyed (1 Sam 15:6), implying that they were allies or perhaps kinsmen of the Amalekites. Thus they seem to have been colonists moved into Abarnahara by the Persians and considered kinsmen of the Jews.

In Judges 1:18, the Jews rapidly expanded to capture the main cities of the Philistines, the people who later in the book and in 1 Samuel give the sons of Israel a lot of grief. Judah never ruled over the Philistine cities until the time of the Maccabees, and in the province of Abarnahara, the Philistine coastal plain was administered from Sidon. Thus in the story of Samson, the Philistine god is Dagon, a Phœnician god, depicted as half man and half fish. Is it merely coincidence that the Babylonian god, Ea, was pictured as half man and half fish too? In Greek, Ea was given as Oannes, and in Hebrew, Yah, Yehu, and, like the Greek, Yohannah. If Dagon was Ea and so was Yah, then Yah was Dagon! The Syrians, according to authorities like Lucian, Plutarch and Diodorus Siculus, would not eat fish, which they considered sacred. Totem animals, animals that stand for a people’s god, are never eaten except on ritual occasions. Poor people only had animal protein on the feast days when the animals were sacrificed and some sold off in butchers as additional income for the priesthood. The Persian law of Deuteronomy (Dt 4:18), introducing a new image for Yehouah as Ahuramazda, forbids the making of images of fish!

In Judges 1:22-29, the invasion is depicted with no mention of Joshua or a widespread planned campaign of conquest. This is the tradition before the legendary Joshua was invented probably in Ptolemaic times based on the earlier legend of the saviour priest Joshua, of Haggai and Zechariah. Yet the capture of Bethel in Judges 1:22-26, is itself late, because Bethel was not even founded until the second half of the fifth century BC. The story might be a romanticized account of how the land came into the possession of the colonists. Even Joshua has no account of the capture of Bethel, but if the colonists founded it under the name Bethel, which means the House (temple) of El, it suggests that their initial aim was to make El into the local Ahuramazda.

In Judges 2:1 the “Angel of the Lord” appears. It is a concept that could only have come in the Persian period because it is Spenta Mainyu, the Holy Spirit of Ahuramazda. The concept of angels is Persian. A move of sanctuary from Gilgal to Bochim is led (Jg 2:1-5) by the Angel of the Lord, but Bochim is Bethel in the Septuagint, so here is a peaceful move to Bethel. The stones of Gilgal were supposedly set up by the earliest Israelites crossing the Jordan, probably a folk tale to explain an ancient stone age henge.

Since the whole story is allegorized, the fortresses of the Canaanites need not have meant their military might but their adherence to their religion. The colonists had to live among people who refused to give up their veneration of Baals and Ashtoreths. The fortresses were metaphorical fortresses of the Canaanite religion. At this point in Judges, there is a lot of emphasis on sun-worship. Beth-Shemesh means the temple of the sun god, Shemesh (Samson), and words like “Heres” imply sun worship (from the Indo-European Hur, Surya).

The Deuteronomist’s Introduction

Judges 2:6 to 3:6 is the Deuteronomist compiler’s own introduction. The repetition in Judges 2:6-10 of Joshua 24:29-31 is the point at which Joshua is meant to join Judges, showing that what went between was an addition. Joshua will have been meant to end at Joshua 24:28.

Judges 2:11-19 express the compiler’s own imperative of divine judgement—God punishes sin and apostasy by disaster. He describes the Canaanite cults and issues dire warnings. The failure of the colonists to destroy the cults, that is persuade or coerce the Am ha Eretz to convert, meant that they remained as a temptation, deliberately left by God. The instructions given in Deuteronomy 12:2-4 are clear:

Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree: And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their Asherim with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place.

 

In verse 2:16, we read that Yehouah raised up judges to save the people. It is beyond coincidence that the law given by Ezra, on the chronology presented here, considered to be Deuteronomy, declares with firmness:

Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment. Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous. That which is altogether just shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

 

The Persians were strict administrators of justice. These words are addressed to a person not a people because they are written singularly. They must have been meant for the ruler of the province, but though the author of Deuteronomy puts them in the mouth of Moses (Ezra) addressing a crowd, the source was plainly a document addressed to the person who would administer the law, not to a crowd. It was probably an instruction from the Persian king to his provincial ruler, the Satrap of Abaranahara.

The distinction between the native inhabitants and the colonists who are the remnant is made clear in Judges 2:20,22; 3:4, where the covenant is also mentioned—the one introduced and enforced by Ezra. Israel was tested and found to mix with the nations who were left as a test. Of course, Israel was a Canaanite nation and it was the captives who really mixed with the natives (Jg 3:6) leading to Ezra’s drastic action, but here Ezra could not be mentioned. It was supposed to be 700 years earlier! And it is even possible, depending on which editor was amending this part, that the redactor already did not understand the true nature of what he was editing.

The Early Judges

In Judges 3:7-11, Othniel is the “saviour” sent to deliver Israel from the hands of Cushan-rishathaim, the king of Mesopotamia, in short, the king of Persia. This might specifically have been Cambyses, the son of Cyrus who conquered Egypt. The mention of the “sons of Israel” and “Israel” in these stories is considered an anachronism created by later editing, the stories supposedly being before there was any state of Israel, a product of the division of the united monarchy of David and Solomon, according to the biblical myth. Seen properly, they are not anachronisms, and it is the artificial retrogression of the stories that seems to make them anachronistic.

Othniel had the Spirit of the Lord, showing it is later than the Persian conquest. The inhabitants of Abarnahara, the Hebrews, learnt from the Persians that people were subject to influences from good and from evil spirits. Othniel ruled for the legendary forty years, but each time a good judge died, the people reverted to their Baals and Asherahs and God got angry. Among the punishers are the Amalekites, always supposed to be Arabs, but the name suggests they are the “King’s Men”, Persian policemen or officials.

In Judges 3:15, the next saviour is Ehud with a scheming plot to assassinate the king of Moab by thrusting him through with a sword hidden under Ehud’s robe, on the unexpected side because he was left-handed. Moab was subdued for two generations (80 years). The city of paalms (Jericho) appears again though it had supposedly been knocked down by Joshua’s holy trumpets only a few decades before.

The “sculptured stones” or “quarries” of Judges 3:19,26 are euphemisms for the henge or standing stones which made Gilgal a noted sanctuary. The name of the obese enemy, Eglon, is “calf” and that is what it was. Ehud stabbed a sacred cow—not a human king but a divine king—a god. In conjunction with the previous pun suggesting Cambyses, we see here a recollection of anti-Persian, specifically anti-Cambyses propaganda. Cambyses is said by his Egyptian and Greek enemies to have killed the Apis bull, as well as his own brother, so he is a double villain. Curiously the average lifetime of an Apis bull was 18 years, the length of time Eglon was supposed to have ruled Israel.

In Judges 3:31 is a brief mention of another Judge, obviously inserted. Shamgar killed 600 Philistines with an ox-goad. He is a son of Anath, the consort of El. He is plainly the sun god, Shamesh or Samson, given a slightly variant name.

Deborah

In Judges 4:1 to 5:31 appears two accounts of the claim to fame of the judge, Deborah, the first in prose then one in verse. Many commentators declare the poem to be the oldest text in the bible because of its obscure words and its apparently northern dialect, but the fact that it is a dialect could be entirely the reason for its obscure words. One wonders whether some of its difficult words could be Iranian. It certainly has more Aramaic words than classical Hebrew, suggesting youth rather than antiquity. Scholarly opinion is coming round to seeing it as not so old. The mention of Sinai (Jg 5:5) is added by an harmonizing editor.

The king of the Canaanites is called Jabin, but there is no evidence that the Canaanites were ever united under a single king. The Canaanites would often call their god their king. Thus a Phœnician god was called Melqart, meaning King of the City, and Moloch might have been the same, or similar god. So Jabin was possibly a Canaanite god not a Canaanite king. But, in the poem, Jabin does not appear at all and the Canaanite king is Sisera, who is the Canaanite general in the prose version. Sisera is taken to mean a youth but it is not a Semitic name and appears only one other place—in the genealogies of Ezra-Nehemiah as the patriarch of a returning family. Jael can be read as “Yehouah is El” (or God) and Jabin as “Yehouah is Son”.

The hints suggest an allegory of a struggle between two factions, one wanting Yehouah to be seen as the High God and the other wanting Yehouah to remain as he is in the Canaanite pantheon, the son of El—so El remains the High God. It is not uncommon for sons of gods to replace their fathers in mythology. Jabin is defeated and the “Yehouah is God” faction succeed. The importance of women in the story might suggest that women favoured the “Yehouah is God” faction.

The Great Mother Goddess Cybele

Deborah seems to be an Indo-European word meaning the “Goddess is Our Lady”, or “The Divine Lady”. “Deborah” now means “bee” but that might be because she was the mother goddess, as Judges openly declares:

The leaders ceased in Israel. They ceased until I, Deborah, arose. I arose as a mother in Israel.
Jg 5:7 Lit

 

The attendants of mother goddesses were called bees as they were for Cybele and Diana. The Goddess Neith, one of the more important deities in Lower Egypt where the bee was the symbol of kingship, had a temple known as “the House of the Bee”.

Von Soden (The Ancient Orient) is categoric that, although the designation “judge” was granted to goddesses, not a single instance of a practicing female judge has ever been found in any ancient near eastern text. The case of Deborah, in the bible, is therefore so unique, it suggests that Deborah was indeed a goddess and not a human woman.

She is described in Judges 4:5 as if she were an idol or standing stone beneath a palm tree called “The Palm of Deborah” in Bethel. She could not have been in the Judaean hills originally if she lived beneath a palm, unless an oak was meant, but she could have been at Jericho. There is another Deborah in the Jewish scriptures. She is a nurse, the nurse of Rebekah. She died and was buried beneath a tree named Allon-bachuth (Gen 35:8), the “Tree of Weeping” or the “Oak of Weeping” also in Bethel. The Hebrew word “allon” can mean any large tree, or an oak tree specifically.

Demeter played the role of the nurse to the infant Iacchus. The story of Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, who died after Jacob had set up the altar at Bethel, and was therefore presumably nurse to the twins Jacob and Esau, sounds like a remnant of a story like that of Demeter making the child Brimo, who is Bacchus or Iacchus, immortal. Iacchus is obviously Jacob. Iacchus is Dionysus and is also Dendrites, “Of Trees”.

Neither prose nor poem is easy to understand. One suspects the earthly struggle between gods was cast as a cosmic battle but later was brought back to earth in a particular locality, not convincingly. Megiddo and Kadesh are both mentioned, the scenes of legendary battles. Particularly in the poem, Deborah sounds like a war goddess, like Anahita, and significantly she permits “new gods” to be chosen (Jg 5:8). Neith’s symbol was a pair of crossed arrows over a shield, and her role is described in the Hymn to Neith preserved at the Esna temple, where she procreates the god, Ra, who is also called Khepri in the morning and Atum in the evening.

Of course, Yehouah is eternal so cannot have a mother, and it seems here that the bible has an old myth about a war in heaven and the creation of a new good god, but the god has had to be omitted. In the Babylonian Creation Myth, in which Marduk defeats Tiamat in the heavenly battle, Marduk is assisted by the Great Goddess Aruru who eventually makes Gilgamesh and his companion, Enkidu. Possibly Deborah is a version of the Babylonian goddess, Aruru, identified also with the Egyptian goddess Neith. She appears again as Aseneth, the wife of Joseph, who seems to be Horakhty, the morning sun.

Deborah might have stood for a women’s movement. They were devoted to a goddess who refused to accept El as the almighty god, preferring to elevate his son, Yehouah, whom they held in higher regard, perhaps because they associated Yehouah with Tammuz. The final sentence is a description of Mithras in its mention of the sun, “might” and particularly “friends”. Perhaps Mithras was seen as the Persian version of Tammuz.

The women were to be disappointed because when Yehouah was made into the local Ahuramazda, he was recast as El, not Mithras, but was even less sympathetic than the High God, because he took more interest in his Chosen People than El ever did, and he was jealous! It took Christianity to restore Mithras as the popular Son in the form of Jesus. Deborah’s husband’s name, Lappidoth, means “torches”, or “lightnings”, and Barak means “lightning”. They are references to a sky god like Zeus, though the torches could be the upturned and downturned torches of the torchbearers in Mithraic iconography, standing for opposites like day and night, summer and winter and life and death.

It seems that the aim of the author was to cast old gods as earthly heroes, so that the One God could be one only while the people could still respect their old gods as heroes. Christians have done the same with some saints.

Gideon

In Judges 6:1 to 8:28 is the story of Gideon who is a son of Joash and one of the sons of Ezra because he is an Abiezrite (“My father is Ezra”). To be an Abiezrite is not necessarily to be a real son or even a descendent, but to be in the brotherhood of Ezraites—the followers of Ezra. Joash is Joshua, so here are references to the occasion when Ezra returned and read out the law, and Joshua was mythically the first High Priest of the second temple. The oppressors in this story however are the Midianites (Medes), the Amalekites (King’s men) and the men of the east, references at this time, to the Persian conquerors, who come up with their cattle, like locusts. In Judges 6:33, they are encamped in the Valley of Jezreel, a mythical name for Israel.

The implication is that here is a story from the side of the Am ha Eretz, some of whom took to banditry rather than accept the new cult and the Persian rule. Later in Judges, Jephthah is also depicted as being a bandit. Addressing the angel of the Lord in Judges 6:13, Gideon expresses his skepticism of the Persian cult and its propaganda:

Oh my Lord, if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt? but now the Lord hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.

 

Gideon is so skeptical he even insists on twice testing the Lord, an utterly forbidden act (Dt 6:16) that must show this story to have been a mockery originally. The battle that Gideon wins is also a mockery, making out that the enemy are scared out of their wits, and 135,000 Medes and Persians are killed and scattered by 300 opponents who survive without loss. Doubtless Gidean led a small band of outlaws and his enemies have been multiplied.

Yet the sacrifices offered by Gideon are Persian, the meat being boiled not roast. The Angel of the Lord is present at the sacrifice and rises up to heaven with the flames, which are therefore seen as the good mediator between earth and heaven. The two supposed leaders of the Medes killed at first are scavengers, the Raven (Oreb) and the Wolf (Zeeb), animals that picked at carcasses left out, Persian fashion, to be picked dry.

So, what seems to have been a Samarian story of a bandit hero’s exploits against the Median oppressors has been turned round by an editor who makes him acceptable by destroying altars to Baal and Asherah (Jg 6:25), Canaanite gods, which he does by night and without the knowledge of his family, showing clearly he was of the Canaanite breed. The altar is then dedicated to the new god by sacrificing a bull, in the Persian saviour’s fashion. Gideon therefore becomes Mithras whose sacrifice brings good into the world. The Canaanites want to kill Gideon for his desecration of their altars but Joash (Joshua) tells them to let the god fight for himself, a lesson that all defenders of gods should learn, but none do.

Now appears some confusion and curious folk etymology. Because Joash has said that the Baal should fight for itself, Gideon is called Jerubaal, which supposedly means “Let Baal Fight”. In fact, it looks like a corruption or a pun. It is really Zerubabel. In Haggai and Zechariah, Joshua and Zerubabel are linked so inseparably that they might have been originally different titles of the same man, so it is is curious that obvious corruptions of Joshua and Zerubabel should be linked here. Plainly it was Joash who said, “let Baal Fight”, and he it should be who is given the nickname, but it is transferred to Gideon, and an editor has to make it clear (Jg 7:1).

Only 300 men chase off a large army by making strange noises in the night! The places of flight mentioned in the stories are unknown, as are many places in the scriptural stories, though biblicists will identify every place mentioned.

J Pedersen sees the Jerubaal story as relating a conflict between supporters of Yehouah and Baal over a sanctuary eventually falling to Yehouah. He also sees Judges as fragments of legends telling of local wars and the feats of local heroes after the settlement, but the settlement was in the Persian period not in the late bronze or early iron ages.

The compiler of this eclectic collection of stories makes many allusions to Exodus and uses many of its constructions. One editor calls the people the sons of Israel while the other simply calls them Israel, and the first seems to be moralistic in blaming God’s reactions on to the people’s failings while the other is more generous. These might be the different attitudes of the original writer who was sympathetic to Israel, while the later editor was sympathetic to the colonists and blamed the people for God’s actions.

In Judges 8:14, a captured young man is expected to be able to write and writes down the names of officials. Today, this would not be surprising but in 1200 BC few people could write. It suggests the story is much later than it purports to be. The crescents on the camels in Judges 8:21 might suggest moon worshippers.

Here Gideon, who seems to have the name or title Zerubabel, refuses to be made king whereas, to judge by Haggai, Zerubabel was made king. Either way, the suggestion is that Zerubabel is a rebel against the Persians. Gideon is happy to leave god as the ruler but nevertheless makes a golden idol that the people worship at Ophrah. Gideon is depicted as having 70 sons, implying that Gideon himself is the High God, or perhaps his earthly agent, because 70 was supposed to have been all the nations of the earth. El similarly had 70 sons, and this appears in Deuteronomy 32:8-9, where Yehouah is one of the national gods, sons of El.

Abimelech

Despite all these sons, Gideon has a special son born at Shechem called Abimelech, meaning “My Father is King”. The people returned to apostasy immediately worshipping Baal-berith, a god whose name is “Lord of the Covenant!” In Genesis 35:4, Jacob received his allegiance to the “God of the Covenant” at Shechem. The covenant was that made by Joshua (Josh 24:25; Dt 27) who is the mythologized priest of Haggai and Zechariah that introduced the new god—Ezra. The whole story seems to have begun as a tale of the Am ha Eretz struggling against the Persian colonists, but later reworked to fit the established view. Shechem was probably the site of the original worship of the new Persian inspired god, or perhaps was the first of several that were originally set up, before a decision was taken to centre activity on Jerusalem. Abimelech was meant to stand for the loyal followers of the Persian king, and therefore of the imported god, Yehouah, whose first sanctuary was at Shechem.

The story of Abimelech in Judges 9:1-6 has the hallmark of reworked mythology. Essentially it is how the people of Shechem who had worshipped amother goddess and various baals were beguiled into supporting Abimelech, the one god against the many gods. Abimelech was made king at Shechem. It seems though that the people of Shechem, after three years turned to another god, Gaal. Now Gaal, unless it is a deliberate corruption of baal, means beetle, so might have been an Egyptian deity associated with the scarab beetle. Equally it might be a corruption of Gaddel meaning “El is Good Fortune”, as possibly Gideon is too. The people had not been impressed by their three years of devotion to Abimelech and were much happier under the aegis of the Beetle, and again voices urged the people to fight the Persian invaders. Zebul is, of course, another Baal, or perhaps is none less than El himself, the “Lord of the Mansion of Heaven”, (Baalzebul) and it seems that worshippers of this baal allied with worshippers of Abimelech and they attack the city at dawn, the time when Mithras was worshipped. The shadows of the mountains, as the sun rises, seem to attack Gaal, and the rival god is driven out.

Note the mysterious unknown place “Arumah” in Judges 9:31,41, which is “Tormah” in the Hebrew bible, and probably the Hormah of Judges 1:17. In Hebrew, the letters “t” and “h” are easily mistaken if the scribe is careless, and a leading “a” is simply a glottal stop or unaspirated “h” as in the English “hour”, so “Hormah” (“Arumah”) and “Tormah” are recognizably the same, and are suspiciously like Ahuramazda in this context. “Tormah” in Hebrew also sounds like a pun on the law of Moses, “Tohramohsha”. The word “Torah” was only used to mean “law” in the Persian period, and its supposed etymological derivation from the older word for “to cast” (as in casting runes for divine guidance) is invented to explain its sudden unexplained appearance.

For their apostasy, the people of Shechem were murdered and the city razed and sown with salt, as the Romans did to Carthage. Now a Tower of Shechem appears, apparently not in Shechem which has already been destroyed, unless the chronology is adrift. If these are legends based on internecine struggles in the earlier Persian period, the chronology would have been less important than the individual incidents. The tower was the stronghold of the “house” of El-berith, where “house” can mean the people of El-berith as in the “house of David”, or can mean the temple of El-berith. El-berith, as we have seen, means the “God of the Covenant!” Abimelech sets the tower on fire and burns the besiged inhabitants to death.

What is to be made of this confusion? If El-berith is the obvious God of the Covenant, Yehouah, either the people are being named from the time before they apostatized, or an incident in which the newly faithful to the imposed god were attacked by the Am ha Eretz has been re-written to reverse the incident. At a later date this would have been possible, especially after the end of Persian rule, because those who wrote the originals were long dead and the new Greek rulers were intent on harmonization. So this dastardly deed could have been first meant to signify a victory for the apostates over the followers of the God of the Covenant, and might have been the very reason why Shechem was so severely treated when the worshippers of Yehouah finally beat them. Finally, a similar seige of a tower in a town called Thebez leads to the death of Abimelech when a woman in the beseiged tower drops a grinding stone on his head. This is Abimelech’s punishment for killing his seventy brothers, but is doubtless added by the moralising editor, who does not want to anyone to see Abimelech as standing for Yehouah.

Note that in Mount Zalmon and the earlier Zalmunna, who was killed by Gideon, we have another Canaanite god, Shalmi, the evening sun or star, doubtless shown here as defeated by Yehouah and forced to His assistance.

Shamir in Judges 10:1-2 might be the original Samson, of whom nothing was known but who was represented as Hercules under Greek influence. If the place means anything, it is a reference to Samaria, on this biblical chronology, at least 200 years before it was founded. In reality, these stories were written at least 400 years after Samaria was founded.

Jephthah

Now, the people of Abarnahara, the Hebrews, before the Persians came were child sacrificers. In the modern day we take the moral high ground in respect of the proper treatment of children, but we are utterly hypocritical about it. In the last century, we had families that were far too big, that could not be properly supported by the wage earner and so lived for most of their childhood in abject poverty and misery, often having to work 12 hours a day for a shilling when an adult would get eight, sa barely easing their pauperism. This was God’s intention, the bishops said.

Even today, there is little or no thought given to the millions who remain in poverty in the Third World, and our Christian leaders even think it necessary to bomb them sometimes to keep them in their place. Needless to say, children are in the firing line, but they are not our kids, they are not Christian kids, so it does not matter. Yet the people who have such uncaring views on the practical value of childhood, shudder at the thought that the Romans exposed unwanted infants to the cold night and the wolves, so that their families would not get too big, and the children who grew to consciousness did not have to starve.

The tophets of the Canaanites, might have had the same effect, incidental to the ultimately testing sacrifice parents were making to their gods. Poor families might have sacrificed their children in the hope of more of their god’s favour. And they got a little, because they had one mouth less to feed. The story of Jephthah the Gideonite, who sacrificed his daughter (Jg 11:30-34) for Yehouah’s aid in warfare, is a justification of Canaanite child sacrifice, barely altered into a warning against foolish promises to do such things. The priestly editor makes it a justification for a women’s festival (Jg 11:40) to replace the annual wailing of the death of Tammuz. Yet child sacrifices were prescribed in Exodus 22:29-30 when God demands:

The firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto Me. Likewise shalt thou do with thine oxen, and with thy sheep: seven days it shall be with his dam; on the eighth day thou shalt give it Me.

 

Ezekiel accepts that this was the correct interpretation and that the sacrifice was by fire, as it was for the Phœnicians, but he pretends that Yehouah did it out of pique because of the apostasy of the people!

Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live; And I polluted them in their own gifts, in that they caused to pass through the fire all that openeth the womb, that I might make them desolate, to the end that they might know that I am the Lord.

 

This, of course, refutes everthing that a Christian believes about God and yet comes from one of the holy prophets so must be true! Yet Jeremiah, obviously writing much later despite accepted biblical chronology, makes a point of refuting it as something Yehouah could never have even thought of, and tries to give the exact opposite impression:

For the children of Judah have done evil in my sight, saith the Lord: they have set their abominations in the house which is called by my name, to pollute it. And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind.

 

The third part of Isaiah, that no one denies is in the Persian period, neverthless tells us that the practice was continuing then:

Are ye not children of transgression, a seed of falsehood. Enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree, slaying the children in the valleys under the clifts of rocks?

 

Circumcision, a practice long known to the Egyptians, and doubtless practiced from time to time and by certain people in Palestine, was declared obligatory as a replacement for the actual sacrifice of children. A notional castration would devote the child to God and no death was necessary. Circumcision was not a practice of the Persians but seems to have been accepted as the lesser of two evils. Better to lose a bit of superfluous skin than to be tossed to the flames of the Tophet.

We find many cross references to Exodus and Numbers suggesting that the editor was involved with the addition of the story of Moses to the bible. Equivalent glosses have been added to Deuteronomy 2. In Judges 10:6, the people again apostatize worshipping “Baalim and Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the Gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines”. The places mentioned here are a perfect specification of the Persian province of Abarnahara, and a virtual confession that the people addressed are indeed the Hebrews, but the Hebrews are all of these people of Abarnahara, not just the Jews and Israelites. Thus the god being impressed is being impressed on the whole of the nations of Abarnahara, not just the hills of Palestine. Jerusalem was the temple state of this province, to which all the people were to look, and the Jews were the administrators of the temple state. When the Persian empire was conquered, this Persian plan could no longer be pursued and the Hebrew tradition was lost everywhere except in its centre, Jerusalem.

Lionel Curtis in Civitas Dei: the Commonwealth of God (1938) has noted:

In the earlier records of Greece and Rome we meet the Phoenician traders everywhere scattered along the coasts of the Mediterranean. But after the fall of Carthage they seem to fade from the pages of history. Before the time of Caesar we meet the Jews in every part of the Graeco-Roman world, filling the place which the Phoenicians once occupied in the commercial life of the Mediterranean. Paul in his journeys finds a settlement of his countrymen in almost every city which he visits.

 

Carthage fell about the time of the Maccabees, and Jerusalem acquired the place of honour from which Tyre and Carthage had both fallen as the leading centre of Semitic civilisation, but the truth is that many Phœnicians were already Jews, if the word is given its correct meaning—worshippers of Yehouah. Is it merely a strange coincidence that one of the main “families” of Carthage was founded by a man called Mago who was a contemporary of Cyrus and Darius (550-500 BC)? The Persian kings had a secret service second to none. They were adepts at infiltrating and influencing powerful neighbours of the Persians. Mago seems likely to have been a Zoroastrian, and only a few decades later, Jerusalem was set up as the temple state of Abarnahara. From then on Phœnicians in Asia would have been converting to the worship of Yehouah and it is inconceivable that they did not influence many Phœnicians elsewhere. So, with the loss of the main city of the Canaanites in north Africa, the Phœnicians will surely have looked to Jerusalem, and those who had remained loyal to Tanis and Melkart will have turned to Yehouah.

God rejects the people utterly, promising that he would save them no more (Jg 10:13). The translators of the Jewish scriptures do not like to use the word “save” in connection with god because that is reserved for His Son. So, the Old Testament God always “delivers” or just “helps” his people escape from their enemies. The word is the same as that one from which “hosannah”, “Essene” and “Jesus” (Joshua) derive—osea.

Anyway, the Israelites put away their foreign gods and Yehouah took pity on them again. The saviour he sent here was Jephthah, who had been rejected by his people to become an bandit in the land of Tob (Good), and whose mother was a harlot! The Tobit of the Apocrypha lived in Medea near the Zoroastrian holy city of Rhages! Jephthah means “He Opens” or “Yehouah Opens”, the “Opener” being an ancient name or title of God. Jephthah is not an Israelite, he is a Gileadite from east of the Jordan, so here again we have a tradition from elsewhere in Abarnahara incorporated into the scriptures that were to be the Hebrew scriptures—for all the people of the Levant and Syria. In Judges 11:26, however, the East Bank is declared to have belonged to the Israelites for 300 years, even though the whole period from the supposed conquest, by Joshua, to the supposed kingdom of David is less than 200 years. If Omri founded Israel in the ninth century and laid claim to parts of the East Bank, as the Moabite stone confirms, then a setting for Judges in the fifth century is compatible with this claim.

Samson

Three chapters are devoted to Samson, but the final one about Samson and Delilah is certainly much later than the other stories here. Its completeness is proof enough. The other stories often give the impression of incompleteless or being fragmentary, but Samson and Delilah is a complete and well preserved fairy tale. Samson is unmistakeably an Israelite Hercules. Samson belonged to the tribe of Dan which in Rabbinic astrology was under the sign of Scorpio, the sign under which the celestial Hercules rises. He might have been introduced in this form by Greeks settled in Palestine after Alexander’s conquest. Syncellus wrote:

In this time lived Samson, who was called Hercules by the Greeks.

 

Samson is the sun god Shemesh. Many of the places mentioned pertain to the sun cult, and Samson’s strength being in his hair equates to the strength of the sun being in its rays. Some of the stories told have their source in the solar mythology constructed about the sun’s annual journey through the heavens. In so doing, it passes through the twelve constellations having an adventure in each one. This is the origin of the twelve labours of Hercules, two of which at least are recognizable here in embryo. Samson, like Hercules, kills a lion (Jg 14:6), being the sun in Leo when the rise of the constellation at dawn is blotted out by the rise of the sun. He also calls upon God to slake his thirst and a spring opens, a suggestion of the passage of the sun through Aquarius.

The rest of the cycle has been suppressed but the Samson and Delilah story has been added. This story stands for the removal of the sun’s rays by the night (Hebrew, “laylah”), whereupon the sun loses its strength and everything becomes dark (blindness). The sun then recovers and eventually destroys the pillars of the night. The drama then repeats daily. Delilah is the “Goddess Night”, night being equated with the night hag, Lilith, ultimately the Babylonian Goddess Ninlil blackened.

In Judges 10:2, as if to set the right tone, we immediately meet the word “Zorah”, a word that equates with Ezra, Zoro (as in Zoroaster), Zeru (as in Zerubabel), the Indo-Euopean, “Surya” meaning sun, and therefore qualities of the sun, “might” and “strength”. After this Persian clue, the Angel of Yehouah appears immediately (the proper name, Yehouah, is always fatuously rendered as “the Lord” by translators). In Judges 13:8, “Manoah intreated the Lord and said, O Lord…” but two different words are translated “Lord”.

Angels were Persian inventions, and the specific “Angel of the Lord” is clearly Spenta Mainyu, the Holy Spirit that stands for Ahuramazda—and sure enough, the angel is God in Judges 13:22. No such ideas existed in Canaan in 1100 BC when this story is supposedly set. Sometimes the angel is described as the “man of the gods”, though gods is falsely translated as “God”. Probably, “man of the gods” simply means angel—one of the gods (angels) appearing as a man—but the Hebrew word (“malak”) normally used for angel means the same as “angel” and ought to be translated as “messenger”.

The switch from polytheism to a supposed monotheism required the abandonment of “the gods” in popular usage, but by the time it was effected, it seems people had accepted “Elohim” as a name for the singular God. This probably happened when no one any longer spoke Hebrew in their daily lives, and only heard it in the temple and synagogues. Judges 16:28 is quite remarkable:

And Samson called unto the Lord (Yehouah), and said, O Lord (Adonai) God (Yehouah), remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God (Elohim), that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.

 

Samson’s parents sacrifice to Yehouah and see the angel ascending with the flames, a purely Zoroastrian concept—the flames of the sacred fire being the vehicle for taking messages to Ahuramazda. Originally in Mazdayasnaism, the holy flame was the domestic hearth fire, and here it is too, for the angel is invited to participate in a meal, but declines in favour of the sacrifice. The whole scene is similar to when Gideon did the same (Jg 6:21).

The Samson myths are a way of bringing the sun god down to earth to leave room for Yehouah as the Almighty. We can be sure that Shamesh was among the Baals worshipped by the polytheistic inhabitants of Canaan before the Persian conquest. Besides Baal, El and Astarte, the sun god had to be contended with, and the Samson stories kept the god as a hero while mortalizing him. He was however retained as specially holy by the device of having him consecrated to Yehouah from birth as a Nazirite, even though this is an obvious device because the mortal Samson is nothing more than a bullying, drinking, brawling, murderous, womanising lout. Perhaps that was how the sun god was perceived in hot arid countries, when the sun seemed irresponsible, if not cruel, at the height of the dry season.

The identification of the Philistines as uncircumcized in Judges 14:3 shows that this was written when the practice of circumcision was well established among the Jews. It was therefore well after the Tophet had been abandoned in favour of eighth day circumcision, and so was well into the Persian period or after it. The bees that make their nest in the lions carcase (Jg 14:8) are creatures of the sun, that become active when the sun is out. In the first set of tales, Samson marries an unnamed woman, but she is, of course, Delilah because she tricks the solar god just before sunset. The later tale is an elaborate reworking of this simpler original one.

The burning of the fields by tying burning brands to the tails of foxes is hardly the sort of story one wants to tell children these days, yet Samson, who openly uses a prostitute in Judges 16:1, is regarded as a biblical children’s story. Burning the fields is what the sun does in the near east in the height of the summer, but the association with foxes so treated is supiciously like the practice of the Romans at the spring wheat festival in April, when they did something similar. Unless some worldly Greeks brought this story into Palestine, it could be as late as the Roman period which began when Pompey annexed the country in 63 BC. A compromize would be that it was introduced by the Maccabees who had Roman military advizers in their war with the Seleucid kings.

The original Samson cycle ended in Judges 15:20 with the formula, “he judged Israel 20 years”. The reappearance of the termination formula at the end of chapter 16 (Jg 16:31) shows that the whole chapter on Samson and Delilah was added. Note that both are speaking of Israel over a hundred years before it was supposedly founded, according to biblical chronology.

Eli

The sequence of names leading to Samuel have curious meanings. Zuph seems to be “Watcher”, one of the wicked angels of Enoch, Elihu means “He is my God”, Jeroham means “Pity him” and Elkanah means “God (or El) is a reed”. Elkanah is the father of Samuel. Some of these names do not seem flattering, which is odd if Samuel is their object. However, El might be their object, since the story is written by the successful Yehouah faction.

The family of Elkanah make an annual journey to the sanctuary at Shiloh to worship Yehouah Sabaoth (the Persian name for Yehouah), whose priests were the two sons of the elderly Eli. Commentators note that Eli is almost a cipher in these stories. The reason is that he is the god of the sanctuary at Shiloh not the priest. Eli means “My God”, possibly an abbreviation for “My God is El”, Eliel. The scriptures are therefore still relating the events that led from the worship of El to the worship of Yehouah.

The ancient Canaanite gods were represented by pillars or posts and in 1 Samuel 1:9, Hannah, the mother of Samuel, prays by a doorpost, next to which sits none other than Eli. Plainly she was praying to Eli who was represented by a post in the sanctuary at Shiloh. A later editor has added the anachronistic references to Yehouah and changed Eli into an old priest sitting by a doorpost instead of an old god represented by a post in the ground. Many of these Judges have turned out to be mortalized gods, and Eli is another. 1 Samuel 1:16,18 seems to confirm it because Hannah was not a maidservant of the priest, but all worshippers can be called servants of their god (see her prayer in 9:11). She has the child and dedicates him to Yehouah in the editor’s revision but it is plain that she originally offered the bull as a sacrifice to the god El and dedicated the child to him:

And they slew a bullock, and brought the child to Eli.
1 Sam 1:25

 

In 1 Samuel 1:20, the name of the son of Elkanah and Hannah is explained as meaning “Asked For”. The same explanation suffices for the name of Saul, but it is false. The name Samuel has no implication of asking or being an answer to a prayer. On the face of it, it has the strange meaning “the Name of God”, taking El here to mean God. It is more curious in the context of the hypothesis that a struggle was going on over the name of God.

Hannah sang a song of joy over her birth of a son after many years of being barren. Yehouah is the subject but there are significant references in it. God is a rock, just as Mithras was. He is the god of knowledge just as Ahuramazda was. Like Ahuramazda, he judges the ends of the earth, and at the Judgement, he weighs people’s deeds in the balance. Resurrection is highlighted at the centre of the song, bringing to life, raising up from Sheol, raising up from the dust and the ash heap. The wicked will be cut off in darkness. The magic number seven is also mentioned. It has eschatological connotations standing, as it does, for the joining of heaven to earth. Heaven and earth are joined by the rainbow with its seven or six colours, probably the origin of the Cinvat Bridge by which only the righteous can enter heaven. The pillars of the earth, the mountains, support the heavens—the world. Finally, he thunders in heaven and gives strength to the king and power to his messiah. This poem with its complex of ideas sounds Essenic, because it is strongly Persian coloured.

In 1 Samuel 2:2, the sacrificial meat is boiled in Zoroastrian fashion so as not to pollute the sacred flame, which was fed only by the fat (1 Sam 2:15) usually from the omentum. The corruption of the priests was shown above all by their desire to roast the meat, thus polluting the sacred flame. These practices were not, of course, those of the priests of El, but those of the new religion. The aim was not to give a memoriam of the ancient religion but to discourage its use, so violations of holy practice of the new religion were used to show how wicked the old one had been. Besides this, the wicked sons of Eli (El’s followers) had sexual relations with the women serving the god, as they might in a fertility religion.

Eli was very old, as indeed El the god was, but the story is preparing for him to be replaced by a new young priest, Samuel. The editor in mortalizing the god makes him 98, which must have seemed old for a man, though not as old as the patriarchs who were soon to be added to the story, but further back in time. In 1 Samuel 2:27, the priesthood said to have been promised to Eli and his line for eternity was taken from him, another reference to the god being changed, not merely the priesthood:

Behold, the days come, that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy father’s house, that there shall not be an old man in thine house. And thou shalt look in distress on my habitation, on all the wealth which God shall give Israel: and there shall not be an old man in thine house for ever.

 

The old god’s arm is severed and with it his power, and that of his sanctuary and its people. The new god will provide prosperity, and the old god will never return. Chapter three continues the description of the decline of the god, El:

Eli was laid down in his place, and his eyes began to wax dim, that he could not see. And ere the lamp of God (Elohim) went out in the temple of Yehouah, where the ark of God was…

 

Eli is being treated like an idol or a totem, being carried into his place, but his powers were waning. Metaphorically, the lamp of the gods was going out, in the temple of Yehouah, anachronistically, as we soon learn in 1 Samuel 3:7:

Now Samuel did not yet know Yehouah, neither was the word of the Lord yet revealed unto him.

 

Here is a boy supposedly consecrated as a Nazirite to Yehouah, being guided by a great priest and judge who is depicted as faultless himself, in the rewriting, and being trained in the temple to fulfil the highest office and he has never heard of Yehouah. He had not because the god until this usurpation had been El.

When the Philistines kill off 30,000 foot soldiers of Israel and capture the ark of the covenant in Chapter four (1 Sam 4:18), the god El dies dramatically. He was toppled over backwards from his seat and his neck was broken.

Samuel

Before this, the change had already been admitted in 1 Samuel 4:1: “And the word of Samuel came to all Israel”. The old god, El, had been replaced by Yehouah, and incidentally the curious name of the judge, Samuel, is explained. What is “the name of god” now? It is Yehouah. Yehouah is “the name of God”. Yehouah is Samuel. The young god, Samuel, son of “El is a Reed”, had replaced his weak cosmic father, El. The monotheistic editor could not let it be obvious that the old god had been replaced by his son, the young god, so instead of writing Yehouah when he should have, he wrote “the name of God”, thus creating a great prophet of the Jewish scriptures.

The adoption of the young god has the effect of the immediate defeat of the previously all-conquering Philistines, and the return of the ark of God. To commemorate the event Samuel erects a new standing stone called Ebenezer, the “Stone of Salvation”. Such a stone must have existed and this was folk ætiology because it has already been mentioned twice in verses 4:1 and 5:1.

The later editor, who is leading up to his long bogus history, has mistakenly introduced the temple of Yehouah several times when there was no such temple, even on the biblical scheme of things. Plainly, the earliest worshippers of Yehouah, the Persian colonists, had a circuit of several sanctuaries, and 1 Samuel 7:16-17 lists them as Bethel, Gilgal, Mizpah, Ramah and presumably Shiloh. Shechem is not listed, though it too seems to have been an early sanctuary.

We are in the period of the first colonists entering the hill country sometime in the fifth century BC. Their mission from the Persians was to introduce a new ethical religion to replace the fertility religions of the Canaanites. The new god, Yehouah, was represented, in this story admitting the take over, by Samuel. Canaanite gods actually dwelt in each sanctuary. Statues of them were permanently kept in shrines of stone. The colonists seemed not to have had any major center at first and worshipped their new god at the different sanctuaries listed. Canaanite gods were carried on the shoulders of the priests during religious ceremonies in palanquins made of gilded wood, resting on two long wooden poles. The Jewish Ark of the Covenant was evidently the same. If the ark of God had any meaning for the Yehouists, it was simply a mobile shrine carried from sanctuary to sanctuary, so that the worshippers knew they were worshipping the same god at each and not different local gods as before.

The service performed to the image of the god was private, being in the room in the temple furthest from the entrance and the public courts, in total darkness (cf 1 Kings 8:12). The Jewish god had no physical form, and needed no house. King Solomon supposedly erected his temple as a house for the Ark of the Covenant, but this was itself the place where God resided during the supposed wilderness years, so God did not live in the temple but in the mobile shrine that legend said was deposited in the Holy of Holies. Its decorations sound Mesopotamian rather than Egyptian though it is supposed to have been made by fugitives from Egypt, but this was the later invention.

In 1 Samuel 8:2, the names of the sons of Samuel confirm that Samuel stands for Yehouah and a change of god from El. The first is Joel, meaning “Yehouah is God”, and the second is Abijah, meaning “My Father is Yehouah”. Since his father is Samuel, Samuel must be Yehouah.

This is almost the end of Judges. The refined authorship of the Historian is felt from now on, inventing the mythology of the Jewish and Samaritan kings. Only the first part of the farewell address of Samuel in 1 Samuel 12:1-6 looks to be genuine Judges tradition. Samuel dies and leaves Yehouah in his proper godly role.

Samuel says he had given Israel a king (1 Sam 12:1), seeming to mean Saul but really meaning a god as king, Yehouah. The Persians had set up the state of Yehud as a temple state ruled by God. The historian pretends though that the mythical Saul that he had introduced by an interpolation was meant. And so the history of the Jewish state continues first as pure myth and then based on the records the Persians had access to from the Assyrians. His sons are present at his final address, though the editor had already told us they were worthless, allowing him to introduce Saul and end the mythical reign of the Judges. From 1 Samuel 12:7, the historical novel continues, beginning with the novelist summarising the story so far, as if it were Samuel’s recollections.

An examination of the period of the Judges in biblical history shows that it is better explained as being in the fifth century after the work of Ezra rather than in the twelfth century as traditionally considered. It reveals that a change was made from a High God called El to one called Yehouah.

 

Continue: Assyria

 

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