Genesis Of A People

March 25, 2021 Category: History, Religion

Appendix 5:

Theonomic Nomenclature Based On Semitic Etymologies

The oldest Semitic word for “god” is “El”, which was the Ugaritic term for the godhead; used by the Amorites (spec. the Shasu).  Hence the Aramaic term “Elah[a]” / “Elim” / “Elo[i]” / “Eloah” for the godhead—a lexeme that served as the basis for the Syriac “Alaha”…which became the Arabic “Allah”.  (For more on this, see “The Syriac Basis For Koranic Text”.)  In the earliest Canaanite tradition, the godhead (whether fashioned as “El” or “Baal” or “Yahweh”) dwelled on Mount Zaphon (as reflected in Isaiah 14:13); and his consort was “Asherah”.  Consequently we encounter monikers throughout the Hebrew Bible like:

  • El Shaddai: God Almighty
  • Elohe Ha-Elohim [alt. “Elah El-ahin”]: God of Gods
  • El Roi: God that Sees
  • El Olam: God of the Ancients (alt. “Eternal God”)
  • El Elyon: God Most High
  • El-Sabaot[h] (alt. “-[t]Sebha’oth” or “-Tzva’ot”): God of Hosts
  • Elah Yisra-El: God of those who struggle with god

The abode of the Abrahamic deity is referred to as “Beth-El” [house of god].  When one says “thank god” in Hebrew, it is “toda-l-El”.  As with “Abd-ullah” in Arabic, “Abd-i-El” in Hebrew means “slave of god”.  In Judaic lore, Babylon was named “Bab-El” (Gateway to God); as “Bab” was the Old Semitic term for “gateway” (see Appendix 2).  (Note that the nomenclature “Abd-X”, where X was the name of a deity, went back to the Bronze age—as with one of the early rulers of Jerusalem: the Hurrian, Abd-i-Heba[t].)

The derivative nature of the Abrahamic deity is reflected in its various Biblical epithets: “the bull” (derived from the Canaanite “toru”), “lord of patriarchs” (derived from the Canaanite “hatikuka”), “warrior” (derived from the Canaanite “gibbor”), as well as the aforesaid “Olam” [the Eternal].  The original nomenclature often involved “Baal”—as with:

  • “Jerub-Baal” (“Baal multiplies” in the Book of Judges) which became “Jerub-Beshet” (in Second Samuel 11:21); used as a moniker for the Biblical Gideon (descendent of Ab-i-Ezer ben Gilead of the Manasseh).
  • “Esh-Baal” (“Man of Baal” in First Chronicles 8:33) which became “Ish-Bosheth” (“man of shame” in Second Samuel 2:8)
  • “Meri-Baal” (“One who is like Baal” in First Chronicles 8:34) which became “Mephi-Boshet[h]” (which is sometimes translated as “mouth of shame”)

As it so happened, “El” was the moniker used for the Canaanite godhead.  Lo and behold: The Canaanite deity, Baal also went by the Old Semitic moniker “Adon”. (!)  To obfuscate this etymology, “the Lord” transplants Y-H-W-H in most translations of the Bible, though it makes no sense in, say, First Kings (chapt. 18).  “My lord” was preferable to “My Baal”.

Indeed, an alternate epithet for “Baal” was “Adon”…which was the basis for “Adonai”: yet another epithet for “Yahweh”.  (Meanwhile, “Adon-i-jah” was the name of the would-be heir to King David; supplanted by Solomon.)  Both godheads are portrayed as storm / thunder gods who make the earth quake, as warriors (Exodus 15:3) who descend from mountains, and are associated with the horns of a wild bull (Numbers 23:22 and 24:8).  For further parallels, see the Ugaritic “Baal Cycle”.  The derivative nature of the Hebrew moniker is revealed explicitly in Hosea 2:16, where Yahweh proclaims: “Henceforth, you will call me by ‘my husband’ and no longer by ‘my Baal’.”

Clearly, in the early days, tribute to the godhead was a profession of henotheism / monolatry, not of monotheism. *  Which deity was seen as the godhead?  “Yahweh” (as opposed to, say, Baal).  This assertion was a matter of repudiating all worship of the other deities, not an assertion that there only existed one deity.  After all, the name El-i-Jah[weh]” (a.k.a. “Elijah”) MEANS “God is Yahweh”.

In the Book of Exodus, the Abrahamic deity introduces himself to Moses by saying: “I am Yahweh.  I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as ‘El Shaddai’; but I didn’t make my name, ‘Yahweh’ known to them.”  The Shasu godhead, “Yahweh” may have been a roughly-hewn cognate of the Sumerian / Assyrian “Ea” (which may have morphed into “Yah”).  Y-H-W-H is often mistranslated as “Lord”.  Hence the locution “Yahweh your god” is often rendered “the Lord your god” in translations of the Hebrew Bible (which was originally composed in Babylonian Aramaic).  Various monikers for the godhead ensued:

  • Yahweh Sabaot[h]: Lord of Hosts (a variation on the aforementioned “El-Sabaot[h]”)
  • Ha-Shem: The Name
  • Adon-ai: My Adon (synonymous with “My Baal”)
  • Ab-inu M-L-K-inu (conventionally rendered “Avinu Malkeinu”): Our Father, Our King
  • Elohim: “God” in the royal plural

Pagan etymological origins were not uncommon in Abrahamic theology.  Take, for instance, the serpent (Leviathan) of the primordial waters, “Tehom”—referenced in Job 41, Isaiah 51:9, as well as in Psalms 74, 104, and 107.  That moniker was derived from the Sumerian / Akkadian / Assyrian “Tamtu” (a.k.a. “Tiamat”).  As mentioned earlier, the Babylonians believed that in the beginning, all was dark waters, without form—the ocean dubbed “Bythos” in Greek.  Memetic transference was ubiquitous in the ancient world.

There is a long list of theophoric names in the Abrahamic tradition—most ending in “-El”.  Even the name of cities used this nomenclature—as with “Bab-El” (gate of god) and “Bet[h]-El” (house of god).  This was most famously done with “Dan-i-El” (judged by god). Here are thirty other given names that use “El” at the end of the moniker:

  • Beshal-El [alt. “Bezal-El”]: shadow of god
  • Raz-i-El: secret of god
  • Duda-El: cauldron of god
  • Shamsh-i-El: sun of god
  • Uzz-i-El: strength of god
  • Gamal-i-El: reward of god
  • Jof-i-El: beauty of god
  • Othn-i-El / Ar-i-El: lion of god
  • Abd-i-El: slave of god  (rendered “Abd-ullah” in Arabic)
  • Mik[h]a-El: like god  (often rendered “Michael”)
  • Azaz-El: god strengthens [alt. “impudence toward god”]
  • [h]Ezek-i-El: god empowers
  • Eman[u]-El: god with us
  • Jegud-i-El: glorifies god
  • Shealt-i-El [alt. “S[h]elaph-i-El” / “Salath-i-El” / “(t)Zelath-i-El”]: beseech god [alt. “prayer of god”]
  • Rafa-El / Israf-El: god heals
  • Shem[a]-El [alt. “Ishm(a)-El”]: god hears  (often rendered “Samuel”)
  • Yek-i-El: god lives  (sometimes rendered “Yechiel”)
  • Net[h]an-i-El: god gives [alt. “gift of god”]  (often rendered “Nathaniel”)
  • Ab-i-El: father god **
  • Gabr-i-El” [alt. “Uzz-i-El”]: (strong) man of god
  • Ram-i-El” [alt. “(j)Erem-i-El”]: thunder of god
  • Anan-i-El: rain of god
  • Sam-i-El [alt. “Sama-El”]: venom of god
  • Sar-i-El [alt. “Sur-i-El”]: prince of god
  • Azar-El: god helps (the variation “Azra-El” was used for the god of death)
  • Yehud-i-El [alt. “Jud-i-El”]: god of Judah (i.e. god of the Jews)
  • Bar[a]k-i-El: blessed by god
  • [c]Hus-i-El: regard for god
  • Ith-i-El: sign of god

And, of course, [n]Ur-i-El, meaning “light of god”.  Bat[h]-sheba [“daughter of the oath”] was famously referred to by the sobriquet, “Ur-i-El”…which can be alternately rendered either “El-i-Nor” or “El-i-Ora” (basis for “Eleanor”).  This is curious, as Bathsheba’s initial spouse (the man to whom she was betrothed before King David sent him to his certain death so as to claim her for himself) was “Ur-i-[Y]ah”, thus employing the other lexeme for god in “light of god”.  This Hittite couple was thus divine illumination wed to divine illumination.  Incidentally, if there was ever a Bathsheba, it is possible that she was the primary author of the earliest Torah (be it the Yah-weh-ist proto-text or the Deuteronomic proto-text)…which would be especially ironic, as she was a Hittite—thereby rendering the mother of the Dividic line NON-Hebrew. (!)  Such authorship would also mean that the Torah was initially composed by a woman—descended from a pagan Anatolian people—before it was rendered by Ezra at the conclusion of the Exilic Period.

It’s worth noting other variations.  “Azar-El” can be alternately rendered “El-i-azar” (meaning “helped by god”).  And while “Ab-i-El” means “father is god”, “El-i-Ab” means “god the father”—a reminder that “god” can be specified first in the lexical sequence.  The same goes for “[c]Hanan-El” and “El-[c]Hanan” (alt. “El-Kanah”; meaning “god is gracious”) as well as “Am-i-El” and “El-i-am” (meaning “nation of god”; “god’s nation”).  Other examples of using El at the beginning of the moniker:

  • El-i-za: pledged to god
  • El-i-sheb[a]: oath of god  (alternately: “Elisheva”)
  • El-i-an[a]: god answers
  • El-i-sha: god saves [god is salvation]
  • El-i-nor / El-i-Ora: light of god [god is light]  (often rendered “Eleanor”)
  • El-i-akim: god rises

Other familiar given names are Romanizations of the Hellenic version of a Hebrew theonym—as with “Elizabeth”, derived from the Greek “Elisabet”, which was based on “El-i-Sheba” (god is my oath).

The alternate moniker for the Abrahamic deity, “Yah-weh” / “Jeho-vah” (often abbreviated “Yeh” / “Yah” / “Jeh” / “Jah”) is also sometimes used in a theonym—as with:

  • Ahaz-i-[Y]ah: held by god
  • Jos-i-[Y]ah: healed by god  (often rendered “Hosiah”)
  • Obad-i-[Y]ah: servant of god
  • [i]Sha-i-[Y]ah: saved by god  (typically rendered “Isaiah”)
  • Gedal-i-[Y]ah: greatness of god (from the Assyrian lexeme for great, “gal”)
  • Azar-i-[Y]ah: helped by god  (“Esdras” in Greek; Anglicized to “Ezra”)
  • Athal-i-[Y]ah: afflicted by god
  • Amaz-i-[Y]ah: strengthened by god
  • [h]Ezek-i-[Y]ah: empowered by god
  • Jerem-i-[Y]ah: appointed by god
  • Jekon-i-[Y]ah: established by god  (often rendered “Jechoniah”)
  • Zekar-i-[Y]ah: remember god  (often rendered “Zachariah”)
  • [h]Oda-i-[Y]ah: praise god  (often rendered “Odeya”)
  • Shema[r]-i-[Y]ah: heard by god
  • Zephan-i-[Y]ah: concealed by god

The most famous of these is “Yedid-[i]-Yah” (eventually rendered “David”), meaning “Beloved of God”.  Again, god can be specified at the beginning of the name—as with:

  • Jeho-S[h]aphat: god judges
  • Jeho[-i]-Ada: god knows
  • Jeho-Ash: god gives
  • Jeho-Ram: god exalts [alt. “god is exalted”; “ram” meant “high place”]
  • Jeho-Ahaz: god holds
  • Jeho[-i]-Akim: god rises
  • Jeho-Nadab: god wills [alt. “god is willing”]

This nomenclature is most famously used for “Yeho-Shua” (alternately rendered “Hos[h]ea” or “Joshua”) meaning “god is salvation” or “god saves”: the given name of the Messiah in Christian lore, later Romanized to “Jesus”.  It is also the basis for “John”.  Jeho-Nan (alternately rendered “Yohanan” / “Jo[h]anna[h]”; Romanized to “Io[h]annes”) means “god is gracious”.

Note, then, that “Yah[-weh]” / “Jeho[-vah]” is synonymous with “El”.  The semiotic parity is captured by:

  • “[h]Ezek-i-El” and “[h]Ezek-i-[Y]ah”: god empowers
  • “Azar-i-El” and “Azar-i-[Y]ah”: god helps
  • “El-i-sha” and “[i]Sha-i-[Y]ah”: god saves
  • “Ar-i-El” and “Ar[-i]-Yeh”: lion of god
  • “Zedek-i-El” and “Zedek-i-[Y]ah”: grace of god
  • “Ab-i-El” and “Ab-i-[Y]ah”: father is god **

It makes sense, then, that the disgraced king of Judah, “Jeho-i-Akim” was also referred to as “El-i-Akim” in the Hebrew Bible.  (He’s the king who acquiesced to the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar II.) The respective histories of “Yah-weh” and “El” are shrouded in mystery. As we saw in the preceding monograph, the former seems to have been the name for the godhead of the Jebusites; and was perhaps even used by a tribe in southern Canaan (the Negev). The latter is an ancient Canaanite moniker for “god” in one or another context, going back to Ugaritic. Both were adopted by the Babylonian scribes during the Exilic period.

It comes as no surprise, then, that some names use both monikers—as with “Ya[h]-El” / “Ja[h]-El” (alt. “Jo-El”) and “El-i-Jah” / “El-i-[Y]ah” (alternately rendered “Elia[s]”); both of which are the equivalent of “El-i-El” and “Yah-i-Yah”—meaning “god [is] god”.  (Another notable example is [Y]ah-i-Thoph-El.)  This lexical equivalence was demonstrated when—in the third verse of chapter 6 of Exodus—the Abrahamic deity declared to Moses that he had theretofore been identified as “El”, but is thenceforth announcing himself as “Yahweh”.

* * *

{*  Henotheism (a.k.a. “monolatry”) was more common than many realize.  The earliest Vedic theology was henotheistic, with “Brahman” at the head.  The Sumerian moon-goddess, “Inanna” (later rendered “Ishtar” by the Assyrians) was considered a deity above all deities.  The earliest instantiation of the Abrahamic deity was conceptualized in the same way.  In a poem in the Book of Exodus, the Israelites chant: “Who is like you, lord, among the gods?”  Translation: “There are many gods; but you’re the best.”  They were clearly NOT monotheistic.  This is made plain by the commandment reading: “You shall worship no other gods before me” rather than “There are no gods other than me.”  The commandment deals with precedence, not existence.  It is a statement regarding priority rather than ontology.}

{**  The form “Ab-i-X” was used in the earliest Canaanite nomenclature.  It meant “Father of X” or “Father is X”—as with “Ab-i-El”, alternately rendered “Ab-i-Yah” or even “Ab-i-Baal” (depending on the moniker of choice).  This can be inverted—as with “El-i-Ab”, “J[eh]o-Ab”. and “[y]Ah-Ab”.  Later, there were names like Ab-i-Melek, Ab-i-Ezer, Ab-i-Athar, Ab-i-Shur, and Ab-i-Ga[y]il.  Typically, the “father is” doesn’t require the “-i”—as with, say, “Ab-Ner”.  “Ab[ba]” was the Old Aramaic for “father”; and was used by the Akkadians / Assyrians during the Bronze Age.  And “Ab-inu” is a moniker meaning “Our Father”.}

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