Saturday, 2 July 2011

Yahweh and El

This is the second post in a series - see the end for links to related items.

The name El is obviously strongly connected with the people of Israel.  Is it a coincidence that El is the last sound in IsraEl?  Many people think it is more that.  El appears quite frequently in the books of the Old Testament and his presence is there for all to see, unlike Asherah who will will examine later.  The name El also appears frequently in place names such as Bethel.

In Genesis 33:20 Jacob built an alter and named it El-Elohey-Israel (translated as El is the God of Israel).  It seems to many that Yahweh and El were originally two different gods, but that somehow they became merged at some time, to be accepted as the one god of the Old Testament.

Deuteronomy 32:8-9 makes it quite clear that there was a 'Most High' god above the 'Lord':

8 When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.
9 For the LORD's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.

Combined with Psalm 82 (see previous post) these passages are seen by many scholars to indicate that Yahweh was originally a god of lower status in an assembly headed by El.

Whatever the scholars conclude, it seems that by the 8th century BCE when the Old Testament had been assembled, the two had become merged into one.

So if Yahweh was El, what other surprising facts are to be gleaned from ancient texts?  But next, let's look at the appearance of his arch-rival, Baal.

Related posts:

Small note:  As an aside, note that the Mormons use the name Elohim (Hebrew plural of El) as the name for god the father, who they believe to be the physical and literal father of Jesus.  Meanwhile, they use the name Jehovah for the pre-mortal Jesus. Interesting concept!


Anonymous said...

It's pretty obvious to me that the Old Testament is a collection of stories which have been edited and amended to fulfill the requirements of a religion which may have been a form of proto-Judaism. It's also obvious that it didn't even exist in any form until a few hundred years after the time of the return of the captive displaced people by Cyrus who would eventually become the Jews.

Anonymous said...

So what's the Biblical god's actual name? Yahweh or El?

wrongwatch said...

Amazing, that after 2500 years or so someone is actually reading the bible.

Anonymous said...

Check this out.

Anonymous said...

It is a stretch to conclude "the Most High" and Yahweh are not the same god because of Deuteronomy 32. Earliest septuagint translations even have Yahweh in place of he where it says he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel, not to mention that in place of sons of Israel is has bene ha elohim suggesting that he dividing the nations among his divine council. When read correctly it is saying the most high god who is Yahweh divided the nations (from Genesis chapter 10) among his divine council (or the sons of God). Michael Heiser makes a great case for this translation. The Bible shouldn't be read as simply a text that came from the Ugaritic tablets. It deserves to be treated as its own literary text. The Hebrew used in certain Psalms are closely related to the Canaanite text used in the Ugarit suggesting they were written around the same period. The Canaanites are listed in the table of nations in Genesis chapter 10. It was clear that there is one God and he has a divine council (elohim plural) that are not one in the same. This is where the Ugartic text gets the idea of El and his 70 sons. Why would the text in Deuteronomy separate the most high god and Yahweh when it is clear back as far Exodus that Yahweh is the one and only. The world isn't secular enough? Ha! The world would be destroyed if it were any more secular. Secular nations are responsible for more death than all religions combined.

mandy jones said...

I read that El is merciful and YHWH is a war god.