YHWH a minor pagan god: Ugaritic Texts and the Sons of El

by DoomVoyager 129 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Leolaia

    The Blessing of Moses in the next chapter of Deuteronomy contains another passage that probably also contained a reference to the "gods" which has been obscured in the MT. Unfortunately there is a lacuna in this position in the manuscript in the Dead Sea Scrolls, so there is unfortunately no early Hebrew witness of the text and the original form of the text cannot be restored with certainty. My previous post above gave David Noel Freedman's version of Deuteronomy 33:2 but Patrick Miller has found evidence from another Dead Sea Scroll allusive of Deuteronomy 33:2-3 that suggests a superior reading. Both Freedman and Miller agree that the passage makes reference to the 'lm "gods" as the "holy ones" accompanying Yahweh in battle. The spelling of 'lm would be one mark of the antiquity of the poem, as 'lym dates from a later period. The poetic parallelism between the qdshm and the bn 'lm and 'lm (whether 'lm with enclitic -m or 'lm with plural -m) in reference to the divine assembly is found in Phoenician texts, such as the tenth-century BC Yehimilk Inscription ("the assembly of the holy gods of Byblos [mpchrt 'l gbl qdshm]", lines 4-5) and the seventh-century BC Arslan Tash Inscription ("he has made a covenant with us, along with all the sons of El [bn 'lm] and the leaders of the council of the holy ones [wrb dr kl qdshn], with a covenant of the heavens and eternal earth").

    Here is a comparison of the Miller's emendation of Deuteronomy 33:2-3 and the MT:

    Probable original: "Yahweh came forth from Sinai, he beamed forth from Seir upon us, he shown forth from Mount Paran, with him were myriads of holy ones ('th m-rbbt qdsh), at his right hand warriors of the gods ('shd 'lm), even the consecrated of the peoples".
    MT: "Yahweh came forth from Sinai, he beamed forth from Seir upon us, he shown forth from Mount Paran and he came with myriads of holy ones ('th m-rbbt qdsh), at his right hand a fiery law for them ('sh dt l-mw), even the consecrated of the peoples".

    This is a difficult passage with a widely variable textual tradition, owing in part to the presence of two hapax legomena (words occurring only here in the OT), archaic spelling and construction, and one probable scribal corruption. Miller's reconstructed text is attractive because it reveals the structure of the passage as two well-balanced tricola -- the first tricolon referring to the movement of Yahweh from his mountain and the second referring to those accompanying him. In other words, the first tricolon has three paralleled lines (coming-forth from Sinai / beaming-forth from Seir / showing-forth from Mount Paran) which matches the three paralleled lines of the second tricolon (with-him myriads of holy ones / at-right-hand warriors of gods / even consecrated of peoples). The structure of the MT is far more muddled. We have instead four lines referring to the movement of Yahweh and the last two lines do not make much sense (especially the reference to "fiery law" at Yahweh's right hand). The language in the MT is also not as early as would be expected in an archaic text. The verb 'th "he came" is an Aramaism found in Middle Biblical Hebrew (e.g. Isaiah 21:12, Jeremiah 3:22) and later texts, not in Classical Biblical Hebrew, and dt "law" is a Persian loanword found only in Late Biblical Hebrew (e.g. in Ezra and Esther) and is wholly out of place here.

    The reading of 'th as "he came" derives from the Masoretic pointing of the aleph and taw letters with kamats vowels, but if the aleph is instead pointed with a hiriq vowel and the taw is marked with a dagesh (i.e. as 'ittoh instead of as 'atah), then the line would read "with him ('th) were myriads of holy ones". We know that the Masoretic reading existed as early as the second century BC, as it forms the basis of 1 Enoch 1:9 which is quoted in Jude 14-15: "He came (élthen) with myriads of his holy ones". But 'th was understood as "with him" in the Aramaic Targum of Onkelos (i.e. "with him were a myriad holy ones") and the LXX and the Vulgate have sun "with" and cum "with" respectively. As for rbbt qdsh, the LXX interprets this "myriads of Kadesh" (muriasi Kadés), failing to recognize qdsh as a collective plural (an archaic form, instead of the usual qdshym) and taking it as a proper name. All other witnesses have it in the plural or have "holy myriads": qdyshw[hy rbw]'t (4QEn c 1:9; allusive of Deuteronomy 33:2), hagiais muriasin autou (Jude 14, quoting 1 Enoch 1:9), muriadón hagiasmou (Aquila), sanctorum milia (Vulgate).

    The line "at his right hand a fiery law for them ('sh dt l-mw)" however is far more complex. Such a parsing of the phrase can date only in the post-exilic period in Late Biblical Hebrew and it doesn't make much intrinsic sense. It is a reading that predates the current MT however since it is found in Aquila (pur dogma autois "an edict of fire to them"), the Vulgate (eius ignea lex "his fiery law"), and the Targum of Onkelos has paraphrased it as "the writing of his right hand, the Torah, he gave to us from the fire". Reparsing the phrase alone however does not yield an intelligible clause; the line must also have scribal corruption, a hapax legomenon, or both. The sequence of letters in the MT is 'shdtlmw which is parsed as 'sh (fire) + dt (law) + l-mw (for them). The emendation of Freedman proposes an original sequence of 'shr'lm, parsed as 'shr (proceed) + 'lm (gods), and this would have a Ugaritic parallel in KTU 1.14 ii 35-40: "Let your host be a mighty army, a million charioteers, mercenaries without number, archers beyond reckoning. Let them march in thousands like the downpour, and in myriads let them proceed (wlrbt 'thr) like the early rains". The corruption can easily arise with the paleo-Hebrew script if the bottom half of the letters -r'- were erased or smeared, making them look like -dt-. But a better emendation is suggested by Miller: the original sequence of letters was 'shd'lm which was parsed as 'shd (warriors) + 'lm (gods). First of all, 'shr "proceed" would place a verb in the tricolon although the other two clauses in the tricolon were basically verbless, and the parallelism would suggest that the clause would have two nouns in a construct relation (myriads of-holy-ones / noun of-noun / consecrated of-peoples). The noun 'shd "warriors" (collective plural) would be a hapax legomenon in biblical Hebrew (with cognates in Arabic and Sabaean), which would not be unexpected since early poetry like the Song of Deborah is replete with vocabulary that became obsolete in Classical Biblical Hebrew, and the following verse has hbb "pure, consecrated ones" as another hapax. Because the word was unknown to later copyists, the line was reparsed by later readers who took the final -d as the first letter of the next word (and the next letter aleph as a taw), yielding 'sh "fire" as the first word of the phrase. The second word in the emendations of both Freedman and Miller is 'lm "gods", and this has the support of the LXX which renders the line as ek dexion autou aggeloi met' autou "at his right hand angels with him"; aggeloi is the word that usually translates bny 'lhym or 'lym in the OT. Also in this rendering the LXX skips over the difficult word 'shd, rendering the Hebrew as if it were m-ymynw 'lymw. The parallelism between qdsh(ym) and 'lm/'lym is common to early Hebrew poetry, found also in Exodus 15:11 and Psalm 89:6-8. The Qumran War Scroll has a very similar expression to 'shd 'lm in a passage that appears to be allusive of Deuteronomy 33:2-3, suggesting that 'shd was still intelligible to some in Late Biblical Hebrew:

    1QM 15:12-15, 16:1-2: "Strengthen yourselves for the battle of God, for this day is an appointed time of battle by God against all the peoples [to execute] judgment against all flesh. The God of Israel is raising his hand (ydw) with his marvellous power against all the wicked spirits and [at his right hand] the mighty ones of the gods (gbwry 'lym) gird themselves for battle, and the formations of the holy ones (sdry qdwshym) are mustered for the day of [vengeance]... for the God of Israel has called out a sword against all the nations and by the holy ones of his people (qdwshy `mw) he will do mightily".
    Deuteronomy 33:2-3: "Yahweh came forth from Sinai, he beamed forth from Seir upon us, he shown forth from Mount Paran, with him were myriads of holy ones (rbbt qdsh), at his right hand (m-ymynw) the warriors of the gods ('shd 'lm), even the consecrated of the peoples (hbb `mm), all the holy ones (kl qdshyw) in your hand (b-ydk)".

    Here the more familiar gbwry 'lym replaces the obscure 'shd 'lm, but this very similar phrase is in parallelism with sdry qdwshym "(military) formations of holy ones" just as 'shd 'lm is in parallelism with rbbt qdsh "myriads of holy ones". Both also are followed by similar references to "holy ones of his people"/"consecrated of the peoples". The emendation of Deuteronomy 33:2 also has a parallel in 1 Kings 22:19: "I saw Yahweh sitting upon his throne and all the host of heaven (kl tsb' h-shmym) were standing about him, on his right (m-ymynw) and left".

    So this is another text where there was likely an original reference to divine "gods" that became corrupted in the MT. In this case, however, there was a likely non-theological motivation for the alteration of the text.

  • tsar_robles


    hi, try downloading this OT/NT interlinear:


  • possible-san

    Hi, Leolaia.

    I think that there are not so many people who can understand your talk in this forum.
    It is a special field of study called "textual criticism."

    In order to understand your talk, we have to see the Hebrew text.
    And Hebrew knowledge is necessity somewhat.

    I think that you have to show Hebrew "pronunciation" when explaining it to those who do not know at all.

    And the "Dead Sea Scrolls" is not necessarily superior to the "Masoretic text" always.


  • possible-san

    Hi, Awakened at Gilead.

    the WTS doesn't mention this disparity and it would be one more expose of their lies.

    I think that you should recall the matter which you studied in the Gilead school.

    The footnote of "Reference Bible" is described like this.

    *** Rbi8 Leviticus 11:42 ***

    “Belly.” Gins., BHS and many Heb. mss have the third letter, Waw, in the word for “belly” enlarged to make it stand out as the middle letter of the Pentateuch, showing that the Sopherim counted the very letters. The small Masorah calls attention to this.

    *** Rbi8 Psalm 80:13 ***

    In this Heb. noun the letter ?A'yin is suspended to mark the middle of the Psalms.

    *** Rbi8 Nehemiah 3:32 ***

    In the margin of M opposite this vs is written the Heb. expression meaning “half of the book,” indicating that this is the middle vs of the 685 Heb. vss of the combined books of Ezra and Nehemiah, and that in M the two were one book.

    Although this does not mean "There is no mistake", it shows that the Scriptures are more exact than other books.


  • transhuman68
  • cameo-d

    Speaking of EL...

    I found something interesting in the Revelation Climax book about "El". It is more subliminal artwork! On page 59 in the upper corner you will see the name "El" spelled out in the design work of the key.

    Does Watchtower pay tribute to this Canaanite god?

  • wobble

    Thanks for bringing back this thread with its priceless contributions from dear, erudite Leo.

    A University education is available on JWN !

    A good part of this info. was covered in an earlier programme in the BBC2 series about the Bible's Hidden Secrets which concluded last night, March 29th 2011. But this thread contains so much more ! Wonderful.

  • lovelylil

    Intesesting link explaining the term El is found here;


  • Mad Sweeney
    Mad Sweeney

    I know this is serious but I can't help but chuckle.

    The Borg's almighty Jay Hoover is barely more than a local semi-god who's followers happened to be relatively prolific writers. LOL.

  • willyloman

    Reading this, is anyhone else reminded of "Chariots of the Gods" and the recent "Ancient Astronauts" series on The History Channel?

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