Ancient Semitic Religions
By Raymond Towers
The following are oddities that caught my attention while I was writing the book The World Changers. I meant to keep track of the sources, but I didn’t do a very good job of that, as it turns out. I really didn’t expect this rough list to end up at 4 pages long. In all, I had something like 30 sources of research that I used, mainly books and articles focusing on the ancient Canaanite city of Ugarit, and the fragmented tablets found there. Here are my notes, in the rough form I wrote them down. I may expand on this list if I write a new book on ancient Canaan or Egypt. Many of these examples have strong parallels between their mythologies, while some only have a vague connection. If you’re researching the Bible, Canaan, Egypt or Mesopotamia, they might be of some help for you.
Canaan – In the Baal cycle, the ancient father god El allies with Yamm to try to prevent Baal from achieving supremacy among the gods.
Hurrian-Hittite – Kumarbo commissions Ullikummi to fight Teshub.
Canaan – Baal defeats Yamm (a sea god) with thunderbolts and dismembers him.
Babylon – Marduk dismembers Tiamat.
Bible – Yahweh ‘with his strong arm clefts the sea monster and strikes down Rahab with his skill.’ (Job 26:12)
Canaan – Baal destroys Judge River.
Bible – Yahweh causes the Sea of Reeds to part for the Hebrews.
Canaan – Baal prevents his sister-wife Anat from destroying the world.
Egypt – Ra recalls the goddess Hathor-Sehkmet from her rampage during the flood myth.
Canaan – Baal builds a palace.
Babylonian – Marduk builds a temple.
Bible – Yahweh builds a temple. (2 Samuel 5-7, 2 Kings)
Canaan – From the Baal Cycle, Baal is killed or captured by the underworld god Mot, resulting in seven years of bad harvests. When he is resurrected or released, Baal is made king of the gods, and there are seven years of plenty. Baal battles Mot, or Death, who is a son of Asherah, the Canaanite goddess of the deep. This is seen as allegory for agricultural cycles.
Babylonian – In order to become king of the gods, Marduk battles Tiamat, the Babylonian goddess of the deep, directly.
Bible – Parallels to Joseph’s interpretation of Pharoah’s dream, where seven lean years would be followed by seven years of plenty.
Canaan – Asherah is consort of the creator god El.
Babylonian – Her equivalent is Mummu-Tiamat.
Sumerian – Nammu is consort of the creator god An.
Akkadian – Asherah’s equivalent is Ishtar.
Canaan – Astarte is the sister of Baal.
Sumerian – Astarte’s equivalent is Inanna.
Akaddian – Baal’s equivalent is Adad
Canaan – Baal translates as ‘lord’ and the proper name is Hadad, as in Baal-Hadad.
Greece – Zeus is likely derived from Baal.
Sumerian – Baal’s equivalent is Ishkur.
Akaddian – Dagon’s equivalent is Sargon.
Canaanite – Dagon is the father of Baal.
China – Unverified, but I read that Dagon was also known here.
Sumerian – Dagon’s equivalent is the moon god Suen.
Canaanite – The home of the gods is Mt. Zephon.
Greek – The home of the gods is Mt. Olympus.
Bible – El’s equivalent is Yahweh.
Canaanite – The ruler of all gods is El.
Sumerian – El’s equivalent is An.
Babylon – Bil-Kan was the smelter of metals.
Bible – Tubalcain was the hammerer of brass and iron.
Canaanite – Kothar-Wa-Hasis was the craftsman god.
Greek – His equivalent was Hephaistos, or Hephaustus, the forger.
Canaanite – The Sun was called the gods’ torch; also known as Shapash or Shapshu.
Mesopotamia – Shamash was the sun god.
Sumerian – The (male) equivalent was Utu.
Canaanite – Asherah is called the mother of all living things, and lives in groves.
Bible – Eve is also called the mother of all living things (Genesis 3:20), and lives in the Garden of Eden, which in many respects is a grove.
Bible – The idea that one man inspired a specific trait or following among his descendants. Such as Jabal being the father of those who dwell in tents and raise livestock, Jubal being the father of those who play the lyre and the pipes, and Tubal-Cain being the forger of iron and bronze. This is still seen in Catholic saint worship in modern times.
Various Mythologies – The concept that a specific god promoted, bestowed or advanced a certain trait or skill.
Bible – Cain’s flight after he slays his brother Abel.
Phoenician – Demarous flight after he is defeated by ‘the god of the Sea.’
Bible – Eden as the paradise home of God, where people were first created.
Phoenician – The earliest home of humanity was in Bahrain.
Sumerian – Dilmun was a paradise, where people are first born, possibly in Bahrain.
Various – A place separate from the rest of the world, which also serves as the home of the gods.
Babylonian – In the Atrahasis story and Enuma Elish, humans are created from clay mixed in with flesh and blood of fallen blood.
Bible – Humans created from ‘dust of the ground.’
Chinese – Goddess Wah-Nu creates humans from clay.
Persia – In Zoroastrianism, two spirits existed from the beginning, one of light and one of darkness.
Unknown, Christian, Jewish or Gnostic? – In the Jewish Dead Sea Scrolls, god created two spirits to govern humanity; one of light and one of darkness.
Bible – Heaven can be reached by living a righteous life.
Egyptian – A blessed life on earth or in heaven can be reached by living a righteous life.
Bible – In both Canaan and Israel heaven was for the gods. Dead humans went into the underworld. This is the early basis for an eternal hell.
Greek – Early cosmology placed the gods in heaven, or Mt. Olympus, and dead humans in a joyless underworld.
Mesopotamia – Dead humans were restricted to a gloomy netherworld.
Norse – Also had a gloomy underworld.
Bible – The end of the world comes with great tribulations and disasters, followed by the return of a savior. A final battle between good and evil is fought.
Zoroastrianism – The end of each of the last three millenniums come with great tribulations and disasters, followed by the return of a savior. A final battle is fought.
Bible / Jewish – Daniel sees a statue made of different metals, each representing a kingdom in decline. The last is a mixture of iron and clay.
Persian – Final millennium separated by periods, and symbolized by metals: gold, silver, steel, mixed iron.
Bible – At end of Revelation, those who are still alive will not die, and those who are dead are resurrected. At the end of 1,000 years, the wicked are banished to hell, and after, the world is renewed.
Egypt – Early Egypt: destruction of the world by fire and flood, and its return to a pristine state. Late Egypt: an evil age is brought upon by an invasion of foreigners, before the Earth undergoes a radical transformation.
Rome – Seneca spoke of a time when the world would extinguish itself in order to renew itself. Stars would collide, and all matter would burn in a single fire.
Zoroastrianism – At end of final millennium, those who are still alive will not die, and those who are dead are resurrected. The wicked are purified in streams of fire, and after the world is cleansed and renewed.
The idea of a devil or Satan appears in Judaism in the Hellenistic (Greek) period. Also during this period, Christianity and Judaic apocalypses both tell of visionaries having to ascend multiple heavens, as many as seven, or three, or some other number. Related to the idea of multiple heavens is that of the righteous dead living in heaven with the stars. The epitaph of fallen soldiers at the Battle of Potidaea (432 BCE): the aether received their souls, the ground their bodies. In Jewish apocalypse, astral immortality meant joining the heavenly host, or angels. In Greece, Hades, the underworld of the dead was relocated to the Jewish version of heaven. Early Christian and Jewish apocalypses also relocated the place where the damned are tormented into heaven. Gnostic cosmologies saw the creator as evil figure, and the formation of Earth as negative. Thus, the idea of spirits having to be ‘saved’ began to develop.
Bible – Catholic worshippers confess their sins to a priest.
Samothacrian – In the Hellenistic mystery school of Samothrace Island, initiates into the cult had to, among other things, tell a priest their worst deeds.
Bible – Apocalyptic ideas did not come about until the Hellenistic period, ideas such as Judgment and the end of history, and were attributed to ancient prophets such as Daniel and Ezekiel instead of to the Greeks who originally came up with them.
Egypt – Believed in a Judgment of one’s actions, either here or after death.
Greece – During the Hellenistic age, Greeks began to philosophize regarding the immortality of the soul.
A related addition – “The first, discovered by Ernst Sellin, is that the Jews, who even according to the Bible were stubborn and unruly toward their lawgiver and leader (this was possibly a prototype Moses), rebelled at last, killed him and threw off the imposed Aten religion as the Egyptians had done before them (to Pharaoh Akhenaten). The second event, proved by Eduard Meyer, is that these Jews on their return from Egypt united with tribes nearly related to them, in the country bordering on Palestine, the Sinai peninsula and Arabia, and that there, in a fertile spot called Qades, they accepted under the influence of the Arabian Medianites a new religion, the worship of the volcano god Jahve (who later evolved into Jehovah). Soon after this, they were ready to conquer Canaan.”