CANAANITE RELIGION, TEMPLES, GODS AND BURIAL PRACTICES

CANAANITE RELIGION


Canaanite sacred trees

Canaanite religion, a fertility or nature religion, reflected the major concerns of the populace - increase and productivity. According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art: “Although there existed no single state theology, the major gods reflect local geographical concerns about the fertility of the earth and the importance of water as well as relationships to the sky and the underworld.”

One of the Amarna Letters, from the Late Bronze Age, 14th century B.C., which can be interpreted as an expression of devotion from a follower to God, reads: “To the King my lord, my sun, my god, the breath of my life... your slave and dust under your feet. At the feet of the King my lord, my sun, my god, the breath of my life, I bowed down seven times seven times. I heard the words of the tablets of the King my lord, my sun, my god, the breath of my life, and the heat of your slave and the dust under the feet of the King, my lord, my sun, my god, the breath of my life, is exceeing glad that the breath of the King my lord, my sun, my god has gone out to his slave and to the dust under his fee. Who is your servant but a dog? and they prostrate themselves before the Pharaoh Seven times and seven times on both back and belly.” [Source: James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts, Princeton, 1969, web.archive.org]

Websites and Resources: Bible and Biblical History: Bible Gateway and the New International Version (NIV) of The Bible biblegateway.com ; King James Version of the Bible gutenberg.org/ebooks ; Bible History Online bible-history.com ; Biblical Archaeology Society biblicalarchaeology.org ; Internet Jewish History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) ccel.org ; Judaism Judaism101 jewfaq.org ; Aish.com aish.com ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; torah.org torah.org ; Chabad,org chabad.org/library/bible ; Religious Tolerance religioustolerance.org/judaism ; BBC - Religion: Judaism bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/judaism ; Encyclopædia Britannica, britannica.com/topic/Judaism; Jewish History: Jewish History Timeline jewishhistory.org.il/history ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Jewish History Resource Center dinur.org ; Center for Jewish History cjh.org ; Jewish History.org jewishhistory.org ; Christianity and Christians Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Christianity.com christianity.com ; BBC - Religion: Christianity bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/ ; Christianity Today christianitytoday.com

Canaanite Magic, Snake Worship and Child Sacrifice

On Canaanite magic and spells, I Samuel reads: 6:4-5 reads, When they asked, 'What gift shall we send back to him?' they answered, 'Send five tumors modelled in gold and five gold rats, one for each of the Philistine princes, for the same plague afflicted all of you and your prices. Make models of your tumors and of the rates which are ravaging the land,, and give honor to the God of Israel.”

Child Sacrifice: The desolate Valley of Hinom, just south of the Old City in Jerusalem, is where the ancient Canaanites reportedly conducted human sacrifices in which children were immolated in front of their parents. Philo of Byblos ((A.D. 4th century, Porphyry) wrote: “It is the custome among the ancients, in times of great calamity, in order to prevent the ruin of all, for the rulers of the city or nation to sacrifice to the avenging deities the most beloved of their children.”

On Egyptians snake worship practiced around the time of the Canaanites, Philo of Bylos wrote in Eusebius 1.10: “Taautus (Thoth) first consecrated the basilisk, and introduced the worshipo of the serpent-tribe; in which he was followed by the Phoenicians and Egyptians. For this animal was held by him to be the most inspirited as it exhibits an incredible celebrity, moving by its spirit without either hands, or feet, or any of those external organs, by which other animals effect their motion....Taautus has laid down in the sacred books, wherefore this animal is introduced in the sacred rites and mysteries. [Source: Cory, Ancient Fragments., pp.22-23]

Temples and Religious Structures in the Canaanite Era


Migdol temple in the Canaanite site of Pella in Jordan

John R. Abercrombie of the University of Pennsylvania wrote: “Large single room structures with thick walls and an fortified entrance appear in Middle Bronze Age (2200 - 1570 B.C.) IIB and continue to be used throughout the Late Bronze. Uncovered at a number of sites in Palestine, Syria and Egypt (Megiddo XI, Shechem, Tell Mardikh, Ras Shamra, Alalakh Stratum III, Tell el-Yahudiyeh and Tell ed Dab'a Stratum E), the identification of these structures as temples is based on the discovery of mythological texts near two such structures at Ras Shamra (ancient Ugarit), the types of artifacts found in the structures themselves, and on a biblical reference perhaps to the temple at Shechem. A different structure, often identified as a bamah or high place (Gezer), consists of ten standing stones with a large rectangular stone base that may have served for libations or as a base for inscribed stela. [Sources: John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, Boston University, bu.edu/anep/MB.html |*|]

“Several large temple complexes from Lachish, Hazor and Beth Shan are constructed in the Late Bronze Period (1570 - 1200 B.C.). The three fosse temples at Lachish provide an instructive view of cultic aspects. The last and best preserved temple consisted of a long room with benches around the sides, niches in the walls, and a mud-brick altar built on a step platform. Numerous animal, bird and fish bones were found in the complex and pits just outside. Almost all animals (sheep or goat, ox and only two wild beasts) were young and represented by only the metacarpal of right foreleg (see, Leviticus 3:1-17, 7:15-18, 29-34). Astragali were also found in only the first phase of the complex (Structure 1). The temples had a rich assortment cylinder seals and scarabs, faience and paste beads, faience and stone vessels, statuary, figurines and pottery. (For comparison purposes, see Tell Mevorakh shrine (Late Bronze Age), Tell Qasile (Iron I), and Sarepta shrine (the late the late Iron Age - Persian shrine at Sarepta).) |*|

“The Beth Shan complex has both Egyptian and Palestinian elements. The overall structure of the temple has been thought to parallel contemporary temples in Egypt, although one can note many features (e.g. benches, raised altars, storage bins, piazza around the structure, and deposit pits) that occur in local temples at Lachish and elsewhere in the region. The types of artifacts in the Beth Shan VII and later VI temple, built on the same design, suggest rituals of Palestine and Egypt. Votive offerings found around the inner and outer altars seem akin to egyptian practices. The presence of animal bones near the outer altar is suggestive of animal sacrifice known at other contemporary and later sites in Palestine. Depiction of Egyptian and Palestinian deities further suggest the mix practices in this structure during the thirteenth-twelfth centuries. |*|

The temple complex at Beth Shan continues into Iron I. The two temples, often identifed at the Temple of Astarte and Dagon, have elongated rooms with pillars, an altar, and portico entrance. Although the contents of the temples are less replete than that of Stratum VII and VI, they show continuity in contents with the other temples, thus suggestive of a continuation of cultic practices. |*|


inside a Canaan temple

“At Tell Qasile in Philistia, a building with altars and benches has three stages of construction in Iron Age (1200 - 550 B.C.) I. The last phase parallels the fosse temple at Lachish as well as similar thirteenth and twelfth century temples in the Aegean world. In the hill country a few contexts have been identified as bamot, high places.At Mt. Eba, a bamah, dated to the thirteenth-twelfth century, had an enclosure wall around a large rectangular altar. Ash, bones and pottery were found. Generally the charred remains of goats, sheep, ox and deer cut off at the joint (See Late Bronze Age (1570 - 1200 B.C.) temples.) |*|

“By comparison to the Late Bronze Age, fewer structures in the late Iron Age are identified as temples. At Arad a structure inside the fortress there is thought to be a temple. It lacks the tri-part division of the Temple of Solomon. It does have, however, many of the features of a shrine at Sarepta in Phoenicia, including a stone pillar and an altar with channels. Interestingly, the contents of both religious structures differ somewhat. For example at Sarepta, Pritchard found a collection of figurines, ivory fragment, clay mask and amulets, artifacts absent from the Arad temple. The collection from Sarepta is more akin to those from the Late Bronze Age. It may be useful to compare the structure and artifaces to the Late Bronze shrine at Tell Mevorakh and the Fosse Temples at Lachish. |*|

“One temple at Hazor proves particularly instructive and on a somewhat superficial evidence been compared to the Temple of Solomon (1 Kings 6-7). The temple has three rooms. An entrance portico is flanked by two pillars. In many ways, this interesting structure is similar to one at Tell Atchana (Alalakh) dated also to the thirteenth century. The following artifacts found in the structure at Hazor are: basalt basin, basalt bowl, basalt statue of seated man on chair, bronze figurines, cylinder seals and faience beads. |*|

Temple Construction Texts

"Building Inscriptions of Yehimilk of Byblos (10th century B.C.): A house built by Yehimilk, king of Byblos, who also has restored all the ruins of the houses here. May Ba'Ishamem and the Lord of Byblos (or Lady of Byblos) and the Assembly of the Holy Gods of Byblos prolong the days and years of Yehimilk in Byblos, for (he is) a righteous king and an upright king before the Holy Gods of Byblos! [Source: James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET) p. 653. Princeton, 1969, web.archive.org ^^]


rounded altar of Megiddo temple

Temple Construction: "Yehawmilk of Byblos (5th - 4th century B.C.): I am Yehawmilk, king of Byblos, the son of Yeharba'l, the grandson of Urimilk, king of Byblos, whom the mistress, the Lady of Byblos, made king over Byblos (5th - 4th c. B.C.). I have been calling my mistress, the Lady of Byblos, [and she heard my voice]. Therefore, I have made for my mistress, the Lady of Byblos, this altar of bronze which is in this [courtyard], and this engraved object of gold which is in front of this inscription of mine, with the bird (winged sun ?) of gold that is set in a (semiprecious) stone, which is upon this engraved object of gold, and this portico with its columns and the [capitals] which are upon them, and its roof: I, Yehawmilk, king of Byblos, have made (these things) for my mistress, the Lady of Byblos, as I called my mistress, the Lady of Byblos, and she heard my voice and treated me kindly. )" [Source: ANET., p.656. Lidzbarski, Handbuch der nordsemitischen Epigraphiik Weimar, 1898), p. 416, pl. 3. ^^]

“May the Lady of Byblos bless and preserve Yehawmilk, king of Byblos, and prolong his days and years in Byblos, for he is a righteous king. And may [the mistress,] the Lady of Byblos, give [him] favor in the eyes of the gods and in the eyes of the people of this country and (that he be) pleased with the people of this country. [Whoever you are,] ruler and (ordinary) man, who might [continue] to do work on this altar and this engraved work of gold and this portico, my name, Yehawmilk, king of Byblos, [you should put with] yours upon that work, and if you do not put my name with yours, or if you [remove] this [wark and trans[er this work [rom its leoundation] upon this place and [ ..., may] the mistress, the Lady of Byblos, [destroy] that man and his seed before all the Gods of Byblos.” ^^

Cultic Objects in the Canaanite Era

“Cultic Objects from Beth Shan: The two earliest and complete temples provide a rich assortment of supposed cultic objects. Votive stele as well as metal and pottery statuary may represent deities and their worshippers. Kernoi, fragments of house models and large cylindrical pottery stand, some of which are decorated with birds, snakes and figurines, may be utensils used in the cultic practices. Other objects found in the complexes parallel the repertoire found at Lachish Fosse Temple, Tell Mekovrakh, Tell Qasile and other structures with similar architectural features as that of these two so-designated temples at Beth Shan. |*|


snake decoration on a pot from Rumeilah, Al Ain, UAE

Caanite objects that have been that may be cultic objects include: “Throne of deity (Beth Shan VIII locus 1068); Minature altar (Beth Shan VIII locus 1086); Hathor? Wand or castanet/clapper (Beth Shan VII locus 1072); Fragment of large incense burner of snake box ? ( Stratum VII); the early Iron Age Incense burner (Beth Shan V); the early Iron Age Shrine House or Incense burner (Beth Shan V); Cultic? ceramic box and lid (Beth Shan VII & VI); Bread model? (Beth Shan VII locus 1068); Polished deer astragali (Beth Shan VIII-VII locus 1068); Polished antler tine (Beth Shan VIII-VII locus 1068); Grotesque Jar (Beth Shan, Stratum VII); Elephant-headed cylindrical cup, 29-103- 862 (Beth Shan VII locus 1264); Beth Shan kernos (Beth Shan Stratum VIII-VII). Other objects such as pendants/amulets, cylinder seals, faience and alabaster vessels could be cultic objects. See also, example from Stratum VI Megiddo (Oriental Institute, University of Chicago) |*|

"Cultic Inscriptions of Ben-hadad of Damascus on a dedicated stela (Mid 9th century B.C.) reads: A stela set up by Barhadad, the son of T[abrimmon, the son of Hezion], king of Aram, for his Lord Melqart, which he vowed to him and he (then)'heard his voice. [Source: ANET., p. 655. See: M. Dunand, Bulletin du Musee de Beyrouth, III (1939), pp. 65- 76; vi (1942-43), pp. 41-45)]

Canaanite-Era Temple Offerings and Payments

"The Marseilles Tariff from Temple of Ba'l-zaphon (3rd century B.C.) reads: “Tariff of payments set up [by the men in charge of] the payments in the time of [the lords Hilles]ba'l, the suffete, the son of Bodtanit, the son of Bod[eshmun, and Hillesba'l,] the suffete, the son of Bodeshmun, the son of Hillesba'l, and their colleagues, For an ox, as a whole offering or a substitute offering or a complete whole offering, the priests shall have ten --10--silver (pieces) for each. In the case of a whole offering, they shall have, over and above this payment, meat [weighing three hundred--300]. In the case of a substitute offering, they shall have neck (or knucklebones) and shoulder joints (chuck), while the person offering the shall have the skin, ribs, feet, and the rest of the meat [Source: " ANET., pp. 656-657. G.A. Cooke, A Text-Book ol, NorthSemitic Inscriptions (Oxford, 1903), pp. 112-22 ^^]

“For a calf whose horns are still lacking somewhat and ..., or for a stag, as a whole offering or a substitute offering or a complete whole offering, the priests shall have five--5--silver [pieces for each. In the case of a whole offering, they shall have, over and] abovt 'his payment, meat weighing one hundred and fifty--150. In the case of a substitute offering, they shall have neck (or knucklebones) and shoulder joints, while [the person offering the sacrifice] shall have the skin, ribs, feet, [and the of the meat] ^^

For a ram or a goat, as a whole offering or a subaj. lute offering or a complete whole offering, the shall have one--1--shekel of silver and 2 zr (=a coin) for In the case of a substitute offering, they shall have [over and above this payment, neck] and shoulder joints, while the person offering the sacrifice shall have the skin, ribs, feet, and the rest of the meat...For a lamb or for a kid or for a young stag, as a whole offering or a substitute offering or a complete whole offering, the priests shall have three quarters of silver and [2] zr (=coin) [for each. In the case of a substitute offering, they shall have, over and] above this payment, neck and shoulder joints, while the person offering [the sacrifice] shall have the skin, ribs, feet, and the rest of the meat ^^


Canaanite fertility goddess figurines

For an gnn bird or ass (bird), as a complete whole offering or ass[ offering or a hzt offering, the priests shall have three quarters of silver and 2 zr (=coin) for each. [The person offering the sacrifice] shall have the meat [For] any (other) bird or a holy oblation or a hunt offering or an oil offering, the priests shall have 10 'a (=fodder?) of silver for each [ ... ] ^^

For any substitute offering which they shall have to carry to the God, the priests shall have neck (or knucklebones) and shoulder joints, and for a substitute offering [ ... ] Upon a cake and upon milk and upon fat and upon any sacrifice which someone is to offer as a meal-offering, [the priests shall have ... ] ^^

For any sacrifice which shall be offered by persons poor in~ cattle or poor in fowl, the priests shall have nothing [whatever] Any citizen and any scion (of a noble clan) and any -participant in a banquet for the God and anybody who shall offer a sacrifice [ ... ], those men shall make payment per sacrifice as specified in a written document [which was set up under... ] Any payment which is not specified in this tablet shall be made according to the written document which [was also set up . .. under Hillesba'l, the son of Bodtan]it and Hillesba'l, the son of Bodeshmun, and their colleagues ^^

Any priest who shall accept a payment contrary to what is specified in this tablet shall be fined [ ... ] Any person offering a sacrifice who shall not give the [money for] the payment [which is specified in this tablet... ] The desolate Valley of Hinom, just south of the Old City in Jerusalem, is where the ancient Canaanites reportedly conducted human sacrifices in which children were immolated in front of their parents. ^^

Gods and Goddesses of Canaan

Ira Spar of the Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote: “Ugaritic mythological tablets describe the activities of the main gods and goddesses of the Canaanite pantheon. Although there existed no single state theology, the major gods reflect local geographical concerns about the fertility of the earth and the importance of water as well as relationships to the sky and the underworld. The universe was believed to be ruled in tandem by the older god El and a main warrior-god, Baal, surrounded by a council of deities and a lower level of attendant gods. The divine council included the older generation of the god El and his wife Athirat, known in the Bible as Asherah, as well as a younger group of figures that included the war god Baal and the war goddesses Anat and Astarte. Forces of destruction included Yamm, the god of the sea (also known as Nahar, the River), and Mot, the god of death as well as burning (Resheph) and pestilence (Deber), a god described in the Bible (Habbakkuk 3). In total, more than 234 deities are recorded in Ugaritic texts and these gods, unlike humans, were thought to have eternal lives. [Source:Ira Spar, Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org, April 2009. \^/]

The god El was viewed as the elder, "gray beard" supreme deity. He was the creator god, the father of the gods and humankind, and the god of wisdom. He was considered a good-natured, beneficent being. Although described as a creator, there exists no biblical-type creation story in Ugaritic literature. El's dwelling place is at the edge of the world at the "source of the two rivers," a place where the waters of the heavens and earth meet.

20120502-202px-Anat_Canaanite_goddess.png
Canaanite goddess
Anat
El is often associated with the epithet "bull," indicating strength and possibly dignity. No temple is dedicated to his cult and his image cannot be clearly identified among excavated reliefs and statues. Small, heavily robed human figures seated on high-backed chairs and wearing either caplike headdresses or tall conical crowns have often been identified as El. Recent archaeological finds indicate that this image may represent either a presently unidentified god or a deified king.

In a land dependent upon life-sustaining rain, Baal was both a warrior god and the storm god who brought fertility. Baal was enthroned on Mount Zaphon, identified with Jebel el-Aqra, the highest mountain in Syria located 25–30 miles north of Ugarit. An active, powerful deity, Baal is depicted on a white limestone stele, 1.42 meters tall, now in the Louvre. Dominating the stele, the god Baal is pictured in profile with his right foot placed in front of his left. He wears a horned helmet emblematic of power and strength. In a classic Egyptian smiting pose, his right arm is raised above his head with a mace in his hand as if he were about to strike an enemy. In his left hand, he holds and firmly plants into the ground a large spear with a vegetal form emerging from the top of the weapon. The spear is symbolic of the deity's control over the powers of nature. Below the ground, undulating lines represent the sea, Baal's enemy. A small figure representing the king dressed in priest's clothing stands on a pedestal. The figure and its pedestal rest just below the god's sheathed dagger, which is suspended from his belt. The stele illustrates the Canaanite concept of divine kingship whereby the warrior-god protects humanity against the destructive forces of nature.

Excavated at Ugarit, the tale of Baal's conquest of the sea is described in an epic cycle of six tablets. After a rather obscure opening, the god Yamm (the Sea) sends a message to the divine assembly demanding that Baal surrender. El, the aging chief deity, agrees to the request. He demands that Baal surrender to Yamm's messengers. But Baal resists. With the encouragement and assistance of Kothar wa-Hasis, the craftsman god, Baal engages the Sea in battle. He pummels Yamm with his mace and defeats him.

Following the victory, Anat, El's daughter who is also called Baal's sister, goes on a rampage and slaughters human enemies presumably allied against Baal. Afterward, Baal pursues the construction of a magnificent royal palace on his sacred mountain. The craftsman Kothar-wa-Hasis suggests that the palace have windows, but Baal disagrees so that Yamm/Nahar not enter stealthily. Cedars are brought from Lebanon together with silver, gold, and precious stones to adorn the palace. When the building is finished, all the deities celebrate with a great feast. Afterward, Baal defeats all of his enemies in surrounding territories in order to form an empire for himself. Now flush with victory, Baal sends a courier to Mot, son of El and ruler of the Underworld, to declare his kingship. But Mot in his reply turns the tables on his adversary and invites him to come to the Underworld. When Baal accepts and descends, he becomes trapped in the vise of death, which results in the cessation of rain. Anat, Baal's sister and the goddess of hunting and war, goes in search of him. Finding him in the realm of the dead, she confronts Mot, attacks him with a knife and winnowing fork, and burns his body, which is then eaten by birds. Now rescued, Baal resumes his place on the royal throne. But Mot revives and the two giants of the heavens battle. Finally, Mot capitulates and declares Baal to be the rightful ruler of the cosmos.

The myth, by recounting the conquest of Baal over his cosmic enemies, both celebrates the institution of divine human kinship and explains that rule by a warrior king is necessary to bring order to both earth and the heavenly abode. It also provides a mythological explanation for the change of seasons from harvest to winter, a time when Baal descends into the Underworld and fertility ceases.

Canaanite God Hierarchy and Mythology


smiting weather god or warrior with horned helmet

Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “The texts portray a divine hierarchy headed by the benign father-god El, a rather subordinate figure in some of the myths, and the mother goddess, Astarte, who appears in the Bible as Ba'al's consort. The numerous children include: Ba'al, the god of rain or weather and fecundity; Yam, the sea god; Mot, god of death; Koshar or Kothar, the artisan god; Shemesh, the sun god; Anat, the sister-consort of Ba'al; and numerous other minor figures. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“One myth reflects the seasonal cycle which must have been basic for cultic observances. It tells of a battle for sovereignty of the land between Ba'al and Yam, in which Yam, defeated by magic weapons supplied by Kothar, is confined to the ocean bed. (Compare Prov. 8:29; Ps. 89:9 f.) The triumphant Ba'al builds a castle and, in a victory feast, extols his prowess in battle and his role of lord of the land. During the banquet, messengers from the uninvited Mot bring a challenge to Ba'al, and when Ba'al and Mot meet, the god of life is overcome by the god of death. Without rain Mot's deathly powers begin to encroach upon the fertile land. El descends from his throne and sits on the ground pouring ashes on his head and, in a ritual act, gashes his face, arms, chest and back (cf. I Kings 18:28). Anat too, conducts mourning rites, weeping over hill and mountain as she searches for the dead god. Finally, having discovered Ba'al's fate through the sun god, Anat encounters and defeats Mot, grinding him and scattering his remains. In some manner not explained, Ba'al was revived and life returned to earth. <=>

“For the seasonal pattern of the ritual, Ba'al's death symbolized the aridity of summer; the defeat of Mot symbolized the time of harvesting crops and fall sowing; and the rebirth of Ba'al symbolized the coming of the autumnal rains. Numerous "stage directions" point to some form of dramatic enactments.2 Within this and other myths, gods perform sexual and cultic acts prohibited in the Hebrew religion, suggesting that some biblical prohibitions may have been directed against participation in Canaanite religion as much as against some violation of accepted mores.”<=>

Ba’al: the Main Canaanite God

Larue wrote: “A limestone stele found at Ras es-Shamra portrays Ba'al wearing a conical headdress with horns, a short kilt, and a sword strapped to his side. His upraised right arm is poised to hurl a thunderbolt, and his left hand holds a spear of lightning, stylized to represent a tree. He stands above the undulating hills, or perhaps the waves of the ocean. The small figure below the tip of the sword is, perhaps, the donor of the stele. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“As a god of productivity, Ba'al was well suited for the social and economic climate of Canaanite business society. There can be little doubt that the prophetic idealization of the wilderness period and the outcries for justice for the widow and orphan reflect Canaanite social mores which made it possible to seize every opportunity to profit from the death of a neighbor's father or husband. On the other hand, in another Canaanite tale in which a certain Dan'el (or Daniel) is a symbol of those who maintain social order, Dan'el judges the cases of widows and orphans, and this text sets forth the responsibility of a son for his father, so that it should not be assumed that Canaan was without any moral code.”<=>

Cult of Baal in the Bible

Judges 6:25-32: That night the LORD said to him, "Take your father's bull, the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Ba'al which your father has, and cut down the Ashe'rah that is beside it; Then build an altar of the proper pattern to the Lord your God on the top of this earthwork; take the yearling bull and the offer it as a whole-offering with the wood of the sacred pole that you cut down.' So Gibeon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord had told him. He was afraid of his father's family and his fellow-citizens and so he did it by night, and not by day. When the men of the town rose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Ba'al was broken down, and the Ashe'rah beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered upon the altar which had been built. Then the men of the town said to Jo'ash, "Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has pulled down the altar of Ba'al and cut down the Ashe'rah beside it." But Jo'ash said to all who were arrayed against him, "Will you contend for Ba'al? Or will you defend his cause? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been pulled down." Therefore on that day he was called Jerubba'al, that is to say, "Let Ba'al contend against him," because he pulled down his altar. [Source: John R. Abercrombie, Boston University, bu.edu, Dr. John R. Abercrombie, Department of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania]

Judges 8:33 As soon as Gideon died, the people of Israel turned again and played the harlot after the Ba'als, and made Ba'al-be'rith their god.


Baal idolatry


I Kings 18:25-29 Then Eli'jah said to the prophets of Ba'al, "Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many; and call on the name of your god, but put no fire to it." And they took the bull which was given them, and they prepared it, and called on the name of Ba'al from morning until noon, saying, "O Ba'al, answer us!" But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they danced about the altar which they had made. At midday Elijah mocked them: 'Call louder, for he is a god; it may be he is deep in thought, or engaged, or on a journey; or he may have gone to sleep and must be woken up.' They cried still louder and, as was their custom, gashed themselves with swoards and spears until the blood ran. All afternoon they raved and ranted till the hour of the regular sacrifice, but still there was no sound, no answer, no sign of attention.

I Kings 18:19 Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the four hundred and fifty prophets of Ba'al and the four hundred prophets of Ashe'rah, who eat at Jez'ebel's table." I Kings 19:18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Ba'al, and every mouth that has not kissed him."

II Kings 1:2 Now Ahazi'ah fell through the lattice in his upper chamber in Sama'ria, and lay sick; so he sent messengers, telling them, "Go, inquire of Ba'al-ze'bub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this sickness." II Kings 3:2 He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, though not like his father and mother, for he put away the pillar of Ba'al which his father had made. II Kings 17:16 And they forsook all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made for themselves molten images of two calves; and they made an Ashe'rah, and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Ba'al.

II Chronicles28:2 but walked in the ways of the kings of Israel. He even made molten images for the Ba'als; Psalms 106:28 Then they attached themselves to the Ba'al of Pe'or, and ate sacrifices offered to the dead;

Hosea 2:8 And she did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished upon her silver and gold which they used for Ba'al. Hosea 2:13 And I will punish her for the feast days of the Ba'als when she burned incense to them and decked herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers, and forgot me, says the LORD. Hosea 11:2 The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Ba'als, and burning incense to idols.

Jeremiah 11:13 For your gods have become as many as your cities, O Judah; and as many as the streets of Jerusalem are the altars you have set up to shame, altars to burn incense to Ba'al. Jeremiah 11:17 The LORD of hosts, who planted you, has pronounced evil against you, because of the evil which the house of Israel and the house of Judah have done, provoking me to anger by burning incense to Ba'al." Jeremiah 19:5 and have built the high places of Ba'al to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Ba'al, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind; Jeremiah 32:29 The Chalde'ans who are fighting against this city shall come and set this city on fire, and burn it, with the houses on whose roofs incense has been offered to Ba'al and drink offerings have been poured out to other gods, to provoke me to anger. Jeremiah 32:35 They built the high places of Ba'al in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.

Epithets of Canaanite Deities

ANAT
War Chariot likened to Astarte and Anat (Egypt, 13th c. B.C.)
Anat, Lady of Heaven, Mistress of All the gods" (Beth Shan, Ramesis III)
[Source: James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), pp. 17-18,249-250, 470, Princeton, 1969, web.archive.org]


goddess, posibly Astarte, from Phoenicia

ASTARTE ASHTAROTH (ATHTARAT)
Ashtoreth of the Field (Ugarit, 14th c. B.C.)
Dame Athirat of the Sea (Ugarit, 14th c. B.C.)
Lady Asherah of the Sea (Ugarit, 14th c. B.C.)
Progenitress of the Gods (Ugarit, 14th c. B.C.)
Prophet of Astarte (Egypt, 14th c. B.C.)
mighty in the chariot like Astarte (Egypt, Thothmosis IV)
War Chariot likened to Astarte and Anat (Egypt, 13th c. B.C.)
Astarte appears in its orient"= temple of Astarte (Papyrus Anastasi II,
13th c. B.C.)

BAAL
the Prince of Earth (Ugarit, 14th c. B.C.)
Prince Baal (Ugarit, 14th c. B.C.)
Dagon's Son (Ugarit, 14th c. B.C.)
Rider of the Clouds (Ugarit, 14th c. B.C.)
Prophet of Baal (Egypt, 14th c. B.C.)
Adon-Zaphon = Lord of the North (Sa'ad, Ramesis II)
I was like Seth/Montu/Baal in the time of his might" (Different
versions of same text, Ramesis II)
Baal Shamaim = Master/Lord of Heaven (Egyptian text, Ramesis III)

EL
the Kindly One (Ugarit, 14th c. B.C.)
the Bull El (Ugarit, 14th c. B.C.)
Bull his father El (Ugarit, 14th c. B.C.)
Bull El Benign (Ugarit, 14th c. B.C.)
Creator of creatures (Ugarit, 14th c. B.C.)
Father of mankind (Ugarit, 14th c. B.C.)
King Father Shunem. (Ugarit, 14th c. B.C.)
Creator of Creatures (Ugarit, 14th c. B.C.)

MELQART
Mekal, the god of BethShan worshipped by Egyptian architect
Amen-em-Opet and his son (Beth Shan,Thothmosis III)
Melqart (Ben-Hadad, 9th c. B.C.)

RASHAP
Rashap, the great god, lord of heaven, ruler of the Ennead (Stela of
Anat)
Rashap, the great god, lord of heaven, ruler of the Ennead, and lord
of eternity (Egypt, late 18th Dynasty)
Rashap-Shulman
The chariot-warriors are as mighty as Rashaps (Egypt, Ramesis III)

SETH
Seth of Hatti (Ramesis II)

Baal as Dying and Rising

Baal was an important Canaanite god. A characteristic aspect of Near Eastern religiosity is the idea of a deity who dies to rise again. These deities, of which Osiris or even Adonisare examples, often seem associated with fertility in some capacity. Baal seems to belong to this group. [Source: James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), pp.138-141, Princeton, 1969, web.archive.org]

Dying and Rising God Motif (14th century B.C.) Reads:
From the tomb of the Godly Mot,
From the pit of El's Belov'd Ghazir,
The gods twain depart, tarry not.
There, they are off on their way
To Baal of the Summit of Zaphon.
Then Gapn and Ugar declare:
"Message of Godly Mot,
Word of the God-Belov'd Ghazir:
(next 13 lines unclear)
If thou smite Lotan, the serpent
slant,
Destroy the serpent tortuous,
..Shalyat of the seven heads,


Ugarit Baal

One lip to earth and one to heaven,
[He stretches his to]ngue to the stars.
Baal enters his mouth,
Descends into him like an olive-cake,
Like the yield of the earth and trees'
fruit.
Sore afraid is Puissant Baal,
Filled with dread is the Rider of
Clouds:
"Begone? Say unto Godly Mot,
Repeat unto El's Belov'd Ghazir:
'Message of Puissant Baal, (xo)
Word of the Powerful Hero:
Be gracious, 0 Godly Mot;
Thy slave I, thy bondman for ever.'

The gods depart, tarry not.
There, they are off on their way
Unto Godly Mot,
Into his city Hamriya,
Down to the throne that [he] sits on
His [filthy] land of inher'tance.
They lift up their voice and cry:
"Message of Puissant Son Baal,
Word of the Powerful Hero:
Be gracious, 0 Godly Mot;
Thy slave 1, thy bondman for ever."-

The Godly Mot rejoices [And lifting]
his [volice he cries:
"How humbled is [ ... ]."
(Several ends of lines, then about 20-
25 lines missing. Cols. iii-iv too
damaged for connected sense.) <
But thou, take thy cloud, thy wind,
Thy..., thy rains;
With thee thy seven lads,
Thine eight boars.
With thee Padriya, daughter of Ar;
(10)
With thee Tatalliya (Tfly),s daughter
of Rabb.
There now, be off on thy way
Unto the Mount of Kankaniya.
Lift the mount upon thy hands,
The elevation upon thy palms,
And descend to the depth of the
earth,

250 or so lines later: Baal seizes the sons of Asherah.
Rabbim* he strikes in the back.
Dokyamm he strikes with a
bludgeon,
... he fells to the earth.
Baal [mounts] his throne of kingship,
[Dagon's Son] his seat of dominion.
[From] days to months, from months
to years.
Lo, after seven years,
The Godly Mot [ ... ]
Unto Puissant Baal. (xo)
He lifts up his voice and says:
'Upon thee ... may I see,'
Downfall upon thee may I see.
Winnowing (with fan
Upon thee may I see.
Cleaving) with sword
Upon thee may I see.
Burning with fire
Upon thee [may I see.


Baal mask from Carthage

My mother's sons, my...
They... like camels:
Mot's firm, Baal's firm.
They gore like buffaloes:
Mot's firm. Baal's firm.
They bite like snakes:
Mot's firm. Baal's firm. (20)
They kick like chargers:
Mot falls. Baal falls.
Above Shapsh cries to Mot:
"Hearken, now, Godly Mot!
Why striv'st thou with Puissant Baal
? Why ?
Should Bull El thy father hear thee,
He'll pull out thy dwelling's pillars.
Overturn thy throne of kingship,
Break thy staff of dominion !"
Sore afraid was Godly Mot, . (30)
Filled with dread El's Beloved


Thou'It' eat the bread of honor, (46)
Thou'It' drink the wine of favor.
Shapsh shall govern the gathered
ones,*
Shapsh shall govern the divine ones.
...gods... mortals,
... Kothar thy fellow,
Even Khasis thine intimate."
On the sea of monster and dragon,

Relationship of Baal and Anat

Relationship of Baal and Anat: (14th century B.C.)
"... Baal in his home,
The God Hadd in the midst of his palace ? ''
The lads of Baal make answer:
"Baal is not in his house,
[The God] Hadd in the midst of his palace.
His bow he has ta'en in his hand,
Also his darts in his right hand.
There he is off on his way
To Shimak Canebrake, (Lake Huleh?) the [bu[]falo-filled."--
The Maiden Ana[th] lifts her wing, (10)
Lifts her wing and speeds in flignt,
To Shimak Canebrake, (Lake Huleh?) the [bu[]falo-filled."--
puissant Baal lifts up his eyes,
Lifts up his eyes and beholds,
Beholds the Maiden Anath,
Fairest among Baal's sisters. [Source: James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET) P. 142, Princeton, 1969, web.archive.org]


Anat

Before her he rises, he stands,
At her feet he kneels and falls down.
And he lilts up his voice and cries: (20)
"Hail, sister, and...!
The horns of thy..., 0 Maiden Anath,
The horns of thy...Baal will anoint,
Baal will anoint them in flight.
We'll thrust my foes into the earth,
To the ground them that rise Ôagainst thy brother !"-
The Maiden Anath lifts up her eyes,
Lihs up her eyes and beholds,
Beholds a cow and proceeds a-walking,
proceeds a-walking and proceeds a-dancing,
In the pleasant spots, in the lovely places.

He seizes and holds [her] womb;
[She] seizes and holds [his] stones.
Baal... to an ox.
[ ... the Mailden Anath
[... ] to conceive and bear.
[Calvels the cows dr[op]: An ox for Maiden Anath
And a heifer for Yahamat LiimmimQuoth puissant [Baal]:
"...that our progenitor is eternal, ,, To all generations our begetter.
Baal scoops [his hands] full,
[The God] Hadd [his] fin[gets] full.
... the mouth of Maiden An[ath], (10)
E'en the mouth of [his] fairest sister.
Baal goes up in the mou[ntain],
Dagon's Son in the s[ky].
Baal sits upon [his th]rone,
Dagon's Son upon [his se]at.
(In lines 16-29, which are poorly preserved, there is again talk of
a buffalo being born to Baal, it being still not absolutely
clear that his bovine mother was Anath
herself.) (30)
And so she goes up to Arar,
Up to Arar and Zaphon.
In the pleasance, the Mount of possession,
She cries aloud to Baal:
"Receive, Baal, godly tidings,
Yea receive, 0 Son of Dagon:
A wild-ox is [born] to Baal,
A buffalo to Rider of Clouds."
Puissant Baal rejoices.

Canaanite Altars in the Bible

Exodus 20:24-26 'An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you. And if you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones; for if you wield your tool upon it you profane it. And you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it. [Source: John R. Abercrombie, Boston University, bu.edu, Dr. John R. Abercrombie, Department of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania]


Tel Megiddo temple

Deuteronomy 27:5 And there you shall build an altar to the LORD your God, an altar of stones; you shall lift up no iron tool upon them.

II Kings 16:10 When King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tig'lath-pile'ser king of Assyria, he saw the altar that was at Damascus. And King Ahaz sent to Uri'ah the priest a model of the altar, and its pattern, exact in all its details.

II Kings 18:4 He removed the high places, and broke the pillars, and cut down the Ashe'rah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had burned incense to it; it was called Nehush'tan.

II Kings 23:5 And he deposed the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places at the cities of Judah and round about Jerusalem; those also who burned incense to Ba'al, to the sun, and the moon, and the constellations, and all the host of the heavens.

II Kings 11:18 (=II Chronicles23:17) Then all the people went to the house of Ba'al, and tore it down; his altars and his images they broke in pieces, and they slew Mattan the priest of Ba'al before the altars.

II Kings 21:3 (=II Chronicles33:3) For he rebuilt the high places which Hezeki'ah his father had destroyed; and he erected altars for Ba'al, and made an Ashe'rah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served them.

II Chronicles34:4 And they broke down the altars of the Ba'als in his presence; and he hewed down the incense altars which stood above them; and he broke in pieces the Ashe'rim and the graven and the molten images, and he made dust of them and strewed it over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them.

Jeremiah 11:13 For your gods have become as many as your cities, O Judah; and as many as the streets of Jerusalem are the altars you have set up to shame, altars to burn incense to Ba'al.

Canaanite-Era Sacrifice and Divine Failure

"The Legend of King Keret” (14th century B.C.) has a description of a sacrifice:
Enter [the shade of a pavilion].
Take a lam[b in thy hand],
A lamb of sac[rifice in thy] right hand;
A kid in th[e grasp of thy han]d,
All thy most tempting food.
Take a turtle [dove],
Bird of sacrifice.
[In a bo]wl of silver pour wine,
Honey in a bowl of [g]old.
{Go up to the top of a [to]wer;
Bestride the top of the wall;
Lift up thy hands to heaven,
Sacrifice to Bull, thy father El;
Honor Baal with thy sacrifice,
Dagon's Son with thine oblations.
[Source: James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), p. 143, Princeton, 1969, web.archive.org]

"The Tale of Aqhat. (14th century B.C.) seems to indicate what happens when prayers and sacrifices are not answered Seven years shall Baal fail,
Eight the Rider of the Clouds.
No dew,
No rain;
No welling up of the deep,
No sweetness of Baal's voice.
[Source: ANET ., p 153]


Human sacrifices to Baal?


Burial Practices in the Middle Bronze Age (2200 - 1570 B.C.)

John R. Abercrombie of the University of Pennsylvania wrote: Middle Bronze Age (2200 - 1570 B.C.) “Is a period of prolific tomb construction. Round or square-shaped vertical shafts lead through a very narrow opening into a single circular chamber at the bottom of the shaft. Multiple chambers do occur (Northern Cemetery Beth Shan, pp. 19-60), but are less common than single shaft tombs. The burial chambers tend to be hemispherical in shape. Surprisingly the chambers also seem rather spacious. A number of these tombs may be equipped with lamp niches. [Sources: John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, Boston University, bu.edu/anep/MB.html |*|]

“Middle Bronze I burials contain one or two primary burials more often than not in a fetal, fully-flexed position. Burials often lie opposite the narrow tomb entrance. Many Skeletons may be somewhat disarticulated perhaps by design. (See Tombs 50 Gibeon [el Jib] and 89 Beth Shan.) Grave goods are meager in comparison to later periods, and often consist of a piece of pottery or sometimes a copper javelin point. Tombs at Jericho also contained additional grave goods including animal bones usually found in the center of the tomb, occasionally paste and stone beads, and bronze or copper decorative studs that Kathleen Kenyon thought were attached to hilts and staffs (Jericho II., pp. 555-556). Another type of burial chamber, a dolmen, may date to the early Middle Bronze Age although other dolmens date to the Chalcolithic and other periods. Tumuli burials in the Negev contain the early Middle Bronze Age remains usually a single burial with one or two pottery pieces. |*|

“Unlike later periods when the dead are buried in cemeteries on the slopes of the tell or in rock-cut tombs some distance away from the city itself, Middle Bronze burials may be deposited within the city itself (e.g. unpublished level of Beth Shan). Infant burials in jars and even some rather wealthy burials in constructed crypts are found under houses and palaces (e.g. Megiddo and Tel Dan). Early tombs cut in the early Middle Bronze Age period are reused in this period as well. |*|

“Burials at Gibeon (el Jib) and Jericho (Tell es-Sultan) provide excellent examples of secondary burial. The last burial may lie on a bed of wood, stone or woven mat usually in the center of the tomb. At Jericho, many tombs had a wooden table next to the last interment. Food offerings (mutton?) and other artifacts appear to have been placed on the table for the deceased. As for earlier burials and their accompanying artifacts, they were swept to the rear of the tomb. Many times only the long bones and skull are kept. Generally Middle Bronze tombs contain the remains of ten to as many as fifty individuals. (For a more complete discussion of burial practices, see: Jericho II., pp.550, 566-579.) |*|

Burial Practices in the Late Bronze Age (1570 - 1200 B.C.)


Abercrombie wrote: “Large cemeteries and major tombs have been uncovered at a number of sites: Deir el-Balah, Tell el-Farah (S), Tell el-Ajjul, Tell Abu Hawam, Megiddo, Beth Shan and Tell es-Sa'idiyeh. In this period, burials are less commonly found inside the city, as was characteristic in the Middle Bronze Age, and are generally deposited outside the towns on the tell slopes (Tell es-Sa'idiyeh) or gentle rises in the land near the ancient city (Tell el-Farah S). (Note: A few examples of burials inside city walls still can be cited from this period (See, Tel Dan Tomb 387).) |*| [Sources: John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, Department of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania; James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, Boston University, bu.edu/anep/MB.html |*|]

“The 900 cemetery at Farah (S) is particularly informative about changes in burial practices. Primary burials lying in a supine fully extended position becomes the more common burial fashion rather than secondary burial characteristic of Middle Bronze II. (Compare the late Middle Bronze Age Gibeon Tomb 15 with Late Bronze Age (1570 - 1200 B.C.) cemetery at Tell es-Sa'idiyeh.) This change in fashion continues into the early Iron Age although secondary burial does not completely disappear (see, Baq'ah, Lachish 40004, Megiddo 1100, 1145, Gezer 10A, Tomb 1 Pella, Tomb 387 Dan). |*|

“Coffin burials first appear in the Late Bronze Age. The earliest examples from Akko and Gezer are clay boxes. The Gezer coffin with it handles reminds most excavators of coffins from the Aegean world, yet in general ways it bears similarities to the unusual and perhaps minature clay boxes from the Beth Shan temples. In the thirteenth century anthropoid coffin can be cited from a number of sites: Beth Shan, Lachish and Deir el-Balah. Anthropoid coffin burials continue to be employed in the Iron Age: Beth Shan, Dhibah, Sahab and Amman. |*|

“Perhaps the use of coffins to preserve the dead reflects Egyptian influence on the culture. Certainly this influence of Egypt on Palestine is quite evident in two unique bitumen burials from Tell es-Sa'idiyeh. Burial of infants, children and sometimes adults are found in storage jars and pithoi. This practice of jar burials especially for infants and small children can be cited from the Middle Bronze and Iron Age (1200 - 550 B.C.) as well. |*|

Burial Practices and Cremations in the Iron Age

Abercrombie wrote: “Primary burial continues into the Iron Age (1200 - 550 B.C.) with little significant change from Bronze Age examples. Most burials are single or double burials (see Tell es-Sa'idiyeh) in earthen graves (100 cemetery Tell el-Farah S,Tell es-Sa'idiyeh, Zeror), stone-lined cists (Tell es-Sa'idiyeh, Zeror) or cut tombs (Tell el-Farah S 500). More often than not, the burial lies in the supine fully extended position with hands at the side. Children and infants generally lie in a fetal position and may also be deposited in storage jars. This type of burial style continues into the late Iron Age (200 cemetery Tell el-Farah (S) and Zeror Cist Tombs), though in both cemeteries evidence of secondary burial can be cited (see Zeror Cist Tomb 1). [Sources: John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, Boston University, ANEP, 456-459, 851- 853, bu.edu/anep/MB.html |*|]


stone mask from Hebron Hills

“In some of the richer primary burials are placed in anthropoid coffins. Such coffin burials can be cited from many sites in the early Iron Age (Beth Shan Tomb 7 and 66, Tell el-Farah (S) 500). Many archaeologists identify the unique grosteque coffin burials with the Sea People. By The Late Iron Age, the known anthropoid coffin burials occur almost exclusively in the Transjordan at Dhiban, Sahab and Amman. |*|

Cremation burial, unknown in the Middle and Late Bronze Ages, appears in the early Iron Age and continues into The Late Iron Age. The earliest form of cremation burial, urn burial, (Azor) occurs almost exclusively in the coastal region of southern Palestine. (NOTE: only two known examples predate the 10th century.) In the tenth-eighth century, these urn burials (er-Reqeish, 200 cemetery Tell el-Farah S) bear striking similarity to contemporary burials in the Phoenician colonies of north Africa. By late The Late Iron Age, it appears that cremation urn burials may be replaced by cremation pyre burials, though there is minimal evidence at this time to confirm this observation. |*|

“Secondary burial, which reappears in the hill country and Transjordan in Iron I, becomes the dominant burial fashion by The Late Iron Age. Large bone piles are usually located at the back of the tombs or in specially cut bone pits. Late the late Iron Age tombs, containing secondary burial, have specialized features including bone pits, beds and even pillow rests. |*|

“Tomb architecture develops from simple rectangular structures with little elaboration in Iron I-II to complex square tombs with specialized features by the end of the Iron Age. The earlier the late Iron Age tombs tend to be rectangular rooms cut into the slope of the tell. By the eighth century, square-shaped tombs replace the rectangular design. Many of these tombs have bone pits in the back, into which earlier burials were swept; beds for the deceased; and even headrests or lamp niches. By the end of the seventh century, some of these square-shaped tombs are linked together around a central entrance much like we find in kokkim tombs of the later periods.” |*|

Canaanite Funerary Rites in the Bible

Genesis 23:19 After this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Mach-pe'lah east of Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. [Source: John R. Abercrombie, Boston University, bu.edu, Dr. John R. Abercrombie, Department of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania]


Canaanite's Daughter

Genesis 25:8 Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people.

Genesis 35:20 and Jacob set up a pillar upon her grave; it is the pillar of Rachel's tomb, which is there to this day.

Genesis 50:13 for his sons carried him to the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field at Mach-pe'lah, to the east of Mamre, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite, to possess as a burying place.

Genesis 50:26 So Joseph died, being a hundred and ten years old; and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.

Judges 8:32 And Gideon the son of Jo'ash died in a good old age, and was buried in the tomb of Jo'ash his father, at Ophrah of the Abiez'rites.

Judges 16:31 Then his brothers and all his family came down and took him and brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Esh'ta-ol in the tomb of Mano'ah his father. He had judged Israel twenty years.

II Samuel 2:32a And they took up As'ahel, and buried him in the tomb of his father,

II Samuel 3:31 Then David said to Jo'ab and to all the people who were with him,"Rend your clothes, and gird on sackcloth, and mourn before Abner." And King David followed the bier.

II Samuel 4:12 And David commanded his young men, and they killed them, and cut off their hands and feet, and hanged them beside the pool at Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-bo'sheth, and buried it in the tomb of Abner at Hebron.

II Samuel 17:23 When Ahith'ophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his ass, and went off home to his own city. And he set his house in order, and hanged himself; and he died, and was buried in the tomb of his father.

II Samuel 21:14 And they buried the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan in the land of Benjamin in Zela, in the tomb of Kish his father; and they did all that the king commanded. And after that God heeded supplications for the land.

I Kings 13:22 but have come back, and have eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which he said to you, "Eat no bread, and drink no water"; your body shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.'"

I Kings 13:31 And after he had buried him, he said to his sons, "When I die, bury me in the grave in which the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones.

II Kings 9:28 His servants carried him in a chariot to Jerusalem, and buried him in his tomb with his fathers in the city of David.

II Chronicles16:14 They buried him in the tomb which he had hewn out for himself in the city of David. They laid him on a bier which had been filled with various kinds of spices prepared by the perfumer's art; and they made a very great fire in his honor.

Undisturbed Tomb at Gibeon (El Jib Tomb 50)

John R.Abercrombie of the University of Pennsylvania wrote: Tomb 50 at Gideon “was discovered by accident as a workman was cleaning the shaft of Tomb 31. The tomb's entrance remained blocked and all indications are that the tomb is undisturbed since it was sealed four millennia ago. There is, however, some evidence that water did seep into the tomb and perhaps some pottery may have moved slightly from their original locations. The tomb has a roundish chamber with a lamp niche near the entrance on the west wall. Two burials were discovered. The south burial generally is undisturbed except that the skull is missing. The bones of Burial 2 show more disturbance. Both burials appear to lie in a fetal position.” [Sources: John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, Boston University, ANEP, 456-459, 851- 853, bu.edu/anep/MB.html |*|]

Contents of Tomb 50: Carinated bowl (P1198). Buff to light brown ware with cream slip burnished horizontally; Carinated bowl (P1243). Buff ware, burnished; Carinated bowl (P1308). Buff ware; Piriform Juglet (P1174) with pointed base. Single handle; brown slip vertically burnished; Cylindrical Juglet (P1382). Double handle; burnished. NOTE: Two incised lines appear on the barrel a few centimeters above the base; Dipper Juglet (P1236). Red to buff ware, burnished; Lamp (P1345). Buff ware with buff slip; Storage Jar (P1598). Four handles; Daggers, knives and pommels; Dagger (B83) with slight midrib; two holes remaining; rivet attached; Knife (B78) with curved point; three rivet holes; rivets attached; Knife (B112) with curved point; three rivet holes; rivets attached; White Steatite (J44). Cross pattern with curled ends. Inscription: nfr; White Steatite (J52); White Steatite (J49); White Steatite (J54). Joined petals; White Steatite (J46). Five linked scrolls and four triangles. Scarab mounted on gold ring; White Steatite (J51). Stylized hieroglyphics bordered by scroll pattern; White Steatite (J48). Cartouche; White Steatite (J47). Inscription; Toggle Pins; (B95). Plain shaft; (B80). Shaft decorated with incised lines above eye; (B84). Shaft twisted spirally above eye; (B89). Shaft twisted spirally above eye;

Funerary Inscriptions from the Iron Age (1200 - 550 B.C.) and Persian Period


Canaanite seated goddess

Tale of Aqhat, Ugarit (14th century B.C.)
One who may set up the stela of his ancestral god
In the sanctuary which enshrines his forefather,
Who may pour out his liquid offering to the ground,
Even to the dust wine after him. [Source: James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, 1969, web.archive.org]

"Sepulchral Inscriptions of Ahiram of Byblos” (early 10th century B.C.)" A sarcophagus made by [It]toba'l, the son of Ahiram, king of. Byblos, for Ahiram, his father, as his eternal (dweIling-)place. If there be a king among kings and a governor among governors and an army commander up in Byblos who shall uncover this sarcophagus, let his judicial staff be broken, let his royal throne be upset! May peace flee from Byblos, and he himself be wiped out! [Source: ANET., p 661. P. Montet, Byblos et l'Egypte (Paris, 1928-29), p 236- 238]

"Tabnit of Sidon” (early 5th century B.C.): I, Tabnit, priest of Astarte, king of Sidon, the son of Eshmun'azar, priest of Astarte, king of Sidon, am lying in this sarcophagus. Whoever you are who might find this sarcophagus, don't, don't open it and don't disturb me, for no silver has been given rue, no gold and no jewelry whatever has been given me! Only 1 (myself) am lying in this sarcophagus. Don't, don't open it, and don't disturb me, for such a thing would be an abomination to Astarte! But if you do open it and if you do disturb me, may (you> not have any seed among the living under the sun or rest ing-place together with the shades! ANET., p.662. This inscription, which was excavated in 1887, dates, as is now generally held on historical and archaeological grounds, from Achaemenid times, apparently, the early fifth century re! also no. 4, n. 4). Bibliography: M. Lidzbarski, Hanavucn nordsemitischen Epigraphik (Weimar, I898), p. 417, pl. iv;

Canaanite Tomb Yields Jar with 4,000-Year-Old Decapitated Toads

Excavations of a burial site in Jerusalem have yielded a jar with decapitated toads, exotic myrtle and date pollen. Martha Henriques wrote in the International Business Times, “A total of nine headless toads have been found in an ancient jar in a Canaanite tomb just outside Jerusalem's Biblical Zoo. The discovery is puzzling, as offerings of toads aren't usually found in ancient graves in the area. The jar was found in a tomb shaft first excavated in 1991. Archaeologists were cleaning debris from the site this year when they found a circular stone seal blocking off the entrance of a shaft. Below this, a tomb was carved out of limestone, measuring about 1.5m long, 1.2m wide and 80cm high. One partial skeleton was inside, curled in the foetal position with its head on a headrest. [Source: Martha Henriques, International Business Times, September 28, 2017 \=/]

“The grave contained pollen from date palms and myrtle bushes, plants not native to the local area. There was also the jar full of the remains of toads. Filling jars with food was a common practice in the Bronze Age Middle East. The dead were buried with the sustenance they might need in the next life. Common offerings included sheep, goat, ox or gazelle meat in a ceramic jar. \=/

“This grave was one of only two Bronze Age burial sites where toads were on the menu in the afterlife. As the food in the burials were typically part of the everyday cuisine of the culture, toads are thought to have been a regular part of the local people's diet. They may have been a particularly acquired taste. It's thought that for the afterlife, the toads were decapitated to help remove their poisonous skin. "We understand that this was part of the food consumed while still alive," Shua Kisilevitz of the Israel Antiquities Authority – and co-director of the dig – told the Times of Israel. \=/

"In recent years excavations in the area have uncovered two settlement sites, two temples and a number of cemeteries, which provide new insight into the life of the local population at that time," dig directors Kisilevitz and Zohar Turgeman-Yaffe said in a statement.” \=/

Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons, Schnorr von Carolsfeld Bible in Bildern, 1860

Text Sources: Internet Jewish History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); “Old Testament Life and Literature” by Gerald A. Larue, King James Version of the Bible, gutenberg.org, New International Version (NIV) of The Bible, biblegateway.com Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL), translated by William Whiston, ccel.org , Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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