Yaw (god)

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Yam, from the Canaanite word Yam, meaning "Sea", is one name of the Ugaritic god of Rivers and Sea. Also titled Judge Nahar ("Judge River"), he is also one of the 'ilhm (Elohim) or sons of El, the name given to the Levantine pantheon. Others dispute the existence of the alternative names, claiming it is a mistranslation of a damaged tablet. Despite linguistic overlap, theologically this god is not a part of the later subregional monotheistic theology, but rather is part of a broader and archaic Levantine polytheism. The name Yam means "sea" and he is also called Nahar meaning "river".

Yam is the deity of the primordial chaos and represents the power of the sea untamed and raging; he is seen as ruling tempests and the disasters they wreak. The gods cast out Yam from the heavenly mountain Sappan (modern Jebel Aqra; "Sappan" is cognate to Tsephon (Tsion). The seven-headed dragon Lotan is associated closely with him and the serpent is frequently used to describe him.

Of all the gods, Yam holds special hostility against Baal Hadad over the divine assembly. Yam is a deity of the sea and his palace is in the abyss associated with the depths, or Biblical tehwom, of the oceans. (This is not to be confused with the abode of Mot, the ruler of the netherworlds.) In Ugaritic texts, Yam's special enemy Hadad is also known as the "king of heaven" and the "first born son" of El, whom ancient Greeks identified with their god Kronos, just as Baal was identified with Zeus, Yam with Poseidon and Mot with Hades. Yam wished to become the Lord god in his place. In turns the two beings kill each other, yet Hadad is resurrected and Yam also returns. Some authors have suggested that these tales reflect the experience of seasonal cycles in the Levant.

Speculative similarities in other mythological traditions

Since Yam wishes to raise himself to the lofty heights of the gods whom he hates, and since he is the lord of chaos and destruction, some consider the nearest equivalent to Yam in modern religions is the Christian Satan. In some Christian interpretations of Genesis 3:15, the serpent of Eden is in conflict with the Messiah, Jehovah's son.

A relevant passage in the Christian book of Revelation reads: "And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world" (Revelation 12:9).

Also, the chaotic coiling sea serpent Leviathan appears as hated by Jehovah (Isaiah 27:1).

In the Apocalypse of Abraham, the enemy of Yahweh is called Azazel and is described as a dragon with "hands and feet like a man's, on his back six wings on the right and six on the left." (23:7) Some Christian interpretations identify Azazel with the serpent who tempted Eve.

Moreover, a comparison with the evil Jörmungandr (Norse world-serpent and deity of the sea) is accurate, given his description. Like Yam and Hadad, he and Thor (son of Odin) slay each other at the end of the world (Ragnarök or Twilight of the Gods). There are also many similarities with the Egyptian chaos serpent, Apep and his animosity with the sun god Ra.

In addition, the serpent-Titan Typhon battled the god Zeus over Olympus and was cast into the pits of the Earth.

Yam shares many characteristics with Greco-Roman Ophion, the serpentine Titan of the sea whom Kronos cast out of the heavenly Mt. Olympus.

The story is also analogus to the war between the serpent Vritra and the god Indra, son of the 'Sky Father' Dyaus Pita.

In the Epic of Ba'al

In the Epic of Ba'al El king of the Gods appoints Yam to fight Hadad the king of heaven. KTU 1.2 iv reads:
"I, myself, Kindly `El the Beneficent, have taken you upon my hands.
I proclaim your name.
Yam is your name,
Your name is Beloved of `El, Yam."
"[Go against] the hand of the Mighty Lord Most High (´Aliyan Ba´al )
Because he spoke ill to me —
[And] drive him from the throne of his kingship,
From the resting place,
the cushion on the seat of his dominion.
But if then you do not drive him from his throne of kingship,
from the seat of his dominion,
He will beat you like...
He slaughters oxen and sheep.
He fells bulls and fatted rams, yearling calves,
sheep by the flock, he sacrifices kids."

Now Mighty Baal, son of Dagon, desired the kingship of the Gods. He contended with Prince Yam-Nahar, the Son of El. But Kindly El, Father Shunem, decided the case in favour of His son; He gave the kingship to Prince Yam. He gave the power to Judge Nahar.

Fearsome Yam came to rule the Gods with an iron fist. He caused Them to labor and toil under His reign. They cried unto Their mother, Asherah, Lady of the Sea. They convinced Her to confront Yam, to interceed in Their behalf.

Asherah went into the presence of Prince Yam. She came before Judge Nahar. She begged that He release His grip upon the Gods Her sons. But Mighty Yam declined Her request. She offered favours to the Tyrant. But Powerful Nahar softened not His heart.

Finally, Kindly Asherah, who loves Her children, offered Herself to the God of the Sea. She offered Her own body to the Lord of Rivers.

Yam-Nahar agreed to this, and Asherah returned to the Source of the Two Rivers. She went home to the court of El. She came before the Divine Council, and spoke of Her plan to the Gods Her children.

Baal was infuriated by Her speech. He was angered at the Gods who would allow such a plot. He would not consent to surrendering Great Asherah to the Tyrant Yam-Nahar. He swore to the Gods that He would destroy Prince Yam.

He would lay to rest the tyranny of Judge Nahar.

Ba'al Hadad warns Yam that the gods will not allow him to usurp the throne of heaven. In KTU 1.2 iii, the Lord warns:

"From your throne of kingship you shall be driven,
from the seat of your dominion cast out!
On your head be Ayamari (Driver) O Yam,
Between your shoulders Yagarish (Chaser), O Judge Nahar
May Horon split open, O Yam,
may Horon smash your head,
´Athtart-Name-of-the-Lord thy skull!

After a great war in heaven involving many of the gods, Yam is roundly defeated:
And the weapon springs from the hand of the Lord,
Like a raptor from between his fingers.
It strikes the skull of Prince Yam,
between the eyes of Judge Nahar.
Yahm collapses, he falls to the earth;
His joints quiver, and his spine shakes.
Thereupon the Lord drags out Yam and would rend him to pieces;
he would make an end of Judge Nahar.

However, Athtart pleads for Yam, who acknowledges the Lord as king of heaven:
Then up speaks Yam: "Lo, I am as good as dead! Surely, the Lord now reigns as king!"

Hadad holds a great feast, but not long afterwards he battles Mot (death) and through his mouth he descends to his realm below the earth. Yet like Yam, Death too is defeated and in h. I AB iii the Lord arises from the dead:
For alive is the Mighty Lord,
Revived is the Prince, Master of Earth."
'El calls to the Virgin Anat:
"Hearken, O maiden Anat!"[1]

Yaw: speculation over connections between Yam and YHWH

According to some, Yam was also called Ya'a or Yaw. Damaged text in KTU 1.2 iv has been interpreted by Mark S. Smith as describing a renaming of Yam from an original name Yaw.[2] The resemblance of the latter to the Tetragrammaton YHWH led to speculation over a possible connection between Yam and God of the Hebrew Bible. However, even if the reading is correct many scholars argue the names have different roots and reject the idea that they are related. Another suggested reading of the name is Ya'a and it has also been suggested as an early form of the divine name Yah, Yahu. Earlier archaeologists like Theophilus G. Pinches[3] quoted the research of Hommel, Professor of Semitic languages at Munich, who suggested "that this god Ya is another form of the name Ea...". By this theory Ya'a thus appears to have been a God of the waters, both salt (Yam) and fresh (Nahar), in some ways similar to the Mesopotamian God Ea.[4] This view has been supported in more recent times by archaeologists like Jean Bottero[5] and others,[6] although this is disputed by other scholars.[7][8]

See also

References and further reading


2. ^ Smith, Mark S. (2001) "The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel's Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts" (Oxford: Oxford University Press)
3. ^ Pinches, Theophilus G. (1908) The Old Testament in the Light of the Historical Records and Legends of Assyria and Babylonia. London. Society For Promoting Christian Knowledge.
4. ^ Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y de la Torre, Yahweh-Elohim's Historical Evolution (Pre-Biblical).
5. ^ Bottero, Jean (2004) "Religion in Ancient Mesopotamia" (University Of Chicago Press) ISBN 0-226-06718-1
6. ^ Cohn, Norman. Cosmos, Chaos and the World to Come, The Ancient Roots of Apocalyptic Faith. New Haven and London. Yale University Press, 1993.
7. ^ Gray, John, (1953), The god Yaw in the Religion of Canaan, in Journal of Near Eastern Studies. Chicago. Vol. 12, pp. 278-283.
8. ^ Garbini, G. 1988. History and Ideology in Ancient Israel.
9. ^ from a translation note in the New Jewish Publication Society of America Version


  1. ^ Lilinah biti-´Anat, The Myth of Baal, "Baal Battles Yahm" (1997). (Accessed 2006.2.15). This site has an unusually complete online text based on several scholarly versions cited.
  2. ^ The Septuagint, written in Greek, does not contain the Tetragrammaton. Since the original Hebrew texts from which it was translated have long since disappeared, it is not known in which passages YHWH may have been written.
  3. ^ Johannes C. De Moor, The Rise of Yahwism: The Roots of Israelite Monotheism, (Peeters Publishers, 2001).
  4. ^ Gerald A. Larue, Old Testament Life and Literature (1968). (Accessed 2005.12.4)
  5. ^ Mike Magee, "The Truth about the Jewish Scriptures I". (Accessed 2005.12.26)
  6. ^ Michael S. Heiser, Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God. (Accessed 2005.12.4)
  7. ^ Mark S. Smith, The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel's Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts. (Accessed 2005.12.4)
  8. ^ "Sons of El" is from the Qumran text, LXX has "angels of God".
  9. ^ Joel Kalvemaski, The Septuagint Online, (October 15, 2005). (Accessed 2006.2.15)
  10. ^ Bryan T. Huie, The Heavenly Divine Council, (September 28, 2002). (Accessed 2005.12.4)
  11. ^ Smith.
  12. ^ Richard Freund, interviewed by Gary Hochman and Matthew Collins, NOVA. "Ancient Refuge in the Holy Land". (Accessed 2005.12.26)
  13. ^ Alan Fuller, "Re: A question about the introducing beasts", Fri, 25 October 2002 16:02:20 -0000 (Accessed 2005.12.26), and Jean Philippe Fontanille, Menorah Coin Project "H426", (bottom of page). (Accessed 2005.12.26)


  • Cassuto, U., trans. by Israel Abrahams. The Goddess Anath, (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, Hebrew University, 1951).
  • Coogan, Michael D., trans. & ed., Stories from Ancient Canaan, (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1978), 86-89.
  • De Moor, Johannes, The Seasonal Pattern in the Myth of Ba' lu according to the version of Ilimilku, (1971).
  • Driver, G.R., trans., J. C. L. Gibson, ed., Canaanite Myths and Legends, (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark Ltd., 1977).
  • _____, The Rise of Yahwism: The Roots of Israelite Monotheism, (Peeters Publishers, 2001).
  • Gaster, Theodor, trans., Thespis: Ritual, Myth & Drama in the Ancient Near East (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), 114-244.
  • Ginsberg, H. L., trans., in The Ancient Near East, An Anthology of Tests and Pictures, James B. Pritchard, Ed., (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1958), 92-118.
  • Smith, Mark S., The Ugaritic Ba'al Cycle; Vol. I: Introduction with Text, Translation & Commentary of KTU 1.1-1.2, (New York: E. J. Brill, 1994).
  • Thompson, Thomas L., The Mythic Past; Biblical Archaeology and the Myth of Israel, (New York: Basic Books, 1999).

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Southwest Asia or Southwestern Asia (largely overlapping with the Middle East) is the southwestern portion of Asia. The term Western Asia is sometimes used in writings about the archeology and the late prehistory of the region, and in the United States subregion
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Ancient Semitic religion spans the polytheistic religions of the Semitic speaking peoples of the Ancient Near East. Its origins are interwtined with earlier (Sumerian) Mesopotamian mythology.
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Anat, also ‘Anat (in ASCII spelling `Anat and often simplified to Anat), Hebrew or Phoenician ענת (Anāt), Ugaritic ‘nt, Greek Αναθ (transliterated Anath
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Astarte (from Greek Αστάρτη (Astártē)) is the name of a goddess as known from Northwestern Semitic regions, cognate in name, origin and functions with the goddess Ishtar in Mesopotamian texts.
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Atargatis, in Aramaic ‘Atar‘atah, was a Syrian deity, "the great mistress of the North Syrian lands" Rostovtseff called her,[1]
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Ba'al (baʕal;Arabic,بعل; Hebrew: בעל) (ordinarily spelled Baal
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Scientific speculation on this, and other, apparent references to multiple deities in the Old Testament is that
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For the metal band, see Atargatis (band).

Atargatis, in Aramaic ‘Atar‘atah, was a Syrian deity, "the great mistress of the North Syrian lands" Rostovtseff called her,[1]
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Ancient Southwest Asian deities
Levantine deities
Adonis | Anat | Asherah | Ashima | Astarte | Atargatis | Ba'al | Berith | Dagon | Derceto | El | Elyon | Eshmun | Hadad | Kothar | Mot | Moloch | Qetesh | Resheph | Shalim | Yarikh | Yam

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Elyon: The name or epithet or word ‘Elyōn (Masoretic pronunciation of Hebrew עליון), is traditionally rendered in Samaritan Hebrew as illiyyon, and means something like 'higher, upper'.
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Eshmun (or Eshmoun, less accurately Esmun or Esmoun) was a Phoenician god of healing and the tutelary god of Sidon.

This god was known at least from the Iron Age period at Sidon and was worshipped also in Tyre, Beirut, Cyprus, Sardinia, and in Carthage
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Haddad - בעל הדד - حداد (in Ugaritic Haddu) was a very important northwest Semitic storm and rain god, cognate in name and origin with the Akkadian god Adad.
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  • Mobile Observation Team
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Qetesh (also Qadesh, Kadesh, Qatesh, Qadeshet, Qudshu, Quodesh) referred to a Goddess or Goddesses of Love and Beauty (rather than fertility), who is thought to have originally been a Semitic divinity, from Canaanite religion, adopted into
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Resheph was a Semitic god of plague and war. He bore the head of a gazelle on his forehead and was an important member of the pantheon of Ugarit though not mentioned in Ugaritic mythological texts.
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Shalim is the god of dusk in the pantheon of Ugarit. He is the twin brother and counterpart of Shahar the god of dawn.

See also

  • Almaqah
  • Wadd

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