Saturday, October 1, 2016

THE REAL MOSES AND HIS GOD (entire book) By August Hunt



Copyright © August Hunt 2014 All Rights Reserved
Cover Photo Credit: Jan Pieter Van De Giessen of Aantekeningen Bij De Bijbel
World Wide Web



Acknowledgements                                     7       
Introduction                                                8
Chapter One: The Date of the Exodus         13
Chapter Two: Yahweh and His Angel          23
Chapter Three:  The Burning Bush            41
Chapter Four: Mount Horeb/Sinai             69
Chapter Five: The Ark of the Covenant       77
Chapter Six: Moses                                     87
Chapter Seven: Sokar of Rosetau and
          Baal of Peor: The Burial Place of
          Moses                                                110   
Chapter Eight: How Ramessesemperre
          Became Moses                                   112
Appendix One - The Goddess Eve and
Her Dirty Consort Adam: A Different Take
on Creation and the Location of the
Garden East of Eden DIRTY
Appendix Two – The Real Mountain of
Noah and His Ark



I wish to thank Walter Mattfield of BIBLE ORIGENS for his invaluable assistance.  His many years of research, and more importantly his willingness to share the fruits of his labor with me, drastically reduced the amount of time I would otherwise have had to commit to this project.  On many occasions Walter supplied me with information, pointed me in the right direction for additional resources or saved me from stumbling along unprofitable paths.

Many other scholars, amateur and professional alike, have contributed to the creation of this book.  Whenever appropriate, I credit them in the body of the text. Of course, as the author I am solely responsible for the book’s contents and no views expressed herein were espoused by the scholars who so generously devoted their wealth of knowledge to its completion.


People have long speculated on the date of the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt, the nature of the Burning Bush of Moses, the mysterious god Yahweh and his angel, and on the founding of the first tent shrine at Mount Sinai.  Perhaps even more effort has gone into attempts to identify Moses with attested personages of the time.  And this is to be expected, given the fact that these events form the foundation of a religion held dear by much of the world.  But to date, all that surrounds Moses and his experiences and actions is still a mystery – and some would doubtless prefer that it remain such.

As an inheritor of the Judaic-Christian traditions of the West, I have long harbored a “closet” interest in Biblical literature.  In childhood, I was impressed with the miraculous qualities of the Old Testament stories.  While I was inculcated in my society’s beliefs to some extent, I was also permitted total freedom of thought and, once I had achieved a sufficient level of maturity, was allowed to form my own opinions on things religious.  It is true that many emphasize how vital it is to question one’s faith, yet I have never personally encountered those who practice what they preach in this regard.  I have found that universally any genuine manifestation of doubt, or any focused, objective scrutiny of belief systems, are either directly or indirectly discouraged.  If discouragement is not a sufficient deterrent, sanction or exclusion usually has the desired effect.  The only truth a certain religion binds itself to is whatever serves to perpetuate itself.  Other truths, unless they can be made to eventually lead the wayward back to the flock, are not entertained in any substantive way.

After many years of pondering these matters, and often coming to grips with their ramifications, I decided it was time to apply myself to a speculative analysis of some of the central episodes of the Book of Exodus.  I realized, after thoroughly reacquainting myself with the material, doing an enormous amount of research on secondary sources and contemporary texts deemed respectable by the academic community and, after much thought, having come up with a revolutionary theory, that I might have something important and exciting to say on the subject.   Although this theory runs counter to everything that had gone before, it has been arrived at, ironically, by respecting the Biblical account.  I had not found it necessary to rely on late, corrupt, confused, suspect retellings by “authorities” such as those by Manetho.  Nor have I had to resort to “revised” chronologies, some of which temporally displace the Exodus by hundreds of years in order to make it coincide with the much earlier expulsion of the Hyksos or Foreign Kings from Egypt.

At the same time, I appreciate more than others have the profound impact Egyptian society and, more particularly, Egyptian religion, must have had on the Hebrews during centuries of residence in the land of Pharaoh.  I find it a ridiculous notion that after such a long period of time assimilating to Egyptian ways, to being in a very real sense “Egyptianized”, that the Hebrews did not engage in a fair degree of religious syncretization.   Standard practice for the Egyptians was to identify various gods and goddesses with each other, or even aspects of gods and goddesses with each other, and to embrace the worship of foreign deities in a similar process.  Any investigation of the religion that Moses founded must acknowledge the obvious: his people had long been subjected to the seductive power of Egyptian beliefs and rituals, and even in the desert of the Sinai Peninsula the Egyptian gods and goddesses held sway.

As for my method of argument in the following pages, language and archaeology will be my twin guides.  A unique comparative approach will seek to reveal conclusive relationships between Hebrew and Egyptian words.  The findings suggested by these relationships will then be considered in the context of the only two sites in the Sinai which could possibly have been Mount Horeb/Sinai.  This blending of tongues and exploration of ancient ruins will help us find a verifiable candidate for Moses himself.

My apology is offered in advance to individuals who are offended by the ideas contained in this little book, as well as to institutions that ordinarily interpret as objectionable any intellectual treatment of the supposed Word of God.  I am also well aware that even skeptics of Biblical veracity may resent what I have set out to do, either because they disagree on my “angle of attack” or because they already have developed or adopted their own pet theories which run counter to my own.

Many will doubtless question my motives for committing the worse possible act of hubris: daring to peer under the veil of the holiest of mysteries, to see if I can glean but a fraction of a glance at what is either the ultimate reality or what is ultimately real.  To this charge I can only respond with full honesty and, I hope, a measure of modesty: I do not believe it is the purpose of our life to believe.  I feel it is the purpose of our life to find out what it is we should not believe.  Only by doing that, through an endless process of eliminating ignorance and the false beliefs ignorance engenders – a process which might loosely and somewhat philosophically be defined as “scientific” - can we ever discover real and abiding truths.

August Hunt
January 1, 2014


Exodus 12:40-41 tells us that prior to the Hebrew departure from Egypt under Moses, the Israelites had been in the land for 430 years.  1 Kings 6:1 claims the right number is 480 years, while the Septuagint says 440.  In Exodus 1:11, we learn that the Hebrews had been set to work building Pi-Ramesses (modern Qantir) and Pithom (Tell er-Retabeh or Tell el-Maskhutah).  Finally, when the Exodus actually occurs, the Hebrews cannot take the Egyptian Way of Horus along the coast to Canaan because of the presence there of the Philistines (13:17).

These fairly precise dating markers allow us to pinpoint the events of the Exodus account.  It is well known, firstly, that the builders of Pi-Ramesses and Pithom were Seti I and Ramesses II the Great.  Thus the pharaoh who is reigning at the time of Mose’s birth could be none other than the 19th Dynasty’s Ramesses II (1304-1237 B.C.; dates courtesy Donald Redford), for whom Pi-Ramesses was named.

However, given that the Hebrews cannot go along the coast when they leave Egypt because of the presence of the Philistines there, we know that this could not have happened any earlier than the reign of Ramesses III of the 20th Dynasty.  This is because the Philistines had not settled in Canaan until the reign of Ramesses III.  This pharaoh was also long-lived – in fact, by far the longest lived ruler of Egypt since the days of Ramesses II: 32 years.  Six pharaohs intervened between the reigns of Ramesses II and Ramesses III, their combined reigns totaling approximately 37 years.

When Moses is a young man, he murders an Egyptian overseer (2:12) and has to flee to Midian.  His sojourn in Midian, during which he marries a Midianite woman and has children, lasts for “a long time” (2:23), after which the pharaoh dies.  This extra-long reign strongly suggests Ramesses II again, as he was on the throne for 67 years.  However, as we have seen above, Ramesses III also had a very long reign, and it was in his reign that the Philistines settled in Canaan.  Ramesses III not only used Pi-Ramesses as a royal residence, but is thought to have built a larger stables for the city atop those belonging to Ramesses II. If this is true, then Ramesses III could have been confused with the original builder of Pi-Ramesses.

I have culled the following from Ian Shaw’s account of the reign of Ramesses III in “The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt”:

1) The Sea Peoples first tried to enter Egypt in the days of Merneptah (the successor of Ramesses II); they did it again in the reign of Ramesses III
2) Ramesses III’s mortuary temple at Medinet Habu was closely modeled on the Ramesseum of Ramesses II
3) Ramesses III tried to emulate Ramesses II in many other ways; his own royal names were all but identical to those of Ramesses II and he even named his sons after the latter’s numerous offspring
4) Ramesses III expanded Piramesses; the Harem Conspiracy, the goal of which was to assassinate Ramesses III, was apparently hatched at Piramesses

It is fairly obvious based upon the above that Biblical commentators who opt for Ramesses II as the pharaoh of Moses’ birth and early years are simply wrong.

Indeed, if we calculate 430 years from Jacob’s arrival in Egypt (Jabob may be the Hyksos king Jakobher, whom Redford puts at 1662-1653), we find ourselves at 1223, during the reign of Ramesses II.  If we opt for the 480 year span, we arrive at 1173, which falls in the reign of Ramesses III.

Of course, if Moses’s life spanned the period from Ramesses II to that of Ramesses III, we would have another reason for a possible confusion of these two pharaohs.  Later in this book, we will see that our historical candidate – or candidates - for Moses lived from the reign of one of these kings to the reign of the other.

As it happens, Ramesses IV had a very short reign of only 6 years.  His son, Ramesses V, was on the throne for only 4 years before he perished in a smallpox epidemic.  Ramesses VI (156-1149 B.C.) is the pharaoh under whom the Egyptian presence in Sinai was withdrawn.  Putting this all together, if we allow for Ramesses III being the pharaoh Moses originally flees from for killing the Egyptian overseer, and make his successor Ramesses the IV the pharaoh of the Exodus, with his son Ramesses V being the firstborn of pharaoh whom Yahweh slew in the plague (29:1), we have a startlingly coherent and accurate chronology for the Exodus.  Granted, in reality Ramesses V actually ruled for a few years after his father; he did not pre-decease Ramesses IV.   But such a telescoping of events is not unusual in traditional history and I think that in this context the slight discrepancy must be allowed.

I would add that if we use the 480 year calculation and apply the start date of this period not to Jakobher/Jacob, but to his son, Joseph, of the next generation of Hebrews in Egypt, the tally might well come out matching exactly the reign of either Ramesses IV or V.

The proponents of a revised chronology which runs counter to the Exodus marker dates and supports the notion of the Exodus being a Hebrew version of the Hyksos expulsion several centuries prior to the time of Ramesses III does not take into account the fact that we are specifically told by trustworthy Egyptian accounts that the Hyksos did not drop down into the Sinai.  Instead, once they were expelled from Avaris (Tell ed-Dab’a) in the Delta, they were defeated again at the Sinai border fortress of Tjaru (Tell Heboua, the “Northeastern Gate” of Egypt;  information courtesy Mohammed Abd El-Maksoud, Director of the Eastern Delta and Sinai, Supreme Council of Antiquities, Egypt), and then were driven north after a successful three-year siege at Sharuhen (possibly Tell Haroer in the Negev, rather than Tell el-Ajjul on the coast, according to Donald Redford).  Such a scenario cannot be reconciled with Moses leading the Hebrews into the southern Sinai.

It is true that the 18th Dynasty founder Ahmose I, the Egyptian pharaoh responsible for driving out the Hyksos, re-opened the Sinai to Egyptian control.  Ahmose re-established the mines and Hathor-Sopdu temples at Serabit el-Khadim, while the Timna mines and Hathor temple did not become established until the time of Ramesses II (or perhaps the co-regency of Ramesses II and his father, Seti I).  Serabit el-Khadim remained in operation until Ramesses VI’s withdrawal from the Sinai.  We have evidence of his presence there.  Timna does not show evidence for Ramesses VI; the record there stops with Ramesses V.

We will have reason to return to a more detailed discussion of both Serabit el-Khadim and Timna when we search for Mount Sinai/Horeb in a subsequent chapter.

In THE BIBLE UNEARTHED; ARCHAEOLOGY’S NEW VISION OF ANCIENT ISRAEL AND THE ORIGIN OF ITS SACRED TEXTS (The Free Press, 2001), Chapter 2, “Did the Exodus Happen?”, authors Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman claim that no evidence exists for supporting the notion that the Exodus actually took place.  They point to a paucity of archaeological remains in the Sinai and conclude that there is no trace of even a greatly reduced number of Hebrews living in the region at the supposed time of Exodus.  This reasoning is faulty, of course, and goes to the heart of the kinds of mistakes in judgment that can take place when looking for proof of a traditional account without allowing for a variant interpretation of that account.  One cannot remain a steadfast literalist when treating of Biblical narratives.  Finkelstein’s approach to Biblical Studies has come under severe fire, most recently in Robert Draper’s “Kings of Controversy: Was the Kingdom of David and Solomon a Glorious Kingdom or Just a Little Cow Town?” (December 2010 National Geographic Magazine).

While William G. Dever (in Chapter 2, “The Exodus – History of Myth?”, WHO WERE THE EARLY ISRAELITES AND WHERE DID THEY COME FROM?, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006) takes a less brutal view of the Exodus narrative than Finkelstein and Silberman, he does outline five problems that seem to make the story suspect:

1) Too much detail for an orally handed-down account; for such an account to be accurate, it would have to be much vaguer
2) Some information is “clearly fanciful” and “contradictory”; anachronisms abound
3) The priestly material is too complicated and thus plainly represents later traditional material
4) Problems with the itinerary or “stages” of the Sinai wanderings exist.  Many places are lost or cannot otherwise be identified; some are known to have been Egyptian at the time of the Exodus
5) The “recurrent problem of miracles”; despite attempts to explain these miracles as natural phenomena, the heavy reliance on “mighty acts of God” cast doubt on the whole narrative

Once again, none of these points force us to abandon the possibility or even the probability that the Exodus was a real, historical event or conflation of historical events.  Any traditional narrative is prone to being embellished as centuries elapse.  It does not mean that just because such embellishments are present we must dispense with the underlying traditional account.  Instead, we must more carefully examine the account itself to see if there is any way its basic story can be shown to be true.  We do this by stripping it of its embellishments and looking for any event or events in the records of other ancient Near Eastern peoples that may account for the formation of such a tradition.  First and foremost among these people, of course, must be the Egyptians.


Now that we have established to what period in Egyptian history Moses belongs, and have come up with an approximate date for the Exodus, i.e. sometime during the reigns of Ramesses IV or V, we can begin to examine the Hebrew god Yahweh within the context of Egyptian religion.

Our first step in performing this task is to briefly go over the meaning of Yahweh’s name, as this is currently accepted by most modern scholars.  The best explanation of the name Yahweh is still held to be that propounded by Professor Frank M. Cross in his book _Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic_: YHWH is a shortening of the phrase ‘il zu Yahweh s.aba’t or “El/God who creates the hosts (of heaven)”.  Here Yahweh is a causative of the verb h-w-y, “to be” (further information courtesy Professor John Huehnergard, Harvard University).  I concur with this theory, despite a recent attempt by Adam Strich (“The Root *HWY and the Name YHWH”, Harvard University, 2008) to demonstrate that the ‘to be’ definition is secondary to the original meaning of the root, which was ‘to fall’.

Yahweh is most certainly to be derived from the Hebrew verb hayah or hawah, “to be or become”.  The ancient Hebrew god is, therefore, “He Who Comes Into Being” or, simply, “He Who Becomes”/”The Becoming One”.  Indeed, it has been expressed that the idea is not that of being or of existing, but of coming to pass.

It is not at all certain, however, that it really is Yahweh in the Burning Bush.  To quote the relevant passage from Exodus 3:2 and 3:4:

“There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush… When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush…”

Now, theologians have attempted to account for the ‘angel’ by assuming this was merely the physical manifestation of God. In other words, when God chose to reveal himself to men, he took on the appearance of the ‘angel’.

This is correct only to a point.  The Hebrew word used in this context for ‘angel’ is mal’ak.  It derives from an unused root meaning “to dispatch as a deputy”.  The meaning is actually “messenger”.  Now, in Egyptian religion the moon god Thoth (DHw.t.y, probably pronounced something like ‘Djehuti’) had the common epithet of isti ra, “the deputy/substitute/representative of [the sun god] Re”.  According to Boylan’s “Thoth: The Hermes of Egypt”, this epithet refers to the idea that the moon takes the place of the sun at night, but its light is merely a reflection of that of the sun.  A late epithet of Thoth is wpwty, “messenger”, a designation which may have come about because of Thoth’s identification with Hermes.  From very early on, Thoth was a kind of agent of Re, being the latter’s chief scribe/minister (information courtesy Aayko K. Eymo).

The etymology of the name Thoth is unknown.  Current opinion holds to the notion that DHw.t.y may stand for “He of DHw.t”.  The problem with this theory is that no such place as DHw.t is recorded in the Egyptian sources.

In an effort to come up with a better derivation for Thoth’s name, my attention was recently drawn to an Egyptian baboon deity named DjehDjeh (DHDH). The repetition that is obvious in Djeh-Djeh caused me to consider the possibility that the name could be imitative in origin. So I wrote to two world experts on baboons and asked whether there is a vocalization among the Hamadrayas baboons that could have been represented or "mimicked" by 'Djeh! - Djeh!'. In response, Dr. Dorothy Cheney pointed me to her web site page with baboon vocalizations:

After paying very close attention to various kinds of barks, I concluded that the two-phase calls of baboons could easily have been rendered by ‘Djeh-Djeh’.

Sergei Anatolyevich Starostin claimed that DH-DH tied in with Cushitic gwa-gwa / gaw-gaw, "(large) monkey", but he admits that the data are too scarce and unreliable to really postulate an Afroasiatic word. It seems clear to me that the Cushitic word
is likewise a sound mimicking word, and that to apply Afroasiatic sound shifts to it would be very dubious.

To go a step further, I wonder whether it is possible that the above mentioned baboon call, of purely imitative origin, could have yielded a hypothetical word/name for the sacred baboon, *DH(w). This occured to me as Hopfner  proposed a hypothetical word *DH(w ) for 'ibis', to explain the problematic name of the god Thoth (DHw.t.y), but to my knowledge his hypothetical word for ibis cannot be backed up with ancient Egyptian or Afroasiatic examples.

According to Thomas Kelly (via the AEgyptian-L mailing list):

“An imitative origin for Djeh-Djeh has merit. Jaromir Malek states, on page 25, in “The Cat in Ancient Egypt”: “There was only one word for cat in pharaonic Egypt which we can find in the hieroglyphic writing.  It was the onomatopoeic miu or mii (feminine miit), imi (feminine imiit or miat) in demotic, the penultimate stage of the Egyptian language, and emu or amu in Coptic, written from c. the third century AD. The cat was simply '(s) he who mews,' and as we shall see, this was how the Egyptians themselves understood it.  If the "miu" from a cat became the word for cat then it is possible that the bark from a baboon could become the word for baboon.”

Thoth, according to Gardiner, Peet and Cerny (_The Inscriptions of Sinai, Part II), was the nomen loci or patron deity of Maghara near Serabit el-Khadim in the Sinai.  Both these places were mined by the Egyptians (see below).  Thoth is also present in several inscriptions at Serabit el-Khadim.

But if the angel of the Lord is the moon god Thoth, how can Yahweh be the sun god Ra?

The Egyptians had a marvelous capacity for religious syncretization.  One god could be identified with another, and often gods who served very specific functions became mere aspects of a greater god.  The syncretized deity we are most interested in when it comes to Yahweh as a possible aspect of Re is Re-Khepri.

Khepri was the god of the rising sun in Egyptian religion, and as such also the god of the resurrected sun who had survived the night in the underworld to be reborn in the morning.  Symbolized by a scarab beetle, the name of this god derives from the verb xpr, “come into being”.  A related word is xprw, “form, manifestation”, literally ‘that which has come into being’.

Scarab ( = Khepri) amulets were found at Timna and Serabit el-Khadim, as were sphinxes (= Horemakhet-Khepri and, of course, the pharaoh as the human incarnation of that syncretized deity).  Serabit el-Khadim has two sphinxes representing Thutmose III flanking and adoring Hathor in the form of a sistrum.

One of the sphinxes at Timna bears the upper portion of a cartouche containing the prenomen ‘User-ma’at-re’ for Ramesses II, III or V.  Petrie describes statues of sphinxes flanking the temple of Hathor at Serabit el-Khadim; these were representative of Thutmose III.  The god Khepri is mentioned in only one dedication in the Sinai.  This occurs at Serabit el-Khadim, where Thutmose III is called the “precious egg of Khepri”.

So if Yahweh is merely a Semitic rendering of the Egyptian divine name Khepri, and the angel of Yahweh is the Egyptian god Thoth, Yahweh himself may not actually be present in the Burning Bush.  Thoth may be there alone, speaking not only for Yahweh-Khepri, but as Yahweh-Khepri.

Margaret Barker, in her recent book THE GREAT ANGEL: A STUDY OF ISRAEL’S SECOND GOD (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992), has proposed that the apparent confusion between Yahweh and his angel/messenger is due to the fact that originally Elohim (the plural of majesty and excellence used for a single divine being, not a plural in number, as for “gods”) was the chief creator deity of Israel, and Yahweh his son.  According to this theory, then, Yahweh was the messenger of Elohim.  The problem with Barker’s argument is that it fails to take into account the significance of Yahweh to a thoroughly Egyptianized Asiatic (see below for Moses’ ancestry).  Moses identified his own Egyptian deity with a Midianite god.  But it would appear the ‘messenger’ that spoke to Moses from the Burning Bush was not Yahweh/Khepri himself, but an entity the Egyptians would have been very familiar with – Thoth the deputy of the sun god.

Does this explanation adequately explain the mystery of the deity (or deities) of the Burning Bush?  Well, it may do so if we view the phenomenon solely from the Egyptian perspective.  Unfortunately, this nice, neat picture I’ve just painted does not take into account some important factors on the Midianite side of things. Nor does it take into consideration the identity of Abraham’s god prior to the Hebrew’s long stay in Egypt.

Any investigation of Abraham or Abram must begin with an analysis of his name as well as those of his immediate family.

From “Abraham: What cultural, textual, and archaeological sources can tell us about this patriarch”, by P. Kyle McCarter, in Ancient Israel: From Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple, edited by Hershel Shanks, Biblical Archaeology Society:

“…the connections between the family of Abraham and the city of Haran in northern Mesopotamia (Eski Harran or "Old Haran" in modern Turkey) are very precise in our earliest narrative source (J. or the Yahwist). Terah, Nahor and Serug--Abraham's father, grandfather and great grandfather (Genesis 11:22-26)--seem to be the eponymous ancestors of towns in the basin of the Balikh River, near Haran.

All three names appear in Assyrian texts from the first half of the first millennium B.C.E. as the name of towns or ruined towns in the regions of Haran, namely Til-(sha)-Turakhi (the ruin of Turakh), Ti-Nakhiri (the ruin of Nakhir) and Sarugi. Earlier, in the second millennium B.C.E., il-Nakhiri had been an important administrative center, called Nakhuru. The patriarchal connection with this region may be rooted in historical memories of Amorite culture of the second millennium B.C.E.”

The reference to the Amorites (literally ‘Westerners’) here leads us to brief discussion of Abram’s ‘Ur of the Chaldees’.  While various places have been selected for this site, the best is still Ur in southern Mesopotamia.  This became part of the Amorite kingdom, as described succinctly in this account from

“The Amorites began to arrive in the territory to the west of the Euphrates, modern Syria, from around 2500 BC. The Akkadians called them Amurru, and they probably originated from Arabia (a less popular theory places them in India). Although there was no actual invasion, for a period of five hundred years they drifted down into southern Mesopotamia, integrating into Sumerian civilisation where they lived in enclaves. They served in the armies of Third Dynasty Ur, and provided general labour for both Ur and Akkad before that. As Ur declined, and with it Sumerian civilisation, many Amorites rose to positions of power. When the final end of Ur came at the hands of the Elamites, the Amorites, virtually Sumerians themselves by now, were in a strong position to pick up the pieces.

Rather than maintain the Sumerian system of city states, where farms, cattle and people belonged to the gods or the temples (ie. the king), the Amorites founded kingdoms which had their capitals at many of the old cities, even if some of these new kingdoms were virtually the equivalent of a city state in their size and power. As well as inheriting the surviving Sumerian cities, the Amorites also built a number of large and powerful cities of their own, from Syria down to southern Mesopotamia…

They founded or expanded cities and created kingdoms of their own, such as Amrit, Amurru, Andarig, Arvad, Dilbat, Ekallatum, Eshnunna, Hamath, Isin, Karana, Qattara, Razama, Terqa, and Tuttul (and probably Der as well, although records here are sketchy). They also assumed control of older city states throughout Mesopotamia, Syria, and Canaan, such as Alalakh, Alep (Aleppo), Borsippa, Carchemish, Ebla, Gebal, Kazallu, Kish, Lagash, Larsa, Mari, Nippur, Qatna, Sippar, Tuba, Ur and Uruk.”

But can we prove Abram was an Amorite?  Well, the Encyclopedia Judaica (2007) says of the name Abram:

“ABRAHAM (originally Abram ; Heb. אַבְרָהָם, אַבְרָם), first patriarch of the people of Israel. The form "Abram" occurs in the Bible only in Genesis 11:26–17:5, Nehemiah 9:7, and i Chronicles 1:26. Otherwise, "Abraham" appears invariably, and the name is borne by no one else. No certain extra-biblical parallel exists. A-ba-am-ra-ma, A-ba-ra-ma, A-ba-am-ra-am occur in 19th-century b.c.e. Akkadian cuneiform texts. Abrm appears in Ugaritic (Gordon, Ugaritic Textbook (1965), pp. 286, 348, text 2095, line 4), but is most likely to be read A-bi-ra-mì (Palais Royal d' Ugarit, 3 (1955), p.20, text 15.63, line 1). There is no evidence that Abram is a shortened form of Abiram. As to the meaning of Abram, the first element is undoubtedly the common Semitic for "father"; the second could be derived from Akkadian ra'âmu ("to love") or from West-Semitic rwm ("to be high"). "He loved the father" or "father loves" is a far less likely meaning than "he is exalted with respect to father" i.e., he is of distinguished lineage. The meaning "exalted father" or "father is exalted," while less satisfactory, cannot be ruled out. No Hebrew derivation for Abraham exists. In Genesis 17:5 "the father of a multitude [of nations]" is a popular etymology, although it might possibly conceal an obsolete Hebrew cognate of Arabic ruhâm, "numerous." More likely, Abraham is a mere dialectic variant of Abram, representing the insertion of h in weak verbal stems, a phenomenon known from Aramaic and elsewhere.”

It should be pointed out that the cuneiform text forms of the name alluded to above come from the city of Dilbat, which was of Amorite foundation.
But the best evidence we have that Abraham was an Amorite comes from the name of his father.  Terah can indeed be linked to the Amorite city name Til-sha-Turakh.  But this is only part of the story.  The name Terah itself (once wrongly linked with a moon god because of the Ur-Haran connection; see the entry for Terah in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible) has been properly derived from Akkadian turahu (remember the –h in both words is pronounced liked a k), ‘mountain goat, ibex’.  And this etymology tells us exactly who Terah is: he is Amurru/Martu, the god of the Amorites.

Amurru/Martu, whose city was the unlocated Ninab, had as his sacred animal a ‘caprid’, i.e. a horned, goat-like animal.  According to Iconography of Deities and Demons in the Ancient Near East, he is variously depicted stepping on a caprid, holding a caprid in his arms, or the caprid may appear alone, symbolizing the god, or may appear with only the god’s shepherd’s crook.

Thus Abram is ‘son of Amurru/Martu’, i.e. he is an Amorite.

The god of Abraham was originally Amurru/Martu.  The adoption of the Canaanite El – the equivalent god in that pantheon – was a logical and perhaps inevitable development once the Hebrews found themselves in Canaan.  By consulting such excellent sources as the Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, we quickly learn of the many identical traits shared by Amurru and El:

“[Amurru] is best characterized as a storm god… A number of scholars believe the name Shadday, usually found as El-Shadday, reflects the epithet bel sade, ‘Lord of he Mountain’, currently carried by Amurru… Martu has many traits of a West Semitic storm god… According to a Sumerian hymn, Amurru is a warrior god, strong as a lion, equipped with bows and arrows, and using storm and thunder as his weapons…His behavior typically reflects the characteristics of Amorite nomads as perceived by civilized Mesopotamians… Cross explains the combination El-Shadday by assuming Amurru is the Amorite name (or form) of El.  He argues that El as the divine warrior of important western tribes or leagues was reintroduced into Mesopotamia under the name Amurru… The cuneiform orthography An-an-mart-tu could be read as El-Amurrum, ‘the Amorite El’… The pairing of Amurru with Ashratu, morever, also suggests an underlying identification with El…”

Amurru's affinity with the storm god Adad is evinced by his being referred to as 'Adad of the Deluge'.  The Iconography of Deities and Demons in the Ancient Near East discusses this aspect of his character:

"Amurru is repeatedly represented together with the symbol of the storm god Adad, the lightning bolt.  The divine figures seem to have shared special bonds in written sources.  Additionally, they seem to have borrowed iconographic attributes from each other from time to time.  When bearing in mind that Amurru as a god of the steppe might have developed some features of a storm god, his association with Adad is not surprising."

We will see in the next chapter just how Amurru plays into the Moses story.  For now, it is important only to point out that the ibex of Amurru shows up with the name of Yahweh associated with it – and both are brought into the iconographic context of the tree or pole of Yahweh’s consort Asherah. 


All of which leads us back to a careful consideration of the Burning Bush.  In Egyptian religion, gods and goddesses are frequently associated with sacred trees and often this association is intended to convey the fact that the trees in question are actual symbols for the divinities, i.e. the god or goddess is the tree.  For Khepri, however, I was only able to find two instances in which the god is definitively linked to trees.

In the first, Khepri as scarab beetle is found atop the head of Iusaas, goddess of the sacred acacia located just north of Heliopolis, in the temples of Hibis, Edfu and Dendera (Elisabeth O’Connell, Assistant Keeper, Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan, The British Msueum).  This goddess, also apparently referred to as Nebet-Hetepet, “Lady of Offerings”, was in the Ptolemaic period assimilated to Hathor, who then took on the title of “Lady of the Acacia”.  In the Late Period, a text relates how Seth approached the “wonderful hall of Iusaas with the acacia tree in which life and death are contained (Katherine Griffis-Greenberg, Doctoral Program, Oriental Institute, University of Oxford).”  Originally Hathor’s tree was the sycamore, and the sun was said to rise between two sycamore trees in the east every morning.  In one of the Pyramid texts, the god Horus is said to emerge from an acacia tree (Khepri was identified with Horus as Horemakhet, Horus in the Horizon, the name given to the Great Sphinx at Giza by Thutmose IV), and the god Osiris (Khepri can be depicted wearing the crown of Osiris) in Late Period monuments and documents is called ‘Unique [or alone] in the acacia tree’.  Yet another Pyramid Text gives the Pharaoh Pepi as “the son of Khepri, born from Hetepet, under the tresses of [the goddess] of the town of Iusaas, north of On [Heliopolis]…”  Finally, the Coffin Texts speak twice of “the acacia of Iusaas-town north of” Heliopolis (Dr. Martina Ullman).  The Book of the Dead says of Osiris that “I betook myself to the Acacia Tree of the [divine] Children”.

There is no doubt, then, that Khepri is brought into intimate connection with the acacia tree.  Unfortunately, his appearing atop the head of the goddess Iusaas as an iconographical motif is found only in the Late or Ptolemaic periods (Dr. Martina Ullmann).  In addition, the acacia is called shittim in the Bible, as was the wood used to build Yahweh’s ark (more on which I will have below).  It would appear, then, that the seneh or “thorn bush” that is the Burning Bush cannot have been an acacia (although see below).

The second tree from Egyptian religion which can be shown to have a connection with Khepri also has an affiliation with Thoth, the angel of Yahweh-Khepri.  This is the so-called Desert Date, Balanites aegyptica, known to the ancient Egyptians as the ished tree.

On the southern wall of the tomb of the Ramesses II period official Amenmose (TT 373) is a representation of the Egyptian ished tree, which is said to be the tree of the eastern horizon from which the sun rises (Pierre Koemoth and Sydney H. Aufrere).  In front of the ished tree is the god Osiris in his capacity of wp iSd, “opener of the ished tree”.  Osiris had to open the ished so that the sun could escape from the underworld – in its guise as Khepri – and ascend into the morning sky.  We can plainly perceive Khepri as a winged scarab beetle flying towards/into the ished, which Osiris is “opening” for him.

A more startling example of Khepri with the ished is shown on a wall relief at the Temple of Hibis.  Here we can see Khepri crowning the ished tree, while Thoth, the “Angel of Yahweh/Khepri”, is writing on the leaves of the tree.

Thoth is known to have written the name of Ramesses II on the leaves of the ished tree at Heliopolis.  The moon god performs the same function on ished tree scenes involving Seti I and Ramesses II at Karnak.  According to Donald Redford, the ished tree motif first appears during the 12th Dynasty.  So we can make the irrefutable claim that both Khepri and Thoth were placed in close connection with Balanites aegyptica by the ancient Egyptians.

Having thus determined that there is justification for linking both Khepri (= Yahweh?) and Thoth (= the angel of Khepri-Re?) with the Desert Date or Balanite Tree, we need to take a closer look at the Biblical Burning Bush.

The Hebrew word used to name the Burning Bush is cenah, pronounced seneh.  This is from an unused root meaning “to prick”.  As such, it is usually described as a “thorn bush”.  The Balanite or ished tree of Thoth and Khepri has thorns.

While there is no indication the ished tree was conceived of by the ancient Egyptians as a symbol for a goddess, we must remember that Hathor, the chief deity of both the Serabit el-Khadim and Timna temples in the Sinai Peninsula, was called “Lady of the Sycamore”.  In Egyptian belief, the sun rose between two “Sycamores of Turquoise”.  Another epithet of Hathor was “Lady of the Turquoise”.  Isis and the sky goddess Nut could also appear as sycamore trees.

Walter Mattfield, basing his conclusions on the findings of several respectable Egyptologists, has convincingly argued for the Golden Calf of the Moses story being the Egyptian sun-calf who is depicted rising between Hathor’s sycamore trees. The sun-calf was also said to be born each morning from Nut the “Heavenly Cow”.  So Moses’ injunction against worshipping the Golden Calf was directed at the god Ihy, son of Hathor, who could take the form of a calf.  For the Egyptians, even the pharaoh, as the human incarnation of the sun god, could take the form of a golden calf.  The Hebrews who were worshipping the Golden Calf as the rising sun were merely worshipping Khepri under another guise.

It would not be unreasonable, therefore, to see in the ished tree of the eastern horizon yet another representation of the sky goddess.  Khepri (Yahweh?) and the Thoth (Angel of Yahweh?) could be viewed as occupying the Burning Bush precisely because they are in the sky.  The various rock carvings in the Sinai of the seven-branched menorah are themselves, of course, images of the sky-tree, in whose branches burn the flames of the seven planets.

While the balanite would seem to be the Burning Bush, we are once again (as I hinted at in the last chapter) focusing solely on the Egyptian material.  We are not taking into account the god of Abraham, i.e. Amurru of the Amorites.  Nor are we bearing in mind something even more important.

We have found ‘Yahweh’ names in the 2nd millennium B.C. cuneiform archives of Mari in NW Mesopotamia.  These names take the form Yahwi-ilum, Yahwi-Adad, Yahwi-Dagan and the like.  Yahwi- in these theonyms is usually taken to mean  ‘to manifest [oneself]’ or similar and the word is, indeed, derived from the same word meaning ‘to be’.  Thus the Shasu group called YHW’ in the Egyptian records (see the next chapter) is not the only occurrence of the Yahweh word or name found outside the Bible. 

For the Hebrews, the sacred tree or pole was the Asherah, named for the goddess of this name.  She was the consort of El, but also of Amurru, the god of Abraham.  Learning more about Asherah and discovering the identity of her tree are critical for our understanding of what happened at the Burning Bush. 

As Professor Nicolas Wyatt’s entry on Asherah in the Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible makes clear, “the etymological possibilities [for Asherah] are considerable.”  No consensus has yet been reached on the name, but in my opinion only one makes sense given the Biblical context.  I refer the reader to the dictionary entry for a discussion of all the current proposed etymologies.

The most common misunderstanding when it comes to the word asherah in the Bible is that a pole (or poles) is mentioned.  It is not – ever.  The idea of a pole comes from what appears to be implied by the text.  For instance, we know the asherah (or plural asherim) were made of wood.  Also, a tree that was planted in a sacred precinct could be termed an asherah. The most important verse for our purposes is Deuteronomy 16:21, here from the New Revised Standard Version:

“You shall not plant any tree as a SACRED POLE [the highlighted words are here substituted as an inferior translation for the word asherah] beside the altar that you make for the Lord your God; nor shall you set up a STONE PILLAR [matstsebah] – things that the Lord your God hates.”

Now the real question is this: was 1) the use of the goddess’s name as a common noun denoting a pole or tree due to the fact that as she was symbolized by a tree, the tree itself coming to be called after her or 2) did her name itself originally mean tree or pole or, finally, 3) are we totally wrong about the asherah being a tree or pole and, if so, what was it/she?

To help us determine which of these three possibilities best explains the name Asherah, I will list first the remaining Bible verses (from the NRSV) that contain her name, leaving her name intact rather than translating it with an unwarranted phrase:

Judges 6:25 NRS

That night the Lord said to him, "Take your father's bull, the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar [mizbeach] of Baal that belongs to your father, and cut down the ASHERAH that is beside it;

Judges 6:26 NRS

and build an altar to the Lord your God on the top of the stronghold here, in proper order; then take the second bull, and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the ASHERAH that you shall cut down."

Judges 6:28 NRS

When the townspeople rose early in the morning, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the ASHERAH beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar that had been built.

Judges 6:30 NRS

Then the townspeople said to Joash, "Bring out your son, so that he may die, for he has pulled down the altar of Baal and cut down the ASHERAH beside it."

1 Kings 16:33 NRS

Ahab also made an ASHERAH. Ahab did more to provoke the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than had all the kings of Israel who were before him.

2 Kings 13:6 NRS

Nevertheless they did not depart from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, which he caused Israel to sin, but walked in them; the ASHERAH also remained in Samaria.

2 Kings 17:16 NRS

They rejected all the commandments of the Lord their God and made for themselves cast images of two calves; they made an ASHERAH, worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal.

2 Kings 18:4 NRS

He removed the high places, broke down the pillars, and cut down the ASHERAH. He broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it; it was called Nehushtan.

2 Kings 21:3 NRS

For he rebuilt the high places that his father Hezekiah had destroyed; he erected altars for Baal, made an ASHERAH, as King Ahab of Israel had done, worshiped all the host of heaven, and served them.

2 Kings 23:15 NRS

Moreover, the altar at Bethel, the high place erected by Jeroboam son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin—he pulled down that altar along with the high place. He burned the high place, crushing it to dust; he also burned the ASHERAH.

The ONLY proposed etymology for the goddess name that fits what is going on in the above-quoted verses is Akkadian asirtum (esertu/isirtu/isertu), discussed by Tilde Binger in Asherah: Goddesses in Ugarit, Israel and the Old Testament (Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Supplement Series 232, 1997):

“Asirtum [etc.] –

Sanctuary, chapel, temple (place of congregation); the goddess of the temple; a separate room in private houses for cultic purposes; a temple-shaped base, used for placing pictures and symbols (sacred); a ‘place of grace’; a sacrifice or gift for the gods; care; charity; guidance; an overseer; a female organizer or supervisor of sacrifices

…Mesopotamian asirtum is almost exclusively used of sacred places.”*

The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, under its entry for the word igigu, mentions a god found in a list named I-sir-tum, from isirtu, ‘sanctuary’.

Now, in light of this etymology, we can see Asherah in a two-fold way:  she is, on the one hand, the sanctuary itself, delimited by a sacred tree, and the goddess named for the sanctuary.  Thus you can GO TO THE ASHERAH to worship ASHERAH.

*The Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible article adds “the common noun atr (‘asr), meaning ‘sacred place’ is most widely attested in the Semitic languages (Albright, AJSL 41 1925; Day 1986).

In the Canaanite myth “The Gracious Gods”, El tells Asherah and her doublet Rahmay and their two sons, the Morning and Evening Star, to

“…raise up a sanctuary (or dais? better throne) in the midst of the holy desert:

“…there you will make your dwelling among the stones and trees.”

If we notice in the Bible verses cited, the asherah tree or pole is almost always paired with either a stone pillar or an altar (itself often made of unhewn stone).  This is startlingly similar to Athirat’s sanctuary (or throne) and dwelling ‘among the stones and trees’.

I would make one comment on Tilde Binger’s discussion of the word asirtum.  The same noun is found in Old Babylonian as ašte2; (ĝeš) aš-te; (ĝeš) iš-de3, "chair, throne; seat, dwelling; shrine, chapel”.  This immediately reminds one of the throne of Athirat, as well as the chair the goddess Inanna (Ishtar, the Canaanite Astarte) wants Gilgamesh to make for her from the wood of the huluppu tree she planted in her garden in Uruk.  She also wants a bed made and both may be considered emblems of Venus as queen and goddess of love/sex (or the marriage bed?).  If the throne of the goddess were manifest in the tree, then the Asherah as sacred space would specifically be her place of enthronement.  She could be, by extension, the Throne-goddess as well as the Sanctuary-goddess.

The same huluppu tree is home to the Anzu-bird (thundercloud in its crown), Lilitu (wind demoness in its trunk) and the snake that knows no charm (Euphrates River at its roots).  Thus we are talking about a fairly typical world tree, whose top was positioned at the North Pole, the point upon which the sky turned.  The most familiar example of such a tree would be the tree of the golden sun apples belonging to the Hesperides of Greek myth.  This tree’s fruit is known to be solar in nature, as it was the sun that made the western sky glow golden when it set.  As is the case with the huluppu tree, the tree of the Hesperides was guarded by a serpent, Ladon of a Hundred Heads. 

As to whom Athirat/Asherah really is, Professor Nicolas Wyatt has made his case for seeing her and her sister Raymay as hypostases for the sun goddess Shapsu.  For those interested in reading his argument, please see “The Gracious Gods: A Sacred Marriage Liturgy”, found in Religious Texts from Ugarit, 2002.  Other top scholars do not agree with Wyatt’s argument.  However, it is clear that she and her sister give birth, respectively, to the Morning and Evening Star.  In the Mesopotamian system, Ishtar/Inanna, i.e. Venus, has as her mother either Ninlil consort of Enlil the father of the gods, or Ningal the consort of Nanna the moon god.  Athirat/Asherah, as consort of El the father god would then be the Canaanite equivalent of Ninlil, “Lady Wind”.

Professor John Day of Oxford passed along the following information regarding Asherah the goddess and Asherah the cult object:

“The most likely view is that Ugaritic Athirat/Hebrew Asherah/Akkadian Ashratum means "sanctuary, holy place". This fits the fact that the name sometimes appears parallel in Ugaritic with the name Qudshu, which has this same meaning. Asherah is not a sun goddess. She appears as the mother of the gods, "creatress of creatures", and would appear to have been a kind of fertility goddess of some kind, as indicated by certain depictions showing her with emphasized breasts. The symbolism of her by a stylized tree (rather than a mere pole) also coheres with this.

If you read my book on Yahweh & the gods and goddesses of Canaan, or my articles on Asherah in Journal of Biblical Literature 1986 or in Anchor Bible Dictionary vol. 1, you will know that I see "Asherah" in the Old Testament as denoting sometimes the goddess and more often the wooden symbol of her. This wooden symbol is expressly stated to have been manmade in the OT, so not a living tree as the rabbis later imagined. I have also argued that the symbol had the form of a stylized tree, as depicted on one of the "Yahweh and his Asherah" pithoi from Kuntillet Ajrud.  (The Hebrews may have forgotten the original etymological meaning 'sanctuary'.) "Asherah" and "the asherah" are mentioned in similar contexts, so there is no doubt that the latter was named after the former.”

The particular stylized tree that he mentions is flanked by two ibexes who are feeding on its leaves.  This helps us identify just exactly what tree belonged to the goddess.  I’ve consulted several modern scientific studies on the diets of ibexes (e.g. Hakham and Ritte 1993 on these animals in the Dead Sea region), and somewhere around 70% of their diet is composed of ACACIA LEAVES. [Of course, the ibex also consume the Desert Date or Ished Tree.]

There is, in fact, an important symbiotic relationship that exists between ibex and acacia.  To quote from Elanor M. Bell’s Life at Extremes: Environments, Organisms and Strategies for Survival (2010):

“[Dorcas gazelles and ibex] are both predators and dispersers of Acacia seeds: while some seeds are destroyed, others are defecated unharmed.  Ingestion by large herbivores facilitates germination by scarification of the seedcoat.  While infestation by bruchid beetles reduces Acacia germination, herbivores may reduce brucchid infestation: (i) due to their stomach acids; (ii) crushing by the herbivore’s teeth; or (iii) by removing seeds prior to (re-) infestation.”

Why is this significant?  Because of the extraordinary holy nature of the wood of the acacia.  From


a-ka'-sha (shiTTah, the shittah tree of the King James Version, Isaiah 41:19, and `atse-shiTTah, acacia wood; shittah wood the King James Version, Exodus 25:5,10,13; 26:15,26; 27:1,6; Deuteronomy 10:3.):

ShiTTah (= shinTah) is equivalent to the Arabic sant which is now the name of the Acacia Nilotica (NOT Leguminosae), but no doubt the name once included other species of desert acacias. If one particular species is indicated in the Old Testament it is probably the Acacia Seyal--the Arabic Seyyal--which yields the well-known gum Arabic. This tree, which has finely leaved ular flowers, grows to a height of twenty feet or more, and its stem may sometimes reach two feet in thickness. The tree often assumes a characteristic umbrella-like form. The wood is close-grained and is not readily attacked by insects. It would be well suited for such purposes as described, the construction of the ark of the covenant, the altar and boarding of the tabernacle. Even today these trees survive in considerable numbers around `Ain Jidy and in the valleys to the south.”

I would add that a very common site at Timna (see Chapter 4 below) is ibex feeding on acacia trees.

So, what we have for the Egyptian and Hebrew trees and their associated deities are these:

1) Ished tree with Khepri and Thoth
2) Acacia tree with Yahweh and Angel/Messenger of the Yahweh

The problem is that the Angel of Yahweh is the actual fire in the bush.  This does not fit Thoth at all.  Furthermore, a little further in the Moses story (Exodus 13:21-22, we are told that Yahweh went before the Hebrews in the form of a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  As the pillar of fire is almost certainly the same cloud filled with heavenly fire, i.e. lightning, most especially sheet lightning, and as the cloud that descends upon Mt. Sinai during the Theophany is the same lightning-filled cloud as well as the cloud otherwise associated with the Tabernacle and described as Yahweh’s tent (Psalm 18:10-11), we must assume the old storm god Amurru of the ibex is still present.  We will see in the next chapter that the same cloud was generated with incense and appeared over the ‘mercy seat’ of the ark of the covenant.

So what to make of the Burning Bush episode?  Well, as it turns out, we must introduce another god known to be associated with the Egyptian ished tree into the equation.  This is the Father god – and ram god – Amun, the head of the Egyptian pantheon.  Amun not only was conflated with Khepri, but is often described in terms very similar to Khepri himself (see David Klotz’s Adoration of the Ram: Five Hymns to Amun-Re from Hibis Temple, Yale Egyptological Studies 6, 2006). Amun’s name means ‘The Hidden One”, and other gods – like the sun god Re – were considered to be his physical manifestation.  So in his capacity as Amun-Re he was both visible and invisible.

Amun was a very complicated deity, who eventually subsumed pretty much every other god in the pantheon.  Often these gods were referred to as his bas, ba being a word that not only indicates a sort of  soul, but a sort of separate physical mode of existence for its owner. Ba can also mean ‘ram’, and ‘to be manifest, present’. 

What follows is a hymn from Hibis to Amun as the Ba of Shu, the air/wind god:


[Yo]u are Amun,
you are Shu,
you are the highest of gods,
you are “Sacred of Manifestations” [dsr-hpr.w; title for Ba of Shu] as the four winds of heaven,
so (you) are called, when they come forth from the mouth of his majesty.
The Ba of Shu, who bends the winds, who traverses heaven daily,
Who lives as the Supports of Shu, unto the limit of the heavenly circuit.
He enters into every tree,
with the result that the branches come alive:
His power is more cutting than any powerful lion.
He makes the sky rage,
and he stirs up the sea :
It is (only) through his calming that they settle down.
The one who is most manifest (ba) of manifestations (ba.w).
He makes Hapi flood according to his will,
and he makes flourish (?) the fields according to his desire:
nobody else being as p[owerful] besides him.
His voice is heard, but he is not seen,
while letting every throat breathe.
The one who reassures the pregnant concerning her children,
so the newborn which comes from her lives.
He who goes around the mysterious-regions for [W]eary-of-Heart,
existing as the sweet, northern wind.
It was to let him have use of his body
that he filled his nose by means of all of his scents, at all times, every day,
while arriving at his time, without cease in his action,
In his name of Horus Valiant of Arm,
who protects Shentayt,
so that her son might endure upon the throne of his father,
may he live eternally.
Amun, the Ba of Shu,
Who travels  inside a cloud,
while separating earth from heaven,
as he endures in all things.
The Life-force from whom one lives, eternally.

Now, we may immediately recognize here the ram-god Amun, existing inside a cloud, invisible as the wind.  In a Ptolemaic hymn to Amun, we are told:

“Loud of voice without being seen:
It was within his cloud that he shouted on earth.”

The “shouting” is, of course, thunder, taken as the voice of the god.

I would see Yahweh and his ‘angel’ the same way.  I’ve already alluded to the Amorite theonyms found at Mari – Yahwi-ilum, Yahwi-Adad, Yahwi-Dagan.  If we then allow for such names to be read as ‘Manifest is El/Adad/Dagan’ or, perhaps better, ‘Manifestation of El/Adad/Dagan’, then Yahweh IS Amun, while the Angel of Yahweh is Amun’s storm-cloud manifestation, which we can equate with the earlier Amurru/El.  In other words, Yahweh/Amun “resides” within the storm-cloud (Amurru/El), but is himself invisible.  If we accept this, then Yahweh and the cloud-angel are one and the same entity and yet separate entities. The old Amurru/El as Angel is merely the visible aspect of the unnamed, hidden god Amun.


The name YHWH has exactly the same meaning as that of the Egyptian Khepri.  While I do not see evidence in YHWH's cult of Khepri, the word xpr, 'to be, to become, to manifest', as well as bA, ' to be manifest', 'to be present', are used for Amun, the chief god of the Egyptian pantheon, in several contexts.  All other gods came to be viewed as manifestations of Amun. 

In the Amorite personal names I alluded to, the Yahwi- component is not a divine name.  It is paired with a divine name and means something like 'god X is manifest'.  The YHW’ Shasu group may have been called such because they worshipped a god called 'the Manifest One’ or ‘the One who Manifests Himself’.

Syncretism being what it is, deities with similar characteristics were often identified with each other.  There is a lot of evidence for an Amorite connection for Abraham, and if his father Terah the ibex/wild mountain goat is a reference to the caprid of Amurru/Martu, then we can at least say that before the Hebrews stayed in Egypt they were Amorites who worshiped the storm god Amurru.  The latter has been related to the Canaanite El by several scholars, and not only because of their shared consort, Athirat/Ashratu (the Asherah of Yahweh). 

If Amurru worshipers were in Egypt long enough, they may have conflated their ibex-god with the ram-god Amun, El's counterpart.  And Amun, in turn, whose visible manifestation was the storm cloud (as demonstrated in Egyptian hymns to the god), was identified by the Midianites with their own god Yahweh, the Manifested One. 

Having established that Moses’ ished/balanite tree was syncretized with the Midianite acacia, and that Amun of the ished was similarly syncretized with Yahweh of the Asherah, and that Yahweh’s angel is merely a designation for the storm-cloud form of Amun/Yahweh, where was the sacred mountain of the god and tree?


Often one will find the name Sinai derived falsely from the name of the Babylonian moon god, Sin or Suen.  This has been shown by numerous authorities to be indefensible both philologically and phonologically.  However, the Hebrew definition for Sinai (Ciynay) is “thorny”, from a Proto-Semitic *sinn. There is a Western Chadic word c*in-, meaning ‘sharp point, tooth, sharp, sharp object’, an Akkadian sinnu, “tooth”, Arabic sinn, “point”, Syriac sinna, Ugaritic sn, Ge’ez senn.

This etymology for Sinai supplies us with the clue we need for getting a geographical fix on the mountain of Moses.  The Egyptian god of Sinai was Sopdu, whose name is derived from spd, “sharp”.  The hieroglyph used to spell the first part of Sopdu’s name stands for “sharp” and is a simple pointed triangle.  It has been surmised that this pointed triangle was in reality a plant thorn, and by extension a tooth. Indeed, in the Pyramid texts the word spd is applied to the teeth of the god.  Sopdu is found at Maghara in the Sinai as “Lord of the Eastern (Desert).”  At nearby Serabit el-Khadim, where he was worshipped with Hathor, “Lady of the Turquoise”, he is called “Lord of the East”, “of the Foreign Lands” and “Lord of the Foreign Lands”.

What I find hard to believe is that no one has seen fit to propose the following:  that Sinai is the Semitic rendering of ‘land of Sopdu’, and that the Mountain of Sinai must, therefore, be a mountain of the god Sopdu.

One such mountain was, obviously, that of Serabit el-Khadim with its Sopdu shrine.  But is this mountain the same as Mount Horeb, the name Exodus gives for the location of the Burning Bush?

Horeb or Choreb (pronounced kho-rab) means “desert”, and is from the root charab, “to be dry, be dried up”.  There is no mountain of this name in the Sinai, and some have thought it merely a descriptive phrase rather than a true name, i.e. Mount Sinai was a “desert mountain” or a “mountain in the desert”.  But archaeology has opened up another possibility.

When Moses first went to live in Midian, which at that time was across the Gulf of Aqaba from Sinai, its northwestern-most part being roughly coterminous with the extreme southern end of the Arabah, “he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God (Exodus 3:1).”  Now, in this context, it makes no sense at all for Moses’s mountain to be Serabit el-Khadim in the southeastern Sinai Peninsula.  There is, in fact, only one place he could have reached from Midian as a shepherd that would fulfill the requirements of a Mount Horeb.

A  Midianite presence has been demonstrated at the Egyptian mining complex at Har Timna or Mount Timna at the southwestern end of the Arabah.  The Egyptians called Timna or, rather, the Arabah (see Beno Rothenberg) Atika, a word perhaps to be related to Akkadian etequ, Proto-Semitic ‘ataq, Ugaritic ‘tq, “to pass, go along, go past; to go through, cross over”.   Juan Manuel Tebes also believes Atika is the Arabah and would further connect the name with the Biblical Atak (“Egypt in the East: The Egyptian Presence in the Negev and the Local Society During the Early Iron Age”, in Cahiers Caribeens d’Egyptologie 9, February/March 2006).  Midianite miners were also present at Riqeita near Gebel Musa and, of course, at Serabit el-Khadim, but both of these places are too distant from Midian to be Horeb.

Timna is also the only other place in the region which bears evidence of Hathor worship in the Egyptian period.  The Hathor shrine at Timna was re-established during the reign of Ramesses III and a Midianite tent shrine which would appear to be the model for the Biblical Tabernacle replaced it shortly after the demise of Ramesses V (Beno Rothenberg).  We have seen above that the Exodus took place around this time.

We also know (see Donald Redford’s section on the Shasu or Asiatic nomads in his _Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times_) that Egyptian records from Soleb and Amarah of the fifteenth century B.C. mention YHW’ within the geographical context of Seir/Edom, i.e. the Arabah of Timna.  Thus the god Yahweh with whom Moses identified his own Egyptian Amun was already in existence centuries before Moses’ time, and Yahweh belonged at Mount Horeb.  Indeed, Biblical tradition claims that Yahweh came forth from Seir and originated in Edom. 

Unfortunately, we cannot say that Sopdu was at Timna.  His worship is not attested there – only Hathor’s.

The name Horeb, ‘Desert’, may correspond to that of Arabah.  The latter means “desert plain, steppe, desert, wilderness”.  While the Akkadian harbu cited above appears to be a cognate of Hebrew Horeb, there was also a Sumerian eria meaning “wasteland”.  It is my guess that Arabah came from a root more similar to eria than to harbu.  In any case, the “wilderness” Moses takes his flock across to reach Mount Horeb is, almost certainly, the Arabah itself, and Horeb is just another way of saying “Mount Arabah”.

The Balanite or ished tree is found in the Arabah, as is the acacia, so the presence of the Burning Bush at Mount Timna/Horeb is to be expected.

If what I have outlined above is correct, we would seem to have two holy mountains of God, not one: Mount Sinai/Sopdu and Mount Horeb.  How do we account for this within the confines of the Biblical story?

Well, as hinted at above, the tent shrine Moses is said to have set up at Mount Sinai/Sopdu or Serabit el-Khadim was actually erected at Mount Horeb/Timna.  There is no Midianite-style tent shrine at Serabit el-Khadim.  It does not necessarily follow, however, that the tradition placing Moses and the Hebrews at Mount Sinai is a spurious one.

We could account for the inclusion of two holy mountains of God in the Moses story by positing that Timna and Serabit el-Khadim, due to the presence at both places of Hathor shrines, had merely been confused with each other and thus conflated.  The Midianites themselves were miners at both Serabit el-Khadim and Timna.  As a good example of how the mountain of God could be relocalized, we need only look at Jebel Musa, the “Mountain of Moses”, near another Midianite mining center (Riqeita).  Several other mountains in the Sinai have been proposed as Moses’s Mount Horeb, but none of them possess the four critical, prerequisite features that are found only at Timna: 1) proximity to Midian 2) the presence of Midianites 3) a significant Egyptian attestation (which translates into the presence of Egyptian gods and Egyptian religious motifs, such as that of the ished tree) and 4) a tent shrine.   Nor do any of these other candidates for Moses’ Mount Sinai show signs of the worship of Sopdu, something unique to Serabit el-Khadim.

Once again, if we trust the Biblical narrative, we can allow for Moses’ actual journey to Serabit el-Khadim-Mount Sinai/Sopdu and still be able to explain why the Midianite tent shrine of Timna was wrongly transferred to the former location.  We have seen how Moses’ first sojourn in Midian corresponds to the reign of Ramesses III, who re-established the mines and Hathor Temple at Timna.  We also know that Moses took the Hebrews out of Egypt after the deaths of Ramesses IV and V, in other words, in the reign of Ramesses VI.  Not only was the last expedition to Serabit el-Khadim launched by Ramesses VI, but during the same pharaoh’s reign the Midianites destroyed the Hathor temple at Timna and erected their own tent shrine.  So it is distinctly possible that the trek of Moses and his people to Serabit el-Khadim happened at the same time the tent shrine was erected at Timna.

When we search for a historical Moses below, we will take a close look at a man (or men) who could well have been at both Timna during its re-establishment by Ramesses III and at Serabit el-Khadim during the expedition by Ramesses VI.


Much has been written in the past on the Ark of the Covenant as essentially a typical Egyptian portable shrine. Many such shrines are mentioned or depicted in the Egyptian records.  It is not my purpose in this chapter to cover this ground again.  Rather, I will restrict my treatment of the ark to just two features: the guardian cherubim mounted on each end of the ‘mercy seat’ and the tablets of the Law said to be contained within the sacred chest.

Walter Mattfeld has assembled a wealth of material on what may be the ancient Near Eastern parallels to the Biblical cherubim of the ark.  He has proposed that the cherubim (from Akkadian harabu, “to bless, to praise, to dedicate an offering”; cf. Ugaritic krb) appear as winged or unwinged lions or sphinxes flanking the thrones of Canaanite, Phoenician and Egyptian monarchs.  The Ark of the Covenant is sometimes thought to be Yahweh’s throne (although see below).

In the case of the Egyptian guardian sphinxes, they are always shown with their wings folded down over their backs.  There is one Egyptian throne, that of the New Kingdom Queen Mutnodjme, wife of Pharaoh Horemheb, which has a female sphinx with wings extended.  Other Egyptian scenes show portable thrones also protected by flanking lions or sphinxes.

The best example of a sphinx with wings extended acting the role of a throne guardian is that found on an ivory at Megiddo, dating to ca. 1200 B.C.  We also have a splendid depiction on a stone sarcophagus of King Hiram of Byblos seated on a similar throne, flanked by a sphinx with wings extended, dated a c. 1300-1200 B.C.

Perhaps the most interesting portrayal of an Egyptian winged sphinx is found on a chariot panel of pharaoh Thutmose IV (1419-1410 B.C.).  Here the sphinx is trampling Asiatic enemies. 

But there are four major problems with viewing the cherubim as throne sphinxes.  First, the idea that the ark was Yahweh’s throne is due to a misinterpretation of the Hebrew word kapporeth, which has been translated “mercy seat” in the past.  Kapporeth is actually to be related to Akkadian kaparu and like so much else in the Old Testament demonstrates borrowing of Mesopotamian words and concepts by the Jews during the Babylonian Captivity.

According to the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, kaparu means ‘to wipe off, to smear on (a paint or liquid)’; kupurru is ‘to wipe off, to clean objects, to rub, to purify magically’, so ‘to be rubbed, to be smeared’.  Kupiratu is ‘wipings’, kupurtu is ‘ointment’.  The idea is that the lid or cover of the ark, with its attached cherubim, was periodically either ritually cleaned, i.e. purified, and/or was anointed with oil, purified with incense or had sacrificial blood smeared upon it.  So the kapporeth was ‘that which was cleaned or smeared or otherwise covered with a purifying substance’.  The idea that the kapporeth is an object of atonement comes from the recorded practice of its being exposed to incense and sprinkled with blood on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:11-15).  The incense created smoke that hovered over the kapporeth, symbolizing the angel/cloud manifestation of Yahweh/Amun.

Second, the guardian sphinxes are used only for the thrones of human monarchs, not for gods proper.  Third, the throne guardians face forward, looking in the same direction as the seated monarch or, in the case of portable thrones, in the direction the said thrones are being carried.  And fourth, the sphinxes guarding these thrones do not assume an adoring/praying/ blessing posture, something which is inherent to the cherubim, whose very name demand such a function.

Thus the cherubim of the Ark of the Covenant cannot have been sphinxes.  Sphinxes work no better in defining the form and function of the cherubim than the Egyptian Aker, the double-headed lion earth god who symbolized the horizon.  Aker’s heads faced outward.

Is there any way we can determine the identities of the winged cherubim that flanked the kapporeth on the Ark of the Covenant?

Well, according to Canticles iii, sparks that issued from between the two cherubim killed serpents and scorpions.  The Egyptian scorpion goddess was called Serket.  While apparently subsumed by Isis in the late period, Serket appears with the goddess Neith during the New Kingdom in Luxor Temple and in Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple (Wilkinson).  The scorpion goddess is also paired with Nephthys, sister of Isis, in the mythological story if the birth of Horus.  In this last, Nephthys and Serket assist Isis in guarding the infant god after he is stung or bitten.  In the same myth, Isis is accompanied by seven scorpions which are the emanations of Serket.  These scorpions protect her and her unborn child.

Nephthys was not evoked for protection against snakebite.  So if Serket or Isis were one of the cherubim, Nephthys is very unlikely to have been the other.  We need a goddess who served an apotropaic function specifically geared towards snakes and who is known to have been associated with either Isis or Serket.

Several Egyptian goddesses could take serpent form.  Wadjet was the primary cobra goddess of Egypt.  She is linked with Nekhbet, not with Isis or Serket.  Isis herself, of course, was famous for having cured the sun god Re of snakebite – a snakebite she herself caused to be inflicted upon the god.  So it is certainly possible that the two cherubim are Isis and Serket.  However, we have seen that Serket is paired with Neith and the latter goddess had strong serpent affinities.  Not only did she create the underworld serpent Apophis, but she could appear in serpentine form as protectress of the pharaoh and of Re (see Richard Wilkinson’s “The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt”).  She appears as a serpent in the Book of the Dead (185) and as a gilded wooden cobra found in Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Pyramid text 1375 has a pharaoh proclaim: “… Neith is behind me [in a protective sense] and Serket is before me.”  Also in the Pyramid Texts, Neith watches over the deceased Osiris with Isis, Nephthys and Serket.  These four goddesses were assigned to the four sides of the coffin and were charged with watching over the sons of Horus, themselves guardians of the canopic jars.

Most important for our understanding of the ark of the covenant is the depiction on a rock carving at Abu Simbel of Ramesses II's army at the Battle of Kadesh.  For at the center of his army is a portable shrine, complete with an adored deity flanked by two winged goddesses, facing the deity, their arms outspread. This is proof that such portable shrines were carried by the Egyptians in battle, much as is claimed to be the case in the Old Testament in regards to the Ark of the Covenant. While we cannot know which deity is portrayed in this particular carving, it is almost certainly Amun-Re (= Yahweh), the chief Egyptian god of the time. 

Similar images are found elsewhere in Egyptian iconography, either with portable shrines in isolation or with such shrines placed atop boats.  Both types might be carried by bearers resting long poles on their shoulders.  The only major difference from scene to scene is what deity’s cult statue is situated between the flanking winged figures. Quite accidentally, I recently came across a faience model tambourine in the Metropolitcan Museum of Art which shows Bastet in just such a shrine/boat, flanked by the two winged adorers/protectors.  A rare surviving wooden portable shrine from the Ptolemaic period in the Smithsonian Institute’s collection has three panels depicting winged deities flanking gods.  Adolf Erman’s drawing of Amun-Ra’s portable bark-shrine at Karnak, which is being carried by priests, (“Life of Ancient Egypt”, p. 275) shows once again the same winged goddesses flanking the cult statue.  Karnak has reliefs of other divine barks as well, with the stylized adoring/protecting winged deities flanking the deities in their shrines.

Having postulated that the two cherubim of the ark were, in all likelihood two Egyptian goddesses, and Yahweh was the Midianite version of Amun, we may next consider the two tablets of the Law.  As described in the Biblical account, the tablets were made of stone at the mountain of God.  Such an action, viewed within an Egyptian context, clearly suggests the carving of dedicatory stelae.  Stelae of this kind were made and set up at holy sites, including Serabit el-Khadim in the Sinai.  Typically, they were raised in the name of a pharaoh as a recording of something done for the residing deity of the holy site in question.  Such stela were often large and very heavy.  They were intended as stationary, permanent monuments.

While it is certainly possible that the Hebrews under Moses instituted a new role for rock-hewn stelae, i.e. the recording of commandments uttered by Yahweh, from a mere practical standpoint it can be said unreservedly that no one would want to carry such objects around in a portable shrine.  If this is the case, just what lies behind the story of the recording of the Ten Commandents on stone tablets?

The explanation is deceptively simple.  A common word for a stela in the Egyptian language was ‘wD’.  This word derives from the verb ‘wD’, meaning “command”. In other words, a stela was a “commandment”, in the sense, according to the Egyptologists, that it was commanded or commissioned to be set up by a royal person.

Thus when we are told in the Moses story that the commandments were written on stone tablets, what is actually happening is that “commandments”, i.e. stelae, are being cut out of stone, carved with dedicatory inscriptions and set up at the Hathor temple on Serabit el-Khadim.  To this day many such stelae can be seen at this place.  There are even broken stelae strewn about which may well have provided the creative impetus for the episode of Moses’ breaking of the first tablets of the Law when he discovered the Hebrews worshipping the solar Golden Calf.   Similar stelae were set up at the Timna Hathor temple, although these were destroyed or defaced when the Midianites erected their tent shrine there.  Only one Timna stela has remained intact and we will discuss this object’s significance in the next chapter.


In looking for a historical candidate for Moses, we need to fulfill several conditions, all based on the criteria we have established in previous parts of the book.  First, he must be Asiatic, i.e. not a native Egyptian.  Two, he needs to have been present at Timna during the re-establishment there of the mines and Hathor temple in the reign of Ramesses III.  Three, he needs to have been present at Serabit el-Khadim during Egypt’s last expedition to that site under the direction of Ramesses VI – or there must be a reasonable level of probability that he or a namesake was there as this time.  Four, he must be someone sufficiently educated in regards to the Egyptian religious system to have identified the Shasu group YHW’ in Edom/Seir with his own god Amun and to have associated the ished/balanite tree with the local acacia.  Five, he would need to be of a fairly significant social status within the Egyptian highly-stratified, hierarchical system, for the Bible tells us he was the adopted son of Pharaoh.  And six, his ancestry must be consistent in a fundamental way with the genealogy supplied for him in the Bible.

To begin trying to satisfy these various points, it is important to reiterate what has often been remarked regarding Moses’ line of descent from Jacob via Levi.  And that is, simply put, this: an ancestral trace that runs Jacob (probably the Hyksos Jakobher)-Levi-Kohath-Amram-Moses is insufficient to cover the over  four centuries that spanned the period from the entry into Egypt of the Hebrews and the Exodus, which we have surmised happened immediately after the death of Ramesses V.  Moses’ genealogy is, in large part, a fabrication, with the life spans of the people involved being greatly exaggerated in order to make sense of the Biblical narrative.

Exodus tells us that Levi was born to Jacob in Aram, known later as Assyria. This may well be essentially correct, as Ramesses III recorded a certain Levi-El in a list of places mentioned in his description of a Syrian campaign.  Kohath, son of Levi, was born in Canaan.  In Genesis 46:8-11, we learn that Kohath went with his father and Jacob to Egypt.  We are not introduced to Amram, son of Kohath, until Exodus 6:18.  There is it implied that Amram was born to Kohath in Egypt.  However, one of Amram’s brothers was named Hebron, and this last is a mere eponym for Hebron in Canaan.

If the reader will indulge the author, we should briefly investigate these names from an etymological perspective.  The accepted Semitic meaning of Levi is ‘He who joins or unites”, from a primitive root lavah (lwh).  This has been interpreted as referring to the bond that existed between this priestly clan and their god, Yahweh.  Given the toponym Levi-El or “[those who or that which is] joined to/united with El [‘God’]”, this definition if almost certain.  The corresponding Egyptian word was xnm, “join, unite with”.  Xnm is the root that lies behind the name of the important Egyptian god Khnum, ‘He who unites or joins’.  In a verbal sense xnm had the sense of “to join or unite with a god or the dead” (see David Shennum’s English-Egyptian Index).

On the other hand, it is also possible that the Levites, with their patriarch Levi, were originally simply the inhabitants of the L
evi-el town mentioned above.  Many proper names which first appear in the genealogies of the Book of Genesis reveal themselves to be merely eponyms.  The Levites may be no different; Levi would be the eponym for Levi-el.  As the inhabitants of this place were by virtue of their town-name “attached to God”, such a distinction may well have caused them to be viewed as deserving of a special priestly function.

A second definition for lwh is 'to borrow, to lend', and it has been theorized that a Levite, therefore, was 'one pledged for a debt or vow' to Yahweh or to his sanctuary (see The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies by John William Rogerson and Judith Lieu, 2006).

"Levite" has also been connected with an Assyro-Babylonian word li'u or le'uu, "wise, prudent" (Magic and Divination in Ancient Palestine and Syria, Ann Jeffers, 1996).

The fourth possible etymology for lwh is perhaps more illuminating: 'to turn, twist'.  Such a derivation could imply that the Levites "turned and twisted" in ritual dances.  The Egyptians had a word rwi, which we know became lo in Coptic.  This Egyptian verb would have been something like *laway.  Its primary meaning was 'leave, depart, go away', but it also described a type of ritual dance.

But Meek pointed out that several personal names in the tribe of Levi were to be derived from words for 'snake': Nahshon, Nahash, Shuppim.  He also emphasized the creation of the bronze serpent Nehushtan by Moses of the tribe of Levi – perhaps to be related to the cult artifact excavated from Timna.  Frequently discussed in this connection is Leviathan (livyathan, the "twisting serpent"), who was envisioned as the primeval sea encircling the earth. This image of a twisting or encircling serpent brings to mind Egyptian mhn, 'coil', and Mehen, 'the coiled one', the great serpent who protected the sun god Re on his nightly journey through the underworld.  In the Underworld Books, Mehen is depicted coiled around or above the shrine-like cabin of the boat of Re.  A feminine form of Mehen, Mehenet, is the name given to the uraeus serpent placed on the head of Re.  As the Levites were in charge of Yahweh's ark, might they not have been a priestly clan originally named for Mehen or Mehenet?  Hebrew livyah was a wreath-like ornament. It is thus possible the Levites wore wreaths fashioned to resemble the coiled serpent protector of Re.

Aaron’s name would appear to designate a certain priestly function.  Professor John Huehnergard of Harvard University informed me that it had been suggested that Aaron’s name may be derived from “an otherwise lost or rare Semitic root '-h-r; there is a rare Arabic word 'ahar- cited in a few dictionaries.”  According to Professor Wolfhart Heinrichs of Harvard University,

‘Ibn Manz.ûr (13th cent.) in his large dictionary "Lisân al-ŒArab” says:

al-aharah is the "equipment of a house." [Then he quotes] al-Layth [redactor of the earliest Arabic dictionary]: the aharah of a house is the clothes, the carpets & cushions, and the furniture therein. ThaŒlab [grammarian, d. 904] said: [The phrase] baytun h.asanu 'l-z.aharati wa-'l-aharati wa-'l-Œaqâr means the "equipment," the z.aharah being what is outside and the aharah being what is inside [plus the lot, on which the house is built]. The plural is ahar [which is actually a generic noun, while aharah is the unit noun] and aharât [which is the plural of the unit noun, thus denoting several units]. [This followed by four lines in the rajaz meter that contain the word ahar, which are then explained.]

I can't say that ahar(ah) is a ghost word. It is certainly rare, I have never seen it in a text.  Rajaz poetry is notorious for its strange vocabulary, which could mean that it is easy to hide a ghost word in a line of rajaz. On the other hand, the lexicographers mostly insisted on good transmission of words. Some ghost words did creep in, due to lapsus calami and other distortions. But the word ahar does not easily lend itself to such misspellings.’

I then proposed that the name Aaron does derive from a lost Hebrew word cognate with Arabic aharah (or with the root of aharah), and asked if this could be a reflection of his priestly function inside the Tabernacle.  Or, more precisely, he was the priest in charge of the equipment of the Tabernacle.  This would mean that 'Aaron' was not originally a proper name, but a title or descriptive of a priestly role/function. Professor Heinrich responded: “This explanation looks plausible to me.”

As for Kohath, the son of Levi, Professor Anson F. Rainey of Tel Aviv University says:

“The name of a hero, hunter, in Ugaritic literature is Aqhat. It is the same word as Kehat plus prosthetic aleph. The attested biblical forms cannot possibly be participles, either active or passive. There are no long vowels anywhere. The very short "o" vowel is deceptive, don't fall for it.”

I will return to this name for a more detailed examination below.

Amram, son of Kohath, is a manufactured name.  It means “Exalted People/Nation”, and may be compared to Abram, “Exalted Father”, the original name of Abraham (“Father of Multitudes” via folk etymology).  The Exalted People is a designation for the Hebrews.  It is most decidedly not the name of Moses’ father.    Instead, it is intended to show either his descent through the Hebrews, God’s Chosen People, or through the Levitical branch of the Kohathites.

Miriam, the name of Moses’s sister and hence daughter of Amram, derives from the same verbal root RWM, meaning “to be high above; to be exalted; to rise up”.  As a personal name it means “[the] exalted one” and may be compared with the Ugaritic MRYM, Punic MRM.  In the Ugaritic Baal Cycle, we find it used in the context MRYM SPN, “heights of Saphan”, the Saphan in question being the mountain of the god Baal.

The various Ramah or Ramoth place-names in Canaan were also derived from this same Semitic root and thus designated high places, while Ammon or the “[Land] of the People/Nation” preserves a form stemming from the Am- of Amram (although this region is given an eponymous founder Ben-ammi, “Son of the People”).

Kohath is the most important of the names claimed as ancestors of Moses.  There is good reason for not only associating this name with that of the Ugaritic Aqhat, but for identifying the two ‘hunters’ as the same legendary, heroic personage.

The Ugaritic hero Aqhat is the son of Danil (a name later found in Hebrew as Daniel).  Recent scholarship has reached a concensus on an epithet assigned to Danil, ’MT. RPI’.  Wilfred G. E. Watson of the University of Newcastle on Tyne and Nicholas Wyatt of the University of Edinburgh in their “Handbook of Ugaritic Studies”, perhaps put it best:

“In my translation [of the Aqhat Epic] (1998c, 250 n. 5), I have taken it [the epithet MT. RPI] in the sense of ‘man (i.e. ruler) of Rapha’.

Rapha or Raphon was named for the god Rapiu and can be identified with the modern Er-Rafeh close to the Biblical sites of Ashtoreth-Karnaim and Edrei in that part of Bashan known as Hauran.  An Ugaritic text (see KTU 1.108) states that the god Rapiu is enthroned at and rules from Ashtoreth-Karnaim and Edrei.

Originally, Danil was associated with Hermel just south of Kadesh and Shabtuna in Syria because of his second epithet, ‘Mt. Hrnmy’.  The identification of HRNMY with Hermel was first proposed by W.F. Albright in his “The Traditional Home of the Syrian Daniel”, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 130, pp. 26-27.  Albright has arrived at this conclusion by assuming that the ‘RNM/HRNM found in Egyptian records was HRNM(Y).  To make his argument for Hermel work, Albright resorted to letter substitutions, letter transpositions and disposed of the Arabic meaning of this place-name by declaring it a folk etymology.  Hermel was judged to be HRNM because the former seemed to be in the same general area as several other place-names mentioned in the same Egyptian records.

Albright has no idea what the original meaning of HRNM might have been.  Nor did he account for the fact that there are actually two Hermels (one in Hamah, the other in Tartus), which would have forced him to explain how both of these town names were identical corruptions of HRNM.  The terminal –Y of HRNMY is thought to be an ethnicon (Professor Anson Rainey, private communication) or, to put it in the words of Professor Huehnergard of Harvard (private communication), “Ug. Hrnmy is merely the gentilic adjective of the place name hrnm, pronounced harnamu.”.

I would propose a new identification for the site of HRNM, namely the ancient Naveh, or Nawa, very close to Ashtoreth, Edrei and Raphon.  The HR- can easily be accounted for thusly:  according to Professor Wilfred G.E. Watson at The University of Newcastle on Tyne, “The Ug. word hr occurs in KTU 1.107:44 and 1.4 ii 36 and perhaps in 7.53:3; it means ‘mountain’.”  Hebrew naveh is from navah, and is cognate with Akkadian namu, “living in the steppe, steppe-dweller”.  The word is found in the Mari texts with the meaning “movable encampment of people and herds”. Anson Rainey (in his “The Military Personnel of Ugarit”, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 24, No. 1 / 2, January, 1965) says that ‘Wiseman has observed that namu is the Middle Babylonian reflex of nawu(m) from the Mari texts which meant “encampment”, “pasturage” or “steppe”.  James M. Scott (in “A New Approach to Habakkuk II 4-5A”, Vetus Testamentum XXXVm 3, 1985) states that

‘… the Hebrew verb nawa may have an almost exact cognate correspondent in the well-attested Old and Standard Babylonian verb namu, meaning “to be abandoned, to lie in ruins, to lay waste, to turn to ruins; to become waste, ruined”… Several lines of evidence support the correspondence of nawa to namu, both in form and meaning.  First, namu corresponds to nawa phonologically: even through the Akkadian m would be the normal correspondent rather than the less common w, both namu and nawu are attested forms… Second, the substantive derivative of namu (i.e. namu “pasture land”) corresponds in usage to the derivatives of nawa (i.e. naweh “abode of shepherds or flocks” and nawa “pasture, meadow”)… Third, if the Ugaritic verb nawa “to be desolated” belongs to the same root as nawa and namu, then nawa belongs to a common lexical stock denoting destruction.”

Namu occurs in Ugaritic text RS 8.208 as applied to a man named Buriyanu, where the word is translated by J. J. Finhelstein as “man of the steppe”.

Geographers, historians and archaeologists have defined Nawa as the city of Ayub, i.e. the Biblical Job.  The town is also said to include the tomb of Shem, Noah's son. The palaces and dwellings of Nawa demonstrate its historical importance and there are many ancient hills and ruins around, including Al Jubia and Tell Umm Horan.

HRNMY, then, could mean that Dan’il is a man of Naveh, as well as a man of Raphon, both sites being in the Hauran of Bashan.  An alternative to this interpretation will be briefly discussed below.

Bashan, in Hebrew bsn, is cognate with Ugaritic bthn, Akkadian basmu, Aramaic ptn and Arabic bathan: all nouns (see James H. Charlesworth’s “Revealing the Genius of Biblical Authors: Symbology, Archaeology, and Theology”, COMMUNIO: A THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL, XLVI, 2004, Nr.2, and F. Charles Fensham’s “Ps. 68:23 In the Light of the Recently Discovered Ugaritic Tablets”, JOURNAL OF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES, Vol. 19, No. 4, October 1960) denoting some kind of dragon or snake.  It is possible the reference is to a cosmological serpent much like the Tiamat of the Babylonian creation epic ENUMA ELISH, who when slain has a mountain heaped over her head and other mountains heaped over her udder.  Bashan is dominated by “Mount Bashan”, now Jebel el-Druze, a cluster of over a hundred basaltic volcanoes, and the associated volcanic field.  Jebel el-Druze is the northern part of the great Harrat (Arabic for “lava flow”) Ash Shamah, which extends from southern Syria, across Jordan and into northwestern Saudi Arabia.  It is conceivable that the lava field itself was thought to be what remained of the cosmological serpent. The alternate etymology is Hebrew bsn, 'fertile, stoneless piece of ground' (Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, 2nd Revised Edition).  But I have to go with the geography, and that favors the 'serpent' interpretation.

I have above proposed that Harnamu is for “Mountain of the Steppe”, a reference to a hill at Nawa.  But it is just as possible that Harnamu is a reference to Mount Bashan itself, literally a sacred mountain at the heart of Dan’il’s kingdom.

The region of Bashan stretched from the border of Gilead in the south to the slopes of Mount Hermon in the north (W. Ewing in _The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia_).  As such, it was the most northerly part of Palestine east of the Jordan River.  Hauran is an extraordinarily rich plain, running between Jebel ed-Druze or Mount Bashan on the east, and Jedua and Jaulan (modern Golan) in the west.  This plain reaches Jebel el ‘Aswad in the north and the Yarmuk River in the southwest, and finally open desert in the southeast. It is from 1,500 to 2,000 ft. above sea-level, and almost 50 miles in length, by 45 in breadth.  The district of the Hauran known as En-Nuqrah has fertile soil composed of volcanic detritus where wheat is cultivated.

The name Hauran may mean either “Hollow [land]” or the land of the Canaanite god Hauron, an underworld deity not unlike Rapiu.  It may not be a coincidence that the Kohathites, after the conquest of Palestine by the Hebrews, were given the twin cities of Beth-Horon in Ephraim.  Horon (cognate with Hauran) has as its root Hebrew hor (chowr, “hole, cave”), and is in all likelihood not “House of the Hollow”, but “House of [the god] Hauron”.  Also interesting is the presence of Hauran in Bashan, “the Serpent/Dragon” (see above); the god Hauron is evoked in two Ugaritic charms for healing snake-bite.

So now that we have established with some degree of certainty that Danil and his son Aqht belonged to Bashan, and to the plain of Hauran in Bashan in particular, we can return to our consideration of the Kohath grandfather of Moses, who bears a name identical with that of Aqht.

At Timna, which we have identified with Moses’ Mount Horeb, a rock-face carving was found above the Midianite tent-shrine.  It will be recalled that this Midianite tent-shrine has been erected on the site of the earlier Egyptian shrine to Hathor.

The carving in question is a dedication of Ramesses III to Hathor, presented by one Ramessesemperre, “Re has given birth to him in the house of Re”, a royal butler.

What scant information we have on this man (kindly provided to me by Dr. Maarten J. Raven, Curator, Egyptian Department, National Museum of Antiquities, Leiden, Netherlands; see the article “The Royal Butler of Ramessesemperre by Alan R. Schulman , JARCE XIII, 1976, and “Le Dinnitaire Ramesside Ramses-em-per-re, Jocelyne Berlandini-Grenier, BIFAO 74, 1974) strongly suggests that he was either the son or grandson of another Ramessesemperre who held high offices under the pharaohs Ramesses II and Merneptah.  The first Ramessesemperre was Syro-Palestinian, having the original, non-Egyptian name Benitjen or “Ben-azen”, with a father Yupa’o or Yupaao (another foreign name; according to Michael Coogan this last could be from the Semitic root yp’, “to shine”).  The first Ramessesemperre had yet another Egyptian name, Meriunu.  But what is startling about this man is that he was from Ziri-bashana.

Olivier Lauffenburger informs me that Ziri-bashana occurs in the Amarna letter EA201 (a letter from Artamanya of Ziri-bashana to the Egyptian king).  Ziri is, in fact, to be read seri (with an emphatic s), which means in Akkadian “plain, steppe, open country”.  Thus Ziri-bashana or Ziri-Bashan is the Plain of Bashan, i.e. the Hauran of the legendary Canaanite hero Aqht.

It would not be unreasonable for a man of Hauran in Bashan to count among his distant ancestors a great Bashan hero such as Aqht.  Aqht’s descendents, in turn, were an “Exalted People”, i.e. Amram, among whom was Ramessesemperre or “Moses”.  Note that is has long been recognized that Moses is a truncated form of just such a theophoric name as Ra-messes.

Now, this latter Ramessesemperre, the son or grandson of his earlier name-sake, is thought by Rothenburg, the excavator of Timna, to be the man in charge of the expedition to Timna to re-establish the mining operations there and re-dedicate the Hathor shrine.  To support this notion, which by and large is accepted by the Egyptological community, he cites the following from the “Papyrus Harris” (408-409, James Henry Breasted’s _Ancient Records of Egypt, Volume 4, The Twentieth Through the Twenty-Sixth Dynasties_).  In this papyrus, Ramesses III boasts that

“I sent forth my messengers to the country of the Atika [= Timna/Mount Horeb], to the great copper mines which are in this place.  Their galleys carried them; others on the land-journey were upon their asses.  It has not been heard before, since kings reign.  Their mines were found abounding in copper; it was loaded by ten-thousands into their galleys.  They were sent forward to Egypt, and arrived safely.  It was carried and made into a heap under the balcony, in many bars of copper, like hundred-thousands, being of the color of gold of three times.  I allowed all the people to see them, like wonders.”

“I sent forth butlers and officials to the malachite-country [= Serabit el-Khadim], to my mother, Hathor, mistress of the malachite.  There were brought for her silver, gold, royal linen, mek-linen, and many things into her presence, like the sand.  There were brought for me wonders of real malachite in numerous sacks, brought forward into my presence.  They had not been seen before, since kings reign.”

The royal butler who led the expedition to Timna under Ramesses III later held the rank of “Commander of Foreign Warriors”.  This is attested in Year 4 of the reign of Ramesses V, the pharaoh who perished of smallpox, the plague of the Exodus story that took all the Egyptian first-born sons.  The Foreign Warriors are thought to have been mercenary Sherden, a Sea People most likely from Sardis and not, as previously believed, Sardinia.  We have seen above how Ramesses V is the last pharaoh attested at Timna, and that Ramesses VI was the last Egyptian king to send an expedition to Serabit el-Khadim.  The Midianite tent-shrine at Timna formed the basis for the Biblical traditions concerning the Tabernacle at the Mountain of God.

I would propose that this Ramessesemperre who was in charge of the expedition to Timna under Ramesses III was sent on a similar expedition to Serabit el-Khadim under Ramesses VI.  At the time of this latter expedition to what was Mount Sinai/Sopdu, the Midianites established their tent-shrine at Mount Horeb/Timna.  The Ramesses VI expedition to Mount Sinai was thus conflated in popular tradition with the simultaneous establishment of the tent-shrine at Mount Horeb.

There is little difficulty in accepting that Ramessesemperre/Moses, when at Timna, took a wife from among the Midianites who either worked at the copper mines or who shared some kind of control of those mines with the Egyptians.  We already know that a people called YHW’ lived in precisely this region and Ramessesemperre/Moses would quite naturally have identified his own ram-god Amun with a similar local deity.

Ramessesemperre at Mount Sinai/Serabit el-Khadim would, of course, be accompanied by his god, Amun.  Any rededication of the Serabit el-Khadim Hathor temple during the reign of Ramesses VI, which coincided with the building of the Midianite tent-shrine at Timna over the ruins of the Hathor shrine Ramessesemperre had rededicated there in the reign of Ramesses III, would in the conflated Biblical account be rendered as the Theophany of Sinai.

In passing, given Moses relationship with the Burning Bush, it may be significant that Ramessesemperre the elder is shown adoring Hathor, Lady of the Sycamore, on lintel (?) Brooklyn 35.1315, and receiving a libation from the goddess Nut in tree form on the second register of stela British Museum 79.


Ramessesemperre was, to the best of our knowledge, buried at Saqqara in Egypt.  His tomb is listed among missing tombs in this area by G. T. Martin in “Hidden Tombs of Memphis”.  Dr. Maarten J. Raven, Curator of the Egyptian Department for the National Museum of Antiquities at Leiden in the Netherlands, who has worked extensively at Saqqara, informs me that “Indeed we have found a single relief block, perhaps belonging to the tomb of Rameseesemperre.”

Deuteronomy 34:6 tells us that Moses was buried “in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day.”

Now, Saqqara gets its name from that of the ancient Egyptian god Sokar, who was lord of Rosetau (R’-sTA.w).  This Rosetau means, literally, “Mouth [of the] passage/cavern/ramp” that led into the Underworld.  Beth-peor was named for its Mount Peor, peor meaning ‘cleft’ or ‘gap’, from pa’ar, ‘to open wide [the mouth], to gape’.  This mountain was home to a Moabite god called, aptly, Baal-Peor, i.e. ‘Lord of the [mouth-like] Gap’.  The Gap in question was doubtless an entrance into the Underworld. According to “The Dictionary of Deities and Demons of the Bible”, the name Peor “is related to Heb P’R, ‘open wide’, which in Isa 5:4 is said of the ‘mouth’ of the netherworld.”  The same source defines Baal-Peor as probably “the chthonic aspect of the Canaanite god of fertility, Baal.”

What has obviously happened here is that there was some memory of Moses’ burial at Saqqara, but the burial place was moved to Beth-peor to serve the needs of the Biblical narrative.  Baal-peor must have been seen as the Moabite equivalent of Sokar of Rosetau.  The reason Moses’ tomb at Beth-peor could not be found is because it was never there to begin with.  It was at Saqqara.


It is reasonable to ask how the Egyptian official Ramessesemperre (or a conflation of the first and second personages of this name?) could possibly have become the Moses of the Bible.  While it is beyond the scope of this work to attempt a detailed analysis of such topics as the evolution of folkloristic motifs during the course of centuries of orally transmitted tradition, etc., there are a few general comments that can be made which might go far towards answering this question.

1) Ramessesemperre was an Asiatic, whose father had come from Bashan bordering on what would become Israel.
2) As the leader of an expedition to Timna (Horeb) and, probably, Serabit el-Khadim (Sinai), he would have had under his leadership other Asiatics, among whom undoubtedly would have been Hebrews.
3) While at Timna, Ramessesemperre could well have been given a daughter of a local Midianite priest, a worshipper of Yahweh.  That Ramessesemperre, who was thoroughly Egyptianized, would have identified the Midianite Yahweh with his own Amun is only natural: the Egyptians engaged in this kind of syncretization of deities on a regular basis.
4) Some of the Hebrew slaves (or laborers?) at Pi-Ramesses and Pithom might well have been conscripted to accompany Ramessesemperre on his mining expeditions.  These slaves would have been set to work in the mines at these sites, or have been involved in the smelting process and the transportation of copper and malachite.
5) The last mining expedition to Serabit el-Khadim, Moses’ Sinai, took place during the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses VI.  After this, the Egyptians withdrew permanently from the Sinai Peninsula.  If, as I have proposed, Ramessesemperre led this last expedition, one which was concurrent with the Midianite founding of their tent sanctuary to Yahweh at Timna, which had not been visited by the Egyptians since the reign of  Ramesses V, and if we further postulate that slaves of this last expedition to Serabit el-Khadim either escaped from the Egyptian overseers or were released on the orders of Ramessesemperre (who, knowing in advance there would be no more expeditions, had no further need of the Hebrews), then we can create the following narrative outline of the development of the Moses story:  An expedition to Timna is sent out during the reign of Ramesses III, under the leadership of Ramessesemperre.  The Hathor shrine at Timna, along with the mines there, are re-established.  Ramessesemperre remains at Timna for the duration of the mining operations, taking as a wife (or concubine?) the daughter of a Midian priest.  His close family connection with the Midianites, who may also have worked the mines, caused him to recognize his own god Amun as the Egyptian counterpart of his father-in-law’s god Yahweh.  The story of the Exodus from Egypt after the death of Ramesses V is a reflection of the expedition launched by Ramesses VI to Serabit el-Khadim.  This would prove to be the last mining expedition in the Sinai undertaken by the Egyptians.  If Ramessemperre were present as leader of the expedition, then this would match the story of Moses’ journey from Egypt to Mount Sinai.  At this same time, the Midianites destroyed the Hathor shrine at Timna and replaced it with their own tent sanctuary to Yahweh.  If this event were roughly contemporaneous with a group of Hebrew slaves escaping from their Egyptian overseers at Serabit el-Khadim or being released from their servitude by none other than Ramessesemperre, then their eventual presence at the tent sanctuary at Horeb – which in the Biblical narrative is mistakenly placed at Serabit el-Khadim – would make the Moses story complete.  We need only allow for the usual legendary accretions to the tale, and the relocation of Moses’ final resting place from Saqqara in Egypt to Mount Peor on the border of the Promised Land.

It seems clear that the life and career of the Egyptian official Ramessesemperre was the model for that of the Biblical Moses, and that the historical Moses was, therefore, Ramessessemperre.


Professor James K. Hoffmeier has pointed out a possible chronological problem with my Moses candidate.  As he outlines this problem (see in more detail his paper “What is the Biblical Date of the Exodus?”, in JETS, 50/2, June 2007, pp. 225-47),

1. Why is Israel mentioned in the Merneptah Stela as present in Canaan in 1208 B.C. if the Exodus and Moses are date to 75 years later on your scheme?

2. There is evidence at the very end of the LBA and Iron I (13th cent.) for new villages, types of houses, etc, and some destructions (like Hazor) at this period, but not a century later when your Israelites should appear in the land!

These points, while significant, presuppose that only one group came into Israel at one time.  While it is certainly true that the Merneptah Stela and even some archaeological evidence show that an entity by the name of Israel existed somewhat before the time of Ramessesemperre, this does not negate the possibility that the latter figure was commemorated in the way I have outlined above by a group arriving slightly later in Canaan.  If the traditions of this later group had eventually come to predominate, then the entire Exodus story would naturally have been written in such a way as to best accommodate the legendary feats of Moses. 

Plus, I’ve already mentioned that the later Ramessesemperre may well have been a son or grandson of the one who served at the time of Pharaoh Merneptah.  The two figures could easily have been confused and/or conflated in legend, the earlier one living at the time the Merneptah Stela was erected.

More recently, the date of Ahmose I has been questioned due to a new interpretation of the so-called Tempest Stela (see “Tempest Stela of Ahmose: World’s Oldest Weather Report”, Apr 3, 2014 in  Thus some of these important early dates connected with Egyptian royal chronologies continue to be revised.



“7 then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. 8 And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 Out of the ground the LORD God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. 11The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; 12and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. 13The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Cush. 14The name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.”  Genesis, New Revised Standard Version

This one passage has given rise to endless speculation about the true location of the Garden, which is either east of Eden or in Eden, in the east (depending on how the eighth verse is translated).  I do not think that this is such a mystery, and can demonstrate why I think the Garden is rather easy to find – once we start with an identification of Eve with the Hurrian goddess Hebat/Heba.

Readers who wish to research the etymological intricacies of the Eve/Hawwah = Hebat/Heba equivalency are welcome to do so.  There has been a great deal written on the probable correspondence and it is not the aim of the present paper to go over these arguments.  To best summarize a recent scholarly position on the issue, I am quoting Note 30 from I.M. Diakonoff’s “Evidence of the Ethnic Division of the Hurrians”, in Studies on the Civilization and the Culture of the Nuzi and the Hurrians by E. R. Lacheman, 1981:

“It is Heba in all PN (and therefore this form is the more archaic) but Hebat, Hebatu in Bogazkoy, in Ugaritic lists, in the Hieroglyphic Luwian texts and elsewhere.  E.A. Speiser had pointed out that this t does not, contrary to the rules of Hurrian phonetics, develop to *d, and hence is (a) late, (b) Semitic.  He compared West Semitic *Hawwatu, Hebr. Hawwa “Eve”.  The name cannot be borrowed from West Semitic because, first, the form Heba is earlier than the Semitic addition –t- (this is, among other proffs, shown by the existence of Huba in Urartian), and second, because intervocalic *b may develop to West Semitic b > /w(w)/, but Semitic *w cannot be reflected as Hurrian b…  Therefore, although there may have been an identification of Hurr. Heba > Hebatu with West Semitic Hawwa < Hawwatu, either the two mythological figures must have originally been quite separate, or it was Heba who was the original.  The Semitic etymology of Hawwa is not above some suspicions.”

Gary Beckman, Professor of Hittite and Mesopotamian Studies, Department of Near Eastern Studies, at the University of Michigan, passed along this on the goddess Hebat, her name and other goddesses with whom she was identified:

It has recently been demonstrated that her name developed through some complicated sound changes from *Halabat, “the (female) one of Aleppo.” She became the chief goddess of the western Hurrian pantheon and spouse of the Storm-God Teshshub. Among Hurrians in the east, this position was held by Shaushga, a goddess whose name was usually hidden under the word-sign Ishtar. [At Nippur, Innana/Ishtar was called nin edin "the Lady of Eden"].  Within the syncretistic late pantheon of the Hittite empire, when figures from the earlier Anatolian god world were assimilated to members of the newly-adopted Hurrian pantheon, Hebat was also identified with the Sun-goddess of Arinna. But this was simply because each was the partner of the Storm-god in the respective systems (Anatolian Tarhunt and Hurrian Teshshub). This is most famously illustrated in a prayer of Queen Puduhepa in which she addresses the Sun-goddess, mentioning that “in the Land of Cedars (Syria) they call you Hebat.”

Dr. Mark Weeden of Oxford and other top Assyriologists agree on the derivation of Hebat's name from the city-name Aleppo.

If we provisionally accept the equation of Eve with Heba (= Ishtar, who was primarily associated with the planet Venus), the Garden – and, incidentally, Adam himself – becomes quite knowable.

Some scholars (although to a degree considered "fringe") have made a case for an identification of the four rivers of Eden.  David Rohl (see The Jerusalem Report, February 1, 1999, “Paradise Found”), deriving his material primarily from the earlier independent scholar Reginald Walker, equated the Gihon with the Aras or Araks, and the Pishon with the Uizhon (and alternate spellings, the P showing a supposed Semitic shift; the river is now known as the Qezel Qwzan and is the upper half of the Sefid Rud ).  Unfortunately, he is an archaeologist and not a linguist, and his analysis of the river-names and other place-names has been disputed.  Such identifications rely on late Arabic, Turkish, Kurdish and Armenian names and therefore cannot be trusted to be accurate forms.

If we "respect" the Biblical account (yes, I know - an exercise fraught with peril!), we need to fulfill some conditions.  First, we cannot opt for a location for the garden that runs directly contrary to the account.  One example of this would be the recent effort to find Eden at the head of the Persian Gulf by identifying the Pishon with the newly discovered dry 'Kuwait' river (see James A. Sauer, "The River Runs Dry," Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. 22, No. 4, July/August 1996, pp. 52-54, 57, 64. Molly Dewsnap, "The Kuwait River," Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. 22, No. 4, July/August 1996, p. 55.). Second, the actual river of the garden HAS to have four rivers branching out from it (or at the very least three; see below).   Furthermore, we MUST have a verifiable association of the said river of the garden with Heba/Eve and Adam. Rohl neglected to fulfill the last two of these critical requirements.

The Tigris and Euphrates we know and they are not a problem.  Gihon and the Pishon are quite the opposite.

The Pishon is said to surround the land of Havilah (Hebrew Chaviylah).  This land, mentioned only once in the Bible, is not otherwise known and researchers have sought it all over the place, primarily in southwest Arabia or even in Africa.  However, there is an ancient city that can tentatively be located on the upper Khabur, the largest tributary of the Euphrates.  The name of this place is Hawilum (Hawalum, Hawlum).  A temple at the site was dedicated by the king of Urkesh (Tell Mozan) and Nawar (Tell Brak) - both on the headwaters of the Khabur.  Thus these cities are in the region of the Turkish-Syrian border, pretty much exactly between the Euphrates to the west and the Tigris to the east. I would equate Hawilum with Havilah.

The inscription concerning Hawilum may be found here:

While Hawilum has not be precisely located, the Syriac lexicographer Bar-Bahlũl (10th century) mentions the toponym HWYL´ (Hwilā, Huwaylā, and in one exemplar of his lexicon H/Kwilā or H/Kuwaylā), which he associates with the city of GWZN (vocalised Gawzan; Lexicon Syriacum ed. R.Duval [1888-1896] col. 426 and n .25). This GWZN is probably Guzana, which we now know to be Tell Halaf.  Thus Hiwalum may have been in the vicinity of the latter ancient city.

I have confirmed the above with Professor Amir Harrak.  He writes (personal communication):

"It is a 10th century AD Syriac source that says literally: GWZN, according to Bar-Saroshway (ca. 900 AD) is a city which is HWYL’. The latter name is not consistent in all manuscripts.  There are 2 issues here: whether or not Syriac GWZN is Guzana and I think it is since Syriac authors were native of the Khabur for centuries if not millennia , and whether or not HWYL’ is Hawilum. Because of the variant spellings of this name found in the Syriac sources I am not sure of the association HWYL’ Hawilum. Ancient names do appear in late Syriac sources and an important one is Edessa near the Upper Euphrates whose Syriac name is Urhay. The same 10th century source gives its ancient name (Adme) known since the 19th century BC in Assyrian sources; see my article on this in JNES 51 (1992) pp. 209-214."

Other scholars now agree in placing Hawilum in the western part of the Khabur Triangle.  The following, for example, is from G.Buccellati and M. Kelly-Buccellati's "The Great TempleTerrace at Urkesh and the Lions of Tish-atal", SCCNH (Owen Volume), December, 2005:

"The fact that NERGAL is called 'Lord of Hawalum" implies that his temple was in that locality, and the name Hawalum had no known link with Urkesh (its localization remains unknown, though it is assumed to be in the Khabur Triangle, west of Urkesh)."

Allowing for Hawilum = Havilah, "Cush" is pretty plainly a reference to Urkesh, i.e. the City (= Ur) of Kesh, itself at Tell Mozan on the Upper Khabur.  The Gihon, however, cannot be another name for the Khabur (ancient Hubur or Habur), but must instead be the Wadi Darca, as Urkesh/Tell Mozan is near the headwaters of this stream.  The Khabur's name was known anciently (and will be discussed below), so equating it with Gihon is not something we can allow.

The Pishon (Hebrew Pison), being associated with Hiwalum near/at Guzana/Tell Halaf, has to be the Wadi Djirjib. The name itself could be from Old Babylonian pis, meaning "quay, port; bank, shore, rim; stream, wadi, gorge" (Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary). However, from Old Babylonian on, including Akkadian, there is pisannu, 'drainage passage' or 'drainpipe' (Chicago Assyrian Dictionary).  The Djirjib is to the west of the Wadi Darca of Urkesh and both are within the Khabur Triangle.

So how does the identification of the four rivers help us?  Well, we need to begin at Tell Ahmar, the site of ancient Aramaean Til Barsip (Hittite Masuwari) and the capital of the small kingdom of Bit-Adini, Biblical Beth-Eden (Amos 1:5).

Til Barsip is on the Euphrates a dozen miles to the southeast of Carchemish, and Carchemish is roughly 75 miles west of Abraham's Haran.  Bit-Adini/Beth-Eden stretched from the the Sajur River, a tributary of the Euphrates whose mouth was approximately opposite the capital to the west, to the Balikh River, another tributary of the Euphrates further south.  Scholars now believe it embraced some territory to the west of the Euphrates as well.  I hastily add that the name of the Balikh was also known anciently and cannot be associated with either a 'Kush' or a 'Havilah'. While I have not found an ancient name for the Sajur it, too, cannot be associated with Kush or Havilah.

The following wonderful description of Til-Barsip is courtesy

“Tell Ahmar, ancient Til Barsib, on the east bank of the Euphrates River, close to the confluence of the Sajur River, was ideally placed to function as a crossing point from upper Mesopotamia to northern Syria. To a large extent the prominent and strategic location of Tell Ahmar determined the Assyrian interest in the site and its apparent that Tell Ahmar reached its maximum size under the Assyrians.”

While the location of Eden in the Bible has been intentionally mystified, no verse better than 2 Kings 19:12-13 shows better where it is to be found:

"Have the gods of the nations delivered them, the nations that my predecessors destroyed, Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Telassar (Tell Assur, 'Hill of the god Assur' of the Assyrians)?  Where is the King of Hamath, the king of Arpad, etc."

All these places are known to be in northern Mesopotamia and Syria.  2 Kings 19:12-13 is repeated in Isaiah 37:12-13.

Now, let's see if Til-Barsip and Bit-Adini/Beth-Eden fits into our river scheme.  Remember the Bible passage in question says "A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches".  Let us start with the river that flows out of Eden.

This can only be the Euphrates.  The kingdom of Bit-Adini lay to both sides of the Euphrates.  Thus the mysterious river of Eden is actually one of the other four rivers listed in the Genesis account.

The Wadis Darca and Djirjib as headwater tributaries of the Khabur are important precisely because the latter itself was important.  As the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary and other sources make clear, the Hubur/Habur was the river of the nether world, and the place of the river-ordeal - it was even a DESIGNATION for the nether world.  It could also be the name of a deity (i.e. a deified river), and we find it used for Tiamat, called umma hu-bur, 'mother Hubur'.  This incredibly sacred river lies directly between the Tigris and the Euphrates.

The Euphrates further downstream joins the Tigris (in this modern age, near Basra), so all these rivers are joined together, in a sense, and are thus "branches" of the Euphrates.

This is a very precise geographical fix for Eden.  So, we can identify the four rivers of Paradise as follows:

Euphrates/river of Eden

Pishon - Wadi Djirjib of Hiwalum (Khabur)

Gihon - Wadi Darca of Urkesh (Khabur)


More exciting than the identification of the rivers is the presence at Til Barsip/Tell Ahmar of inscriptions bearing the name of the goddess Hebat/Hepat, as well as theophoric personal names containing her name.  Hebat's main cult center is believed to have been Aleppo some 50 miles to the SW.  Also attested three times at Til Barsip is the goddess Kubaba, who became the patron goddess of Carchemish. The Syro-Canaanite goddess named Adamma, known principally from Ebla (35 miles SW of Aleppo), was borrowed into the Hurrian pantheon by being identified with this very same Kubaba (= Cybele).  Heba is often accompanied by Kubaba in lists of deities (see, for example, Tell Ahmar II: A New Luwian Stele and the Cult of the Storm-God at Til Barsib-Masuwari, Guy Bunnens, John David Hawkins, I. Leirens, 2006).

Francesco Domponio (in "Adamma Paredra Di Rasap") gives as the various forms of Adamma's name Adamma, Adama, Adamaum, Adammaum and Adamtum.

In E. Lipinski’s “Resheph. A Syro-Canaanite Deity. (Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta, 181, Editions Peeters, Leuven 2009)”, the author rejects the association of the name of the goddess Adamma with the similar looking word in Semitic languages for ‘earth’. More likely in his opinion is the relation to ‘blood’ (Hebrew dam).  Adamma was the consort of Rasap (Resheph).

According to Alfonso Archi ("The Gods of Ebla", NIT Annual Report, 2010):

"A common epithet of Rashap was "of-the-garden" [rsp gn, with gn being the Canaanite equivalent of Hebrew gn, the word used to describe the Garden of Eden], which does not seem to refer to "the cemetery", neither at Ebla, nor at Ugarit.  At Ebla the spouse of Rashap was Adamma - there is also an "Adamma-of-the-garden."  In the second millenium this goddess was no longer associated with Rashap, but was included in the Hurrian pantheon and associated with the goddess of Karkamish, Kubaba."

[It will be admitted that some scholars do not read GN as 'garden', but as a place-name GUNUM. The following is from Mary Seeley, Subject Librarian (History & Religions; Ancient Near East, Semitics & Judaica), Teaching and Research Support (Library), School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London:

"SOAS Library has a copy of Lipinksi's book Resheph: a Syro-Canaanite deity (classmark QK929.4 / 738142).

 I have had a quick look at the contents, and in Chapter 1 (Resheph in the Ebla Archives) Lipinski transcribes the GN epithet of both Resheph and Adamma as "Gunu". He states that this is possibly derived from the suffix - kunu, and may represent a derivative of the root kun (to be firm).

Lipinski states categorically that the gu-nu qualifier in the name of Resheph is not "garden" (gann in all the Semitic languages that provide a vocalization).

In Chapter 2 (Resheph and Adamma) he mentions the following places associated with the worship of Adamma - Emar, Boghazkoy, Ugarit and Alakh. The goddess frequently carries a topographical epithet. Adamma of Adani, Gunu, DU-anir, Du-lum and Tunip are among those noted in the original sources."]

Adamma's primary cult center (according to Robert R. Stieglitz in "Divine Pairs in the Ebla Pantheon", Eblaitica Volume 4 and Pelio Alfonso Archi in Semitic and Assyriological Studies, ed. by Pelio Fronzaroli, 2003) was Adani or Ataanni, thought to possibly be Tell 'Asharneh on the Orontes not far from Hama.

The name Adam, of course, has been derived from various words in the languages of the region, in addition to the Hebrew: Sumerian adama "a dark-colored bodily discharge", e.g. blood, to which we may compare Akkadian adamu, “blood”, adamatu, “black blood”, [as plural only] “dark red earth (used as a dye)”.  But a similarly spelled word in Akkadian also means “an important, noble person” (Chicago Assyrian Dictionary).  Thus is it not difficult to see how the notion of a man made out of earth came to be a popular one.

If all this is so, what about the serpent in the Garden?  To learn more about him, we need to go to the Mesopotamian Gilgamesh Epic.  The best part of the Epic for our purposes is actually an added episode called “The Huluppu Tree [perhaps a willow or poplar]”:

“Once upon a time, a tree, a huluppu, a tree --

It had been planted on the bank of the Euphrates,

It was watered by the Euphrates --

The violence of the South Wind plucked up its roots,

Tore away its crown,

The Euphrates carried it off on its waters.

The woman, roving about in fear at the word of An,

Roving about in fear at the word of Enlil,

Took the tree in her hand, brought it to Erech:

‘I shall bring it to pure Inanna's [Inanna/Ishtar = Venus] fruitful garden.'

The woman tended the tree with her hand, placed it by her foot,

Inanna tended the tree with her hand, placed it by her foot,

‘When will it be a fruitful throne for me to sit on,' she said,

‘When will it be a fruitful bed for me to lie on,' she said.

The tree grew big, its trunk bore no foliage,

In its roots the snake who knows no charm set up its nest,

In its crown the Imdugud-bird placed its young,

In its midst the maid Lilith built her house --

The always laughing, always rejoicing maid,

I, the maid Inanna, how I weep!"

Her brother, the hero Gilgamesh,

Stood by her in this matter,

He donned armor weighing fifty minas about his waist --

Fifty minas were handled by him like thirty shekels --

His "ax of the road" --

Seven talents and seven minas -- he took in his hand,

At its roots he struck down the snake who knows no charm,

In its crown the Imdugud-bird took its young, climbed to the mountains,

In its midst the maid Lilith tore down her house, fled to the wastes.”

First, we have a "garden" at Uruk, and the Euphrates being mentioned as the origin point of the huluppu tree. We have seen how Inanna could be called 'Lady of Eden'.  The Imdugud bird (or Anzu, etc.) was a symbol for the stormcloud.  It often battles the storm god in the mountains as his evil twin.  Lilith or, rather, Lilitu, was a goddess or demon whose name derives from the word for “wind”.  According to The Dictionary of Deities and Demons of the Bible, she was especially associated with “stormy winds”.

And the serpent?

What we are seeing in this World Tree is a tripartite division of the cosmos.  The stormcloud bird floats above the air, where the wind demoness lives.  Beneath the earth, at the roots of the tree, is the river, which rises out of the ground to flow over the earth.  A meandering, sinuous stream, which can strike with deadly force, is very appropriately symbolized as a serpent.

If I’m right here, then we can reconstruct what the Creation story may have been like before it was adapted by the Hebrews for their own Bible.

Firstly, we need to bear in mind that Kubaba (= Adamma) was said to be a tavern-owner.  She has, therefore, been compared with the Siduri of the Gilgamesh Epic, also a tavern owner, whom the hero finds keeping an inn at a GARDEN with jeweled trees on the shore of the sea.  We are reminded, of course, of the Greek Garden of the Hesperides with its golden sun-apples, the source of the golden light of sunset in the west.  These apples were guarded by the hundred-headed Drakon. In the Gilgamesh Epic, we are told of a plant of eternal youth.  The hero is bathing in a spring (doubtless the source of a river) when the plant is stolen BY A SNAKE, whose shedding is cited as proof that the animal has rid itself of old age.  To this we may compare the Euphrates river in the above-quoted section of the Epic, carrying off the huluppu tree.

Adam, then, is made of the earth that is, quite literally, the earth-goddess Adamma-Kubaba. The Assyro-Babylonian parallels assign the act of the creation of man primarily to various goddesses, although gods like Enlil the storm god can direct, advise or assist in the operation.  The materials used are clay and, in some accounts, clay and blood.  The blood can come from gods, e.g. Kingu, whose blood mixed with clay was used by Marduk to make man, and Geshtu-e, who plays the same role in the story of the goddess Aruru.  The fact that Adamma’s name could mean both ‘earth’ and ‘blood’ (despite Lipinski’s reservation) probably indicates that she provided the first man with flesh as well as the life-liquid that flowed through his veins.  The sacrificed Geshtu-e’s blood was the source of the intelligence in man (cf. the fruit of knowledge).  

Prompted by the guardian river-serpent – in this case, the river of Til-Barsip or Bit-Adini, which is probably the Sajur (remember the river of Eden has to be a tributary of one of the other four rivers) – Heba/Ishtar/Inanna provides the first man with the fruit of the sacred World Tree, i.e. the solar fruit. After all, it was her tree.  Adam thus obtains the wisdom and intelligence that allows him to differentiate himself from the lower animals and thereby become semi-divine.  But the sun-fruit also bestows immortality.  The Bible version, confused as always, seems to imply that the “tree of life” and the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” are two different trees.  They are not.  They are identical.

While we don’t know what the original fruit of the tree was, one of the main iconographic elements of the goddess Kubaba-Adamma was the pomegranate, although some scholars think what she holds in extant images is a poppy capsule.  In terms of a fruit that resembles the sun, the pomegranate is the logical choice.

Both Kubaba (the latter as Cybele/Agdistis) and Inanna are associated with sacred trees and their fruit.  Of the former, we are told the following:

Pausanias, Description of Greece 7. 17. 8 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :

"The local [Phrygian] legend about him [Attis] being this. Zeus [equated here with the Phrygian sky-god], it is said, let fall in his sleep seed upon the ground, which in course of time sent up a Daimon, with two sexual organs, male and female. They call the daimon Agdistis. But the gods, fearing Agdistis, cut off the male organ. There grew up from it an almond-tree with its fruit rip [in some versions, this is a POMEGRANATE TREE], and a daughter of the river Sangarios, they say, took the fruit and laid it in her bosom, when it at once disappeared, but she was with child. A boy was born, and exposed, but wastended by a he-goat. As he grew up his beauty was more than human, and Agdistis fell in love with him. When he had grown up, Attis was sent by his relatives to Pessinos, that he might wed the king’s daughter. The marriage-song was being sung, when Agdistis appeared, and Attis went mad and cut off his genitals, as also did he who was giving him his daughter in marriage. But Agdistis repented of what she had done to Attis, and persuaded Zeus to grant the body of Attis should neither rot at all nor decay. These are the most popular forms of the legend of Attis."

The Sumerian A shir-namshub to Utu (Utu F) has Inanna eating of pine nuts, etc., in order to acquire sexual knowledge.  This was so she could properly attend to the god Dumuzi’s needs:

1-2317 lines fragmentary

Youthful Utu …, calf of the wild cow, calf of the wild cow, calf of the righteous son, Utu, royal brother of Inana! He who brings thirst to streets and paths (?), Utu, he of the tavern, provided beer, youthful Utu, he of the tavern, provided beer.

24-30 (Inana speaks:) "My brother, awe-inspiring lord, let me ride with you to the mountains! Lord of heaven, awe-inspiring lord, lord, let me ride with you to the mountains; to the mountains of herbs, to the mountains of cedars, to the mountains; to the mountains of cedars, the mountains of cypresses, to the mountains; to the mountains of silver, the mountains of lapis lazuli, to the mountains; to the mountains where the gakkul plants grow, to the mountains; to the distant source of the rolling rivers, to the mountains.

31-34 "My brother, come, let me… My brother, the midst of the sea… my eyes. My brother, women… Utu, women…

35-38 "I am unfamiliar with womanly matters, with ....... I am unfamiliar with womanly matters, with sexual intercourse! I am unfamiliar with womanly matters, with kissing! I am unfamiliar with sexual intercourse, I am unfamiliar with kissing!

39-43 "Whatever exists in the mountains, let us eat that. Whatever exists in the hills, let us eat that. In the mountains of herbs, in the mountains of cedars, in the mountains of cedars, the mountains of cypresses, whatever exists in the mountains, let us eat that.

44-49 "After the herbs have been eaten, after the cedars have been eaten, put your hand in my hand and then escort me to my house. Escort me to my house, to my house in Zabalam. Escort me to my mother, to my mother Ningal. Escort me to my mother-in-law, to Ninsumun. Escort me to my sister-in-law, to Jectin-ana."

50-56 For those who venture forth single-handed, who venture forth from a man's house, for those who venture forth from a man's house, who venture forth single-handed, Utu: you are their mother, Utu, you are their father. Utu, as for the orphans, Utu, as for the widows, Utu: the orphans look to you as their father, Utu, you succour the widows as their mother. With you…”

And what of the supposed creation of Heba the goddess from the rib of the man Adam? What do we make of this motif?

“21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,

    "This at last is bone of my bones

    and flesh of my flesh;

    this one shall be called Woman,

    for out of Man this one was taken."

24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh” Genesis, New Revised Standard Version

Obviously, we have here an iconographic misinterpretation (or REINTERPRETATION!), or a different story that became hopelessly muddled over time.  This method of the making of woman has always been seen as yet another usurpation of matriarchal privilege by the patriarchal.  In the Hebrew account, there is no goddess in on the act of Creation.  Yahweh does it all by himself.  The idea of a mother goddess making the first man and first woman was not one the priestly authors wished to convey.  Superficially, the account de-emphasizes the significance of woman by even denying her a non-masculine compositional material.  Adam was made of earth – the flesh of the earth goddess herself.  But Eve, a demoted goddess, had to be content with acknowledging that she owed her very existence to a ‘spare rib’ of the first man

My feeling is that the whole rib episode came about in this fashion: a rib is white and sickle-shaped and thus resembles the crescent moon, symbol of the Luwian (and Hittite-borrowed) moon god Arma, the Hittite moon god Kaska and the Hurrian moon god Kushukh. The crescent moon is common in the religious iconography of the region, and Heba herself is shown depicted with the crescent-horned moon god.

But we must remember that Inanna/Ishtar was most often called the DAUGHTER of Nanna/Sin THE MOON GOD, whose symbol was THE CRESCENT MOON.  Thus the 'rib' of Adam is actually Nanna/Sin the moon god father of Hebat/Inanna/Ishtar.  Its being extracted from Adam, whose name could mean 'earth', is an error for it being taken out of the earth, i.e. this is a symbolic representation of the rising of the crescent moon.


For quite a long time now, people have been trudging up mountains in search of Noah’s ark.  This a vain quest, of course, because the story of the Flood is a myth*, and no pieces of wood will be found atop any of the traditional candidates for Noah’s mountain.  However, we may be able to narrow down our search to the “prototypical” mountain, which then became relocated in the usual way through folk movements and folklore development.

To begin, it is important we know two things.  First, the story of Noah as we have it betrays all kinds of problems with proper names and aetiologically explained place-names.  Second, we do actually already know where the first Flood mountain is to be found.  For those who would like to familiarize themselves with the Mesopotamian Flood story, the precursor of the Biblical version, as well as the parallels that exist between the former and the latter, I refer you to the following excellent links.  There is no longer any doubt among scholars that the different versions of the story are related, and that they betray an original source.

Noah, Hebrew Noach, it might surprise people to know, it not a real personal name.  It is said to mean “rest” in Hebrew and to be from a root meaning “resting place”.  Lots of theological thought has been put into accounting for the name, but we need not waste our time here with that.  Suffice it to say that its cognate in Akkadian, nahu, is not a personal name, either.  There it means not only “rest”, but interestingly enough ‘to abate, subside’, in the sense of the subsiding of flood-waters.  It is even found in the Gilgamesh Epic’s story of the Flood, where we are told, for example, “the sea subsided [i-nu-uh], the destructive storm calmed, the flood ceased”, and “let the vast sea subside together with you [li-nu-uh].”

We encounter the same oddness with the Hebrew word used for the ark, tebah.  This word is so rare that it is used in the Bible only one other time – to describe the flotation device contrived for the baby Moses.  I would trace this, rather solidly, to Akkadian tebu, used in the context of floods, as in “a flood will arise and sink the boats”.  The word means “sunken, submerged”, or “to sink, to down, to submerge”. Tibu is the rising of water, high waters rise and the like, while tubbu is to submerge or immerse boats, e.g. “the flood waters will rise and swamp the boats”.  What has happened here is that the Jews, during the Babylonian Captivity, learned of the Mesopotamian Flood story and made it their own.  However, in the process of converting it to their own sacred story, they took in some loanwords from Akkadian that they either did not properly understand or, more likely, these words gradually changed meaning over time.  Hence a word that meant “submerged” or “sunken” in Akkadian took on the meaning of the OBJECT of the action of sinking or submerging, i.e. a boat.

The most important clue we have to the real name of the mountain of Noah is not found in our Bible, but in very early sacred scriptures that did not make the cut.  In “The Book of Jubilees” and a few other sources, the mountain in Ararat, ancient Urartu, modern Armenia, is given a name: Lubar.  This name is found in what appears to be the truncated form of Baris in the works of the Jewish historian Josephus.  He claims the mountain is in Armenia, and this agrees with the placement of Lubar.

The secret to the true whereabouts of Noah’s mountain as always lies in the unlocking of such place-name riddles.  First, I am providing here two full extracts from the ancient sources that actually name the specific mountain in Ararat, ancient Urartu, modern Armenia, where the ark supposedly came to rest.

From the Book of Jubilees, Chapter 7:

    “And in the seventh week in the first year [1317 A.M.] thereof, in this jubilee, Noah planted vines on the mountain on which the ark had rested, named Lubar, one of the Ararat Mountains, and they produced fruit in the fourth year, [1320 A.M.] and he guarded their fruit, and gathered it in this year in the seventh month.
    And he made wine therefrom and put it into a vessel, and kept it until the fifth year, [1321 A.M.] until the first day, on the new moon of the first month.
    And he celebrated with joy the day of this feast, and he made a burnt sacrifice unto the Lord, one young ox and one ram, and seven sheep, each a year old, and a kid of the goats, that he might make atonement thereby for himself and his sons.
    And he prepared the kid first, and placed some of its blood on the flesh that was on the altar which he had made, and all the fat he laid on the altar where he made the burnt sacrifice, and the ox and the ram and the sheep, and he laid all their flesh upon the altar.
    And he placed all their offerings mingled with oil upon it, and afterwards he sprinkled wine on the fire which he had previously made on the altar, and he placed incense on the altar and caused a sweet savour to ascend acceptable before the Lord his God.
    And he rejoiced and drank of this wine, he and his children with joy.
    And it was evening, and he went into his tent, and being drunken he lay down and slept, and was uncovered in his tent as he slept.
    And Ham saw Noah his father naked, and went forth and told his two brethren without.
    And Shem took his garment and arose, he and Japheth, and they placed the garment on their shoulders and went backward and covered the shame of their father, and their faces were backward.
    And Noah awoke from his sleep and knew all that his younger son had done unto him, and he cursed his son and said: 'Cursed be Canaan; an enslaved servant shall he be unto his brethren.'
    And he blessed Shem, and said: 'Blessed be the Lord God of Shem, and Canaan shall be his servant.
    God shall enlarge Japheth, and God shall dwell in the dwelling of Shem, and Canaan shall be his servant.'
    And Ham knew that his father had cursed his younger son, and he was displeased that he had cursed his son. and he parted from his father, he and his sons with him, Cush and Mizraim and Put and Canaan.
    And he built for himself a city and called its name after the name of his wife Ne'elatama'uk.
    And Japheth saw it, and became envious of his brother, and he too built for himself a city, and he called its name after the name of his wife 'Adataneses.
    And Shem dwelt with his father Noah, and he built a city close to his father on the mountain, and he too called its name after the name of his wife Sedeqetelebab.
    And behold these three cities are near Mount Lubar; Sedeqetelebab fronting the mountain on its east; and Na'eltama'uk on the south; 'Adatan'eses towards the west.”

From Josephus’s Antiquities of the Jews - Book I, Chapter 3:

“5. When God gave the signal, and it began to rain, the water poured down forty entire days, till it became fifteen cubits higher than the earth; which was the reason why there was no greater number preserved, since they had no place to fly to. When the rain ceased, the water did but just begin to abate after one hundred and fifty days, (that is, on the seventeenth day of the seventh month,) it then ceasing to subside for a little while. After this, the ark rested on the top of a certain mountain in Armenia; which, when Noah understood, he opened it; and seeing a small piece of land about it, he continued quiet, and conceived some cheerful hopes of deliverance. But a few days afterward, when the water was decreased to a greater degree, he sent out a raven, as desirous to learn whether any other part of the earth were left dry by the water, and whether he might go out of the ark with safety; but the raven, finding all the land still overflowed, returned to Noah again. And after seven days he sent out a dove, to know the state of the ground; which came back to him covered with mud, and bringing an olive branch: hereby Noah learned that the earth was become clear of the flood. So after he had staid seven more days, he sent the living creatures out of the ark; and both he and his family went out, when he also sacrificed to God, and feasted with his companions. However, the Armenians call this place Apobahtayreon, The Place of Descent; for the ark being saved in that place, its remains are shown there by the inhabitants to this day.

6. Now all the writers of barbarian histories make mention of this flood, and of this ark; among whom is Berosus the Chaldean. For when he is describing the circumstances of the flood, he goes on thus: "It is said there is still some part of this ship in Armenia, at the mountain of the Cordyaeans; and that some people carry off pieces of the bitumen, which they take away, and use chiefly as amulets for the averting of mischiefs." Hieronymus the Egyptian also, who wrote the Phoenician Antiquities, and Mnaseas, and a great many more, make mention of the same. Nay, Nicolaus of Damascus, in his ninety-sixth book, hath a particular relation about them; where he speaks thus: "There is a great mountain in Armenia, over Minyas, called Baris, upon which it is reported that many who fled at the time of the Deluge were saved; and that one who was carried in an ark came on shore upon the top of it; and that the remains of the timber were a great while preserved. This might be the man about whom Moses the legislator of the Jews wrote.

NOTE 16: This Apobahtayreon (Greek) or Place of Descent, is the proper rendering of the Armenian name of this very city. It is called in Ptolemy Naxuana, and by Moses Chorenensis, the [5th century A.D.] Armenian historian, Idsheuan; but at the place itself Nachidsheuan, which signifies The first place of descent, and is a lasting monument of the preservation of Noah in the ark, upon the top of that mountain, at whose foot it was built, as the first city or town after the flood. See Antiq. B. XX. ch. 2. sect. 3; and Moses Chorenensis, who also says elsewhere, that another town was related by tradition to have been called Seron or, The Place of Dispersion, on account of the dispersion of Xisuthrus's or Noah's sons, from thence first made. Whether any remains of this ark be still preserved, as the people of the country suppose, I cannot certainly tell. Mons. Tournefort had, not very long since, a mind to see the place himself, but met with too great dangers and difficulties to venture through them.”

Lubar is the result of a standard Hebrew attempt to provide a place-name origin.  The Bible is full of such stories, and rarely do they have anything to do with the real etymologies of the names they treat of.  Lubar, given the tale of Noah’s sons covering him with a garment, is a clear reference to Akkadian lubaru, clothing, garments, lubartu, clothing, garment.  The word used in the Hebrew account is simlah, but this does not disguise the lubar word particularly well.  Now, Akkadian also has barru, a piece of apparel, barsillu, a garment, bura’u, an adjective describing a garment, and Sumerian has barim, garment, barsig, a garment, bur, a garment and bardul, a garment.  Some of these last words remind us of Josephus’s Baris.

Certainly, we cannot take seriously the notion that the mountain was called “Garment”.  Instead, what we have here is a fairly typical aetiological story concocted in an attempt to explain the place-name.  The etymology of the mountain name is actually quite different.

Fortunately, the Mesopotamian Flood mountain, called Mt. Nisir and Kinipa in the Assyrian records, was in a kingdom called Lullu or Lullubi or Lullumu.  And one of the main cities of this kingdom was called Bara.  The language of the Lullubi is not known, so we cannot offer an etymology for Bara.  We might guess at something akin to Sumerian or Old Akkadian barag, ‘dais, seat’, Akkadian parakku, dais, pedestal, socle, sanctuary, shrine, divine throne room, also found as ba-ra/BARA.  But we would probably be wrong!

Professor Karen Radner of University College, London, who is working on an Assyrian geography project in this part of Iraq, says this about Bara and Mt. Numush:

"The fullest discussion of the historical geography of Ma-zamua is still Speiser 1927 and I attach that paper (see p. 19 and his maps). On the basis of the itinerary of Assurnasirpal II, he locates the place next to the Pira Magrun = Mt. Nimush and that seems acceptable."

The following on Bara is from "Southern Kurdistan in the Annals of Ashurnasirpal and Today", Ephraim A. Speiser, The Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research, Vol. 8 (1926 - 1927), pp. 1-41:

"As Bara is captured by Ashurnasirpal in his first campaign against Nur-Adad, it should be sought near the western entrance into the Sulaimania valley, not far from Tasluja... Bara may be located at Girdabor, the "Mound of Bor", which lies five miles south of the peak of Gudrun [= Shak-i Pira Magrun]."

Assyrian geography expert Professor Mario Liverani adds:

"I think that Speiser’s location of Bara is most probably correct. I adopted it in my book on the topograhy of Ashurnasirpal’s campaigns (1992). By the way, if you give me your postal address I can send it to you (I still have some copies). But note that the “deluge” mount is to be read Nisir, not Nimuš (the same sign can be read muš or sir), and means ”(Mount of) protection / shelter” (hinting at the deluge story)."

My conclusion would be, simply, that Lubar, from Akkadian lubaru, was a later development from the Mountain of Bara (= Nimush/Kinipa), as Bara itself had been wrongly interpreted in Hebrew tradition as a word for clothing or garment. Thus ALL the flood heroes can be placed on the same mountain.  This might make the peak a bit crowded, what with all those arks jockeying for grounding rights, but it does make a great deal more sense than continuing to chase after pieces of wood in Armenia.

We have seen above that the ‘Place of Descent’ from the mountain of the ark is traditionally said to be Nakhchivan.  Conventional logic, which identifies the purely modern name Nakhchivan with the Nachidsheuan  of Moses, chooses Agri Dagi to the northwest, i.e. the traditional Mount Ararat.  I don’t think this is correct.  Why?

Edward Lipinksy (ibid) discusses the likely identification of Agri Dagi/Mt. Ararat with the Mount Masu (“Twins”) of the Gilgamesh Epic.  The Armenian name for Agri Dagi is, indeed, Masis, and while this is sometimes said to be either Moses by the Arabs or a legendary hero Amaysis by the Armenians, if Mt. Ararat IS Masu, then the name Lubar or Baris would not seem to apply to it.

Mount Judi or Cudi Dagi, another favored location for Noah’s mountain, was picked for only one reason: as photos of it make clear, the mountain itself has a remarkable natural rock formation upon it which perfectly resembles the shape of an ark!  We can thus dispense with this mountain.

Another place-name we’ve just seen associated with the ark is Seron, the Place of Dispersion.  This word can clearly be associated with words like Hebrew zarah, “disperse”.  The Biblical Sirion, Akkadian Si-ra-ra, i.e. Mt. Hermon, is unlikely.  We must remember that Moses Chorenensis was an Armenian.  Thus his Seron, like Nahkchivan, must have been in Armenia.  Unless, of course, we are once again dealing with the fairly standard migration of legendary place-names.

We would not know where to look for Seron were it not for the reference to Xisuthrus. This is the Mesopotamian Zuisudra, equated in the ancient sources with Utnapishtum.  Both heroes brought their arks down on Mt. Nimush, now firmly identified with Shak-I Pira Magrun in As Sulaymaniyah, Iraq.

This mountain was in the lands of the Lullubi, whose territory was centered about the Sharazor Plain.  Their capital of Lullubum has been identified with Halabja in the southern part of the plain. Later called Zamua, this kingdom lay between the source of the Lower Zab and the source of the Turnat River/Diyala.  According to Mario Liverani (“Studies in the Annals of Ashurnasirpal II, Volume 2, Topographical Analysis”, 1992), Zamua corresponds to the modern province of Sulaymaniya, the valley of the upper course of Diyala, and to the valleys of the left tributaries of the upper Lesser Zab.  The kingdom was delimited on the southwest by Qara Dagh (dagh = mountain).

As it happens, on the very north of Sharazor Plain, butted up against the mountains not far SE of Shak-I Pira Magrun, is a place called Seran.  Although the name is doubtless Kurdish, Turkish or Arabic in its present form, it may preserve an earlier name.  One would expect the Mesopotamian Flood heroes of the primary mountain of Lullubum to descend onto the plain of the Lullubi – and Seran is here perfectly positioned to receive them.

We know that at least some of the Lullubi were of Urartu: the country of Him(m)e, for example, which lay on the borderland between NE Mesopotamia and NW Iran, was inhabited by Lullubi groups, yet it belonged to Urartu (see Trevor Bryce’s The Near East from the Early Bronze Age to the Fall of the Persian Empire).   

So where is Noah’s mountain?  Where the other Mesopotamian Flood heroes were placed: Shak-I Pira Magrun next to Bara.

Just for fun, I’m appending a comparison chart of the antediluvian patriarchs from both the Mesopotamian and Biblical traditions.  Not surprisingly, the number of one category matches perfectly that of the other.

From THE SUMERIAN KING LIST by Thorkild Jacobsen, Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 1973, and the NRSV of the Bible:

Alulim(ak)                              Adam

Alalgar                                   Cain  

Bad-Tibira(k)                          Abel  

En-men-lu-anna(k)                 Seth   

En-men-gal-anna(k)                Enosh

Dum-zi(d)                                Kenan

Bad-tibira(k)                           Mahalalel  

En-sipa(d)-zi(d)-anna(k)           Jared

En-men-dur-anna(k)               Enoch                                                                                              

Ubar-Tutu(k) of Shuruppak/   Methuselah

SU.KUR.LAM [= Shuruppak]   Lamech from LAM?                                                                                 

Utnapishtum/Zi-u-sud-ra       Noah




Well, we are left with three additional clues as to the location of Noah’s mountain, none of which have heretofore proven to be of any value: the cities said in the Song of Jubilees to surround the said mountain.  While these city-names may be literary creations only, it may help us to see if we can do anything with them.

To the east of the mountain – and AT the mountain – Sedeqetelebab (Shem)

To the south of the mountain, Ne’eltama’uk (Ham)

To the west of the mountain, ‘Adatan’eses (Japheth)

The only important site is that belonging to Shem, as we are specifically told he stayed with his father at the mountain.  The other two sites may be ANY distance south and west of the mountain.  And, indeed, as the three sons are given sons who are merely geographical and/or ethnic designations, and as Shem is the only one whose sons “fit” into the scheme of the mountain’s location, we will concentrate on Sedeqetelebab.

Sons of Shem:

Elam, a personification of the Elamites, whose kingdom lay in southern Mesopotamia.

Asshur, a personification of the Assyrians, who were again a Mesopotamian-centered empire.

Arpachshad, a personification of the city of Arrapha, modern Kirkuk in Iraq in northeastern Mesopotamia.

Lud, a personification NOT of Lydia, which has no connection at all with Shem’s other sons geographically, but with a place called Ludbu in the Assyrian record of Adad-Nirari II.  The place is mentioned as being in the lands of the Kassites, Kuti, Lullumu and Shubari , with Rapiku between itself and Eluhat.  Once again, we are talking about Mesopotamia, including the northeastern region.

Aram, a personification of the Aramaeans, for whom Aram Nahrin or Aram “Between the Rivers” of the Tigris and the Euphrates was named.

It goes without saying that Mesopotamia was the location of the Flood stories.  So we should not be surprised that Shem, whose sons describe a map of various Mesopotamian territories and kingdoms, should be the one to remain with his father at the mountain.

As for Sedeqetelebab, the first component Sedeq or Zedeq could be from Hebrew  s.d.q., ‘righteousness’.  However, as is made clear in the entry for ZEDEQ in “The Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible”, it was also the name of a West Semitic and Mesopotamian deity, possibly an aspect of the sun god Shamash (Akkadian shamash, Syriac shemsha, Hebrew shemesh and Arabic shams). The comparable Akkadian deity was named Kittu.  The word’s connection with Shem’s wife is obvious, as Shem was the “righteous” son of Noah, and thus the one who stayed closest to his father on the mountain.  We have many ancient personal names where sdq is used either as a first or last component.

And what of (e)telebab?

Well, we have several ancient names beginning with Til (Akkadian “mound”, especially the mound upon which a city stands).  This would leave us with a Til ‘Ebab’ or some such – which is easy!  This is similar (or identical) to the Tel Abib homeland of Ezekial during the Babylonian Captivity.  The name is from Akkadian Til Abubi, “Mound of the Deluge”.  Abubi is from abubu, meaning a Deluge as a cosmic event.  So a Til Abubi was a ‘hill of ruins made by the Deluge’ (Chicago Assyrian Dictionary).

Do we know specifically where Tel Abib was in Babylonia?  Well, yes, we do.  From the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:


The river by the side of which his first vision was vouchsafed to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:1). It is described as in "the land of the Chaldeans," and is not, therefore, to be sought in northern Mesopotamia. This rules out the Habor, the modern Chabour, with which it is often identified. The two names are radically distinct: chabhor could not be derived from kebhar. One of the great Babylonian canals is doubtless intended. Hilprecht found mention made of (naru) kabaru, one of these canals large enough to be navigable, to the East of Nippur, "in the land of the Chaldeans." adds an important detail:

“The "river" has been identified as the "Naru Kabari" because of two cuneiform inscriptions from Nippur. According to these tablets there was an irrigation canal that brought the water of the Euphrates River from Nippur to Babylon and looped around to the River near Erech. The canal’s modern name is Shatt en-Nil.”

I say important because Erech is the earlier Uruk, and this was the city over which the famous Gilgamesh of the Flood story was king.  Even better, the city Shuruppak or modern Tall Fa'rah was located SOUTH OF NIPPUR and originally on the bank of the Euphrates River! The Flood heroes Utnapishtum/Ziusudra built their arks at Shuruppak.

It is possible the ‘ZEDEQ-Tel-Abib’ may represent a different ‘Mound of the Deluge’, the first component here being a sort of qualifier meant to distinguish this particular mound from that of the Babylonian Captivity.  In the Akkadian records, the term is used of any site that resembled a flood-destroyed city.  The phrase was often used by kings as an expression of the thoroughness with which they destroyed an enemy’s town.  The storm god Adad was frequently blamed for creating such flood-ravaged mounds.

However, Zedeq as wife of Shem may say even more about the latter.  First, to quote from The Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible:

“The West Semitic god Zedek seemingly corresponds to the deity known as Kittu in the Babylonian pantheon and as Isar in the Amorite pantheon. In Mesopotamia the preservation of truth and justice was considered to be the particular domain of the sun god Shamash. Truth or Right was personified and deified as the god Kittu ('Truth', 'Right'; from Akk root kanu, cf. Heb root KWN). Kittu was often invoked together with the god Misharu ('Justice') (see CAD K 471 s.v. kittu A 1b4; MI2 118 S.". misaru A 2d; cf. Heb root YSR). One or both of these deities were described as 'seated before Shamash', i.e. Shamash's attendant, or as 'the minister of (Shamash's) right hand'. While Misharu wall always considered a male deity, Kittu was identified sometimes as the daughter of Shamash, sometimes as the son of Shamash. Meanwhile, at Mari offerings were made to the divine pair Isar u Mesar (ARM 24.210.24-25: cf. 263.5-6 where these same gods are listed separately but contiguously; see P. TALON, Un nouveau pantheon de Mari, Akkadica 20 [1980] 12-17). As a theophoric element Isar is common in both Akk and Amorite personal names (HUFFMON 1965:216). From the interchangeability of the names Kittu, Isar, and Sidqu/Zedek in the pairing with Misar(u), it appears that the deity known as Kittu in Babylonia was known further to the West under the names Isar and Sidqu/Zedek Zedek-all three names having essentially the same meaning but operative in different linguistic communities. Additional support for the identification of Sidqu and Kittu comes from the Amorite royal name Ammi-saduqa, which was translated in the Babylonian King List as Kimtum-kittum, showing an equivalence between the West Semitic root SDQ and Akk kittu (cf. BAUMGARTEN 1979:235).”

It will be noted here that Kittu, the Akkadian goddess who equates with Zedeq, could be FEMININE IN FORM, a daughter of the sun god.  This suggests to me, quite strongly, that Shem (Hebrew sm), which means literally “name”, is a substitute for the sun god Shamash (Hebrew semes).  The author of the entry on Shamash in the dictionary says “… the element sm in the [theophoric] names does not refer to a deity Shem, but functions as a substitution for a godhead.”  The godhead he is referring to in this context is, of course, Yahweh, but as I’ve made a case of Yahweh being Amun-Re (see my The Real Moses and His God), Shamash would do just as well.

Zedeq, wife of Shem, who hails from a Mound of the Deluge in Mesopotamia, is Kittu daughter of Shamash.

*The Flood is likely an exaggerated historical event.  Archaeologists excavating the ancient cities of Sumer on the Euphrates did find a significant 'flood layer', and this proves that at about the time the Flood was supposed to have occurred, there indeed was a major flood OF THE RIVER.  Not OF THE WORLD.  Obviously, people caught in such a flood - including the king of a city - would seek high ground either on their own ziggurat-mountain or on a nearby hill, which they would have to reach by boat.  Over time, this event became "mythologized" into the Mesopotamian and Biblical accounts of the Flood.

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