#27. Are Yahweh and El the same god OR different gods? (Gen 14:22, 17:1, 21:33; Ex 6:2-3; Ps 82:1 vs Deut 32:8-9; Ps 29:1, 89:6-8)


Recent archaeological, biblical, and extrabiblical research has led scholars working in the area of the origins of Israelite religion to assert rather boldly and confidently that the original god of Israel was in fact the Canaanite deity El.1 Just exactly how has this come about you ask?

First, the name Israel is not a Yahwistic name. El is the name of the deity invoked in the name Israel, which translates: “May El persevere.”2 This suggests that El was seen as the chief god in the formative years of Israel’s religious practices. In fact, the etiological story explaining the origin of the name Israel occurs in Genesis 35:9-15, where Jacob obtains this name through the blessing of El Shaddai, that is “El of the Mountain.”

Second, there exist numerous parallels and similarities between descriptions and cultic terminology used for El in the Canaanite texts and those used for Yahweh in the biblical sources (see below). At some point, it is ascertained, the cultic worship of Yahweh must have absorbed that of El, through which means Yahweh assimilated both the imagery and epithets once used of El.

Finally, there is strong confirmation of this assimilation in the biblical record itself. In the oldest literary traditions of the Pentateuch, it is El who regularly appears and not Yahweh, or Yahweh as El! The patriarchal narratives identify El as the deity to whom many of the early patriarchal shrines and altars were built. For example, we are informed in Genesis 33:20 that Jacob builds an altar in the old cultic center of the north, Shechem, and dedicates it to “El, god of Israel” (’el ’elohe yišra’el ). There is no ambiguity in the Hebrew here: ’el must be translated as a proper name, El.3 The textual tradition from which this text derives, the Elohist, ultimately remembers a time when El was the patron god of Israel.

That El was the deity worshiped at Shechem is also attested in Judges 9:46, which speaks of the shrine of “El of the covenant.” The god of the shrine at Bethel, which literally translates, “house of El,” is additionally El—”I am El of Bethel” (Gen 31:13; cf. 35:7)—and appears to Jacob as El Shaddai (35:11; cf. 48:3). Jacob has another encounter with El at Penuel, which is so named because Jacob sees El face-to-face (32:31). Moreover, Isaac blesses Jacob through El Shaddai (28:3), and likewise Jacob blesses Joseph “by El of your fathers” (49:25). “El who sees” is given as the etymology of Beerlahai-roi in Genesis 16:13. And we are informed that Abraham journeys to the old cultic shrine at Beersheba, where he plants and worships a tree and calls on the name “El the eternal” and at the same time Yahweh (Gen 21:33). Contrary to Genesis 33:20, where the Shechemite El is presented unambiguously as the “god of Israel,” in Genesis 21:33, El is apparently already assimilated to Yahweh (see below). Finally, Genesis 14:18-22 speaks of “El the most high,” of whom the Canaanite Melchizedek is priest at Jerusalem.

This assimilation between Yahweh and El, or El into Yahweh, is present in much of the Priestly material as well. In fact, the Priestly source largely advocates this assimilation. In Genesis 17:1, the Priestly writer states that “Yahweh appeared to Abram and said to him: ‘I am El Shaddai.’” And Exodus 6:2-3, in contradiction to J (#11), has Yahweh assert: “I am Yahweh. And I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El Shaddai, and I was not known to them by the name Yahweh.” Although the verse suggests an identification between Yahweh and El “of the mountain,” the verse also subtly recognizes an ancient distinction between the god of the patriarchs (El) and the god of the Mosaic era (Yahweh). But the assimilation is clear here: the patriarchs who worshiped El in the past were actually worshiping Yahweh, claims the Priestly writer.

Perhaps it is necessary at this point to ask: Who was El? And why is he even mentioned in the Bible in the first place, let alone as the god of Israel in the older literary traditions of Genesis?

Our knowledge of El predominantly comes from an invaluable corpus of tablets discovered in 1929 in the ancient city of Ugarit, a major city-state of the second millennium BC located on the northern coast of Syria, modern day Ras Shamra.4 The Ugaritic tablets are the best available witness to Canaanite religion and religious practices, and thus also “to the background from which the religion of Israel emerged, and to the Canaanite beliefs that it shared, adopted, compromised with, and sometimes rejected.”5 The Ugaritic literature depicts El as the sovereign deity of the Canaanite pantheon. He is frequently referred to as “Father of the gods,” “the eternal King,” and “Creator of all living beings.” El’s other epithets include: “El the Kind, the Compassionate,” “the Bull,” “the Ageless One,” and “the Father of Years.” He is depicted as bearded, and residing in a tent or a tabernacle, whose throne rests on Cherubim. He is the god of blessings and of covenants.

Many of these epithets and images later become assimilated to Yahweh. For example, Yahweh is often depicted as bearded, as King of the gods, as Compassionate, and as residing in a tent, whose throne, like that of El, rests on Cherubim. There are, in addition to this, numerous El epithets in various strains of biblical tradition—epithets that through a process of assimilation and adoption later become associated with Yahweh. We have already encountered El Shaddai, “El of the Mountain.” Like Yahweh who is associated with the mountain of Sinai and later in eschatological traditions with Zion, so too El resides on a mountain. Other patriarchal narratives attest the use of El Olam, “El the Eternal” to whom Abraham plants and worships a tree at Beersheba, El Elyon, “El the Most High,” the god of Melchizedek (Gen 14:18-24), and El Roi, “El who sees” (Gen 16:13).

These various El epithets are associated with different shrines: El Shaddai with Bethel, El the Most High, the creator of the heavens and the earth, with Jerusalem, El the Eternal with Beersheba, El who sees with Beerlahai-roi, and El the god of Israel with Shechem.6 Many of these shrines and altars to El were established by the patriarchs themselves (e.g., Gen 21:33, 28:18, 33:20, 35:14). It has also been suggested that the name Yahweh might have originally been a cultic epithet of El! The etymology of Yahweh, yhwh, is still unclear, but one proposal is to see it as the causitive imperfect of the Canaanite-Proto-Hebrew verb hwy, “to be.”7

It is propable therefore, as many commentators have contended, that the early Israelites actually worshiped El through his epithet ‘Yahweh.’ This process of assimilation is usually presented the other way around in the biblical literature: Yahweh is worshiped through the epithets of El: Shaddai, Olam, and Elyon.

Contrary to these biblical traditions that suggest an assimilation between Yahweh and El, there are other passages that seem to indicate that Yahweh was a separate and independent deity within El’s council. Deuteronomy 32:8-9 is one of those rare biblical passages that seemingly preserves a vestige of an earlier period in proto-Israelite religion where El and Yahweh were still depicted as separate deities: Yahweh was merely one of the gods of El’s council! This tradition undeniably comes from older Canaanite lore.

When the Most High (’elyôn) gave to the nations their inheritance, when he separated humanity, he fixed the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of divine beings. For Yahweh’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.

There are two points to take away from this passage. First, the passage presents an apparently older mythic theme that describes when the divine beings, that is each deity in the divine counsel, were assigned and allotted their own nation. Israel was the nation that Yahweh received. Second, Yahweh received his divine portion, Israel, through an action initiated by the god El, here identifiable through his epithet “the Most High.” In other words, the passage depicts two gods: one, the Most High (El), is seen as assigning nations to the divine beings or gods (the Hebrew word is elohim, plural “gods”) in his council; the other, Yahweh, is depicted as receiving from the first god, the Most High, his particular allotment, namely the people of Israel. Similarly, in another older tradition now preserved in Numbers 21:29, the god Chemosh is assigned to the people of Moab.

Other biblical passages reaffirm this archaic view of Yahweh as a god in El’s council. Psalm 82:1 speaks of the “assembly of El,” Psalm 29:1 enjoins “the sons of El” to worship Yahweh, and Psalm 89:6-7 lists Yahweh among El’s divine council.

Thus there seems to be ample evidence in the biblical record to support the claim that as Yahweh become the supreme national deity of the Israelites, he began to usurp the imagery, epithets, and old cultic centers of the god El. This process of assimilation even morphed the linguistic meaning of the name El, which later came to mean simply “god,” so that Yahweh was then directly identified as ’el—thus Joshua 22:22: “the god of gods is Yahweh” (’el ’elohim yhwh).

Noteworthy also is the fact that unlike the god Baal, there is no polemic in the Bible against El, and all the old cultic centers of El, those in Jerusalem, Shechem, and Beersheba, were later accredited to Yahweh. Since the large majority of patriarchal narratives that speak of shrines and altars to El are found in the northern kingdom, such as Bethel and Shechem, and, on the other hand, many biblical texts seem to accredit Yahweh’s origin to the southern Negeb, the current scholarly hypothesis is that the worship of El in the north and of Yahweh in the south eventually merged. This thesis finds further support in the incident of Jeroboam, who may have acted to reestablish the cult of Yahweh-El at Dan and Bethel via his “golden bulls” (#155). In sum, the biblical literature, spanning as it does hundreds of centuries of cultural and cultic traditions, preserves divergent views, portraits, theologies, and origins of its god Yahweh. We will come across others.

  1. For a comprehensive treatment of the subject see: F. M. Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic: Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel (Harvard University Press 1973); M. Smith, The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel (Eerdmans 1990); and W. Dever, Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel (Eerdmans 2008).
  2. Other names formed with “el” include: Ishmael, Bethel, Penuel. As a further note, no name in Genesis contains the form of Yahweh, which later became the dominant pattern in Israel in the 1st millennium bc. The first and earliest appearance of the name “Israel” comes from the Merneptah stela—an Egyptian victory stela commemorating the Syro-Palestinain conquest of pharaoh Merneptah in 1208 bc. In the stela Israel is listed among the peoples of the land of Canaan.
  3. The Hebrew ’el is often translated as “God.” Although like the Hebrew ’elohim, ’el can be translated as “god,” Hebraic philologists contend that a generic understanding of ’el as “god” is a rather late development in biblical Hebrew. More accurately, ’el without a definite article is to be rendered simply as “El,” the name of a pan-Canaanite (by this term I mean to include a proto-Israelite culture) deity—a remnant of an older Israelite/Canaanite tradition to which a few biblical passages still attest. Mention of El is also found in Gen 17:1, 28:3, 35:10, 48:3, 49:25. In later literary sources, and after Yahweh had adsorbed El’s attributes (see above), ’el came to be understood simply as “god.”
  4. Translations of the Ugaritic texts can be found in: C. Gordon, Ugaritic Literature: A Comprehensive Translation of the Poetic and Prose Texts (Pontifical Biblical Institute 1949); M. Coogan, ed., and tr., Stories from Ancient Canaan (Westminster 1978).
  5. Coogan, Stories from Ancient Canaan, 19.
  6. Dever, Did God Have a Wife?, 257-260. See also Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, 44-60.
  7. Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, 65.

61 thoughts on “#27. Are Yahweh and El the same god OR different gods? (Gen 14:22, 17:1, 21:33; Ex 6:2-3; Ps 82:1 vs Deut 32:8-9; Ps 29:1, 89:6-8)

  1. I have my own theory regarding the origin of the Hebrew monotheistic belief system, it differs somewhat from that and I’m still in the substantiation process, but essentially, it is as follows.

    The Sumerians controlled Mesopotamia for nearly 4000 unbroken years. During the latter hundred or so of those years, Semitic Akkadians gradually filtered into Northern Mesopotamia, settled, and grew in population and strength, and those qualities established, over the next few hundred years, overcame the Sumerians to the extent that the Sumerian language was eradicated except for use in religious ceremonies, much as Egyptian in Coptic services in Egypt and Latin in Catholic ones. “El” meant, “Lord” in Sumerian, and rather than specifically referring to a god, was merely a title of reverence.

    With Akkadian dominance, a new pantheon of gods was introduced, along with the Akkadian word, “En,” which had basically the same meaning as the Sumerian word, “El.” Often, where there were similarities between any Akkadian god and a Sumerian one, the Akkadian god absorbed the qualities of his Sumerian counterpart. Other times, gods of both groups may have been worshipped by the same person, just to cover all bases. The Golden Age for Akkadian Mesopotamia came with the reign of Sargon, who, with his armies, reopened a trade route from Mesopotamia to the Mediterranean, and Mesopotamians moved westward, colonizing the new territories and settling there. Akkadia began a slow decline with the death of Sargon around 2215 BCE.

    The route also opened the way for other tribes to move into Mesopotamia, and the Amurrites did exactly that. Another Semitic group of nomads, the Amurrites came in two waves, the first settling still north and east of Akkadian territory in the area of Assyria in the Hurrian empire, where they quickly gave up their nomadic ways and came to build cities and establish an agrarian economy. The Amurrites, so named for their god, Amurru (also known as the Amorites), rose in power just as the Akkadians had done, and from 2000 BCE to 1600, were the undisputed rulers of Mesopotamia.

    Biblical archaeologist, William Dever, assures us that there is no evidence to support the existence of any of the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac or Jacob/Israel, but suggests that these names may represent groups of people, rather than individuals, that settled in the Levant. Still, there are those who attempt to establish a birthdate for Abraham, at least by those who do not believe him to be fictional, and I have found guestimates ranging from 2300 to 1750 BCE. the dating is important because it coincides well with the Ammurrite ascension to power in Mesopotamia. The most famous of all of the Amurrite rulers was Hammurabi, the law-giver, after whom, many believe the fictional character of Moses was modeled.

    The Amurrite god, Amurru, had other titles. He is sometimes described as a shepherd and the son of the Mesopotamian sky-god Anu. He is called ‘Lord of the mountain,’ ‘He who dwells on the pure mountain’ and ‘he who inhabits the shining mountain.’ But lastly, and most importantly, to the best of my research, Amurru is the original “El Shaddai,” or “Bêl Šadê.” When “god” first introduces himself to Abraham, it is as “El Shaddai.”

    When, in Exodus, this god introduces himself to Moses as Yahweh, he says, “I was known to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as El Shaddai.”

    In a 15th century BCE Egyptian list of groups in the Transjordan region, there are six groups of Shasu or “wanderers”. One of them is the Shasu of Yhw. These are almost certainly not the original Israelites however, because in the later Merneptah reliefs, the Israelites are referred to as a people rather than as wanderers. Whatever the Shasu of Yhw were, though, they may have been worshipers of Yahweh who brought their religion to indigenous groups of Canaan. Among those groups, and actually occupying an area adjacent to the Transjornan region, were the Hittites, a known cult of believers in YHWH. According to the Bible, Moses was married to the daughter of a Hittite priest, Jethro. Even if, as Dever again suggests, Moses too was not an actual historical figure, he could well have represented a segment of Jewish people who merged with Hittites and adopted their Yahweh, co-opting onto their new diety, all of the traits and history of Amurru, El Shaddai.

  2. Arch, Nice addition. I’d caution about representing this as your own theory. Much of what you have here can be found in the works of Dever, Finkelstein, Smith, Propp, Cross, etc. Propp has a particularly nice synthesis of the scholarship in his Anchor Bible translation and commentary on Exodus.

    Why not, instead of “Biblical archaeologist, William Dever, assures us that there is no evidence to support the existence of any of the Patriarchs…” state that the biblical data and the archaeological data strongly suggest that…? Now you’re reasoning from data rather than an authoritative figure. Indeed, I’m just quibbling…

  3. Steven,

    I’ve yet to find the Amurru connection described anywhere – could you please direct me to which of these authors describes it?


  4. That I can not help you with. For some reason Lemeche comes to mind, but I’m not sure, maybe Propp–excellent source anyway. Try doing a search on Jstor or some other scholarly database and see what comes up. Looks like you’ve delved into this deeper than I have.

  5. You seemed so certain that someone had considered the c0nnection before I did, that I just assumed you would have such information on the tip of your tongue. I’ll search further. I’m not proprietary, if someone else thought of the connection first, then possibly he/she has had time to accumulate more information than I and I can learn from him. More than any other reason, I referred to it as “my” theory in order to absolve anyone else from blame in the event it was an unsupportable one.

    RE: “Why Dever assures” vs “biblical and archaeological data suggests” – considering that Dever has devoted his life to biblical research, I think it’s safe to assume that he may be just be “reasoning from data.” Just counter-quibbling —

  6. I am very interested in the comments made by various participants. I hold a Th.D. Ph.D., M.A., M.Div degrees and many years of missionary work in the Buddhist and Hindu lands. I want to find out what ultimately is the truth concerning the various gods and goddesses whose names we handle in all our investigations.

  7. Dr. Wilson, Welcome. Concerning the ancient Israelite end of your interests, I’d consider these books:

    Mark Smith, The Early History of God: Yahweh and the other deities in ancient Israel (1990)
    William Dever, Did God Have a Wife? Archaeology and folk religion in ancient Israel (2005)

    Both of these authors combine a rich field of data coming from the archaeological record, biblical record, and other extra-biblical ancient Near Eastern texts. It would appear that this data strongly suggests that Yahweh usurped the role and portrait of the Canaanite El, and that Yahweh may have originally been a deity, like Baal, under El’s patronage. All in all fascinating material.

  8. This may be redundant, but it appears YHWH created the Adamic race, apparently on behalf of El-Elyon, who we’ll just refer to as El. The logical explanation is that there was DNA tampering or mating with apes or primitive humans by the gods. These new human prototypes were superior and would replace earlier humans which were genetically corrupted by the Elohim (pantheon of demi-gods). My take is that these Elohim were the Elohim of Genesis who violated the “Prime Directive” of El. Instead of life, particularly human life evolving naturally on earth during the course of time, Lucifer and many other gods were vying to become the El of this world, and were using the humans as pawns to do their dirty work, mining, farming etc. The true El (Most High) saw what was going on and at some point appointed YHWH to rectify the situation, which he did by forming Adam/Eve. They would be tested on their loyalty, a test which they failed. However, they were repentant and YHWH decided to give them a second chance. He became their shepherd and protector, and at times was ruthless, unleashing the forces of nature, and ordering the genocide of rival nations. Cain, on the other hand, carried the “bad seed” of rebellious humanity, which they had inherited from their rebellious master gods. YHWH protected that seed through to Christ, who was presumably of pure seed from Adam/Eve, although that has been brought into serious question. It is stated in apocryphal works that the mother of Ham was a descendant of Cain (who was probably fathered by Satan and at the very least mated with the children of other gods), and it’s likely that the descendants of Ham intermarried with Japeth, whose descendants the Gentiles formed the “beast”, the Roman empire. Only a very narrow band of humanity was pure from the flood through Shem, and it may have only been on the father’s side, since it is said that David married a Moabite, I think. Is it true Yahshua never claimed to be the son of YHWH but only El, the Most High? He didn’t cry out to YHWH on the cross. He seems to be humanity’s bridge to El, but not through YHWH. Do I have this correct? I appreciate your thoughtful comments on this.

  9. John, welcome, but what is this? — a gnostic re-interpretive endeavor? I am a biblical scholar who sees my goal as representing to the best of my abilities the ideas, beliefs, and thoughts of each of the Bible’s writers, and from within their own historical and literary world, and to understand them as products of their cultures. Much of what you’ve presented above, although interesting, is speculation, theological imagination, etc. In other words, such ideas, speculation, etc. are not supported by the biblical texts, or are part of these author’s worlds or thinking; they are not what the biblical authors had in mind when they penned their texts. In fact, your non-biblical speculative idea that Jesus mediates humans to El is tainted with the ideas of 2nd century gnosticism, but biblical they are not. On another note, we must concede that even if Yahshua was seen as the son of Yahweh or as the mediator to EL these are cultural and historical perspectives that individuals had of their reality and/or religion. We are almost never talking about Reality, capital R—unless of course we were to enter into a philosophical discussion that attempted to define what reality is—I’ll throw the first stone: an objective fact or a subjective experience?

  10. Steven,
    Thanks for your engaging website! You point out the most interesting possibility that sometime in Israel’s past, as indicated in Deuteronomy 32:8-9, El and Yahweh may have been worshiped alongside of each other with El as the high god, and Yahweh as his son and the god assigned to Israel. Two questions: 1) There is a British scholar, Margaret Barker, who makes the actual claim that El and Yahweh were actually worshiped in the first temple. She claims that Josiah in his reform eliminated the worship of El to consolidate the worship of Yahweh alone. She sounds a tad speculative to me. What do you think of her work? 2) Why would the Deuteronomist have retained such a polytheistic reference in Deuteronomy 32:8-9 if his agenda was so focused on eliminating all vestiges of polytheism? I look forward to hearing from you.

  11. Russell,

    I’m not familiar with Barker’s work. However, there is strong evidence, both biblical and archaeological, to support the claim that El and Yahweh were worshiped interchangeably in the first temple period. That is to say, EL and Yahweh might have been conceived of as identical. As for her second claim, I’m not too convinced. One of the reasons is that scholars have regularly noticed that there is no polemic in the OT against El; whereas, for example, we find much polemic against Baal. In other words, according to the biblical writers, El did not present himself as a threat to Yahwism. Baal certainly did. And yes, many scholars see Josiah’s reforms, even if only theoretical, as the first systematic attempt at an Israelite monotheism. But again, it is most often Baal that is portrayed polemically in the OT. I’ve rediscussed this recently in contradition #190.

    As for your second question about Deut 32, I believe this poem is an archaic fragment that was later appended to the scroll of Deuteronomy, and therefore was not an original composition by the Deuteronomist.

  12. “When the Most High (’elyôn) gave to the nations their inheritance, when he separated humanity, he fixed the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of divine beings. For Yahweh’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.”

    May I ask which version of the Bible you’re quoting from? I’ve checked KJV, Complete Jewish, and Orthodox Jewish and can’t find anything like “according to the number of divine beings” in Deuteronomy 32:8-9. TIA!

  13. Excellent question. I apologize that I did not cite my source here. I am currently away from my books, but if I had to guess, this is probably Mark Smith’s translation in his The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel. The question then becomes: why did Smith translate the Hebrew בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל (“children/sons of Israel”) as if it read בְנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים (“children/sons of the gods/divine beings” (elohim))?

    The MT clearly has בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. But apparently there are older manuscripts that attest to an original בְנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים. I pulled this article, Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God, by biblical scholar Michael Heiser from the internet, and have quoted some of it below.

    Controversy over the text of this verse concerns the last phrase, “according to the number of the sons of Israel,” which reflects the reading of the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible (hereafter, MT), בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. The MT reading is also reflected in several later revisions of the Septuagint (hereafter, LXX): a manuscript of Aquila (Codex X), Symmachus (also Codex X), and Theodotion. Most witnesses to the LXX in verse 8, however, read ἄγγελων ϑεου, which is interpretive. Several also read υἱων ϑεου. Both of these Greek renderings presuppose a Hebrew text of either בְנֵי אֱלֹהִים or בְנֵי אֱלֹים. These Hebrew phrases underlying ἄγγελων ϑεου and υἱων ϑεου are attested in two manuscripts from Qumran, and by one (conflated) manuscript of Aquila.

    Heiser draws on both Ugaritic El texts and the linguistic and contextual evidence in Deuteronomy 32 to clarify that the older manuscript reading of “sons of the gods” is the preferred and correct reading.

    Ugaritic mythology plainly states that the head of its pantheon, El (who, like the God of the Bible, is also referred to as El Elyon, the “Most High”) fathered 70 sons, thereby setting the number of the “sons of El” (Ugaritic, bn )il). An unmistakable linguistic parallel with the Hebrew text underlying the LXX reading was thus discovered, one which prompted many scholars to accept the LXX reading on logical and philological grounds: God (El Elyon in Deut. 32:8) divided the earth according to the number of heavenly beings who already existed from the time of creation.

    Heiser also convincingly demonstrates that the original beni elohim was not only later changed to beni israel but that in Deut 32:43 the phrase beni elohim, which is also attested in Qumran manuscripts and the LXX, had also been omitted. I would recommend reading the article if interested. It’s well done, and convincing. The author also discusses other places in the Hebrew Bible that mention the beni elohim as part of Yahweh’s counsel—Yahweh now having usurped the position that El enjoyed in the Ugaritic texts!

  14. Dr. DiMattei,

    First, let me say I appreciate the efforts (to put it simply) you put forth to make this blog. I know I am a bit late to the party, but I arrived here due to a stinging feeling I’ve had since my childhood; the notion that the God of the Bible, or rather, the God I was told was in the Bible, was not the one I know in my heart.

    Your research is exponentially more advanced than my own, but I find we have reached many similar conclusions. I’m sure this has come up before, but I have yet to find it here or anywhere: could you recommend (or direct me to a post of yours concerning) a source of biblical materials which include all references to the names of gods along with any other elements that have largely been edited out of most modern translations? I find it very cumbersome to search through the Expanded Bible, the “God’s Word” translation, the Amplified Bible, etc., to only rarely be rewarded with (seemingly) more accurate information.

    For the record, I now consider the components of the Bible to have been manipulated in order to further countless agendas throughout history.

    Thank you,


  15. Dear Dr DiMattei,
    This is a very interesting blog and I am glad I stumbled across it.

    Quite understandably you focus a lot of attention of the Semitic origins of the scriptural names of G-d. Nevertheless, what about any possible Egyptian connections- given the long sojourn of the Children of Israel in Egypt and the interaction with Egypt throughout the “early” books of Tanakh/Old Testament?

    Is there also not perhaps the merest possibility of an influence, maybe scribal, of the Egyptian Dhwty (Thoth/Djehuty) and J’ḥ-Dhwty (Iah-Thoth/Djehuty)? Thoth of course being the god of scribes and Iah-Dhehuty being a lunar deity “associated” with Thoth and also Khonsu.
    I accept we ought to be very careful with ancient etymologies and Biblical/Hebrew etymologies can be fraught with pitfalls and false positives yet it is still an interesting “coincidence” and furthermore in the light of Moses’ (Egyptian name?) association with Egypt, an Egypt that also saw an historically verifiable “flirtation” with a form of monotheism under the so-called heretic pharaoh Akhenaten.
    Could there also be Egyptian undertones in any of this that may be gleaned from a textual analysis?

  16. @Tribunal X,
    I recommend the Names of God Bible, which can be viewed at http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Names-of-God-NOG-Bible . Here are some excerpts. The bolding is original:

    Genesis 2:4-5:
    This is the account of heaven and earth when they were created, at the time when Yahweh Elohim made earth and heaven. 5 Wild bushes and plants were not on the earth yet because Yahweh Elohim hadn’t sent rain on the earth. Also, there was no one to farm the land. 6 Instead, underground water would come up from the earth and water the entire surface of the ground.

    Genesis 33:20
    20 He set up an altar there and named it El Is the Elohim of Israel.

    Exodus 6:2-3
    2 Elohim spoke to Moses, “I am Yahweh. 3 I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shadday, but I didn’t make myself known to them by my name, Yahweh.

    Numbers 23:19-23
    19 El is not like people. He tells no lies. He is not like humans. He doesn’t change his mind. When he says something, he does it. When he makes a promise, he keeps it. 20 I have received a command to bless. He has blessed, and I can’t change it. 21 He doesn’t want any trouble for the descendants of Jacob. He sees no misfortune for the people of Israel. Yahweh their Elohim is with them, praised as their king. 22El who brought them out of Egypt has the strength of a wild bull. 23 No spell can curse the descendants of Jacob. No magic can harm the people of Israel. Now it will be said of Jacob and Israel: ‘See what El has done!’

  17. Thank you very much, John Kesler! I suppose I could find a printed or ebook version of that translation.

    Take care!

  18. TX,
    I want to make it clear that I recommend the NOGB because it retains the Hebrew names of God, not because I find it a perfect translation; in many ways it falls short. In Deuteronomy 32:8-9, it retains the MT’s “sons of Israel” instead of the more accurate “sons of the gods” (see above). In Genesis 6:1-4, it attempts to make the “sons of God” other humans instead of divine beings that cohabited with the “daughters of men.” It also sees the Messiah in Daniel’s “70 weeks” prophecy of 9:24-27.

  19. @ rob
    Till’s list still exists, but it is not particularly active. As you may know, Till passed away in October 2012. As far as I know, you can still subscribe at this page: http://iierrancy.com.

  20. I had been a christian many years.. However it’s research to this extent that truly opened my eyes. Forgive me if this hypothesis sounds foolish, yet I’m sure you’ve heard of it Steven. What of the ancient astronaut theory? Could El not of offered extraterrestrial intervention rather than a divine one? What if our ancestors witnessed supernatural beings being superior in intelligence, evolution, understanding, etc. Possibly bioengineered from their DNA and our own. El (and all other gods) came and taught us farming, morals, astrology and so forth and left. I understand you’re simply a biblical scholar but how plausable does the idea of El being not devine or imaginatice, but extraterrestrial seem to you?

  21. Hey Harley,

    In short, ZERO. Looks like you’ve been watching Prometheus to long!

    All of what we find in the ancient literature of the ancient Near East and particularly the manner in which these ancient peoples saw their world—thus placing the origin of agriculture, fire, language, morals, etc. in the feats of their gods—is explainable by human psychology. That’s one of the reasons I’m fascinated by ancient civilizations—how they expressed their perception of the world. Remember too that for these ancient cultures, the world was magical and divine and sacred, so how even life came about (and language, agriculture, etc.) was seen as divine, a gift of the gods. What you’ve got above, seems to me more an extension of this older mythology—looking to the exterior for answers related to origins, rather than seeing these as the expressions of the human imagination!

    Also, drawing from interests I had decades ago, mythologies of gods are relatively later than those of goddesses. Imagine primitive man, what his psychology saw. Having not yet connected the idea of sex and 9-months later, boom, a new baby from the females womb, primitive man saw the female as spontaneously producing life, as earth more generally as spontaneously producing life. In my younger days I was heavily into Joseph Campbell; I still think he does a nice job speaking about goddess mythologies and the development into god mythologies (his Masks of Gods series). Much of his take on Christianity would shock me as being too general and abstract now.

    In short, why not just keep this as the/a study of man!

  22. To add to what Dr. DiMattei said, we can trace the slow development of practices like agriculture over the millennia using archaeology, and we can also trace the development of morality by reading the oldest writings we have available. For instance, many people find some of the morals in the Bible discordant nowadays. If you found out I was sacrificing animals to my god on a large grill in my backyard, you would probably be troubled by that, but this was how the Jews practiced their religion. If you found out I had purchased my wife from her family after forcibly de-flowering her, you would be rightly disgusted with me, but I would only be following the Torah (Deut. 22:28, 29). The same God who is said to have sent Jesus to earth is credited with giving these laws to the Israelites.

    So what I’m getting at is that we can see the development of morals and technology over time without needing an extraterrestrial explanation. Many of the morals in the Bible do hold up today, such as the idea that if someone causes injury or loss to someone else, that they should make reparations. Some are just now falling out of style, such as the idea that a murderer should be put to death. A hundred years ago, that was still more or less universally acceptable. But as Dr. DiMattei said, these concepts are easy to explain from a psychological perspective. A sufficiently intelligent animal will naturally want to be treated with respect, and being social animals, we want to see members of our tribe treated fairly too.

    Why do we have these ancient stories of gods and goddesses, then? Well, I won’t try to explain it in a blog comment, but you can read about psychological concepts like “theory of mind” and “operant conditioning” to learn more. Basically, we have the tendency to assign intent to events without any evidence of intent, and to learn lessons from events even when they’re the wrong lessons.

    For instance, the notion of a god in the sky is very natural to arrive at if you watch rain fall and listen to lightning crash during a storm, forgetting what you know of meteorology. For ancient man, this led to desperate attempts to appease the man in the sky when he stopped delivering the rain. The behaviors which happened to immediately precede rain seemed to work and became (wrongly) reinforced, leading to primitive religious practices like sacrifices. There’s a lot more to this, but I think this gives you something to look into, Harley. It’s not quite as fantastical as ancient astronauts, but it’s pretty interesting stuff!

  23. Dr. DiMattei and all of the participants on this blog: Thank you so much for helping me, a complete ignorant past Christianity, Mormonism, and the likes. My heart was telling me that there was much more to look for than what I had been taught; so I was trying Wikipedia, Google and suddenly I came across this blog. Please, for the benefit of the less learned, like in my case, continue with your discussions/updates, etc. As for me: I will continue visiting this blog and hope to find the direction I am seeking for. I had been blinded for so long! Thank you very much. Muy agradecido!

  24. in a footnote:

    As a further note, no name in Genesis contains the form of Yahweh,

    maybe i’m alone in this, but i think J is making a rather clear pun between the name יהוה the word אודה (i will praise) and יהודה in 29:35, even if it doesn’t technically count.

    additionally, “yahweh” appears in full in a place name in 22:14. maybe that doesn’t count because it’s actually just two words and not a proper theophoric name.

    Thus there seems to be ample evidence in the biblical record to support the claim that as Yahweh become the supreme national deity of the Israelites

    well… judah anyways. i’m not actually convinced that a) a unified israel ever existed, and b) that the northern kingdom of israel as a whole ever accepted yahweh, and c) that yahwism as a national, monotheistic religion antedates josiah/hilkiah. you get a lot of this conflation between gods after that event. i’m not sure to what extent the yahwists conflated yahweh and el (or if they were ever separate, to them) before josiah/hilkiah. you could make arguments that J and E are conflating yahweh and el, but… when were they written, exactly? i’ve heard early arguments and late arguments.

    the current scholarly hypothesis is that the worship of El in the north and of Yahweh in the south eventually merged.

    isn’t it nice that yisrael worshiped el, and yehudah yahweh. i wonder if that’s a coincidence, or if that pun at the beginning actually reflects the name derivation. in any case, as you suggest in the other post on this topic, “yahweh” itself may be a rendition of an epithet for el, so i don’t know if we can say they split, or they merged… or both.

    In other words, the passage depicts two gods:

    it should be noted that in some ways, yahweh is a parallel for (baal) hadad, and this relationship in this passage seems to back that up.

    the Hebrew word is elohim, plural “gods”

    oh, you know better than that. come on.

    the phrase in the DSS is בני אלוהים (it looks to my eyes like that extra vav is there, but maybe i’m just seeing things). the “elohim” part is part of the construct chain; you can’t actually infer plurality from it. “elohim” has the same plural and singular form in biblical hebrew, probably because it comes from the name of the divine council in canaanite. hebrew texts redefine this council as “children of god” instead of “gods” in their own right, but it’s extremely likely you could still draw a parallel to this group and what would be called gods in related religions. but the word itself is not necessarily plural! it’s probably referring to the sons of the (singular) el elyon.

    this passage is very odd mix of leftover polytheism and monotheism that seems to defy the time it was written in… i think it probably deserves a whole post.

    there is no polemic in the Bible against El

    you go on to mention golden bulls in the same paragraph. this leaves me confused. clearly, the bull (el) is condemned…

  25. My question is on Psalm 82. Was Yahweh one of the gods judged in the assembly of El? If so, then he would have been condemned to die as all of the other gods were.

  26. ValerieMy question is on Psalm 82. Was Yahweh one of the gods judged in the assembly of El? If so, then he would have been condemned to die as all of the other gods were.

    This is an excellent question. As Mark S. Smith states, “The author of Psalm 82 deposes the older theology, as Israel’s deity is called to assume a new role as judge of all the world. Yet at the same time, Psalm 82, like Deut 32:8-9, preserves the outlines of the older theology it is rejecting. From the perspective of this older theology, Yahweh did not belong to the top tier of the pantheon. Instead, in early Israel the god of Israel apparently belonged to the second tier of the pantheon; he was not the presider god, but one of his sons.” It appears that for the author of Psalm 82, although Yahweh is in the council of El, it is Yahweh who acts as a prosecuting attorney, condemning the gods of the nations for not ruling properly and sentencing them to die as mortals. Yahweh (elohim) is then urged in v:8 to “Rise up… judge the earth; for all the nations belong to you!” Thom Stark has pointed out that Psalm 82 has affinities to the Ugaritic Baal Cycle. He writes, “In the Baal Cycle, the high god El who presides over the council has called for a cessation of violence among the gods and intends to crown Yamm (‘Sea’)—the god of the chaotic seas—king over all the earth, and to hand over Baal to Yamm as a prisoner according to Yamm’s demand. But Baal rebukes the council of the gods for their cowardice before Yamm. He then defies El’s intentions and takes matters into his own hands, engaging Yamm in combat and defeating him (cf. ‘you shall die like mortals’ in Ps 82:7).”

  27. Reading your article really clarifies a lot for me and I appreciate you posting it. I am something of an accidental agnostic atheist; dug into my doubts to try to deepen my former Christian faith and did so with an open mind. I had taken up meditation and was trying to resolve experiences that seemed more deeply spiritual than anything I had ever felt in church with my religion. In researching Christianity, I just kept finding more closets and more skeletons. Then when I go a little deeper, I find out that the deity is actually based on a god from something that most Christians would probably consider ancient mythology.

    Anyway, I am curious if you do any research or reading that goes in further back. I have read Myths To Live By by Joseph Campbell and I was intrigued by the similarity of religions that were practiced in places and times where we don’t know of contact. There was a Central/South American religion in antiquity whose stories closely paralleled Judaism and Christianity for example. I wonder how far back the stories go and if there was a common root. I know they have found what appear to be places of worship up to 70,000 years old (in Africa but not universally accepted; the 40,000 year old one in Europe is generally accepted though).

  28. Steve, thanks for answering my post, over a year ago. Sorry I missed it, but I did finally see that new comments were added. I don’t disagree with your critique of my comments. I know they’re not exactly biblical; I would prefer to say extrabiblical over non-biblical, as I see the biblical canon of Rome (and the resulting bibles) to be tainted at the very least, and that is an understatement. To me, they are evidence, a reference, but by no means infallible, and in many cases very dubious in nature. I am interested in uncovering the truth, not parroting the bible, as it is as confusing as it is contradictory. That being said, I really did like your article. It suggests something I’ve been contemplating for quite a while now; that is that YHVH is not one and the same as El, El-Elyon, the Most High, Ancient of Days, etc. Furthermore, I do not use the J-name, as I consider it blasphemy of the highest order. The Messiah of Israel is named Yahshua, and believers should learn and use His Hebrew name at all times, and accept no substitutes.

    What I proposed was that a prior human race existed. I now believe that they were mostly or completely wiped out around 70,000 BC at the time of the Mt. Toba event, the largest volcano in earth’s history. I believe this event was synonymous with an event which Sitchin describes as the intentional destruction of Mount Mashu using something called the Terror Weapon (in his words). This is in the book of Enki. I believe this event was the trigger for the ice ages that lasted up until around 10,000 BC. The event was the last act of the prior human civilization, which probably resembled our own, however they may have had gods and other deities which controlled the human race. I believe El may have given Lucifer one last chance to rebuild humanity, but beginning around 10,000 BC when the ice began to recede he was back to his old tricks, manipulating human DNA and enslaving humans, including sexual bondage. There may also be the Enki/Enlil paradigm, which would present itself as two brothers who became adversaries, one now known as Lucifer/Satan, the other known as The Word/Yahshua. Mormonism claims that Lucifer and Yahshua were once brothers. Admittedly it’s very speculative, but it also fits in with the paradigm of the serpent seed, that is YHVH created Adam/Eve, and Lucifer/Satan snuck in and impregnated Eve, with Cain/Abel half brothers. This explains why Cain killed Abel, and also why Cain was banished. You’ll note that Adam is never mentioned as the father of Cain, nor is Cain mentioned as the son of Adam. Of this fact I am firmly convinced. Genesis 3:15 indicates two seedlines, and Genesis 4:1 eliminates Adam as a possible father (Lord = Baal). Anyway that is a lot to digest I know. I don’t know why people keep claiming I’m a Gnostic – perhaps I should study what they believed and why. In my paradigm, whatever survived out of the first century is apostate, according to scripture itself, as it predicts and anticipates the coming apostasy (from their perspective) and we can see the gradual falling away from the faith until the apostasy becomes full blown by the fourth century. Anyway keep the comments coming – I enjoy them, pro or con, I respect your opinion. You seem to have a better grasp on the difference between El and YHVH, and that is what I’m after. My loyalty is with Yahshua the Messiah, and to His Father, but to me it’s not clear just who His Father is. Is it YHVH? Yahshua is described as being the Son of the Most High, not the Son of YHVH, and so I am somewhat perplexed as to who is who, and would appreciate your help in unraveling this.

  29. John Scoone,
    I am just another poster, but I wanted to point something out about a couple of your comments:

    “Of this fact I am firmly convinced.”
    “I don’t know why people keep claiming I’m a Gnostic”

    It might be semantics; I noticed you capitalized the G. I usually do not as I use gnostic and agnostic to mean knowing for sure or not with respect to matters of faith (or at least believing you know for sure). What you refer to as a fact (satan impregnating Eve) is a hypothesis. It’s a matter of faith, IMO, that either Eve or satan ever existed to begin with. So I infer from your statement that you are gnostic.

    On a similar note, I use the term atheist to mean “not a theist”; in other words I have not encountered a theology I think is valid. I call myself an agnostic atheist because I am not certain that no theology is correct. I am absolutely not convinced that there is no higher power. I feel emotions. I have felt a collective consciousness in some group meditations (or a profound deep emotional response that I haven’t found another way to trigger). I am not sure that biology explains everything. I just think that all the explanations we have come up for something likely beyond our understanding fall a bit short.

  30. OptiMystic,

    I guess we would have a lot in common then, since I do not believe that any theology of today at least is valid. I place 100% of my faith in Yahshua the Messiah of Israel however. I operate under a completely different paradigm than any one I know of today. I basically believe in the bible, but that it has also been misinterpreted and corrupted, by the Romans and others, and even before that. That’s why there are contradictions. Christians want to believe the bible is this pristine, perfect document. They are guilty of circular reasoning. They reason that since the KJB or whatever is the most popular version, that is the true word of God and what He intended for us to have. I’m not going to go over the many fallacies with that assumption; I’ll just say that there are enough proven errors and inconsistencies that clearly tell us that it falls far short of the mark. Another way to think of it is this: Would God really leave it to the pagan Romans to establish the biblical canon, the very people who murdered His Son, and were identified by bible scholars the world over as the fourth beast of the book of Daniel? Where’s the logic in that?

  31. John,
    I don’t want to debate too much in this forum, though what we are discussing is tangentially relevant. IMO, you do seem to believe in a theology that you derived from an existing one, which you believe is at least partially correct. I don’t even have a theology of my own making that I believe. The reason for my interest and my earlier question about possible common origins further back in history is that I am not sure any of them even start with validity, making the events in the interim largely irrelevant (though not completely; I think a lot of philosophy and rules of conduct attributed to some religions are very relevant). I often envy people of strong faith; having an unwavering belief that my life serves some purpose would be nice.

  32. I just came onto your site today and I enjoy it very much. I think I have some help about The Gods of the Jews. I find it in the Commandments. See what you think.

    The first Commandment is, “I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” Exodus 20:2-3. This commandment does not deny that there were other Gods, it just demands the God of the Jews was to be the number one God. This was made up to overcome any who might believe it was El, or some other God that was their deliverer, when it was YHWH who brought them out of Egypt. This prohibition was intended to solve that problem.

    The second Commandment is, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth,” Exodus 20:4. This was necessary because the image worshipped as El was a bull, as fashioned by Aaron at mount Sinai, Exodus 32:1-6. The image worshipped as YHWH was a serpent, as fashioned by Moses in the wilderness, Numbers 21:6-9. There were also images for the other Gods. This prohibition of making any image was intended to solve that problem.

    The third Commandment is, “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain,” Exodus 20:7. This was necessary because some may have referred to God as El, others as YHWH, or others by the names of the other Gods they worshipped. This prohibition of using any name was intended to solve that problem.

  33. When reading Yeshua’s words on the cross: “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). I question why people thought Yeshua called for Elijah (15:35). The name “Elijah” doesn’t sound anything like “My God, My God”, but Eliel does which can mean: “My God EL”, “EL My God”, or “My God is EL”.

    I have a question for Dr Steven regarding the use of “EL” and “YAH” in the hebrew names of the prophets and laity of Israel. Did all of these names originally use “EL” instead of “YAH”? E.g., was “Eliyah” originally “Eliel”, “Jeremiah”, “Jeremiel” etc? If so, when were the names changed and for what purpose? Thank you.

  34. Just a side note but my research tells me that the Baal the Israelites were railing against was the Baal of Tyre and not Baal Hadad, one of El’s sons. It seems to me that the Hebrews took El as their god and his essence so to speak became that of Yahweh’s. In time they absorbed the essence of Hadad into their god as well. This is not uncommon for many cultures did this, or replaced one god with another, even the Canaanites did this as Baal Hadad became their main god of worship for he was more important as he was a storm god, god of rain and fertility.

  35. @ ELI YAH, You are not the first to come up with this ideal of the last 1000 years of the 7th day thing. The Jehovah’s Witnesses came to the same conclusion, but dated it to 1975, it failed as has every other date Christianity has set for the end.

  36. Dr., are you familiar with the work of Dr. Michael Heiser? The link provided is his take on the el vs yhwh subject….http://www.thedivinecouncil.com/HIPHILDeut32%20Psa82%20article.pdf Im curious what your response might be. He is a Christian, seems to admit to much of what you are saying but with his own twist. I believe he admits to being in the minority opinion. I have to say that I have a hard time making out all of his points. If you have the time, I would appreciate your review.

  37. We do know that all carnal / fleshly people live by the books (The Bible, Torah, Quran, Hinduism, … ), but the spiritual people live by the Holy Spirit of Yahweh. Yahweh is the Spirit and a Heavenly is the spiritual place also, therefore only the spiritual people can and shall discern it and know it , but not the fools . Amen.

  38. There has been some very interesting information on this topic, but I find it hard to see why some still think El and YHWH are the same God.

    When Melchizedek introduced Abraham to El, Abraham accepted El as his God. It is obvious Abraham had no God at that point in his life. There was only one requirement made: All males had to be circumcised. There was nothing else! There were no requirements for women because only men count in religions. “As long as God is male, male is God.”

    When Jethro introduced Moses to YHWH it was a little bit different. Moses had no God at that point in his life. Now YHWH demanded a Tabernacle, a priesthood of thousands, a Sabbath day to be kept holy, sacrifices, offerings, and 613 laws and ordinances to be kept, etc.

    Comparing these two Gods and their requirements makes it clear they are not one and the same. And when Malachi quotes one of them saying “For I am the LORD, I change not,” Malachi 3:6 KJV, that makes it pretty clear even God can’t change.


  39. Dear Bob,
    Depending on the Text you are using you can understand Ps 82 twofold.
    1. Ps 82:1 A clear description showing the plurality of the Elohim Yahweh family. We see the Lamb imparted with the 7 Spirits standing in the heavenly court (Rev 5:6; comp. Isa chapter 1 which is a vision of a courtroom scene. Elohim judges HIS own people (1Pet 4:6; 4:17-19; Rev 18:4)).
    2. I recommend reading Ps 82 in connection with the book of Revelation, John 10:30, 34 and Romans 8:14-17.
    • In Rev 4 and 5 we see a glimpse of the “throne room of heaven” (the most holy place). We see ONE – GOD the FATHER YAH as a Spirit – sitting on the throne. There are 7 Spirits (Rev 1:4, 4:5, 11:17, 15:3; Isa 11:2), cherubim and seraphim and elders around HIS throne amongst other beings (Rev 4:4-8, Isa 6:1-3, Ex 25:18, Ezek chapters 1 and 10). We read about other strong and mighty angels e.g. in Rev 10:1, 18:21. The slain Lamb YAHshua imparted with the 7 Spirits stands in the midst (also referred to as the Son of man or Elohim, a Prophet from the midst of us– the flock, Deut 18:15) and takes the “title deed to the earth” out of the right hand of GOD the FATHER YAH who sits on the throne.
    • When Yahshua opens the 5th seal we hear the cry of martyrs (Rev 6:9-11), asking how long until HE judges and avenges their blood. They must wait until the rest of the children of Elohim have overcome the personified Antichrist and his last regime which is established in the spirit of antichrist (Rev 15).
    • Arise! Is a war cry to Elohim that HE may intervene and judge HIS enemies (comp. Num 10:35; Ps 68:1, 3:7). In Rev 19:11-21 we see Yahshua coming on a war horse. When the seventh trumpet sounds the kingdoms of the world will become the kingdoms of our LORD YAH and HIS Messiah YAHSHUA (Rev 11:15-19).
    • The Sonship through the Holy Spirit clearly indicates a literal Father/child relationship with Yahweh the FATHER. It is the wonderful potential of human beings to enter into covenant relationship with Elohim, to repent of their sins and be baptized in the family name of YHVH; for obedience receive of the Ruach H’Chodesh (Holy Spirit) and become a “literal” child of Elohim and to be enabled to live by the Spirit of Elohim (John 10:34, Rom 8:14-17) and the great potential to be an heir with Yahshua of the universe.

  40. Dear brothers and sisters in Messiah,
    Grace to you and peace from GOD the FATHER, the 7 Spirits and from Yahshua Messiah (Rev 1:4).
    1Cor 13:12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. Compare Deut 29:29.
    • El is a singular Hebrew word for God, while Elohim is a plural form denoting more than three Gods.
    We know Who GOD the Father is, but What is God?
    It is revealed to us that GOD the FATHER is Spirit and Light and Love.
    The last Adam (Yahshua Messiah) became a life-giving spirit. The second Man is from heaven (John 8:23). The overcomers shall bear the image of Him (1Cor 15:45-49)
    • The Bible states that the overcomers will be kings, priests and gods (Sons of Elohim).
    Yahweh is a family name consisting of Yah Yahweh the FATHER (Ps 68:4) and Yahshua Yahweh the Son. YHVH is the family name of GOD the FATHER (Rev 1:4, 4:8; Isa 6:3) and HIS Son Yahshua Messiah (Rev 1:8). HIS whole family in heaven and earth is named after HIM (Eph 3:14; 1John 3:10; John 8:39ff). Eph 3:14-15 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named. Rev 22:3-4 states that GOD the FATHER’s throne and the throne of HIS Son will be in the New Jerusalem and HIS children shall see HIS face; and HIS name shall be in their foreheads (HOLINESS to YHVH Ex 28:36).
    • The name YHVH is interpreted as a.) I am; b.) I am that I am or I proof to be who I proof to be (Ex 3:14ff); c.) the One that brought everything into being; d.) the Eternal One: I was, I am, and will be (Rev 1:4, 8).
    • The right hand symbolizes the hand of strength and the right hand of the FATHER is HIS Messiah, Yahshua who will fight for HIM against all enemies (Ps 21, Ex 15:6, Ps 110:1, 5, Is 63:5, 8-10; Ps 98:1-3).
    • John 5:26-27 For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he (GOD the Father) given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.
    • John 5:30 I (Yahshua) can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.
    • John 1:1-5 IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
    • John 10:30 I (Yahshua) and the Father are one (Heb. echad).
    Yahshua reveals Himself in this verse as the Son of Elohim.
    The word “echad” here means they are united, but the neuter form of the word rules out the meaning that they can be one person or being. They are two beings but one in spirit thought and mind. The Son has totally surrendered His will to the FATHER in love, goal and purpose. There is never disagreement or disunity, they are in perfect harmony. Compare Eph 4:1ff.
    • John 17:21ff 21 That they all (family members) may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
    • Deut 6:4 and Mark 12:29 state:
    Hear, O Israel, YAHWEH our Elohim is YAHWEH echad.
    The fact, that the verse mentions Yahweh again and uses the plural form of “El” and ‘yachid” indicates that there are more than three called by the name YHVH: Yahweh the FATHER and Yahweh the Son and Elohim Yahweh HIS 7 Spirits and possibly HIS other children (Job 2:1; Rom 8:14-17; Rev 22:8-9).
    The Heavenly FATHER reveals HIS family name to be YHVH pronounced as YAHWEH.
    The Hebrew word “echad” is a unity word such as family (Gen 2:24 (…) they shall become one flesh), and is interpreted “Yahweh united”.
    If the intention of the verse was to show there was only one YHVH, the Hebrew word used would have been “yachid” (Gen 22:12).
    • Although FATHER and Son both existed before time and space were created for human beings, the FATHER is greater in judicial order and authority (John 14:28). There are 2 thrones in heaven one that the FATHER is sitting on and one to the right of the FATHER that the Son is sitting on (Ps 110:1, 1 Pet 3:22, Rom 8:34, Acts 2:33, 7:55-56, Heb 1:3).
    • In John 8:56-58, 10:33 Yahshua clearly proclaimed that He was Elohim and claimed to be the pre-existent “I AM” of Creation with Yahweh the FATHER. John 8:58 Yahshua said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Before Abraham existed, I AM! (Compare Ex 3:14-16). Paul prayed that his hearers would become as I AM (Acts 26:29).
    • Yahshua calls GOD the FATHER in general Abba, clearly indicating a literal Father-child relationship. He uses the Aramaic term Abba which is equivalent to daddy in the English and a term of endearment.
    • On His death He calls HIS FATHER by HIS title GOD in the Hebrew singular to fulfil Ps 22. This Scripture testifies of Him.
    Mark 15:34; Matt 27:46 And about the ninth hour, Yahshua cried out with a loud voice, saying (in Aramaic), Eli, Eli, lama shabakthani or Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani; that is, My El, My El, why did You forsake Me?
    This title was put above His head when He was lifted up: Yahshua H’Nazarene V’Melek H’Yehudeim (John 19:19, 8:28-29). The 1st letter of each line spells the tetra-grammaton of the name YHVH.

    o Deut 29:29 The secret things belong unto YHWH our Elohim, but the things that are revealed, belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law (Torah).

    Blessed be Eloah, the Father of our Adon Yahshua the Messiah–the Father of mercies and Eloah of all comfort; (1.Cor 1:3).

  41. So I read the Heiser/Stark debate. I HIGHLY recommend this as a MUST read for anyone interested in the EL/YHWH subjecte. Stark basically takes the same position as DiMattei on this site. (if there are differences please forgive….but they seem to be the same…basically). Heiser, however, agrees to major ancient near east influences but that the biblical writers (unlike the average Israelite) were never polytheistic nor can evidence of polytheism be discerned from biblical writings. In other words, the Bible is consistent in it’s monotheistic claim. Reading the debate cleared a lot up for me….and now I understand the subject better. This is why I recommend it! Side note: I thought Stark made the better argument. Heiser does seem to misconstrue/misunderstand much of what Stark is saying. Im no big brain and I caught some of Heiser’s mistakes. So that right there tells me a lot!

  42. This was made to sound intelligent by using biblical and non biblical sources but you completely ignored the bible verses where YHWH said that He was not those specific caaninite and pagan deities. God clearly separates His character from the created idols and even points out the deciet of deities copying Him and blaspheming His name. Jesus confirms that many would and have come in His name whether it’s El, Adonai, Baal, Christ or just plain using the term God because He was the creator and the demi god’s of ancient culture where trying to usurp His will.

  43. Didn’t the Hebrew people completely conquer and destroy the Canaanite people in their new land of milk and honey? So, how can El be called Canaanite?

  44. zeitgeist2012, it is quite likely, and strongly suggested by archeologists and anthropologists that the Hebrews (Israelites) didn’t invade Canaan but actually grew from within Canaanon.

  45. I have read something that says geneticists have pretty much confirmed that they are the same. Some of the cities they supposedly overran were not even occupied yet also. Another myth…

  46. @Andy,
    That is quite true, even the all famous bringing down the walls of Jericho was a made up story to suit the time. When Joshua was suppose to have attacked, Jericho was little more then a 2 horse cow town, with no walls and very little population. However it had been a significant walled city, that had been previously been destroyed, centuries earlier.

  47. zietgeist, the biblical traditions themselves—and ignoring the data from the archeological record which would yield an unequivocal “no” to your question—give various and contradictory (not yet posted here) responses to this question. For example, Joshua 12:23 states that “Joshua conquered the whole country” and all the land of Canaan was “at rest.” However a different tradition starting at Joshua 13:1 states just the opposite: “that very much of the land still remained to be taken possession of.” Not withholding, many of the narratives from Judges, Samuel, and the books of Kings depict the Israelites in continuous conflict with the indigenous Canaanites. Some of this is discussed in my general introduction to the book of Deuteronomy.

    Your second question seems unrelated. Simply put, El is a Canaanite deity because he is attested in Canaanite literature, the Ugaritic literature discovered in 1929. What this post attempts to put forward is how biblical scribes variously, and contradictorily, explained the relationship or affinity between the Canaanite El and the Israelite Yahweh. Although Yahweh is the god of Israel, El is frequently mentioned by various biblical scribes (once even as the god of Israel, Gen 33:20!)—most often in an attempt to assimilate El with Yahweh, but other times to assert El’s and Yahweh’s separate identities and even Yahweh’s “original” subordination to El (e.g., Deut 32:7-8)! These passages are treated above.

    The passage I find the most intriguing and perhaps the most revealing too with respect to how Israelites themselves (or merely elite scribes ?) perceived the El-Yahweh connection is Exodus 6:2-3, together with Genesis 17:1. The Hebrew of Genesis 17:1 has Yahweh exclaim: “I am El Shaddai,” and Exodus 6:2-3 reads: “I am Yahweh and I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El Shaddai, but I did not make myself known to them by my name, Yahweh.” This comes from the Priestly source and is itself a contradiction to the earlier Yahwist tradition where Yahweh did indeed make himself known to the patriarchs by his name Yahweh (see contradiction #11).

    At any rate, what the audience (returning exiles to Judah AND the indigenous Canaanites/Israelites left on the land) of this 6th century text was being told was that Yahweh was taking over for El. That what earlier, and perhaps current, peoples sacrificed and prayed to El for are to be now directed to Yahweh. In other words, all that had in the past been attributed to El had been in actuality really the work of Yahweh! This theological and literary argument is quite persuasive. How do you assimilate an indigenous population of Canaanites/Israelites into a form of Yahwism created by elite priests of later years? Tell them that they had been worshiping Yahweh all along!

  48. Steven,
    Thank you very much for a great post. Your explanation and references certainly clear up the discussion. I am surprised more people have not yet realized that the whole idea of gods was made up by priests. They made a mistake when they picked El, however, because his religion was to simple. All that was required was circumcision of males. There were no other rules or regulations, and most importantly no rewards for the priests. They had to make up a new God, Yahweh, who gave priests full control. All the sacrifices and offerings ended up with the priests. When they made up the rules of animal sacrifices they actually wrote their own menu. They gave themselves ornate costumes, a tabernacle with golden serving vessels, and a lifetime income for themselves and their families.

    Thank you for your post and I hope the readers will open their eyes so they can see the whole idea of Gods is simply fun and games for the elite priesthood.

  49. I find it interesting that many people reject the possibility that the stories of Yahweh may have evolved from the stories of El over many generations because El was not exactly pious. Some of the stories of El include lewd behavior and debauchery. Doubling down, they reject the genealogical findings that indicate that the Canaanites were not slaughtered by the Israelites because they are actually the same people. Somehow genocide is easier to overlook than a drunken threesome…

  50. These hypotheses are interesting, mainly as Mythological Reinterpretation in their own right.

    Without disparaging the ways in which Biblical scholarship has indeed illuminated much of Israel’s past, it stuns me that much of this scholarly community does not seem to realize that they are doing pretty much exactly what they claim their hypothetical “Sources” were doing so many years ago: reinterpreting ancient texts in such a way as to generate a Mythic interpretation that suits their particular position in history.

    The evidence put together to describe the various interlocking speculations (which is what this sort of systematic plot-weaving should be called when the strength of one speculation depends on its connection to all the others) is ultimately so opaque, so full of lacunae, that it amounts to little more than the very sort of Myth-building that they delight in “exposing” the ancient Israelis as doing. They raise more questions than they answer concerning what was the source of a sudden emergence of a Monotheistic party in Israel, why ancient “Sources” were “cleaned up” so clumsily as to leave bare so many of these alleged “contradictions”, and so on. (And yes, “contradictions” needs to be in quotes here. A better word would be ‘pluralities’; the implications of the word ‘contradiction’ is that someone has been caught with his hand in a cookie jar, so to speak.) By the time we hear that the historical existence of Abraham is apparently rejected out of hand by much of this community, things begin to get absurd. It’s not even that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence; it’s that there is in fact evidence. Abraham, for crying out loud, is the founding figure of a religious tradition that now encompasses a third of the world’s population. (But there’s no evidence that he existed according to the “scholarly community”.

  51. Shaddai, Adonai, Elyon etc. – could they all, in turn, be separate deities as some of the Psalms seem to suggest?

  52. Allah, El-ea, Elija, aren’t, these all the same thing?
    Would this make Yahweh the same person as the one who warned Utanapishtim about the flood?
    Does this make Ea/Yahweh a ‘nicer person’ than his vengeful father, thus the one who came to save us?
    I really would like someone’s thoughts on this as I have been thinking it for some years now.
    Thank you.

  53. Any connection bewteen El and Allah?… Abraham worshipped El according to tne bible tradition… Abraham and Ishmael worshipped Allah according to the Quranic traditions… El Allah?…

  54. “2 Elohim spoke to Moses, “I am Yahweh. 3 I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shadday, but I didn’t make myself known to them by my name, Yahweh.” — the passage could also be taken to mean that El is saying he is indeed all gods. This specific group would know him as Yahweh now but El is in fact the supreme God and all others are contained within, manifesting for different tribes based on where they were. In this case, these people’s personal deity was Yahweh and that is the one they began to make all their offerings to. Just random soft-polytheist speculation.

    Personally, it was always this El, Father of Time, Creator of Creatures, Father of the Gods – that spoke to me through various psalms in the bible. As a child growing up, and later as I moved from Judaism into Christianity, then Paganism and back to Judaism it is still THAT God that I am drawn to in the Torah. Yahweh always seemed like this more pompous version of God, demanding, cruel.

    When I found out later in life in biblical criticism, and learning about the Ugaritic texts of Ras Shamrah that there was this El with those same titles who was patient, kind and even had a sense of humour (and yes I know these are merely human stories, as all scripture is) things really made sense.

    Thanks for this article and the additional dialogue in the commentary. Very refreshing.

  55. Interesting article. However, when pulling in thhe understanding that David included in the Psalms, the most ancient of the Talmudic writings, and ancient Jewish traditions, you are left with the understanding that another being, that is the eternal Word of God, that spoke all existence into being, not YHWH. This is El Shaddai and is the being that appeared to Abraham, Jacob, and wrote the 10 Words in stone on Mt. Sinai. They considered, in their most ancient traditions,that this was separate, yet part of YHWH. You get this in the shema stated every morning and evening by Jewish believers “Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad”. “Hear O’ Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. echad means a compound unity – many in one. It is the same word used to join a man and woman as one “echad” many in one. It is used usually to refer to the God of the old Testament. They believed that, as the Psalm 2 states, Father, Son, and Ruach HaKodesh (or Holy Spirit). All appearances of God as the angel of YHWH, the special paired noun form called S’Machut, were appearances of El Shaddai, who Yeshua claimed to be. That is why many Jews understood this reference. However, in the many Judaisms of the time (like denominations today), many did not. Proverbs 30 also gives this impression of Father and Son as God.

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