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  • Writer's pictureJon Peters

Yahweh - The Truth About His Origin

Updated: Nov 20, 2023

"Why should people interested in the Old Testament want to know about this city and its inhabitants? Simply because when we listen to their voices we hear echoes of the Old Testament itself. Several of the Psalms were simply adapted from Ugaritic sources; the story of the flood has a near mirror image in Ugaritic literature; and the language of the Bible is greatly illuminated by the language of Ugarit."



The Bible is often called the Holy Bible for a reason - believers consider it at a minimum divinely inspired, and the central character is of course God. The Hebrew Bible, also referred to as the Old Testament (OT) by Christians, is an important part of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Mormonism and others. God is said to have certain qualities and to have always existed. Monotheism is supposedly the default true religion in the Bible and those parts of the Hebrew Bible that detail the Jews worshipping other gods indicates not the evolution of monotheism but rather a corruption of the monotheistic position. The God of the Bible is claimed to always be the original God of the Jews, and the one God who created all life and the universe.

However, this simplistic picture of Yahweh, who is also considered the God of the NT, is not what religious scholars and researchers at major world universities have revealed. It's clear that Yahweh, the God that billions worship, was instead originally a lesser god in the Canaanite pantheon and was only later elevated to displace El as the one true God of monotheism. He took on many of El's supreme powers during the transition to becoming the one and only God of billions.

This cornerstone of belief that there is but one true God must be understood within the context of how Yahweh came to be the monotheistic God of the Abrahamic religions. Unlike what most believers have been told, the real story of Yahweh worship is more interesting, amazing, and intricate. I have detailed some of this incredible history on this site in the section of Biblical Errors, but because it so central to an examination of the Bible's origin, it deserves it's own blog entry. There is also a YouTube presentation below that goes deeper into what religious scholars outside conservative faith believers know to be true.

God's Name

There are many names for God in the Hebrew ( OT) scriptures:

El Shaddai (Lord God Almighty): number of times mentioned - 7

El Elyon (The Most High God) - 28

Adonai (Lord, Master) - 434

Yahweh (Lord, Jehovah) - 6,519

Jehovah Nissi (The Lord My Banner) - 1

Jehovah-Raah (The Lord My Shepherd) - 1

Jehovah Rapha (The Lord That Heals) - 1

Jehovah Shammah (The Lord Is There) - 1

Jehovah Tsidkenu (The Lord Our Righteousness) - 2

Jehovah Mekoddishkem (The Lord Who Sanctifies You) - 2

El Olam (The Everlasting God) - 3

Elohim (God) - 2,000+

Qanna (Jealous) - 6

Jehovah Jireh (The Lord Will Provide) - 1

Jehovah Shalom (The Lord Is Peace) - 1

Jehovah Sabaoth (The Lord of Hosts) - 285+

As can be seen, of the three most common names above, Yahweh is the most frequently used. Most Christians are taught that this has always been the Hebrew’s main name for God. However, after a French archaeological expedition in 1928 discovered the ancient Canaanite city of Ugarit, excavations the following year revealed ancient tablets carved with cuneiform script that revealed Yahweh's true roots. The tablets were written around 1300 - 1200 BCE and revealed scripts in Sumerian, Akkadian, Hurritic and Ugaritic. These texts referred to deities such as El, Asherah, Baak, and Dagan.

The Gods of Ugarit

“Other deities worshipped at Ugarit were El Shaddai, El Elyon and El Berith. All of these names are applied to Yahweh by the writers of the Old Testament. What this means is that the Hebrew theologians adopted the titles of the Canaanite gods and attributed them to Yahweh in an effort to eliminate them… Besides the chief god at Ugarit there were also lesser gods, demons, and goddesses. The most important of these lesser gods were Baal (familiar to all readers of the Bible), Asherah (also familiar to readers of the Bible), Yam (the god of the sea) and Mot (the god of death)."

"What is of great interest here is that Yam is the Hebrew word for sea and Mot is the Hebrew word for death!… One of the most interesting of these lesser deities, Asherah, plays a very important role in the Old Testament. There she is called the wife of Baal; but she is also known as the consort of Yahweh! That is, among some Yahwists, Asherah is Yahweh’s female counterpart! Inscriptions found at Kuntillet Ajrud (dated between 850 and 750 BCE) say: I bless you through Yahweh of Samaria, / and through his Ashram, / and his enemies have been conquered through Yahweh’s Asherah…Thus, for many in ancient Israel, Yahweh, like Baal, had a consort.“

“El was the chief god at Ugarit. Yet El is also the name of God used in many of the Psalms for Yahweh…Yet when one reads these Psalms and the Ugarit texts one sees that the very attributes for which Yahweh is acclaimed are the same for which El is acclaimed. In fact, these Psalms were most likely originally Ugaritic or Canaanite hymns to EL which were simply adopted by Israel… El is called the father of men, creator, and creator of the creation. These attributes are also granted to Yahweh by the Old Testament. In 1 Kings 22:19 - 22 we read of Yahweh meeting with his heavenly council. This is the very description of heaven which one finds in the Ugaritic texts. For in those texts the sons of god are the sons of El.”

“Yet another interesting parallel between Israel and Ugarit is the yearly ritual known as the sending out of the scapegoats ; one for god and one for a demon. The Biblical text which relates this procedure is Leviticus 16:1-34. In this text a goat is sent into the wilderness for Azazel (a demon) and one is sent into the wilderness for Yahweh. This rite is known as an eliminatory rite; that is, a contagion (in this case communal sin) is placed on the head of the goat and it is sent away. In this way it was believed that (magically) the sinful material was removed from the community”. One of the most famous of the lesser deities at Ugarit was a chap named Dan il. There is little doubt that this figure corresponds to the Biblical Daniel; while predating him by several centuries. This has led many Old Testament scholars to suppose that the Canonical prophet was modeled on him. His story is found in KTU 1.17 - 1.19. Another creature which has ties to the Old Testament is Leviathan. Isaiah 27:1 and KTU 1.5 I 1-2 describe this beast. Also see Ps 74:13-14 and 104:26."

"After the Babylonian Exile (6th century BCE), and especially from the 3rd century BCE on, Jews ceased to use the name Yahweh for two reasons. As Judaism became a universal rather than merely a local religion, the more common Hebrew noun Elohim (plural in form but understood in the singular), meaning “God,” tended to replace Yahweh to demonstrate the universal sovereignty of Israel’s God over all others. At the same time, the divine name was increasingly regarded as too sacred to be uttered; it was thus replaced vocally in the synagogue ritual by the Hebrew word Adonai (“My Lord”), which was translated as Kyrios (“Lord”) in the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures.The Masoretes, who from about the 6th to the 10th century CE worked to reproduce the original text of the Hebrew Bible, added to “YHWH” the vowel signs of the Hebrew words Adonai or Elohim. Latin-speaking Christian scholars replaced the Y (which does not exist in Latin) with an I or a J (the latter of which exists in Latin as a variant form of I). Thus, the tetragrammaton became the artificial Latinized name Jehovah (JeHoWaH). As the use of the name spread throughout medieval Europe, the initial letter J was pronounced according to the local vernacular language rather than Latin."

Yahweh And the Canaanite Pantheon

“Although the biblical narratives depict Yahweh as the sole creator god, lord of the universe, and god of the Israelites especially, initially he seems to have been Canaanite in origin and subordinate to the supreme god El. Canaanite inscriptions mention a lesser god Yahweh and even the biblical Book of Deuteronomy stipulates that “the Most High, El, gave to the nations their inheritance” and that “Yahweh's portion is his people, Jacob and his allotted heritage” (32:8-9). A passage like this reflects the early beliefs of the Canaanites and Israelites in polytheism or, more accurately, henotheism (the belief in many gods with a focus on a single supreme deity). The claim that Israel always only acknowledged one god is a later belief cast back on the early days of Israel's development in Canaan.”

This is settled ancient history at major universities around the world and contradicts Christian dogma which of course was well established before 1929. We know that Yahweh was a lesser god under the Canaanite pantheon of gods, with El as the chief deity. The Hebrews elevated him to be their sole god and worked to eliminate the other gods. That’s how monotheism developed. It also explains word derivations we see today:

Israel - El rules (God rules) or Land of El (God)

Bethel - House of El

Karmiel - vineyard of El

El Shaddai - God of the mountain (derivation of Shaddai still controversial; also God of the wilderness)

Elad - Forever El (God)

"The Pagan Gods That Still Exist in the Holy Land's City Names"

What Does "Us" Refer To?

Who is “us”? From the ancient near eastern cultures we know that the “us” is probably the divine council. “For centuries, Christians have been quoting the cryptic plural language in this passage as a reference to the Trinity speaking amongst itself. In reality God is not addressing other persons of the Trinity in this particular text [Gen. 1:26] but is speaking to his divine council, “sons of God”. We can be fairly confident of this because this same plural language parallels how an Assyrian tablet from c. 800 B.C has the same humanity formed… Both this text and Gen. 1:26 are grammatically analogous. In the Assyrian text, a class of gods called the Anunnaki are announcing their plan to the other members of the divine council. The Genesis author likewise adopts the same form of address (what grammar geeks call the cohortative) to depict Israel’s God expressing his intentions to his own heavenly entourage. This style for divine counsel “let us…” language is very common in Mesopatamian literature.”… The vast majority of modern biologists and geneticists believe humanity physically came about through millions of years of evolution. Genesis 1 contradicts this by siding with virtually every other creation account in the Near East.” The creation narrative of the OT is not unique. (Mis)interpreting Genesis:… 2020. Stanhope, Ben. Louisville, KY: Scarab Press. Pg 164-5.

Here in much detail is a presentation of Yahweh's origins.

Conclusion The Christian/Jewish narrative that the Hebrews waged war on the Canaanites and the “promised land” never happened. The verses condemning those who worshipped Baal and other gods just due to sin are wrong, but it makes sense if Yahweh was in the Canaanite pantheon and monotheism was forming. There was no Exodus. The Hebrews emerged from the Canaanites. Yahweh was a lesser god which the Hebrews adopted eventually as their only God. Yahweh was originally a god of war and storms. This explains why the first commandment was “You shall have no other gods before me”. There were other gods and the prophets were in a struggle to move the Hebrews to monotheism. You had better fear Yahweh - it’s not just respect him. It also explains the OT verses like Gen. 3:21 “And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” And Gen. 11:7 “Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

Additional References

Origins of Yahweh:

When the Jews Believed in Other Gods:

Yahweh as God of Metallurgy. Thesis of Yahweh in the Canaanite Pantheon.

Ugarit and the Bible, Hebrew Bible

"Why should people interested in the Old Testament want to know about this city and its inhabitants? Simply because when we listen to their voices we hear echoes of the Old Testament itself. Several of the Psalms were simply adapted from Ugaritic sources; the story of the flood has a near mirror image in Ugaritic literature; and the language of the Bible is greatly illuminated by the language of Ugarit."

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