Jewish God(s) for Beginners (updated)
by Martin Kerr
THE JEWS LOVE to boast that they are the originators of monotheism. This claim has been challenged by students of the Jews as diverse as Savitri Devi (in The Lightning and the Sun) and Sigmund Freud (in Moses and Monotheism). What is undeniable is that Judaism began as a polytheistic religion.
Jewish legend has it that there were originally 12 separate Hebrew tribes. In general, these ancient Hebrews worshipped a variation of the common Semitic pantheon. Among the gods which the old Testament lists as being worshipped at one time by the ancient Jews are Ashtoereth, Moloch, Chemosh and Asherah. Additionally, each tribe had its own special tribal god.
Over time, the tribal deities of the individual tribes were replaced by two specific Semitic gods, YHWH (also known as Yahweh or Jehovah) and El. During the period of Hebrew history known as the “Divided Kingdoms” (c. 925-875 BCE), each of these two gods was associated with one of the two extant Jewish states, either Judah or Israel. The devotion of the ancient Jews to their archaic gods is preserved in the names associated with each kingdom:
Kingdom of Judah
Land called Judea
Worships as its tribal god Jehovah (YHWH or Yahweh)
Members called Judeans
Cult center: Jerusalem
Kingdom of Israel (literally, “Wrestles with El”)
Land called Israel
Worships as its tribal god El
Members called Israelites
Cult center: Bethel (“House of El”)
Later, these two gods merged into a single Jewish deity, whom the Old Testament calls El-YHWH, which is normally translated as “Lord God.” This new synthetic god becomes the Super-Jew-in-the-Sky, whom modern-day Jews and Judeo-Christians worship. I speculate that this fusion took place circa 800 BCE, for that is when the prophet Elijah appeared, whose name means “El is Yah(weh).”
In the beginning, YHWH may have been a member of the common Semitic pantheon, whom the Jews arrogated to themselves as a tribal deity. There are strong indications that he was originally a minor volcano god or demon. Whatever his initial form, he was clearly a nasty piece of work. For example, YHWH was associated with human sacrifice, in particular the bloody ritual murder of young male children.
Modern Jewish ritual circumcision of male infants is likely a religious or cultural artifact of earlier child sacrifice, although now only the foreskin and a small amount of blood is offered up, rather than the whole child. The ritual murder of non-Jewish children, well documented by Julius Streicher, Arnold Leese, and others, is also likely related to ancient child sacrifice, although now it is the children of the goyim who are so murdered, rather than those of the Hebrew tribes. The Christian Last Supper, which the Judeo-Christians frequently remind us was a Seder meal, and which embodies a form of ritual cannibalism, may also be descended from the bloody rites of ancient Judaism.
Originally, El was also part of the pre-Hebrew Canaanite polytheistic system, in which he was the father of the Semitic gods Baal and Anat. So El may be a stolen or Semiticized deity (just as the Semites had earlier appropriated the Sumerian gods). Interestingly, for a monotheistic religion, the Old Testament uniformly uses the plural form of “Elohim” when referring to the one god, El.
I say “interestingly” — but only up to a point, because as an Aryan I only have a subjective interest in Aryan religion.
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Source: This article on Jewish history first appeared in NS BULLETIN 345, Third Quarter 2005.