Tuesday, May 16, 2017

G0d and Mankind: 4,000 Years Ago Part I Middle East

Nadene Goldfoot                                                
Going back to the 2nd millennium BCE or 4,000 years ago, and we still find Mankind trying to adjust to his unpredictable surroundings.                                      
Abraham and Lot, his nephew, dividing the land

Their ancestors of 7,700 years before them were just coming out of the Pleistone Epoch or Last Ice Age that had begun some 1.8 million years ago.  Glaciers covered huge parts of our planet, meaning that it was a no man's land.  People congregated in what is today's Spain which was of a warmer climate,  eventually.
The Flood 
Geneticists explain that mankind came out of Africa in different stages.  They went into the Eastern parts, and we find they were in Siberia, Mongolia and parts of Turkey.  Remember the story of Noah?  He built an ark and took all the animals by pairs to procreate when they landed, and they landed evidently on Mt. Ararat in today's Turkey.  From there mankind worked their way throughout the planet, but not easily.  They were confronted with earthquakes, erupting volcanoes, storms, floods, hurricanes, you name it.  It's a wonder we all are here and that mankind was not wiped out by natural forces along with the mammoths of 10,000 years ago.  No wonder they all needed help in the form of a god or gods.  Things happen beyond man's control or understanding.
Moses and the burning bush that's not really burning

So we find a group of people migrating together coming from the East in the 2nd millennium BCE called the Israelites with a man named Abraham, son of Terah.  We know this because the people of his day had good memories and handed down this information orally to their descendants till it came to Abraham's  3rd great grandson, Moses, who was educated in Egypt in being a scribe and wrote down the story as he heard it; from G-d and most likely was filled in by his fellow relatives that he had rescued from the Egyptian Pharaoh.   Moses first had received his information orally from G-d, and this was called the Oral Law, which he shared orally.  It was necessary to be learned in this first in order to understand the more limited version Moses wrote as the written law.  After all, there was only so much he could find to write upon, as he must have used sheepskin.
What Moses had to offer his people was a way to behave in the form of 10 Commandments from G-d.  Those 10 can be summed up in the Golden Rule of not doing to others what you do not want to happen to yourself.  There were 613 laws in all that he shared with the Israelites; the same number of bones that we have in our bodies.

Egypt invented a form of writing which was in hieroglyphics, but writing was developed in the land of Canaan by the invention of an alphabet around the 18th century BCE.  An alphabet was the way to mass literacy for a people.  Egyptians needed to know this as it was involved in trading.
Egyptian scene of Israelites entering their land
Abraham's grandson, Jacob, had taken his extended family of 70 into Egypt because of drought condition in Canaan where they were living, and the group  stayed and grew till their numbers caused the Egyptians alarm and they were taken in mass as slaves for the Pharaoh, making their total years in Egypt to be 400.                                                      

Moses,born in c1391, was on the Exodus for 40 years and died at 120 just before entering Canaan by the year 1271 BCE.
Sarah suggesting Hagar could carry Abraham's child
as she had not conceived as yet
 Abraham had taught his children that there was only one unseen G-d whereas the people of Egypt believed in a multitude of animal beings they thought were gods that were in control of nature. He had a son, Ishmael, by Hagar, his wife's handmaid who didn't conceive until later.  Hagar was a princess of Egypt.  Then Sarah, his wife conceived and gave birth to Isaac, 2 important men in our biblical epic.  Abraham is considered as the founder of monotheism; Ishmael as father of the Arab people and Isaac father of the Jewish people.

  "Formal Egyptian religious practice centered on the pharaoh, the king of Egypt, who was believed to possess a divine power by virtue of his position. He acted as the intermediary between his people and the gods and was obligated to sustain the gods through rituals and offerings so that they could maintain order in the universe. The state dedicated enormous resources to Egyptian rituals and to the construction of the temples."
Tel Armana letter: writing that recorded the events
 The cultures clashed, but being slaves,the Israelites could do nothing about it but hold onto their own beliefs.  At least the only people they could mingle with were other slaves from others places and beliefs other than the Egyptian ones.  This all took place during when the Semitic Hyksos dynasaty of the 18th to 16th centuries BCE took place.  We know this from the Tel el-Amarna letters found.  Moses, the secretly adopted son of the Egyptian princess, found out that he was an Israelite, and rescued 600,000 Israelites of Egypt and took them back to Canaan after hearing this request from the unseen G-d.  Moses died in about 1271 BCE, at age 120 outside of Canaan with Joshua taking over at his request as leader.
Egyptian gods  Osiris in white, Anubis in middle, and Horus
There was a close connection to Egypt with the new empire of Israel with King Solomon (961-920 BCE) or 3,000 years ago.  He had married an Egyptian princess to conclude a trade treaty.  The pharaoh Shishak attacked Jerusalem in 930 BCE. to help the to help the newly-established Northern kingdom of Israel.  Josiah was killed in 608 BCE when tryig to check the march of Pharaoh Neho through his territory.  His successor, King Jehoahaz, was deported, and Jehoiakim was installed in his place by the Egyptians.  Before the fall of the 1st Temple by the Assyrians, there was a Jewish colony in Egypt.  "At various times, certain  Egyptian gods became preeminent over the others, including the sun god Ra, the creator god Amun, and the mother goddess Isis. For a brief period, in the theology promulgated by the Pharaoh Akhenaten, a single god, the Aten, replaced the traditional pantheon. Ancient Egyptian religion and mythology left behind many writings and monuments, along with significant influences on ancient and modern cultures."
Their religion " could include gods adopted from foreign cultures, and sometimes humans: deceased Pharaohs were believed to be divine, and occasionally, distinguished commoners such as Imhotep also became deified.. "
Canaanites made statues of their gods.  Abraham's father, Terah,
was an idol maker.  They also believed in human sacrifice.
Abraham himself was ready to sacrifice his son, Isaac but was stopped by
G-d, telling him that was to be the end of that practice.  

Canaan, today's Syria, existed in the 15th to 13th centuries BCE, and also included

 the coast of
Israel.  Before the land became Israel with King Saul, it was divided into small city-states.  The 
northern part was called Aram-today's Syria.  The population had been divided in 11 separate 
people who occupied the land between the Nile River of Egypt and the Euphrates in the East.
Canaanites were a mixture of Horites, Hittites and Hebrews going back to the 17th century BCE.
"Canaanite religion was polytheistic, and in some cases monolatristic, the  belief in the existence of many gods but with the consistent worship of only one deity.  The term "monolatry" was perhaps first used by Julius Wellhausen. 

DAGON was the god of the Philistines when they entered Canaan.  There were shrines to him 
set up in Gaza.  He was part of the Ugarite pantheon of gods and was the god of the soil and 
of plant growth.  This god was widely worshipped in the Mediterranean countries.  Ugarit was
 a Canaanite city on the North Syrian coast and called Ras Shamra today.  It was a 
commercial center in the 2nd millennium BCE when Abraham was born.  

Hadad was the chief god of the ancient Semitic pantheon.He was thought of
as the god of justice and augury, the patron of rain and thunder.  Sometimes he was
identified with Baal, and that Baal was just a title showing lordship of the world.
Several kings of Edom carried his name.  

They had far more than the 28 gods that are listed in my source including such as
 El (leader of pantheon), , Asherah (Queen of El) and Baal (thunder) .  The Romans
seemed to copy them as they had a god for everything; marriage, birth, fertility, war. 
 Their religion  centered "with families typically focusing on veneration of the dead in the form of household gods and goddesses, the Elohim, while acknowledging the existence of other deities such as Baal and El, Asherah and Astarte."   I notice that Hebrew borrowed some names, such as "Yam (lit. sea-river) the god of the sea and the river.  Yam means "sea" in Hebrew.  "
  • Shamayim, (lit. "Skies"), god of the heavens, paired with Eretz, the land or earth, meaning sky and earth in Hebrew.  

The Assyrian Empire attacked the Israelites in 721 BCE or about 2,738 years ago.They had spoken Akkadian, a Semitic language similar to Hebrew and Aramaic of the Israelites and Israel today.  The script was done in cuneiform and they were the first people to use it in writing.  Akkadian was spoken from the 4th millennium BCE and served as the language of diplomacy and commerce throughout the Middle East until the Greek Conquest.  
Marduk or Merodach was a Babylonian deity.  In mythology he was regarded as the main opponent of the monster Tiamat and as creator of the world and mankind.  King of the gods, he determined men's fate at the beginning of the year.  

Their polytheistic religion is centered around Asshur, king of all the gods they believed in.  "Ashurism is polytheistic religion very similar to the religion of the Babylonians in that, their main gods were based around nature. they believed a spirit possessed every object in nature.  The other primary gods are based around nature such as, Anu- the god of heaven, Bel- the god of region inhabited by man, beast and birds, Ea- the god of water, Sin- the moon god, Shamash- the sun god, and Ramman- the god of storms. Many other gods follow these such as the five planet gods and hundreds of lesser gods they would make make offerings to in order to get what they want. "  

The Assyrians were the power of the Middle East first, and then Babylonia took over.  Nebuchadnezzar attacked Israel and Judah in 597 BCE and again in 586 and led the Jews into captivity with many ending up in Persia.  The tribe of Israelites could have come from the Assyrian area, breaking away and ending up in Ur of the Chaldees (today's Iraq).  Ur was where Abraham lived before he and his family left for Haran.   It had become an ancient Babylonian city.  Haran was a trading town of NW Mesopotamia (Iraq) and center of the Moon cult.  The name, Haran, was the name of Abraham's brother and the father of Lot.  

"By the 4th millennium BCE, Mesopotamia was in the Uruk period (4,000 - 3,100 BCE) , with emerging Sumerian hegemony and development of "proto-cuneiformwritingbase-60 mathematicsastronomy and astrologycivil law, complex hydrology, the sailboatpotter's wheel and wheel;" That's really going back, but no telling how far back some of their religion goes.  

"Sin /ˈsn/ (AkkadianSu'en, Sîn) or Nanna (SumerianDŠEŠ.KI, DNANNA) was the god of the moon in the Mesopotamian mythology of Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia. Nanna is a Sumerian deity, the son of Enlil and Ninlil, and became identified with Semitic Sin. The two chief seats of Nanna's/Sin's worship were Ur in the south of Mesopotamia and Harran in the north. A moon god by the same name was also worshipped in pre-Islamic South Arabia.
Statue of Mithras, ancient Persian god of light who was adopted into the Roman pantheon. Mithras is shown wearing the Phrygian cap, he holds the Labrys. (Labrys was a cult-word that was probably introduced from Anatolia, where such symbols have been found in Çatal Höyük from the neolithic age. In Labraunda of Caria the double-axe accompanies the storm-god Zeus Labraundos.)Louvre. This god was heavily borrowed by the Romans.  
The ancient Persian religion "was some old forms of Paganism:   they were worshiping the moon, sun, stars, trees and nature in general. and there is evidences that they worshiped statues too."  Mithraism  still has influence on Iran’s culture. and we yet don’t know for how many thousands years, but Mithra was their God, and later the religion went to Europe, and now we recall Mithraism as a religion of Roman Empire.
Mithraism was slightly like what we now call  Kundalini.  "Mithra, also spelled Mithras, Sanskrit Mitra, in ancient Indo-Iranian mythology, the god of light, whose cult spread from India in the east to as far west as Spain, Great Britain, and Germany. (See Mithraism.) The first written mention of the Vedic Mitra dates to 1400 BCE or 3,400 years ago."s  Mithra was the Persian god of war and preserver of law and order.  He is pictured often slaying a bull.  

Persia (today's Iran) in the 7th century BCE or 601 BCE  had a prophet by the name of Zoroaster and Zoroastrianism was founded through him.  "the religion contains both monotheistic and dualistic features. It influenced the other major Western religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  It's a little like Judaism's teachings in its belief in righteousness and had an ethical character in its attitude towards marriage.  It was never " as aggressively monotheistic as for instance, Judaism or Islam, it does represent an original attempt at unifying under the worship of one supreme god, a polytheistic religion comparable to those of other early peoples."  Like Judaism, " there are today about 200,000 Zoroastrians throughout the world.  100,000 are living in India and are called "Parsis." 

People as far back as those living 4,000 years ago had mobility from the need for trade, power and foods.  In gaining these things, they also borrowed from each other's religions; all except borrowing the monotheistic idea of a ONE invisible G0D of Abraham and the Israelites of Isaac and Jacob.  That was to come much later.  Abraham had been an enigma, unusual in those days of polytheism to be able to trust in an unseen power and put his faith in something that one did not make pictures or statues of.  

Resource: The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
https://samtemple.wordpress.com/religion/ Assyrian ancient religion
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/164592561353377084/ on Mithras

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