The Birth of Monotheism
The Israelites lived on the same planet as the other peoples; the same
world catastrophes impressed them as the other peoples. The cause of
the catastrophes, as far as it was known to the Babylonians or Egyptians,
must have been known also to them. Since the world catastrophes were
caused by planets, each of these planets must have been deified not
by a single people, but by all peoples, without exception. The fact
that the ancient Hebrew word for God, Elohim. is plural can be
accounted for by this. The Bible critics since Julius Wellhausen(1)
paid much attention to the fact that in diverse parts of the Bible God
is named by diverse names: Adonai, Elohim, Jahwe. Accordingly the Bible
critics discern those parts which were composed by the followers of
the cult of Elohim, who supposedly lived in the Northern Kingdom (Israel)
from those which were composed by the adepts of the cult of Jahwe, whose
religious center was in Jerusalem (Judah). Then, in the opinion of these
critics, at a later date the literary remnants of these two cults, together
with the material composed byand in the interest ofthe priesterly
cast (Priesterly codex) were edited together and thus the syncretized
Bible came into being. No doubt, there are sections in the Biblical
narrative where one or another name of God is persistently used to the
exclusion of other of the Lords names. The origin of this syncretized
religion which eventually brought the Jewish people, and then through
them a large portion of the human kind to monotheism is sought in local
and regional deities which became gods of single tribes, then rising
to the status of protecti
The historical facts are different. Gods of all nations were planetary gods, and actually the same gods. For one or another reason one or another tribe or people chose one or another deity as its protector and paid especial tribute toil. A new world catastrophe caused by another member of the planetary family would easily raise it to the position of the supreme deity; on the other hand the fidelity to the protective deity of the previous age would cause one or another tribe to remain faithful to the old cult; religions and gods are tenacious contents of the human soul and peoples do not part easily from them. Thus we see how the worship of Jupiter superceded that of Saturn; the worship of Venus (Minerva, Athena, Astarte, Baal) in many regions eclipsed the worship of Jupiter; and the advent of Mars and its participation in celestial wars brought new schisms into religious thinking and caused new religious wars. Thus the Greeks battled under the patronage of the planet Venus (Athena) whereas the Trojans battled under the protection of Mars (Ares); but Ares was also recognized as god by the Greeks and Athena as a goddess by the Trojans. Similarly the Toltecs, faithful to the cult of Quetzalcoatl, the planet Venus, warred and succumbed in the war against the Aztecs, the younger race that proclaimed Mars (Huitzilopochtli) as their god. The Romans regarded Mars as their protective deity but their main sacrarium was dedicated to Jupiter and Minerva (Athena). Egyptians also regarded Amon as their supreme deity and Ra was its other name. In another cult center of Egypt Osiris and Isis were worshipped as supreme gods; in early times they represented Saturn and Jupiter; at a later time Isis became synonymous with Astarte-Athena, the planet Venus.(2)
A few peoples through consecutive planetary ages kept fidelity to the ancient Kronos (Saturn), whose age was previous to that of Jupiter. Thus the Scythians were called Umman-Manda by the Chaldeans,(3) and Manda is the name of Saturn.(4) The Phoenicians regarded El-Saturn as their chief deity; Eusebius informs us that El, a name used also in the Bible as a word for God, was the name of Saturn.(5)
The different names for God in the Bible reflect the process of going through the many ages in which one planet. superceded another and was again superceded by the next one in the celestial war. El was the name of Saturn: Adonis of the Syrians, the bewailed deity, was also, like Osiris, the planet Saturn; but in the period of the contest between two major planets, Adonai, which means my lords became the appellative of the dual gods; then, with the victory of Jupiter, it came to be applied to him alone; thus Adonai and also Zedek was the name of Jupiter, and in the days of the patriarch Abraham, the cult of Jupiter was prominent in Jerusalem of the high priest Melchizedek (my king is Zedek).(6) Zedek remained the name of Jupiter in the astronomy of the Jews in later ages and is used as such in the Talmud.(7) There we find also the legend that in order to teach Abraham not to believe in astrology God reversed rising of the planet Zedek (Jupiter) and it began to move towards the west.(8) In another passage of the Talmud it is said that the planet Zedek made the night bright for him (Abraham)(9) meaning that his time was under the aegis of the planet Jupiter.
We recognize in the reversion of the revolution of Jupiter the cause of great catastrophes in the solar system which affected also the earth in the age of the patriarchs, or at the close of the Old Kingdom in Egypt. In that period Jupiter became the supreme deity having removed Saturn from its orbit. Meichizedek was the priest of the Most High—the name by which Jupiter was known to the Greeks: all-highest, mighty Zeus.(10)
The end of the Middle Kingdom in Egypt was caused by a new world catastrophe: a period of a few centuries only intervened between this catastrophe and the previous one caused by Jupiter. Actually it was caused again by Jupiter, because the comet Venus was expelled from its body; this expulsion followed the contact of Saturn and Jupiter, and the fantasy of the peoples regarded Venus as a child of Jupiter, conceived to him by Saturn. But more than this origin of Venus, the fact that the peoples of the entire earth were confused and in many instances regarded Zeus-Jupiter as the planetary god that battled with the pillar of smoke or the trail of the comet, was of far-reaching consequences for the development of religion and the progress toward monotheism.
Yahwe was the name of the deity that caused the Middle Kingdom of Egypt to fall into ruins, bringing equally great or greater disasters to the rest of the world. The name of the deity became known only a little time before the catastrophe, and this is asserted in the Book of Genesis.
The sound yahwe heard, amidst the catastrophe was understood as the revelation of the name of the superior deity,(11) and since and since other planets were submissive to and dependent on the planet Jupiter it grew to the position of the supreme god, other gods being its messengers; angels or archangels. It is probable that Moses in his time, as Plato eleven hundred years later understood the supreme deity as existing above and beyond the planets, regulating them, ordering them, but not one of them; Plato speaks of God and also of gods or planets; and characteristically Numenius calls Plato ”Moses speaking in an Attic dialect.”(12) The fact that the Decalogue contains the prohibition to make an image of the god is a strong support to this idea of Moses being aware of a Supreme Power behind the terrible planets. According to the Biblical tradition Aaron made an image of a calf (Apis) at Mount Sinai, which is the image of Venus for many centuries to come; but due to the confusion concerning the agent of the catastrophe, Zeus is also often figured as a bull. As a bull it carries the Evening land to the east(13)—a reversal of the poles about which we spoke at an appropriate place.(14) The cult of Apis actually started after the end of the Middle Kingdom, in the days of the Hyksos (15) or, according to my reconstruction of ancient history (Ages in Chaos) in the very days which followed the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.
But it should not go unnoticed that Moses also built an image in the desert, the image of a serpent, and though there is found a rationalistic explanation of this his deed in the assumed fact that the contemplation of the serpent was a remedy for those who were bitten by snakesan interesting psychosomatic ideaand though an abundance of reptiles, and especially snakes, was observed also in other places at that timeso in China of the Emperor Yahu,(16) and the Arabian desert abounded with snakes still in the time of Esarhaddon in the seventh century,(17) yet we are not persuaded that the serpent made by Moses was not a religious symbol, a competitor of the calf image. It could have been the image of the pillar of smoke that went before the camp when the Israelites left Egypt. The Hyksos who at the same time invaded Egypt deified the snake deity known as Seth, Apopi, identified by the Greeks with on Typhon.(18)
Chiun, in the words of Amos: Chiun, your images, the star of your god(19) denoting Saturn, in the opinion of Max Seligsohn,(20) is idenritied oy Jerome as Lucifer(21) or Venus; being an image of a star carried in the desert, it could be this serpent. The fact that Moses made an imagein violation of the second commandment of the Decalogue — is not necessarily inconsistent with his being a monotheist: there are many churches today where symbolic and even human figures are deified by people who profess to be monotheists. But as time passed, the presence of the serpent of Moses in the Temple of Jerusalem became so objectionable to the spirit of the prophets that in the days of Isaiah the serpent was broken into pieces.(22) Even though its original purpose may have been curative, it being the image of the angel who was sent in the pillar of fire and cloud to save the people of Israel from slavery, the brazen serpent with the lapse of time became an object of worship.
Whatever the sublime height to which the spirit of Moses carried him in the days of a cosmic catastrophe, with the passing of time the Jewish people reverted. to idolatry—and the pages of the Bible are full of testimony to this fact.(23)
There were no images of the deity in the Temple of Solomon as there were in Egyptian and Babylonian temples, full of statues of the planetary gods. The ark of the covenant contained the tablets with the ten commandments and the holy spirit; the holy spirit, a metaphysic nebula of the theologians, may have partaken a little of the divine clouds that surrounded the Israelites in the desert and which were of extragenous origin; it was a portion of the deity, its emanation. Also a jar with manna of the same origin was preserved in the sacrarium.
The god Yahwe was the supreme Deity of the Judeans and they excluded all other rival deities from their pantheon. But in the four odd centuries of the time of Wandering and the Judges the astronomical science made progress. Soon after the sky of the desert of Wandering became free from the carbogenous clouds and the Israelites emerged from the desert they saw the comet Venus, Noga, illuminating the sky. In the days of Joshua it caused the second derailment of the earth from its path in the short interval of fifty-two years. The Israelites could believe that it was still the old and furious planet Jupiter that descended close to the earth. But as time passed, and the new orientation of the sky became better known, and the old constellations were recognized in their new positions, and the planets in their new orbits, the astronomers of Babylon, Egypt and Palestine became aware that Jupiter is not the comet Venus. During the time of the Judges the name Baal was often applied to the deity of the most popular cult, as the names of many Israelites of that period attest.
When in the fifth year after the death of Solomon the Northern part of the kingdom was separated from Judah, Benjamin, Simeon and part of Levi a temple was built in Dan to compete with the temple in Jerusalem;(24) this temple of Dan was called the house of High Places, (25) which translates that it served also as an observatory or center for the cult of astral deities. Jeroboam actually renewed there the cult of Aaron: a calf was worshipped, at Dan.(26) On the Phoenician coast the deity Baal, or Belith (Baalith), which is Baal in tis female form, or Ishtar (Astarte), which was also a male and a female deity(27) was worshipped, this being also the comet Venus.
The supremacy of Yahwe in the Jerusalem cult rose to monotheism. Elijah was its apostle in the Northern Kingdom, and he was in strife with the priests of Venus. The spreading of the cult of Venus (Baal, Baalith, Ishtar) in the Northern Kingdom was due not only to the external influence of the Phoenicians or Babylonians, but in the first place to the fact that Venus was the most conspicuous object in the sky, which illuminated as brightly as the sun,(28) and also to the fact that it threatened the world with new catastrophes, and finally to the fact that like the Babylonians, Egyptians or Brahmans, the Israelites could find out that it was Venus, not Jupiter, that caused the catastrophes in the middle of the second millennium, which in terms of the Israelite history meant that Venus is the celestial body which had ruined the Egypt of oppression and opened the way through the Sea of Passage. This astronomical understanding of facts, together with the brilliancy of Venus, caused many to fall away from the God of the fathers, or from the deity of the ancient age that, after all, was not the deliverer from the yoke of Egypt. This explains the long struggle between the adherents of Yahwe and the adherents of Baal. The adherents of the cult of the God of our fathers, pressed by the revelations of astronomical science, ceded so far as to say that if it was not the ancient Lord who caused the deliverance from Egypt, then it was his messenger, or angel. And though Jupiter became a modest looking object in the sky when compared with Venus, it is still the stronger one. Similarly in Greece the planet Jupiter (Zeus), which looks less imposing than Venus, was recognized as the stronger deity; although in the beginning there was also a confusion as to who had battled Typhon-Pallas, the pillar of cloudZeus or Athenaalready in the days of Homer the supremacy of the planet Jupiter which is able to remove all other planets, the earth included, from their orbits, was recognized fact.(29)
In Palestine, like in Mexico and in other places, Venus was appeased every fifty years, the sending of a goat to Azazel, or Venus, into the desert(30) was not a sacrifice to a worshipped deity but. the removal of a threatening and vicious deity. It seems that the Day of Atonement was observed in the beginning only once in fifty years, at the beginning of the year when Venus was expected on its cometary orbit. A number of instances in the Scriptures can be referred to to substantiate this point.(31) And that Azazel is Venus is clear from the fact that Azazel was regarded as a fallen star-angel, which is Lucifer, another name of Satan. Set, the Egyptian name of the damaging comet, is the origin of the very name Satan. Uzza, the other form of Azza,(32) was thrown into the Red Sea(33) which implies that the authors of this legend knew the role of Venus in the cataclysm of the Sea of Passage. Also in the Arab pantheon el-Uzza is the planet Venus, (34) and as late as the Middle Ages it was venerated in Mecca, and Mohammed also paid homage to it.(35) Thus Azazel to whom the scapegoat was sent was Venus.
When in the eighth pre-Christian century Mars supplanted Venus as the threatening planet the Hebrew prophets did not regard it as a deity by itself, but as a messenger of the Supreme Deity: Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, which is a tempest, hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand,(36) said Isaiah. And Amos spoke of the Lord who makes Khima and Kesil, or Saturn and Mars.(37)
It can easily be that hymns to Baal found place in the Scriptures, and only the name of the Hebrew God was substituted instead of Baal, though I would not vouch for this.(38) The chapter of Habakkuk makes the impression of describing an apparition of the comet Venus:
In Judea Jupiter by-and-by became the Supreme God, not connected with any planet, a process that can be traced also in the writings of Greek philosophers, Plato in the first place, some five hundred years later. Thus religion was at odds with astronomy of the age. But in the Northern Kingdom the process of disassociating the deity from the celestial object had not yet been completed when the Kingdom was destroyed (-723 or -722), and its population was led away into captivity, from which they did not return. And they [the tribes of the Northern Kingdom] left all the commandments of the Lord their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served Baal (II Kings 17:16).
Since the day when Israel became a people, this Earth was severely threatened at two periods: in the days of the Red Sea passage with an epilogue at Gibeon and in the days of Jerusalem and Sennacherib, with prologues in the days of Ussiah and on the burial day of Ahaz. At the Red Sea as well as at Jerusalem heavenly wrath destroyed the host of a cruel oppressor.
Great was the wonder at the natural phenomenon which took place at the sea, but it had its physical cause. Really wondrous was the coincidence: Escaped slaves, encircled by a pursuing foe, stood before the stromy sea, when it was rent asunder before the persecuted ones, and shortly thereafter swallowed up the pursuing host of the tyrant.
When, some seven hundred years later, the Earth was again drawn out of its path, once more the wonder lay not in the retrograde rotation of the Earth for a few hours or minutes, but in the coincidence: the army of the despot before whom the whole world trembled, who had just blasphemed against the Lord of Heaven and Earth, was encamped on its way to storm Jerusalem, and the very night before the attack could begin it was scorched by a heavenly blast of combusting gases. In the morning the army was but a heap of one hundred eighty five thousand dead bodies.
Two great catastrophes, two great salvationshow could a people fail to believe that it was preserved for some great destiny?
After -687, one hundred years passed by. Not only did Hezekiah receive a period of grace, but also the people of Jerusalemfrom -687 to -587.
The result of the great wonder in the days of Hezekiah was the reverse of what it should have been. Only a few years after the deliverance of Judea from the hand of Sennacherib, Manasseh, son of Hezekiah, who at the age of twelve succeeded his father Hezekiah on the throne of Jerusalem, came under the influence of diviners hostile to Isaiah, and alienated himself from the spirit that dominated the palace in the days of his father. He observed times, which means that he followed the advice of the astrologers, who read in the constellation of the planets orders and vetoes for kings and their peoples. During the greater part of Menassehs reign, which endured for more than half a century, planets were officially worshipped in Jerusalem. Manasseh built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord (II Kings 21 : 5). For he [Manasseh] built again high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down, and he reared up altars for Baalim, and he made groves, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them (II Chronicles 33 : 3). This was actually a realistic interpretation of the matter.
It was in the time of Josiah, grandson of Manasseh, and shortly before the exile of Judah to Babylon, that a pure monotheism emerged as an outcome of the progress the Jewish people had made during its long struggle for national existence, on the one hand, and for purification of its concept of God, on the other. And the king [Josiah] commanded Hilkiah the High Priest ... to bring forth out of the Temple of the Lord all the vessels that were made for Baal and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them into Bethel. And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven (II Kings 23 : 4-5).
In the last passage the division of the astral gods is the same as that used by Democritus, who spoke of Venus, sun, and moon, and the planets, thus affording to Venus a special position, a fact that surprised the commentators.(40)
Jeremiah had a clear conception of a God who is over the entire creation. Do not I fill heaven and earth? siath the Lord (Jeremiah 23:24).
The Scriptures do not hide the fact that in Judea, as well as in Israel, the planetary cult was the official cult with the priests and with kings, with many prophets and with the people. Thus Jeremiah, contemporary of King Josiah, says: At that time, saith the Lord, they shall bring out the bones of the kings of Judah, and the bones of his princes, and the bones of the priests, and the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, out of their graves: and they shall spread them before the sun, and the moon, and all the host of heaven, whom they have loved, and whom they have served, and after whom they have walked, and whom they have sought, and whom they have worshipped (Jeremiah 8 : 1-2). And again he says: And the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses of the kings of Judah, shall be defiled as the place of Tophet, because of all the houses upon whose roofs they have burned incense unto all the host of heaven (Jeremiah 19 : 13).
In the days of Jeremiah and King Josiah, a scroll was found in a chamber of the Temple (II Kings 22). It is generally thought that it was the book of Deuteronomy, the last book of the Pentateuch. The text of the scroll made a strong impression on the king (Deuteronomy 4:19):
The scroll continued: Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath… (5:8), which is a passage of the Decalogue (Exodus 20 : 4) verbatim.
Thus we see the centuries-long struggle for the Jewish God, Creator and not unanimated planet, itself a creation, being carried on in the closing decades before the exile to Babylon with the help of the book whose authorship was ascribed to Moses.
In -587 Jerusalem underwent a long siege by the host of the Chaldeans. Nebuchadnezar, a fourth-generation descendent of Sennacherib, beleaguered Jerusalem. Jeremiah did not tell the king and the people, as did Isaiah a century before, that the Lord would save them from the hand of the conqueror. Jerusalem heroically defended itself for eighteen months; at last its walls were broken through and soon thereafter the temple and the city were destroyed by the host of Nebuchadnezar, and became a desolation. The people was dragged into slavery.
When the people of Jerusalem were exiled to Babylon, and group of refugees succeeded in escaping to Egypt, taking with them Jeremiah, they said to him: But we will certainly ... burn our incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals and were well, and saw no evil. But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine (Jeremiah 44:17-18).
It is apparent from this passage that the population of Jerusalem that sought refuge in Egypt thought the national catastrophe fell upon their people, not because they had left the Lord God, but because in the days of Josiah and his sons they had ceased to worship the planetary gods of Manasseh and especially the Queen of Heaven, the planet Venus.
Of this remnant of the people that went to Egypt in the beginning of the sixth century a military colony was established in Ebb (Elephantine) in southern Egypt. Documents (papyri) of this colony were unearthed in the beginning of this century. The Jewish colony in Elephantine faithfully worshipped Yahu (Yahwe), the Lord of the sky, as the theophoric names of many members of the colony testify. Scholars were puzzled, however, to find on one of the papyri the name Anat-Yahu; they were uncertain whether it belonged to a goddess or a place or a person. Anat is the familiar name of the Canaanite goddess identified with Athene in a Cyprian inscription.(41) The historical facts revealed in the present research make the understanding of such cult easier. The dark tradition that it was the planet Venus that played such an important role in the days when the forebears of these refugees in Egypt left that land and passed through cataclysms of fire and water, sea and desert, was responsible for this syncretism of names.
But at that time the ideas of Jeremiah and other prophets of monotheism grew to a strong flame in the soul of the people, and the moral code of the Jewish people was carreid with the exile towards the east, and only a few decades after the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, Buddha in India and Laotze and Confucius in China started their gospels.
The idea of some Bible critics that the Jewish people obtained their idea of monotheism in the Exile of Babylon is wrong. The Assyrians and Babylonians, according to the inscriptions which survived in abundance, worshipped simultaneously all planets. Marduk or Jupiter ws the Supreme God, but in various times or even in single periods in the life of a single person, this or that deity was obtaining preeminence. Se we see that Nebuchadnezzar in his younger years worshipped Astarte (Ishtar)-Venus and in later years Marduk-Jupiter; and his name indicates a reverence for Mercury (Nebo).
The Jewish people did not obtain all of its supremacy(42) in that one day at the Mountain of Lawgiving; this people did not receive the message of monotheism as a gift. It struggled for it; and step by step, from the smoke rising from the overturned valley of Sodom and Gomorrah, from the furnace of affliction of Egypt, from the deliverance at the Red Sea amid the sky-high tides, from the wandering in the cloud-enshrouded desert burning with naphtha, from the centuries-long battle for freedom against the Amalekite-Hyksos tyranny, from the internal struggle, from the search for God and for justice between man and man, from the desperate and heroic struggle for national existence on its narrow strip of land against the overwhelming empires of Assyria and Egypt, it became a nation chosen to bring a message of the brotherhood of man to all the peoples of the world.
In years to come, one from their midst was made god
by many from among the most cultured peoples of the world; the Jews
dispersed in exile among the nations were required to believe that one
of their midst was god, or Gods only son. After having
achieved pure monotheism seven hundred years earlier they would not
retreat to worship god in the effigy of man. Which other people would
reject the demand to believe in one of their own as the god for all
nations and the lord of the universe? How much preference they could
draw from it, being the nation from which Gods only son had sprung?
Probably every nation of the world would have exploited such an opportunity
for its own benefit, becoming priests of the world. But the Jewish people
achieved its idea of God through too many sacrifices, and it was too
conscious of this fact to make a deal and to succumb to this temptation;
and it went to all sufferings, consciously, for the right to proclaim
the faith in the only God. With this sentence they went on the auto
da fé of the Inquisition of the Church of Love: Hear, O Israel,
there is but One God. With these words on their lips, no doubt,
most of the six million Jews who were murdered in our days ended their
lives in the gas chambers built by Germans or on the gallows built by
the British. The Jewish people did not invent monotheism, nor did it
receive it in an easy way: it struggled to come to it, and when it came
to it, it carried the message to all corners of the globe, suffering
everywhere for not abandoning its conviction in an only God and one