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Thread: Were Hebrews/Jews originally pagan? If so what were there gods?

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    Were Hebrews/Jews originally pagan? If so what were there gods?

    I read somewhere that they originaly were and shared chaldean and caananite gods. Did they have original hebrew pagan gods before monotheism took over?

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    Silver Member Tylluan Penry's Avatar
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    Re: Were Hebrews/Jews originally pagan? If so what were there gods?

    Yes, if you read about the Exodus in the old testament you will find plenty of references to 'idols'.
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    Re: Were Hebrews/Jews originally pagan? If so what were there gods?

    Quote Originally Posted by greenhead View Post
    I read somewhere that they originaly were and shared chaldean and caananite gods. Did they have original hebrew pagan gods before monotheism took over?
    Jeremiah 44: 15-19

    15 Then all the men who knew that their wives were burning incense to other gods, along with all the women who were present—a large assembly—and all the people living in Lower and Upper Egypt, said to Jeremiah, 16 “We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord! 17 We will certainly do everything we said we would: We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our ancestors, our kings and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. At that time we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm. 18 But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine. ”

    19 The women added, “When we burned incense to the Queen of Heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, did not our husbands know that we were making cakes impressed with her image and pouring out drink offerings to her?”

    Who this "Queen of Heaven" is is up for debate, but I'd say the general consensus among scholars is that the Hebrews were not always monotheists. They were polytheists and henotheists first.

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    Re: Were Hebrews/Jews originally pagan? If so what were there gods?

    Always strikes me as wonderfully ironic that Queen of Heaven becomes a title of the Virgin Mary, later.

    Hunt around online, greenhead, there are a lot of references to recent archeological finds, which lead some scholars to believe that El was originally head of a family group, with Asherah/Ishtar as his consort. It's been a while since I read it, so I'm pretty fuzzy about it myself, but the most convincing stuff IMO was talking about Wisdom as a title of a goddess in the OT. There's a large section of Isaiah that suddenly goes from confusing to extremely moving when read that way.

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    Re: Were Hebrews/Jews originally pagan? If so what were there gods?

    Go read Karen Armstrong's A History of God...
    “You have never answered but you did not need to. If I stand at the ocean I can hear you with your thousand voices. Sometimes you shout, hilarious laughter that taunts all questions. Other nights you are silent as death, a mirror in which the stars show themselves. Then I think you want to tell me something, but you never do. Of course I know I have written letters to no-one. But what if I find a trident tomorrow?" ~~Letters to Poseidon, Cees Nooteboom

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    Re: Were Hebrews/Jews originally pagan? If so what were there gods?

    The Jews originally worshiped El, who is head of the Canaanite pantheon. This name is found in the earlier books of the Tanakh. For example, we have Melchizedek being described as priest of God Most High. This is translated as El Elyon. We have the Elohim moving ovef the surface of the water in Genesis. The name is retained today in angelic names, eg, my name Gabri-el (El's Able Servant), Micha-el (Who Is Like El), Raphael, Daniel, Ariel, etc.

    His consort was Asherah, Lady of the Waves, who we find referenced in the Old Testament described by the strict monotheists as a pole that people would put beside the altar and who was offered raisin cakes.
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    Re: Were Hebrews/Jews originally pagan? If so what were there gods?

    Tess Dawson has written a book about (neo) Canaanite religion and spirituality, Whisper of Stone and has a personal blog about her path. The book is on its way to me, I could post a little bit of what I read there on PF.

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    Re: Were Hebrews/Jews originally pagan? If so what were there gods?

    The Gods of the hebrews didn't go too far. They became demons, angels, and other names for God. Or in the case of Anat and Hadad, they survived as a part of people's names.

    Mekal/Michael was the god of the underworld. Rare deity, only found in the Mekal Stele as far as I know, he seemed to be equated with Nergal.
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    Re: Were Hebrews/Jews originally pagan? If so what were there gods?

    Quote Originally Posted by greenhead View Post
    I read somewhere that they originaly were and shared chaldean and caananite gods. Did they have original hebrew pagan gods before monotheism took over?
    In Genesis, the conversion of Abram is fairly well detailed. There is mention of his father's 'gods' who either were idols or were represented by idols. Prior to this presumably, Abram's family worshiped the gods of the region. As Genesis unfolds and you get to Jacob, it is revealed that when he leaves with his wives (Leah and Rachel), Rachel stole her father, Laban's idols and hid them in her camel's saddle. When Laban catches up with them and confronts them, Jacob tells him that whichever wife has stolen her father's idols will die. Laban searches the entire camp but cannot find them. She apologizes to her father for not rising to greet him, but indicates that her time of the month is upon her and that she'd rather not get up from her mount. Thus avoids detection of her theft.

    I don't recall if Jacob ever discovered the theft or not (I'm going on memory), but it is evident that the previous religion is still being practiced in some form after Abram's conversion and subsequent addition of 'ham' to his name, making him Abraham.

    Previous posters mentioned return to idol worship in Exodus, but it is unclear if this is a continuation of the pre-Abrahamic spirituality of the people. The only thing that is clear, and again, I'm going from memory, is that the Golden Calf was supposed to actually represent God.

    Were they "Pagan?" Depends on how you use the word. The word didn't come into existence until centuries later and when it did come into existence, it had no religious significance. They weren't Gentiles either, as that distinction hadn't yet been made and Abraham and his line were all part of the same cultural group as Abraham's father and Laban.

    Certainly, they didn't call themselves pagan, but if you are using the word in the anything not Abrahamic, then I would say yes. As for what happened to the gods, Spartacandream answered that quite nicely.

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    Re: Were Hebrews/Jews originally pagan? If so what were there gods?

    There's a book on Yahweh's wife especially, titled "The Hebrew Goddess" by a guy named Raphael Patai. It talks about this stuff. I'm probably getting Her name mixed up with Someone Else's, but it may have been Asherah. Or was it Alohibah? And I'm really not in a mood to run upstairs to my library and look it up at the moment (too hot here).

    Some say that in the book of Deuteronomy, one can find the text of Yahweh's "bill of divorce" from his Mother Goddess as well as his Wife Goddess. I haven't seriously sat down myself to search out if such is mixed into that book's texts.

    As his wife was worshiped on hilltops with bonfires, and Herself represented by a symbolic upright pole (which often was also called by her name), this was the reason why the Levite priests were so nasty about any Jews who might practice that, instead of handing over their sacrifices and such to the Levites themselves.

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