3.b Ugarit or Israel; gods or God?
One of the more absurd explanations of Michael Heiser’s theory is “ The chief deity of Ugarit was El—one of the names that appear in the Old Testament for the God of Israel. El had a divine council whose members were “the sons of El,” and he had a co ruler, Baal…” Underline mine
He coincides a pagan religion whose God is called El (God) with El (the God of Israel).
El simply means God; singular in Hebrew. It is a generic word that can be used for true of false gods, just like Elohim which means God (but having a plural connotation). Neither El nor Elohim is ‘Gods (personal) Name,’ it is a term used for many descriptions – so Heiser is wrong again.
El, is a generic name for God in NW Semitic (Hebrew scrolls and Ugaritic stone writing’s), it is also used in the Old Testament for heathen deities (Ex. 34:14; Isa. 44:10). Oops! with this, half of Heisers theory is disproven.
Num. 25:5 “Moses said to the judges of Israel, "Every one of you kill his men who were joined to Baal of Peor." That god Baal is what Heiser is referring to in the Ugarit writings, the high king of the gods, both El and Baal. In other words, Moses commanded to have all those killed who were joined to the very false god that Heiser uses in his explanation, in order to convince us to believe in his false gods council.
“The religion of Ugarit and the religion of ancient Israel were not the same, but there were some striking overlaps. For example, the name of the ultimate divine authority at Ugarit was El, one of the names of the God of Israel (e.g., Gen 33:20 ). El was described as an aged god with white hair, seated on a throne. However, at Ugarit, El was sovereign, but another god ran things on earth for El as his vizier. That god’s name was Baal, a name quite familiar to anyone who has read the Old Testament. At Ugarit Baal was known by several titles: “king of the gods,” “the Most High,” “Prince Baal” (baal zbl), and—most importantly for our discussion — “the Rider on the Clouds.” (Heiser, Logos)
Ugarit was a sea port city a key economic center in the Ancient Near East, where trade took place between Egypt and Asia Minor and Mesopotamia.
Here is the basis of Heiser’s teaching in regard to these pagan religions being compared to Israel, Num 25:2-3 “ They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel.” (This event is reiterated in Deut.4:3)
Heiser writes, “The people of Ugarit called their high god El—they used the term as a proper name. So did the people of Tyre, which was a Phoenician city. The Phoenician religion had a divine council led by El, who was also called elyon (“Most High”) in Phoenician texts and considered the creator of the earth.” (Unseen Realm)
Heiser continually has El (or elyon) to these people as a personal name, not just a generic word for God as it is written in Hebrew.
But, again, in the Bible, El is a general term used for true and false gods. The Phoenician religion like the Egyptians worshiped nature. A pantheon was presided over by the head of the gods (Henotheism) but a goddess was the principal figure in the Phoenician pantheon. In the early Phoenician days, they worshiped Mother Earth, like the other societies around them. They addressed her as Baalat Gebal, which meant “Our Lady of Byblos.” And they made idols of their gods of nature, you will not find any similarity to this in the Bible, except with those Hebrews who were disobedient to Gods commands, who had gone into idolatry. (2 Kings 17:15-17,29)
Why does Heiser make this into a council of gods that God is among? Because he believes the Canaanites religion had a council, so then, he thinks Israel must have one too; Israel borrowed it from them! However, this irrationally discounts the words God had spoken to Moses, to orchestrate Israel into a nation (separate) from the nations around her. God delivered Israel out of Egypt and wanted to keep Egypt and other pagan beliefs far from His chosen people.
Heiser is not defining history from the Bible but from pagan writings.
Canaanite mythology speaks of the 70 sons of El, all of these were gods. This is what Heiser is basing most of his teaching on. (He is referring this to the 70 nations in Gn.10)
According to Philo, “El had three wives, who were also his sisters. El, the head of the pantheon, was the hero of sordid escapades and crimes. El was a bloody tyrant who dethroned his own father, murdered his favorite son, and decapitated his daughter.” (Unger’s dictionary)
Which means he was not at all like the God of Israel, showing that the ‘name ‘El’ did not have the same meaning as the Hebrews."Heiser uses the names but does not tell you the actual nature and activity of these gods or of the other gods of Canaan (Ugarit). “El, a heartless, unbridled tyrant, had three wives or consorts who were patrons of sex and war. Baal was the great NW Semitic god of the storm. At Tyre, Melcarth was honored. Koshar was the Vulcan of the Canaanite; Hauron, the shepherd god. Mot was the god of death. The Ras Shamra texts speak of a sun goddess, Shapash. In the worship of these various deities prostitution was glorified.”(Ungers Bible dictionary)
Philo continues saying, “Despite these enormities, El was styled “father of years” (abu shanima), “the father of man” (abu adami, “father bull”), i.e., the progenitor of the gods. Baal, the widely revered Canaanite deity, was the son of El and dominated the Canaanite pantheon. He was the god of thunder, whose voice reverberated through the heavens in the storm. He is pictured on a Ras Shamra stelabrandishing a mace in his right hand and holding in his left hand a stylized thunderbolt.” (Unger’s Dictionary)
Definitions from Israel’s enemies that he conglomerates to be part of the Bible.
The clay cuneiform tablets Heiser refers to are from about 1,400-1,200 B.C., which is hundreds of years after the many portions of the Old Testament were written by Moses and Joshua.
Discovered as Ras Shamra Syria (ancient Ugarit) from 1929 to 1937.
“Thousands of clay tablets stored in what seems to be a library between two great Canaanite temples dating from c. fifteenth-fourteenth century B . C . give a full description of the Canaanite pantheon.” (Ungers Dictionary)
The Great Pantheon
Heiser says Israel’s pantheon is nearly identical to the pantheons of the ancient Near East, particularly in the Canaanite religion.
What Pantheon has been written about by Moses? Can anyone find it? Moses said OUR GOD is ONE GOD, (Deut.6:4), God says there are no other gods (people made nature and objects gods). And this was stated long before the Ugarit myth. What we find in history, is nothing but mass confusion about the gods and goddesses that were served and worshiped by the nations.
The Canaanite pantheon was a crude and licentious type of polytheism, the progenitor of the gods, reflected on the Canaanite civilization was extremely decadent. The Holiness of YHWH, the God of Israel, was in opposition to this thoroughly immoral culture of Canaan, who were enemies of Israel, why couldn’t they get along if their gods were nearly the same?
God said, in Deut. 9:4 “ because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out from before you.” The worship of other gods is wickedness to God and acknowledging them in any way was forbidden.
The Myths on pantheons (Enlil- Sumerian for "wind/storm-god." The prominent gods in Mesopotamia were those over heaven, the air, and earth, personified by Anu, Enlil, and Enki (Ea).
And In ancient history Sumerians’ supreme god was Enlil “Ellil was the creator of mankind who caused the great flood.” He was produced by the union of “An” and “Ki’s
Also, Enlil is the air-god and initially the leader of the pantheon, (from at least 2500 BC.) relinquished his spot to Anu, leader of the pantheon, he also assumed most of Anu’s powers. He is glorified as “the father of the gods” called “the king of heaven and earth.” In Babylonia it was Marduk who became prominent at the time of Hammurabi (about 1800 B. C.).
“ While El or Il, name means 'god', commonly described as the creator of the earth, the Arameans ranked Hadad before him. Also, many city gods were named Baal, meaning 'lord'. Baal-Sidon, the city god of Sidon was thus an entirely different deity than Baal-Hadad, the storm god.”
BAAL-HADDAD (Canaanite) called "The Mighty," "He who mounts the clouds."
The executive of the divine assembly.
Heiser states ,“The closest parallel to Israel’s (and therefore the OT‘s) conception of the assembly of the heavenly host under the authority of Yahweh is the divine council of Ugarit. Practitioners of Ugaritic religion organized the unseen divine world into three (or possibly four) tiers. In the top tier dwelled El and his wife Athirat (Asherah). The second tier was the domain of their royal family (“sons of El”; “princes”). One member of this second tier, Baal, served as the co-regent of El; despite Baal being under El’s authority, worshipers gave him the title “most high.” The third tier was for “craftsman deities,” and (perhaps) the fourth and lowest tier was reserved for the messengers (mal'akhim), essentially servants or staff.” (Michael S. Heiser, “Old Testament Godhead Language,” Faithlife Study Bible, John D. Barry, Michael R. Grigoni, et al. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012). Page 4.
The Bible is NOT to be looked at, or defined through the lens of ancient pagan Ugaritic theology. The Israelite religion firmly established in the Bible, is not, in any way dependent on Heiser’s circular reasoning to find every and any unjustified nuance in order to confirm his presupposition of this divine council he says exists. He states, “ As with everything else in biblical theology, what happens in the unseen world frames the discussion [of eschatology ].”14) Heiser frames everything within his theology by what he calls “the Deuteronomy 32 worldview” which is his unbiblical preconceived filter on how to read, interpret, and to understand the Bible.
Manasseh, king of Judah (697 to 642 B.C.), built altars in Jerusalem for all the “host of heaven” (2 Kings 21:5). Manasseh attempted to merge the worship of these other gods with the worship of YHWH. he is Israel’s first ecumenical / interfaith king. When Josiah came to the throne, he completely and with zeal, reversed Manasseh's interfaith attempts (2 Kings 23:7).
Let me make another the point, that we have seen this kind of affinity before with Daniel Kikawa’s book Perpetuated in Righteousness. Where he tried in a very estranged and obtuse way to connect the gods of the various cultures to be the same as the God of Israel (aka, attempting in the same manner as Don Richardson did in the late 20th century).
EL (Canaanite) was called "The Bull," the Father of Men, the Kindly One, the Compassionate Creator of all things, greatest of all the gods, father of the divine family, head of the divine assembly. Likened to a bull (Remember the golden calf? when Israel went into apostasy so quickly because Moses was missing for 40 days)
Heiser states, the discoveries at Ugarit put all of that Old Testament history in context.
“The site of Ugarit was discovered in 1928 and excavated in the decades that followed. One of the major finds was a library containing thousands of clay tablets, roughly 1400 of which were in an alphabetic language (now called Ugaritic) that was closer to biblical Hebrew than any other ancient language. The vocabulary and grammar are in many instances virtually identical.”
But, Similarity in language, does not mean sameness in content, thus, Heisers view has no credibility, but unfortunately too many follow his logic, and the illogic of it becomes the consensus ignoring what the Bible actually says.
The link below leads to a fair and scholarly article on this subject by author EDWARD D. ANDREWS BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House points out “ the Pentateuch (first five books by Moses) was written between 1510 and 1470 B.C.E., a full 200-300 years before the Ugaritic texts. This means that Moses could not have leaned on Ugaritic mythology. ”
His determination as to what the original reading, was “sons of Israel” (בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל), based on the stronger textual support, and other internal evidence (in his article)
"Yahweh, at the top tier, was the supreme authority over a divine council (bureaucracy) that included a second tier of lesser אֱלֹהִים (elohim), also called the “sons of God. The third tier comprised the mal'akhim (“angels”).” (Michael S. Heiser, “Old Testament Godhead Language”)
Here is his conclusion from the discovery of the Ugarit.
“All ancient Mediterranean cultures had some conception of a divine council, including Israel. However, Israelite religion’s divine council was distinct. The structure of the Israelite divine council has implications for understanding God and the unseen world in biblical theology .”
(Michael S. Heiser, “Divine Council,” The Lexham Bible Dictionary, John D. Barry and Lazarus Wentz, eds. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012)
He further states, The Ugaritic deities are now best known because of the hundreds of religious texts dating from the fifteenth and early fourteenth century BC which were found in a library housed in a building situated between Ugarit's two great temples, one dedicated to Baal and the other to Dagon.
However, what Heiser does not mention, is that there are other writings that are older cuneiform clay tablets than the Ugarit writing’s, listed in the following below.
The earliest Mesopotamian law code was the Code of Urukagina (c. 24th century BCE) which we have only in fragments today.
In 1948, the tablet of the Code of Ur-Nammu was unearthed in Iraq. The Code of Ur-Nammu (c. 2100-2050 BCE) is the oldest extant law code in the world. It was written by the Sumerian king Ur-Nammu (r. 2047-2030 BCE) or his son Shulgi of Ur (r. 2029-1982 BCE) centuries before the famous Code of Hammurabi was inscribed by the Babylonian king Hammurabi (r. 1795-1750 BCE). (See https://www.worldhistory.org/Code_of_Hammurabi/ )
The Code of Hammurabi is a Babylonian legal text composed c. 1755–1750 BC. Is the longest, best organized, and best-preserved legal text from the ancient Near East. It is a collection of 282 rules, established standards for commercial interactions and set fines and punishments to meet the requirements of justice.
The laws address business contracts and proper prices for goods as well as family and criminal law. Every crime inscribed on the stele is followed by the punishment to be inflicted. It is written in the Old Babylonian dialect of Akkadian, purportedly by Hammurabi, sixth king of the First Dynasty of Babylon.
Harsh punishments were implemented but it has one of the earliest examples of an accused person being considered innocent until proven guilty.
“Hammurabi’s reputation remains as a pioneering lawgiver who worked—in the words of his monument —”to prevent the strong from oppressing the weak and to see that justice is done to widows and orphans. (He was not one of the council of gods) https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/hammurabi
This was translated by Kramer in 1952, bringing to light the oldest law code in the world. Kramer comments: Ur-Nammu was believed to be world's first lawgiver? There were lawgivers in Sumer long before Ur-Nammu was born. Translated by Kramer in 1952, Kramer refers to him as "the first Moses" who, in responding to the needs of his people for order, created the first set of laws that applied to all people equally, regardless of social status or supposed privilege.
Does this mean that Moses copied the code of Hammarabi which came before he received the law on Mt. Sinai? Only in the most basic sense can he be likened to Moses who received the law ‘from God’ directly on Mt. Sinai. A law that is from the one who created mankind and knows every heart. It is God that appointed certain laws early on in mankinds history that became ingrained in governing people.
Some (liberal scholars) (who do not believe in the inspired Words of the Bible) claim these ancient cultures influenced Moses. Apparently, Heiser along with them, also believes that Moses and Israel were influenced by them. But there is nothing in reality that supports what they desperately want to believe and merge into the Bible.
The Cosmogony of Genesis is in direct contradiction to that of Heisers. The "Creation Tablets," preserved in a poem in honor of Merodach, the patron god of Babylon. Genesis has the record of the true creation account is in direct contradiction between them, this certainly may be a corruption of primitive truth that was once known (Rom.1). In light of the Divine account by Him Who created all things, by the hand of Moses settles the matter.
We find the same said for the flood accounts of these many cultures. They all knew there was a flood, but their details are scrambled. The true account is written in Scripture. The Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh has probably the most similarities to the Biblical record of the Flood. This doesn’t mean that Genesis 6-9 is borrowed from this account or the accounts of other cultures stories either.
His argument of a council of divine Elohim is similar to the cults saying that the Trinity is taken from former pagan cultures who had trinities among their many gods.
Ugaritic pagan practices focuses upon Baal (the son of El, and other gods). Heiser claims that Old Testament authors borrowed their teachings from these pagans; specifically Moses who received the law on Mt. Sinai. Only those that are in Bible ignorance, or those with an ulterior motive and a divisive agenda would say something like this with nothing from the bible to support it.
We find these beliefs were held throughout the world including as far away as ancient China, “ The principle Chinese deities are called Tien -Chi, or heaven and earth. Confucius preserved in his writings the ancient worship of these gods” (The Story of the World’s Worship by Frank S. Dobbins 1901, p.56)
In Hawaii, Kane, Kanaloa, Lono, this is the great godhead of the forefathers of Hawaii, and these gods belong to class one. …, and these gods made many gods, the host of gods, man and all things (Kepelino's Traditions of Hawaii, page 10, B. P. Bishop Museum, Bul. 95, Honolulu, 1932).
Japan’s Kojiki: “The names of the deities that were born in the Plain of High Heaven when the Heaven and Earth began were the deity Master-of-the-August-Center-of-Heaven"
So many other examples can be used.
Once one approaches Heiser’s synopsis and sees the pagan Ugaritic writings or any of these other Ancient Near Eastern writings as uninspired and that historically their cultures have been in rebellion to God. Their contradictions to the Word of God become null and void.
From the writing’s on these older tablets we do know of their religion of polytheism and how it was ingrained in their society. Heiser’s premise does not show his alleged council appointed by God protecting these (pagan)nations, ever, even before their so called fall into corruption. This so called council did not give them the same knowledge and insight that God gave Israel through the law. These are the nations Israel fought against to enter the Promised Land.
The early church from the first century on, recognized that the Bibles sixty-six books, were and are completely inspired by God, inerrant, authoritative, and that these authors were moved and inspired by the Holy Spirit, and what they wrote was nothing other than the perfect words of God to mankind. Encompassing historical proofs, scientific proofs, archaeological proofs, and fulfilled prophecy throughout history, with more to come.
Once a person understands the deceptive and intrusive nature of the Devil and of the demonic realm, you will begin to see their influence working throughout history and through the free moral agency of mankind in order to create counterfeit likenesses of the truths of God and logical sounding rabbit holes for people to get lost in, in their individual pursuits to explain away the truth of God and the Gospel of Christ. We must be on guard or anyone can unintentionally be used by those principalities in order to bring doctrines of demons into the Church.
Satan is called the father of lies and the master of deception. He has had thousands of years to create, to appeal to men to use their intelligence, their pride and ignorance to create a multitude thoughts, philosophies, other religious systems, contrary to Gods word. History show us cultures and entire civilizations war against the only true God, The God of Israel.
God calls his children to study to show ourselves approved and be ready to give every man an answer for the hope that is in us, also, for us to defend the faith that was once given to the saints, and to expose what is not Bible doctrine, wherever they are found. That is why we are taking much time to present this to you as an alternative to Heiser’s teachings concerning his council narrative. For it not only greatly affects the reliability of the Scriptures, but also, the nature of God, and the nature of man revealed in the Scriptures.