Is the Semites' letter Aleph, meaning "ox", related to their god "El"?

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PakoBckuu
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Is the Semites' letter Aleph, meaning "ox", related to their god "El"?

Postby PakoBckuu » Sat Jan 20, 2018 4:17 pm

The main deity of the Semites, Phoenicians, and Hebrews was "El", and this name doubled for both "god" and "God". The word "el" in Hebrew also means power and strength. The deity "El" was associated with a bull, and was written with the letters Aleph Lamed. The word Aleph means "ox" and the symbol for the letter Aleph in Phoenician and Paleo-Hebrew looked like an ox's head. An ox is strong and powerful, but is not exactly the same as a bull, which is not castrated. Is there a relationship in meaning between the ox letter Aleph and the god "El"? It seems like a possibility to me, but the Phoenician script was a phonetic alphabet, rather than a pictoral one like Chinese.

"El" as the Levantine supreme God
ʾĒl (written aleph-lamed, i.e. אל, ) is the Northwest Semitic word for "deity", cognate to Akkadian ilum. In the Canaanite religion, or Levantine religion as a whole, Eli or Il was the supreme god, the father of humankind and all creatures and the husband of the goddess Asherah as recorded in the tablets of Ugarit. ... Cognate forms are found throughout the West and East Semitic. Forms include Ugaritic ʾil, pl. ʾlm; Phoenician ʾl pl. ʾlm; Hebrew ʾēl, pl. ʾēlîm; Aramaic ʾl; Akkadian ilu, pl. ilāti.

http://religion.wikia.com/wiki/El_(deity)


El's association with the bull:

In the Ugaritic texts from northern Syria, "Ēl is called again and again Tôru ‘Ēl ("Bull Ēl" or "the bull god")." (http://religion.wikia.com/wiki/El_(deity))

Frank Cross of Harvard Divinity school suggests that to some Israelites in the 2nd millenium BC, including Aaron, there was an association between El, the bull, and Yahweh:
If 'El and Yahweh were related as we have suggested, many of the puzzling features of the cult of Jeroboam 139 would have immediate explanation. On the one hand, the "sin of Jeroboam" was claimed to be the chief sin of Israel by Deuteronomic sources, themselves rooted ultimately in Northern circles. Moreover, the traditions of Aaron's sin in the matter of the bull 4o stemmed from the North, and transparently reveal shaping by the polemic against the Bethel cultus. However, one notes that the slogan "Behold your god/gods who brought you up out of the land of Egypt," is a characteristic Yahwistic confession, and that further scrutiny reveals that the singular "god" must have been original.

The young bull was no doubt conceived as a pedestal for the god. However, there were, we suspect, grounds for the accusation in Exodus 32:4 / I Kings I2:38 that the bulls of Dan and Bethel were worshipped. A god and his animal "participated in each other," and while the god might be conceived as enthroned or standing on the bull, in Canaanite mythology, he also easily transformed himself into his animal and vice versa. Obviously the term 'elohim, capable, whether singular or plural, of taking a plural verb, lent itself to retouching (in Ex. 32:4). However, the effect is weird. Aaron only made one calf. "These gods" belong to Dan and Bethel.

Further, it is impossible to believe that opponents of the Bethel establishment from the Northern Kingdom invented a tradition crediting venerable Aaron with manufacture of the double of Bethel's bull, and recited a classic Yahwistic cult cry over it, unless in fact the old sanctuary of Bethel possessed a cult legend claiming Aaronic authority for the iconography of its shrine. In short, it appears that Jeroboam did not invent a new cultus, but choosing the famous sanctuary of El, attempted to archaize even more radically than the astute David had when he brought tent and ark to Jerusalem, transferring the nimbus of the old league sanctuary at Shiloh to Zion. He attempted to go back to the tradition of the Fathers choosing for the iconography of his Patriarchal shrine the bull, animal of Tdr 'II 'abika,' "Bull 'El your father."

The bull was associated, of course, with other gods, not least Ba'l-Haddu[, but] Jeroboam did not attempt to introduce Ba'l; if he had, tradition should have pre- served the fact in vivid invective.

"Yahweh and the God of the Patriarchs", https://vdocuments.site/yahweh-and-the- ... archs.html

Cross notes that the calf must have been a pedestal for the God El, whom the Canaanites believed could transform into a bull. By comparison, the image of a deity standing on an animal into which he could transform exists in Hinduism. It also makes sense when Cross proposes that the bull images had been worshiped because of the belief that the animal and the deity participated in each other.

Bible History Online points out that in the ancient Mediterranean there were giant bull-like animals, now extinct, called Aurochs. These could be a center of cultural attention, impressing ancient societies with their size and power:
The Extinct Giant Bull
In ancient Mesopotamia, bulls were long venerated as symbols of majestic strength and potency. Savage wild bulls, called aurochs, once roamed the region, some weighing up to 3000 pounds and the size of an elephant. Julius Caesar wrote about aurochs in Gallic War Chapter 6.28, "...those animals which are called uri. These are a little below the elephant in size, and of the appearance, color, and shape of a bull. Their strength and speed are extraordinary; they spare neither man nor wild beast which they have espied."

http://www.bible-history.com/biblestudy ... rship.html

Image
An Aurochs

The ISBE Bible Encyclopedia says of Aaron's Golden Calf:
Modern Bible scholars, however, are practically unanimous in the opinion that the Golden Calf, if worshipped at all, must have been a representation of a Semitic, not an Egyptian, deity. ... When Moses disappeared for forty days in the Mount, it was not unnatural that the people should turn back to the visible symbols worshipped by their ancestors, and should give to them the new name or new attributes which had been attached to deity by Moses.


It says of Jeroboam's Golden Calves:
These calves which Jeroboam set up were doubtless bulls (1 Ki 12:28, Hebrew ) ... These bull images were undoubtedly intended to represent Yahweh ...
(1) The text itself states that it is Yahweh who brought them from Egypt (Hos 2:15; 12:13; 13:4), whom they call "My lord," and to whom they swear (Hos 2:16...; Hos 4:15); and to whom they present their wine offerings, sacrifices and feasts (Hos 8:13; 9:4,5, Hebrew; compare Am 5:8).
(2) Jehu, though he destroyed all Baal idols, never touched these bulls (2 Ki 10:28,29). ...
(5) The places selected for the bull worship were places already sacred to Yahweh. This was preeminently true of Bethel which, centuries before Jerusalem had been captured from the Jebusites, had been identified with special revelations of Yahweh's presence (Gen 13:3,4; 28:19; 31:13; 35:15; 1 Sam 7:16; Hos 12:4). (6) The story shows that the allegiance of his most pious subjects was retained (1 Ki 12:20) and that not even Elijah fled to the Southern, supposing that the Northern Kingdom had accepted the worship of heathen gods as its state religion. Instead of this, Elijah, though the boldest opponent of the worship of Baal, is never reported as uttering one word against the bull worship at Dan and Bethel.
http://www.bible-history.com/isbe/C/CALF,+GOLDEN/


The God El and the ox
In some Bible translations, Numbers 23:22 compares God to a wild ox, whereas others compare Him to a unicorn. Which translation is better?
JPS Tanakh 1917
God who brought them forth out of Egypt Is for them like the lofty horns of the wild-ox.

King James Bible
God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.

The Hebrew word in question is "Reem", which Strong's translates as "ox" (http://biblehub.com/hebrew/7214.htm)



The Letter Aleph, the "ox"
The "Aleph" letter evolved in Hebrew as follows, with late and modern Hebrew switching to the Assyrian alphabet from the Phoenician one:
Image
The alef is a silent letter and simply carries the sound of the vowel. The word picture for alef is a bull or ox’s head with the horns.

http://www.biblelandstudies.com/Alef.html


The letter Aleph had as its "Original pictograph a bull or an ox, symbol of strength. Hence, Aleph came to mean strength." (http://www.bibloscope.com/content/lette ... w-alphabet)
Two of God's titles, "Adonai"(Lord) and "El Elyon"(God most high) begin with Alephs.

Jeff Benner's Ancient Hebrew Research Center claims that the Lamed is a shepherd staff, but isn't the Lamed really an ox-goad?
The original pictograph for this letter is a picture of an ox head- a Image representing strength and power from the work performed by the animal.

The J [Lamed] is a shepherd staff and represents authority as well as a yoke... Israel chose the form of a calf (young bull) as an image of God at Mount Sinai showing their association between the word EL [Aleph & Lamed] and the ox or bull.

https://www.studylight.org/lexicons/heb ... habet.html


Benner writes that "The ImageImagecan also be understood as the "ox in the yoke.""(http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/alphabet_ ... aleph.html). I can see an association between an ox and an ox-goad, but it is hard for me to find a clear, definite meaning from the combination of "ox" and "ox goad" related to the Hebrew word El (meaning "God" or "power").

Associations between El and the letter Aleph.

I am skeptical of Benner's claim that "The root (אלף) is an adopted root from the parent root אל (el), written as ImageImagein the original script, meaning, strength, power", and he claims that this "is the probable original name of the pictograph Image." What basis is there for the proposition that the word or letter אלף comes from אל, other than the fact that Aleph contains the letters for El, and that an ox connotates strength, one of the meanings of the Hebrew "el"?

According to Strong's, the Hebrew word Aleph (oxen) comes from the word אָלַף(Alaph):
From 'alph; a family; also (from the sense of yoking or taming) an ox or cow -- family, kine, oxen.

see HEBREW 'alph
Strong's, Entry 504

However, when we turn to "'alph" in Strong's, it says not "family", but "learn (1), teach (1), teaches (2)."

I can understand how an ox goad "teaches" an ox. So I can see how EL (Ox and goad) is related to Aleph and 'Alph, if they are related to oxen and teaching. Still, I don't feel that I have a clear grasp on how that comes together etymologically.

The Hebrew 4 Christians website proposes that since the Aleph is the first letter of the alphabet, it therefore "is preeminent in its order and alludes to the ineffable mysteries of the oneness of God. Indeed, the word aluph (derived from the very name of this letter) means "Master" or "Lord."" The site also says that it "may have pagan overtones (e.g., the "bull" god) derived from ancient Canaanite culture"
(http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Gramma ... aleph.html)

Do you see a relationship between the word "El" and either the meaning of its component letters or of the letter Aleph?
Hal Smith

kwrandolph
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Re: Is the Semites' letter Aleph, meaning "ox", related to their god "El"?

Postby kwrandolph » Sun Jan 21, 2018 2:21 pm

PakoBckuu wrote:Do you see a relationship between the word "El" and either the meaning of its component letters or of the letter Aleph?


The short answer: “No.”

The long answer:

The meaning of אלף when referring to animals is “domesticated animal” of which the most important in an ancient farming society is a פר bull or פרה cow. Together they were called שור ox. They were important because of their milk, meat, leather and strength for plowing and pulling wagons (before the horse collar was invented in the middle ages, horses were used for riding or four could pull a light chariot, but horses were pretty useless as draft animals).

Other uses of the word אלף were for the number 1,000 and an administrative unit consisting of about a thousand people or families. Therefore, when using אלף as a picture for a sound, the picture that comes to mind is that of the most important of the domesticated animals.

In Hebrew the most important word for “god” was אלה or in plural אלהים though the word אל was known but relatively seldom used.

As for worshipping a bull in ancient Israel, that’s found only in connection with Egypt—with the first generation who left Egypt under Moses, who had seen bull worship in Egypt, and in Jeroboam who had lived in Egypt for several years.

Karl W. Randolph.

PakoBckuu
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Re: Is the Semites' letter Aleph, meaning "ox", related to their god "El"?

Postby PakoBckuu » Sun Jan 21, 2018 3:18 pm

Thanks, Karl.
Hal Smith

PakoBckuu
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Re: Is the Semites' letter Aleph, meaning "ox", related to their god "El"?

Postby PakoBckuu » Tue Jan 23, 2018 2:17 pm

I found your answer helpful, especially when you say "The meaning of אלף when referring to animals is “domesticated animal” of which the most important in an ancient farming society is a פר bull or פרה cow."

Your reply that the Hebrews took the worship of the calf from Egyptian mythology reminds me of the claim that the Hebrews took worship of Yahweh from the Egyptian moon god Yah. What do you think of this claim?
YAH is the MOON and the crescent of the MOON is the BULL HORNS, thus YAH is YAHWEH...
MOSES had HORNS when he came down from the Mountain of the MOON MOUNT SINAI where he spoke to YAHWEH the MOON GOD!
truthiracy.blogspot.com/2012/01/bull-god-el-of-bible-elohim-yahweh.html


In his long 1976 work, Nicolas Wyatt, writes about this theory at length: theses.gla.ac.uk/2160/1/1976wyattphd.pdf

Other articles said that bull worship was a longstanding major component in Middle Eastern, Babylonian, Levantine, and Egyptian societies, and that the bull was associated by them with their major deities like El, Ptah (the Apis Bull), Baal, Moloch, and others. I can understand an idea that Moses and Jeroboam got their idea of bull worship from the Egyptians, but it looks like it was also a part of the Canaanite society among whom the Hebrews lived. Just as there were Hebrews who picked up Baal worship from the Canaanites, and the bull was associated with Baal, it seems to me that they could have gotten bull worship from the Middle East as well. I also note that the temple in Jerusalem had figures of bulls, the Levitical altar that Adonijah grabbed had horns, the Torah prescribed sacrifice of bulls, and Moses came down from his meeting with God with horns קָרַן on his skin (exodus 34:29).
Hal Smith

kwrandolph
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Re: Is the Semites' letter Aleph, meaning "ox", related to their god "El"?

Postby kwrandolph » Tue Jan 23, 2018 5:28 pm

Dear Hal:

This next question considers several questions, including inaccuracies.

First of all, the pronunciation of “Yahweh” is a modern invention, by a German about two centuries ago. While we don’t know for certain what was the original pronunciation, there are indications that is was more like “Yehowahe”, four syllables, with each consonant followed by a vowel. That sort of rules out the theory that the Hebrews copied the Egyptians in the name.

What I found about the name of the moon god is that it was brought to Egypt during the Hyksos period, which was after the Exodus, when Yehowahe was already worshipped by Moses and Israel. Hence the moon god was Arabic and not a native Egyptian god. Another transliteration of the moon god was “Lah”. The Muslim god “Allah” is the ancient Arabic moon god of war, hence the Muslim symbol of the crescent.

Moses completely rejected worshipping the bull god and fought against it. The people you quote are wrong here.

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, his face קרן עור, a verb used only in this context, which leaves some questions as to its exact meaning. Just because the noun קרן meaning “horn” has the same letters as the verb קרן does NOT mean that they are related. Apparently the verb means “to shine” so the translation is that Moses’ face’ skin shone.

The only images of bulls in the first temple was ornamentation under a large basin of water that was placed in front of the temple on a flat place, they were not connected to the temple directly.

Finally, bulls were among the animals sacrificed to Yehowahe, showing that the bulls were not a god, no more than sheep, rams, goats and other animals sacrificed to Yehowahe, rather that Yehowahe is the true God.

Karl W. Randolph.



PakoBckuu wrote:I found your answer helpful, especially when you say "The meaning of אלף when referring to animals is “domesticated animal” of which the most important in an ancient farming society is a פר bull or פרה cow."

Your reply that the Hebrews took the worship of the calf from Egyptian mythology reminds me of the claim that the Hebrews took worship of Yahweh from the Egyptian moon god Yah. What do you think of this claim?
YAH is the MOON and the crescent of the MOON is the BULL HORNS, thus YAH is YAHWEH...
MOSES had HORNS when he came down from the Mountain of the MOON MOUNT SINAI where he spoke to YAHWEH the MOON GOD!
truthiracy.blogspot.com/2012/01/bull-god-el-of-bible-elohim-yahweh.html


In his long 1976 work, Nicolas Wyatt, writes about this theory at length: theses.gla.ac.uk/2160/1/1976wyattphd.pdf

Other articles said that bull worship was a longstanding major component in Middle Eastern, Babylonian, Levantine, and Egyptian societies, and that the bull was associated by them with their major deities like El, Ptah (the Apis Bull), Baal, Moloch, and others. I can understand an idea that Moses and Jeroboam got their idea of bull worship from the Egyptians, but it looks like it was also a part of the Canaanite society among whom the Hebrews lived. Just as there were Hebrews who picked up Baal worship from the Canaanites, and the bull was associated with Baal, it seems to me that they could have gotten bull worship from the Middle East as well. I also note that the temple in Jerusalem had figures of bulls, the Levitical altar that Adonijah grabbed had horns, the Torah prescribed sacrifice of bulls, and Moses came down from his meeting with God with horns קָרַן on his skin (exodus 34:29).

PakoBckuu
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Re: Is the Semites' letter Aleph, meaning "ox", related to their god "El"?

Postby PakoBckuu » Tue Jan 23, 2018 11:40 pm

Karl,

Even if the Israelites were not interested in worshiping any bull god, weren't the Canaanites or Phoenicians, from whom the Israelites took their early alphabet? In that case, could the Canaanites and Phoenicians have associated the Aleph ox symbol with El, who was depicted as a bull sometimes in the Near East?
Hal Smith

kwrandolph
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Re: Is the Semites' letter Aleph, meaning "ox", related to their god "El"?

Postby kwrandolph » Wed Jan 24, 2018 2:09 am

Hal:

PakoBckuu wrote:Even if the Israelites were not interested in worshiping any bull god, weren't the Canaanites or Phoenicians, from whom the Israelites took their early alphabet?


Moses wrote in the latter half of the 15th century BC. There’s evidence in his writing that he had documents dated centuries earlier. Some of those may have been copies of older documents.

Moses wrote for nomads. The older documents he had were written by and for nomads. Those documents certainly were not cuneiform, rather pen on parchment (parchment was readily available, not fragile like clay and weighed far less). But except for very unusual circumstances, parchment doesn’t last as long as fired clay tablets.

The Phoenicians got their alphabet about the time of King Solomon though the surviving Canaanites may have picked it up earlier from Israel. Ugarit’s alphabet dates from about 800–600 BC. In other words, Phoenicia and Canaan got the alphabet from Israel, instead of the other way around.

PakoBckuu wrote:In that case, could the Canaanites and Phoenicians have associated the Aleph ox symbol with El, who was depicted as a bull sometimes in the Near East?


I don’t know what the Canaanites and Phoenicians thought, though I suspect that not enough documents survive to answer your question.

Karl W. Randolph.

PakoBckuu
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Re: Is the Semites' letter Aleph, meaning "ox", related to their god "El"?

Postby PakoBckuu » Wed Jan 24, 2018 6:03 pm

The Egyptians called their alphabet "God's words", IIRC, and the Mayans had a similar name for their script. I think that something similar might be true for other scripts, the idea that writing was itself somehow sacred. With God being associated with the bull, and a bull's skull being the first letter, I imagine that there could easily have been a connection. Thank you for thinking this over with me.
Hal Smith

kwrandolph
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Re: Is the Semites' letter Aleph, meaning "ox", related to their god "El"?

Postby kwrandolph » Wed Jan 24, 2018 10:02 pm

Hal:

You are like a bulldog, you just won’t let go.

PakoBckuu wrote:The Egyptians called their alphabet "God's words", IIRC, and the Mayans had a similar name for their script. I think that something similar might be true for other scripts, the idea that writing was itself somehow sacred. With God being associated with the bull, and a bull's skull being the first letter, I imagine that there could easily have been a connection. Thank you for thinking this over with me.


The Egyptian hieroglyphics (meaning temple characters) took years to master, and only the upper classes could afford it. The same is true of the Mayan glyphs. But an alphabet democratizes writing, that even children can pick up that one character refers to one sound, the next character a different sound, and so forth. With an alphabet, writing is no longer special, no longer holy. What made it easier is that each letter was the first sound of what was pictured—the first, domestic animal; the second, house; the third, referred to an object not found in Tanakh; the fourth letter, a door; and so on.

We don’t have a history of the alphabet. It’s possible that it predates the Egyptian hieroglyphs.

The worship of a bull is connected to hieroglyphs. The absolute opposition to worshipping a bull is connected to the alphabet. Just the opposite to what you are suggesting.

Karl W. Randolph.

PakoBckuu
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Re: Is the Semites' letter Aleph, meaning "ox", related to their god "El"?

Postby PakoBckuu » Tue Jan 30, 2018 9:06 pm

kwrandolph wrote:Hal:

You are like a bulldog, you just won’t let go.

PakoBckuu wrote:The Egyptians called their alphabet "God's words", IIRC, and the Mayans had a similar name for their script. I think that something similar might be true for other scripts, the idea that writing was itself somehow sacred. With God being associated with the bull, and a bull's skull being the first letter, I imagine that there could easily have been a connection. Thank you for thinking this over with me.


The Egyptian hieroglyphics (meaning temple characters) took years to master, and only the upper classes could afford it. The same is true of the Mayan glyphs. But an alphabet democratizes writing, that even children can pick up that one character refers to one sound, the next character a different sound, and so forth. With an alphabet, writing is no longer special, no longer holy. What made it easier is that each letter was the first sound of what was pictured—the first, domestic animal; the second, house; the third, referred to an object not found in Tanakh; the fourth letter, a door; and so on.

What you are saying makes sense. What is curious to me about this is that the first letter that they chose to start their alphabet was also a picture of the animal that they associated with God, the bull. I guess that this connection is not a coincidence. But I don't know how one would prove otherwise, since you rightly said that the history of the alphabet-making has been lost.

In Letter Perfect: The Marvelous History of Our Alphabet From A to Z, David Sacks theorizes:
"How and why aleph was chosen for first place, we will never know. ...According to mystical writings such as the medieval European compilation called the Kabbalah... alef symbolizes the divine energy that preceded and initiated Creation. The seeding power existed before any other form could be realized which is why the opening word of the Hebrew Bible bereshith (in the beginning) starts with the Hebrew alphabet's second letter, for the first."
Hal Smith


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