Ideas of Levant and Exodus


Spreading of culture was much more intense than we can imagine. We will never know the source of all ideas. The Bible is a good source about the society in the Levant during Bronze Age. We have to find the lines telling about the customs in organisation there.

Exodus, rock-carvings, Hittitian, wanax, satell, Astarte, asherim, Ashera, Asvins, Moses, Anati, Mt Karkom, Sinai, megalith, masseboth,

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Phoenician altar from Hazor. They were the dominating culture spreaders in the Levant

In the forties and fifties last century I learned about the world. They told that Moses and the prophets invented law and order and the Greeks and Romans invented the worldly things. It is the normal cultural imperialism that the strongest forces in the world and society try to introduce only their truth.

The Phoenicians introduced their version of ritual astronomy as we see in the temple. The Hand or hands was their signature besides the Sitting Tinia, the Whale and the Serpents. The Season starts at the Hand that is Crab/ Cancer in the Animal Round. This Time Order began around 1300 BC. They used old ideas in the new order and they borrowed from Egypt as well as from Mesopotamia.

Great cultures never tell from where they have got the ideas. Usually the ruler tells that he invented it all and he is the guarantee for the world order. Still the remains tell us that even the great cultures mixed their knowledge. Indus, Egypt and Sumer were like sister cultures and we have to know them all if we really want to understand them and the development of civilisation.

Calendar symbols on stone at Har Karkom Negew. Scorpio, Lizard and Serpent were in use from 4th millennium to late 2nd. They have listed around 40000 rock-carvings

In our rock-carvings we see many symbols from Sumer, Egypt and also some from Indus, but also from the Aegean sphere naturally. Anatolia and Levant were the bridges to Europe and even in their culture we see a mix of local culture and influences from mainly Sumer and Egypt. The roots cause the mix we see and we can hardly separate external influence and internal inventions.

In the long time span much of the influence was the effect of mutual trade. Other great events were when Egypt for a historical short time ruled Palestine and when Mesopotamian rulers extended their rule to the Mediterranean. For a short period the Hittitians ruled in Mesopotamia and that we see immediately in the de figurative art and symbolism. Maybe we should also mention mission for agriculture as a possibility since we see widely spread ritual artefacts.

Hittitian AEDICULA shows the world order in the ruler's seal

The Hittitian symbolism is a mix with much influence from the great cultures, however there are a lot of symbols also from the Minoan world at the time. The Hittitians ruled in northern Levant for a time. In the seal the star/ crescent is the Sumerian symbol for Inanna and the rosette is Venus-symbol of Ereshkigal her sister in Underworld. There is a lot of confusion about these symbols. The Wings is the Sun Eagle and we know the wing from Egypt.

In this seal we see a human ruler, but in other seals there is the double axe and the god symbol a crossed oval that we also find at Ireland 4th millennium. In Aegean culture the word for double axe was wanax and it stood even for the ruler. Originally it symbolised the two phases of the moon. Like the macehead in Egypt it symbolised that the ruler would defend the World Order. In general all official figurative art were composed of symbols and used as the rulers message to the people, whether they liked it or not. Yet the Hittitian ruler was a priest king that carried out the official ritual as his highest duty.

In this seal the rest seems Hittitian however we know from Egypt that the ruler needed the footstool and even some sandal carrier and some with a parasol. Here he stands on a leg that maybe symbolises the nobility. Nearest the telestai = messengers stand on feet symbolising the people. The pillars with the limit/ RA-symbol = ram horns is the Hittitian invention of federation with satelles. That means democracy among the ruling male league where leaders of the satelles elected a leader among the satraps = leader of a satelle = city or folkland.

The pillar is sometimes pictured as a ladder and it may be "ladder to heaven" or a practical way of measuring the height on the night sky. It was cheaper than the pyramid, which they thought as a ladder to heaven. In better known European symbolism we have Irminsul and it is understood that every village had their own pole. That is heritage from the earlier menhirs / standing stones. For some reason it is high culture when the Egyptians have the obelisk, while the European Irminsul was made the heathen and pagan magic and mystic thing by the Roman and Christian cultural imperialism

Here the Phrygian headgear seems to be a new invention however we see it later in the Sarmatian sphere toward Mongolia. In Hattussas the ancient Hittitian capital some relief show the Big God protecting the king in first part of second millennium BC. The god's headgear is a high top with symbols inspired by the Sumerian headgear with four bull horn pairs symbolising Oxen/ Taurus in night sky and the four seasons. The Bull was the great animal in Anatolia as we see already 9000 years ago in Catal Hüyük.

The Naked (rain) Astarte with local names in the Levant with lotus stalks as symbols of fertility. Water is still a problem in the Levant today.

The cultures in Anatolia and Levant borrowed ideas and symbolism from each other and much of it was normal rural life and following the natural year in rituals. They believe that Abraham was a trader and he lived for a time on the border to the Hittitian culture in Haran. The connections to Mesopotamia and Egypt are well known. The culture was much consistent in the entire Levant including all the small city-states.

Naturally the individual cultures would tell us something else since each wanted to be special. Still the remains we have give us another message and the differences were only minor things. We learn from the Bible that the Jewish women rather worshipped the old deities of the Levant than the new patriarchal god.

The women's old Ashera was worshipped at an altar between two asherims that symbolised the lotus stalks. From India we learn that they were called asvins and symbolised the helpers, i.e. fertiliser and water in agriculture. Behind all the symbols are always concepts tied to local life and industry.

When we discuss the Bible most of it is written in the last millennium BC. I doubt that Moses wrote it all in Exodus. To me much of it sounds like the vision of Gudea when he planned Ningirsu's Temple in Ur in the late third millennium BC. It sounds also like Homer in the sense that they nowadays mean the name stands for anonymous writers. Nevertheless it just the same for us now nearly 3000 years later. In the section about Footstool I discuss the Inanna ritual as original Easter/ spring ritual that started the season with symbolic renewal of the kingdom and of nature

Probably meant as Staff and Serpent used as symbols in Egypt New Kingdom

We have also to remember that they had 3000 years history even 3000 years ago. Megalith monuments range from maybe 5000 BC to Christianity. In Scandinavia we have the period with rune stones and in some sense we still manifest important features with stones. They are digging in former fertile valleys and oasis of Sahara where they have found megaliths in the European style.

In the Mediterranean and the Levant they use the word baetyl for stones used as manifest of a deity. In our time we need wide definition of 'baetyl' that is carrying the known or unknown convention of the ritual stone, stone row or part, stone circle or part, pillar and other details in shrine or temple. Local people could carry the meaning for thousands of years as for instance Bride's Suite used about a stone row in Bohuslen and many more foundations with a name that sound reasonable as heritage from Stone Age.

Even god, deity and godhead need wider definition in connection with baetyl. For instance they gave names Rahu and Ketu to rising and descending node of the moon. Sometimes the names are misunderstood as planets, but in late time they are manifested as Dragon Eye and Dragon Tail and then certain stars. In ancient days they used the same word for star and planet. Many more "gods" are just important concepts in every day life. There is a rumour that the highest god Ouranos himself gave name through his son Baetylus, so the high gods are behind the invention of baetyl.

I rather use neutral common words like idol and archetype for picturing abstract entities. It is not the place for adding some pseudo-values about pagan to this when we look at the general use. Who would blame Moses for the use of the baetyl: Genesis 28:22 "And this stone which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house" … It was an elegant scapegoat since it was forbidden to picture God, but not to make a house for him.

I understand this that a stone = baetyl = bethel as such can symbolise God or anything else as soon as the community make the convention. The language of those days was not poor but many poetic metaphors were used and strange words were created.

The most famous ancient baetyl is the black stone in the Aphrodite temple at Paphos Cyprus … the Danish king Erik Ejegod visited the temple in 1096 AD and died there. Maybe the experience was too hot for the king who usually kept a "harem" at home. Local people tell that the Lady is so wonderful that she cannot be pictured…. Ness remarks that the biggest and now best known baetyl is the Kaba in Mecka

Lucian of Samosata wrote in middle first century in his Dea Syria

2 - Of all peoples we know, they say Egyptians were the first to form a conception of gods, and to establish holy places [sanctuaries] and closes [holy precincts, lit. temenos, in Greek], and to appoint feast days. And they were first to conceive holy names and holy tales. But not long after, Syrians heard rumor and speech of Egyptians concerning the gods and regarding sanctuaries and temples, in which they put images and set statues.

3 - But in antiquity among the Egyptians were temples without statues. And in Syria there are temples almost as old as those in Egypt, of which I have seen most, in particular the temple of Herakles in Tyre. Not that Herakles whom Greeks praise in their songs, but the one whereof I speak is much older, and is Tyre's patron [the god Melqart].

It is his knowledge and opinion of the time but the events go a few thousand years back as we see the use in the Negew Desert in Stone Age. The Egyptians probably started with baetyls and the temples in the Levant were influenced especial few hundred years before the Hyksos when Egyptians dominated in the entire Levant in early second millennium.

In the Levantine temples were usually one, two or three pillars representing deities. For instance the Asheras seem to have been the lotus stalks that symbolises the helpers of the fertility goddess Ashera/ Astarte. We see lotus stalks at both side of the goddess also in India and in some connection they are named Asvins. Same developments from stones to statues we see in Greece were Cadmus = the Phoencians brought some new ideas during a period. There is a rumour that Baetylus was son of Ouranos so the high gods must have created the idea.

The Negew Desert is an Eldorado for archaeologist since there are no competition from normal life. It is like a sanctuary of remains from the very beginning of civilisation. Hard to believe that a crew of 40000 has been wandering there for 40 years even when the climate maybe was better then.

At present they have found only 583 sites from Late Stone Age and early Bronze Age 4000 - 2000 BC. The story in the Bible should be seen as a metaphor and allegory. Like many artists the writers of the Bible took known examples from their surroundings. They were part of the Levant and that is why we see so many remains that are common for all the Levant.

The Bible we know have not the images from the Animal Round and that is evidence that the Hebrew culture is young compared with the old cultures that used old symbols as long as they lasted. The Phoenicians above still build on the Animal Round while the Hebrew created the first abstract religion. The old Serpent, symbol of fertility became the Evil and has been in Christianity ever since.

Like in most place the archaeology is from European Bronze Age and starts around 2300 BC. In the entire world the cultures were rising and we get much figurative images. Still the Bible is a good source for ideas and customs of mankind in the Levant during Bronze Age. I have mentioned Ezekiel as source about Phoenician trade from Tyre in last millennium BC.

The Italian archaeologist Emmanuel Anati has been in Negew for more than two decades with his team. He thinks he has found the remains of the ritual place of Moses in Mt Karkom/ Har Karkom in Sinai. He has also found a lot of rock-carvings that show the same mix as everywhere. For instance Scorpio gives a rough date from 3rd millennium BC.

We know that the Sumerians were in the Nile Delta as seen from for instance kuddurru = border stone finds. Even in Sinai around 3400 BC digging for turquoise and other things. They have also found much pottery from the Susa area in Persia. Maybe they gave Sinai the name SIN = Moon and AI = mountain, i.e. Mountain of the Moon. Anati has found some altar to Sin I believe. For the Stone Age archaeology in Sinai … see Emmanuel Anati at

Here I recommend the site with many pictures showing the same diversity in stony monuments as I show in a few files. The environment in Sinai preserves the monuments a little bit better than our woods that consume them or the forestry does it. My general conclusion is that they manifested their rituals and calendar in the stony monuments. Their mythology was just variants of the neighbouring cultures. This third section about megaliths shows that they used stones in symbolism, as signposts, as altars and as holly stones.

Stone row from Har Karkom

However his investigations also tell about 3rd millennium remains of numerous megalith stone circles, boulders, menhirs, geoglyphs, tumuli, altar-like structures, and paved platforms of a peculiar kind, which the Bible calls bamoth, indicate a variety of religious activities taking place on the Har Karkom plateau and around it. Several ruins seem to have been small temples.

In another place with a good view is masseboth beside an altar platform. In short there are remains of culture long before Exodus and Moses. The heydays were between 4000 to 1950 BC according to Anati. The Negew was abandoned for thousand years after that. Although there must be space for Moses before 1000 BC, I suppose

Finds at Har Karkom probably symbolising months. The climate is different from Nordic season symbolism with 7 stones

In another part of the mountains Anati discovered a group of 12 standing stones. Next to the masseboth were the remains of a platform and a courtyard. He thinks that this resembles the passage in Exodus 24:4 "Moses … build an altar under the hill, and the 12 pillars, according to the 12 tribes of Israel" … However the symbolism with 12 should maybe rather be the twelve moons. To such questions we never get an answer.

It is hard to sort out if configurations like these are natural solutions of their problems at the time. They would surely be similar in different places in the world. In this case the stony formations are much older than ordinary biblical times. And they are used much later so for instance when Constantine ordered the design of altars he could find it in old practice. I have shown that for instance the Inanna myth was not altered much in time. It was surely created in 4th millennium BC and we see the same symbolism in last millennium BC. The Bible cannot take monopoly on such things since they are pan-human.

In science we should examine every fact as long as we do not write about religion. We can compare it to our sagas about Uppsala. We can find lots of places that correspond to the description in the saga. The same it is with the Beowulf Epos that we can place in several places out from the few facts we get. The use of number twelve correspond even with the number of months and such number "magic" we see now and then. If it was important to remember the number of tribes they maybe set up boulders, but boulders for the moon was more important.

Another number is 7 that is used for suites as well as for steps in the analysis of things. Inanna / Ishtar steps seven steps down and up to and from Underworld. There were seven demons in Underworld. The number is used for days of the week and for the seven summer moons and is then natural facts. In other cases they are for the memory system.

They have found temples on the top of the mountains, which we can compare with Olympos. It would be natural to place ritual places high for many reasons. The ritual place should not take important grazing fields from the animal. It should be easy to keep the place sacred. The Olympos of Nordal is also placed in such a place up to our local possibilities.

Still we can learn about such principles from Exodus such as 33:21 "And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock!" Se more under Footstool See the Hittitian Aedicula that the footstool was the rostrum that lifted the speaker above the assembly.

We all know about the famous two tablets with the rules of society. At the age I learnt them I did not know anything about the Sumerian laws on tablets and they are much longer than Ten Commandments. Moses wrote for a little tribe while Hammurabi wrote 282 codes for a city of maybe more than 50000 people. Other before him made the first codes but did not carve them into a stone so they are not mentioned in history. The rules about offering we find earlier in Sumerian songs.

My work is about how a little tribe on Dal wrote their little law and it was enough for them. They did not use many words but pictures like metaphors tell about much more than 1000 words if we want to understand the unwritten wish to create order.

There are many single stones at Har Karkom. Here with a hollow stone also seen in many places

We need also a line from Genesis 28:22 "And this stone which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house" … I understand this that a stone as such can symbolise god or anything else as soon as the community make the convention. The language of those days was not poor but many poetic metaphors were used.

In Mesopotamia they symbolised generally abstract ideas with animals in 4th millennium BC, while they mixed it in Egypt. On Narmer's palette the scribe is male and got later the Ibis head. In Sumerian seals the Bull has the head of Gilgamesh and Enkidu when they tame it and set on human head. The seals of the Akkadian Sargon 2300 BC humanise the gods and only the quadruple Oxen horns reminds of the animal. All the time the priest-king or Horus/ yearman was stand-in for the high deity.

The Minoans spread the culture for thousand years in Mediterranean at least and maybe farther. The flounced shirts on the ladies look much like the Akkadian. The Serpents are surely from that source too. One of the deities has a Cat on the head and that is surely Bastis from Bubastis Nile Delta. In early second millennium BC the Minoans founded an enclave at Cyprus to get copper and surely the traders had their own part of town in Ugarit. There are signs that the Minoans brought culture to Scandinavia, but the Phoenicians are better represented and later on timeline.

The short period with Echnaton in Egypt was the only rational time and he realised that life comes from the Sun and with water and soil we see the result "The Son". The truth looses when it comes to tradition so the old gods won in Egypt. The Jews made the god invisible and abstract and women's' protests and demands for the old deities were silenced in time.

In the desert there are many stones with anthropomorphic or zoomorphic shapes with

This apply also to the concept RAS and ANSUR In several places they symbolise the deity as a stone. For instance the black stone that symbolises Aphrodite in the Pafos temple at Crete, "She is so beautiful. She can not be pictured!" (It is much like me. I do not fasten at photos) It was also easier and cheaper to use the raw stone.

They have used many black or dark stones in the temples and on some of them there are rock carvings. We have also the big Kaaba at Mecca and we could say the old tradition still lives. The Jews or rather Moses and the prophets made another conversion by making it forbidden to picture god.

Exodus 33 : 20 - 23

"And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock:

And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by. And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen."

For long the Israelite women wanted to keep the old naked deity with many names. In fact she is maybe 200000 - 500000 years old according to the oldest finds. Best we know her from the caves in France. She is the idol of motherhood and nursing and every woman knows that keep generations going. So why go from old proven cards to gaming?

Still the old lady came soon back as Maria with her child, much like Isis in Egypt. Women need the role model and bandying wall for their motherhood. Thinking and talking always need abstracted role models and we use the same methods today under other names

Moses was naturally "prisoner in his culture" and his ideas cam from the surroundings in the Levant and Egypt. Sop he uses some of the customs and ritual items he know of. He also lived in a time of urbanisation. The old fertility and year rituals were not of immediate importance for him when he created the abstract religion with the invisible god everyone could speculate about and the priests tell how it should be.

That was a historical process that we see began already in the city of Ugarit as we see from the texts. Citizens do not know much about ecology and then about the year ritual tied to abstracted images in the sky and in the mind of man. The Serpent was originally an abstraction of pregnancy in the poetic fiction they created with few icons. In Ugarit we see that already then the Serpent was becoming the Evil.

From the biblical texts we learn that the Bible have no roots and that the Israelites created a culture and religion far from nature. In time fertility became evil and sin. That surely affects some people even today when they in hubris believe being Master of Nature

Leviticus 24:17 - 23

"And he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death. And he that killeth a beast shall make it good; beast for beast. And if a man cause a blemish in his neighbour; as he hath done, so shall it be done to him. Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again. And he that killeth a beast, he shall restore it: and he that killeth a man, he shall be put to death.

Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I am the LORD your God. And Moses spake to the children of Israel, that they should bring forth him that had cursed out of the camp, and stone him with stones. And the children of Israel did as the LORD commanded Moses."

The rule "eye for eye" could be read in two different ways. Some look at the world with the "evil eye" and other with the "eye of life". The evil eye usually want revenge and use pseudo qualities like sin and natural dead penalty very of ten. In old Scandinavian thinking it is a question about "paying what it costs". That means compensating the damage man have done to another. Once it is paid it is forgotten

…The old northerners were not all the same. "Stoning" is mentioned in some of the medieval landscape laws. And there are some differences. But the clue is that they managed to keep peace without a fearful abstract invisible god. Not all believe that Odin was cruel.

As far as I can see the Israelites of today have some difficulties with this rule:

Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I am the LORD your God. … there is another in the New Testament about loving other people too.

Moses was stand in for God and much of his rules and texts were politics and message to the people. He wrote his books from the experiences he had and copied other cultures in Middle East. It is often impossible to separate politics and religion. He wanted to organise the tribes and he understood that rituals and manifestation in temple and altar was one of the means. In Exodus 33:2 he also point out the enemy Canaan, Amorites, Hittites, Peritzzitier, Hivites, Jebusites. Exodus is a clear declaration of war against these people. I think we ought to leave moral valuation here

Still ... today the American president and leader of Israeli points out the enemy and tell us Americans and Israeli are the chosen people. You can not be judge in your own case is an old rule. Hard to see they are intelligent and live up to the rule "love even your neighbour". Not much help of religion when making peace. Our real threat "enemy" is the nature we misuse and by now it is our real "enemy" since it respond 1 :1 to our misuse.

I have in my turn worked for peace all my life and I know something about being depressed. My lifetime studies in history help me understand but I would never tolerate aggression. The early philosophers meant that philosophy should refine mankind … I know that religion is too often used as weapon against people. I want to live as philosopher.