Fortress Press

Gods, Goddesses, and Images of God: In Ancient Israel

Gods, Goddesses, and Images of God

In Ancient Israel

Othmar Keel (Author), Christoph Uehlinger (Author)


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Winner of Biblical Archaeology Society Award—Best Scholarly Book on Archaeology

How were male and female deities understood in ancient Canaan and Israel? Did Yahweh, the God of Israel, ever have a divine consort or partner? How was the Yahweh cult affected by religious and political features of Egypt, Assyria, and Canaan? Vindicating the use of symbols and visual remains to investigate ancient religion, the authors reconstruct the emergence and development of the Yahweh cult in relation to its immediate neighbors and competitors.
  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • ISBN 9780800627898
  • Format Hardcover
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 480
  • Publication Date Nov 23, 1998


"[A] most important contribution to the study of religion of Israel and its Canaanite or, more neutrally, Palestinian antecedents in a number of years....[Keel's] most comprehensive and far-reaching study to date."
— Patrick D. Miller, Journal of Biblical Literature

Table of Contents

Preface to the English Edition
Preface to the German Edition

I. Starting Point
  1. The Problem
  2. The Current State of the Question
  3. Archaeology and the Religious History of Palestine/Israel

II. Points of Departure
  1. Symbols and Symbol Systems
  2. The Sources: Texts and—More Importantly—Images
  3. Methodology of the Iconographical Approach: Myth, Iconicity, Constellations
  4. Periodization of the Archaeology of Palestine/Israel
  5. Why this Survey Begins with Middle Bronze Age IIB

III. Equality of the Sexes: Middle Bronze Age IIB
  1. Caprids and Lions
  2. The Hippopotamus Goddess and the Symbol
  3. Naked Goddess, Goddess Heads, and Trees
  4. The Iconography of the Cult Installations at Nahariyah and Gezer
  5. The Iconography of the Middle Bronze Age Temples of Tel Kitan and Megiddo
  6. The Weather God and His Consort
  7. The Falcon-Headed Figure
  8. The Ruler with Male and Female Worshipers
  9. Couples Summary

IV. Eqyption Colonialism and the Prevalence of Political and Warrior Deities: Late Bronze Age
  1. Hazor, or the Continuity of the Northern Syrian and Indigenous Traditions
  2. Megiddo: From the Gold Pendants of the Vegetation Goddess to the Dominance of Warriors
  3. Lachish and Egyptian-Canaanite Syncretism in Southern Palestine
  4. Beth-Shean or the Egyptian State God and His Officials Summary: Excursus: The Late Bronze and Early Iron Age So-Called "Astrte Plaques"

V. The Hidden God, Victorious Gods, and the Blessing of Fertility: Iron Age I
  1. The Amun Temple in gaza and the Widespread Presence of the Hidden God
  2. Gods in Triumph and Domination: Seth-Baal, Reshef, and Horus
  3. The Conqueror, Who Triumphs over His Enemies
  4. Goddess Idols, Lyre Players, and Female Mourners: Elements of Philistine Iconography
  5. The Prosperity of Plants and Animals Summary

VI. Anthropomorphic Deities Recede and Are Replaced by Their Attribute Animals and Entities: Iron Age IIA
  1. The General Decline of Anthropomorphic Representations of the Gods
  2. Phoenician and Northern Syrian Influences in Glyptic Art
  3. Icons of Blessing and the Substitution of the Goddess by Entities through which She Worked
  4. The Iconography of the Cultic Stands from Taanach and other Terra-Cotta Image-Bearing Artifacts
  5. The Iconography of the Jerusalem Temple Summary

VII. Baal, El, Yahweh, and "His Asherah" in the Context of Egyptian Solar and Royal Imagery: Iron Age IIB
  1. "Lord of the Animals" and Animal Images in the Near Eastern Tradition
  2. Israel: God and Bull and Other baal Figures
  3. Isolated Anthropomorphic Images of a Goddess
  4. Theophoric Personal Names with Inscriptional Documentation
  5. Tell Deir Alla: El, Shagar, Ashtar, and Shaddayin
  6. Kuntillet 'Ajrud, Khirbet el-Qom and "Yahweh's Asherah"
  7. Solar Symbolism and Winged Protective Powers in Phoenician/Israelite Speciality Crafts
  8. Symbols of Royal/Courtly Rule
  9. Judah: From the Provincial Reception of Egyptian Royal Iconography to the Integration of Religious Solar Symbolism Summary

VIII. The Astralization of the Heavenly Powers, the Revival of the Goddess, and the Orthodox Reaction: Iron Age IIC
  1. Assyria, Aram and the Astralization of the Heavenly Powers
  2. The Local Reception of Astralization Tendencies: The Crescent Moon Emblem of Haran, the Moon God in a Boat and the Asherah Once Again
  3. Distant and Close Heavenly Powers and the Significance of the Cult
  4. Terra-Cottas of Doves, Goddesses and Riders
  5. Egyptian and Egyptianized Amulets and Seals and the End of Solar Symbolism
  6. Contours of a New Orthodoxy Summary

IX. An Era Ends: Iron Age III
  1. Symbols of Changing Foreign Domination
  2. The Phoenician Economy
  3. Old and New in Northern Arabian and Edomite Forms
  4. Judah: Exclusivity

X. Summary and Conclusion
  1. Word and Picture
  2. A New Undertaking
  3. Focal Points for the Individual Periods
  4. Open Questions
  5. Theological Perspectives

Chronological Table for Palestinian/Israelite Archaeology in the Second and First Millennia

Source Index of Illustrations

Index of Ancient Sources
Index of Subjects
The Authors