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God Images on Rock Art

negev rock art god image
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God images from the Fertile Crescent and rock art

In ancient times, there was a custom where each city-state in the Fertile Crescent had its protecting god. He was their ruler, people worshiped him and in return, their god would protect them. They credited him with magical powers that affected both the national and the cosmic levels. How did he look? Xenophanes of Colophon 475 BC, a Greek philosopher, described it eloquently:

“But if cattle and horses and lions had hands or could paint with their hands and create works such as men do, horses like horses and cattle like cattle also would depict the gods’ shapes and make their bodies of such a sort as the form they themselves have.” And, so did people!! They created a god image of their own and to glorify they awarded him the Milky Way image.

Near East gods image

Fig. 1 God figurines from Fertile Crescent, left to right: Pharaoh Narmer Egypt, Hadad – Phoenicia, Teshub – Kingdom of the Hittites, Baal – Canaan,  Negev Desert rock art Israel, Milky Way image projected on the globe. Such posture refers in literature as a “smiting god”

The image of the Milky Way, Fig.1, imagined as an enormous giant that spans the heavens. He stands there, strong and glamorous, his legs slightly apart and his hand extends the stars. His left foot bent forward in a moving or action expression. He raises his hand in a motion to strike, thus his name ‘the smiting God’. He wears a funny cone hat instead of a crown! The gods’ images illustrated in Fig.1 share the mentioned characteristics. Such unusual iconography must have roots in daily objects or a verbatim image of their god. Indeed, the god’s figurines resemble the giant in the sky, a scenery presiding over people dominating the night sky.

God image on rock art  

The rock art in Fig.2 shows an engraving of creation. On the left side, the standing figure is an image of a god initiating creation. He creates the godly wind by turning the time wheel. As can be seen, this god figurine derived from the same template, the Milkyway image.

god image rock art negev desert

Fig.2 Creation rock art with the god figure on left,  an image directly copied from the Miky Way.

 

Bibliography

Cornelius, I.   (1994)              The Iconography of the Canaanite Gods Reshef and Ba’al: Late Bronze and
Iron Age I Periods (c 1500 – 1000 BCE)

More deciphering, in a new book Rock Art in Israel, available online.

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One Comment to God Images on Rock Art

  1. Avatar Teresa says:

    Love this, can’t see the top one well though with the date over it.

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