God Images on Rock Art

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God images from the Fertile Crescent and rock art

Deciphering rock art from Israel, israelrockart.com.

In rock art, we see the earliest recorded thoughts of man, long before ink and paper were invented.  When viewed in the proper context, rock art can provide a glimpse into how things were perceived in the past and provides us the ability to see early images before the later ideas contaminated them.   Such is the case with god image. Where did it originate and how did people see it?

It’s a mystery that lingers over millennials. And, a partial answer can be found in the ancient god’s figurines from the Near East. During ancient times, it was customary for each city-state in the Fertile Crescent to have a protector god. This god was considered the supreme ruler. People worshipped him, and in return, he provided them with ultimate protection. They credited him with magical powers that affected both the earthly and 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 in their image that took the shape and form of the largest visible object in their world, the shining Milky Way. As shown in Fig.1, the Milky Way image also represents other major gods in Near Eastern cultures. They are based on the same idea, which is a direct replica of the Milky Way, the giant in the sky.

Rock art research news. Near East gods images and their resemblence to the Milky Way
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”. Notice their resemblance to the Milky Way image.

In Fig.1, the Milky Way is depicted as an enormous giant that spans the heavens. His hands extend to the stars as he stretches the sky with his legs slightly apart, hovering above all men with a majestic and commanding appearance. His left foot is bent forward in a moving or action expression. He raises his hand in a motion to strike, thus the name ‘the smiting God‘. Rather than a crown, he wears a funny cone hat! Each of these characteristics is common to all of God’s images, as illustrated in Fig.1. It is likely that such unusual iconography was derived from a visible object a verbatim representation of their god. It is without a doubt that the god’s figurines resemble the giant in the sky, which is higher and bigger than all that exists on earth.

God image in rock art  

The rock art in Fig.2 shows an engraving of creation. It shows the major forces participating in the creation process. On the left side, the standing figure is an image of a god initiating creation. He creates the godly wind by turning the giant time wheel powering the motion of the stars around the North Star. As can be seen, this god figurine is derived from the same template, the Milkyway image.

rock art research. 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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