God Images on Rock Art

negev rockart god image

God images from the Fertile Crescent Nations 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 their god with magical powers that affected both the national and the cosmic levels. How did he look? Xenophanes of Colophon 475 BC, 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.”

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”

And, so did people!! They created a god image of their own, but to glorify him they copied the image of the Milky Way and created their god on earth in his image. The rightmost image in Fig.1 is the Milky Way. The image of the Milky Way imagined as an enormous giant that spans the heavens overlooking people and controlling events on earth. He stands there, strong and glamorous, his legs slightly apart and his hands extend to the stars. His left foot bent forward in an expression of movement or action. He raises his hand in a motion to strike, thus he is nicknamed ‘the smiting God’ and he even wears a funny cone hat instead of a crown! All gods’ images, from the Middle East,  illustrated in Fig.1 share the mentioned characteristics. Such unusual iconography must have roots in objects accessible in the ancient’s physical world a verbatim image they could copy from. Indeed, the god’s figurines are shaped exactly like the giant in the sky, the Milky Way, a scenery presiding over constantly dominating them in 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 god initiating a creation process, creating the godly wind by turning the time wheel, that is progressing to the right. As can be seen, the rock art figure and the gods’ figurines from the Fertile Crescent reveal that all are 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.



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. Teresa says:

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

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