Rock Art and the Names of God
Copyright © 2016 by Yehuda Rotblum
The Hebrew script and its precursor, the Proto-Sinaic Alphabet, invented by Semites working in the Egyptian mines in Sarabit-el-Haddam. One of its variations traveled through the Negev Desert and established itself as a local Alphabet called Old Negev. A full Alphabet of this variation was never discovered but some letters, see Fig1, have many similarities to the original Proto-Sinaic Alphabet. They were used mainly to engrave and glorify the local tribe God name on the desert rocks. The earliest engraved forms of God’s name, in this Alphabet, found in the Negev include names such as YAH, YHH, all are variations of the Hebrew root word YH.
Fig1 variations of God’s name from rockart in the Negev Desert.
The Egyptian records describe the people living in this Negev area, they call them the Shasu-Yahu, which was a common way to identify uniquely the tribe by its name and its God. According to Egyptian sources, YAHU was the Shasu God nomads. The ending Yahu can be found in modern Israeli names, such as Ishayahu and Eliyahu.
The Bible mentions the desert nations surrounding Canaan and they are all related to Abraham. The Midianites are descendants of Midian, Abraham son the Edomites are descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother and the Ammonites and Moabites are descendants of Lot, Abraham nephew. Ishmaelites are descendants of Ishmael, Abraham son.
Fig2 Shasu Land and neighboring kingdoms.
Shasu – Egyptian Sources
The geographical list of Amenhotep III (eighteenth dynasty, 1379-1417 BC) found in Nubian temple describes the Shasu as scattered tribes in the wilderness of Faran, Edom, Midian, and Kushan. According to Egyptian records, the Shasu encampment includes, see Fig2, the ‘hill country of Seir’ in South Canaan and the ‘country of Yahu’ whose location is unknown. Records from the memorial tomb of Ramses II (1213-1303 BC) describe that he robbed Shasu land and conquered Mount Seir. Ramses III, nineteenth dynasty (1154-1186 BC), announced that he conquered Seir and destroyed the tribes of Shasu.
In ancient times there was a custom, each city-state in the Fertile Crescent had its protecting god; he was a ruler of gods and men alike. The people worshiped him and in return, he protected them. They attributed their god magical powers that affected both the national and the cosmic levels. In Egypt and Mesopotamia, there were thousands of minor and major gods. In Egypt, the deity’s name was Ra and in Mesopotamia, it was Ea. In Canaan, the major gods were El and his consort Asherah. In Edom, it was Kos, in Ammon –Malcham, in Moab –Kamush, in Aram–Haddad and in Phoenicia and Ugarit –Baal.
The God’s name found in Negev Desert rockart is YH. The Bible tells us explicitly Israel God appearance in the desert: “went out of Seir” and “marched out of Edom” (Judges 5:4-5) – this is an area ranging from Sinai through the Negev Desert. It is the oldest written Israel God name an evidence easy to decipher and it is unambiguous, engraved forever on Negev Desert rocks! They are found only in Paran Desert, the Southern part of Negev Desert, or the Midianite tribe territory. Does it mean: that Israel originated from the Negev Desert?
More deciphering, in a new book Rock Art in Israel, available online.