Israel God Names

rock art archaeology news. Names of Israel God

Rock Art and Israel God name YH.

In rock art, one scene represents a page of an ancient book that preserves long-forgotten religious beliefs.  When these rock art scenes are bound together, they create an essentially prehistoric book describing the culture of the region. Such a book can inform us of the region’s early practices as well as its content. As an example, the ongoing mystery of Israel’s God name comes to mind. Despite archaeological research, the source of Israel’s God name has remained a mystery. Rock art from Israel’s Negev Desert may provide a clue.

Early Hebrew Script

Early forms with the name Israel God appear on ancient rock art from the Negev Desert, including names such as YH-יה and YHH-יהה representing variants of the modern Hebrew root word YH-יה, dating to 1400 BC. This finding indicates that the god name of Israel existed long before the compilation of the Bible, in 800BC, and it perhaps records Israel’s geographical origins.

The Hebrew script and its precursor, the Proto-Sinaic Alphabet, was invented by Semites working in the Egyptian mines in the Sinai desert at Sarabit-el-Haddam dated 1900B C. Due to its simplicity, it was popularized throughout the ancient world and many ancient nations, Canaan, Phoenicia, Greece, adopted the alphabetical concept that later became the base of all alphabets in the world.

Israel God name YH in Negev Desert rock art

Numerous rock art engravings have been identified in the Negev Desert with affinity to Israelite god names including engraving such as “YH“, and “YHH” (Fig.1).  Some engraved god names contain a mix of Proto-Sinaitic and Proto-Canaanite script which shows that they were inscribed during the script transition period. Colless B. a scholar in the field of Religious Studies interpreted these engravings and I quote him “It is writing and in fact the original alphabet (or the proto-alphabet) from the Bronze Age: the stick represents a human arm (Hebrew yad) hence Y; the person is rejoicing, and the word for jubilating and praising is hallel (as in Hallelu-Yah) hence H“. Joining these letters creates a new word YH that translates to “work and praise” a fitting description of god nameThe content suggests that the engravers observed a covenant with the regions’ god YH that they worshiped.

Rock Art archeology news. israel god name YH negev desert rock art
Fig1 Rock Art Engraving of Israel god name YH-יה from Negev Desert, Israel

The Negev Desert script engraving was used as a plea to god by engraving its name and sometimes utilized in short inscriptions. Examples found in the Negev Desert contain the engraving of God name YAH, EL  and inscriptions that glorify god, such as (Fig.2): “YH grow and multiply” or “To YH the son of the Sun” (a copy of Egyptian blessing to Pharoh thus equating him to YH). These engravings found on Negev rock art are among the most ancient examples of the Israel god’s name.

Rock Art research news. god name inscriptions negev desert rock art
Fig.2  YH inscriptions from the Negev Desert rock art.   Left – YAH grow and multiply. Right -To YAH the son of the Sun

The alphabet transitions in Israel God name

The Alphabet found in the Negev Desert differs from the original Proto Sinaic Alphabet. It is a later variation that traveled through the Negev Desert established itself as a local Alphabet, refers by some researchers as Old Negev. Another possibility is an adaptation of the Proto Canaanite script which changed from the Proto-Sinaic Iconic alphabet, into recognizable alphabet letters. The Proto-Canaanite alphabet is not widespread and only 50 short inscriptions have been discovered in Sinai and Israel. Their dating is quite uncertain, ranging from 1700 B.C. to 1050 B.C. The rock art engraving in Fig.4 shows a mix of Proto-Sinaitic and Proto-Canaanite alphabets found on a massebah from the Faran Desert that spells the name of god YH

Rock Art archaeology news. YH Israel god name in rock art
Fig.4 Massebah from Faran desert with engraved god name YH using a mixed alphabet of Proto-Sinaitic and Proto-Canaanite letters.

Biblical Negev Desert Nations 

We don’t know who used this alphabet but we can deduce it from the nations who lived in the Negev Desert region these inscriptions were found.  They are all from the region of Midian the Shasu tribe encampment. The Bible enumerates the Negev Desert nations and all related to Abraham, Fig.5. The Midianites are descendants of Midian, Abraham’s son. The Edomites are descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother. The Ammonites and Moabites are descendants of Lot, Abraham’s nephew. Ishmaelites are descendants of Ishmael, Abraham’s son. All Negev Desert nations  Fig.2 descended from the same father and belong to the same tribe. In ancient times each nation had its unique protecting god; he was the ruler of gods and men alike. In Egypt, the deity’s name was Ra and in Mesopotamia, it was Ea, in Canaan- El, in Edom –Kos, in Ammon –Malcham, in Moab –Kamush, in Aram–Haddad and in Phoenicia and Ugarit –Baal, in Midian – Yahu.

Shasu Map
Fig.5  Shasu Land and neighboring kingdoms.

Shasu Yahu People in the Negev Desert

The Egyptian records, dating from the 18th Dynasty (1550–1295 BC), describe the people living in the Negev Desert area as the Shasu-Yahu. Such notation was a common way to identify a tribe stating its name and its dwelling location.  YAHU is found in modern Israeli names, such as Ishayahu and Eliyahu.

The geographical list of Pharaoh AmenhotepIII, the 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 Fig.1, the ‘hill country of Seir’ in South Canaan and the country of Yahu. Records from the memorial tomb of Ramses II (1213-1303 BC) describe that he robbed Shasu land and conquered Mount Seir. Ramses III, the nineteenth dynasty (1154-1186 BC), announced that he conquered Seir and destroyed the tribes of Shasu.


The God’s name YH  found in Negev Desert rock art signifies the dwelling region of people worshipping this god. According to the Bible Israel God always appeared from the south:  “went out of Seir and “marched out of Edom (Judges 5:4-5),  an area ranging from Sinai across the Negev Desert. It is the oldest written Israel God name, evidence unambiguous and easy deciphered, engraved forever on Negev Desert rocks!  They are found only in the Negev Desert, in 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.

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Harris& Dann Hone,   The Names of God. The Origins and Emergence of West Semitic Alphabetic Scripts.
Colless B.   (2014)         
The origin of the alphabet

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