God Images on Rock Art
God images from the Fertile Crescent and rock art
Deciphering rock art from Israel, israelrockart.com.
Rock art offers us a glimpse into the earliest recorded thoughts of mankind, predating the invention of ink and paper. When understood within its proper context, it can reveal how early concepts were perceived and give us an unadulterated view of early images, such as the image of a god. The origin and perception of this image is a topic of interest.
The appearance of the ancient god from the Near East can be partially uncovered through the examination of figurines. In the Fertile Crescent, it was customary for each city-state to have a protector deity who was deemed the supreme ruler. This god was revered and worshiped in exchange for ultimate protection. The people believed in the deity’s magical powers that impacted both the earthly and cosmic realms. What did the god look like?
Xenophanes of Colophon, a Greek philosopher from 475 BC, gave us a clue: 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 that is exactly what people did. They created a deity in their own image, shaped like the most prominent visible object in their world, the Milky Way. Fig. 1 illustrates how the Milky Way image also symbolizes other significant gods in Near Eastern cultures, all based on the same idea of a direct replication of the sky’s giant, the Milky Way.
In Fig. 1, the Milky Way is depicted as a massive giant spanning the sky. Its arms reach out to the stars while its legs are slightly apart, hovering above all humans with a majestic and powerful appearance. Its left foot is bent forward in a dynamic pose. Raising its hand in a striking motion, it is known as the “Smiting God”. Instead of a crown, it wears a unique cone hat. These distinctive features are consistent across all images of all the figurines, as shown in Fig.1. It’s believed that this uncommon iconography originated from a recognizable object, an exact representation of god. There’s no doubt that the god’s figurines resemble the giant in the sky, which is taller and larger than everything on earth.
God image in rock art
The creation scene depicted in Fig.2 is taken from Negev Desert rock art. It showcases the key forces involved in the creation process. On the left side is a standing figure, believed to be a deity initiating creation. This deity creates the divine wind by turning the giant time wheel, driving the movement of the stars around the North Star. It’s clear that this deity figurine is based on the same model as the Near Eastern figurines copied from the image of the Milky Way.
The Fertile Crescent’s ancient god figurines originated from the outline of the Milky Way. The Milky Way was depicted as a towering figure in the sky, and people made their god figurines in his image. Rock art also portrayed the god as the Milky Way, showing him as a creator who set the stars in motion by turning the giant time wheel.
Cornelius, I. (1994) The Iconography of the Canaanite Gods Reshef and Ba’al: Late Bronze and
Iron Age I Periods (c 1500 – 1000 BCE)
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Love this, can’t see the top one well though with the date over it.