Israel God Names
Rock Art and Israel God name YH.
Deciphering rock art from Israel, israelrockart.com.
The inscriptions in rock art serve as a means of preserving memories and events passed from generation to generation. A prime example of this is the name of God in Israel, whose origin remains a mystery. However, we have been able to trace the name of God back to its roots through the discovery of early inscriptions found in rock art from the Negev Desert.
Early Hebrew Script
The rock art in the Negev Desert holds valuable evidence of early versions of the name of God in Israel, including forms such as YH-יה and YHH-יהה, which are variants of the modern Hebrew root word YH-יה, and date back to 1400 BC. This discovery suggests that the name of the god of Israel was in existence well before the first announcement of the Bible in 800 BC. The script found in the rock art of the Negev Desert is a variant of the Proto-Cannaite script.
The Proto-Sinaic Alphabet, the precursor to the Hebrew script, was developed by Semitic workers in the mines of Sarabit-el-Haddam in the Sinai desert in 1900 BC. Its simplicity and ease of use led to its widespread popularity, and it was eventually adopted by ancient civilizations such as Canaan, Phoenicia, and Greece. This alphabet served as the foundation for all alphabets used in the ancient world.
Israel God name YH in Negev Desert rock art
Many rock art inscriptions have been discovered in the Negev Desert that are related to the names of the Israelite gods, including ones such as “YH” and “YHH” (Fig. 1). Some of these inscriptions feature a combination of Proto-Sinaitic and Proto-Canaanite script, indicating that they were written during a time of transition between the two scripts. As stated by Colless B., a prominent scholar in Religious Studies,
“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“.
By combining these letters, a new word “YH” is formed, which translates to “work and praise,” an apt description for a god name. The inscription implies that the engravers had a covenant with the region’s deity YH, who they worshiped.
The alphabet found in the Negev Desert differs from the original Proto-Sinaic Alphabet. It is a later variation that became established as a local alphabet, referred to by some researchers as the Old Negev Alphabet. Another possibility is that it is an adaptation of the Proto-Canaanite script, which evolved 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 uncertain, ranging from 1700 BC to 1050 BC. Fig. 2 shows a rock art engraving that features a combination of the Proto-Sinaic and Proto-Canaanite alphabets found on a massebah in the Faran Desert, spelling the name of the god YH-יה.
Fig. 2 showcases an inscription found on a Massebah in the Negev Desert that features the name of God. In this engraving, you can observe the resemblance of the letters “YH” and even trace the progression and see their similarity to the Hebrew script.
The inscription combines the Proto-Sinaic letter “H” and the Old Negev letter “Y” to form the name “YH.” The script evolution can be traced through the changes in the letter “H,” which has lost its upper two markings, indicating a significant shift in the script’s development. In contrast, the letter “Y” has undergone fewer changes and has maintained its original form. This discovery highlights the importance of the Negev Desert as a religious center in ancient times and provides further evidence of the existence of the Israelite god named YH.
The presence of the god’s name “YH” in the rock art of the Negev Desert signifies the region where people worshiped this deity. According to the Bible, the God of Israel was said to always come from the south, “went out of Seir” and “marched out of Edom” (Judges 5:4-5), an area encompassing the Sinai Peninsula and the Negev Desert. This name, inscribed on the rocks of the Negev Desert, is the oldest written name of God in Israel and provides clear and easily decipherable evidence. These inscriptions are found exclusively in the Negev Desert, within the territory of the Midianite tribe, leading to speculation that Israel may have originated in this region.
More deciphering, in a new book Rock Art in Israel, available online.
Copyright © All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or part without the express written permission of israelrockart.com
Harris& Dann Hone, The Names of God. The Origins and Emergence of West Semitic Alphabetic Scripts.
Colless B. (2014) The origin of the alphabet