El’s home is described in the Ugaritic texts as a tent. This was similar to the tabernacle of the Israelites, Yahweh’s home for more than four hundred years between the Exodus and the construction of Solomon’s Temple. El’s tent was located at “the source of the rivers, at the midst of the springs of the two deeps.” This is reflected in a psalm that takes on new meaning in this context:
My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar,
Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me. (Psalm 42:6–7, emphasis added)
Not to put too fine a point on it, but Psalm 42 points to the abode of El! Mount Hermon is the source of the Jordan River, and Mizar is probably the name of another peak in the Hermon range. The word translated “deep” is tehom, which means the abyss, the deepest parts of the earth, and there was a belief in the Near East that the two deeps of the world—a subterranean ocean that emerged as a fountain from Banias (the Grotto of Pan at the base of Hermon), and the celestial ocean that produced the rain—came together at the great mountain.
The rendering of Psalm 42 in the NET Bible offers a deeper insight into the reason for the psalmist’s distress:
I am depressed, so I will pray to you while I am trapped here in the region of the upper Jordan. (Psalm 42:6a, net, emphasis added)
The psalmist is downhearted because he’s stuck in enemy territory, the ancient land of Bashan. More specifically, the psalm points to the land seized by the tribe of Dan during the time of the judges. This included the area around Banias, the cave called the Grotto of Pan that was formerly the source of the Jordan River. Dan was remembered in the Bible as the first of the tribes of Israel to turn to idolatry. When the tribe moved north and took the city of Laish at the foot of Mount Hermon, it set up a carved image and established its own priesthood under Jonathan, the grandson of Moses.When Jeroboam led the rebellion of the northern tribes, he set up one of his two golden calves at Dan, which Hosea condemned for serving the cult of “Bull El.”
Periodic references to Bashan and Hermon in the Old Testament are clues that God takes this rebellion seriously. As you’ll see, there are more references to El, in his many guises, than there are to Satan in the Old Testament, sometimes shaped as polemics against the mountain of El’s abode:
O mountain of God, mountain of Bashan;
O many-peaked mountain, mountain of Bashan!
Why do you look with hatred, O many-peaked mountain,
at the mount that God desired for his abode,
yes, where the Lord will dwell forever?
The chariots of God are twice ten thousand,
thousands upon thousands;
the Lord is among them; Sinai is now in the sanctuary.
You ascended on high,
leading a host of captives in your train
and receiving gifts among men,
even among the rebellious, that the Lord God may dwell there. (Psalm 68:15–18)
The “many-peaked mountain” of Bashan is Mount Hermon. Now, you know that Hermon is not the mountain of God. That’s the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem—the “mount that God desired for His abode.” However, the Hebrew phrase har elohim can be singular or plural, depending on the context. In this passage, considering the supernatural history of Mount Hermon, reading the verse, “O mountain of the gods, mountain of Bashan,” is more accurate. Think about that for a moment: At some point in history, Yahweh led His heavenly army against Hermon and took prisoners!
Scholars aren’t in agreement on the meaning of this psalm, but since Paul quoted it to describe Christ’s victory over the dark domain (Ephesians 4:8), we can assume that the psalmist had some sort of spiritual battle in the unseen realm in mind.
It’s possible that the Psalm 82 courtroom scene was in view. Since ʾel in Hebrew can be a generic word for “God” or a reference to the Canaanite creator-god, depending on the context, the phrase ădat-ʾel (“divine council”) in the first verse of that Psalm could be translated this way:
God stands in the assembly of El;
in the midst of the gods he renders judgment. (Psalm 82:1, NET, emphasis added.)
In the New English Translation, the Hebrew phrase ʾadat ʾel is taken as a reference to the Canaanite high god and his assembly, rather than the divine council of Yahweh. In other words:
Israel’s God invades El’s assembly, denounces its gods as failing to uphold justice, and announces their coming demise.
Think about that! Rather than a courtroom drama in God’s heavenly throne room, Psalm 82 may depict Yahweh appearing in the middle of El’s infernal council to pass sentence on the rebels! And Psalm 68 may record a battle that took place at Mount Hermon around that time—a supernatural military action that ended with God taking away “a host of captives.”
But this battle isn’t restricted to the Old Testament. The significance of Mount Hermon and its connection to the Canaanite creator-god is why Jesus made a special trip to the north of Israel:
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. (Matthew 17:1–3)
While Mount Tabor, at the eastern end of Israel’s Jezreel Valley, is the traditional site of the Transfiguration, clues in the text identify the mountain as Hermon. Matthew 16:13 places the event in “the district of Caesarea Philippi,” which was the city outside Banias at the foot of Mount Hermon. Understand the significance of that: Jesus climbed the mountain to the threshing floor of El and sent a message to the old god and his demonic offspring. Christ’s transfiguration into a being of light, and the miraculous appearance of Moses and Elijah, was a flare shot into the spirit realm. The Fallen were put on notice that Jesus of Nazareth was, in fact, Yahweh in the flesh.
Upon His descent from the mountain, He cast a demon out of a boy (another message to the Fallen Realm) and then sent seventy-two disciples (or seventy, depending on the translation; from a numerological standpoint, the meaning was the same) into Galilee. They returned, rejoicing, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” This, too, was a message to the Fallen, essentially telling them that His seventy would ultimately replace the “seventy” that God allotted to the nations after Babel.
But a close reading of the Gospels hints that this wasn’t the first time Jesus engaged the enemy on Mount Hermon. Matthew 4:8 notes that it was on “a very high mountain” that Satan showed Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory,” offering them to Christ if He would fall down and worship the Adversary. While the text doesn’t specify Hermon as the location of this encounter, it’s easily the tallest mountain in or near Israel. At 9,232 feet above sea level, Mount Hermon is more than twice as high as any of the extinct volcanoes on the Golan Heights, more than three times higher than the Mount of Olives, and nearly four times the elevation of the Temple Mount.
Interestingly, the Ugaritic texts also suggest that the “two deeps” of the abode of El are “in the general vicinity of, if not actually in (or under) the Kinnereth [Sea of Galilee] itself.” This adds another dimension to Jesus calming the storm and walking on the water: Not only did He subdue the storm-god, Baal, and literally walk across the sea, which represents chaos (i.e., Leviathan), these may have been additional reminders to the fallen Watcher, Shemihazah, and his colleagues in their underground prison that God is still on His throne.
The biggest difference between El and Kumarbi is in the way power was transferred to the storm-god. Where Kumarbi was overthrown by Baal’s Hurrian equivalent, Teshub, the Baal Cycle depicts El as semi-retired, declining to intervene in the wars of succession as his sons fought to become the next king of the Canaanite pantheon. Baal did not contend with El directly for the throne; instead, El instructed his son, the chaos-dragon Yamm (“Sea”), the “Beloved of El,” to drive Baal from “from the throne of his kingship.”
After clubbing Yamm into submission (literally, with two maces named “Expeller” and “All-Driver” fashioned by the craftsman-god, Kothar-wa-Hasis), Baal was challenged by another “Beloved of El,” the death-god Mot—and for a time, he succeeded. Baal’s temporary death was reversed after much wailing and self-mutilation by El, which is odd given that he was okay with Yamm taking Baal’s throne not long before. El’s bloodletting is also reminiscent of the frenzied cutting by the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel during the showdown with the prophet Elijah. In any case, Baal returned from the underworld for a rematch with Mot, an epic battle that finally ended when the sun-goddess Shapash intervened and convinced Mot to stand down.
The battles between Baal and his brothers, the sea-god and death-god, are echoed by the tension in Greek myths between their Hellenic counterparts, Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades. Over the last half-century or so, scholars have increasingly abandoned the old Eurocentric view that the Greek and Roman gods were inherited from a prehistoric Proto-Indo-European religion. The evidence points to the Levant and Mesopotamia, possibly by way of the Hittites and Hurrians who occupied the lands to the north and west of what is now Iran, Iraq, and Syria.
It’s also possible that the cults of Semitic gods like El (Kronos/Saturn), Baal (Zeus/Jupiter), Astarte (Aphrodite/Venus), Yamm (Poseidon/Neptune), and Resheph (Apollo in Greece and Rome) were brought to the west by the proto-Greeks themselves. Philistine pottery was Mycenaean Greek. The Hivites encountered by Joshua and the Israelites were the people of Ahhiyawa (Mycenaean Greeks), and the Anakim were probably so named from the Greek anax, meaning “god,” “king,” or “ruler.” In addition, modern research has revealed that the Girgashites, mentioned only seven times in the Old Testament, were probably the Teucrians who settled the city of Gergis on the west coast of Asia Minor between Troy and Miletus. The Teucrians have been identified as the Tjekker, one of the Sea Peoples who attacked Egypt during the reign of Ramesses III. An Egyptian text records that the Tjekker were inhabitants of Dor, a port city in Israel between Joppa and Mount Carmel.
So, we shouldn’t be surprised by the similarities between the gods and heroes of Greece and the deities of the Amorites. This is why the renowned scholar of the ancient Near East Edward Lipiński wrote:
Mount Hermon is the cosmic mountain which joins the earth with the lowest heaven. The same conception lies behind the episode of the sons of God in the Book of Enoch. The celestial beings gather on the summit of Mount Hermon because this is the mountain of the gods, the Canaanite Olympus.
However, it’s more complex than that, which is not unexpected, given that we’re dealing with multidimensional entities who have existed for thousands of years. In his landmark paper, “El’s Abode,” Lipiński concluded that there were two mountains that served as the Semitic Olympus. Citing clues in the Ugaritic texts, the Gilgamesh epic, and other ancient sources, he places the other abode of El at the source of the Euphrates in the mountains of Armenia, which was known until the time of Daniel and Ezekiel in the sixth century BC as Urartu—Ararat, which some scholars believe is the location of Aratta, the rival kingdom to Nimrod’s Uruk.
It may seem confusing for El to claim at least two separate locations as his mount of assembly (Hebrew: har môʿēd). I say “at least” because his identity among the Hurrians, Kumarbi, was described as being at home in the Taurus Mountains of southern Turkey. But remember, the memory of this rebellious Watcher was preserved by the human survivors of the Flood who came to ground in the mountains of Ararat. When the Kura-Araxes culture, the proto-Hurrians, migrated from the Ararat Plain in the fourth millennium BC, stories of the old god and the wonderful, magical things he and his colleagues had given to humankind went with them to Sumer, northern Mesopotamia (Urkesh), and the Levant (Mount Hermon).
The move to Mesopotamia resulted in one of the most spectacular interventions by God in human history and a throne-room vision by a Hebrew prophet that is still misinterpreted as a UFO encounter to this day.
Next: Enlil, the “great mountain” of Sumer and Akkad
GET THE GROUNDBREAKING NEW BOOK!
 Ibid., p. 131.
 Lipiński, op. cit., p. 40 (note 133).
 Ibid., p. 41.
 Judges 18:30–31.
 Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), p. 291.
 “Psalm 82:1.” Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition (Biblical Studies Press, 2005).
 Luke 9:37–43.
 Luke 10:1–20.
 Baruch Margalit, The Ugaritic Poem of AQHT. (Berlin; New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1989), p. 412.
 KTU 1.1 iv 23. Wyatt (2002), op. cit., p. 50.
 Othniel Margalith, The Sea Peoples in the Bible (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1994), pp. 58–59.
 Lipiński, op. cit., pp. 34–35.
 Ibid., p. 69.
Category: Featured, Featured Articles