Saturday, October 29, 2011

Frank Moore Cross: Israel's God is the God of the Horites


Alice C. Linsley


Frank Moore Cross believes the origins of Israel's conception of God is to be found in the region of Midian in northwestern Arabia. Cross argues that archaic biblical poetry locates Yahweh's movements in Edom/Seir/Teman/Midian and that these "are our most reliable evidence for locating Sinai/Horeb, the mountain of God."

Midian was one of Abraham's nine sons, and Tema was a Horite chief. Seir is explicitly designated a "Horite" in Genesis 36, and he was a contemporary of Esau the Elder who was a ruler of the Edo (meaning red) people. The point of origin of YHWH is the Upper Nile from whence came Abraham's Horim who were called Habiru (Hebrew). The Horim are the Horites of Seir and Edom (Gen. 36).

According to Cross, Israel's earliest religious traditions about Yahweh, reflected in both the story of Exodus and archaic Biblical poetry like the Song of Deborah (Judges 5), indicate Yahweh came from Midian, a mountainous desert land in what is today southern Jordan and northwestern Saudi Arabia. This theory of Yahweh's Arabian origins, known by earlier scholars as the "Midianite hypothesis," has been augmented by recent archaeological discoveries that suggest a sophisticated urban culture thrived in this region at the end of the Late Bronze Age (1550-1200 B.C.E.), the period when most scholars place Moses and the Exodus tradition.

Given this evidence, Cross believes the biblical writers understood Mt. Horeb, the mountain of Yahweh, to be in Arabia, not Sinai.

Cross notes that the belief that the 'mountain of God' was located in the Sinai Peninsula "has no older tradition supporting it than Byzantine times."

Order Cross' e-book here.

In a hymn to ʼĒl (published in Ugaritica V, text RS 24.278), God is called ’il brt and ’il dn which Cross takes as 'ʼĒl of the covenant' and 'ʼĒl the judge' respectively. The word dn in ancient Egyptian means religion and this may be a reference to Horite religion in which the ruler-priest symbolizes the covenant on earth and acts as God's judge on earth.

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