Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Why Does Genesis Speak of Gods?

Alice C. Linsley

The plural form for God in Arabic and Hausa is Allohi, the equivalent of the Hebrew Elohiym. El and Al are very ancient names for God. The plural form appears in Genesis 1: In the beginning eloh-iym (the gods) created the heavens and the earth. It also appears in Genesis 6:2, which speaks of the "sons of the eloh-iym" who took wives from the daughters of men. The plural form reflects a mythical view of the world and relates to the ancient Horites from whom we receive this material. They are the origin of Israel's priesthood and why Jews call their ancestors "horim."

The Horite ruler-priests were regarded as deified "sons" of God. They are often called "gods" (elohiym) as in Exodus 22:28: "Thou shalt not revile the gods (elohiym), nor curse the ruler of thy people."

Rulers are appointed by God's authority to restrain evil, to establish justice and to reward those who do what is good. They act not only on God's behalf; they act as “gods” on earth. Horite rulers were to be pure and to embody the qualities of righteousness, mercy, goodness, justice, etc. Some were good rulers who tried to live as God desired.  These are remembered in the Bible. Job, Abraham, Moses and Joseph are examples. All were Horite rulers.

Horite priests were known for their sobriety and purity.  Heliopolis (Biblical Onn) was one of their most important shrine cities. Plutarch wrote that the “priests of the Sun at Heliopolis never carry wine into their temples, for they regard it as indecent for those who are devoted to the service of any god to indulge in the drinking of wine whilst they are under the immediate inspection of their Lord and King. The priests of the other deities are not so scrupulous in this respect, for they use it, though sparingly.”

Joseph married Asenath, the chaste daughter of a priest of Heliopolis, a shrine city of Horus and his father Ra. The Heliopolitan cosmogony can be investigated by study of the Pyramid and Coffin Texts. From these texts, it is apparent that Heliopolis was both the city of the Sun and the sacred center of the primeval ocean, Nun. The many pillars that comprised the temple complex symbolized the connection between the waters below and the waters above (Gen. 1:7). Joshua, son (bin) of Nun, likely was of a ruler-priest family associated with this prestigious complex. This is supported by the fact that Joshua (Yeshua) is the only spy in Numbers 14:4-16 for whom the Arabic bin is used for son, instead of the Hebrew ben.

Horite Priests and Purity

In 2010, the tomb of a Horite priest was discovered south of the cemetery of the pyramid builders at Giza. It belongs to a priest named Rudj-Ka (or Rwd-Ka). Rwd-Ka was a purification priest serving the house of Khafre (BC 2520-2494), the pharaoh who built the second-largest pyramid at Giza which was aligned to the obelisk of Heliopolis. This was the tomb of an important priest and scribe of the Egyptian royal court as evidenced by his several titles. Rwd-Ka means "deified ruler of the sphere or realm."  Rwd means sphere, globe or realm and the royal ka is a Horus name indicating that Horus, the son of Ra, dwells in the priest. (In Hausa, kai means head or ruler.)

Horite priests served in the temple on a rotating schedule. It is from the Horite priesthood that the priesthood of Israel developed. Moses' brothers Korah and Aaron were Horite priests before the nation of Israel existed.

The Horites worshiped the Creator who emblem was the Sun when other peoples were worshiping idols of false gods. They anticipated the coming of the Seed of God (Gen. 3:15) and believed that He would be born of their royal-priest bloodlines. That is why the lines of priests intermarrried exclusively and why unchaste daughters of priests were burned alive (Lev. 21:9). Sexual impurity was not tolerated.

Horite priest
The Horite priest was purified before entering the temple. His purification involved fasting, abstinence from sexual relations and alcohol, ritual bathing, and an intense period of prayer. Korah, Moses' half-brother, was a priest according to Numbers 16:17,18. His name means "shaved one."  Horite priests shaved their heads and bodies as part of the purification ritual.

The ruler-priest's reward for righteousness was life after death. This is why great pains were taken in their burial. In pre-dynastic times and in the earliest dynasties the people were believed to follow their deified ruler from this world to the next. Their immortality depended on that of their ruler. This is why the ruler was to be righteous and undefiled by contact with blood or corpses.

The procession to the ruler's tomb was the earthly journey that would be continued beyond the grave at the deified ruler's resurrection. This stands behind Paul’s description of Jesus Christ leading captives from the grave to the throne of heaven in Ephesians 4:8: "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men." The same idea is reflected in Psalm 68:18: "When you ascended on high, you led captives in your train; you received gifts from men, even from the rebellious--that you, O Lord God, might dwell there."

As far as we know, none of the ruler-priests rose from the grave to ascend on high, except Jesus Christ. This was the ultimate test of authenticity.

The Son of God in Horite Belief

The Horites called Hor (Greek Horus) the "son of God" as he was conceived of a virgin queen who was overshadowed by the Sun, the emblem of the Creator Re. Hor's mother was called Hathor-Meri (later Isis) and her animal totem was a cow. She is shown at the Dendura Temple holding her newborn son in a manger or stable. The stable was constructed by the Horite priest Har-si-Atef. Atef was the crown worn by deified rulers. The Arabic word atef or atif means "kind."  The ruler who wore the atef crown was to embody kindness and he was to unite the peoples.

Horite belief in a deified son who would embody kindness and unite the peoples found fulfillment in Jesus Christ, a descendant of the Horite ruler-priests, the divine son of the Virgin Mary, daughter of the priest Joachim of the line of Nathan. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham's Horite ancestors in Eden (Gen. 3:15). This is why Frank Moore Cross cannot avoid the conclusion that the God of Israel is the God of the Horites.

Consider how Horus, the mythical archetype of Christ, describes himself in the Coffin texts (passage 148):

"I am Horus, the great Falcon upon the ramparts of the house of him of the hidden name. My flight has reached the horizon. I have passed by the gods of Nut. I have gone further than the gods of old. Even the most ancient bird could not equal my very first flight. I have removed my place beyond the powers of Set, the foe of my father Osiris. No other god could do what I have done. I have brought the ways of eternity to the twilight of the morning. I am unique in my flight. My wrath will be turned against the enemy of my father Osiris and I will put him beneath my feet in my name of 'Red Cloak'." (Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt by R.T. Rundle Clark, p. 216)

Here we find the words of Psalm 110:1, a messianic reference: The Lord says to my Lord: "Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet."

Likewise, Psalm 2:7,8 declares:  "I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, ‘Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee. Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Thine inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Thy possession."

The thrust of the message is clear: One lives who is far greater than the other gods, be they mythical or deified rulers on earth. He is the unique Son of the Father and all things will be made subject to him. The language is ancient, as is the conception, but clearly the Christian understanding of Jesus Christ is found here in kernel form.

The correspondence between the Horus Myth and the story of Jesus can be explained in two ways. Either Christians borrowed the Horus myth or Christianity emerges in an organic way from the belief system of Abraham and his Horite people. If we decide that Christians borrowed the Horus myth, we must explain why they should have selected this particular myth. In reality, no other religions prefigure Jesus Christ, the Son of God, other than the faith of Israel as it emerges out of the faith of Abraham's Horite ancestors.

The Horites of Exodus

The book of Exodus provides further evidence that the term elohyim relates to Horite belief. Moses and his family were Horites as is evidenced by the unique Horite marriage and ascendancy pattern of Moses' family.

The diagram shows that Moses' father Amram married a descendant of Seir the Horite (Gen. 36). She was his cousin or niece bride and Jochebed was Amram's half-sister wife.

The term elohiym is used in reference to Horite rulers who served as priests at water shrines along the Nile and at wells. These Horite rulers and judges are called "elohiym" because they reflected the divine majesty and power. Numerous passages in Exodus use elohiym in this sense:

Exodus 4:16 -“Moreover, he [Aaron] shall speak for you [Moses] to the people; and it shall come about that he shall be as a mouth for you, and you shall be as God [elohiym] to him.”

Exodus 7:1 - Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I make you as God [elohiym] to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet.”

Exodus 21: 6 - “Then his master shall bring him to God [elohiym], or the rulers who act in God’s name], then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently.”

Exodus 22:8,9 -“If the thief is not caught, then the owner of the house shall appear before the judges [elohiym], to determine whether he laid his hands on his neighbor’s property. For every breach of trust, whether it is for ox, for donkey, for sheep, for clothing, or for any lost thing about which one says, ‘This is it,’ the case of both parties shall come before the judges [elohiym]; he whom the judges [elohiym] condemn shall pay double to his neighbor.”

Elohiym as Idols

The use of elohiym in Genesis and Exodus stands apart from its use in other parts of the Old Testament.  For example, in Deuteronomy 4:35, elohiym refers to Israel's one and only God.  The elohiym in Deuteronomy, in some Psalms, and in Jeremiah refers to idols, not to rulers. Consider these examples:

Psalm 96:5 – “For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.”

Jeremiah 10:11 – “"Tell them this: 'These gods, who did not make the heavens and the earth, will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.’”

Jeremiah is speaking of the false gods or idols condemned in Judges 11:24, 1 Kings 18:24 and in the first Commandment. Michael Heiser, who has written extensively on this subject here and here, notes, “Even the Shema and the first commandment do not consign the other gods to fantasy, since the demand is made that no other gods should be worshipped.”

Elohiym as Ruler-Priests

The term elohyim or gods refers to the ruler-priests, a caste which was widely dispersed even before Abraham's time. They were expected to reflect the divine image more than any other people. The “gods” referred to in Psalm 82:1-6 are the rulers of Israel, who have failed to reflect the divine image as God's earthly representatives. Consider these references:

Psalm 82:6 -  "I said, 'You are gods; you are all sons of the Most High.”

Psalm 82:1-2 -  "God presides in the great assembly; he gives judgment among the gods [rulers]. How long will you judge unjustly, And show partiality to the wicked? Selah.”  

Here God judges the rulers in the midst of the rulers, the elohyim/gods who comprise the divine council. Verse 2 identifies the rulers as those to be judged. In Psalm 72 they are called shaphat, a name associated with the Horites in Numbers 14:5. One of the spies sent into Canaan was Shaphat ben Hori. Note also that the New American Standard Bible renders elohiym here as rulers.

Psalm 58:1,2 - "Do you indeed speak righteousness, O gods? Do you judge uprightly, O sons of men? No, in heart you work unrighteousness; on earth you weigh out the violence of your hands."

A similar condemnation is found in II Chronicles 19:6,7: "And he said to the judges, “Consider what you are doing, for you do not judge for man but for the Lord who is with you when you render judgment. Now then let the fear of the Lord be upon you; be very careful what you do, for the Lord our God will have no part in unrighteousness, or partiality, or the taking of a bribe."

This condemnation is directed against the elders and rulers of the people. Consider this from Isaiah 3:13-15: "The Lord arises to contend, and stands to judge the people. The Lord enters into judgment with the elders and princes of His people, “It is you who have devoured the vineyard; the plunder of the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing My people, and grinding the face of the poor?” (cf. Ezek. 34:1-6).

The rulers failed to vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute, rescue the weak and needy; and deliver them out of the hand of the wicked. Because they failed to do this, God declares His judgment in Psalm 82:5-7: "They do not know nor do they understand; They walk about in darkness; All the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, “You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High. Nevertheless you will die like men, And fall like any one of the princes.”

Only one of the ruler-priests of the Horite lines would succeed in being fully righteous: Jesus Christ. In the future He will rule the earth (Ps. 72:12-15; 96:13; Isa. 11:1-5) and under His rule "the world is firmly established, it will not be moved." (Ps. 93:1) and "He will judge the peoples with equity." (Ps. 96:10)

Hierarchy of Elohiym

Among the Horites there was a hierarchy of ruler-priests. The king was the Creator's representative on earth and the ruler-priests were his lesser assisting authorities. Together these comprised the earthly council, a reflection of the henotheistic heavenly council. The archaic principle "as in heaven so on earth" is clear in the pattern.

The King as the highest power was expected to be the most pure.  That is why his person could not be touched by ordinary citizens. Under the king were his counselors who spent much of their time at court in the king's presence. Under the royal counselors were those who served in the temples or shrines as assistants to the higher ranks of priests. A similar order existed among the priests in Jerusalem.

Above all the kings and priests of the earth is God, the Creator of all.  It is remarkable that God should stoop to call his servants "sons" which is what we find in the Bible. Consider the relationship between God and David: “I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you.” (II Sam. 7:14-15)

Hierarchy is not a popular word in our time, but it is a characteristic of the ancient world and of the Biblical worldview. The king-subject hierarchy, the master-slave hierarchy, the father-son hierarchy and the husband-wife hierarchy are ideally expressed in love and mutual devotion. So wives are to submit to their husbands as “to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22), and slaves are to submit to their masters as “to Christ” (Ephesians 6:5).

Rulers, priests, husbands and masters all fail in righteousness. None is able to bring the kingdom of God on earth. That is why we await Christ's return and the fulfillment of the promise that He shall establish an eternal kingdom of peace. The citizens of His eternal kingdom must themselves be eternal beings. That is why Jesus offers eternal life to all who believe that He is the Son of God who has come into the world to save repentant sinners. John gave this witness: "This is the revelation of God's love for us, that God sent his only Son into the world that we might have life through him." (1 John 4:9)

Related reading:  Abraham and Job: Horite RulersThe Myth of Israel's Dual Origins; Moses' Horite Family; Purity Seal from Herod's Temple; The Enigma of Joseph; Righteous Job and His KinThe Genesis Record of Horite Rule; Was Abraham an Idol Worshiper?


BibleGeorge said...

Very informative as usual Alice!
But I was wondering about the reference to Genesis 1 - gods (Elohim). How does one explain these gods saying, "Let us make man in our image?" Genesis 1 could be talking about temple design - modeling Heliopolis. But how does making man in their image fit into this? Or is 'Elohim' of Genesis 1 the traditional view of God himself? Even so, why would he say "us"?

Alice Linsley said...

Let us make..." would be God speaking in the divine council. Compare to I Kings 22:19, Isaiah chapter 6, and Job chapters 1-2.

Making Man in the divine image is necessary if Man is to image the divine. This was the Creator's intention from the beginning. The idea is extended to dominion. As God has dominion over all things, Man has dominion over the earth.

Timothy Hicks said...

Thanks for linking this in your email message. Very nicely put together.

I do still have some questions though.

I like the idea of "benea ha 'elohiym" being the sons of deified rulers. That explanation makes sense to me. The problem is that I'm not sure what to do with the "daughters of men" terminology. Genesis 6:1 says, "And it came to pass when men (adam) began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them." This is referring to humanity in a general sense, and the daughters being born in a normal sense. Then the text continues, "That the sons of God saw the daughters of men (adam), that they were fair, and they took them wives all of which they chose." I'm not sure why the text is contrasting "sons" with "daughters" as well as "gods" with "men". Why not just say, "The sons of God, took wives"...? The Book of Enoch (while a controversial book) makes it pretty clear that these "sons of God" (in this passage) are some form of angelic beings that left their heavenly habitation, and took human wives. The "sons of God" terminology also pops up in the Book of Job, with the other-worldly meeting of Satan, God and the Sons of God.

Whatever is going on in this passage, the Bible further seems to imply that this "co-habitation" is not something that is pleasing to God, for it's mentioned right before God's regret of making humans in the first place, that dwindled into violence.

There's also 2nd Peter 2:4,5 and Jude 6,7 to consider. In these passages it talks about angels leaving their normal place of habitation, and being reserved to everlasting chains of darkness for their wicked deeds. And it's mentioned right before the Flood of Noah. The only place in Genesis where these passages would apply would be the sons of God/Daughters narrative.

To be honest I'd rather go with "sons of deified rulers", but then I'm stuck with other places in the New Testament that I struggle to understand.