Yahweh of Samaria and His Asherah (Kuntillet `Ajrud)
(Yahweh is Egeliah, "The Bull-calf of Yah", alias, "The Golden Calf" ?)
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10 July 2001
23 September 2002 Update and Revision
As noted by Keel and Uehlinger, archaeologists in the course of excavations (1975-76) found a remarkable drawing of two human-like figures with arms interlocked on the remains of a large pottery jug labeled "Pithos A," at a caravanserai called Kuntillet `Ajrud, in the Sinai wilderness, on the way from the gulf of Aqabah to the southern Judean border near Ain Qusaima (biblical Azmon [?], near the river of Egypt in Judah's south border, Josh 15:4).
This drawing is dated to the first half of the 8th century BCE and has generated numerous articles which have been discussed at some length by Keel and Uehlinger. There is no consensus on the imagery. An inscription in Hebrew near the heads of the two individuals, suggests to some scholars that "Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah" are being portrayed, this association has been challenged by others, most notably, Keel and Uehlinger. To study all the arguments pro and con, I refer the reader to the fascinating article they wrote and the bibliography they provide (pp.210-248, "Baal. El, Yahweh and 'His Asherah', " Othmar Keel and Christoph Uehlinger.
Gods, Goddesses, and Images of God In Ancient Israel. Minneapolis. Fortress Press. 1998. ISBN 0-8006-2789-X)
Remarkable, are the images of "Yahweh and His Asherah" in the "full frontal view." This view is attested in images of goddesses in the Late Bronze Age associated with Syria and Canaan. Egyptian representations of these foreign goddesses show the same full-frontal view (e.g. Anat and Qadesh, as well as numerous representations of full-frontal nude "Fertility goddesses").
What is "most unusual" is the two-dimensional portrayal of male gods in this position. The Egyptian god Bes almost always is portrayed "full-frontal." The lion's tail, from the lionskin he wears, is shown frequently hanging down between his legs, on occasion his genitals are visible. A feathered crown usually appears on his head. His arms are sometimes "akimbo" with hands resting on the hips. All of these features appear with "Yahweh of Samaria."
"Beard or Collar ?" This is a tough one! The drawings show several vertical lines near the neck area on Yahweh and his Asherah. Yet, if one looks at the seated female lyre player, one can clearly distinguish that these verticals are a collar and not a beard. If a beard is intended for Yahweh, then we have a Bes feature, if not bearded we have a slight problem, in that Bes is most frequently shown as bearded, but three examples are given of amulets of a Bes head without beard (p.221, figs. 225a, 225c)
Keel and Uehlinger remark on the "beard or collar"(?):
"As regards the effort to identify figures AM and N...the grotesque face, lion-like, grimacing face with protruding ears; the beard or collar..." (p.217)
Keel and Uehlinger, note that Kuntillet `Ajrud does not appear to have any Egyptian motifs associated with Bes:
"His special roles included protection for pregnant women and small children as well as prevention from snakebite. Only the iconography and the context of a particular portrayal can determine which image of such a polyvalent daemon or deity is being emphasized. The iconographic context of the two Bes figures in illustration 220 clearly points to a Syro-Phoenician setting. But as has already been mentioned, the vessels and wall paintings at Kuntillet `Ajrud show a complete absence of motifs that were inspired by Egyptian symbols. There are no winged sphinxes, griffins, uraei, or falcons, all elements that play a prominent role on ivory and in the glyptic art from Israel dating to Iron Age IIB." (p.222)
They thus concluded:
"Since no other major deities are shown in the paintings on the two pithoi, it is much more likely that these simply represent two apotropaic daemons whose powers were to be mobilized, by these depictions, to afford for those who were threatened with many types of dangers as they sojourned in the northern Sinai Desert (see Hadley 1987b, 196)." (pp.222-3)
Keel and Uehlinger have taken the position that the inscription mentioning "Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah" is not referring to the two figures on the basis of having identified them with Bes and Beset (Beset being the female form of Bes).
Keel and Uehlinger:
"If we look once more at the two pithoi from Kuntillet `Ajrud, it remains for us to discuss the relationship between the drawings and the inscriptions, which we postphoned for methodological reasons. There are opposing views about the connection between the two as well. Time and again, it has been supposed or suggested that inscription A1, that runs horizontally across the head ornamentation of the left Bes figure in illustration 220, should be interpreted as an annotation for motifs M-N or O. This has led to an identification of the two Bes figures as "Yahweh and his Asherah" (Gilula 1979; Coogan 1987a, 119; McCarter 1987, 147; Margalit 1990, 277; Korpel 1990, 218; cf. H. Weippert 1988, 673) or else to the identification of the female lyre player as Asherah (Dever 1984, 22-25).
An identification of the two Bes images AM-N (see above, section 131) with "Yahweh...and his Asherah" is impossible. The iconography and inscriptional evidence known thus far offer no evidence for a connection between Yahweh and Bes, though this has often been assumed, especially not for Yahweh being depicted in the shape of a Bes figure. If this identification is abandoned, the question of the gender of the right figure AN (Bes or Beset) is no longer as crucial. There is no evidence for a connection between Beset and Asherah, and for Bes and Asherah there are at most few very hypothetical references. There is equally little reason to identify the female lyre player AO with Asherah, since this is hardly the depiction of a goddess (see above, section 132). There is simply no evidence, textual or iconographic, to identify Asherah as a Lyre player. The inscriptional evidence for `shrth suggests an impersonal interpretation of the asherah as a cultic symbol. There is evidence for lyre-playing as a cultic activity that is connected with a whole variety of deities (among others, Yahweh, see HAL 461a), so that the female lyre player, interpretated as a human being and appearing without any other motif being placed opposite, cannot be convincingly linked to a cult of Asherah or to a cultic symbol called an asherah (see Schroer 1987a, 34f.) (pp.240-241, Section 142, "Baal, El, Yahweh, and 'His Asherah' ," Keel & Uehlinger)
"Gilula (1979, 130-133) wants to interpret the head portion of the two figures as frontal portrayals of bovines. Meshel (1979,30f.) and Margalit (1990, 275, 288f.) recognize the similarity to Bes, but they agree with Gilula's interpretation of the head portion. Eevn Koch speaks of 'human-bovine figures' (1988, 100). The fact that bovines, so far as we can determine, are almost never portrayed frontally on ancient Near Eastern two-dimensional artistic works contradicts this idea. The ornamentation on the head of the left Bes figure (contra Gilula and Margalit) does not show horns that are bent or curved since they would have to be positioned on the sides of the head and not in the middle; this ornamentation must therefore depict a blossom or else a feather crown (see, e.g.. illustrations 225 and 227). Bes figures have human or lion-like heads or faces but never have bovine heads or faces." (pp.217-218, note 47, Section 131, Keel and Uehlinger)
In sum, then, Keel and Uehlinger understand that the genetic prototypes behind the portrayal of the two figures are Bes and Beset, and conclude that the inscription mentioning "Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah" is unrelated to these two figures.
Strangely overlooked and missing from Keel and Uehlinger's pioneering compendium is a stone stele from Bethsaida, which lay "in Samaria," the former "kingdom of Israel" (the site is near the Jordan just above the Sea of Galilee) which renders the storm-god, Baal-Adad, in a "full-frontal position" reminescent of Yahweh and Bes. If we are to seek "genetic prototypes" for Yahweh of Samaria's" full-frontal position, we ought not to ignore the Bethsaida stele!
The biblical texts inform us that Jeroboam set up a calf for worship in the kingdom of Israel at Dan and another at Bethel (1 Kings 12:28), Hosea speaks of the "calf of Samaria" (Hosea 8:6). Some scholars have suggested that Kuntillet's "Yahweh of Samaria" appears to have "bovine features;" if the imagery is being drawn from Bes, the features would be lion-like (Perhaps Bes' beard is that of a male lion's mane?). The problem here, is that Bes was associated with the nursery, a guardian spirit of sorts caring for women at childbirth, he also was a god of mirth, pleasure and dance. The other figures on the Pithos accompanying Yahweh do not suggest any motifs that can be associated with Bes, as admitted by Keel and Uehlinger.
If we allow that the "full-frontal" of Baal-Adad as a human with a bull's head is a possible "genetic precursor" to Yahweh of Samaria, the so-called "calf of Samaria," then we begin to see "possible relationships" appearing amongst the figures accompanying him on Pithos A.
Remove the horns from Baal-Adad's head and we have the "high-placed ears" near the top of the head appearing on the rendering of Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah. The arms, extended away from the body and in a downwards position is somewhat similar as well (but the placement of the hands on the hips is a Bes-like feature). The legs, spread apart are another similar rendering. The Baal-Adad stele also shows a connection between the trunk of the body and the bottom of the stela, extending downwards between the legs, somewhat reminescent of the tail or genitals appearing on Asherah and Yahweh. I see here, a possible genetic prototype for Yahweh, the calf of Samaria and Yahweh of Samaria as descendants of Baal-Adad the humanoid Bull ! Bethsaida lies in Samaria and the inscription near the figure's head suggests that is who is being portrayed. As for the headdress consisting of three feathers on Yahweh's head, it does indeed bear a resemblance to depictions of Bes, as do the hands resting on hips with arms "akimbo" (cf. p. 221, fig.27 for a three-feathered rendering of Bes, Keel & Uehlinger). Not to be overlooked, however, is that the Egyptian cow-goddess Hathor, who was called "the Queen of Heaven," is frequently portrayed with high-placed ears near the top of the head, and a headdress of feathers between her horns (cf. p.69, figs. 74, 75a, 75b and 75c, Keel & Uehlinger). Here, we have a "full-frontal" of a "bovine-face" with high ears and a feathered headress. Perhaps Asherah's headress and bovine face is a reflection of Hathor's characteristics being assimilated by Canaanite fertility goddesses during the Late Bronze Age? Note the THREE FEATHERED HEADDRESS worn by Hathor and the three feathered headdress worn by Yahweh, in figure 74, as a possible genetic prototype to "Yahweh of Samaria's" headdress! Keel and Uehlinger treat in some depth the Hathor face iconography found in Canaan (pp.68-70).
I see nothing amiss in identifying the image of "Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah" with Hosea's "Calf of Samaria." Some scholars have suggested the pair possess "bovine" features, and I agree. Others have noted the likeness to Bes images, again I agree. As has been demonstrated from the art of Late Bronze Age Canaan, Canaanite gods and goddesses at times are rendered with Egyptian features. Anat wears the Osiris crown with its two feathers -no one claims she is Osiris- so why can't Yahweh as Baal/Baali, "the calf of Samaria," be portrayed with some Egyptian features like Hathor's full-frontal bovine face and feathered headress, along with some Bes-like features, and yet be seen as a "calf" too?
Keel and Uehlinger insightfully observe that it is important to look at art symbols and images within as wide a context as possible; they note that several inscriptions on the walls of the caravanserai, although fragmentary, mention Baal and Yahweh:
"...when Baal bursts forth on...
...blessed be Baal on the day of...
...the name of El on the day of...
...blessed be Baal on the day of the b[attle...
...the name of El on the day of the b[attle... (p. 244. Keel & Uehlinger)
Keel and Uehlinger caution about jumping to conclusions that El is being equated with Baal in these texts because of their fragmentary nature (p. 245)
Yet Hosea tells us that Yahweh was called Baal or Baali (Hosea 2:16), and that the calf worshipped at Dan and Bethel is alluded to as "the calf of Samaria" (Hosea 8:16). We are informed Jeroboam set up the calf to counter Israelites going south to Judah to worship Yahweh at the temple there.
It is my understanding, then, that the renderings on Pithos A are of Yahweh and his Asherah, as HORNLESS CALVES, that is, a hornless bull-calf and a hornless she-calf or heifer, and that they are direct descendants of the "full-facing" iconographical representation of Baal-Adad found at Bethsaida, employing the feathered headdress iconography of the bull's heads in South Arabian art forms, and the possible bronze figurine of Baal-Adad with a human body and bull's head found at Ras Shamras. I am of the persuasion that Yahweh evolved from the cult of Baal-Adad and the cult of the "Queen of Heaven." Baal in Ugaritic myths is presented at times taking on the form of a bull when he mates with his sister, Anat, a warrior goddess, who takes on the form of a cow, she later gives birth to a bull calf. Baal-Adad was associated with storm-clouds that bring the life-giving rains to the land, he is in a sense a god of fertility. Storm-clouds were called Adad's calves. God takes on the form of a storm-cloud at Mount Sinai, shortly thereafter, Israel makes a golden calf to worship. I see a relationship here, God is Baal-Adad. Hosea tells us God was called Baal/Baali. Baal's title, "rider of the clouds" is Yahweh's title. Baal is called `aliyn, meaning "mighty," Yahweh is called elyon, again, Yahweh is pre-empting the Baal cult and taking over the titles.
Ugaritic myths mention that shortly before he dies, `aliyn Baal takes on the form of a bull and mates with a she-calf or heifer, who later gives birth to a bull-calf. Then we are told that after his death that Anat seeks after Baal "like the heart of a cow for her calf," an allusion, to my way of thinking, of Baal as being a bull-calf. Baal eventually returns to life and takes up his throne again.
The cow and nursing calf which Yahweh's right foot overlaps, may be an artistic convention whereby the artist is intending to show a close connection between the images, that is, Yahweh-Baali, the "calf of Samaria," is the calf that Anat, the Queen of Heaven sought after and was reunited with. In other words the nursing calf is Baal-Yahweh. The Asherah with her arm interlocked with Yahweh's is really Anat, the cow who loves her calf, Baal. As neither Yahweh nor Asherah appear with horns in the Kuntillet rendering, I suspect they are being portrayed as calves, a bull-calf and a hornless she-calf or heifer. Perhaps there is a garbling of the Ugaritic myth where Baal mounts a heifer shortly before his death, or perhaps Baal comes back to life as a bull-calf, storm-clouds being called Adad's calves? Both Yahweh and his Asherah have several vertical lines below their noses which may be indicative of beards (some of the verticals appear to be a collar as in the seated lyre player). Sumerian hymns and art forms portray bulls at times as bearded. Ishtar as the male morning star (Venus) was known as the "bearded Ishtar" while the evening star was the beautiful voluptuous lady of sex. Anat is portrayed as shaving her "beard" in mourning for Baal.
"The dual personality of Ishtar also found expression in the cult. She could be worshipped either in male guise (the 'bearded Ishtar'), concentrating on her function as a warrior, or as a beautiful woman, in her capacity of goddess of love. It seems by the first millenium BC, the male Ishtar was associated with the north and the feminine Ishtar with southern Mesopotamia...her cult personnel, especially at Uruk, not only included prostitutes of both sexes, but also transvestites and trans-sexuals. One of Ishtar's faculties, often quoted in the texts, was the power to 'change masculinity into femininity,' to confuse people's sexuality as well as promote its legitimate channels." (p. 99, "Ishtar," Gwendolyn Leick. A Dictionary Of Ancient Near Eastern Mythology. London & New York. Routledge. , 1998. ISBN 0-415-19811-9 pbk)
"She [happened upon] Baal; he had fallen [to] the ground. [For clothing] she covered herself with sackcloth; Of Baal she scraped (her) skin with a stone, with a flint [for a razor] she shaved (her) side whiskers and beard; [she harrowed her collar-bone, she ploughed (her) chest like a valley, (saying): 'Baal is dead !' " (p. 74, Gibson)
I note that Asherah's elbow "touches" the woman seated playing a harp. In the Ugaritic myths, Anat after destroying Baal's enemies, refreshes herself and composes a song on a lyre praising Baal.
"[she takes her lyre in her hand], [she puts corals on her breast, she sings of (her love) for aliyn Baal..." (p. 48, "The Palace of Baal," John C. L. Gibson. Canaanite Myths and Legends. Edinburgh. T. & T. Clark. , 1978)
If my "hunch" that Yahweh's foot "touching" the cow and calf is an allusion to the Baal and Anat myth, then Asherah's elbow "touching" the harp player may be identifying her with the lyre-playing Anat.
Egyptian 19th Dynasty texts mention that Anat was called the "Queen of Heaven," and we are told that Israel worshipped Baals and the Queen of Heaven, as late as the Exile (Jer. 44:15-25). In Elephantine (modern Aswan, Egypt) Jewish mercenaries, ca. 410 BCE, make mention of a goddess called Anat-Yahu (Anat-Yahweh). As Anat was the Queen of Heaven in 19th Dynasty Egyptian texts, perhaps Anat-Yahu is a combining of Yahweh and Anat into one god? In other words, Anat and Yahweh are female and male aspects of each other. Ishtar in myths was called a bearded male morning star and a female volumptuous goddess of the evening star, a combining of male and female roles. She was also associated as being the goddess who could make men into women and women into men, confusing their roles and gender, transvestites serving in her temples. I note that the prophets in the Bible railed at any attempts to confuse the sexes by cross-dressing, engaging prostitutes, or taking part in homosexual relationships, all of which were aspects of the Queen of Heaven cult.
I see Yahwehism then, as an outgrowth of the Queen of Heaven cult as well as the cult of Baal and Anat. The polemics in the bible against the Baals, Asherahs, and Queen of Heaven, are a denial of Yahweh's own origins! He has incorporated the attributes and epithets of these gods and goddesses, he has become the male/female god, Anat-Yahu at Elephantine ! God's marriage to Israel, his bride IS AN INVERSION of the "sacred marriage" between Inanna/Ishtar, "the Queen of Heaven," and Dumuzi/Tammuz, enacted yearly at Babylon, where the king stood in as the bridegroom to bring blessings on the nation for the new year. The bible's writers are "in denial" of all this evolution behind their presentation of how Yahweh should be imagined and worshipped.
Now, to address the other images on Pithos A, which bears the likeness of Yahweh and his Asherah.
Keel and Uehlinger note that "the boar" as a motif is generally encountered in North Syrian art and suggest an "animal battle scene" for the various figures and their relative juxtaposition to one another (the horse, boar, and lion, A, B, C. p.215)
I note that "eight boars" are associated with Baal when he is summoned to enter the underworld, to die, by Mot, the god of death. Perhaps "the boar" on Pithos A is an allusion to the eight boars that accompanied Baal-Adad, "the calf" Anath "the cow" sought after?
"He lifted up his voice [and cried] 'Where then is Baal [ ] where is Hadad [ ] Baal rose [with his seven pages], with [his] eight [boars] he came near..."I will put him in a hole of the earth-gods [the grave]. And as for you, take your clouds, your winds, your thunderbolts (and) your rains, (take) with you your seven pages (and) your eight 'boars', (take) with you Pidray daughter of the mist, (take) with you Tallay daughter of showers. Then of a truth do you set your face towards the rocks (at the entrance) of my grave...be counted among those who go down into the earth...Mightiest Baal obeyed." (pp. 71-2. "Baal and Mot." Gibson)
The two goats or ibexes (?) on Pithos A appear to be feeding from a sacred tree whose branches terminate in lotus buds or blossoms. This type of "Lotus Tree" appears frequently in Phoenician and Canaanite art forms. Lotus blossoms are held by Qadesh or Qetesh, a naked goddess standing on the back of a lion in Egyptian art. A stele from Beth-Shean shows Anat wearing a double-plummed Osiris crown, with horns on her forehead, a Lotus being extended to her nose by an Egyptian garbed worshipper (p. 86 text, p.87 fig. 107. Keel & Uehlinger).
"Closely akin to Astharthet was the goddess Qetesh who was called the mistress of all the gods, the eye of Ra without a second. She like Astharthet, was regarded in Egypt as a form of Hathor, the goddess of love and beauty, and as a Moon-goddess. She is represented in the form of an absolutely naked woman, who stands upon a lion; on her head she wears a crescent and disk, which prove her connection with the Moon. The later representations of Qetesh depict her in the same attitude, but they give her the peculiar headdress of Hathor, and she wears a deep necklace or collar and a tight-fitting garment...in her right hand she holds lotus flowers and a mirror (?), and in her left two serpents. It is important to note that like Bes, she is always represented full face...Qetesh must have been worshipped as a nature goddess, and it was probably the licentiousness of her worship, at all events in Syria, which gave to the Hebrew word qadeshah [i.e., a prostitute, whore, one devoted and thus 'sacred'] the meaning which it bears in the bible (Ge 38:21,22; De 23:18; Nu 25:1; Hos 4:14)." (p. 280. Vol.2. "Ashtoreth." E.A. Wallis Budge. The Gods of the Egyptians. New York. Dover Publications.  1969) The lion appearing on the Pithos A may allude to either Ishtar or Qedesh, both are shown standing on a lion. The cow and calf probably alludes to Anat and Baal-Adad (as noted by Keel and Uehlinger,
The fragmentary image of the bridled horse on the pithos may allude to Anat as a warrior goddess whose name is given by Pharaoh Rameses II (1279-1212 BCE) to one his war steeds (perhaps one of the horses that pulled his war chariot?).
"Rameses' favorite daughter was called Bint-Anath,' a Semitic name, which means 'Daughter of Anath' (a Syrian goddess) and one of the royal steeds was named 'Anath-herte,' "Anath is Satisfied." (p. 449, "The Empire of Ramses II," James Henry Breasted. A History of Egypt. New York. Charles Scribner's Sons. 1912)
Keel and Uehlinger also show a scarab which appears to be Anath weilding a war-club or mace over her head, wearing the Osiris double plummed crown, and mounted on a war steed, that tramples upon a fallen enemy (p. 87, figure 110).
Budge notes the Egyptians identified Ashtoreth/Astharthet with horses and portrayed her with a lioness' head driving a team of maddened war-horses over a prostrate enemy's body (p.279, Vol.2, Budge):
"In connection with Anthat [Anath] the goddess Astharthet, i.e., Ashtoreth, is sometimes mentioned in Egyptian texts, and she is called 'mistress of horses, lady of the chariot, dweller in Apollinopolis Magna (Edfu)." (p. 278. Vol.2. Budge)
"Another foreign goddess of interest is Aasith, who is represented in the form of a woman, armed with shield and club, riding a horse into the battle field." (p. 280. Vol.2. Budge)
A horned goddess, nude, stands upon a war-horse wearing protective armor, she holds Lotuses in both hands (p. 67, fig. 71. Keel & Uehlinger)
Budge notes that the Egyptian worshipped Baal under the name of Bar or Pa-Bar and that his wife was called Bairtha or Ba`alath, or Beltis of Tchapuna (Zephon), noting a she may be the wife of the god Ba'al-Sephon of the Hebrew bible (p.281, Vol.2, Budge). The Ugaritic myths mention that Baal's palace lies atop a high mountain called Saphon.
Although recognizing "the legitimacy" of some of Yahweh and Asherah's "Bes-like" features, the frontal position and hands on hips (see similar stances among the images of Bes provided by Keel and Uehlinger), I have argued that we are not looking at Bes and Beset as "apotropaic daemons" as maintained by Keel and Uehlinger, we are beholding native Canaanite gods with Egyptianizing characteristics, just as encountered in the Late Bronze Age portrayals of Anath who wears the double plummed crown of Osiris. I have attempted to identify the motifs appearing on Pithos A as being from several strands, the Queen of Heaven cult from Mesopotamia of Inanna and Ishtar, and the Baal-Adad/Anath cult of Canaan (preserved in the Ugaritic myths), and Egyptianizing features like the feathered headdresses appearing on full-frontal bovine heads of Hathor. The Full-frontal image of Baal-Adad found at Bethsaida in Samaria, I have argued, is a "legitimate genetic prototype" to the Kuntillet `Ajrud depiction of Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah.
The confusion arising from the near-identical rendering of Yahweh and his Asherah, I understand to be deliberate and planned (only the breasts on the smaller figure distinguish her as Asherah). The genitals of Yahweh and "possible" genitals of Asherah as well as their both "perhaps" having beards, suggests that they are aspects of the bearded Anat and bearded Ishtar "Queen of Heaven" cults. "Athtarath-the-Name-of-Baal," Athtar, of which Ashtoreth is the female form (according to Gray) and Anat-Yahu suggest to me the deliberate blending of masculine and feminine traits so as to create confusion for the viewer, as is noted in the same cults.
For me, then, Yahweh and his Asherah "if" being portrayed as "bearded," are drawing from the "bearded Queen of Heaven" cult; the jury, though, is out on this one -the vertical lines could be a collar- as appears on the seated female lyre player, in which case, I understand the two figures to be calves without beards.
A potsherd inscribed egeliah, "bull-calf of Yah," was found in ancient Israel (Samaria), and the inscription suggests that the bull-calf was associated with Yah ( a shortened form of Yahweh, as in king Hezekiah), not an Egyptian god like the Apis. Hosea 2:16 states that Israel called Yahweh "Baal" .
Hosea 2:16 (RSV)
"And in that day, says the Lord, you will call me, 'My Husband' and no longer will you call me, 'My Baal." For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be mentioned by name no more."
To the degree that Baal (Hadad) was capable of transforming himself into a bull to mount and have sex with his sister-lover, Anat, who changed herself into a heifer, I suspect that the "egeliah" or "bull-calf of Yah" is an allusion to Yah taking on the form of a golden bull-calf. In the Ugaritic myths, when Baal dies, his sister, Anat goes looking for him, her search for her beloved is characterized as "Like a cow searching for her CALF, so Anat sought after Baal." Perhaps Baal was understood to have been resurrected from death in the form of a Storm Cloud, they being called "Adad's Calves"?
The bovine faces of Yahweh and his Asherah, then, are aspects of the "egeliah", "bull-calf of Yah" and his consort, the Queen of Heaven, Asherah, as a Heifer? The iconic scene of a cow tenderly nuzzling its calf, near Yahweh's body, may allude to the Baal and Anath story ? In other words, the cow and her calf ARE Yahweh and Asherah. Baal is portrayed on a stele in Syria as standing upon a bull. I suspect that THE BULL IS NOT A PEDESTAL its Baal in animal form!
Jeroboam set up two golden calves, one at Bethel, the other at Dan, telling the people they were their gods, echoing the very words of Aaron at Mount Sinai (who, although making only ONE golden calf, proclaimed it to be Israel's gods).
"And he received the gold at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, and made a molten calf; and said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out the land of Egypt !" (Exodus 32:4, RSV)
"So the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, "You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan." (1 Kings 12: 28-29)
Eislen, Lewis and Downey mention in passing, a potsherd found in Samaria inscribed Egeliah, which means in Hebrew "bull-calf of Yah." If Jeroboam is assocating a bull-calf with Yah rather than with Baal, then perhaps this association harkens back to the Ugaritic myths (13th century BCE) which portray the supreme god, El or Bull-El as the father of the gods and of mankind ? Bull-El dotingly gives his "son" (who would be a bull-calf, as El is a Bull) Yam (Hebrew Yam meaning "Sea") a new name when he proclaims him ruler of the earth in opposition to Baal (Baal-Hadad), Yam's new name is YAW! Perhaps the Samaritan postherd then, preserves a link to the golden calf or Egeliah, as Ugaritic Yaw (Yam), son of Bull-El, and El has been conflated with Yaw later by the Hebrews in the 9th-6th centuries BCE as Yahweh-Elohim?
Eislen, Lewis and Downey:
"The name Egeliah ("bull-calf of Yah") on a potsherd from Samaria shows how far reaching was the sin of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin." (p. 119. F.C. Eiselen, Edwin Lewis, & D.G. Downey. The Abingdon Bible Commentary. Garden City, New York. Doubleday & Company. 1929, reprint, 1957)
Het-Hert, the name of the goddess, means the House above" i.e., the region of the sky or heaven, and another form of it which is to be read Het-Heru and which means "House of Horus" shows that she was the personification of the house in which Horus the sun-god dwelt..." (p. 428, Vol. 1. Budge)
Hathor...was also the paton goddess of all singers, dancers, and merry-makers of every kind, of beautiful women, and of love...of joy and happiness..." (p. 435 Vol.1. Budge)
Ashtoreth. The deliberate Hebrew misvocalization of the name of the Canaanite fertility goddess called Athtarath in the Ras Shamra Texts and probably pronounced Ashtar or Ashtereth) in later Phoenician inscriptions; the Greek approximation is Astarte..." (Vol.1. p. 255. "Ashtoreth," J. Gray. George A. Buttrick, Editor. The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville. Abingdon Press. 1962)
Gray also speculates about the posibility Ashtoreth may be a Canaanite equivalent of Ishtar, the Venus star, and thus possibly the male Venus star Athtar is the female form.
"...there is no evidence from Canaan that she was an astral diety except that Athtar, of which Ashtoreth is the female form, had certainly this character. In Canaaan the goddess is first encountered in the Ras Shamras Texts in offering lists and in mythology, where she is apparently the ally of Baal in his conflict with the turbulent Sea-and-River. Unfortunately the text is fragmentary, and we cannot tell precisely the role played by the goddess. There is a later version, however, preserved in an Egyptian papyrus from the 19th dynasty, wherin Athtarath is the bride claimed by the tyrant sea...From a certain passage in the saga of King Keret from the Ras Shamras Texts, where the king invokes a curse in the name of "Athtarath-the-Name-of-Baal" we can see that the goddess, at least in the heroic past, was associated with Baal as the giver of life or death. From the Ras Shamras Texts generally, however, it would seem that the functions of Ashtoreth as the patroness of fertility were taken over by Anath, the sister of Baal...In Palestine and probably South Syria, however, on the evidence of Phoenician inscriptions of the 1st millenium and of the Old Testament, Ashtoreth was much more prominent than Anath." (p. 256. Gray)
Gray identifies a stele from Beth-shan as being the goddess Ashtoreth, holding a sceptre, a lotus held to her nose by an Egyptian worshipper. She holds an ankh in the other hand, and her headress is that of Osiris, with two plumes and horns above the forehead. (p. 256, Gray)
E. A. Wallis Budge. The Gods of the Egyptians. 2 Vols. New York. Dover Publications. , 1969.
George A. Buttrick, Editor. The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville. 1962. 5 vols, + supplement.
F.C. Eiselen, Edwin Lewis, & D.G. Downey. The Abingdon Bible Commentary. Garden City, New York. Doubleday & Company. 1929, reprint, 1957.
John C. L. Gibson. Canaanite Myths and Legends. Edinburgh. T & T Clark. 1956, 1978.
Othmar Keel & Christoph Uehlinger. Gods, Goddesses and Images of God In Ancient Israel. Minneapolis. Fortress Press. 1998.
Ephraim Stern. Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, The Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian Periods, 732-332 BCE. New York. Doubleday. Anchor Bible Reference Library. 2001.