Corrections Update (11.7.01): Further research has revealed I am in error about Hathor possessing a "feathered headdress." The Hathor scarabs and amulets are portraying a "schematized portal or doorway" in a temple wall, not feathers. Hathor is at times,however, rendered with a human body and bovine head or cow's face with cow's muzzle. I have also determined that Egyptian art forms do portray Bes at times with only three feathers such as appear on Yahweh, and  an example exists from Megiddo. The features on Yahweh which are not Bes-like are the absence of  a beard (if the vertical lines are only a collar), the absence of hairlocks or mane flowing down upon each shoulder, and the absence of a nose bridge that is generally rendered very short and near the eyes. If Yahweh is a calf (long nose bridge) and related to the schematized Baal-Adad, he has been merged with Bes-iconography!

Additions Update (12.7.01): Please note the provided Illustrations of full-frontal views of bull's heads noting similar headdresses to that of Asherah's from South Arabia,  included is a silver-plated bronze figurine from Ras Shamras of a possible Bull-El or Baal-Adad, in human form with a Bull's or Calf's head, standing between two crowned male gods. Another stone stela of Baal-Adad, full-frontal facing with human body and Bull's head has been added from Damascus to the Bethsaida Stela (scroll below the Bethsaida example).

Additions Update (13.7.01): Images of Bes from Egyptian sources noting similarities and dis-similarities with Yahweh and his Asherah, also images of Bes dancers with Tauert, the goddess of childbirth (Bes being a protector of new-born infants)..

Additions Update (14.7.01): Further research on my part has failed to substantiate that there existed in Egyptian sources of the 8th century BCE a female counterpart called Beset of the god Bes.  Budge's two volume work titled Gods of the Egyptians (1904), which is very comprehensive and detailed, does not list a "Beset" in the index !  Veronica Ions understands Tauert, a hippotamus, to be Bes' wife, but she does mention a Beset as a fire-spitting "serpent" -

"The female counterpart of Bes was Beset, a fire-spitting serpent; but Bes was more generally thought to be married to Tauert." (p.111 "Bes," Veronica Ions. Egyptian Mythology. Feltham, Middlesex, England. Paul Hamlyn. 1965, 1968)

Ions has observed that Bes and Tauert (a hippopotamus) are often portrayed together, they being associated as protecting new-born infants in the birthing chamber (he dances about with knives and or timbrel to scare away evil spirits that might harm the newborn)-

"Taueret...a hippopotamus deity...was the protectoress of women in pregnancy and child birth. Thus in the 18th Dynasty she was often shown with Bes dancing about her in the birth chamber...Amulets of Tauert as well as of Bes were placed in tombs, so that she might protect the rebirth of the deceased into the kingdom of the dead. As she was sometimes considered the wife of Set, however, she later acquired an evil reputation." (pp.111-112, "Taueret,"  Veronica Ions. Egyptian Mythology. Feltham, Middlesex, England. Paul Hamlyn. 1965, 1968)

If Budge and Ions are correct, then there is no goddess in Bes-like imagery, called Beset known in Egyptian sources for the period of the 8th century BCE that "Yahweh and his Asherah" are dated to !  Keel and Uehlinger are aware of this "anomaly" and posit that the female figure is a Bes-like variant, but "NOT" that she is "Beset" -

"Since there is no clear evidence that Best and Beset appeared together as a pair in Egypt before the Ptolemaic Period (see Tran Tam Tinh 1986b, 113 sub D), and since Beset can be clearly distinguished from her partner in those later depictions, unlike in illustration 220, the two figures from Kuntillet `Ajrud are not to be treated as a heterosexual pair, in the sense of Bes and Beset, but it is rather more likely that they are two Bes variants, one masculine and one bisexual-feminized (also Beck 1982, 30f.; Hadley 1987b, 190-192; cf. 1989, 179f.)."
(p. 219, Keel & Uehlinger)

Keel and Uehlinger understand that viewers are in error about Asherah's arm being interlinked with Bes', they claim that  the female was drawn later and just accidentally has her arm intertwining Bes'-

"The overlapping of the two figures (hardly "arm in arm together," as H. Weippert 1988, 673 suggests) and the different positions, depthwise, in which they stand- if that is so intended- argues not only against interpreting the two as a pair but even more so against the idea that the two are shown together in the sense of a coherent group. The two Bes figures are placed together partactically and perhaps were even drawn by different individuals (see Beck 1982, 36, 43: Hadley, 1987b, 194f.)."  (p.219, Keel & Uehlinger)

I would like to make some personal observations on the above points. Let me first, preface my observations by informing the reader that I am an "amateur scholar," not a trained professional like Drs. Keel and Uehlinger.  By profession I am a teacher of Art to students aged 12-14 years of age, and have taught Art for approximately 30 years. I thus have some experience with how artists work, visualize and render their work, be it three-dimensional or two-dimensional (drawings being the latter).

Yahweh appears to have been drawn at a later date than the cow and calf, the lotus branch with buds, and the inscription, because the various parts of his anatomy "overlap" these figures. This suggests to me that the artist intended Yahweh to be identified with the inscription and perhaps the earlier motifs (the cow and calf).  When an artist arranges or places motifs near each other (called a "composition") he intends to show a relationship. My article points out that Bes is not related to a cow and calf motif (a point that Keel and Uheliner are in agreement with, noting the Anat and Baal theme), but I have argued that Yahweh as "the Calf of Samaria" is, via the Anat and Baal-Adad myth preserved at Ugarit, storm clouds being called "Adad's calves" and Yahweh manifesting himself as a storm-cloud at Mt. Sinai, then a golden calf is made and declared to be the god who delivered Israel from Egypt (I am suggesting here that Asherah has absorbed the motifs of Anat and Baal as well as Inanna and Ishtar).

In art showing couples, it is quite common to portray the female as smaller than the male, unless the female is more important than the male, then she is made the larger of the two.
Asherah is smaller than Yahweh, so he gets the nod as the more important figure, which correlates well with the inscription running through his feathered headdress.   I understand that Asherah was deliberately drawn with her arm intertwining Yahweh's to show her fondness for him.  Yahweh appears to have been made before Asherah, allowing the artist to position her near enough to interwine the arms.

The drawing of Yahweh and Asherah presented in Keel and Uehlinger's article omits an important detail, a tail. Keel and Uehlinger observe that they omitted this detail because they were not convinced from their viewing of published photos, in color, of the pair, that a tail really existed. They refer the reader to published articles rendering the tail.  As they correctly noted, Bes at times does appear without his tail showing. 

My brief studies into Bes iconography from the 18th dynasty to the Ptolemaic era, reveals that Bes was not originally portrayed as a dwarf, he was rendered as possessing a normal body at first, even slender, and he looks more like a man with a lion's mane and tail ! At times, he was clothed or semi-clothed, his genitals not being exposed.

The long nose bridge possesed by Yahweh and Asherah extends from the top of the head to the nostrils. Bes nose bridges generally are small and the nostrils are extended or wide. A moustache appears above the lips and a beard exists, the head frequently is framed on either side by a lion-like "mane" extending to the shoulders. The Yahweh image does not possess any of these characteristics in my artistic judgement. The ears placed near the top of the head, are however a Bes-like artistic convention, as is also the tree feathers atop the head, the arms akimbo and resting on the hips.  It is my opinion that Yahweh exhibits some Bes-like features as above enumerated, but that the long nose bridge and absence of a mane reveals this is not Bes, but a hornless calf. In that Egyptian art knows of no Beset in the 8th century BCE, I find myself in agreement with Keel and Uehlinger that the woman possesses some bes-like features but is not "Beset". I understand her to be a female calf or heifer, on the basis of the long nose bridge and highly placed ears near the top of the head. Her crown or tufts (?) resemble the Tufts found on facing bovine heads from South Arabia of the 6th-4th century BCE.

Additions Update (15.07.01):  Viewers may be wondering, if the Kuntillet Ajrud drawings of "Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah," are really a rendering of God, why is God being portrayed with "exposed genitals" ?

The bible suggests that it is shameful to have one's private parts exposed
(Jer 13:26; Nah 3:5). I note that the Prophets railed at Pre-exilic Israel and Judah
for copulating under every green tree and consorting with temple prostitutes
(male and female) as part and parcel of the "Queen of Heaven Cult."

I have identified Yahweh of Samaria as an outgrowth of this cult, and
consider him to be none other than Baal or Baal-Adad of the Ugaritic myths.
In those myths, the last act on earth performed by Baal, when he is summoned
to the underworld to die by Mot (the god of death), is to take on the form of a bull in order to mate with a young she-calf or heifer (Ugaritic: glt). He mounts her in a sexual frenzy 88 times then 77 times, then he expires.  I suspect Yahweh of Samaria's exposed genitalia is alluding to his sexual prowess as Baal who mounted the heifer 88 times 77 !  Hosea informs us that Yahweh was called Baal or Baali (Hosea 2:16) and wall inscriptions at Kuntillet `Ajrud mention El, Yahweh and Baal in a context that suggests to some scholars they are different names for the same god. Thus I understand "Yahweh of Samaria" with his exposed genitalia is being portrayed as part and parcel of the sexual excesses that the Judaean prophets railed against in their "re-presentation" of Yahweh as an ethical, moral upright God who would never engage in such outrageous behavior ! 

Hosea 8:6 (RSV) (Herbert G. May & Bruce M. Metzger, editors. The New Oxford Annotated Bible With The Apocrypha. New York. Oxford University Press. 1973, 1977)

"A workman made it; it is not God. The calf of Samaria shall be broken to pieces."
A workman made it; it is not Elohim. The calf of Samaria shall be broken to pieces."

Please note that the word "God" in Hebrew is Elohim (Strong #430), a plural of #433, Elowahh, from #410, El.  Elohim is a plural of majesty, such plurals of majesty are attested in Egyptian and Mesopotamian titles given to a single god, it translates as "gods".  Could it be that Hosea is being contempuous of an Israelite notion that  ELOHIM IS THE BULL CALF OF SAMARIA ?  I note that a potsherd was found in Iron Age Samaria inscribed egeliah, meaning "bull-calf of Yah."  This sherd suggests that the Israelites understood Yah or Yahweh to be associated in some manner with a bull-calf.
Hosea also states that Yahweh is also called Baal or Baali, and Baal had the power to take on an animal form, a bull, when he mounted his sister, Anat, who became a heifer.

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."

The Ugaritic myths have Anat searching for her dead lover Baal, "as a cow searches for her calf", thus, Baal is likened to a calf, and storm clouds are clled Hadad's calves. Perhaps these clouds were a "resurrected" Baal ?  Some Israelites bore Baal names, perhaps they bore them, not because they worsipped a foreign god called Baal, but because Yah or Yahweh was ALSO called Baal, and they bore Yahweh's alternate Baal name ??? I am proposing the Bible is in error, in claiming Israel worshipped an Egyptian god as a Golden Calf. She worshipped Yah as the Golden Calf, and Calf worship is Canaanite, not the Apis bull of Egypt.

Asherah, Yahweh's consort, I suspect, has absorbed the motifs and behaviors and imagery of Anat, Inanna and Ishtar as well as numerous other fertility goddesses.  Yahweh, then, is not alone in appropriating Baal's titles and feats, Other gods are doing likewise. For example, "rider of the clouds" is an epithet shared by Baal and Yahweh; both are also called elyon/aliyan meaning "mighty;" both are called Adon (Adonai) meaning "Lord"; both are called Baal, also meaning "Lord;" both are associated with defeating the serpent of sea, Leviathan/Lotan; both are storm clouds and both are calves (storm clouds being called "Adad's calves").

This "sanitizing" of Yahweh is not anything to be marveled at, it was quite common for later generations to demand more ethical gods and to deny the ancient concepts of the gods being sexually promiscuous, vain, petty, back-stabbing, and inconsiderate. The gods are portrayed as vindictive and sexually promiscuous in Sumerian myths of the 3rd millenium BCE. By the 2nd millenium they have been "recast" as honorable and demanding justice of their worshippers. Bull-El, the father of the gods and of mankind, in the Ugaritic myths is portrayed as sexually promiscuous. The Greeks went through a similar evolution too. Zeus is famous in the older myths for his sexual prowess, hunting down and deflowering earthly maidens who try to escape from him, they bearing his children. Plato was appalled at all this and censured Homer and Hesiod for such unflattering portrayals of the gods and suggested that in his new society (The Republic), children would not be taught these stories. Instead the gods would be portrayed as honorable and just, and above reproach in their behaviors and actions. I suggest, this is pretty much what happened with Yahweh in the biblical presentation.

So, in the Bible what we are seeing is a denial of Israel's original conception of Yahweh as a sexually promiscuous god with stupendous sexual prowess as Baal. The older concepts of Yaheh are being denied by the Bible's writers, who are offering a newer concept of a "sanitized, ethical" God.  It was not until after Ezra's arrival ca. 458 BCE that the nation finally gave up the worship of the Queen of Heaven. Jewish mercenaries at Elephantine (Aswan, Egypt) still worshipped Anat, the Queen of Heaven, as Anat-Yahu as late as 410 BCE, their ancestors having fled to Egypt ca. 582 BCE after the assassination of the Babylonian appointed governor Gedaliah (cf. Jer 43, 44). Ezra's version of Torah was not binding on them, the Persians had said it was binding only on Jews residing within the satrapy of Abar Nahar. (Ezra 8:25-27).

It is my understanding then, that "Yahweh of Samaria" is being correctly portrayed as a god of "sexual prowess," a Bull-Calf, like Baal, his genitalia being exposed to score that point on the viewer.


Main Page    Archaeology Menu    OT menu     NT Menu    Geography Menu   

Illustrations Menu    Bibliography Menu    Links Menu