God of the Week: El

God of the Week 10/19/09: El


El was was the ancient Canaanite chief of the gods, and was was often called Tôru ‘Ēl or “the bull god”. A  tablet dated to 2300 CE has El listed at the top of a list of 70 gods.

He is believed to a god of the desert since his myths say that he built a sanctuary with his children in the desert. He is also depicted as residing on top a mountain.

Canaanite El worship appears to have syncretized with Hebrew mythology, the later perhaps evolving out of the former, and there are instanced of this evolution present in the Hebrew bible. In the earlier texts, their god is refereed to as El, or variations of the name. In Exodus 6:3-4,  their god makes this statement:

And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob by the name of Ēl Shaddāi, but by My name Yahweh was I not known to them. And I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers.

This announcement of a name change appears to have been a scriptural method of converting the Canaanite followers of El to Yahweh worship. Originally, these appear to have been two separate gods, Yahweh being a sky/storm god, El a desert/creator god.

Further reading on early Canaanite myths and their evolution into Hebrew myths:

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