96:1 Deity Concepts Among the Semites

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96:1.1 The early Semites regarded everything as being indwelt by a spirit. There were spirits of the animal and vegetable worlds; annual spirits, the lord of progeny; spirits of fire, water, and air; a veritable pantheon of spirits to be feared and worshiped. And the teaching of Melchizedek regarding a Universal Creator never fully destroyed the belief in these subordinate spirits or nature gods.

96:1.2 The progress of the Hebrews from polytheism through henotheism to monotheism was not an unbroken and continuous conceptual development. They experienced many retrogressions in the evolution of their Deity concepts, while during any one epoch there existed varying ideas of God among different groups of Semite believers. From time to time numerous terms were applied to their concepts of God, and in order to prevent confusion these various Deity titles will be defined as they pertain to the evolution of Jewish theology:

96:1.6 One of the dominant ideas of the religion of this era was the Egyptian concept of divine Providence, the teaching that material prosperity was a reward for serving El Shaddai.

96:1.10 Jehovah is a term which in recent times has been employed to designate the completed concept of Yahweh which finally evolved in the long Hebrew experience. But the name Jehovah did not come into use until fifteen hundred years after the times of Jesus.

96:1.11 Up to about 2000 B.C., Mount Sinai was intermittently active as a volcano, occasional eruptions occurring as late as the time of the sojourn of the Israelites in this region. The fire and smoke, together with the thunderous detonations associated with the eruptions of this volcanic mountain, all impressed and awed the Bedouins of the surrounding regions and caused them greatly to fear Yahweh. This spirit of Mount Horeb later became the god of the Hebrew Semites, and they eventually believed him to be supreme over all other gods.

96:1.12 The Canaanites had long revered Yahweh, and although many of the Kenites believed more or less in El Elyon, the supergod of the Salem religion, a majority of the Canaanites held loosely to the worship of the old tribal deities. They were hardly willing to abandon their national deities in favor of an international, not to say an interplanetary, God. They were not universal-deity minded, and therefore these tribes continued to worship their tribal deities, including Yahweh and the silver and golden calves which symbolized the Bedouin herders' concept of the spirit of the Sinai volcano.

96:1.13 The Syrians, while worshiping their gods, also believed in Yahweh of the Hebrews, for their prophets said to the Syrian king: "Their gods are gods of the hills; therefore they were stronger than we; but let us fight against them on the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they."[1]

96:1.14 As man advances in culture, the lesser gods are subordinated to a supreme deity; the great Jove persists only as an exclamation. The monotheists keep their subordinate gods as spirits, demons, fates, Nereids, fairies, brownies, dwarfs, banshees, and the evil eye. The Hebrews passed through henotheism and long believed in the existence of gods other than Yahweh, but they increasingly held that these foreign deities were subordinate to Yahweh. They conceded the actuality of Chemosh, god of the Amorites, but maintained that he was subordinate to Yahweh.

96:1.15 The idea of Yahweh has undergone the most extensive development of all the mortal theories of God. Its progressive evolution can only be compared with the metamorphosis of the Buddha concept in Asia, which in the end led to the concept of the Universal Absolute even as the Yahweh concept finally led to the idea of the Universal Father. But as a matter of historic fact, it should be understood that, while the Jews thus changed their views of Deity from the tribal god of Mount Horeb to the loving and merciful Creator Father of later times, they did not change his name; they continued all the way along to call this evolving concept of Deity, Yahweh.

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