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The Origins of Biblical MonotheismIsrael's Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts$
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Mark S. Smith

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195134803

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/019513480X.001.0001

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El, Yahweh, and the Original God of Israel and the Exodus

El, Yahweh, and the Original God of Israel and the Exodus

(p.135) 7 El, Yahweh, and the Original God of Israel and the Exodus
The Origins of Biblical Monotheism

Mark S. Smith (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter begins the discussion on Israelite monotheism by noting the deep impact on Yahweh of the god El; the formative traditions of Israel, now largely lost in the mists of time, camouflage a complex relationship between El and Yahweh. The chapter turns in particular to a seminal question in the religion of ancient Israel: who was the original chief god of Israel? Thanks to the pioneering work of B. A. Levine on El traditions in Iron Age Transjordan, it is possible to explore further old traditions about El in early Israel. Because the name of the god El appears as the divine element in the name of IsraEL, it has been supposed that El was the original god of Israel, and some evidence may point to El as the god associated with the Exodus from Egypt in some early biblical tradition. The implications for the religious origins of ancient Israel are profound, and they raise basic questions for anyone, scholar and non-scholar alike, who takes seriously the complexity of the biblical witnesses to the god of Israel. The chapter also addresses the origins of Yahweh and the problems surrounding their reconstruction.

Keywords:   El, Exodus, god of Israel, Israel, Israelite deities, Israelite monotheism, monotheism, original chief god of Israel, religious history, Transjordan, Yahweh

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