Origins of Yom HaKippurim / Yom Kippur

Origins of Day of Atonements   


This study shows the origins of the Jewish holy day of Yom HaKippurim / Yom Kippur.
From the kuppuru ritual of the Akitu festival from ancient Assyria and Babylonia,
to the Rabbinic applications of fasting for mourning the destruction of the temple,
to the goat for Azazel and the Midianite / Kenite / Arabian connection with the
pre-Islamic mother goddess of Al Uzza / Al Lat.


As with any of the Semitic languages, transliterating is not standardized, therefore, this Hebrew holy day has many names. Yom HaKiffuriym   nixtk nei  is translated as Day of the Atonements, from kafar ( kapar ) – which means to atone, cover, wash away, wipe off, forgive. The original Semitic letter Fe came to also represent a “P” sound for the languages that used a P. So when you take the original Fe t and place a daghesh (a diacritical mark (in this case a dot, used by the Masorite scribes, in the center of the letter), it becomes a Pe  R. Kiffuriym / Kiffurim or using the harder dialectual sound of “p”, kippuriym / kippurim is the plural of kafar – atonements. Most Jews refer to the day as Yom Kippur, which is a shortened version of the Biblical Hebrew Yom HaKippurim. The “Ha” before kippurim translates as the article “the” – day of the atonements. In the English, many use the shortened version and translate it as Day of Atonement. I will be using the biblical full version of Yom HaKiffuriym / Kippurim.


The Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period by Neusner and Green defines Yom Kippur as the holy day falling on the tenth of Tishrei and observed by fasting, prayer, repentance, and confession. The Temple rites are described in Leviticus 16. After the destruction of the Temple, day-long synagogue prayer became the principal observance of the penitential day.


Judaism has modified the practices associated with this day of the atonements, as their circumstances have changed over time. For example, when the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, the practices associated with it became dispersed, along with the people. What was applied to the temple by the priests, became symbolic in the synagogues by the rabbi’s.  The Jewish scribes have also edited the original aspects of this day, to change as Judaism changed. Below, we will research the biblical passages of  Yom HaKiffurim / Kippurim, the Mesopotamian contribution with the Akitu festival and the ritual of kuppuru, Azazel (scapegoat) and the Midianite / Kenite connection.


Tanak / Biblical Passages


So lets begin with the biblical passages directly mentioning the annual Yom HaKiffurim / Kippurim.


Shemoth [Exodus] 30:10, " 'aharon will make atonement on its horns once a year; he will make atonement on it with the blood of the sin offering of atonement once a year throughout your generations. it is qodesh qadashiym to YHWH.' "


This atonement is being made on the golden altar of incense mentioned in verse 1 of chapter 30. Below is an image of a stone altar found at Megiddo, dating around 1900 BCE. While listed as Canaanite, it is the same as what is early Israel, but that is another study (partly covered in the Worthless Deities in the Hebrew Bible study). Beside it is a recreation image. You can see the horns of the altar at its corners.  This passage in Shemoth is a very basic rendering, which is detailed in the book of Wayiqqra below.

An important note is that Milgrom believes the Semitic linguistics of the word for sin offering, chattat, should rather be translated as purification offering, rather than sin offering, especially in light of the fact that it is used at times for inanimate objects that cannot sin. This is important in light of the kuppuru ritual covered below. Milgrom states that Israel was part of a "cultic continuum" which abounded in purifications both of persons and buildings, especially sanctuaries.






Wayiqqra [Leviticus] 23:27-32, " 'on the tenth of this seventh month, this is a yom hakippuriym; there will be a set apart gathering, and you will humble your being and will bring a fire offering to YHWH.  28 and you will do no work in this same day, for it is a yom kippuriym, to atone for you before YHWH your elohey.  29 for any being who is not humbled in this same day will be cut off from his people.  30 and any being who does any work in this same day, i will even destroy that being from the midst of his people.  31 you will do no work; it is a eternal rule throughout your generations, in all your houses.  32 it is a shabbath of rest to you, and you will humble your beings in the ninth of the month at evening; from evening until evening you will keep your shabbath.' "


Wayiqqra 25:9, " 'and you will let a shofar sound, a signal in the seventh month, in the tenth of the month; on the yom hakippuriym, let a shofar pass throughout all your land;' "


The seventh ( occurs mid-September to mid-October in the Gregorian calendar) month of the Hebrew calendar is based on the older calendar which begins in spring (around mid March). The original calendar in the biblical texts had no month names, they were just numbered. Official calendars not associated with nature were codified by the Assyrian and Babylonians, naming the months primarily after their deities. While the Hebrews were in captivity in Assyria and Babylon, the scribes adopted the practices of their captors, in this case, a temple purging ritual. The seventh month was named Tishri ( Tishrei). Tishri is an Akkadian loanword, tashritu (Ugaritic ThShRT) (from shurru - to begin, open, initiate), which means beginning. A standard Mesopotamian calendar developed into two halves of a year. One half began in the spring, the first month called Nisannu. The second half began in Tishri, six months later, hence the “beginning” of the year. The Jews now count two new years. The religious calendar begins in spring and the civil calendar begins in Tishri, six months later.


The word “humble” mentioned in this passage of Wayiqqra / Leviticus is anah (ayin, nun, he). Anah is defined – to be bowed down, be afflicted, tormented, oppressed, humbled, in submission. At no point in this passage does the humbling say that a fast (denying food and / or water) is required, yet this is how Judaism has observed this day out of tradition.


This is the first passage which states that this day is to be observed as a shabbath, no work to be done on it. It also states that it is now a day of assembly for the people. Clearly a requirement of the Jewish priesthood, which assembled at the temple in Jerusalem, to centralize the worship there.




BeMidbar [Numbers] 29:7-11, " 'and on the tenth of this seventh month a set apart assembly you will have, and you will humble your beings; do no work.  8 and you will bring near a burnt offering to YHWH, a sweet fragrance, one bull, a son of the herd, one ram, seven lambs, sons of a year, perfect ones they are for you.  9 and their present, flour mixed with oil, three-tenth deals for the bull, two-tenth deals for the one ram.  10 a several tenth deal for the one lamb, for the seven lambs.  11 one kid of the goats, a sin offering; apart from the sin offering of the atonements, and the continual burnt offering, and its present, and their drink offerings.' "


This passage in BeMidbar / Numbers shows the sacrifices to be made on Yom HaKiffuriym. And again states that it is a shabbath for the assembly.


Now lets look at a chapter that applies to this annual ritual, but does not specifically mention Yom HaKiffuriym / Kippurim exactly, but does say that it is the seventh month, tenth day, observed annually, for atonement.



Wayiqqra [Leviticus] 16


and YHWH spoke to mosheh after the death of the two sons of aharon, as they drew near before YHWH, and they died.  2 and YHWH said to mosheh, speak to your brother aharon, and he will not come in at all times to the qodesh [set apart – sanctuary] within the veil, to the front of the kapporet [mercy seat].  3 with this aharon will come into the qodesh, with a bull, a son of the herd, for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering.  4 he will put on a set apart linen coat, and linen underpants will be on his flesh, and he will gird himself with a linen girdle, and he will wrap himself in a linen miter; they are set apart garments. and he will bathe his flesh with water and will put them on.  5 and he will take from the assembly of the sons of yisrael two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.  6 and aharon will bring near the bull of the sin offering which is his own, and will make atonement for himself, and for his house.  7 and he will take the two he goats and will cause them to stand before YHWH, at the door of the tent of meeting.  8 and aharon will give lots over the two he goats, one lot for YHWH, and one lot for removal [ azazel ].  9 and aharon will bring the goat on which the lot of YHWH fell and will make it a sin offering.  10 and the goat on which the lot fell for removal [ azazel ]  will be made to stand living before YHWH to atone by it, to send it away for removal [ azazel ] into the wilderness.  11 and aharon will bring the bull of the sin offering which is his own, and will atone for himself, and for his house, and will kill the bull of the sin offering which is his own.  12 and he will take a censer full of coals of the fire from off the altar before YHWH, and his hands full of fragrant perfumes beaten small, and bring it within the veil.  13 and he will put the incense on the fire before YHWH, and the cloud of the incense will cover the kapporet [mercy seat] on the testimony; and he will not die.  14 and he will take some of the blood of the bull, and will sprinkle with his finger on the front of the kapporet [mercy seat] eastward. and he will sprinkle at the front of the kapporet [mercy seat] seven times from the blood with his finger.  15 and he will kill the goat of the sin offering which is of the people, and will bring in its blood to the inside of the veil, and will do with its blood as he has done with the blood of the bull, and will sprinkle it on the kapporet [mercy seat], and at the front of the kapporet [mercy seat].  16 and he will atone for the qodesh [set apart – sanctuary]  because of the pollutions of the sons of yisrael, and because of their transgressions for all their sins. and so he will do for the tent of meeting dwelling in the midst of their pollutions.  17 and not any man will be in the tent of meeting as he goes in to atone in the qodesh, until he comes out. and he will atone for himself, and for his house, and for all the assembly of yisrael.  18 and he will go out to the altar before YHWH, and will atone for it. and he will take some of the blood of the bull, and some of the blood of the goat, and will put it on the horns of the altar all around.  19 and he will sprinkle on it from the blood with his finger seven times, and will cleanse it, and will purify it from the uncleannesses of the sons of yisrael.  20 and when he has finished atoning for the qodesh [set apart – sanctuary] , and the tent of meeting, and the altar, and has brought near the living goat;  21 then aharon will lay his two hands on the head of the living goat, and will confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of yisrael, and all their transgressions, and all their sins, and will put them on the head of the goat, and will send it by the hand of a chosen man into the wilderness.  22 and the goat will bear on him all their iniquities to a land cut off. and he will send the goat away into the wilderness.  23 and aharon will come into the tent of meeting, and will strip off the linen garments  which he had put on as he went into the qodesh, and will leave them there.  24 and he will bathe his flesh with water in the qodesh and will put on his garments, and will come out, and will offer his burnt offering, and the burnt offering of the people, and will atone for himself and for his people.  25 and he will burn as incense the fat of the sin offering on the altar.  26 and he who let the goat go for removal [ azazel ]  will wash his garments and will bathe his flesh with water; and later he will come into the camp.  27 and the bull of the sin offering, and the goat of the sin offering, whose blood has been brought in to atone in the qodesh, one will carry them out to the outside of the camp; and they will burn their skins with fire and their flesh, and their dung.  28 and he burning them will wash his garments, and will bathe his flesh with water, and afterwards he will come into the camp.  29 and it will be for a eternal rule, in the seventh month, in the tenth of the month, you will humble yourself and do no work, the native, and the ger who is staying in your midst.  30 for on this day he will atone for you, to cleanse you from all your sins you will be clean before YHWH.  31 it is a shabbath of rest to you, and you will humble yourself. it is a eternal rule.  32 and the kohen [priest]  whom he will anoint, and whose hand he will consecrate to act as kohen instead of his father, will make atonement, and will put on the linen garments, the holy garments.  33 and he will atone for the qodesh sanctuary, and for the tent of meeting, and for the altar he will atone; yes, for the kohaniym, and for all the people of the assembly he will atone.  34 and this will be to you a eternal rule to atone for the sons of yisrael, because of all their sins, once a year. and he did as YHWH had commanded mosheh.


Azazel will be covered below.


So what is exactly being atoned, covered, wiped off?  Wayriqqa / Leviticus 23:28 states that it is for “you”, but the passage in Shemoth / Exodus 30:10 is that the atonement is on the altar which is set apart of the set apart – qodesh qadashiym. The verses above (16-20, 33) state that the atoning is for the Qodesh sanctuary, the tent of meeting, the altar, the kapporet [mercy seat], the kohaniym [priests] and all the people of the assembly. By the way, the kapporet, what some translators refer to as the mecy seat, means covering, wiping with the same root as kapar, with a female suffix. Why does a sanctuary, altar and tent of meeting, which later became the temple need to be atoned for? They are inanimate objects that have no souls and do no sin. Unless this is not about sin atonement at all, but about the pollutions.


Chapter 16 gives a number of specific directions for this annual ritual.

  1. The timing is the 10th day of the 7th month.
  2. The High Priest is to slaughter a bull and a ram.
  3. He is to bathe and put on set apart linen garments.
  4. The High Priest is to cast lots over two goats.
  5. The High Priest burns incense in the tent of meeting.
  6. One goat is slaughtered, the blood used to cover everything being atoned.
  7. After covering the blood, the other goat has hands laid on him, transferring guilt and sent into the wilderness.
  8. High priest returns to Qodesh, removes linen garments, bathes and dresses in his clothing, leaving the linen garments in the Qodesh and is now clean.
  9. The man who escorted the scapegoat out, returns, washes his garments, bathes and can return to camp clean.



Now lets look at the Mesopotamian calendar, Assyrian / Babylonian  main characters, Akitu festival with its kuppuru ritual and see the comparisons between them and Yom HaKiffuriym / Kippurim.



Mesopotamian Calendar


The Mesopotamian lunar calendar was a work in progress, involving numerous elements (which is a whole study in itself). When the Akkadians conquered the Sumerians, to keep some of the peace, they adopted elements of the Sumerians for their calendar. Then the Assyrians conquered and subjugated the territory, again assimilating certain elements. The invading Amorites also had a hand in the calendar. By the time the Babylonians were on the scene, the calendar was pretty much standardized.


The calendar is divided into two seasons or half years – summer and winter. One “new year” occurs in spring at the equinox, generally occurring around mid to late March on our Gregorian calendars. Another “new year” occurs at the autumn equinox, around mid to late September. This autumn new year is the more important of the two, with the longer festival.  Each new year, an Akitu festival was celebrated in honor of Marduk, the supreme god. There were two main temples named Esagila (House of the Raised Head - day temple and Marduks house) and Ezida (House of Knowledge - night temple and Nabu’s house). In the summer when the nights become shorter (beginning of summer solstice), the daughters of Esagila go to Ezida to lengthen the nights. In the winter when the days are short (beginning of winter solstice), the daughters of Ezida go to Esagil to make the days longer. Esagila was in Babylon proper, while Ezida was in the city of Borsippa, southwest of Babylon on the Euphrates River. While Ezida was a separate temple for Nabu, there was also a chapel by the same name in the Esagila temple of Marduk which Nabu inhabited when he was in Babylon.


Assyrian / Babylonian Deities Involved


Marduk [ also called Bel Marduk or Bel] became the King of Gods, supreme, in the late Babylonian pantheon. He is represented as the god of storm and lighting, as well as the sun, therefore the fertility god and patron god of Babel. His name in Akkadian is Amar Utu, which means calf of the storm. Many scholars believe that Amar Utu / Marduk originated elsewhere and was adopted by the Mesopotamian groups. This is also believed by Albert Clay, who states that Amar Utu is the Amorite god Amurru / Uru. When the Amorites ruled in that territory, many of their deities were adopted and assimilated. The characteristics of Marduk were assimilated from the Assyrian Ashshur and the preceding Akkadian and Sumerian Enlil.

There is a stone relief that deals with a legend of Marduk slaying the dragon, which has 7 heads, just as the Ugaritic account of Baal and Mot, who was also portrayed as a dragon with 7 heads. This slaying of the dragon is the patriarchal portrayal of the Sumerian primordial mother goddess Tiamat, who gave birth to all the gods and goddesses and was later vilified as a dragon. Tiamat was the creator and possessor of the Mes – Tablets of Destiny (Civilizations), which she wore around her neck. After killing the Mother goddess, Marduk steals the Mes from Tiamat’s body and uses them to build his empire. 

After killing the mother, Marduk then orders “creation”, an account that is very similar to and many scholars believe is the basis to the Genesis account. He also deals with organizing calendars. Marduk has a son, a deity and priest named Nabu / Nebo.

Originally Nabu was introduced by the Amorites when they made inroads into what became the Babylonian territory. In the Akkadian he is called Nabium. Nabu is the god of wisdom, intelligence and justice and therefore presides over writers and scribes, who viewed Nabu as their patron deity. Prior to the patriarchal subjugation and re-mything, these characteristics were attributed to the Sumerian goddess Nidaba, also called Nanibgal and Nisaba. She is credited with inventing the alphabet, clay tablets, the art of writing and learning. She appears on the scene earlier than any of the male deities that replaced her.

Nabu was the messenger of Bel –Marduk, his father. In the Akkadian, nabu means to call, announce, proclaim, the same as it does in the Hebrew naba, Arabic nabaa. This is the same root for the Hebrew word for prophet – nabiy/nebiy. “As scribe, Nabu had access to secrets that others could not read, and so could control religious rites and was regarded as especially wise,...He wrote down the decisions of the gods and was the one who kept accounts, reckoning credit and debit, titled Nabu ‘of accounts’ as a manifestation of Marduk.” Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, pg. 608.  Nabu had a tablet of destinies, recording the names of those that god favored or was pleased with, which is similar to the concepts in Shemoth [Exodus] 32:32, “but now, if you will, forgive their sin and if not, please blot me out from your book which you have written.”; Thehillah [Psalm] 69:28, “blot them out from the book of life; and let them not be written with the tsaddiyqiym [upright ones].”; and 139:15,16, “my bones were not hidden from you when i was made in secret; when i was woven in the depths of the earth.  16 your eyes saw my embryo; and in your book all my members were written the days they were formed, and not one was yet among them.” This theme is carried into the New Testament book of Revelations, the Book of Life.


Akitu Festival


The original akitu festival began with the city of Ur, a Sumerian city that was overtaken by the Akkadians. The Akkadians were a warrior, patriarchal culture that subjugated the Sumerians, especially the women. History is written by the winners and they rewrote history in their image, usurping even the history to make it theirs. Akitu is a word to designate the temporary house that the god resides in before he officially, gloriously enters the city. The original festival was in honor of Nanna, the moon god, arriving at Ur by  a crescent shaped barge, just as the waxing moon gets larger before full moon. The original festival was the “festival of the boat of light” or the “festival of the boat of the moon”. As the empire expanded, the festival was adapted to each culture and held on different days, other cities that were not the city of Nanna the moon god, it was simply held in honor of their chief deity entering their city.


When the new year is declared, there is a reenactment that occurs, which takes a number of days to enact. The Akitu festival was later dedicated to Marduk (Amorite) to celebrate his victory over killing the mother Tiamat (the victory of the patriarchal cultures) and her supporters which were declared to be demons. It is during the Akitu festival that the kuppuru ritual is held. The king, who serves as a high priest in many ancient cultures, travels from Babylon to Borsippa, where he takes the statue of the god Nabu. They travel back to Babylon, defeating the enemies of Marduk along the way and arrive at Babylon. Nabu enters Esagila to help defeat the demons, assisting Marduk in his victory. The temples are purged of the pollution, which is the kuppuru ritual.


Part of the Akitu festival states that the priest arises before dawn, he washes and puts on a linen robe in front of the god Bel (a title of Marduk meaning lord) and the goddess Beltiya (lady). When the purification of the temple is completed, he will enter the temple (in this case the chapel within the temple) Ezida of the god Nabu, with a censor, torch and egubbu-vessel to purify the temple. He then sprinkles water from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. He burns incense on the censor. The priest calls a slaughterer to decapitate a ram. The blood of the ram is used to wipe clean the chapel. He recites incantations for exorcising the temple of the demons and pollution and purifies the chapel. The priest then removes the rams body and proceeds to the river, facing west, he throws the body into the river. He then remains out into open country. The slaughterer does the same with the rams head. They stay in the open country until Nabu leaves the city on the 12th day.



Comparisons of the Two Rituals

Let us see the comparison between the two rituals, the Hebrew in blue, the Assyrian / Babylonian in red:

1. The timing is the 7th month, 10th day, but penitence and reflection begin from the first of the month.
The timing is the 7th month, with the specific kuppuru ritual on the 5th day, the remainder of the festival continuing until the 11th day.

2. The High Priest is to slaughter a bull and a ram.
The ritual slaughterer slaughters a ram.

3. High Priest is to bathe and put on set apart linen garments.
High Priest bathes and puts on linen garments.

4. The High Priest is to cast lots over two goats.

5. The High Priest burns incense in the tent of meeting.
The priest burns aromatic incense and cypress in the temple and chapel.

6. One goat is slaughtered, the blood used to cover everything being atoned.
Ram is slaughtered and the blood smeared to cover everything to remove pollution.

7. After covering the blood, the other goat has hands laid on him, transferring guilt and sent into the wilderness / open country.
After the kuppuru ritual the priest takes the carcass of the ram to the river and remains in the open country until the 12th. The slaughter takes the head to the river and remains in the open country until Nabu leaves the city on the 12th.

8. High priest returns to Qodesh, removes linen garments, bathes and dresses in his clothing, leaving the linen garments in the Qodesh and is now clean.
Priest returns to temple on the 12th when Nabu leaves the city.

9. The man who escorted the scapegoat out, returns, washes his garments, bathes and can return to camp clean.
Slaughterer returns to the temple on the 12th when Nabu leaves the city.


Another similarity is that of the latter Marduk tradition that involves a king. When the transition from one country’s tradition becomes usurped by another conquering or battling country, you see alterations occur because of the history taking place. When Marduk (Amorite) conquers territories of Ashshur (Asshur), you see the northern Assyrian traditions holding Marduk in the akitu house for punishment for trying to usurp the throne of Asshur. Marduk takes credit for killing Tiamat the mother and becoming chief of the gods, wearing the garment of water from Tiamat. In southern traditions and elsewhere, Marduk is not being punished by Asshur, but is battling the supporters of Tiamat and is her destroyer, then triumphantly enters the city. So in some traditions of the akitu, the king, representing the god Marduk, is struck on the cheek, dragged before the god, and made to confess and repent. This action of repentance is part of the traditional Yom Kippur ritual, carrying that element of the usurper Marduks history.


The important aspect of this account of the akitu festival involving Marduk, is that it involves the Amorite chief god Marduk, who usurped the Assyrian god Ashshur / Asshur, assimilating his characteristics and deeds. The Amorites are part of the ancestry of the Hebrew Israelites, as explained in the Worthless Deities of the Hebrew Text study. Therefore you have an older Amorite version and the newer version by the descendants after they were in captivity in the older Amorite territory and you get the pre-second temple destruction form of Yom Kippur.



Additional Jewish Modifications


Some of you may be wondering why this is referred to as a festival, when the day of Yom HaKippurim is now a somber day of fasting, sack cloth and ashes, a mourning situation. Ah, it was not always so. Looking at the Mesopotamian festival, it began on the first day of the month and continued until the 12th. If you look at what surrounds Yom Kippur, you will see the festival in the Jewish traditions and the culmination on the 10th day. The first day of the seventh month begins with Rosh HaShanah, which translates as Head of the Year, in Hebrew. This is not a biblical holy day, never occurring in the text of the Tanak / Bible. It is mentioned in the Talmud, the written account of the Oral Traditions. According to the Tanak, the first day of the seventh month is called Yom Teruah – the day of trumpet blasts.


Wayiqqra [Leviticus] 23:24,  " 'speak to the sons of yisrael, saying, "in the seventh month, on the first of the month, a shabbathon will be to you, trumpet blasts to a memorial, a set apart gathering.  25 you will do no work of service and you will bring a fire offering to YHWH." ' " 


BeMidbar [Numbers] 29:1-6, " 'and in the seventh month, in the first of the month, a set apart assembly you will have, you will do no servile work; a day of trumpet blasts it is to you.  2 and you will prepare a burnt offering, for sweet fragrance to YHWH, one bull, a son the herd, one ram, seven lambs, sons of a year, perfect ones.  3 and their present, flour mixed with oil, three-tenth deals for the bull, two-tenth deals for the ram,  4 and one-tenth deal for the one lamb, for the seven lambs.  5 and one kid of the goats,  a sin offering, to make atonement for you.  6 apart from the burnt offering of the month, and its present, and the continual burnt offering, and its present, and their drink offerings, according to their judgment, for sweet fragrance, a fire offering to YHWH.' "


So where did Rosh HaShanah come from? The adoption of a Mesopotamian calendar, which celebrated the two New Years, with the autumn new year being the dominant and most important. The Talmud, Seder Moed, Mas. Rosh HaShanah 2a states that there are 4 new years – on the first of Tishri is the new year for years, for release and jubilee years, for plantation and tithes of vegetables. Further down, we see in Mas. Rosh HaShanah 16b: Three books are opened [in heaven] on New Year, one for the thoroughly wicked, one for the thoroughly righteous, and one for the intermediate. The thoroughly righteous are forthwith inscribed definitively in the book of life; the thoroughly wicked are forthwith inscribed definitively in the book of death; the doom of the intermediate is suspended from New Year till the Day of Atonement; if they deserve well, they are inscribed in the book of life; if they do not deserve well, they are inscribed in the book of death.


Remember that the concept of an accounting of a book of life is Assyrian and Babylonian. Nabu was the messenger (son) of Bel –Marduk, his father. “As scribe, Nabu had access to secrets that others could not read, and so could control religious rites and was regarded as especially wise,...He wrote down the decisions of the gods and was the one who kept accounts, reckoning credit and debit, titled Nabu ‘of accounts’ as a manifestation of Marduk.” Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, pg. 608.  Nabu had a tablet of destinies, recording the names of those that god favored or was pleased with. In the Akitu festival, Nabu, the son and priest/scribe of Marduk travels to the temple of Marduk and cleanses the temple of the pollutions, is placed (the statue by the king) next to his father Marduk. It is Nabu that records in the Tablet of Destinies / Book of Life. Clearly these “Days of Awe” (Yamim Noraim) from the1st to the 10th are part of a many day process and are not separate holy days.


As to the fasting on Yom Kippur, the Talmud states in Mas. Rosh HaShanah 18b that there are 4 fasts: ”What is the meaning of the verse, Thus had said the Lord of Hosts: The fast of the fourth month and the fast of the fifth and the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness? The prophet calls these days both days of fasting and days of joy, signifying that when there is peace they shall be for joy and gladness, but if there is not peace they shall be fast days’!” Further in the passage the question is asked about the days of peace or no peace. “‘When there is peace, these days shall be for joy and gladness, but when there is no peace, they shall be fasts’, and placing the days mentioned in the Megillath Ta'anith, on the same footing. R. Johanan and Resh Lakish hold that the Megillath Ta'anith has not been annulled, maintaining that it was those others [mentioned by the prophet] that the All-Merciful made dependent on the existence of the Temple, but these [mentioned in Megillath Ta'anith] remain unaffected. ” So the fasting is contingent on the existence of the temple and when the second temple was destroyed in 70 CE (AD), the rabbis initiated a permanent fast on Yom Kippur, which was part of a feast before.


So what began as a ritual by a priest to cleanse a temple of pollution, became a rabbinic teaching that the Jewish people were the temple, needing to be cleansed of pollution and what was once a festival day became a fast when the second temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. The fasting is not for “repentance”, but in mourning of a temple of man’s destruction, no matter how it is dressed. Clearly this shows the temple is the focus of this holy day, from the cleansing of pollution to the fasting when it was destroyed.



Azazel and the Midianite / Kenite Connection


From the 16th chapter of Wayyiqra [Leviticus] above, the word Azazel has been a thorn in the side of translators since the exile and the scribes began purging and editing text with an agenda. Azazel does not occur in any other Semitic language, not as a word, or name of a person or place. Wild speculations have been made to try and define just what exactly is going on in chapter 16 of Wayiqqra / Leviticus with Azazel. The Hebrew text of the Tanak spells Azazel as ayin, zayin, alef, zayin, lamed – AZEZL. To aid in this search, I think we need to look at other factors of this text to point us in the direction of some potential answers.


One of these factors is where the goat is being sent – verse 10 states that it is being sent to the wilderness (midbar). Midbar is defined as wilderness, the desert. In the ancient Ugaritic it has this same meaning. The root is DBR, dabar, meaning to drive, such as driving your livestock. This makes sense in light of desert regions being where you need to pass through and drive your stock to get to pasture. So I think we need to look at a desert culture for the context.


Another factor is in Wayiqqra [Leviticus] 16, verse 8 where it states, “and aharon will give lots over the two he goats, one lot for YHWH, and one lot for azazel.” The way this is written, it is as if there are two receivers – one for YHWH and one for AZEZL and the lots do the choosing so that favoritism can not be claimed. One of the key components to this theory is the juxtaposition of the two names and the possession article “for” (the prefix lamed). The next verse states that the lot chosen for YHWH will become a sin offering. Then verse 10 states, “and the goat on which the lot fell for azazel will be made to stand living before YHWH to atone by it, to send it away for azazel into the wilderness.


The next verses that deal with Azazel are 20-22, “and when he has finished atoning for the qodesh [set apart – sanctuary] , and the tent of meeting, and the altar, and has brought near the living goat;  21 then aharon will lay his two hands on the head of the living goat, and will confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of yisrael, and all their transgressions, and all their sins, and will put them on the head of the goat, and will send it by the hand of a chosen man into the wilderness.  22 and the goat will bear on him all their iniquities to a land cut off. and he will send the goat away into the wilderness.


Verse 25 concludes with the purification of the man that led the goat into the wilderness, “ and he who let the goat go for azazel will wash his garments and will bathe his flesh with water; and later he will come into the camp.


If you remove the translators attempts at defining Azazel as a word for removal or such, and simply deal with it as the grammar structure has it, as a name, it makes perfect sense.


Now let us look into the possibility of a name and what name might be represented here, better explaining this ritual. First,  the setting for this passage is in the desert, when the Hebrews left Egypt and are being nomadic (actually they were always nomadic well prior to this). Moses escapes Egypt and flees to Midian (Midyan). He meets Reuel / Yethro, a nomadic priest of Midian, with 7 daughters. Moses marries Tsipporah, one of the daughters of the priest and has two sons. While living in Midian, he meets YHWH on Choreb, the mountain of the Elohiym (plural) and has his burning bush experience. Moses returns to Egypt, brings about the exodus and they leave. Mind you, this is not just a group of Hebrews, but a “mixed multitude” went with them (Shemoth / Exodus 12:38). This word is arab. There were a number of Arabs that were leaving Egypt with them, that is, if this exact exodus occurred, exactly as written, which is not likely, but that is another study. The point is, there are elements to this account that ring true, regardless of the time period, numbers and political / religious agenda of the scribes.


The Arabs (ayin, resh, beth), were dwellers of the Arabah territory, a desert, arid, wilderness, steppe region. Some scholars believe that the name is actually ABR (ayin, beth, resh) which means to travel, nomadic, which makes more sense. The Arabs are the descendents of Yishmael, the firstborn son of Abraham to Hagar, the concubine that was sent out into the desert with a child; descendents of the third wife Keturah; and the descendents of Esau/Edom, the grandson of Abraham.  There was also intermarrying between these tribes, such as Esau taking a daughter of Yismael for a wife. The particular tribes of Midian and the following Kenites that we will be dealing with shortly are from Keturah.


So they leave Egypt and go into the desert. They camp near mountain Choreb. Yethro visits Moses, along with Tsipporah, the wife he sent away (if that actually took place, later texts indicate otherwise). While visiting, Yethro instructs Moses in governing before Elohim (plural), which Moses listens too and institutes. They then camp at Sinai (chapter 19) where the mishkan, the nomadic tabernacle, is built and equipped, then the law is given. This is Arab territory, an Arab priest as father-in-law, the Arab worship of certain mountains and deities and certain aspects of the ancient nomadic Arab (which also stemmed from the Amorite) system are instituted. These mountains of the Elohiym (plural) are not a singular, monotheistic god but the ancient system of gods dwelling on mountain high places. Shemoth / Exodus ends and we pick up the account in the book of BeMidbar (in the wilderness) / Numbers, with a census and accounting of materials and provisions – a scribes dream. The end of chapter 10 states they are about to set out.


BeMidbar [Numbers] 10:29-33, “and mosheh said to chobab ben reuel the midyaniy, father-in-law of mosheh, we are journeying to the place of which YHWH has said, i give it to you; go with us, and we will do good to you; for YHWH has spoken good concerning yisrael.  30  and he said to him, i will not go; but to my land and to my kindred will i go. 31 and he said, i pray you, forsake us not, because you will know our camping in the wilderness, and you will be to us for eyes.  32 and it will come to pass when you go with us,  it will come to pass, that good which YHWH does kindly with us, it we will do kindly to you.  33 and they journeyed from the mountain of YHWH, a journey of three days; and the ark of the beriyth [covenant] of YHWH was journeying before them the journey of three days, to spy out for them a resting place. ” Here Moses is relying on his Midianite / Kenite family for guides, to be his eyes, not YHWH. Conveniently, just as they are about to enter into Yisrael, supposedly YHWH directs Moses to take vengeance on the Midianites, killing the men, capturing the women and children, burning all their camps, and confiscating all their herbs, flocks and goods as plunder. They were at war ever since. So much for “doing good” to them for guiding them through the desert.


When YHWH spoke to Moses on a sacred mountain of the nomadic Arabs, the Tanak states in Shemoth [Exodus] 3:15, “and elohiym said further to mosheh, now you say to the sons of yisrael, YHWH, elohey of your fathers, elohey of abraham, elohey of yitschaq, and elohey of yaaqob, has sent me to you. this is my name forever, and this is my memorial for generation to generation.” Later in 6: 2,3,  elohiym spoke  to mosheh and said to him, i am dedi [YHWH, Yahweh];  3 and i appeared to abraham, to yitschaq, and to yaaqob, as el shadday, but my name, YHWH, i was not well known to them.


This connection with YHWH and the Arab tribes may be key. When you look at the oldest archaeology for the name YHWH, the oldest cases are in the south and desert regions. In two inscriptions from the Kuntillet `Ajrud site, dating from the mid-8th century BCE, we see YHWH being listed as YHWH Teman (of Teman) and YHWH Shomron (of Samaria). This is a common phrasing of deities and people, to designate their city, or in the case of deities, a city they are a patron deity of. In both of these cases YHWH is paired with a goddess named AShRTh, very similar to the Ashthar in the Mesha Stele, which many associate with a goddess known by a number of different spellings, depending on location as Athirat / Athirath / Ashratu / Asherah with ties to Athene, Anath and Ishtar. Teman is about half way between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba, what was originally Kenite territory and later became Edomite / Nabatean.


For further information on the archaeology, please see: Kuntillet Ajrud Inscriptions


Even older associations of the name Yahu (IAW, YHW) occur from the Egyptian inscriptions concerning the desert nomad tribes. From the Temple of Amun in Soleb, Sudan, an account of Amenhotep III (1400 BCE) claims that he plundered the Shasu land and captured the mountain of Seir. Later on, a monument to Ramses II (1304-1237 BCE), the same text is thought to be copied from the Amenhotep III inscription. Ramses III (1198-1166 BCE) says that he destroyed the Seirites among the tribes of the Shasu.


A 19th Dynasty (1298-1187 BCE) Model letter mentions the Shasu tribes of Edom (location of Mountain Seir). Seir was actually a mountainous region running southwest of Teman toward Aqaba in the modern Jordan territory. The tribes and their lands are listed as the Shasu of S’rr (Seir), Shasu of Lbn, Shasu of Sm’t, Shasu of Wrbr, the Shasu of Yhw (Yahu) and the Shasu of Pyspys. The Shasu of Yhw does not have a t3 land designation. Scholars believe that this refers to the deity Yahu.


Seir is spelled Shiyn, ayin, yod, resh SEYR and means a he-goat, buck, literally the hairy one. It was also used as a demon having a he-goat form, the satyr. This is the same word that is in the passage about the two male goats being chosen by lot, one seyr for YHWH and one for Azazel. This is important because of a verse in the song of Deborah, a very old fragment of text edited into the Tanak. Shoftiym [Judges] 5:1-5, “and deborah and barak ben abinoam, sang on that day, saying:  2 for the loosing of locks of hair in yisrael; for the willing offering of the people, bless YHWH.  3 listen, o kings; give ear, o princes. i, even i, will sing to YHWH; i will sing praise to YHWH elohey of yisrael.  4 o YHWH, when you went forth out of seir, when you marched out of the fields of edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped. yea, the clouds dropped water.  5 the mountains quaked before the face of YHWH, this sinai quaked from before YHWH elohey of yisrael.  ” YHWH is being described as going forth out of Seir, the territory of the Shasu of Yhw, the same territory of YHWH of Teman, the nearby territory as the mountain of the Elohiym with the  burning bush / I am YHWH incident on the mountain among the Midianites/Kenites. Another passage stating this is from HaDebariym [Deuteronomy] 33:2, with the blessing of Mosheh [Moses], “and he said: YHWH came from sinai, and rose up from sheir / seir for them; he shone forth from mountain paran, and he came from the myriads [many] of qedesh [qadesh / qudshu]. at his right hand fire flew to them.


Qedesh / Qadesh, Qudshu is a title of the Semitic Mother figure. She was in the Sumerian and Canaanite pantheons, then adopted into the Egyptian. She is always depicted as a full frontal nude, standing on the back of a lion, holding plants and or serpents. Caprids / goats are frequently at her sides.



This ties into the 17th chapter of Wayiqqra, just after this passage about the goat for Azazel in chapter 16. The beginning of chapter 17 opens with YHWH instructing Moses to instruct Aharon and the other priests that no man is to slaughter any animal outside the camp anymore, but it is to be brought in to the door of the tabernacle from now on. This is dealing with sacrifices, not slaughter for eating. Verse 7 states, “And no longer will they sacrifice their sacrifices to Sheyriym (the plural of sheir/seir – the shaggy he goats) which they have gone whoring after them. This is a never ending statute for them throughout their generations.” This clearly shows that the people were sacrificing to a deity associated with goats or goat forms like satyrs, at least from the perspective of the later editor that was trying to centralize worship. 17:7 seems to connect to the passage just before it, and is only separated by a modern division of chapters and numbers.


The possibility is that the two deities are one and the same, just known by two names. While Azazel is not a term used of YHWH, Azzel could be. The Jewish scribes are notorious for taking a name, that they do not agree with theologically and changing it to express their disdain or disgust. Please see the Worthless Deities study for numerous examples of this. The name as the Tanak has it now is spelled ayin, zayin, alef, zayin, lamed. This word has no typical three letter base root. Many scholars have tried to explain it, even Talmudic writers have tried to reason a root for it. So lets take a look at a root base that is used in a similar name from the Tanak.


AZZ / UZZ (ayin, zayin, zayin) is an ancient three letter Semitic root, used in the Phoenician, meaning strength, to be strong. It is used in Ugaritic, Akkadian, Aramaic, Syrian and Arabic, as well as Hebrew. The AZZ / UZZ can be written with one Z or two, sometimes the scribes wrote one, but placed a diacritical mark on the Z to indicate doubling. The meaning remains the same regardless. This is the same root for the Uzzi machine gun of the Israelis (weaponry strength).  The ayin letter can take on multiple vowel pronunciations, making it an a, e, i, o or u, depending on the later scribes marks or dialects.


Frequent theophoric names in the Tanak, pertaining to YHWH, have either a Yahu prefix or suffix on a name or they have El. In I Dibrey Hayamiym [Chronicles] 5:8, we see an example of the name AZZ / UZZ (Azaz) without any theophoric element. In I Dibrey HaYamiym 15:21 we see an example of AzzYahu (Azazyahu, Azaziah) with the Yahu suffix, meaning strength of YHWH. Another example with the single zayin with the mark is a king of Yahudah, UzzYahu (Uzziah). Yet there is no example of an Azzel, the strength of El. Unless the scribes intentionally replaced it or simply altered it. Another similar name is Uzziel, inserting a yod (the i) at the end of the ayin, zayin, zayin, before the El. The yod at the end of UZZ would make it plural – strengths.


So lets consider that the Jewish scribes switched the second zayin and the aleph, making the name Azazel instead of AzzEl / UzzEl. What reason would they have to hide a such a name? Every reason in the world to a patriarchal priesthood religion. The negation of the woman from the Tanak, as well as YHWH as something other than an exclusively male god made in their image.



Al Uzza / Al Lat


In the ancient pre-Islamic culture of the Midianite / Kenite, Edomite / Seirite (even stretching up into Syria), there was not one male, monothesitic deity Allah (Arabic - same as the Tanak El) as Islam has created. There was a triune female creatress mother culture, very similar to the surrounding cultures and a polytheistic culture. As a whole, she is called Al Lat / Allat (the lady, Elath in Hebrew, Elat in Ugaritic, Allahta in Syria), which simply means the goddess. The young maiden was Q’re (similar to Kore of the Greeks prior to her being raped and carted off to the underworld, then named Persephone). Q’re was represented by the waxing (increasing) crescent moon. The strong mother, similar to Anath in the Canaanite culture just north of them, was Al Uzzah / Al Uzza (the mighty one) represented by the full moon – the Mother of the Gods. She is also represented as the morning and evening star (Islamic flags have the crescent moon and star). The sage woman past child bearing was Manat / Manawat / Manutu (fate, destiny) was represented by a waning (decreasing) moon. Rather than 3 actual deities they simply represented the three stages of the mother cultures, but later came to be referred to as 3 goddesses.



The Temple of the Winged Lions at Petra (Edomite / Nabatean centers in Seir territory) was the temple of Al Uzza / Allat, as well as the cultic center of Mecca, prior to Islam. A meteorite fell from the sky and was associated with Al Uzza, the star from the heavens. The stone, originally white, began to oxidize and became the black stone of today. It is mounted in silver and looks like a vulva, furthering the association with the mother. A cube shaped building surrounds it called the Kaaba. The priestesses would circle the baetyl (Semitic sacred stone) 7 times. This practices continues today with the pilgrims to Mecca. The Quraysh (Koreish) were the powerful merchant tribe that controlled Mecca and held Al Uzza as sacred and were the guardians of the Black Stone of Mecca.  They take their name from Q’re. When Muhammed came on the scene saying that he was a prophet of the one male god Allah, his tribe kicked him out and they fought many wars, but were eventually defeated by Muhammed, who took control over the money generating site of Mecca which he then dedicated to Allah.



At Petra, Al Uzza / Al Lat is depicted with a lion and grain, very common depiction for the mother cultures. Palmyra (Tadmor), an ancient Aramean / Arabic city in Syria, was part of the Arabic trade routes and was known as the Bride of the Desert. In Palmyra, there was a temple to Allat, which had a statue of a lion with an oryx, very similar to all the symbolism of the creator mothers with the lions and goats/caprids/oryx. On it is an inscription which states, “Allat to bless the one who does not spill blood against the temple.” This may have some bearing on the goat for AzzEl not being killed, but released to the wilderness.



Another aspect of the pre-Islamic mother goddess is that of the bird association, also very common with these mother figures. The Quran states (53:19,20), “Have you thought on Al-Lat and Al-Uzza
and Manat, the third, the other?” According to the Satanic Verses, which were excised by Islamic editors to remove evidence of the pre-Islamic beliefs of the Arabs, the verse continued with, “These are the exalted cranes (intermediaries) whose intercession is to be hoped for.” This is the same symbolism of Ishtar, Lillith, Athene, Anat, etc. And interceding, blessing, praying cranes are very similar to the kerubiym motif covered later (keep this in mind).


According to The Book of Idols by Hisham Ibn-Al-Kalbi, the prophet Muhammed, in his eradication of the pre-Islamic worship, especially of the mothers, sent a man to chop down the three sacred acacia trees that were at a place of worship for Al Uzza and report back that she was destroyed. After cutting down the first and second tree, reporting that there was nothing there, he was sent back to chop down the third, when he saw an Abyssinian woman with loose hair in the place. The man cut her down, her tree and the guardian of her worship and reported back. Many of the mother figures were depicted as trees, especially that of Asherah, listed in the Tanak.


Isaac of Antioch (Syrian scholar of 5th century) stated that pagan Arabs worshipped the Venus star under the name Al Uzza and they went on to their roof tops to pray to the star to make them beautiful.


The centers of worship for these women, or woman by 3 attributes, had primacy across the Arabic territories. In fact, in Nabatean inscriptions, Allah does not occur, but these three female names do. Islam could not wipe these women out no matter how hard they tried, so they were incorporated into Islam, referring to them as the daughters of Allah (what, a patriarchal god with no sons?), much like the Hellenistic culture having the late Zeus birthing the previous mother Athene, as his daughter. It was simply a patriarchal method of rewriting history. Later the passages of the Quran that held these verses were edited out and considered the Satanic Verses, the verses that Mohammed spoke while under the influence of Satan, when they could not deny that Muhammed had spoken them to begin with and were already written.


Since the same star, plant, lion, bird and caprid / goat motif is consistent with these mothers, it would stand to reason that the same fertility, life giving, protection of animals (Mistress of Animals) aspect is also applicable and could be a factor in the releasing the goat to the wilderness, rather than slaughtering it to smear around a man made temple. Though there are accounts in the Quran and Book of Idols which mention the sacrifice of animals to Al Uzza, even Muhammed sacrificing to Al Uzza. It may be the same case of the Hebrews sacrificing to YHWH, when verses in the Tanak state that YHWH never taught, asked or thought of being sacrificed to, yet they did it anyway.



Azzel in Jewish and Arabic Culture

The Talmud, Yoma 67b, states the school of Rabbi Yismael taught the rite of Azazel on Yom HaKippurim (The Day of Atonements), in Wayyiqra (Leviticus) 16, is named because it obtains atonement for the affair of Uzza and Azzael. Who were Uzza and Azzael in Jewish writings?


In the 3rd book of Enoch, written around 132 CE (AD), 4:6 lists three ministering angels by the names of `Uzzah, Azzah and `Azza’el. Again they are mentioned in 5:8,9, “They brought down the sun, the moon the stars and the constellations and stationed them before the idols, to their right and to their left, to serve them in the way they served the Holy One, blessed be He, as it is written, ‘All the array of heaven stood in his presence, to his right and to his left.’ How was it that they had the strength to bring them down? It was only because `Uzza, `Azza and `Azza’el  taught them sorceries that they brought them down and employed them, for otherwise they would not have been able to bring them down.” Here you see that the previous ministering angels have now been associated with the fallen angles, fallen stars, that taught men to sin. In later passages, there are not three names, but primarily two, `Azza or `Uzza and `Azza’el. BTW, this is the same spelling that I have listed in above paragraphs for the name of the names of the deity to which the goat is released into the wilderness and the pre-Islamic mother goddess Uzza.


I Enoch 8:1, 2, “Moreover Azazel taught men to make swords, knives, shields, breastplates, the fabrication of mirrors, and the workmanship of bracelets and ornaments, the use of paint, the beautifying of the eyebrows, the use of stones of every valuable and select kind, and all sorts of dyes, so that the world became altered. Impiety increased; fornication multiplied; and they transgressed and corrupted all their ways.” Oddly enough this is a similar list to that which other creator mothers are attributed with, even the metal works such as with Athene. The mirrors, ornaments, cosmetics, dyes, etc., are all aspects of the womens culture and had a woman as matron over these skills. Clearly  patriarchal Judaism assimilated these facets into a male orientation.


The leader of the fallen angels, in Talmudic and Merkabah writings was called Shemyazza / Semyaza,  which is a contraction for Shem (name) and Azza / Uzza (strength). These writing also use the names of Azzel and Uzza interchangeably for the same character. In these writings Azazel was bound and cast into the desert by Raphel. In the Apocalypse of Abraham, Azazel is portrayed as an unclean bird of prey. According to Arabic tradition the thorny acacia tree is sacred to him. He is also viewed as the leader of the Seiriym, the satyrs of the desert, he being viewed as one himself, which later gave rise to Satan being viewed as a satyr.


In the Arabic tradition Azazel is written as Azazil. This is the name of the angel before he sinned for not bowing down to Adam when he was created by Allah and came to be known as Iblis, the name of the devil in the Quran. Some traditions then count Iblis as a Jinn and the head of the Jinni (plural jinni / genies – meaning to hide, conceal). In pre-Islamic traditions, the jinni were good and rewarding gods. They are associated with the desert and waste lands. The Jinniy are depicted as satyr, goat like creatures of the desert.


This satyr / goat aspect is important because of the pre-Islamic aspects of the jinni, in connection with passages of the Tanak / Bible. As mentioned earlier in the study, the passage in Wayyiqra 17:7, “And no longer will they sacrifice their sacrifices to Sheyriym (the plural of sheir/seir – the shaggy he goats) which they have gone whoring after them. This is a never ending statute for them throughout their generations.”


Another biblical passage that shows the worship of sheiriym is II Dibrey HaYamiym [Chronicles] 11:15, “and he (jeroboam) made priests for himself for the high places, and for sheiriym / seiriym (goats), and for the calves that he made.” While II Chronicles is a later writing, this verse shows that those of Yisrael had a worship connected with goats in some fashion and that priests were appointed in this worship. This is corroborated by the archaeological account of goat statues found.


These following verses are seriously mucked up in the Hebrew. The editors were trying to hide desert gods in the text, shortening and changing words, including vowel points, to conceal what the passage is about. The location of the so called prophecy is Edom, the territory of Seir. YeshaYahu [Isaiah] 34:13,14 (also referred to as deutero- Isaiah, a section written after the exile) , “and thorns will grow in her palaces, nettles and thistles in its fortresses; and it will be a home for jackals, a court for the daughters of iaanah. the  tsiyiym will also meet with the iyiym; and the sheiriym / seiriym[satyr, shaggy goat] will cry to his fellow. liylith will also settle there, and find a place of rest for herself.


Iaanah is more than likely Inanna. Many translations have owl or ostrich, which is not necessarily contrary to Inanna, often depicted with the wings and legs of a bird. The Greek Septuagint has sirens, which is consistent with the representation of Inanna extending into the west with the Aegean,  Anatolian and Canaanite / Israelite territories, and the north with the Ukrainian and Southern Russian territories where the sirens are called the berehyni and rusalki. Inanna is a mother goddess, and is the granddaughter (later generational representation) of the Sumerian creatress goddess Nammu, who created the gods and mankind. Nammu was known as ‘She who gives birth to heaven and earth,’ as well as ‘the mother of all deities. One of the other Sumerian names for Inanna is Iahu, which means, “Exalted Dove”. The reason I believe this is the name Inanna is partly to do with the court for her daughters and partly due to the reference of Lillith in the next verse. Which will be explained shortly.


The English translators have a variety for words for the tsiyiym and iyiym including ships and islands. Tsiyiym is the plural of tsiy (late Masoretic vowel points make this an i), which is defined as wild desert animals. Some scholars believe the root is a shortened back formation tsay, which is related to the Arabic dayuwan – wild cats. The Greek Septuagint has daimonia - demons. The Latin Vulgate has daemonia – demons. The Aramaic Targum also has wild cats. Wild cats makes perfect sense, since the associations of large cats (lions, etc.) with Inanna and Lillith are constant.


Iyiym is the Hebrew plural of iy (late Masoretic vowel points make this an i), also shortened from away, related to Arabic wawi for jackal.  The sheiriym / seirim have already been covered as the shaggy / hairy he goats or satyrs. These are also mentioned in YeshaYahu [Isaiah] 13:19-22 (listed below), in an older passage of similar nature, but written about Babel, not Edom. The sheiriym are mentioned as dancing here. Babel is the last of 3 kingdoms that conquered Sumeria and adopted portions of their culture, one of which was Inanna / Lillith.


Now to Lillith. In verse 14, after the mention of the sheiriym, it says that liylith (lamed, yod, lamed, thau) dwells in this desert and finds a resting place. Lilitu is the Sumerian Inanna, also called the hand of Inanna. The Hebrew name Lilith is a loan word from the Akkadian Lilitu. In the Semitic languages, laylah, means night. Lilith is the Hebrew variation of Lilitu. Lilitu is depicted as a woman with features of an owl, but this is an older and more western theme that migrated to Sumeria and then Babylonia. “Of greater importance, however, is the sexual aspect of the – mainly- female demons lilitu and (w)ardat lili. Thus the texts refer to them as the ones who have no husband, or as the ones who stroll about searching for men in order to ensnare them or to enter the house of the man through the window.” Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, pg. 520. Clearly, as with so many cultures, any woman that did not submit to the invading patriarchal system, who refused to take a husband, became a threat, and was demonized, like the Greek Amazons and Anath of the Canaanites. For further information, please see the Babylonian / Assyrian section of the Worthless Deities in the Hebrew Text study.



YeshaYahu [Isaiah] 13:19-22 ,“and babel, the honor of the kingdoms, the beauty of the pride of the kashdiym [chaldeans], will be as when elohiym overthrew sedom and amorah.  20 it will not be lived in forever, nor will it be lived in from generation to generation. and the arabiy [arabians] will not pitch a tent there, nor will the shepherds make flocks lie down there.  21 but the tsiyiym will lie there; and their houses will be full of achiym (this is supposed to be away / iyiym as in the passage above); and daughters of ianah will dwell there; and sheiriym will skip there. 22 and iyiym will cry along with his widows; and thanniym in palaces of delight. yes, her time to come is near, and her days will not be prolonged.”


Thaniym is the only different reference in this passage. A thanniym is a secondary plural form of thannin. Thannin is a sea monster or sea serpent, sometimes referred to a sea dragon. In the Sumerian she is called Tiamat, the creatress mother that the patriarchal warriors called a dragon and slew for the throne. This may correlate to the serpent mentioned in verse 14 of YeshaYahu 34, just after Lillith. Ironically, these women / mother figures are also portrayed with serpents.



The next passage from the Tanak that has the association of the goats in a religious form is Shiyr HaShiyriym [Song of Solomon] 2:7, “i take an oath (swear),  daughters of yerushalem, by the tsabayoth [female gazelles (pl)], and by the ayloth [does (pl)] of the field that you do not stir up and do not awaken the love until it pleases.” The woman speaking in this passage is a Sabean wife of Solomon. Sabeans are an Arabian tribe. Why would a woman take an oath by gazelles and does, both female goat family animals?  Lets look at tsabayoth in the Hebrew without the late Masoretic vowel points. The Hebrew letters that make up this word are tsaddiy, beth, alef, waw and thau. Some translators transliterate this word as sabaoth, sebaoth, tsabaoth, tsebaoth, sabaowth, sebaowth...


Below you will see an image of the Hebrew. On the left side is the Hebrew for the female gazelles used in the Song of Solomon passage above, in which the Sabean wife is taking an oath by. Tsebaoth / tsabaoth is the plural form of the feminine word for a female gazelle tsebiyah, which is also used in modern Hebrew to refer to a beautiful woman, a desired woman. In Hebrew, when a word is feminine, to make it plural, you add the suffix “waw, thau (oth)” at the end. So we are clearly dealing with female gazelles in the plural here.



In fact the whole book of Song of Solomon deals with gazelle/sheep imagery, especially of the woman, whose lover she says is like a stag leaping across the mountains. Her hair is like a flock of goats descending Mount Gilead, her teeth like a flock of sheep just shorn, and her breasts are like twin fawn gazelles.


Now lets look at the title of YHWH and El – Tsebaoth / Sebaoth on the right. It has the exact letters as the plural female form of gazelles on the left. Biblical scholars say that the word comes from the Egyptian loan word tsaba, which I have written below it. I used to believe that until working on this study dealing with the pre-Islamic Arabian beliefs. The word tsaba is masculine and it denotes an already plural noun – army is plural, as is host. But if you were to make it plural and say armies, hosts, the plural would not be the feminine oth suffix, but the masculine iym / im. Yet, this title has a feminine ending. The majority of the time that the word army or host is used in the Tanak, it is tsaba, not tsebaoth.


So lets look at the biblical context of passages dealing with YHWH or El Tsebaoth.


The phrase YHWH Tsebaoth does not occur in the books of Mosheh / Pentateuch. The first usage of tsebaoth occurs in the book of Shemuel [Samuel], the first chapter. This is also the first usage of YHWH Tsebaoth in verse 3. In verse 11, we see Channah, who is barren, praying to YHWH Tsebaoth, asking for fertility, to bear a child. This occurs at the mishkan (tent, same as that built in the desert) in Shiloh, before a temple is built. The next occurrence is in chapter 4:4. Yisrael is about to battle the Felishthiym [Philistines] and they desire to take the ark of the covenant into battle. “and the people sent to shiloh, and they took from there the ark of the covenant of YHWH tsebaoth, who dwells (between) the kerubiym [cherubiym]. and the two sons of eli were there with the ark of the covenant of the elohiym, chofni and fiynechas.

The location of these cherubiym was on the cover of the ark of covenant. This cover was called the kapporet, which means covering, atoning, with a female suffix. This is the same root word kapar / kafar, as atonements for this holy day.


It is also stated that in YeshaYahu [Isaiah] 8:18, states, “look, i and the children whom YHWH has given to me are for signs and wonders in yisrael from YHWH tsebaoth, who dwells on mountain tsiyon.” Another reference to the fertility aspect, common with the mother cultures as well as the association of YHWH Tsebaoth residing on a mountain, common to the Arabian cultures.


There are many other aspects of the name Tsebaoth which easily tie in with the ancient pre-Islamic culture, that show an older Arabian aspect to the verses associated with the name YHWH Tsebaoth, including pilgrimage, the sabitu (Akkadian gazelles) inn keepers for pilgrims/travelers, an ancient city of the Seir territory named “gazelles”, etc. This requires a study of its own, so for the sake of time, I am limiting this line of research.


So many rabbit trails, but necessary to understand what the scribes tried to hide. The Kerubiym / Cherubim are the plural form of the Akkadian term kuribu, to bless, one who blesses. The kerubiym were depicted as hybrid creatures, basically an amalgamation of all the elements of the women motifs we have been discussing, involving the great cats, birds, and often goats. Below are some images from ancient archaeology that show what a kerub is. Clearly, this motif is a later representation of the oppressed mother culture by the patriarchal system. And this is the throne of the Tsebaoth. Remember the archaeological reference to the Temple of the Winged Lions belonging to Al Uzza / Al Lat in Petra.




1. Akkadian kuribu goat, bird lion motif

2. Winged kerub from Megiddo, ivory, 12th century BCE

3. Winged kerub from Samaria, ivory, 9th century BCE

4. Ashtart on winged kerub throne scarab, Sidon, Lebanon

5. Ashtart winged lion throne from temple in Lebanon





Without getting into another epic study / book, like the Worthless Deities study, it is clear from multiple contexts that the living goat for Azzael is in fact, the desert mother goddess of a pre-Islamic culture Al Uzza / Al Lat, much like the Aegean Athene / Artemis, Canaanite Anath, Phoenician Astarte, Mesopotamian Ishtar and Inanna of the neighboring territories. The Assyrian / Babylonian kuppuru ritual, belongs to a very patriarchal tradition of the priesthood and temples for blood cleansing of pollutions caused in the temple, not for atonements of personal sins requiring fasting and praying. The origins of Yom HaKippurim are not what most Christians and Jews believe them to be, but are in fact the very practices that they deem pagan or idolatrous by their own terms and standards.


We should not be slaughtering a ram, smearing its blood to wipe away pollutions in a temple of a war god who kills his mother and his priest/son. We should not be mourning the destruction of a man made temple/idol. What we need to be doing is not blindly observing holy days that we know nothing about the origins of, but researching and knowing what it is exactly that we choose to believe, unless of course you want to worship a matricidal war god with blood.  I choose to fellowship and feast with a creator of life, surrounded by all that the creator has made, in thanks for that life, not just once a year, but always.


Kathryn QannaYahu





Reference Sources


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The Anchor Bible, Leviticus 1-16, Jacob Milgrom, Double Day, 1991


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Archaeology and the Shasu Nomads: Recent Excavations in the Jabal Hamrat Fidan, Jordan, Thomas E. Levy, Russell B. Adams, and Adolfo Muniz


Book of Idols (Kitab Al-Asnam), Hisham Ibn Al-Kalbi


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Museum, Philadelphia, 1997


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What Did the Biblical Writers Know, and When Did They Know It? : What Archaeology Can Tell Us About the Reality of Ancient Israel, William Dever, Erdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2001


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Yahweh of Samaria and His Asherah, David Noel Freedman, The Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. 50, No. 4. (Dec., 1987), pp. 241-249



Kathryn QannaYahu