Clay tablets found in Mesopotamia tell us that Adam was an earth god. In Genesis Adam was demoted to human status probably to make a monotheistic text possible.

Did Jhwh have an image (idol) before and what was it?

And if Jhwh had an image, could Eve and the serpent (possible the Proto Canaanite mother serpent in Unas’s Pyramid texts) combined be excluded from being the imagery (or consort Astharte) of Jhwh?

(Reason for the second part of the question is that the name Eve is an analogy for both ‘sky’ and ‘snake’ in Ancient Semitic languages and Eve may have been a form of the sky goddess (Astharte?). Astharte Queen of heaven would become Mother Eve which is an analogy of Mother Serpent.)

I would also like to add that the image provided in LangLangC’s answer has a female sitting on a lion’s throne. If the figures on the left of the seated female are two lions, there might be a word pun on her name in שתי אריות as an analogy of Astharte/Ishtar. Possibly the Akeru are depicted here in a Semitic understanding of the two lions of the horizon in Egypt.

Against this background it is interesting to interpret Jhwh as J(hand in the meaning of ‘worshippers’ as the Ka hieroglyph shows two arms raised in worship. And ‘Hwh’ as ‘sky’ giving a reading of ‘worship the sky (god(dess))’. Jhwh would be an epithet that remained after losing the original name and syncretising Astharte and El, which might equal Adam and Eve (earth and sky). But I don’t want to answer my own queation, just would like to know if Eve can be scientifically excluded from being the name origin of Jhwh before the Genesis version of Jhwh appeared?

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    The first paragraph, beginning with "We know...," is interesting, but could we have a pointer to some evidence for this claim? For example, the WP article "Adam" doesn't seem to say anything like this. Are you saying this is widely accepted? It's not clear to me how one could make the connection, since "adam" is just the Hebrew word for "man."
    – user2848
    Feb 3, 2019 at 21:07
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    Thanks for adding the link. That's fascinating. Since most people on this site probably don't read Dutch, the following English-language links may be more helpful: (1) amazon.com/Adam-Eve-Devil-Beginning-Enlarged/dp/1909697893/… (2) bibleinterp.com/PDFs/Paper_Korpel_De_Moor.pdf (3) surrey.ac.uk/people/chris-jeynes (scroll down to link at end). The authors are Korpel and de Moor. Your "We know..." claim may be a little too strong. I would be interested to learn more about what experts think.
    – user2848
    Feb 4, 2019 at 0:39
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    Note that the 3rd link in the last comment is an informative summary of the book in the first link. I upvoted this question because it was educational for me, but it needs a lot of work. I'm wondering what the OP means by the earth god Adam in mesopotamia (or Ugarit?), and how it relates to the question.
    – John Dee
    Feb 4, 2019 at 3:32
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    @Ben, changed “We know...” to a softer expression.
    – Ajagar
    Feb 4, 2019 at 14:21
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    Related: What attributes did Yahweh have before becoming a monotheistic deity? // Please clarify your question further by editing the response to JohnDee into the question and differentiate the syncretistic angle. Whether this is about 'image' in the sense of material representation (idol/carving etc) or 'mental image' (attributes, characteristics etc) Feb 4, 2019 at 15:54

1 Answer 1


There was not the image of YHWH.

But there were several images, depictions, idols, some of them survive.

This is him in happier times, still not divorced, with his lovely wife:

enter image description here enter image description here
Image on pithos sherd found at Kuntillet Ajrud below the inscription "Yahweh and his Asherah"

The Adam and Eve perspective seems –– strange?

The name of his consort is/was quite certainly Ashera.

As for describing the above picture, with alternative explanations:

enter image description here The Phoenician and Canaanite motifs are familiar, and they are not really unexpected if we are dealing with "syncretistic" folk religion, as is certainly the case here. But who are the three figures — so rare in Hebrew art that these are almost the only intact examples that we have (the others are on this same storejar; below)?
When I first saw these painted storejars with Meshel some 25 years ago, I was stunned, both by the scene and by the Hebrew inscription above it. I soon wrote two articles (1982, in Hebrew; 1984) arguing that the two figures to the left represented the Egyptian dwarf-god Bes (see p. 134), who is often portrayed bow-legged, with a leonine head and a crown, wearing a spotted leopard skin. The left-hand figure is apparently male, whether the dangling thing between its legs is a phallus or the tail of a leopard skin. The right-hand figure, however, seems to be female, since it has breasts. Odd as that may appear, it does not pose a problem, since Bes is an androgynous deity and can appear as either male or female. In any case, Bes is an apotropaic deity, one who "turns away" bad luck, associated particularly with music, dancing, and celebrations in the cult. He was very popular, both in Egypt and throughout the Levant (even in Mesopotamia). Small faience Bes amulets are quite common in 8th-7th century B.c. Judean tombs, so his presence in cultic art at Kuntillet 'Ajrûd is not at all surprising. Some scholars, however, have gone further than I and would identify these two linked figures not as Bes representations, but rather as "Yahweh and his Asherah," as we read on some texts.
The seated female figure to the right is even more intriguing. Who is she, "Our Lady of'Ajrûd"? I proposed in 1982 to identify her with the goddess Asherah, who is of course mentioned specifically in the Hebrew texts at the top of the scene. My reasoning first was that this semi-nude, bare-breasted female was not likely to be an ordinary Judean housewife or a worshipper, much less a priestess or a queen, that is, any human female. But the clincher for me was the "lion throne" on which the figure is seated. This is not a familiar side chair. Note the splayed, claw-like feet; the "paneled" sides; the slightly tilted back; and the fact that the figure's feet are dangling in the air, suggesting a missing footstool.
Now it happens that "lion thrones" like these are very common in Ancient Near Eastern art and iconography, stretching back hundreds of years before Kuntillet 'Ajrûd. And as I discovered, "lion thrones" are always associated with deities or kings — never with ordinary human beings. The rationale is that the lions, symbols of ferocity, carried the throne on their backs. These "sacred" lions are often represented as cherubs — potent symbols of the divine presence and power — that is, with wings. And in nearly all cases, there is a low footstool in front of the throne.

William G. Dever: "Did God Have a Wife? Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel", Eerdmans, Grandrapids, Cambridge, 2005, p165.

These depictions are just a variation, YHWH, God of Edom looks a bit different
enter image description here enter image description here

It can further be argued that the syncretism present in the development of YHWH usurping all the powers and characteristics of the other gods that any Ba'al or El figurine might count, despite the names.

Another angle are coins:

enter image description here
(Darwin Profile On Ancient Coin, notice that the inscription is not YHWH, but an older or parallel form of the name. The same can be said eg of the YHWH worshippers of Elephantine that also do not the four letter word. Nevertheless British Museum Catalogue, Palestine XIX 29; Meshorer / Qedar 1999, 15, is universally described as being Jahwe/YHWH. Date late is late-Persian Yehud.)

Quite an early find is dated to ~1000 BCE iron-age, Jerusalem, (and doesn't really convince my):

enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here
Garth Gilmour: "An Iron Age II Pictorial Inscription From Jerusalem Illustrating Yahweh And Asherah", Palestine Exploration Quarterly, 141, 2 (2009), 87–103.

On the origin of the name:

And while it would be wrong to jump to the conclusion that “Israel” as known from the period of the Judges or the early monarchy was already in existence in Edom at this time, one cannot help but recall the numerous passages in later Biblical tradition that depict Yahweh “coming forth from Se'ir” and originating in Edom. The only reasonable conclusion is that one major component in the later amalgam that constituted Israel, and the one with whom the worship of Yahweh originated, must be looked for among the Shasu of Edom already at the end of the fifteenth century b.c.
Donald B. Redford: "Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times", Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1993.

This is not the big consensus however.

enter image description here Bronze age mazzebas at Hazor

On the evolution from material depictions to aniconism and prohibition of images, several authors argue much in favour of this hypothesis:

M Dietrich & O Loretz: , O., 1992, "Jahwe und seine Aschera, Anthropomorphes Kultbild in Mesopotamien, Ugarit und Israel." Das Biblische Bildverbot (UBL 9), Münster, 1992.

BB Schmidt: , B.B., 1995, "The Aniconic Tradition: On Reading Images and Viewing Texts", in: D.V. Edelman (ed): "The Triumph of Elohim: From Yahwisms to Judaisms", (CBETh 13), Kampen, 75-105, 1995.

H Niehr: "Götterbilder und Bildverbot", in: M Oeming & K Schmid (eds): "Der eine Gott und die Götter: Polytheismus und Monotheismus im antiken Israel", (AThANT 82), Zürich, 227-247, 2003.

but: "… there is no unequivocal evidence that an anthropomorphic cult image stood in Israelite sanctuaries …” (N. Na’aman: "No Anthropomorphic Graven Images." Notes on the Assumed Anthropomorphic Cult Statues in the Temples of YHWH in the Pre-Exilic Period, UF 31, 391-415, 1999).

According to Bob Becking, the current consensus should read: This shows that there were pictures in Israel, but not all pictures were gods and not all gods had pictures in every place.

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    Do you have a source for this picture?
    – Ajagar
    Feb 3, 2019 at 19:14
  • There are three figures, 2 cows and 1 other animal. So who is who? And where is the inscription?
    – Ajagar
    Feb 3, 2019 at 19:16
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    It might be worth pointing out that any particular archaeological YHWH is not necessarily the same character as famous one from the Torah? Feb 5, 2019 at 6:47
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    @SamuelRussell I would be hesitant to even say that there is one singular character in the Torah. Feb 5, 2019 at 14:30
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    @SamuelRussell Was pondering to include sth like that, but as c2v comments, I'd be glad for a further explication of your angle on this. More polytheism (El shaddai, El, Elohim), or our 'Jahwe is not your Jahwe'? (I didn't say Jehova ;) Feb 5, 2019 at 14:39

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