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The Cult of the Moon God in Ancient Israel

SEUNG IL KANG 1

1한남대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The moon is the most prominent luminary in the night skies. This gives the moon a special place in Mesopotamian myth and ritual. Major time periods and holidays were set to the phases of the moon, the new, the quarter, and the full moons, and the king participated in the associated festivals along with the priests and the public. Accordingly, the moon-god enjoyed a high-ranking position in the Mesopotamian pantheon. Some iconographic representations show that the moon god was worshiped in ancient Israel, too. They include the stele found at Hazor containing the symbol of a lunar deity in low relief with two human hands raised below the symbol, the bull-headed figure in a stele found at Bethsaida, and stamp seals with various lunar symbols with Israelite names, etc. Biblical data condemning lunar cult mostly stem from the late pre-exilic period or thereafter, such as the Deuteronomistic texts and Jeremiah, which indicates that the cult of the moon became very popular during the 7th century BCE and onwards. Archaeology essentially reveals the same picture. The vast majority of seals with astral symbols originate from the period between 730 and 630 BCE. Although the Assyrians did not impose religious obligations upon their vassals, it is likely that the imperial presence of the Assyrians in Palestine prompted the kings of Judah to voluntarily adopt the Assyro-Aramean religious practices. And this may have contributed to the resurgence of the worship of the lunar deity in Judah during the 7th centuries BCE.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.