Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Nubian Context of YHWH

Alice C. Linsley

Over the centuries there has been much speculation as to the original cultural context of the tetragrammaton, the Divine Name revealed to the Israelites through Moses. The Name is given at Mount Horeb, a mountain sacred to the Midianites. The narrative starts with Moses shepherding the flocks of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, and ends with the theophany of the burning bush (Ex. 3:14) in which God declares from the bush, "I am that I am" (Ehye aser ehye). The entire narrative is limited to the location of this mountain sacred to the Horites living in that region, one of them being Moses' father-in-law Jethro. His ruler-priest status is designated by the spelling of his name with the initial solar symbol: Yetro. Jethro is a descendant of Abraham by his cousin wife Keturah.

In Exodus 3:14-15 we find the narrative as a polished national creed: "And Elohim said to Moses, Ehye aser eyhe. And he said 'You shall say to the sons of Israel Ehye has sent you.' And again Elohim said to Moses 'You shall say this to the sons of Israel, YHWH Elohi of your fathers, Elohi of Abraham, Elohi of Isaac and Elohi of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is my name forever and this is my title from generation to generation." Here the Divine Name is associated with another Divine Name: Elohi/Elohim, as in Genesis 24:7.

It is evident from study of the tetragrammaton in other ancient references that the giving of the Divine Name at the burning bush does not represent a new development. It represents reaffirmation of received tradition from the Horim or Horites. Abraham bargains with YHWH over the fate of Sodom (Gen.18:1). Hagar the Egyptian recognizes her angelic helper as the angel of YHWH (Gen. 16:7). Abraham utters the Divine Name twice, in Genesis 24:3 and 24:7. In the latter instance he recognizes "YHWH Elohim" as the one who called him out of Mesopotamia. In Genesis Abraham's servant invokes the help of YHWH no less than ten times in his quest for Isaac's cousin bride.

Analysis of the marriage and ascendancy structure of Abraham's people reveals that Moses was related to the Shasu as a descendant of Seir the Horite (Gen. 36)

Extra-biblical inscriptions and archaeological finds

Two hieroglyphic references dating to the New Kingdom period refer to “the land of the Shasu of YHWH.” These are the oldest references to YHWH outside the Bible. The "Shasu of Yhw" is found on inscriptions from the Nubian temples of Soleb and Amara West, and corresponds precisely to the tetragrammaton.

Reproduction of the hieroglyphic inscription of YHWH dated to 1400 BC.
Discovered in the temple at Soleb (Nubia) built by the Pharaoh Amenhotep III.

Credit:  Benny Bonte

Shasu may be a variant of Saka, another word for Horite royal priests among the Kushites. They originated in the Nile Valley, and as they dispersed out of Africa, they spread the Proto-Gospel across the vast Afro-Asiatic Dominion. The Matsya Purana claims that the Saka ruled the ancient world for 7000 years.

The Shasu are definitively connected to the Horites of Seir in Edom (modern Jordan). Lists of place names in Nubian temples of Soleb and Amara West record six toponyms located in “the land of Shasu.” A monument of Ramesses II claims that he “has plundered the Shasu-land, captured the mountain of Seir” in Edom; a 19th Dynasty letter mentions “the Shasu-tribes of Edom” and Ramesses III declares that he has “destroyed the Seirites among the tribes of the Shasu.” Clearly, the Egyptians regarded the Shasu as a prominent part of the Edomite population which is described in Genesis 36.

The Soleb (Sulb) temple, located on the left bank of the Nile just south of the Third Cataract, was built around 1400 BC by Pharaoh Amenhotep III (18th Dynasty). Amara West was the seat of the Egyptian administration of upper Nubia or Kush from the reign of Seti I (1306-1290 BC) onwards. The section of the Amara West topographical list which contains the reference to “the land of the Shasu of Yahweh" was copied from the earlier list at Soleb.

Donald B. Redford writes of the Soleb reference to YHWH:

For half a century it has been generally admitted that we have here the tetragrammaton, the name of the Israelite god "Yahweh;" and if this be the case, as it undoubtedly is, the passage constitutes the most precious indication of the whereabouts during the late 15th century BC of an enclave revering this god.

Soleb was a Horite "enclave" as were many other temples of the Upper Nile. Egyptologists recognize that the temples at Nekhen and Soleb served as the pattern for later temples. Both temples were dedicated to Ra and Horus, and their royal priests were devotees of Horus. Thus, they are called "Horites" in the Bible. These priests dispersed across the ancient world. Genesis 36 speaks of the clans of Seir the Horite who were living in Edom.

Moses' father was a Horite priest and the priest Jethro was likely his brother-in-law. We should not be surprised that YHWH is associated with Moses. Moses and his family were Horites. This has been confirmed through analysis of the marriage and ascendancy structure of Moses' father, which is distinctively Horite.

The Divine Name is also found at the Almaqah temple in the Ethiopian Highlands. This dates between the 8th and 6th centuries BC and was constructed on the ruins of an earlier Nubian structure. The sacrificial altar found at Almaqah bears a 7th century BC inscription with the name of Yeha (YH). As this was a mountain shrine with an elevation well above the Nile floodplain there is no w as in the tetragrammaton. The w was a symbol for the Nile River.

The Horites were a caste of ruler-priests who were known in the ancient world to be concerned with ritual purity, sobriety and religious devotion. They were shepherds who sacrificed animals from their own flocks. They were not polytheistic. They believed in a single Creator whose son was Horus (HR), and they spoke of the Father and Son as equals.

As for the designation "I am" this was how Horus describes himself in the Coffin texts (passage 148): "I am Horus, the great Falcon upon the ramparts of the house of him of the hidden name. My flight has reached the horizon. I have passed by the gods of Nut. I have gone further than the gods of old. Even the most ancient bird could not equal my very first flight. I have removed my place beyond the powers of Set, the foe of my father Osiris. No other god could do what I have done. I have brought the ways of eternity to the twilight of the morning. I am unique in my flight. My wrath will be turned against the enemy of my father Osiris and I will put him beneath my feet in my name of 'Red Cloak'." (Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt by R.T. Rundle Clark, p. 216)

Here we find the words of Psalm 110:1, from David. The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet."

The Horites believed that the sun inseminated the earth. As it rose and swelled in strength it generated life and health on earth. The Creator appointed His servants by the overshadowing of the sun. Those many of the names of the Horite rulers begin with the solar symbol Y. They also expected a woman of their ruler-priest lines to be overshadowed and to conceive the "Seed" of God (Gen. 3:15). She was called Hathor-Meri and she is shown on ancient Nilotic monuments crowned with the long horns of a cow in which the sun rests.

Hathor-Meri was the Patroness of the mines at Timna, the site of the world's oldest copper mines. A temple dedicated to Hathor was discovered at the southwestern edge of Mt. Timna by Professor Beno Rothenberg of Hebrew University.

The smelting works, slag, and flints at Timna were found to be identical to those discovered near Beersheba where Abraham spent his last days. The metal workers of Timna and the metal workers of Beersheba were kin and the patroness of their mining and smelting operations was the virgin mother of Horus who was worshiped by the Horites. In other words, these were Horite metal workers. Rothenberg concluded that the peoples living in the area were "partners not only in the work but in the worship of Hathor." (Rothenberg, Timna, p. 183)

The Horites believed that Horus was born at the winter solstice because from that day forward the Sun grows in strength. The ancient Egyptian ritual involved placing a male baby before the image of Hathor-Meri (later called Isis) and the priests placed gifts before the "divine son."

Solar symbolism is found also in relationship to the death and resurrection of Horus. The Horite priests led the people in a 2 day fast to mourn Horus’ death at the hands of his brother. At dawn on the third day, they put away their mourning clothes and dressed for the feasting that took place after seed was sown in the fields with prayers led by the priests. The seed symbolized new life. Some believe that Jesus claimed to be the fulfillment of Horite expectation when, in speaking of the manner of his death, he said, “unless a seed falls into the ground and dies” it cannot give life. (John 12:24)

YHWH is not a Name

Y H W H is not a name for the Creator as much as it is a description. The Y indicates the Creator as universal ruler who appoints His earthly representatives. This Y is a sun cradle and designates many Biblical ruler: Yishmael, Yitzak, Yacob, Yosef, Yetro, Yeshua, Yaqtan and Yishbak. So the Y speaks of sovereignty and divine power.

The two H's represent Horus of the Twin Horizons. In fact, the words "horizon" and "hour" are derived from the name Horus. He rides Ra's solar boat and makes his daily circuit from east to west, swelling each morning on the eastern horizon. The Horites were also known as Hapiru or Habiru (Hebrew). These words are related to the Arabic yakburu, meaning “he is getting big” and to the intensive active prefix: yukabbiru, meaning "he is enlarging." This is a reference to the morning ritual of Horite priests who greeted the rising sun in their temples, offered prayers, and watched as the sun expanded across the horizon.

The Victory Tablet of Amenhotep III describes Horus as “The Good God, Golden [Horus], Shining in the chariot, like the rising of the sun; great in strength, strong in might…” (Tablet of Victory of Amenhotep III, J.H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Part Two, p. 854).

The W represents the Nile River, especially between the First and the Second Cataracts.  This region was called WaWaT. A sacred temporal and spatial center for the Nilotic Horites occurred daily when the sun rested directly over the Nile. The Egyptian word for the sun at its peak is wbn. Bn refers to pillars and the w refers to the Nile. Psalm 29:10 describes “Yahweh who sat as king upon the flood; He is king forever.” Malachi 4:2 uses similar language: “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise [swell] with healing in its wings.” The swelling of the sun speaks of God's power to generate life and health.

Taking all the evidence together, it becomes clear that the original context of YHWH is Nilotic and that each glyph presents another feature of the God of the Horites. For Abraham, this was a received tradition with a long history going back to his earliest Nilo-Saharan ancestors. They are discussed in my paper "Genesis in Anthropological Perspective."


  1. interesting theory... was Yah also the chief god of the Babylonian pantheon when Abraham lived in Ur?

    1. According to archaeological discoveries, the Ur that Abraham lived in was NOT in Babylon but Turkey - Ur of Khaldis NOT Chaldees (The Bible as History - Ian Wilson). Abraham's ancestors were in Haran (also Turkey) and Mount Ararat (Noah's Ark) was in Turkey. The Horites of the Mitanni Emprire were in Turkey as well as Canaan.

  2. Babylonian religion was quite different from the religion of the Horites. One difference was syncretism. The Babylonians were content to assimilate the deities of people they conquered. YH would have been acknowledged as just another god to be appeased.

  3. The following is from the writings of St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo where he quotes Habakkuk 3:3 "God shall come from Africa, and the Holy One from Pharan." ST. AUGUSTINE REPLY TO FAUSTUS THE MANICHAEAN, Books XVI-XXI[CONTRA FAUSTUM MANICHAEUM.] Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series I, Vol. IV

  4. Horos - hour, is oros in Greek, same word for gold. Gold was associated with the Sun and with Horus. "Horus of the Twin Horizons" was a common title among ancient Egyptians. The association of Horus with the horizon is seen in the word Har-ma-khet, meaning Horus of the Horizon. Horus was regarded as the fixer of boundaries, tides and winds. The Harmattan trade wind that blows from the northeast and east across the Sahara was named for Horus. The word is comprised of the biradicals HR for Horus and MT meaning order. The Nilotic peoples were probably the first to invent the sail because the prevailing wind blows south while the Nile flows north. Horus was invoked to send favorable wind. The four winds sometimes appeared as birds at the four quarters of the heavens announcing the accession of Horus' deified ruler on earth. On the walls of Amenemhat's burial chamber at Hawara Horus is depicted at the cardinal points and associated with the resurrection of the ruler. The four forms of Horus top the canopic jars holding the ruler's organs.

  5. God is referred to as Nya-sa-ye among the Luo nilotes of Kenya. Tut-an-ka-Amun translates as 'closely-I-resemble-Amun. Min-Amun as mother of Amun same way as in ancient Egypt.

  6. John, That is very interesting! M was a symbol for Mother of rulers. Among the Luo front teeth are removed in initiation rites. This was also the practice among the ancient Natufians which has raised speculation that they may have been one of the earlier Nilotic populations to move into Palestine.
    The Natufians populated an area that includes Palestine, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon between 15,000 and 9,000 years ago.The British archaeologist Dorothy Gerrod coined the term "Natufian" because she was studying remains from the Shuqba cave at Wadi an-Natuf in Palestine. The term derives from the place, just as "Neanderthal" derives from the Neander Valley in Germany where the early specimens were found and named in 1864 by William King.

  7. I find your research very informative. And this piece may warm your heart too. In Yoruba/Yeruba language of Nigeria, ADAMON/ADAMO is the name of the biblical Adam. But the meaning in Yoruba is this: "Da" is to create from original and predetermined significant purpose. "Mo" or "Mon" means the act of molding something from finest clay soil or any molten substance to give form and shape to intended object. The first letter "A" signifies a collective authority in the spirit of manifesting an idea. The Yoruba use this term with the same meaning as "We" instead of "I". So that the name ADAMON /ADAMO easily culturally translate to " One who had been purposely created or manifested directly from the finest soil of the Earth. Thank you for reading this. Yinka Adegbite

    1. Wonderful information. Thanks. The Hebrew Adam is likely derived from the older Nilo-Saharan form Da-mo. Dam means blood. It is also possibly that the original was Ha-dam, the blood, which was used to speak of all humans. Human - from humus, meaning dirt, but in this case, we are speaking of the red earth that washed down to the Nile from the Ethiopian Highlands. That is why so many of the Biblical persons are described as "red" - Esau, David, among them. I suspect they are descendants of the red Nubians.

  8. Can I get to meet Yinka Adegbite. I am interested on their contribution on ADAMO

  9. do the Egyptian god(s) personify the god(s) of Sumer. and if so, who is who? also I have read that yhwh is satan or at the very least a son of Enlil the sadistic war god of Sumer. I also read that yah is the Egyptian mood god. wouldn't this be planetarium worship which is an abomination to the Hebrew Elohim? could you make sense of my confusion please or at the very least direct me to pure sources. even the bible teach with a slant. thank you.

  10. The religion of the archaic rulers was henotheistic. They believed in a single Supreme Creator and assisting powers (baals) which are often called gods. Sometimes these were great ancestors. Often they were connected to things in nature. There were "deities" of the waters, the winds, the thunder, for example. The celestial lights were perceived to be divine powers (gods), except for the Sun which pertained to the Creator alone. The Sun was the Creator's symbol in the sky from Nigeria to Cambodia.

    The gods of Sumer and the gods of the ancient Nile have much in common, but would reflect the different regions. In both regions a supreme Deity was recognized. There is no doubt that the lesser powers were venerated. The question is where they worshiped? Probably not. Worship appears to have been directed only to the Supreme God, the Creator who was known by various names: Ra, Azu/Asa, El. Ala/Ale, Ennu/En-Kai, Yok/Jok/Juok, and Nyambe/Nyambi/Nyame.

    I encourage you to read these articles:

    I hope this will be helpful in clearing some of the confusion.

  11. I came across these videos and have been studying the Thunderbolts project for about a year now. They have taken the Saturn as the polar sun and planetary alignment of Venus and Mars theory of myth making phenomena to an amazing level of detail. Their story was so compelling that it caught the eye of several noted Plasma Physicists who were able to verify that much of the Planetary alignment story is physically possible and for the last 20-30 years continued work has developed to show it as a very well presented and cogent theory behind the creation myths of the world and the cosmological history of the solar system. It is worth taking a look at, maybe 3 hours of video total. about 20 5-10 minute videos on the planetary alignments and the related Egyptian writings and drawings from the culture that documented them the best and then a 30+ minute video on Mesopotamian and Greek and Pawnee Indian mythology that share the same story of the polar sun myth, focused on Venus and Mars and the wedding rituals with so much detail that they would have either had to see the same events in the sky or they would have had to carried the stories with them from Mesopotamia to the Americas thousands of years ago and retained them unaltered.

    Based on these theories, your ideas for the source of YHWH may be valid, but their meaning may not have the same connotations people wish it to have.

    The growing amount of physics to support this view is also making it difficult to refute from an ancient anthropological stand point or a scientific standpoint.

    I hope people take an honest look at it for the what it is. It might change the way anthropology and archaeology are viewed.

  12. Plato studied at Memphis for 13 years before he returned to Greece. He said that the Nile priests had been observing and keeping records of stars, planets and constellations for 10,000 years.

  13. Caleb's son, Salma or Salmon, is designated a "founder" of Bethlehem in I Chronicles 2:51. 1 Chronicles 2:55 says that Caleb's sons were Kenites. They were related to Kenaz, a son born to Eliphaz and Timna. Timna was the daughter of Seir the Horite (Gen. 36).

    According to the Talmud, David's mother was called Nitzevet (tractate Bava Batra 91a). Her father was Adael. Adael is the masculine equivalent of the name Adah. Adah was the wife of Lamech the Elder, and the mother of Jubal and Jabal (Gen. 4). Adah is also the name of one of Esau the Elder’s wives. Adah and Adael are names traced back to the lines of Cain and Seth (which intermarried) and the names are traceable to the Kenites. David, who was chosen king in Bethlehem, had Kenite blood. This explains why David sent the spoils of war to the cities of Judah and to the Kenites (1 Samuel 30:29).

    Rahab of Jericho married the Horite Salmon. Salmon is called a "father of Bethlehem" in 1 Chronicles 2:54. Rahab is grandmother of Boaz. This connection of the Jews to the ancient Horite Hebrew is why Jews call their ancestors “horim.”

    The variant spelling of Salmon and Salma is Solomon. The entrance to Solomon's temple was flanked by twin pillars dedicated to his righteous ancestors Jochin and Boaz. Boaz was one of Solomon’s ancestor on his father’s side and Jochin (Joktan) was a righteous ancestors on his mother’s side.

    The Kenites and the Midianites had Horite priests among them. These were all Kushitic peoples with common ancestry and their ancestors lived in the Nile Valley.


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