Alice C. Linsley
The oldest known name for the Creator in the Bible is El (ʾēl) which corresponds to the Proto-Semitic ʔ-L. The L likely was a symbol of a throne or chief’s seat and indicated power and authority. The Northwest Semitic ʾēl is cognate to the Proto-Arabic ʾIlāh and the Akkadian ilum. Akkadian was the language of Nimrod’s kingdom in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. Nimrod was a Kushite kingdom builder according to Genesis 10:8: “Kush became the father of Nimrod; he became a mighty one on the earth.”
In Nigeria, the Hausa translation of the Bible uses Allah (Arabic: الله) to designate the Creator and the God and Father of Jesus Christ. Allah is also used in Syrian Bibles. As a designation for God, Allah corresponds to the archaic El in the Hebrew Bible, as Dios in Spanish corresponds to Dieu in French. The name was used among Arabian and Syrian peoples long before the time of Mohammad. Allah is the compressed expression of al-ilah, meaning THE God.
Among Abraham’s ancestors there were many names for the Creator. These included YHWH, Yah, El, and Ilum. Another ancient name for God is Ausa, sometimes spelled Asa.The Egyptian word Asa refers to God as father. The Asante tribe bears this name. Asa-nte means "people of Asa." The word "Hausa" probably has a similar meaning: ha-Ausa, meaning "the people of Ausa."
The older names for God can be identified by their simple roots, such as L, or by their bi-consonantal forms, such as YH or LM. The more recent Arabic and Hebrew words can be identified by a shift to bi-consonantal forms (called bilaterals) and triliterals. There are also a small number of quadriliterals in Hebrew and Arabic.
Old Arabic, also known as Dedanite, is closer to the archaic stratum of the Semitic roots due to its relative isolation in the Arabian Peninsula. Most Bible commentaries explain that the terms Dedan and Dedanite are from ded'-a-nim/dedhan/dedhanim, meaning "low." This is an odd interpretation since the Dedanites were known to dwell in elevated rock shelters. Genesis 10:7 provides the more accurate explanation that the Afro-Arabian Dedanites are related to the Kushite ruler Dedan. The original context is Kushite. In this context the word Dedan refers to the color red and is cognate to the Egyptian didi (red fruit) and the Yoruba diden (red). The Dedanites, along with the ancient Edomites, were known to have a distinctive red skin tone, like Esau and David.
It has been noted that the prayer alignments of the oldest mosques in Iraq and Cairo originally pointed to the region of Dedan, not to Mecca. The prayer orientation of Mohammad’s original mosque in Medina was said to be toward Jerusalem, but could easily have been pointing to this same region in Dedan. Imagine another blue line extending from Medina to Jerusalem.
|The blue lines intersect in the region of ancient Dedan.|
Dedan is where the largest collection of the oldest Arabic texts have been found at the oases of Teman and Dedan, present day Al-`Ula in Saudi Arabia. Jeremiah 49 links the Dedanites with the people of Teman (TMN). Eliphaz, the son of Esau and Adah (Genesis 36), is called a "Temanite" in Job 4:1. Eliphaz married a daughter of Seir, the Horite ruler of Edom. Her name was Timna (TMN) according to Genesis 36.
The Dedanite alphabet consisted of 28 letters and resembled other scripts used in the Arabian Peninsula and in Syria, though Dedanite was distinctive in its use of the definite article h- or O (a sun symbol) whereas Southern Arabic and the Arabic spoken today uses the definite article al-. Not surprisingly, Dedanite and Hebrew have many common features, including the use of h- as the definite article “the” and the use of matres lectionis to mark long vowels.
Related reading: Edo, Edom, Idumea; Two Named Esau; The Edomites and the Color Red; The Nubian Context of YHWH