Scholar Amar Annus has shown that the name of the old gods of the Greeks, the Titans, was derived from the name of an ancient Amorite tribe, the Tidanu. The word behind the name Tidan (sometimes transliterated into English as “Ditanu”) is the Akkadian word ditânu, which means “bison,” or “bull” (and probably refers to the aurochs, an ancient species of very large wild cattle from which modern domesticated breeds descend). This is more evidence that the story of the Titans originated in Mesopotamia and not with Indo-Europeans.
That’s not all. Because Kronos, king of the Titans, and El, creator-god of the Canaanites, were identified as one and the same by the people of the ancient world, we can make a good case that the name Kronos probably had a Semitic origin, too:
The bovid sense of the form Ditanu/Didanu is particularly intriguing in view of other tauromorph elements in the tradition. Thus, the prominent Titan Kronos was later identified with El, who is given the epithet tr, “Bull”, in Ugaritic and biblical literature. Apart from this explicit allusion, we may well ask whether the name El, (Akkadian and Ugaritic ilu) does not already itself have a bovine sense. … Does it perhaps mean “Bull”, (perhaps more generically “male animal”), so that the epithetal title tr is in effect a redundant gloss on it? …
Furthermore, the name Kronos may well carry the same nuance, since it may be construed as referring to bovine horns (Akkadian, Ugaritic qarnu, Hebrew qeren), which feature prominently in divine iconography in the Near East. (Emphasis added)
It’s interesting enough to see the additional link between Kronos and El through the bull imagery of their names, but did you notice that there are references to “Bull El” in biblical literature?
In the book of Hosea, the prophet recalled the idolatry of Jeroboam, the man who led the rebellion against Solomon’s son, Rehoboam:
I have spurned your calf, O Samaria.
My anger burns against them.
How long will they be incapable of innocence?
For it is from Israel;
a craftsman made it;
it is not God.
The calf of Samaria
shall be broken to pieces. (Hosea 8:5–6, ESV; emphasis added)
The phrase, “For it is from Israel,” comes from the Masoretic Hebrew text, kî miyyiśrāʾēl, which literally means, “for from Israel.” That doesn’t make sense. But separating the characters differently yields kî mî šōr ʾēl, which changes verse 6 to this:
For who is Bull El?
a craftsman made it;
it is not God.
The calf of Samaria
shall be broken to pieces. (Hosea 8:6, ESV, modified; emphasis added)
That’s a huge difference! Jeroboam set up worship sites to rival the Temple for political reasons. If the northern tribes continued to travel to Jerusalem for the feasts, they might eventually switch their loyalty back to the House of David. Apparently, Jeroboam felt that the worship of El was close enough to do the trick. After all, hadn’t Yahweh revealed Himself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai? Hence, the golden calves at Bethel and Dan.
Since El was Kronos, king of the Titans, then he was also Shemihazah, leader of the rebellious Watchers on Mount Hermon thousands of years earlier. Like the Titans of the Greeks, the Watchers had been confined to Tartarus (see 2 Peter 2:4; the word rendered “hell” in English bibles is the Greek word tartaroo), a place that was separate and distinct from Hades. By erecting the golden calves, Jeroboam drew the northern tribes back into the worship of a god who introduced the pre-Flood world to the occult knowledge that Babylon was so proud of preserving.
This crossed a big red line, and God made it clear that it was completely unacceptable. He directed the prophet Ahijah to give this message to Jeroboam:
You have done evil above all who were before you and have gone and made for yourself other gods and metal images, provoking me to anger, and have cast me behind your back, therefore behold, I will bring harm upon the house of Jeroboam and will cut off from Jeroboam every male, both bond and free in Israel, and will burn up the house of Jeroboam, as a man burns up dung until it is all gone. (1 Kings 14:9–10, ESV)
By reading “Bull El” in Hosea 8:6, instead of “Israel,” the verse becomes a polemic directed not just at the idols of Jeroboam, but against the creator-god of the Canaanites as well. Frankly, it fits the context of the passage better than the common English rendering. And this isn’t the only place in the Bible where that substitution may come closer to the Hebrew original.
The epithet has also been identified recently in a perceptive study of Deuteronomy 32:8 by Joosten, in which he proposed a similar consonantal regrouping in the expression bny yśrʾl (bĕnê yiśrāʾēl) to read (bĕnê šōr ʾēl). Since LXX (ἀγγέλων θεοῶ, some mss υἱων θεοῶ), and one Qumran text, 4QDeutj (lmspr bny ʾlhym), already read a divine reference here, rather than the “Israel” of MT, this proposal has much to commend it:
yaṣṣēb gĕbulōt ʿammîm he set up the boundaries of the nations
lĕmisparbĕnê šōr ʾēl in accordance with the number of the sons of Bull El. (Emphasis added)
As noted earlier, most English translations render Deuteronomy 32:8 “number of the sons of Israel.” A few, such as the ESV, follow the Septuagint (“angels of God” or “divine sons”) and the text of Deuteronomy found among the Dead Sea scrolls (“sons of Elohim”). What scholars Simon and Nicolas Wyatt propose is reading the Hebrew as “sons of Bull El” instead at the end of the verse. And to be honest, it fits.
That may sound like we’re playing fast and loose with the text. But note: In the Genesis 10 Table of Nations, there are seventy names, and in Canaanite religious texts, El had seventy sons.
Coincidence? No, it is not. I’ll explain next month.