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KRONOS Vol X, No. 3
AVARIS AND EL-ARISHTo the Editor of KRONOS:
THE CITY OF AMALEK
When Saul went to fight a city of Amalek next to Egypt, he found there the Kenites in addition to the Amalekites.(1) We may be able to identify this city of Amalek if we can find in what city the Amalekites and the Kenites lived.
The Book of Judges tells us that a certain city, the City of Palms, was populated by Kenites(2) and that, later, the city was conquered by Amalek and its allies who took possession of it.(3) Thus the city of Amalek, where Saul fought, must be the City of Palms.
The City of Palms is mentioned among the cities of the Promised Land in Deuteronomy: (4) "The Negev, and the stretch of the Valley of Jericho, City of Palms as far as Zoar." The two cities in this verse give the boundaries of the previously mentioned region. Thus, since Zoar is in the southern part of the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms seems to be identified as the city of Jericho, which is located in the northern part of this valley. However, the first part of the cited verse does not speak only about the valley, but rather of a much wider area which includes the Negev and the Valley of Jericho. Thus, since Zoar is in the eastern bound of this area, the City of Palms must be in the western part of the Negev, next to Egypt.
Jericho was known as the City of Palms in later times.(5) However, we cannot accept this identification for the city of Amalek, since the city of Jericho did not exist at that time. Joshua destroyed and burned the city of Jericho and forbade the people of Israel from rebuilding it.(6) Scripture also tells us that they did not rebuild the city until the time of king Ahab(7) many generations later. Since, in both records of the Book of Judges,(2,3) the existence of Israelites in the city is mentioned, we cannot identify Jericho as the city of Amalek. We must therefore look for the City of Palms in the western part of the Negev, somewhere near the Egyptian border.
The biggest palm grove in the Middle East (and one of the biggest in the world) is near the city of El-Arish. It is very possible that this city was called the City of Palms because of the huge palm area around it. This will support the identification of the city of Amalek as El-Arish, as suggested by Velikovsky.(8)
1. I Samuel 15:5-6.
To the Editor of KRONOS:
I have come to a fork in the road! About ten days ago [around Oct. 10, 1984], I passed an hour with Egyptologist Dr. Kenneth Kitchen of Liverpool University in Britain, dealing specifically with the question of the location of Avaris. He presented me with the very latest material on the subject, that is, the current large scale dig at Tell ed-Daba' in the eastern Delta. His view, based on the considerable quantity of Ramesside and lesser amount of Hyksos finds from the above site, is that Tell ed-Daba' unquestionably marks the locations of both Pi-Ra'messe and Avaris. Further, he could not in any way assent to the presence of Avaris at Rhinocolura.
That discussion has caused me to question your position (pardon please, I presume your position) regarding Avaris. Velikovsky insisted that the Hyksos' capital was at modern el-Arish, or ancient Rhinocolura, which appears to be KRONOS' view as well [see "A Note on the Location of Avaris" in KRONOS I:2, pp. 85-88. - LMG].
Now therefore the dilemma arises: which one of you is right? I simply do not know, but, unless you can come up with why Tell ed-Daba' cannot mark the site of Avaris, I shall be compelled to accept that it does. That, to me, and surely to a number of others, would place Velikovsky's reconstruction of ancient history in serious peril.
I therefore ask you for a response to this crucial issue.
S. Kogan Replies to Ascough:
If "lesser Hyksos finds" would not have been found at the large scale dig at Tell ed Daba, it would have been very enigmatic as far as the chronological scheme as presented in Ages in Chaos is concerned; the length of the Hyksos domination according to A in C was over four hundred and forty years (p. 76) as against the one hundred years available for it in the established chronology (see "Astronomy and Chronology" in Peoples of the Sea, p. 222), and one would expect to find, after such a long period, "lesser" Hyksos finds all over Egypt. (Actually, the geographical extent of their rule was adduced on the basis of the spread of Hyksos finds (see Breasted, The History of Egypt, Chap. XI): and especially in its north-eastern flank (Manetho in Josephus, Against Apion I, 77-78).)
According to Manetho, Avaris was a huge fortress holding "two hundred and forty thousand men" surrounded with a strong wall.
According to Ahmose's inscription, Avaris was outside of Egypt proper (see A in C, p.88).
Therefore Tell ed Daba, where none of these indices were found, is most probably not the site of Avaris. Kitchen's "view" that Tell ed Daba is the site of Avaris on the basis of "lesser Hyksos finds" reminds one of P. Montet's satirical remark, quoted on p. 87, fn. 3 in A in C - please read it and add Tell ed Daba to the list.
As long as no large scale Hyksos fort is found, and as long as no search is even attempted at el-Arish, the location of Avaris has not been found.
And even if the site of Avaris will definitely not be found at el-Arish, and definitely be found on the eastern Delta, it would only disprove the identification of Avaris with el-Arish (which is very convincing on its own; see "The Location of Avaris" in A in C), but would still not put the identification of the Amalekites as the Hyksos "in peril" because, as explained in A in C, the general term for a stream or river-bed, "nakhal", where Saul fought the Amalekites, when not specified, usually means "Nakhal Mitzraim" ("the stream of Egypt"); and though it is generally thought to be the stream of el-Arish, it could also be another stream in Egypt, such as the eastern Nile Delta (and some have actually so interpreted it).
However, Tell ed Daba is most probably not the site of Avaris, and therefore "unless you can come up with why" el-Arish cannot mark the site of Avaris, this identification remains the most convincing.
ABRAHAM AND MONOTHEISM
To the Editor of KRONOS:
I'd like to approve Dwardu Cardona's rejection of my 1982 assumption (Catastrophism and Ancient History IV: 1) that the early, or pre-Babylonian, Israelites invented the prohibition of human sacrifice. His list of examples of Hebrew human sacrifice (KRONOS IX:3) down to the 6th century BCE can, however, be easily accommodated as I will show in my forthcoming book Human Sacrifice, Monotheism, Killing Taboo, Apokalyptic Fear, Jew Hatred (Frankfurt/M., 1985).
I would like to explain that my problems with such a late date for Hebrew human sacrifice derive from the conventional, i.e., Bible fundamentalist, date for Abraham the patriarch. Since my work deals with the hitherto unsolved problem concerning the rise of monotheism, which I saw, and still see, as being the result of the abolition of human sacrifice in honor of deified celestial bodies, I decided to utilize the Abrahamic lore which deals precisely with such a succession of events. No mainstream researcher of monotheism would ever touch Abraham since monotheism emerged after the Babylonian exile in the late 6th and early 5th centuries BCE - at least 1500 years after the conventionally-dated patriarch.
Thus, conventional scholars pay the very high price of leaving monotheism as the ultimate enigma in the history of religion whereas, on the other hand, I had to live with Cardona's type of criticism.
It was nevertheless reasonable that I stand my ground with all the neat explanations I came up with since, in the meantime, it could be shown that the Abrahamic material together with much of the so-called Old Babylonian culture has to be lowered to the 9th-6th centuries BCE [cf., e.g., J. van Seters, Abraham in History and Tradition (New Haven, 1975); G. Heinsohn & C. Marx, Were the "Sumerians of the 3rd Millennium " in Reality the Chaldeans of the 1st Millennium ? (Basel, 1983)] .
Hebrew human sacrifice actually antedates monotheism and it is still the Israelites - although not the early ones - who turned the astronomical idea of an invisible, eternal, and almighty force behind whatever movements of the celestial bodies into a deity and, in doing so, invented the prohibition of killing through the abolition of human sacrifice.
What I have to do is change dates, but not my theory; whereas, in respect to the chronology of Mesopotamian history, Bible fundamentalists are aware of neither incorrect dates nor the reasons behind the birth of monotheism.
Bremen, Fed. Rep. Ger.
Dwardu Cardona Replies:
I will not comment on the validity of identifying the Sumerians of the third millennium with the Chaldeans of the first. But Gunnar Heinsohn, together with Christoph Marx, had best leave Abraham out of their theory concerning monotheistic origins. Not only would the lowering of the Abrahamic era to the 6th century BCE create havoc with the rest of the patriarchal age, it would still not serve their purpose.
Granted that Abraham broke with his ancestral polytheism in search of a truer faith, his resultant belief was still very much planetary. Moreover, if his sons and grandsons really worshipped but one god, that one god must still be identified as a personification of the planet Saturn to which, or to whom, they reverted (see elsewhere in this issue), and not the abstract "almighty" whose origin Heinsohn and Marx search for.
Students of religion might find it difficult to believe that first there was god, then gods. Logic itself, if nothing else, should have long told us this. Thus, in principle, monotheism preceded polytheism. And if this sounds too much like fundamentalism, it cannot be helped.
What traps researchers like Heinsohn and Marx is a lack of knowledge concerning what transpired in between these two extremes. None of this can unfortunately be understood until planetary history is chronologically unfolded from near beginning to end. I say near-beginning because humankind does not remember the time before god. Until such time as the history of the planets is delineated in full, the very idea of GOD will continue to be misunderstood.
MOLOCHIAN RITES AND CANNIBALISM
To the Editor of KRONOS:
In "The Rites of Moloch" (KRONOS IX:3), Dwardu Cardona makes a series of fatal errors which invalidate much of his article.
I) The "Sikut" of Amos 5:26 is not a reference to the tabernacle but the name of an idol-god. "Sikut" has the same vowel structure as the idol-god Chiyun that we find mentioned in the second part of the same verse, as also of Shikutz and Gilul which are generic names for idol-gods. Many other idol-god names have the same structure, such as Rimon (I Kings 11:33), and Kemosh (I Kings 11:7).
Thus the first part of Amos 5:26 refers to some idol-god named Sikut (Sukotbenot of II Kings 17 :30) and not to a tabernacle. This is also evident from the parallel structure of the other idol, Chiyun, mentioned in the verse.
2) Even if one wants to refer to sikut as sukot (i.e., tabernacles, in the plural), the word could definitely not be a reference to "The Tabernacle" which is called Mishkan or Ohel but never sukot nor suka (the singular of sukot).
3) This same verse is to be read in the future tense: "Unsatem", i.e., "ye shall bear" and not "ye have borne" as Cardona claims (no matter what kind of translation he uses). The "U" (vav) at the beginning of the word changes the tense from past to future.
Thus, what Amos tells us is that these idol-gods, Sikut and Chiyun, will be carried into exile as a punishment to the people who worshipped them in his days. This verse cannot therefore refer to the time of the Wandering in the Desert, which Amos mentions only for the purpose of discrediting the value of sacrifices in his own time. Actually this verse indicates that there were no sacrifices at the time of the Wandering in the Desert.
4) The two statements of Ezekiel (16:20 & 23:37), which Cardona interprets as cannibalism, refer to the idol-god and not the Israelites consuming the children (who passed through the fire). The Hebrew reads "lahem le'ekhol" (= lahem le'okhla) - "for them [the idol-gods] to devour [as in fire] " and not as Cardona thinks "to devour them [as to eat] ". It would be more accurate to interpret these statements as meaning that the children, when consumed by fire, were thought of as food for the gods (as were all other sacrifices) and that there was no cannibalism.
5) The ritual of Moloch consisted in "passing the children through the fire'', not in killing them. The Hebrew "he'evir ba'esh" (II Kings 16:3) is also used to denote the purifying of unclean dishes (Numbers 31:23). It is thus possible that the Molochian ritual was one in which children were purified. Some of the children did not make it through the fire, but some (like Hezekiah) did. If this is true, there is then no evidence that the ancient Hebrews intended to kill the children.
6) Whatever the rites of Moloch were, the people of Israel were not the first to practice them. At several points in the Bible, especially in those chapters from Ezekiel quoted by Cardona, it is said that the Israelites were copying their neighbors (16:26-29 & 23:5-9). Cardona seems to have overlooked this.
7) The only possible reference to cannibalism among the ancient Hebrews is the confessed desire of the tribe of Zebulum, a reference which is to be found in Ginzberg. Since the Hebrews practiced the rites of the gods as they were practiced by the nations with whom they were in contact, Zebulum may have copied its rituals from distant nations. Being a tribe of sailors (Genesis 49:13), Zebulum had contact with a variety of nations in Europe and North Africa.
Thus, I would suggest that one look in the literature of Phoenicia, Rome, and Carthage, if one wants to find evidence of ritual cannibalism. But I wouldn't suggest that Cardona do it, because he might "tamper" with these sources, as he did here with the Hebrew.
8) The very idea that the Hebrews were originally practicing a Saturnian rite is an absurdity. The first Hebrew, Abraham, lived many generations after the Saturnian age, and did not worship Saturn. Nobody, not even Cardona, claims that the god of Abraham was Saturn. Thus, it is impossible that the children of Abraham originally practiced Saturnian rites.
9) Scripture promises (to those who don't obey the laws) that "During the siege and the distress to which your enemies will reduce you, you will eat the fruit of your body" (Deuteronomy 28:53). This is not a ritual but a sign of distress and hunger. It is inconceivable that people who eat their children in a religious glory will see this as a curse.
10) When King Mesha sacrificed his firstborn son, he worshipped the Sun. This is according to Jewish tradition (Rashi on II Kings 3:27). It seems that the ancients did not change their practices even when they changed their chief deity.
11) Finally, as Cardona knows, the abundant records are against his views. He therefore claims (without any attempt to prove it) that the "Old Testament has been washed clean" of anything that supports his views - probably by the same people who "tampered with the Book of Genesis". However, when so many records disagree with his opinion, he just has to give it up. This simple truth is not known to Cardona; and, if he knows it, he refuses to admit it.
Dwardu Cardona Replies:
I would not have minded much had Meir Danino criticized me for not having adhered to the Hebrew version of some of the Biblical verses I cited in "The Rites of Moloch". But I do resent the accusation that I tampered with my sources since the quotations in question came verbatim from the cited literature. I invented nothing; mistranslated nothing; and tampered with nothing. I was merely faced with a choice of different texts and, while Danino is entitled to favor the Hebrew, the dictates of scholarship led me to consider all extant versions.
Having stated as much, let us examine what Danino saw as my "fatal errors" and how these "invalidate much of [my] article".
"The very idea that the Hebrews were originally practicing a Saturnian rite is an absurdity", states Danino. Yet, down to the Middle Ages, the Jews were known as "the people of Saturn''.(1) Whence, thinks Danino, came this belief? Was it not, as Aurelius Augustinus explicitly informed his readers, because the planet Saturn was considered to have been the god of the Jews?(2) And was this not based on the fact that El, the early god of these people, was really Saturn? (3) All rites practiced in honor of El were, therefore, rites practiced in honor of Saturn. One need not even introduce Moloch to make this point.
Understandably, this is not a belief that finds ready acceptance to this day; but all those who treat of the early religion of the Jews without taking these facts into consideration are themselves tampering with the truth and guilty of a censorship that goes beyond the mere tampering of books.
The assumption that it was "impossible" for the children of Abraham to practice Saturnian rites simply because Abraham - "the first Hebrew" - did not himself worship Saturn is asinine. What have the deeds of the father to do with those of his children? Or why is it imperative that the children should have followed in the faith of their father?
As I stated in the paper in question, Abraham, like Moses after him, attempted to turn his followers away from Saturn but, like Moses, he failed.(4) Despite the fact that the Saturnian age had already come to an end, Abraham's descendants were quick to revert to the worship of Saturn - as I aim to show in a future essay. Were it not so, Jacob, Abraham's own grandson, would not have changed his name to Israel(5) - "Let El [Saturn] Preserve [or Persevere] " - the very name by which his descendants were to become known.
Danino does not seem to have paid much attention to what I wrote. Why else would he accuse me of overlooking the fact that the people of Israel were not the first to practice the rites of Moloch? My paper opens with a set of paragraphs in which I quoted excerpts from the Books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy which stress that very point. Moreover, throughout my essay I constantly referred to Moloch as an Ammonite or Canaanite, and not an Israelite, deity.
One of Danino's major objections concerns the verse of Amos 5:26 which I quoted as:
" . . . ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves."
When Danino accuses me of having misread this verse "no matter what kind of translation"(6) I used, he is merely betraying his ignorance of a Biblical text that is much older than the Hebrew version he favors.
The oldest known version of the Old Testament is the Greek Septuagint (2nd cent. B.C.). The Hebrew text from which it was translated is no longer extant. The oldest Hebrew version that we now possess is the Masoretic text (6th to 8th cent. A.D.). Not only is there something like 800 years separating the two there are also major differences between them. Thus, while the Masoretic text renders Amos 5:26 as "ye shall shoulder Sikut your king",(7) the Septuagint actually reads "ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch".(8)
It can therefore be seen that the translation of "sikut" as "tabernacle", as well as the rendition of the verse in the past tense, is not due to my tampering with Hebrew sources.
I could leave this particular argument at that but, for the sake of my readers, I shall explain what it was that led me to accept the Septuagint text.
It has already been conceded by previous scholars that Amos 5:26 "is a difficult verse and the subject of very diverse interpretation".(9) Now, while the Septuagint is not always to be preferred, it is superior to the Masoretic text which, beyond dispute, contains more numerous corruptions.(10) Textual comparison has long made it obvious that the Septuagint, compiled by the scholars of Jerusalem for the Jews of Alexandria, was translated from a Hebrew text that was purer than the much later Masoretic version.
That "sikut", which the Septuagint translates as "tabernacle", has the same vowel structure as the "idol-god Chiyun" - or "Chiun" - does not necessarily mean that it has to be understood as the name of a deity instead. Other Hebrew words, which do not constitute the names of idols, have the same vowel structure. Easily coming to mind are words like "kippur" - "expiation"; "limmud" - "disciple"; "milkul" - "perfection"; and "mitzpun" - "secret" and/or "treasure". Need I look for more - or what then of vowel structures?
Moreover, like other ancient languages, Hebrew was originally written in an alphabetical script that was purely consonantal.(11) The allocation of vowel sounds to Semitic letters was an adaptation of the Greeks. When later scholars inserted such vowel-sounds into the written language of the Scriptures, they did so arbitrarily and often wrongly. Because of this there are various Hebrew words whose vowel structure remains variable. Thus, for instance, the word for "priest" can be rendered "kohen" and/or "kahen"; a "vision" can be both "mar'ah" or "mar'eh"; and "depth" can be "'omeq", "'ameq", or "'amoq".
There is thus no assurance that the vowel structure of "sikut" remains true to its original. In fact this particular vowel-pointing is believed to have been given to "sikut" by the very Masoretes whose compilation of the Masoretic text was conducted, not earlier than the 6th century A.D., for the precise purpose of supplying a vowel-less text with vowel-pointing.
This, in turn, led to the assumption that "sikut" was made to conform to the vowel structure of "shiqqutz" - "an abominable thing".(12) If this is correct, it only proves that it was the Masoretes who first decided to stigmatize "sikut" by association .
Be that as it may, this assumption is based on the additional surmise that the original "name" was that of the Assyrian god Sakkuth.(13) But, without the earlier Hebrew from which the Septuagint was translated, this cannot be ascertained. All that can be safely stated is that, whatever the original word was, it got translated in the Septuagint as "skene", a Greek word which means "tent" or "tabernacle". The Masoretes' stigmatization could just as well have been meant to apply to "tabernacle", thus signifying that it was to be understood as that of a false god. Whether he is to be relied on or not, this is the very meaning that James Strong gives to the word ''sikut''.(14)
I hope no one will now tell me that the rendition of "skene" as "tabernacle" tends to show preference over "tent". As they applied to the ancient Near East, these terms were synonymous and, in fact, the English word "tabernacle" is itself derived from the Latin "tabernaculum" which means "tent".
The Masoretic rendition of "Sikut your king" suffers from two other objections. Firstly, would the term "your king", thus denoting primacy over all other idols, have been reserved for a god - Sikut or Sakkuth - who receives only this one mention in the entire Old Testament? Ashtoreth, called the queen of heaven, receives something like sixteen mentions in her many variants. Baal and Moloch permeate Scriptural passages. Where then is the logic that such a little-known deity should have been termed "your king"?
Secondly, although "moloch" does mean "king", this form of the word is invariably reserved throughout the Old Testament for the name of the Ammonite god. Without exception, the forms "malak" and/or "melek" are used when "king" is meant.
It will also not do to present the Amosian "sikut" as the name of an "idol-god" by treating it as a synonym of "sukot-benot". I will let pass the different vowel structures of what Danino believes to be variants of the very same deity, especially since "sukot" is anything but the name of an "idol-god". Let us examine this in the light of the pertinent verses. II Kings 17:29-30 read:
Is it because "sukot-benot" appears in the company of Nergal and Ashima that it has been understood by some as the name of a deity? Is the meaning of "sukot-benot" then that obscure?
"Sukot", the plural of "suka", means "booths", "tents", "pavilions", and, yes, even "tabernacles" as Danino himself readily admits. (Please do note, incidentally, the identical consonantal root of "sukot" and "sikut".) "Benot", the irregular plural of "bat", means "daughters". therefore stands for "booths of [the] daughters". This was a euphemism for "brothels" and "harlots' tents".(15) Such pavilions were a common feature of Assyro-Babylonian temples to Ishtar as well as Canaanite ones to Astarte. The practice of harlotry in honor of this goddess is well known. What II Kings 17:30 actually informs us is that the Babylonians who had settled in Samaria installed such pavilions in their temples from which it can be deduced that these temples were dedicated to Ishtar/Astarte/Ashteroth.
We are left with the question as to whether the Amosian verse under consideration should be rendered in the future, rather than the past, tense. Danino's view on this subject is far from being an isolated case. The truth is that current consensus favors him. The Interpreter's Bible states:
Despite its authoritative tone, I still contest this interpretation. The fact that "unsatem" means "ye shall bear" rather than "ye have borne" is not the issue. What is, is whether it is so stated in the earliest extant version of Amos. As we have already seen, it is not. Since vowel-sounds were not inserted by the Masoretes until long after the compilation of the Septuagint, there is again no assurance that the vav - "U" - which renders the word in the future tense, was originally part of "unsatem". If Danino, or anyone, can find me an Amosian version older than that of the Septuagint that renders this verse in the future, I shall consider the claim.
That the Israelites were loyal to Saturn during their exodus from Egypt can be easily ascertained. When the slaves fled from Egypt they made what William Heidel termed "a curious countermarch"(17) to encamp before a place called Baal-zephon,(18) a shrine to the god of that name. Although the Old Testament says nothing more about this peculiar incident, extra-Biblical sources state the belief that, when the gods of the Egyptians were destroyed, Baal-zephon alone remained.(19) What this indicates is that the Israelites were partial to this god.
That Baal-zephon continued to be honored even later in Israel is evidenced by the fact that a city of Ephraim was called by his very name.(20) The Israelite name Elizaphan(21) means "El is Zephon". Since El was Saturn, Baal-zephon's identity cannot be said to be unknown.
Why did the Israelites stop in their flight from Egypt at the shrine of this god? Better still, why does the Old Testament gloss over the incident? Was Heidel not right when he explained this as an "attempt to conceal an apparent apostasy of Israel"?(22) But was it an apostasy; or was it only considered so by those who came later, those who would have had Yahweh as the only and true god of the Israelites?
Who then is guilty of tampering with Hebrew sources - Cardona or the Jews themselves? And is this merely my own personal contention, as Danino would have it seem, or has the same conclusion been reached by other scholars before me? Did not Heidel himself speak of "the far-reaching revision of [Hebrew documents in the interest of the centralized cultus [to Yahweh] "? (23)
In view of the objections I have already raised against the acceptance of the Masoretic version of Amos 5 :26, is not the rendition of the verse in the future tense an obvious attempt to remove its connection with the time of wandering, thus "concealing" what the Yahwists saw as further evidence of the Saturnian "apostasy"?
Let not all such "revisions" be blamed on the Masoretes. The Hebrew version from which the Septuagint was translated had already been "revised". As Danino himself saw fit to point out to me, the preceding Amosian verse - 5: 25 "indicates that there were no sacrifices at the time of the Wandering in the Desert". But is this not, again, an attempt to "conceal" what the older Books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy so clearly state? Is this not another attempt to tamper with the truth, a transparent effort to negate ancient ritual, a blotting out of former beliefs in favor of later ones, an actual lie uttered in Yahweh's name? Are not sacrifices and burnt offerings mentioned innumerable times in the books mentioned above? Was not an altar for such burnt offerings constructed at Moses' behest and placed within the tabernacle? And was not a precise ritual prescribed for the offering of such sacrifices? Who then was the author of Amos, or its later editor, trying to fool?
Danino next tells us that even were the Amosian "sikut" made to mean "tabernacle", it could definitely not be a reference to "The Tabernacle". This might be so but the question I asked was:
Thus, while I registered my personal suspicion, I did not outrightly claim that the Israelites worshipped Moloch in "The Tabernacle". Danino should at least have done me the honor of noting that.
Allow me now to turn the tables on my critic. I can safely state that even were the Amosian "sikut" made to mean "Sakkuth", it would not invalidate my article by one iota. Not only would the Saturnian connection of this verse remain through the undisputed inclusion of Chiun/Kaiwan, but the god Sakkuth is himself associated in Akkadian texts with the planet Saturn.(25) So let Danino accept the reading as "Sakkuth your king", and then let him tell me again that the worship of Saturn by the ancient Hebrews is an absurd idea.
Skepticism concerning the reality of ancient child sacrifice, as described in Biblical and non-Biblical sources, has been encountered before. One can understand the revulsion at such disclosures as well as the tendency to resist and even revoke them. Ritual infanticide does not exactly inspire pride in one's ancestry. But facts are facts, and no amount of rationalization or wishful thinking is going to erase the abominations of the past. The literary sources on the subject, which continue to be disbelieved by those whose sentiments are outraged, are too emphatic to be discounted.
Danino can invoke the possibility that the Molochian rites were ones of simple purification all he wants, but the sources are against him. What is at issue here has nothing to do with whether the Hebrew phrase "he'evir ba'esh", which has been translated as "to pass through the fire", is elsewhere used to denote the purification of unclean dishes, but whether the sources describe the sacrificial slaying of children or not.
The very Scriptural verse following that which mentions sukot-benot continues by stating, in a most unambiguous manner, that the Sepharvites in Samaria "burnt their children in fire to Adram-Moloch and Anam-Moloch".(26) While it is certain that the Sepharvites were not Israelites, the rites of Moloch which Danino himself admits to having been copied by the Israelites - are here clearly spelled out as they are, also, elsewhere in the Old Testament.(27)
That this rite was copied by the Israelites in all its details is borne out by the condemnations of the Prophets. Isaiah did not mince words when he accused his people of "slaying the children in the valleys",(28) as neither did Jeremiah when he reviled them for constructing the Molochian Tophet in order "to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire".(29) Jeremiah, it is true, did use the phrase "to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech",(30) but he was quite precise in his meaning with the words "to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings''.(31) It was no different with Ezekiel who spoke of slaying the Israelite children in honor of "their idols",(32) placing into Yahweh's mouth the very words: "You slaughtered my children and delivered them up as an offering by fire."(33) And, so that there shall be no further dispute on this question, it should be noted that we are not here confronted by a choice in different texts, for these passages are similarly translated in both the Septuagint and Masoretic versions.
Danino has, therefore, no right to claim that the rites of Moloch consisted in passing the children through the fire without killing them; not unless he wishes to follow in the steps of Moshe Weinfeld, the Biblical scholar who attempted to eliminate child sacrifice entirely from the Old Testament by presenting the literary evidence as nothing more than poetic hyperbole.(34) But then, if I may ask again, who would be guilty of tampering with whose sources?
The sacrificial slaughter of children has been corroborated by archaeological discoveries that have progressed far beyond what I intimated in my original
paper.(35) The excavation of the Precinct of Tanit in Carthage, not to mention similar precincts in Sicily, Sardinia, and Tunisia, has yielded thousands of urns crammed full with the charred remains of sacrificed children and lambs.(36) When archaeologists like Claude Schaeffer(37) and Helene Benichou-Safar(38) interpret these remains as those of children who died a natural death, they are sorely out of touch with reality. In face of the literary evidence which long preceded that of the spade, some of which constitutes eye-witness accounts, one could not even be tempted to accept such conclusions. As Lawrence Stager and Samuel Wolff, excavators of the Carthaginian tophet stated:
The Biblical connection, of course, lies firstly in the fact that these Carthaginian sacrifices were conducted in honor of Baal, whom Jeremiah identified as Moloch;(40) and secondly, in the additional verity that the Carthaginians themselves often referred to these offerings as mulk (or Moloch) sacrifices.(41)
If, as I suggested,(42) the Molochian passages of the Old Testament have been washed clean of all traces of ritual cannibalism, it becomes evident that references to this additional abomination will not there be found. Expurgation, however, often leaves tell-tale clues. Such, in my opinion, are the two statements from Ezekiel which I reproduced in my article.
True enough, the Hebrew verb "akal" ("'ukal/'oklah") is sometimes used in the Old Testament with the meaning "to devour as in fire".(43) But, contrary to what Danino implies, the same verb is also there used with the simpler meaning "to devour as in eating".(44) Moreover, the latter is the primary meaning of the verb .
The Septuagint version of Ezekiel 23:37 refers to the children being passed through the fire. There is, however, no mention there of the children having been devoured. Not so with the Masoretic version of this same verse for while the devouring of children is there mentioned, no fire is described. Neither is a parallel with fire drawn in the Masoretic version of Ezekiel 16:20. The pertinent verb in these instances must therefore be understood as "to devour" or "to be devoured" in the sense "to eat" or "to be eaten".
In itself, none of this is enough to warrant an interpretation in favor of cannibalism - I agree - but my suggestion was, as it still is, based on more than a mere comparison of the various versions of Ezekiel.
The ritual cannibalizing of children in honor of Saturn has long been known outside Biblical sources. The Aztecs sacrificed young children, including infants at the breast, to Tlaloc/Saturn.(45) After killing the children, they cooked and ate them.(46) In Crete, similar sacrifices to Kronos/Saturn were conducted regularly and, in Arcadia, young boys were sacrificially eaten down to the Christian era.(47)
These Saturnian practices lead one to ask whether ritual cannibalism was also part of the Saturnian rites practiced outside Jerusalem. That such rites were conducted by the Canaanites we know from the Wisdom of Solomon in which the following words were addressed to god:
Is it unreasonable to suppose that the Israelites, who adopted just about every Canaanite rite they came in contact with, including that of Moloch, would have fallen prey to this additional abomination? As I pointed out in my paper, when Israel was made to confess its collective sins, one tribe admitted to having sacrificed its children to Moloch while another admitted to having desired to eat the flesh of its sons and daughters. In view of the Saturnian practices of other nations, it does not require a stretch of the imagination to connect the two. The slaughter of children and cannibalism are mentioned together in both the above sources, where Moloch is singled out as the recipient of the sacrifice in one of them. The tribe of Zebulum need not therefore "have copied its rituals from distant nations". It had only to look around among the inhabitants of the very land it sojourned in. In any case, how does the fact that the Israelites "may have copied" their rituals from other nations absolve them of their practice?
Fair enough, I'll concede that the Hebrew phrase "lahem le'ekhol" - "for them to devour" - is to be understood as referring to the idols. The Masoretic version of Ezekiel 23:37 thus implies that the children were offered for food to these false gods. But it is precisely here that one begins to suspect the hidden truth. The idols could not have devoured their food. Who then did?
Is it not known through the rituals of other nations that food offered to the gods was usually eaten by the priests? Was it not dictated in Mosaic law itself that the officiating priest must partake of the offering?(48) Does this not lead to the conclusion that the priests of Moloch tasted the flesh of the sacrificed children? Is it not also stated, in the same Mosaic law, that congregational communion was to be part of the ritual?(49) Does this not lead to the added conclusion that the Molochian congregation would also have tasted the flesh?
I did commit one error in my original paper - but it is not one that Danino noticed. I stated there that "Chemosh is etymologically the same as Shamash".(50) As it has been brought to my attention, this is not so. The sound of the letter shiyn (SH as in Shamash) could not etymologically have changed into kaph (K as in Kemosh). In this instance I was trapped by the transliteration of the latter name as "Chemosh", whereas I should have checked the original. This error does not, however, invalidate my identification of Chemosh as Saturn. The fact that Judges II:24 names Chemosh as the god of the Ammonites, whereas elsewhere this god is named Moloch, is enough to connect Chemosh to Saturn. Even Danino's reminder that Jewish tradition presents Mesha, whose god was Chemosh, as having worshipped the Sun can be used to bolster this contention. It is obvious that this belief arose due to the fact that the Sun, in Hebrew, is called shemesh, which is the same as Shamash. Since, originally, Shamash was Saturn rather than the Sun, the connection between Chemosh and Shamash, despite etymological rules, is retained. At some future date I shall present additional evidence in favor of this identification.
In closing, I would like to ask Danino what "abundant records are against [my] views"? Where are these "many records" that "disagree with [my] opinion"? All he has presented are a few verses from the Masoretic Text which are contested by the older and more reliable Septuagint, plus a few others the meaning of which can best be clarified through the consideration of external evidences. His accusation that I tampered with Hebrew sources is unfounded; whereas the view that these same sources had already been tampered with by their very compilers and translators is not only held by the majority of Biblical scholars, but can actually be ascertained through a comparison of the texts. I have supplied my reasons why, in these instances, I have favored the particular texts I did. It is now up to Danino to tell me on what grounds he has chosen the opposite view.
I should, however, advise Danino that the proper study of Biblical matters is best conducted through a comparison of all the extant versions, including extra-Biblical and non-Biblical sources. Conclusions should take the discoveries of archaeology, linguistics, and whatever else touches upon the subject into consideration. A Biblical scholar who bases his opinions strictly on the Douay version of the Old Testament risks being branded an orthodox Catholic in matters where religious bias is best left behind. What then can be said of a scholar whose Biblical opinions are based solely on the Masoretic Text?
Children were also sacrificed to Baal Hammon in the country of my origin.(51) As in the Valley of Hinnom outside Jerusalem, no archaeological remains of child sacrifice have yet been unearthed in any of my native Maltese islands, but the inscriptions found there speak for themselves. I can, somewhat like Danino, invoke the argument that this was an imported Phoenician rite. I am not, however, naive enough to believe that my own ancestors failed to succumb to it especially since Phoenician blood must run in Maltese veins. I am no more proud of this than Danino must be but, while neither of us should try to absolve our ancestors, let it not be forgotten that the sins of the fathers should never be allowed to tarnish the sons. May Danino at least be of one mind with me in this.
1. al-Biruni, Kitab at-Tafhim, ed. by R. Ramsay Wright (London, 1934), pp. 253, 433-434.