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Yahweh, the Primitive Storm God / Sky God

Many parts of the Bible depict Yahweh in quite a primitive fashion.  At one time, the Jews imagined their national god Yahweh as a storm god, just as the ancient Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, and others each had the concept of a sky god / storm god.

Here are some quotations from the Bible.


Psalm 18 (also 2 Sam 22), a psalm attributed to David:

"The waves of death swirled about me, and torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of Sheol coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called to Yahweh; I called out to my Elohim. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears. The earth trembled and quaked, the foundations of the heavens shook; they trembled because he was angry.  Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it.  He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind.  He made darkness his canopy around him \ the dark rain clouds of the sky.  Out of the brightness of his presence bolts of lightning blazed forth.  Yahweh thundered from heaven, the voice of the Most High resounded.  He shot arrows and scattered the enemies, bolts of lightning and routed them.  The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at the rebuke of Yahweh, at the blast of breath from his nostrils.  He reached down from on high and took hold of me... He rescued me from my powerful enemy..."

 

Cherubim are sphinxes, usually with the body of a four-legged animal, the head of a human, and the wings of a bird. They are creatures from Mesopotamian mythology.

The "foundations of the heavens" refer to mountains, which many ancient peoples believed held up the sky/heaven.

In Psalm 18, Yahweh has a nose, a mouth, feet.  He travels by riding on the backs of flying creatures.  He is a storm god who helps his devotees to win in battle.

 

Ps 29, also attributed to David:

"The voice of Yahweh is over the waters; the El of glory thunders, Yahweh thunders over the mighty waters."  His voice is "powerful" and "majestic;" his voice is lightning, it "breaks to pieces the cedars of Lebanon."  "The voice of Yahweh strikes with flashes of lightning" and "shakes the desert," "twists the oaks, and strips the forests bare... Yahweh sits enthroned over the flood."

Here, Yahweh is a thundering god of storms and floods.  The writer imagines that he sits up in the sky on a throne like a human king.

 

Ps 68:4,7-8:  "Sing to Elohim.... extol him who rides on the clouds".... When you went out before your people, O God... the earth shook, the heavens poured down rain."

Here, Yahweh rides on the clouds, brings storms, and shakes the earth.

More quotations:

Ps 68:32-33:  "Sing to Elohim... to him who rides the ancient skies above, who thunders with mighty voice.  Proclaim the power of Elohim, whose majesty is over Israel, whose power is in the skies."

Ps 77:17-18:  "The clouds poured down water, the skies resounded with thunder; your arrows flashed back and forth. Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind, your lightning lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked."

Ps 97:1-5,9:  "Yahweh reigns.... Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.  Fire goes before him and consumes his foes on every side.  His lightning lights up the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax....  For you, O Yahweh, are the most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods."

Ps 104:1-3,5,7,13-14,24,29-32:  Yahweh, my Elohim "wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the skies/heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.  He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind....  He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.... at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of your thunder.... He waters the mountains from his upper chambers....  He makes grass grow.... the earth is full of your creatures.... when you take away their breath they die and return to the dust.  When you send your ruwach/wind/breath they are created ... .  May the glory of Yahweh endure forever ... he who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke."

Ps 135:6-7:  "Yahweh does whatever pleases him in the skies/heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths.  He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; he sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses."

Ps 144:5-7:  "Part your skies/heavens, O Yahweh, and come down; touch the mountains so that they smoke.  Send forth lightning and scatter the enemy; shoot your arrows and rout them.  Reach down your hand from on high; deliver me."

Ps 147:4,8,16-18:  "He determines the number of stars and calls them each by name.... He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow.... He spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes.  He hurls down his hail like pebbles.  Who can withstand his icy blast?...  He stirs up his breezes and the waters flow."

Ps 148:8:  "lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding"

Is 29:5-6:  "Suddenly, in an instant, Yahweh of the armies will come with thunder and earthquake and great noise, with wind storm and tempest and flames of a devouring fire."

Is 40:22, 6-7:  "He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers.  He stretches out the skies/heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in."  He blows on people and they die.


The writer of Isaiah imagines that his god is so high in the sky that humans look like grasshoppers!  He, along with the psalmists, imagines that his god has a human-like personality with emotions (like anger) and sits up in the sky on a throne like that of a human king.  [Notice that the land/earth is imagined to be in a circle, NOT a sphere.]  These writers think that sometimes, when the god gets angry, he comes down from the sky and sends lightning and winds and hail and thunder, and he scares the enemies of Israel. 

The writer of psalm 104 thinks that the earth is stationary and cannot move. 

Yahweh/El shakes the earth, just as Zeus/Jupiter and/or Poseidon/Neptune was/were thought to shake the earth.  Yahweh/El is considered the source of lightning and thunder, just as Zeus/Jupiter among the Greeks and Romans.  And what does "Jupiter" mean but "God the Father."

The psalmist (104) thinks (along with the writers of Genesis and Ecclesiastes) that humans are made of 2 main components:  invisible wind/air/ruwach and visible material/dirt.  Many ancient people did not realize that air/wind/breath was made of the same atoms as everything else.  This invisible air was called "pneuma" or "psyche" by Greeks, "spiritus" or "anima/animus" by Romans and they had come to believe that it was responsible for human thought and life.  Thus developed the concept of "soul"/"spirit."  That soul/spirit was ever thought to be "non-physical" was merely a mistake due to the primitive state of ancient "science," i.e. a lack of understanding.  Modern people do nothing but indulge in ancient superstitious beliefs when they continue to imagine a "spirit realm" and claim that it is not made of the same stuff that composes all else.  Our breath and the human mind/brain are as physical as anything else.  We all do well to remember that the word "spirit" originally meant "breath/wind."  There is no "non-physical spirit-realm."

There is much that is primitive in the thinking of various Biblical authors.  Modern individuals should not rely on the Bible as a divine, "infallible" guide to life in the modern world.  Yahweh is not more or less valid as a concept than Zeus or Jupiter were for the Greeks and Romans.  All three are products of human imagination.

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