Basics of Ancient Ugaritic


Williams, Michael.  Basics of Ancient Ugaritic.  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 2012.

While this presentation has severe limitations, in many ways those limitations aid the intermediate reader in Hebrew studies.  As is commonly pointed out, the vocabulary between Hebrew and Ugaritic is almost identical in places. This aids the Hebrew student. Further, Ugaritic concepts (or perhaps concepts common to both Ugaritic and Hebrew) shed light on sometimes ambiguous Hebrew passages.

If you study this book, you won’t be able to read cuneiform.  That’s not really a drawback, since never in your life will you be in a situation where you will need to do that.  Therefore, Michael Williams simply transliterates the cuneiform. That is valuable for the Hebrew student since he can see parallels between the two languages and cultures.

As lagniappe, I will summarize Williams’ chapter on the conceptual world of ancient Ugarit.

The Ugaritic World


  • El, father of the gods and head of pantheon.
    • Ba’al, Anat, and Mot are his children.
    • Aged deity who does not actively rule. In Ezekiel 28:2 the King of Tyre says, “I am El, king of the gods.”
    • He lives on a cosmic mountain
  • Ba’al
    • His name means lord.
    • Defeats the sea god, Yamm, and the dragon Lotan.
    • Associated with the weathe.
    • He lives on Mt Zaphon
  • Anat, sister and consort of Ba’al.
  • Athirat/Asherah.
    • The great goddess, consort of El.
    • Worshipped in Tyre and Sidon primarily, perhaps explains Jezebel’s actions (1 Kgs 16:31-32, passim)
    • Associated with a cultic pole or phallic symbol (Deut. 16:21; 7:5).
  • Yamm, the Sea
    • Son of El, enemy of Ba’al
    • Sometimes associated with Lotan (Heb. liwyatan) or Tunnan (tannin).
    • Bible mentions a cosmological battle with the Sea (Ps. 74:13. 89:9-10).
  • Mot.
    • God of Death. Enemy of Ba’al.

Literary Figures

Who is Dan’el? See Ezek. 14:14, 20, and 28:3.

Lotan = Leviathan

Rephaim: these are the inhabitants of the underworld (Williams 21ff). They are rapa’uma.  The key passage is Isaiah 14:9, “The realm of the dead is all astir to meet you at your coming; it rouses the repa’im to greet you, all those who were leaders in the world; it makes them rise from their thrones–all those who were kings over nations.”

But they aren’t just demon kings of the underworld.  There was perhaps a parallel race above. King Og was the last of the Rephaites” (Deut. 3:11).


4 thoughts on “Basics of Ancient Ugaritic

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