Stories from Ancient Canaan (Coogan)

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This is the first edition, not the second edition edited by Mark Smith.

Coogan, Michael. Stories from Ancient Canaan. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1978.

When God revealed himself to man, he revealed himself using words and concepts that his target audience would have understood. This included the influence of nearby Ugarit. Ugaritic can shed light on several biblical words, like Lotan (Leviathan). It isn’t a crocodile. It is a cosmic serpent (Coogan 106). It lives in the watery depths, the apsu. (And below the Apsu are where the Rephaim dwell).

This book also illustrates perhaps why the Israelites were so tempted by Baalism. The language was often similar and while I believe that most of Torah was written down quite early, it’s doubtful that agrarian farmers would have had bound copies of Torah in their home libraries. And without constant reading, it’s easy to get confused.

Nota Bene: Coogan suggests that Anat has been compared to the Hindu goddess Kali (Coogan 13).

Ugaritic poetry sheds light on many biblical passages, as the biblical writers would have used conceptual currency already in play. Psalm 82 says that “Elohim has taken his place in the Assembly of El/In the midst of the elohim he holds judgment.” This is Divine Council language.

Isaiah 14:13 speaks of the “stars of El.”

Aqhat and Danel

While the text doesn’t actually mention “Sheol,” it uses similar concepts. It also notes that it is a world of “slime” (33, 34). This might partially explain why no one ever looked forward to going to Sheol.

Ba’al is a “son of El,” as Anat tells Aqhat, “You will be able to match your years with Ba’al/Your months with the sons of El” (37). If the Divine Council worldview is true, this means that Ba’al is a fallen ben’ ha-elohim.

The Healers

Coogan suggests the Healers are minor deities of the Underworld. Coogan offers as evidence that the biblical term Rephaim, the demon kings of the Underworld, is also the cognate for healers (rp’um). They live below the (cosmic) waters (Job 26.5).

The Ba’al Cycle

This conflict is worth noting in some detail, as it involves a god’s war against the sea (ym; Heb. yam). And in terms of parallelism, the sea (ym) is also the same as the river (nhr). The poetry in this poem is occasionally striking. Death speaks, “One lip to the earth, one lip to the heavens/He will stretch out his tongue to the stars” (107). Of course, any similarities between Yahweh and Ba’al vanish immediately, as it notes of Ba’al (who is also Zeus–JBA), “He fell in love with a heifer in the desert pasture/a young cow in the fields of Death’s shore: he slept with her 77 times/He mounted her 88 times” (108).

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