Friday, March 1, 2013

Yam, the fearsome sea god

Yam, the fearsome sea god of Canaanites
The discovery of authentic original Ugaritic documents have given much new light on the attitude of Bronze Age Canaanites towards the Sea.
Yam was the god of the sea, and became popular in the Ancient Egyptian times. Yam, from the Canaanite word Yam, (Hebrew ים) meaning "Sea", also written "Yaw", is one name of the Ugaritic god of Rivers and Sea. Also titled Judge Nahar ("Judge River"), he is also one of the 'ilhm (Elohim) or sons of El, the name given to the Levantine pantheon. Others dispute the existence of the alternative names, claiming it is a mistranslation of a damaged tablet. Despite linguistic overlap, theologically this god is not a part of the later subregional monotheistic theology, but rather is part of a broader and archaic Levantine polytheism.
Yam is the deity of the primordial chaos and represents the power of the sea untamed and raging; he is seen as ruling storms and the disasters they wreak. The gods cast out Yam from the heavenly mountain Sappan (modern Jebel Aqra; "Sappan" is cognate to Tsephon. The seven-headed dragon Lotan is associated closely with him and the serpent is frequently used to describe him. He is the Canaanite equivalent of the Sumerian Tiamat, the primordial mother goddess.
Of all the gods, despite being the champion of El, Yam holds special hostility against Baal Hadad, son of Dagon. Yam is a deity of the sea and his palace is in the abyss associated with the depths, or Biblical tehwom, of the oceans. (This is not to be confused with the abode of Mot, the ruler of the netherworlds.) In Ugaritic texts, Yam's special enemy Hadad is also known as the "king of heaven" and the "first born son" of El, whom ancient Greeks identified with their god Cronus, just as Baal was identified with Zeus, Yam with Poseidon and Mot with Hades. Yam wished to become the Lord god in his place. In turns the two beings kill each other, yet Hadad is resurrected and Yam also returns. Some authors have suggested that these tales reflect the experience of seasonal cycles in the Levant.


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  2. Hi Mosleh, besides the compact wikipedia article there is quite a lot of literature in Ugaritic studies.

    The discovery of the clay tablets in Ras Shamra (Ugarit) near Latakia on the northern coast of modern Syria made it possible for scholars to learn better another Canaanite language with strong links to Hebrew and to understand more about their religion so negatively viewed in the Bible (Baal et al)