God images in Negev Rock Art
Rock art provides a window into man's earliest recorded thoughts, much before the invention of ink and paper. When viewed in its proper context, it offers insights into how early concepts were perceived and gives us an unfiltered ideas of early rock art scenes, including depictions of gods.
In the Fertile Crescent, it was customary for each city-state to have a protector deity who was deemed the supreme ruler. This god was revered and worshiped in exchange for ultimate protection. The people believed in the deity’s magical powers that impacted both the earthly and cosmic realms. What did the god look like?
Xenophanes of Colophon, a Greek philosopher from 475 BC, gave us a clue: But if cattle and horses and lions had hands or could paint with their hands and create works such as men do, horses like horses and cattle like cattle also would depict the gods’ shapes and make their bodies of such a sort as the form they themselves have.
And that is exactly what people did. They created a deity in their own image, shaped like the most prominent visible object in their world, the Milky Way. The giant in the sky!
Fig.1 God figurines from Fertile Crescent, left to right: Pharaoh Narmer Egypt, Hadad – Phoenicia, Teshub – Kingdom of the Hittites, Baal – Canaan, Negev Desert rock art Israel, Milky Way image projected on the globe. Such posture refers in literature as a “smiting god”. Notice their resemblance to the Milky Way image.
In Fig. 1 on the right, the Milky Way is depicted as a massive giant spanning the sky. Its arms reach out to the stars while its legs are slightly apart, hovering above all humans with a majestic and powerful appearance. Its left foot is bent forward in a dynamic pose. Raising its hand in a striking motion, it is known as the Smiting God. Instead of a crown, it wears a unique cone hat. These distinctive features are consistent across all the figurines' images , as shown in Fig.1. It’s believed that this uncommon iconography originated from a recognizable object, an exact representation of god. There is no question that the figurines resemble a towering giant in the sky, surpassing everything on earth in size and stature.
The Fertile Crescent’s ancient god figurines originated from the outline of the Milky Way. The Milky Way was depicted as a towering figure in the sky, and people made their god figurines in his image. Rock art also portrayed the god as the Milky Way, showing him as a creator who set the stars in motion by turning the giant time wheel (see the article main image).
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