Gen 12:8 Beth'el
Yigal-Levin at utc.edu
Mon Aug 19 12:05:42 EDT 2002
At 03:28 PM 8/19/2002 +0100, Ian Goldsmith wrote:
>Good Afternoon Ladies/Gentlemen.
>As a thought, what do we know of Bethel - the House of
>It is mentioned in Genesis 12:8 and elsewhere, but no
>explanation is previously given for its existence that
>I can see.
>We know that Abraham called on the name of YHWH, but
>Bethel seems to pre-exist Abraham.
>Would "beyt" in this instance therefore refer to a
>building as it is given as a geographical reference
>If so is this an indicator of structured worship of
>YHWH before the patriarchal period going back to the
>time of Noah and perhaps to Gen 4:26 Seth and Enosh?
>"men began to call on to call on the name of YHWH"
>I'm not suggesting there was a building at this point
>(Seth's lifetime), but could there have been one at
>Abraham's time associated with the worship of El/YHWH.
>I'm just curious really as to whether or not there
>could have been a building given to the worship of
>YHWH before Abraham's lifetime.
As Liz has already mentioned, "Bet El was a sanctuary to El,
and El was worshipped in Canaan and elsewhere
long before YHWH came on the scene."
Some additional points: Whether or not the Patriarchs worshiped God by the
name YHWH depends on which Pentateuchal "source" you read. In any case it's
assumed that most of the "Beth" toponyms refer to a pre-Israelite cult
site: Beth-lehem, Beth-anat, Beth-bamoth-baal, Beth-horon, Beth-dagan, to
name but a few. In Some cases we have some information on the deity
worshiped there, in some we don't. Presumably, these names were not changed
by the Israelites, even when we have no record that the cults themselves
continued (that is, we have no evidence of Israelite sun-worship at
Beth-shemesh, but the name was kept).
Beth-el is different, for three reasons. First, because El, while being (as
we know from Ugarit) the proper name of a Canaanite deity, was also a
generic word for "god" and a title for YHWH. Second, because there WAS an
Israelite cult site there throughout the monarchy. And third (or second,
depending on your views on the relationship between the reality of the
Monarchy and the composition of the Pentateuch), because of the site's
importance in the Patriarchal narratives, especially those of Abraham and
Jacob. So there is a case to be made of Beth-el's being a primary Israelite
cult site (which does not mean that it was not used before).
Dr. Yigal Levin
Dept. of Philosophy and Religion
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
615 McCallie Avenue
Chattanooga TN 37403-2598
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