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El

El

In the mythology of the ancient Near East, El was the supreme god of the Canaanites*. He was the creator deity, the father of gods and men, and the highest judge and authority in all divine matters and human affairs. In the Old Testament of the Bible, the creator deity is referred to as El, Elohim (a form of El), or Yahweh.

In Canaanite mythology, El was usually represented as an elderly man with a long beard. He was believed to live on Mount Saphon, near the ancient Syrian city of Ugarit. A highly respected deity, El was all-knowing and all-powerful, wise and compassionate. He was sometimes referred to as "the Bull" and was generally shown as a seated figure wearing a crown with bull's horns. The bull suggested El's strength and creative force.

Despite his religious significance, El did not play an active role in Canaanite mythology. Most myths were about the actions of others and involved El indirectly. For example, one story from Ugarit concerned Aqhat, son of King Danel. In return for the king's hospitality, the craftsman god Kothar gave Aqhat his bow and arrows. The goddess Anat wanted the bow and tried to buy it with gold and silver. When Aqhat refused, the goddess offered to give him immortality in exchange for the bow. Aqhat rudely rejected her offer, telling the goddess that she could not make immortal a man destined to die.

deity god or goddess

immortality ability to live forever

Angry about having her offer rejected, Anat asked for and received El's permission to have Aqhat killed. The young man's death brought drought and crop failure. Anat cried over his death and said she would bring him back to life so that the earth might be fertile again. Unfortunately, the tablets containing this myth are in such bad condition that the ending of the story is difficult to interpret.

See also Anat; Semitic Mythology.

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El

El (Heb., ‘God’). The name of the supreme God of the Canaanite pantheon (known e.g. from the Ugaritic texts), which became the name of the God of Israel.

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el

elAdele, Aix-la-Chapelle, aquarelle, artel, au naturel, bagatelle, béchamel, befell, bell, belle, boatel, Brunel, Cadell, carousel, cartel, cell, Chanel, chanterelle, clientele, Clonmel, compel, Cornell, crime passionnel, dell, demoiselle, dispel, dwell, el, ell, Estelle, excel, expel, farewell, fell, Fidel, fontanelle, foretell, Gabrielle, gazelle, gel, Giselle, hell, hotel, impel, knell, lapel, mademoiselle, maître d'hôtel, Manuel, marcel, matériel, mesdemoiselles, Michel, Michelle, Miguel, misspell, morel, moschatel, Moselle, motel, muscatel, nacelle, Nell, Nobel, Noel, organelle, outsell, Parnell, pell-mell, personnel, propel, quell, quenelle, rappel, Raquel, Ravel, rebel, repel, Rochelle, Sahel, sardelle, sell, shell, show-and-tell, smell, Snell, spell, spinel, swell, tell, undersell, vielle, villanelle, well, yell •Buñuel • Pachelbel • handbell •barbell • harebell • decibel • doorbell •cowbell • bluebell • Annabel •mirabelle • Christabel • Jezebel •Isabel, Isobel •nutshell • infidel • asphodel •zinfandel • Grenfell • Hillel • parallel •Cozumel • caramel • Fresnel •pimpernel • pipistrelle • Tricel •filoselle

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El

EL

EL . Originally an appellative that simply means "god" in common Semitic, El ('il) is the proper name of the grey-bearded patriarch of the Syro-Palestinian, or "Canaanite," pantheon. Although references to El are found in texts throughout the ancient Near East, this West Semitic deity plays an active mythological and cultic role only in the Late Bronze Age texts from the Syrian city of Ugarit (modern Ras Shamra). Here he is portrayed as a wise patriarch and the eldest of the gods, the grey-haired "father of years" (ab šnm ). El is "the father of the gods" (ab ilm ) and "the creator of creatures" (bny bnwt ), while his consort, Athirat, is "the progenitress of the gods" (qnyt ilm ). El is also credited with creating the earth in later Phoenician and Punic inscriptions, but Ugaritic texts do not include this tradition. Iconographic sources from Ugarit appear to present "beneficent El, the kindly one" (tpn ʾl dpid) as an enthroned, bearded figure with his right hand raised in a benedictory gesture. As the "father of humanity" (ab adm ), El is invoked to cure diseases and grant the blessing of children in Ugaritic epics.

Some scholars have argued that the Ugaritic texts portray El as an otiose deity who is replaced by the virile young Baal as the leader of the gods. Most scholars, however, now agree that El retains his authoritative position as the head of the pantheon even as the storm-god Baal exercises power over the earth on behalf of the gods. As "king" (mlk ) and "judge" (pt ), El presides over the divine council, which meets at his own mountain home "at the sources of the rivers, amid the confluence of the deeps." It is El's perquisite to appoint and legitimize (yknn ) the god who will serve as "king" (mlk ), and so Baal rules only with the consent of the divine patriarch. El receives homage and obeisance from the gods, and apart from Anat's impetuous threats to her indulgent father, no deity openly challenges the authority of El without fear of losing his or her own position. Even Mot (Death), the "beloved of El," is subdued when the sun goddess Shapsh threatens him with El's displeasure: "Surely he will remove the support of your throne; surely he will overturn the seat of your kingship; surely he will break the scepter of your rule." The decree of El carries ultimate authority among the gods.

El's most common Ugaritic epithet is "bull" (r ), a symbol of his power and strength. One Ugaritic myth, "The Birth of the Gracious Gods," portrays El as a virile and lusty god who seduces two goddesses on the beach. Using "hand" (yd) as a euphemism for penis, the text states that "El's 'hand' grows as long as the sea" (tirkm yd il kym ). He impregnates the two goddesses, who give birth to the gods Dawn and Dusk (šr wšlm ). Similarly in the Baal Cycle, El welcomes the entrance of his consort to his throne room by playfully asking, "Does the 'hand' of El the King excite you, the love of the Bull arouse you?" Indeed, El can be a less-than-dignified character in Ugaritic myth. In one text, El drinks to inebriation at a divine feast (mrz ) and is berated by a god "with two horns and a tail" as he staggers home. El then collapses and apparently becomes incontinent, wallowing in his own feces and urine. (This text appropriately concludes with the recipe for a hangover remedy.) Some scholars also identify El with the "king of eternity" (mlk 'lm ), the divine leader of the underworld shades of deceased kings (rpum ) in the Ugaritic corpus, but there is no consensus on this identification.

The Hebrew Bible frequently uses the word 'ēl as a reference to the Israelite god, both by itself and in combination with other epithets, such as El Olam, El Elyon, and El Shadday (e.g., Gen. 21:33; Exod. 6:23). Yahweh and El share many common features. Ugaritic El is "beneficent El, the kindly one" (tpn il dpid), while Yahweh is "a compassionate and gracious god" ('ēl raûm wĕannûn ) (Exod. 34:6). A Phoenician inscription from Karatepe invokes "El, the creator of the earth" ('l qn ar ), similar to the biblical blessing of "God Most High, creator of the heavens and the earth" ('ē ʿelyôn qōnê šāmayim wā'āre ) (Gen. 14:19). Historically, El is probably identified with Yahweh in ancient Israel, as suggested by the phrase "El, the god of Israel" ('ēl 'ĕlōhê yiśrā'ēl) in Genesis 33:20, and by the use of 'ēl as a common theophoric element in Hebrew names. Finally, El appears occasionally in Phoenician and Punic sources from the first millennium bce, including the Phoenician history allegedly written by Sanchuniathon, which is partially preserved via Philo Byblius in Eusebius's Praeparatio evangelica.

Bibliography

Day, John. Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan. Sheffield, U.K., 2000.

Hermann, W. "El." In Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, edited by Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter W. van der Horst, 2d ed., pp. 274280. Leiden, 1999.

Parker, Simon B., ed. Ugaritic Narrative Poetry. Atlanta, 1997. Excellent and accessible English translations of the Ugaritic mythological texts.

Pope, Marvin H. El in the Ugaritic Texts. Leiden, 1955. A classic and still-useful study.

Smith, Mark S. The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel's Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts. Oxford, 2001.

Smith, Mark S. The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel. 2d ed. Grand Rapids, Mich., 2002. An excellent introduction with comprehensive bibliographic references to recent work.

Neal H. Walls (2005)

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El

El ★★ This Strange Passion 1952

Bizarre black-comedy finds virginal middle-aged Francisco (De Cordova) marrying a beautiful young woman (Garces) and becoming jealously paranoid when he believes she's been unfaithful. He's eventually driven to insanity and attempted murder. Spanish with subtitles. 88m/B VHS . MX Arturo de Cordova, Delia Garces, Luis Beristain, Aurora Walker; D: Luis Bunuel; W: Luis Bunuel, Luis Alcoriza; C: Gabriel Figueroa; M: Luis Hernandez Breton.

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El

El

Nationality/Culture

Canaanite

Pronunciation

ELL

Alternate Names

Il

Appears In

Ugaritic texts and inscriptions

Lineage

Father of humankind

Character Overview

In the mythology of the ancient Near East, El was the supreme god of the Canaanites. He was the creator deity, the father of gods and men, and the highest judge and authority in all divine matters and human affairs. In the Bible, the creator deity is referred to as El, Elohim (pronounced ay-LOH-heem, a form of El), or Yahweh (pronounced YAH-way).

Major Myths

One story from Ugarit concerned Aqhat, son of King Danel. In return for the king's hospitality, the craftsman god Kothar gave Aqhat his bow and arrows. The goddess Anat wanted the bow and tried to buy it with gold and silver. When Aqhat refused, the goddess offered to give him immortality (eternal life) in exchange for the bow. Aqhat rudely rejected her offer, telling the goddess that she could not make immortal a man destined to die.

Angry about having her offer rejected, Anat asked for and received El's permission to have Aqhat killed. The young man's death brought drought and crop failure. Anat cried over his death and said she would bring him back to life so that the earth might be fertile again. Unfortunately, the tablets containing this myth are in such bad condition that the ending of the story is difficult to interpret.

El in Context

Despite his religious significance, El did not play an active role in Canaanite mythology. Most myths were about the actions of others and involved El indirectly. The true nature of El is further confused by the fact that “El” could be used to refer to any god, and not just the supreme deity of the Canaanites. This is similar to how the word “god” can refer to any deity of any religion, but is commonly used—with a capital “G”—to refer to the supreme being in Judeo-Christian beliefs.

Key Themes and Symbols

In Canaanite mythology, El was usually represented as an elderly man with a long beard. He was believed to live on Mount Saphon, near the ancient Syrian city of Ugarit. A highly respected deity, El was all-knowing and all-powerful, wise and compassionate. He was sometimes referred to as “the Bull” and was generally shown as a seated figure wearing a crown with bull's horns. The bull suggested El's strength and creative force.

El in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life

El appears throughout ancient Middle Eastern religious texts and inscriptions. Over time, however, other names began to appear more frequently in references to the supreme being. These include Elohim and Yahweh. Although early Christian leaders recognized El as the first Hebrew name of God, the term is usually associated with beliefs and practices that existed in times before the Bible.

Read, Write, Think, Discuss

It is widely recognized that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all arose in the same region of the world and from the same core belief in a single supreme being, with El being one of the names of this deity. However, modern followers of these three religions each typically view members of the other two religions as completely different in their beliefs. Using your library, the Internet, or other available resources, research the basic beliefs of these three religions and write down at least three common elements found in all of them.

SEE ALSO Semitic Mythology

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