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Chemosh

CHEMOSH

CHEMOSH (Heb. כְּמוֹשׁ), the chief god of the Moabites. The Bible uses the form kemosh (Num. 21:29; Jer. 48:13, et al.), while in the *Mesha Stele the name appears as kmš, lacking the vav. In other epigraphic material the name appears as the theophoric component of proper names such as kmšʿm and kmšʾl. In Akkadian documents the name appears both alone as dKa-am-muš and as the theophoric component in proper names such as Ka-mu-šu-na-ad-bi, dKa-mu-šú-šar-uṣur. The etymology of the name is unclear. Some scholars tend to assume that Chemosh was the god of war in the Moabite pantheon. Thus Mesha, king of *Moab, attributed his victories over Israel to Chemosh, dedicating a bamah ("high place") to him at Dibon. Mesha also proscribed for him (see *Ḥerem) the Israelite city of Nebo and part of the spoils of the war. Support for the view that Chemosh was a god of war is sought in the Greek name of the site Areopolis (Rabbath Moab), since Ares is the name of the Greek god of war (cf. Jerome; in: pl23, col. 909). According to some scholars, the passage in which Jephthah argues with the king of Ammon, "Do you not hold what Chemosh your god gives you to possess?" (Judg. 11:24), alludes to Chemosh as a war god. It is difficult to understand why Jephthah would mention Chemosh when speaking to the Ammonites and many theories have been advanced to explain this. Others view Chemosh as the god of the netherworld on the basis of an Akkadian god-list which identified him with the god Nergal (dKa-ma-muš, dNérgal). Support for this identification may be found in Ugaritic texts in which the name Kmṭ appears next to the god Ṭṭ, whose name suggests "earth" (Heb. ṭiṭ, "mud, clay"). The compound Ashtar-Chemosh on the Mesha Stele may refer to the goddess Ishtar, who was considered, according to this, Chemosh's mate. Alternatively, it may identify Chemosh with the deity Ishtar, the morning star. The cult of Chemosh was known to the Israelites. Solomon built a high place to him in Jerusalem (i Kings 11:7, 33), and according to biblical tradition, it was only desecrated in Josiah's time some 400 years later (ii Kings 23:13).

bibliography:

A.H. Van-Zyl, The Moabites (1960), 180–3, 195–9; M.C. Astour, in: jaos, 86 (1966), 278; em, s.v. (includes bibliography). add. bibliography: H.-P. Mueller, in: ddd, 186–89.

[Bustanay Oded]

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