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Anat-Yahu, Some Other Deities, and the Jews of Elephantine

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This contribution discusses the problem of the origin of the goddess Anat-Yahu and the related issue of the cultural background of the Jewish colony at Elephantine. It is argued that Anat-Yahu has been modeled after Anat-Bethel. Contrary to a current opinion, neither Bethel nor Anat-Bethel can be regarded as Phoenician gods. They are late Aramaean gods whose cult is confined to North Syria. Anat-Yahu must be regarded as an Aramaean creation, elicited by the identification of Yahu with Bethel. The latter identification was one of the results of the Aramaean migration to Samaria, either enforced or voluntary, at the end of the 8th century. The theory here proposed assumes that the Jews and Aramaeans of the colonies at Elephantine and Syene originated predominantly from Northern Israel. The ultimate origins of the Aramaean settlers go back to North Syria. The Jewish character of the Elephantine colony is secondary. It can be accounted for by the Judaean transit of Israelite colonists on their way to Egypt and the secondary influx of actual Judaeans. Yet, despite the common designation of the Elephantine colony as "Jewish", its religion is in fact Israelite.


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