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Index / Religions / West Semitic religions
El


In Semitic religions, sometimes indicating a specific god, at other times indicating "god" in general.
In ancient times, the word "El" was used for "God" all over the Middle East. Its meaning could be interpreted as 'power' (from Hebrew) or 'first' (from Aramaic), two designations that can be seen as complementary.
When El is used as the name of a god, he is the main god, the god of power. Epithets for El can be "Father of mankind, "Creator of the creatures", "Benevolent and merciful" and "The source of the river."
When El is not used as a god's name, it still indicates the highest god. Other references to the highest god may be Adon, "Lord", Baal, "Master", or Malek, "king."
In Canaanite and Phoenician religions, El had his own cult centres, unlike the way in which the highest god was treated in many other polytheistic religions.
From the ancient Syrian town of Ugarit, inscriptions to El as Qds (holy) have been found. Here he is also the husband of Asherah and the father of all the other gods, except Baal.
In general, El is not active in myths. He shares such a status with other higher gods in their pantheons.
He is most commonly represented as a bull. He may also be depicted as an old man with a long beard and even two wings.
The Old Testament uses El as a synonym for Yahweh.




By Tore Kjeilen