Saturday, November 6, 2010

Jericho: destroying and building a city in the stars.

Historians disagree about how to use the books of the Old Testament as primary source material. Opinions about the books range from one extreme to the other: from those who interpret the books almost literally as history, to those who discard the books altogether. The first rule of historians in interpreting primary sources is “to know thy author.” That means to know who wrote the books, where they wrote, when they wrote, what were their sources, how they wrote, and why. Answering when they wrote is the biggest bone of contention amongst scholars. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls provided a good upper limit for the date of composition of the Old Testament books. The scrolls are hard evidence that most of the books existed in a form similar to the Bible we know today by the 2nd century BCE, during a time known as the Hellenistic period. But, the lower limit for the composition is contentious. Maximalists claim that the books were compiled during the Persian period, between 538 to 323 BCE; but, were based on older sources. Minimalists claim authorship of the books after Alexander the Great, dating the books during the third century BCE and later.

Knowing that the authors were priests is helpful in looking for clues about when the books were written. Ancient priests only did one useful thing: they were responsible for determining the calendar. It is ironic that dating books written by calendar keepers is such a contentious question. Their sources were most likely astrological texts, written by priests who observed the stars to determine the calendar and compose omens. The most obvious place to look for answers about when the books were composed is the sky. Now that we have computer programs that allow us to look at the same sky as ancient priests, it is much easier to see that Bible stories were based on astrological records.

By looking at the stars, I discovered another clue that the minimalists are most likely correct, that the Bible books of 1st and 2nd Kings and Joshua were written during the Hellenistic period, after the year 302 BCE. There was a solar eclipse in 302 BCE that is described in the book of Joshua.

The eclipse on April 2nd 302 BCE was a very big deal because it occurred on the 4th of Nisanu in the Babylonian calendar. Their calendar was lunar, based on months determined by the cycle of the moon. The Babylonian New Year began on the first of Nisanu and the 4th day was very eventful in their New Year’s celebration. On 4th of Nisanu in Babylon, the high priest of the god, Bel Marduk, opened the New Year festival that continued for a week. The month Nisanu began with the new moon rising under the astrological sign of Taurus. Taurus the Bull was a symbol of Bel Marduk and the moon was exalted in Taurus. During the New Year rituals, the priests of Marduk composed omens for the king for the following year. So, an eclipse on the big day of the New Year was an ominous event.

In the Bible stories of the kings of Israel, the tension in the tales centers on the kings who worshiped Baal, the Palestinian version of Bel Marduk, rather than Yahweh. The most infamous Baal worshipping Israelite king was Ahab and his wife, Jezebel. There really was a king Ahab in Iron Age Israel. Archaeological evidence shows that his family, the Omrides, really did rule much of Israel with their capital in Samaria. However, both the archaeological evidence and the Biblical names of the Omrides show that they worshiped Yahweh because they used names based on the god’s name. They certainly did not exclude Yahweh in preference for Baal, as the Bible stories claim. The Israelites of the Iron Age were polytheistic, worshipping both Baal and Yahweh and the whole host of Canaanite gods. Archaeological evidence also shows that Palestinians continued to be polytheistic during the Persian period, Hellenistic period, and Roman period. So, there is nothing in the Bible story about Ahab that shows that the author knew much about the real king, other than his name. But, the stories do show that the authors had access to records about events in the sky, dating to 302 BCE, because the New Year day eclipse shows up in their stories.

The eclipse of 302 BCE may not have been visible from Babylon; but, it was in Syria, Phoenicia, and Palestine. Some of the priests of Yahweh most likely observed the eclipse from Jericho. In 302 BCE, the Jerusalem priests of Yahweh owned estates in the rich farmland surrounding Jericho. The eclipse was most significant for Jericho because it was the city of the moon. The name Jericho was derived from the Canaanite moon god, Yarikh. Even the earliest artifacts from Jericho show that a temple dedicated to the moon was the primary religious institution in the town. The fourth of Nisanu should have been a great day in Jericho, with the horns of the moon just becoming visible in Taurus, highlighted by the rays of the sun. But, just at sunset on the evening of April 2nd, 302 BCE, The sun took the moon down in the west, in eclipse. If the eclipse had happened at midday, as it did in July of 335 BCE, it would have been interpreted as the moon blotting out the sun. But, in the book of Joshua, the eclipse of 302 BCE is described as the destruction of Jericho, the city of the moon.

(screenshots from Stellarium)

Immediately before Joshua’s attack on Jericho the Israelites observed the Passover. The primary ritual of the ancient Jewish Passover was the sacrifice of lambs, symbolized in the sky by the constellation of Aries.  In Joshua, the Passover referred to the time just before the eclipse, when the sun was moving from Aries to Taurus and the Babylonian New Year.

As Joshua approached Jericho, which referred to the sun approaching the moon during the eclipse of 302 BCE, he met a man with his sword drawn in his hand, who said that he was the captain of Lord’s host. The captain was the constellation Orion, standing with his weapon ready over his head, beside the eclipse just below Taurus. Orion was just becoming visible at sun down; but, more apparent as the eclipse darkened the sky.

As Jericho was destroyed by the sun during the eclipse, only Rahab and her family were saved from the city of the moon. Rahab was the good prostitute, who lived on the wall by the gate of Jericho and helped the Israelites destroy her city. Rahab represented the goddess known as Ishtar, Aphrodite, or Venus. Her shrines were located on the wall by the gate in ancient cities. Just below the eclipse of 302 BCE was the planet Venus. The planet may or may not have been visible during the eclipse; but, astrologer priests certainly knew the location of the planet relative to the sun and moon during the eclipse. The path of Venus was regularly recorded by ancient priests. The planet Mars was also close to the sun during the eclipse, which might be part of the reason why the eclipse was interpreted as a war. Mars represented the war god in both western and eastern astrology. Mars in the vicinity of Venus also explains why Rahab was called a prostitute, because Venus was always a bad girl when Mars was nearby.

Rahab takes up residence in Bethlehem following the destruction of Jericho. By following the path of Venus after the eclipse, it becomes obvious how Joshua, as the sun, moved her to Bethlehem. In the days after the eclipse, Venus disappeared because the planet was so close to the sun, as it crossed over Taurus. Venus moved out of the glow of the sun as the evening star, visible in Gemini. She remained the evening star over the summer and winter. But, once Venus was just above the northern fish of Pisces, about the 1st of February, she could be seen briefly as both the evening star and morning star. The exaltation of Venus in Babylonian astrology occurred in the northern fish of Pisces. Rahab, as Venus, was in her new home and displaying herself impressively, both morning and evening. Venus in the northern fish of Pisces was just beneath the Panther constellation. The panther represented the guardian beasts of the underworld, Lahmu and his twin Lahamu. Rahab, as Venus, once again lived by the city gate; but, beside the beasts of the underworld, in Bethlehem.

Today, the town of Bethlehem is interpreted as beyt lehem, house of bread. But, the original name of the town was Beyt Lahmu, the house of the guardian beast at the entrance to the underworld. The cave at Bethlehem, now called the birthplace of Jesus, was still in use as a shrine to Tammuz until Christians took over the site in the 4th century CE, more than 600 years after the eclipse of 302 BCE. Tammuz was a dying and rising grain god, returning from the underworld through the gates guarded by Lahmu. The author of the story of Rahab certainly knew Bethlehem as Beyt Lahmu. The alternate name of Bethlehem as the house of bread was just a wordplay, describing the function of Tammuz as the grain god. Rahab showed up again in Christian mythology as an ancestor of Jesus.

In the following year, there was another springtime eclipse, in Pisces, visible from Babylon. These years at the close of the fourth century were strange days in West Asia, both in the sky and on land. 301 BCE was also historically significant because Alexander’s empire was divided up between his successors, after the Battle of Ipsus. Over following two centuries, Palestine was often disputed territory between the Ptolemaic rulers based in Egypt and the Seleucids, who controlled much of West Asia, including Babylon, Syria and much of Phoenicia. The political situation of the 2nd and 3rd centuries BCE also indicate why Ahab was portrayed as the bad Baal worshipping king of Samaria in contrast to the good Yahweh prophets, Elijah and Elisha. He represented the Seleucids, who were so hated by the Jerusalem priesthood of Yahweh and were the adversaries of the Maccabees during the 2nd century BCE. But, the star story about Ahab illustrated the events in his story.

The eclipse of 302 BCE described in Joshua provided the background for the story of rebuilding Jericho, during the reign of Ahab, as described 1st Kings 16:34

“In his days did Hiel the Bethelite build Jericho: he laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his firstborn, and set up the gates thereof in his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Joshua the son of Nun.”

“Hiel” means “El lives” and “Bethelite” refers to the house of El. The god El was the planet Jupiter and his house was between Leo and Cancer in Babylonian astrology. Jupiter travels through the twelve constellations of the zodiac over approximately twelve years. During the annual retrograde motion of Jupiter, the planet appeared to move between two zodiac signs, creating the house of El as Jupiter moved from Cancer to Leo; then retrograde back to Cancer and then forward to Leo. This pattern was repeated every year, as Jupiter moved between two constellations before moving on to the next pair, clockwise through the zodiac. “In his days” in the above verse refers to the days of Ahab, the Baal worshiper. Taurus the bull was the symbol of the storm god, Baal. So, we need to return to Taurus for the building of Jericho. During 301 BCE, Jupiter moved between Aries and Taurus. During 300 BCE, Jupiter moved between Taurus and Gemini, as El (Hiel) built Jericho, the house of the Moon, on his sons, the Gemini.

The screenshots illustrate Hiel building Jericho, the house of the moon. Jupiter is in the crown of Taurus, as the new moon rises in the Pleiades. The building of the house of the moon upon the sons of Hiel is illustrated as the moon grows over the following days, as it rises out of Taurus and into Gemini.

 The moon rose from Taurus to the body of the first son, as the moon went from a crescent to almost a quarter full, as the foundation of Jericho was laid in the first son of Hiel.

The moon was half full as it went out of Gemini, as the gate built on the second son Hiel.

The moon became full in the house of El, the region between Cancer and Leo.  The building of Jericho by Hiel was done.

This example of the New Moon in Taurus is especially pertinent to the story of Baal worshiping Ahab. Taurus was an important symbol of the storm god, Baal. Jupiter was the king star; so, significant in omens for the king; but, the omens for 300 BCE were going to be very bad. The arrangement of the moon and the Pleiades predicted a dire time with the Babylonian omen: “if the Star Cluster goes into the moon: the land will rise up against the king.” Another bad omen was due for the king because Mars was nearby the Pleiades, as stated in another omen: If Mars approaches the Star Cluster: dispersal of the population, fall of the land. Joshua predicted this situation in the verse referred to in 1st Kings, Joshua 6:26:

“And Joshua adjured them at that time, saying, Cursed be the man before the Lord that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho: he shall lay the foundation thereof in his firstborn, and his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it.”

Things were not looking good for a Baal worshiping king in 300 BCE. The Elijah-Elisha story, following Hiel building Jericho describes famines and the eventual fall of the house of Omri. The story also continues in the stars. The verse following the building of Jericho introduces Elijah, the Tishbite from Gilead. Elijah was beside Taurus as Orion, taking down the sun in the West. Orion would soon disappear in the sky of summer, just as Elijah left famine ridden Samaria, following the bad omens in Taurus. To be continued…….

Conversion tables for Julian dates and the Babylonian calendar: 

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