23. The Kingship-of-heaven motif


The classical fight for the kingship of heaven is the myth about how Cronos, on the instigation of his mother, castrated his father, Uranos, and took over the kingship of the gods, but was finally dethroned by his son, Zeus, born in secrecy and hid among shepherds on Mt. Ida in Crete. Later, on the instigation of a goddess, Typhon is born, and challenges Zeus to the final fight over the “kingdom of heaven”.

Now, in Dan 7 we have a similar text: also a succession of demon monsters called kings (7,17), ruling the universe, the Typho-like monster threatening to swallow up the whole earth, and then finally the kingdom is given to the“Son of Man”. Note the many times the word malku “kingdom” is repeated in the text v.14a.d,18a.b,22,23,24,27a.c. It is identical in meaning with the word shultan v.6,12,14a.c,26,27a.c. Like the Typho-monster, the 4th monster in Dan 8,10 throws the stars to the earth, i.e. breaks up the order of cosmos. Like Typho being able to win the first round of the fight, it is told of the 4th monster, that “it made war against the holy ones and overcame them” 7,21. Now, Typhon is linked to the winter storm, and the Typho fight is a close parallel to the myth about Baal fighting Jam (“sea”). During the winter and the rainy season the Mediterranean Sea is mostly so beaten by stormy weather that sailing is impossible. The rough weather can look like a fight between the thunderstorm and  the deep sea, with its waves rising to swallow up the land.

T.H.Gaster[1] has eagerly defended the thesis that the Baal epos of Ugarit “is a nature myth and its theme is the alternation of the seasons”. Baal is the king of spring taking over the “kingdom”(mlk) from Jam, the roaring sea of winter, who has taken over the kingdom from ´Athtar, the sterile light of the morning star. Note that ´Athtar has no wife like the other gods, and his fall is announced by the sun.

The theogony from Dunnu in Mesopotamia can be dated to the early 2.mill B.C.: it tells the story of how Plough (Accadian harab) was the first to establish his rule in Dunnu, then Shakkan after killing his father and marrying his mother, then the god of the flocks of cattle, then Kush, then Haharnum, then Hajjashum. Like the previous one, the last mentioned takes over the kingdom of his father, but as the only one not killing his father, only imprisoning him. Note the role played by the god of the cattle and his murderer, Kush. Harab seems to be the Semitic word hrb = “sword” taken over in Greek as harpê = “sickle-sword”, the weapon used for cutting up primordial unity. Shakkan was born “by the furrows in the earth” on their own initiative, that is by female earth. Cf. the tradition of Typho born by the earth and Hera giving birth to Ares and his sister Eris without any man: the leopard, the androgynous hunter is the son of the goddess alone trying to create life without a male partner (the same myth plays an important role in later gnosticism).

Now, all this has something to do with the months from December to March as can be seem from the days mentioned in the text and as proved by Thorkild Jacobsen[2]. And its culmination is a parallel to the enthronement of Marduc as “King over all the gods of heaven and earth”[3].

The victory over Tiamat and her followers caught in the net of Marduc is a motif taken over from Syria: the sea in Mesopotamia is nowhere felt as a chaotic threat. This makes it possible also to understand the whole motif of the fight for the kingdom as a take over from the Westsemitic area, and then it is possible that Hajjashum is the “The Name” given to both Jam and Typho, and also given to Zeus as the “greatest couros child” born in Crete, coming to give juice to all the plants of spring: Jaw/Jao/Jo.

The History of Phoenicia written by Philo of Byblos has this long description of the  “kingdom” going from Eliun (“the Highest”) to his son, Uranos, to his son, El Cronos and finally given to Zeus Demaros. They were all men living around Byblos and Beiruth, but after their death honoured as gods. By some scholars (Cumont, Baudissin) these fragments by a Hellenistic history writer were considered a worthless  imitation of Hesiod and Euhemeros. A.J.Baumgarten[4] thinks that the fragments are of a rather late origin, but contain old material (which can be seen from parallels with the Ugarit texts). His main argument is the description of the third king, El Cronos, “He travelled through all the world”. The same is said about the third king (Zeus) by Euhemeros: “…he came to most of the nations”.

Now, this is important: what Euhemeros has to tell about Zeus is a parallel to the things Hecataios of Abdera and Megasthenes tell about Dionysos: Hecataios tells about Osiris-Dionysos that “he collected a great army to march through the whole world…to wipe out human wildness”. He gave weapons against the wild animals and cultivated the land, Diodor II,15-7. Megasthenes says about Dionysos that he came to India in command of a great army (cf. the vast army of Krt marching towards the city of the reddish glow of dawn) and conquered the whole country, but was struck by the heat and a pestilence connected to it. He withdrew to the mountain Meros, where his army regained its strength by the fresh wellsprings on this mountain. Dionysos was then made the first king[5].

Behind the descriptions of both Hecataios and Megasthenes we find the Asiatic Baal-Dionysos, who, as the sun warrior, travels to the rising of the sun (and acc. to Hecataios he came both to Ethiopia and India, where he buildt Nysa), creating cosmos in a chaotic universe full of wild animals. He is nearly killed by the demon-god whose weapons are burning heat and pestilence, but regains his strength on the paradise mountain by drinking from the well of life. Megasthenes says further that Dionysos founded cities and gave laws, and introduced agriculture, ploughing, cymbals, drums and dances of satyrs, a tradition familiar to what the Bible tells about Cain and his family Gen 4,16-22.

When Euhemeros calls the two sons of Uranos Pan and Cronos, it is the primordial twins, “Enkidu and Gilgamesh”, as Pan to a Greek mind is not expected in this position in the theogony. And when Euhemeros makes Zeus travel through the world and come to the island with the “Stele of Heaven”, the background is the journey of the sun hero towards the top of the world mountain. Beside the stele stood a bed: the world mountain is the psycho cosmic mountain, and to the ascension, which is also an apotheosis, is linked the union of male with female gender[6]. We do not share the opinion of M.Persson Nilsson[7] that Euhemeros is an atheist wanting to mock at all religion. Acc. to Athenaios of Naucritis[8] he had taken his teaching from Sidon in Phoenicia. And Philo can even, when he is extremely “euhemeristic”, be authentically Semitic. E.Renan speaks about “the euhemerism natural to Semites”[9].

To the fact that El Cronos has to have help from Hermes, who gives the god-king weapons, Baumgarten asks: “Why Hermes = Taautos = Thot was competent to advise in making weapons is not clear”[10]. But also in the Ugarit text about the fighting for the kingdom, the 3rd king has to have help from the god of handicraft, who fashions  weapons for him. A little later El Cronos has a son named Mot, a name unknown to the writers of Hellenistic Syria, but also found as a god in Ugarit. The conclusion is clear: the story of Philo is much nearer to the Ugarit archives than to the world of the Hellenistic writers, which is also the allegation of Philo. He has his information from a priest, Sanchunjaton, living before the Trojan war (that is before 1200 B.C. – the Ugarit texts are from 1400 B.C.)

On a tablet from Ugarit, acc to Virolleaud with a genealogical content, names like Msr (Misor mentioned by Philo), Sdqn (Sydyk by Philo) are mentioned together with Bn ´n, “Son of Well”, acc to V. to be compared with the young women Anobret (“Daughter of Well” by Philo) and Qdmn (Cadmos), by V. translated into “Man from the East”[11].

The development of culture and society put into a genealogy[12] is also known from Gen. 4. So Gen. 4 and the Ugarit poem about Shahar and Shalim, the twins who were the first to found a city in the wilderness, is much closer to the milieu creating the tradition of Sanchunjaton than the Hellenistic authors.

The kingship-of-heaven motif has been dealt with by several scholars, but the most important point seems to have been missed: apart from a rather pale god taken as the first (Eliun by Philo, Alalu in the Hittite version), it is mostly three gods fighting:


The High God (Uranos in Philo, Anu in the Hittite vers.)

The Demoniac God (El Kronos in Philo, Kumarbi in the Hittite vers.)

The High God´s Son (Zeus Demaros in Philo, “3 great gods” in the Hittite vers.).


That the high god is castrated and his wives taken from him has a certain purpose: to prevent him from getting a son who can take revenge and dethrone the king of chaos. This is especially evident in the Hittite version where the demon god, Kumarbi, bites Anu in the “loins”, but, through the cunning of Anu, becomes pregnant with no less than 3 gods growing inside him. Gods begotten by Anu. About Uranos it is told that one of the wives taken from him was pregnant, she was given to Dagan and bore him the son, Demarus, who became the successor of Cronos on the throne of the gods (but in reality was the son of Uranos). This is also the point of the Osiris myth. In spite of the torn and maimed condition of her husband, Isis succeeds in becoming pregnant with him, and in spite of Bata’s being dead, he succeeds in making his wife pregnant with a boy, who becomes the successor on the Egyptian throne.

Of course the demon god knows that he has to be aware of the divine child, which is why it mostly has to be hidden away among shepherds, that is, among people belonging to the boucolic milieu of the highgod. But in Byblos this is not necessary. El Cronos gives the throne to Demaros voluntarily, and he rules with the acceptance of Cronos.



23a. Abraham, four kings, five kings and king Sedeq


A.Jeremias has drawn attention to the cosmic dimension in the victory of Abraham, 1.Mo 14. The 4 kings are the superpowers of this period representing universal kingdom: four is the number of the world corners, and their rule lasts 12 years. The five revolting kings are the five epagomen-days, the 5 days of chaos in some Near Eastern calendars following the order of the 12 months. The pit, the cave of the underworld as the room where the demons are cast down and imprisoned, is behind the pits of tar by the Dead Sea, where two revolting kings are trapped. The chaotic interregnum of the Rephaim is hidden behind the nations enumerated in v.5f.: the Rephaim in "Ashtaroth-with-the-Horns", the Zuzites from Ham, obviously a negro tribe from somewhere in Africa, the ´Emim ("the scary ones"), acc to Exod 2,10 also Rephaim, the Horites ("cave-dwellers")[13].

Jeremias attaches great importance to what he calls the "the motif-word" ´br = "transit", "passing through"(the same word as "Hebrew"), acc. to Jeremias also to be translated by "culminate"  in the mythical meaning of going through the pass between the two halves of the world mountain (ibd. p.761). He thinks that the word in Gen 12.6 and 13,17 and the description of the wanderings of Abraham from the great city of Ur in the Far East to the Far West of Egypt is styled after the wanderings of the moon (p.314). But it is more reasonable to see Abraham as the sun hero travelling towards the sunset, and the ´br-motif is the transitus-motif well known from  the mysteries of Mithras. In the centre of the world he dwells at the holy tree by the well and calls upon the "God of Eternity". After being victorious in his struggles he receives ambrosia and nectar 14,18, and his men are called hanikim = “initiated”[14].


As we have seen, the usual "fight for the kingdom of heaven" myth is structured in the following way:

The old king ruling - the interregnum of the chaos-king or chaos-powers - the young son re-establishing universal order.

But here in Gen 14 we have a more complicated worldview:

Abraham has victory over the old world powers, the four kings.

But he refuses to associate himself with the chaos power represented by the king of Sodom.


In the "King's vale" he stands like Heracles at the cross-road between the two kings of Sodom and Salem, paying tribute to the last mentioned and refusing to receive anything from the former. In stead of re-establishing the old world order, he goes back to the very first king of the universe: Elioun, = “The Highest”, the creator of heaven and earth. The structure is somewhat similar to the line of kings given by Philo:


1) Elioun

2) Uranos

3) El Cronos (the cruel killer)

4) Demaros (son of Uranos, the sun hero)


Instead of re-establishing the old world-order, the text looks forward to a distant future where the descendants of Abraham shall be the owners of the country forever (13,14f.), and even be the mediators of blessings to the whole cosmos. Through his descendants "God, the Highest" will extend his power and his blessing over the whole universe, cf. Dan 7: after the ruling of four superpowers the universal kingdom will be given to the "Holy people of the Highest".


In the book of Judges is found the tragic story of the first king of Israel, Abimlk. The name must mean “My father is Malik (lord of the underworld)”. He has links to the fire, he is the fire that breaks out of the thornbush and eats the “Cedars of Lebanon”, the lords of vegetation. At the beginning of this century the land of Israel was covered with thousands of thorny bushes each year in the period of the summer heat[15]. Like Mot in Ugarit, Abimlk is killed by a woman with a grinding stone. Several times he uses fire to exterminate his enemies. He is the demon god with the assembly of the 70 sons of El as his enemies. One of the sons escapes the massacre and hides. He bears the name Jôtam, cf the son Jaw in Ugarit. The historical core has been overshadowed by mythical thinking, and the story has become a severe criticism of the kingship of the Canaanean culture where the king is more or less one with Resheph, the great hunter.

That God becomes king by overcoming the powers of darkness, death, and chaos is the great theme of the psalms and the burning hope of the prophets. This REX GLORIAE motif was originally celebrated in the short springtime at the end of the rainy period when wild flowers were seen everywhere, and the vine was blossoming, Cant 2,11-13. Later it was moved to the feast of Tabernacles, 1.Chron 16,30-33.

The culmination of the kingship-of-heaven motif is the birth of the divine saviour among shepherds in the cowshed. He will receive the divine name, John 17,6 cf. 8,24, with cosmic kingship Phil 2,9ff.


[1] Thespis, 1950, p.124

[2] Mesopotamiske Urtidssagn, 1978, pp.66-72

[3] p.85

[4] The Phoenician History of Philo of Byblos, 1981

[5] Diodor III 63

[6] The main sources to the work of Euhemeros are Diodor VI, 1 and the fragments in Latin trans. by Ennius.

[7] Geschichte der griechischen Religion, II, 2.ed., p.288

[8] XIV 658f.

[9] "Mémoire sur l´origine et le charactere véritable de l´histoire phénicienne". Mémoire de l´institut impérial de France, académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres 23, 2, 1858, p.263

[10] p.194

[11] "Table Généalogique provenant de Ras-Shamra", SYRIA 15, 1934, pp.244ff.

[12] Philo I, 10, 7-14

[13] Das Alte Testament im Lichte des A.O., 4.ed., 1930, pp.321f.

[14] p.319

[15] L. Schneller, Kender du landet, 1902, p.57