Yhw is Yahweh?
As noted, one of the Transjordanian groups designated in Egyptian texts is the t3 ssw yhw3 or “Shasu of Yhw,” the latter term widely averred to refer to Yahweh. While most other examples of Shasu in conjunction with another name generally refer to place-names or toponyms, rather than god-names or theonyms, it is possible that these Shasu were known by the name of their deity. Instead of a flag representing their nation, therefore, the Shasu nomads may have carried a standard of their god, likewise a symbol of their people.
Regarding the term “Yhw,” we read that the “hieroglyphic rendering corresponds very precisely to the Hebrew tetragrammaton YHWH, or Yahweh, and antedates the hitherto oldest occurrence of that Divine Name— on the Moabite Stone—by over five hundred years.”531 Redford also asserts that the Yhw of the Shasu undoubtedly refers to YHWH/Yahweh, which would mean that we have a pre-Israelite record from the late 15th century BCE of this tribal god.532
As concerns the apparent Transjordanian origin of Yhw/Yahweh, at Deuteronomy 33:2 we read a “blessing” from Moses in which Yahweh “rose up” or “dawned” from a place called Seir:
The LORD came from Sinai, and dawned from Se′ir upon us; he shone forth from Mount Paran, he came from the ten thousands of holy ones, with flaming fire at his right hand…533
Seir is identified as “the land of Edom, south of the Dead Sea” and “a mountain range in Edom extending from the Dead Sea to the Elanitic Gulf.”534 Other biblical passages depict Yahweh as “going forth from Seir” and originating in Edom (Jdg 5:4).
The solar imagery here is noteworthy, describing Yahweh in terms of a fieryhanded sun god, shining forth from the mountain, here styled “Paran” ( פארן Pa’ran), which means “place of caverns,” an appropriate moniker for the location in the east where the sun god emerges from the nightly cave.
It is also noteworthy that the name “Seir” has been identified with Helios and Sirius,535 the latter of which in antiquity heralded the arrival of the solar “messiah” Osiris.536
10,000 Holy Ones
The “ten thousands of holy ones” ( קדש qodeshim)537 at Deuteronomy 33:2 certainly does not refer to historical Israelites. Regarding this astrotheological motif, Massey comments:
Under the name of Khabsu in Egyptian the stars are synonymous with souls. These in their nightly rising from Amenta were the
images of souls becoming glorified. They came forth in their thousands and tens of thousands from the lower Egypt of the astronomical mythos, the earliest exodus being stellar. Thus we can realise the leader Shu, who stands upon the height of heaven, rod in hand, and who was imaged in the constellation Kepheus as the Regulus or law-giver at the pole.538
In consideration of the fact that we know biblical scribes used ancient Egyptian and Babylonian solar hymns, poems and so on, whether directly or indirectly, it would not surprise us if in this verse in Deuteronomy they did likewise in borrowing their astrotheological mythology from Egypt.
In ancient Semitic lunar mythology, which preceded in many places solar mythology, the moon god is said to give birth to the sun, as Sin is the father of Shamash.539 In this Deuteronomic verse, we can see that Yahweh emerging from Mt. Sinai reflects this myth, as well as the idea that the sun is “born” from the caverns of the night sky and the cave/womb of the earth, bringing with it the various stars visible in the dawn hours. Moreover, the suggestion is that Sinai was an area of moon worship for ancient Semites.540 As Eckenstein remarks, “The monuments found in Sinai contain information which points to the existence of moon-worship there at a remote period of history.”541
It has been asserted that the identity of the Shasu with the Israelites probably cannot be sustained, as the two were appointed differently, bearing dissimilar appearances. However, as the Israelites are a creation of subsequent centuries, it is possible that the Shasu descendants were part of the later amalgamated Israelite tribal confederacy, particularly as Yahwists/Judeans,542 by this time adopting a different appearance, while maintaining the passionate worship of their god.
The end result is a “recognition that the Israelites emerged from unsettled, Late Bronze population groups known from written sources, such as the Shasu attested in the Egyptian sources.”543