The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: I

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Isa 14: Canaanite mythology

"There was [a] text... concerning 'Baal and Anat' with which Isaiah must have been familiar. The story at this point concerns finding a replacement for Baal who has just died at the hands of Mot, the god of sterility and the dead. It is suggested that Athtar succeed to the throne of Baal but he soon proves to be inadequate and has to step down to become god of the underworld. The text is as follows:

'Then Athtar the Awesome climbed Mount Zaphon,
Ascended the throne of Ba'al the Almighty.
But his feet did not reach the footstool,
His head did not touch the headrest.
Then, Athar the Awesome spoke,
. . . . .
'I cannot serve as king,
I cannot dwell on the heights of Zaphon!'
So, Athtar the Awesome descended,
Stepped down from the throne of Ba'al the Almighty.
He became king of the Underworld,
Lord of the River of the Dead.'
(Victor Matthews, Don Benjamin, Old Testament Parallels 166).
There are some striking similarities between this text and Isa 14:12-15... a couple of strong parallels which more then suggest that Isaiah knew this Canaanite myth and was using it as part of his taunting proverb about the king of Babylon:

Isaiah is using the Canaanite myth of Athtar's inability to reign in Baal's place and he is using it to deride the King of Babylon. The links are undeniable and it is a wonderful twist of this false religion to use it as a taunt." (TY)

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