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A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. Highlighted words lead to other posts almost all in my blog. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family (1950's) and went to Orthodox Yeshiva from kindergarten thru High School plus some Beis Medrash.Became an agnostic in my 20's and an atheist later on. My blog will discuss the arguments for god and Orthodox Judaism and will provide counter arguments. I no longer take comments. My blog uses academic sources, the Torah, Talmud and commentators to justify my assertions. The posts get updated. INDEX OF POSTS SEE MAY 2017 or click link above.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sabbath, Day Seven and Moon Cults or Fertility Cults

Updated thru 1/14/2015

The number seven (and eight as well) are ubiquitous in the Torah and the ancient near east.  This article will show the origins of the special day 7 and also the Sabbath are very probably derived  from the ancient fertility/moon cults. 

In the book Old Testament Parallels (OTP) by Victor Mathews and Don Benjamin we find numerous myths that are similar to the those in the Torah.  Regarding the  Gilamesh and Utnapish myth  (which has similarities to the Noah myth) on P. 25-28 we read that for 6 days and 6 nights winds blew and the seventh day the storm subsided and the sea grew quiet.  And the Story of Atrahasis on P 33-  At the new moon, the seventh day, the full moon,  Ea-Enkin bathed. And on page 39 -  7 nights the flood covered the earth.

Thus the OTP passages show an ancient use of day 7 in the context of quiet and subsiding of activity; within the context of the moon; new moon;  within the context of god. (The above is a very limited sample of the number 7 found in ancient near east myths and rituals.)

From the book Ancient Near East Texts edited by James Pritchard 1955 second edition - Page 68 Akkadian Myths and Epics the Creation Epic Enuma Elis Tablet five (of seven !) we find a reference to the moon and seven days - I quote;
"The moon he caused to shine, the night (to him) entrusting.  He appointed him a creature of the night to signify days; monthly, without cease, form designs with a crown.At the months very start rising over the land, though shall have luminous horns to signify six days, on the seventh day reaching a (half) crown..."

Then in the book The 7 Day Circle by E. Zerubavel (1985 edition) on P. 7 we read 7 in Ancient Mesopotamia played a prominent role in liturgy, ritual, magic and art. For an example in ancient Babylon -  the universe a 7 fold entity governed by fusion of 7 deities.  On P. 8 that 7, 14, 19, 21, 28 days of a Lunar month  in Assyria from the 7th century B.C as evil days. Days spaced 7 days apart had a prohibitive character including no chariot riding, no eating cooked meat by the King, which are very similar to Jewish laws. On P. 12 the author also suggests the 7 day cycle relates to the seven planets [ they did not have telescopes in ancient times ]. 

Thus the 7 Day Circle book documents the ancient use of 7 in the context of magic and ritual and within the context of deity; and within the context of the Lunar cycle. Most importantly it documents the concept of prohibited activities on every seventh day, very similar to the Jewish Sabbath.

In the article about the Sabbath in the Jewish Encyclopedia ( we find - 

1) "It [Sabbath] was probably originally connected in some manner with the cult of the moon...." 

2) "The moon, however, has four phases in approximately 28 days, and it seemingly comes to a standstill every seven days. Days on which the deity rested were considered taboo, or ill-omened. New work could not be begun, nor unfinished work continued, on such days. The original meaning of "Shabbat" conveys this idea." [ Note the moon seemingly resting every seven days. This should sound familiar since according the Torah god rested on the seventh day after the six days of creation.]

3) "Dissociated from the moon, the Sabbath developed into a day of rest for the workers and animals on the farm (Deut. v. 14; Ex. xx. 10). Traces of the old taboo are, however, still found. In Amos viii. 5 it is the fear of evil consequences that keeps the impatient merchants from plying their wicked trade. The multitude of sacrifices (Isa. I. 8; Hosea ii. 11) on Sabbath and New Moon indicates the anxiety on those particular days to propitiate the deity.”

4) Every festival in the Biblical scheme is associated with a historical event. The connection of the Sabbath with the Exodus, in Deut. v. 14-15, was altogether vague; and to supply a more definite relation to an event in Israel's history the Sabbath was declared to have had an important significance in the desert when manna fell (Ex. xvi. 27 et seq.). The Decalogue of Exodus supplies a theological reason for the observance of the day; its phraseology reflects that of Gen. ii. 1 et seq. Both—this explanation and the story in Genesis—are among the latest additions to the Pentateuch. [The reason the connection to any historical event is vague is because Sabbath origins have nothing to do with historical events - See for example Briffault below. However, the connection of Sabbath to creation myths makes some sense. Since it is very probable that Sabbath relates to moon deity(s), such deity(s) could well be associated with creation myths.]

Robert Briffault in his book called The Mothers : a study of the origins of sentiments  v.2 provides numerous facts regarding observance of Sabbaths and new moon days. Here is an extremely brief sampling. Page 433-434 is very noteworthy.

Page 422 "With a large number of African peoples the day of the new moon is observed as a day of general abstention from work. Thus, the Zulus abstain on new-moon days from work of any kind,  thinking if anything is sown on those days they can never reap the benefits thereof."  And "Among the Baziba, a tribe dwelling to the south-west of LakeVictoria, the day of the new moon is  a recognised day of rest. ".

Page 423 "In southern Nigeria every eighth day is sacred to the goddess Nimm, and is called the ' Women's Day.' No work must be done on that day. " Should any transgress the law and go to work on the farm, Nimm would be angered, and send her servants, the beasts, to destroy it.  The two great monthly festivals of ancient Hindu religion, on which, after preparatory fastings and abstinences, the sacrifice of the ' soma,' or moon-plant, was celebrated, took place on the days of the new moon and of the full moon."

Page 433- 434 "The Jewish Sabbath was, in the form in which we know it, similar to that of the Babylonians. The name ' Shabattu,'' shabattum,' or ' sapattu,' was that of the Babylonian tabu days, and is explained in a cuneiform vocabulary as " a day of abstinence,"
or "of propitiation." The Babylonian tabu days are also referred
to as the "evil days." In the calendar of Elul II, on a tablet in
the British Museum, " every month is divided into four weeks,
and the seventh days, or ' Sabbaths,' are marked out as days on
which no work should be undertaken."  All other days are set
down as' favourable ' ; the term ' evil day ' is applied to the seventh,
fourteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-eighth days of the lunar month."

[Briffault also believes that originally there was only one Sabbath day per month. Eventually the month was  subdivided to provide additional Sabbath days.  This could be why certain religions only had one Sabbath day per month].

{ETA 3/2/2014 Page 6-8 The Mothers Volume III by Robert Briffault 1927 - Regarding other cultures we find "Fire must in like manner be extinguished on inauspicious, or Sabbath days". "During the observance of the Hawaiian Sabbaths all fires were extinguished, and only cold food could be eaten." 

[Compare this to Exodus 35:3  Ye shall Kindle no fire Throughout your Habitations upon the sabbath day. ] }

Finally In the book Ancient Judaism by Max Weber (second printing 1960) on P. 149 "Clearly the highly important institution of the Sabbath is related to the Shabattu day of the moon cult which also prevailed in Babylon....the Sabbath in both countries is hardly due to a genuine borrowing but to a common tradition".  On P. 150 in Ancient Israel there was the sacredness of the full moon. Beer assumes Shabbath original meant full moon day Ex23:12, 34:21. On P 151 The number 7 as a division of the moon cycle. The Shabbath rite could be detached from the moon cult and integrated into the Yahwe religion. [Max Weber is correct in that eventually the Yahwe religion only has vestiges of the moon cult, but it is also almost certain that originally Yahwe/EL/Elohim/Shadaii  were related to sun/moon/Steller cults.] 

Thus we have very substantial evidence that the 7 day cycle and the Jewish Sabbath are rooted in the lunar cycle and the ancient fertility/moon cults.  Future posts will provide other evidence of the origins of Judaism  in the ancient moon/fertility cults.

{For more on the number 7 in relation to fertility cults and pagan worship see Proof of God from Fallow Part One

Collected below for reference are some the many biblical versus where the Sabbath , moon and new moon are found more or less linked - just like in other ancient near east texts. Sacrifice is also frequently linked to them as well.  Sacrifice an integral part of the Jewish religion was also rooted in ancient fertility cults including sun and moon cults. There are a few added comments to.

Kings 4:23 And he said: Wherefore wilt thou go to him today? it is neither new moon nor Sabbath

Hosea 2:13 I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feasts, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her appointed seasons. .

Isaih 66:23 And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before Me, saith the Lord

Psalms 81: 2 Sing aloud unto God our strength; shout unto the God of Jacob.
3 Take up the melody, and sound the timbrel, the sweet harp with the psaltery.
4 Blow the horn at the new moon, at the full moon for our feast-day.
5 For it is a statute for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob.
[Psalm 81:2-5 is interesting in that it links up horn noise with both moon and Jacob.  Recall the horn noise heard a Mount Sinai at the revelation. Mount Sinai was related to the moon cult and I intend to discuss it more fully at a later date.  I believe the Talmud says Jacob is said to have gone to the moon after death. Also could the horn and horn noises be a reference to the Bull god El, when god was alleged to reveal himself at Sinai ? Could the Jewish ritual use of the horn also be related to the Bull god El ? ]

Ezekial 45: 17 And it shall be the prince's part to give the burnt-offerings, and the meal-offerings, and the drink-offerings, in the feasts, and in the new moons, and in the sabbaths, in all the appointed seasons of the house of Israel; he shall prepare the sin-offering, and the meal-offering, and the burnt-offering, and the peace-offerings, to make atonement for the house of Israel.

Ezekial 46:1 Thus saith the Lord GOD: The gate of the inner court that looketh toward the east shall be shut the six working days; but on the sabbath day it shall be opened, and in the day of the new moon it shall be opened.

Nehemiah 10:34 for the showbread, and for the continual meal-offering, and for the continual burnt-offering, of the sabbaths, of the new moons, for the appointed seasons, and for the holy things, and for the sin-offerings to make atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God.

Chronicles I 23:31 and to offer all burnt-offerings unto the LORD, on the sabbaths, on the new moons, and in the appointed seasons, in number according to the ordinance concerning them, continually, before the LORD

Chronicles II 2: 3 Behold, I am about to build a house for the name of the LORD my God, to dedicate it to Him, and to burn before Him incense of sweet spices, and for the continual showbread, and for the burnt-offerings morning and evening, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the appointed seasons of the LORD our God. This is an ordinance for ever to Israel

2 Chronicles Chapter 31:3 He appointed also the king's portion of his substance for the burnt-offerings, to wit, for the morning and evening burnt-offerings, and the burnt-offerings for the sabbaths, and for the new moons, and for the appointed seasons, as it is written in the Law of the LORD.

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