As we approach the finale of Palestinian Idol, it is clear that one contestant is the favourite to win. His name is Yahweh. Let’s review His Idol journey.

From the beginning, He made a good impression with creation. The performances of other deities were spectacles of sound and fury, but predictable: in a bloody battle, one god destroys a powerful enemy and is declared to be El Supremo by their own particular pantheon. This is the story of Babylon’s Marduk, who destroys Tiamat the chaos dragon, and of Egypt’s Horus, who defeats Seth. However, in Yahweh’s creation, there was no battle for supremacy: He is the only God. His spirit hovers, gently, over the waters of the deep. His acts of creation are calm, deliberate and ordered.

The second phase of Palestinian Idol looked at how each deity performed with humanity. The Babylonian gods didn’t want to work for their food and drink, so Marduk created humanity out of Tiamat’s blood. Most of the other deities weren’t any better; however, unlike any other deity, Yahweh created us not as slaves but as nobles, to rule the world as His representatives. He breathed His character into them, creating all people in His image.

Then we settled in for the third phase of the contest: wrestling for control of the world and the devotion of humanity. This stage has continued for thousands of years; it will do so until the finale. In every battle so far, Yahweh has drowned them all out. He has defeated all opponents by means of wars, plagues and miracles. In doing so, He shows that they are in no way worthy of being called gods, let alone winning the title of “Palestinian Idol”. Let’s look at some of those battles now.

Where else could we start but with the perennial favourite, “The Plagues of Egypt”? Yahweh had determined to bring judgement on all the gods of Egypt (Exodus 12:12), and in ten short rounds, the Egyptian gods were knocked out of the competition[1].

When nations in the Ancient Near East went to battle, people believed the conflict on earth mirrored that between gods. When Israel fought the Philistines, they brought the Ark of the Covenant, God’s footrest, into their camp: they believed that their possession of it bound Yahweh to help them in battle. So did their opponents: “‘A god has come into the camp’, they said.”[2 The Philistines won the battle and put the ark in the temple of their god Dagon. The next morning when the priests enter the temple, they find Dagon flat on his face before the ark. They lift the statue back into place. The next day, not only was the Philistines’ idol on his face before the ark, but his head and hands were broken off. Against Yahweh, Dagon just couldn’t compete[3]. No matter who the person or nation or king or army — solo or chorus, chant or oratorio — no-one has been able to upstage Yahweh. Even King Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian whom the book of Daniel calls “king of kings”[4], confessed of Yahweh that

He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: “What have you done?”[5]

We said that in Yahweh’s creation story there was no enemy. This is true as far as creation itself goes; however, immediately after creation, two pretenders stormed the stage and tried to take Yahweh’s position for themselves (Genesis 3). The first pretender was the serpent: unable to defeat Yahweh, he encouraged a rebellion from the epitome of Yahweh’s creation — humanity. The serpent tempted the man and woman to disbelieve in Yahweh’s goodness, and so ultimately to reject Him and seek to take His place.

Instead of annihilating the rebels as other deities had, Yahweh judged them. He turned first to the serpent. We usually picture him as a snake, coiled around the branches in the tree, but in fact the serpent was a little larger and nastier: a dragon. (Look at Revelation 12, especially verse 9.) Instead of obliterating Satan, Yahweh delivers a twofold judgement. First, He tears its legs off. Until the dragon is killed, Yahweh has rendered him less mobile, and so less dangerous[6]. The second part of Yahweh’s judgement is apropos: the snake caused the humans to rebel, so one of their descendents will be the cause of his final destruction. Both his power and his time are now limited. Nevertheless, the snake has continued his attempts to eclipse Yahweh. In his monomania, the legless dragon has even supported the other contestants in their battles for supremacy.

Having dealt with the snake, there was still the humans to provide for. Instead of finding only joy in their work and their relationships, their lives would now be tainted with pain. However, Yahweh also redeemed them with a sacrifice: He provided for their needs and covered them with animal skins. But this was only a stopgap solution and a better, ultimate, sacrifice was needed. Because humans rebelled, an animal sacrifice would not be enough. Plus, the sacrifice must be able to pay the price for every human: only one who comprehended all humanity could do this. Yahweh Himself became a man and paid that very price. This climax — a god who makes a sacrifice for His creation — is unique: it sets Yahweh apart from, and above, every other claimant. What god would rise to such a height?

Some other gods have claimed similar feats. A Palestinian fertility god, Tammuz died and was raised to life every year so the crops would grow. But if people didn’t follow his rituals and honour him, Tammuz refused to help them. And the grain grew anyway. The supremacy of Yahweh’s sacrifice is that He died for us despite our rebellion against Him, despite the fact that He gave us everything and needed nothing. Again unlike Tammuz, Yahweh’s sacrifice was a once-for-all event. He even took a human name: Jesus. However, people still rebel; so has Yahweh made His claim good? Yes, for in Jesus, not only Yahweh has judged evil … He has also mercifully given people time to commit themselves to His side the contest ends.

As He has won each stage so easily, some have suspected that Yahweh has rigged the competition. He Himself has confirmed that this is indeed true. “I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.”[7] Lest anyone think this is divine hubris, Yahweh provided us with the competition programme, which actually gives the results before the final! And, as Yahweh is producer and director of the entire production, it’s hardly astonishing that He has the upper hand.

And with this, we find ourselves waiting to see what Yahweh will reveal for the final phase of Palestinian Idol — the end of the world. From his work so far, we expect His final act to be a spectacular coup de grâce. From the first chapters of the Bible, we can see that Yahweh has defeated all His competition: other deities (so called), Satan, and rebellious humanity. Through the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, God continues to overcome all challengers — sometimes on centre stage, sometimes behind the scenes — until His final purpose is fulfilled:

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.[8]

Appendix A
While some gods were always popular (such as Osiris and Horus), others gained and lost prominence, mostly for political reasons it seems. When Yahweh brought the plagues on Egypt, these were some of the gods He defeated[9].

Apis and Mnev(u)is. Both bulls. With Khnum, these cattle gods were possibly the targets of the fifth plague.
Khnum. A ram[10]. With Apis and Mneuis, Khnum was possibly a target of the fifth plague.
Haapi. The god of the Nile. He could have been a target of the first plague. (Osiris was perhaps the other.)
Hathor. A goddess of sky, earth and the underworld, and the wife of Horus[11], she had the head of a cow.
Heqt. Heqt was a fertility deity with the head of a frog. She was probably the target of the second, seventh and eighth plagues (frogs, hail and locusts); the latter two attacked the grain crops. It’s an ironic plague – the frogs were over-fertile.
Horus. A hawk-headed god, the son of Osiris. Like his wife, Hathor, he was a deity of the sky and earth; the sun and moon were his eyes. So the plagues of darkness and hail-and-lightning would have damaged Horus’ credibility somewhat.
Isis. Like Hathor, a cow-headed goddess who helped women in childbirth.
Osiris. One of the always-popular Egyptian gods, and judge of the dead. By the time of the Exodus, he had taken over the cult of Anubis, the jackal-headed god of death. Osiris was also connected to the annual ebb and flow of the Nile.
Ra, or Amun-Ra. the chief god at this time, a warrior associated with the sun[12]. The ninth plague – a three-day darkness – would have hit Ra the hardest.
Sekhmet. The lion-headed goddess of sickness and war. Possibly she was what YAHWEH was aiming at with the plague of boils: she couldn’t heal her worshippers.
Tefnut. The goddess of plagues[13] , who, like Sekhmet, could do nothing to help the Egyptians.
Thoth. The god of magic and writing. He had the power to make people obey him, and to bring the dead back to life[14. Thoth would have been an embarrassment to the Egyptians when the court magicians couldn’t reproduce the third plague. Again, Thoth couldn’t do anything to stop or reverse the last plague.

[1] See the Appendix for specific characteristics of the Egyptian gods.
[2] 1 Samuel 4:6-7
[3] 1 Samuel 5:1-5
[4] Daniel 2:37
[5] Daniel 4:35
[6] Whether this is why dragons literally disappeared, the removal of limbs was figurative but still real. If the dragon had wings, those would have gone as well.
[7] Isaiah 44:6
[8] Philippians 2:10-11. “Should” doesn’t imply an obligation, but an irresistible certainty.
[9] The Exodus probably occurred during the rule of Rameses II, the third pharaoh of the 19th dynasty. Most of these references were taken from Ancient Egypt: Myth and History.
[10] Khnum was believed to have created everything on his pottery wheel. (Ancient Egypt: Myth and History, p.387.)
[11] Hathor was also a goddess of the underworld (Ancient Egypt: Myth and History, p.374.)
[12] There were different aspects of Ra: Ra-Aten, Ra-Atum, and Amun-Ra. The first two were represented the visible and invisible aspects of the sun. Amun was joined with Ra well before the time of the Exodus (Ancient Egypt: Myth and History, p.320).
[13] She was also the goddess of sun and moisture.
[14] World Mythology, p.171.

copyright Troy Grisgonelle 2007.

Advertisements