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There is one remarkable incident which is said to have happened during the wanderings of the Hebrews in the Sinaitic wilderness, which appears to throw much light on the character of the Mosaic cult, and to connect it with other religions. I refer to the use of the brazen serpent as a symbol for the healing of the people. 72 The worship of the golden calf may, perhaps, be described as an idolatrous act, in imitation of the rites of Egyptian Osiris-worship, although probably suggested by the use of the ark. The other case, however, is far different; and it is worth while repeating the exact words in which the use of the serpent-symbol is described. When the people were bitten by the "fiery" serpents, 73 Moses prayed for them, and we read that, thereupon, "Jehovah said unto Moses, make thee a fiery serpent [literally, a seraph], and set it upon a pole; and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made the serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass that, if a serpent had bitten any man, when he belield the serpent of brass he lived." 74 It would seem, from this account, that the Hebrew seraph was, as before suggested, in the form of a serpent; but what was the especial significance of this healing figure? 75

At an earlier stage of our inquiry, I referred to the fact of the serpent being, indirectly, through its attribute of wisdom, a phallic symbol, but also directly an emblem of life, and to the peculiar position it held in nearly all the religions of antiquity. In later Egyptian mythology, the contest between Osiris and the Evil Being, and afterwards that between Horus and Typhon, occupy an important place. Typhon, the adversary of Horus, was figured under the symbol of a serpent, called Aphophis, or the Giant, 76 and it cannot be doubted that he was only a later form of the god Seth. Professor Reuvens refers to an invocation of Typhon-Seth; 77 and Bunsen quotes the statement of Epiphanius that "the Egyptians celebrate the festivals of Typhon under the form of an ass, which they call Seth." 78 Whatever may be the explanation of the fact, it is undoubted that, notwithstanding the hatred with which he afterwards regarded, this god Seth, or Set, was at one time highly venerated in Egypt. Bunsen says that, up to the thirteenth century before Christ, Set "was a great god universally adored throughout Egypt, who confers on the sovereigns of the eighteenth and nineteenth dynasties the symbols of life and power. The most glorious monarch of the latter dynasty, Sethos, derives his name from this deity." He adds: "But subsequently, in the course of the twentieth dynasty, he is suddenly treated as an evil demon, inasmuch that his effigies and name are obliterated on all the monuments and inscriptions that could be reached." Moreover, according to this distinguished writer, Seth "appears gradually among the Semites as the background of their religious consciousness" and not merely was he "the primitive God of Northern Egypt and Palestine," but his genealogy as "the Seth of Genesis, the father of Enoch (the man), must be considered as originally running paraIlel with that derived from the Elohim, Adam's father." 79 That Seth had some special connection with the Hebrews is proved, among other things, by the peculiar position occupied in their religious system by the ass--the firstborn of which alone of all animals was allowed to be redeemed 80--and the red heifer--whose ashes were to be reserved as a "water of separation" for purification from sin. 81 Both of these animals were in Egypt sacred to Seth (Typhon), the ass being his symbol, and red oxen being at one time sacrificed to him, although at a later date objects of a red color were disliked, owing to their association with the dreaded Typhon. 82 That we have a reference to this deity in the name of the Hebrew lawgiver is very probable. No satisfactory derivation of this name, Moses, Mosheh (Heb.), has yet been given.  83 Its original form was probably Am-a-ses or Am-ses, which in course of time would become to the Hebrews Om-ses or Mo-ses, meaning only the (god) Ses, i.e., Set or Seth. 84 On this hypothesis, there may have been preserved in the first book of Moses (so-called) some of the traditional wisdom said to have been contained in the sacred books of the Egyptian Thoth, and of the records engraved on the pillars of Seth. It is somewhat remarkable that, according to a statement of Diodorus, when Antiochus Epiphanes entered the temple at Jerusalem, he found in the Holy of Holies a stone figure of Moses, represented as a man with a long beard, mounted on an ass, and having a book in his hand. 85 The Egyptian mythus of Typhon actually said that Seth fled from Egypt riding oin a gray ass. 86 It is strange, to say the least, that Moses should not have been allowed to enter the promised land, and that he should be so seldom referred to by later writers until long after the reign of David, 87 and above all, that the name given to his successor was Joshua, i.e., Saviour. It is worthy of notice that Nun, the name of the father of Joshua, is the Semitic word for fish, the phallic character of the fish in Chaldean mythology being undoubted. Nin, the planet Saturn, was the fish-god of Berosus, and, as I think can be shown, he is really the same as the Assyrian national deity Asshur, whose name and office bear a curious resemblance to those of the Hebrew leader, Joshua.

But what was the character of the primitive Semitic deity? Bunsen seems to think that Plutarch, in one passage, alludes to the identity of Typhon (Seth) and Osiris. 88 This is a remarkable idea, and yet curiously enough Sir Gardner Wilkinson says that Typhon-Seth may have been derived from the pigmy Pthah-Sokari-Osiris, 89 who was clearly only another form of Osiris himself. However this may be, the phallic origin of Seth can be shown from other data. Thus, it appears that the word Set means, in Hebrew, as well as in Egyptian, pillar, and in a general sense, the erect, elevated, high. 90 Moreover, in a passage of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, Set is called Tet, a fact which, according to Bunsen, intimates that Thoth inherited many of the attributes of Set. 91 They were, however, in reality the same deities. Set, by change of the initial letter, becomes Tet, one of the names of Thoth, or rather the same name; as Set agrees with Seth. 92 We have in this an explanation of the statement that Tet, the Phoenician Taaut, was the snake-god Esmun-Esculapius; 93 the serpent being the symbol of Tet, as we have seen it to have been that of Seth also. In this we have a means of identifying the Semitic deity Seth, with the Saturn and related deities of other peoples. Ewald says that "the common name for God, Eloah, among the Hebrews, as among all the Semites, goes back into the earliest times." 94 Bryant goes further, and declares that El was originally the name of the supreme deity among all the nations of the East. 95 This idea is confirmed, so far as Chaldea is concerned, by later researches, which show that Il or El was at the head of the Babylonian pantheon. With this deity must be identified the Il or Ilus of the Phoenicians, who was the same as Cronus, who again was none other than the primeval Saturn, whose worship appears to have been at one period almost universal among European and Asiatic peoples. Saturn and El were thus the same deity, the latter, like the Semitic Seth, being, as is well known, symbolized by the serpent. 96 A direct point of contact between Seth and Saturn is found in the Hebrew idol Kiyun, mentioned by Amos, the planet Saturn being still called Kivan by Eastern peoples. This idol was represented in the form of a pillar, the primeval symbol of deity, which was common undoubtedly to all the gods here mentioned. 97 These symbolical pillars were called Betyli, or Betulia. Sometimes also the column was called Abaddir, which, strangely enough, Bryant identifies with the serpent-god. 98 There can be no doubt that both the pillar and the serpent were associated with many of the Sun-Gods of antiquity.

Notwithstanding what has been said, it is undoubtedly true that all these deities, including the Semitic Seth, became at an early date recognized as Sun-Gods, although in so doing they lost nothing of their primitive character. What this was is sufficiently shown by the significant names and titles they bore. Thus, as we have seen, Set (Seth) itself meant the erect, elevated, high, and his name on the Egyptian monuments was nearly always accompanied by the representation of a stone. 99 Kiyun, or Kivan, the name of the deity said by Amos 100 to have been worshipped in the wilderness by the Hebrews, signifies God of the Pillar. The idea embodied in this title is shown by the name Baal Tamar, which means "Baal as a Pillar," or "Phallus," consequently "the fructifying God." 101 The title "erect," when given to a deity, seems always to imply a phallic notion, and hence we have the explanation of the name S. mou, used frequently in the "Book of the Dead," in relation to Thoth, or to Set. There is doubtless a reference of the same kind in the Phoenician myth that "Melekh taught men the special art of erecting solid walls and buildings;" although Bunsen finds in this myth "the symbolical mode of expressing the value of the use of fire in building houses." 102 That these myths embody a phallic notion may be confirmed by reference to the Phoenician Kabiri. According to Bunsen, "the Kabiri and the divinities identified with him are explained by the Greeks and Romans as 'the strong,' 'the great;' while in the book of job, kabbir, the strong, is used as an epithet of God. Again, the father of the Kabiri, is "the Just, or in a more original sense, the Upright," and this deity, with his sons, correspond to the Phoenician Pataikoi, and to Ptalh, their father. Ptah, however, appears to be derived from a root, xxx, which signifies in Hebrew, "to open," and Sydyk himself, therefore, may, says Bunsen, be described as "the opener" of the Cosmic Egg. 103 The phallic meaning of this title is evident from its application to Esmun-Esculapius (the son of Sydyk) who, as the Snake-God, was identical with Tet, the Egyptian Thoth-Hermes.

The peculiar titles given to these pillar-deities, and their association with the sun, led to their original phallic character being somewhat overlooked, and, instead of being the Father-Gods of human kind, they became Powerful Gods, Lords of Heaven. This was not the special attribute taken by other sun-gods. I have already stated that Hermes, and his related deities, were "gods of the country," personifying the idea of general natural fecundity. Among the chief gods of this description were the Phoenician Sebazius, the Greek Bacchus-Dionysos, the Roman Priapus, and the Egyptian Khem. All these deities agree also in being sun-gods, and as such they were symbolized by animals which were noted either for their fecundity or for their salaciousness. The chief animals thus chosen were the bull and the goat (with which the ram was afterward confounded 104), and this doubtless because they were already sacred. The sun appears to have been preceded by the moon, as an object of worship, but the Moon-God was probably only representative of the primeval Saturn, 105 who finally became the Sun-God El or Il of the Syrians and the Semites, and the Ra of the Babylonians. The latter was also the title of the Sun-God of Egypt, who was symbolized by the obelisk, and who, although his name was added to that of other Egyptian Gods, appears to have been the tutelary deity of the stranger-kings of the 18th dynasty, whom Pleyte, 106 however, declares to have been Set (Sutech). 107 We are reminded hereof the opposition of Seth and Osiris, which I have already explained as arising, from the fact that these deities originally represented two different ideas--human fecundity and the fruitfulness of nature. When, however, both of these principles became associated with the solar body, they were expressed by the same symbols, and the distinction between them was in great measure lost sight of. A certain difference was, nevertheless, still observable in the attributes of the deities, depending on the peculiar properties and associations of their solar representatives. Thus the powerful deity of Phoenicia was naturally associated with the strong, scorching summer-sun, whose heat was the most prominent attribute. In countries such as Egypt, where the sun, acting on the moist soil left by inundations, caused the earth to spring into renewed life, the mild but energetic early sun was the chief deity.

Next: The Sun-Gods of Antiquity