The Hittite storm gods (Job 38)

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The speeches of God in Job 38-41 present Him as  absolute and unrivalled in His power over nature. The stars, storms, seasons and wild animals all submit to and depend upon Him. He even controls Leviathan, the dragon (dinosaur) that symbolizes chaos and evil (Job 4). In polytheism, on the other hand, the gods are often depicted as weak and dependent.

Hittite texts of myth and ritual illustrate this. For example, the Telepinu myth recounts an incident in which the storm god Telepinu was reported to have become angry and deserted his post. In his absence the crops ceased to grow and the livestock to calve. Even the other gods began to panic at the prospect of starvation. Although the gods were unable to locate Telepinu, a bee found him asleep under a tree and wakened him with ting. A goddess og magic and a human priest then preformed expiatory rituals that assuaged Telepinu’s anger.

Other Hittite myths tell of the storm god’s conflict with the dragon Illuyanka. Unlike Yahweh’s domination of Leviathan in Job 41, however, the storm god can scarcely handle Illuyanka. In one version the storm god is at first defeated by the dragon, but the tables turn after the goddess Inara enlists the aid of a mortal, Hupashiya, by sleeping with him. She then hosts a feast; after Illuyanka gorges himself on food, Hupashiya binds the dragon with ropes so that the storm god can manage to slay him. In another version the storm god loses his heart and eyes to the dragon in their first battle, but the god’s son marries Illuyanka’s daughter and persuades Illuyanka to return his father’s eyes and heart. The storm god resumes the battle, slaying both the dragon and his son.

The profound moral and theological debate of Job could not have arisen from such pagan myths. The gods, as depicted in these tales, were simply too weak to control events in a meaningful way; they needed the assistance of other gods and even of humans and animals. There would also be no problem of evil if God were too weak to control the world; such a theological dilemma can only exist in a setting in which God is understood to be omniscient and omnipotent.


 

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