Yam (god)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
God of the sea
Other namesṯpṭ nhr
Major cult centerUgarit
AbodeMediterranean Sea
Personal information
  • El (father)
Greek equivalentPoseidon
Roman equivalentNeptune

Yam (also Yamm; Semitic: ים Ym) is the god of the sea in the Canaanite pantheon. Yam takes the role of the adversary of Baal in the Ugaritic Baal Cycle.

The deity's name derives from the Canaanite word for "Sea", and is one name of the Ugaritic god of Rivers and Sea. Also titled ṯpṭ nhr (" the Judge of the River"),[1] he is also one of the 'ilhm ( 'ilahuuma/'ilahiima Elohim) or sons of El, the name given to the Levantine pantheon.

Of all the gods, despite being the champion of El, Yam holds special hostility against Baal Hadad, son of Dagon. Yam is a deity of the sea and his palace is in the abyss associated with the depths, or Biblical tehom, of the oceans. Yam is the deity of the primordial chaos and represents the power of the sea, untamed and raging; he is seen as ruling storms and the disasters they wreak, and was an important divinity to the maritime Phoenicians. The gods cast out Yam from the heavenly mountain Sappan (modern Jebel Aqra; Sappan is cognate to Tsephon).[citation needed]

The fight of Baal-Hadad with Yam has long been equated with the Chaoskampf mytheme in Mesopotamian mythology in which a god fights and destroys a "dragon" or sea monster; the seven-headed dragon Lotan is associated closely with him and Yam is often described as the serpent. Both Mesopotamian Tiamat[2] and Biblical Leviathan are adduced as reflexes of this narrative,[3] as is the fight of Zeus with Typhon in Greek mythology.[4]

Baal Cycle[edit]

In the Ugaritic Baal Cycle, El, chief of the Gods and father to the second-tier divinities, appoints Yam to fight Hadad-Baal. In the interpretatio graeca of Philo of Byblos, El corresponds to Cronus, Hadad-Baal to Zeus, Yam to Poseidon and Mot to Hades.

KTU 1.2 iii:

"From your throne of kingship you shall be driven,
from the seat of your dominion cast out!
On your head be Ayamari (Driver) O Yam,
Between your shoulders Yagarish (Chaser), O Judge Nahar
May Horon split open, O Yam,
may Horon smash your head,
´Athtart-Name-of-the-Lord thy skull!

After a great war in heaven involving many of the gods, Yam is soundly defeated:

And the weapon springs from the hand of Baal,
Like a raptor from between his fingers.
It strikes the skull of Prince Yam,
between the eyes of Judge Nahar.
Yahm collapses, he falls to the earth;
His joints quiver, and his spine shakes.
Thereupon Baal drags out Yam and would rend him to pieces;
he would make an end of Judge Nahar.

Hadad holds a great feast, but not long afterwards he battles Mot (death) and through his mouth he descends to the netherworld. Yet like Yam, Death too is defeated and in h. I AB iii the Lord arises from the dead:

For alive is Mighty Baal,
Revived is the Prince, Master of Earth."
'El calls to the Virgin Anat:
"Hearken, O maiden Anat!"

Comparative mythology[edit]

The narrative of the conflict of Yam with Baal-Hadad has long been compared to parallels in Mesopotamian mythology, the battle between Tiamat and Enlil and Babylonian Marduk and, more generically, the Chaoskampf motif in comparative mythology.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Smith (1994), p. 235.
  2. ^ a b Albert I. Baumgarten , The Phoenician History of Philo of Byblos: A Commentary (1981), p. 131. "The concept of a battle between the primordial cosmic sea and a leading god of the pantheon was an innovation in Babylonian religion introduced with Enuma elish. The motif itself was probably inspired from the mythology of Western Asia, where it is represeted by the Ugaritic myth of Baal." "Tiamat" in van der Toorn et al., Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (1999), p. 868.
  3. ^ van der Toorn et al., Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (1999) s.v. "Dragon"
  4. ^ Joseph Eddy Fontenrose, Python: A Study of Delphic Myth and Its Origins University of California Press (1959), p. 134
  • Coogan, Michael D (1978)., trans. & ed., Stories from Ancient Canaan, (Philadelphia: Westminster Press), 86-89.
  • Day, John, God's Conflict with the Dragon and the Sea: Echoes of a Canaanite Myth in the Old Testament (1985)
  • De Moor, Johannes, The Seasonal Pattern in the Myth of Ba' lu according to the version of Ilimilku, (1971).
  • Driver, G. R., trans., J. C. L. Gibson, ed., Canaanite Myths and Legends, (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark Ltd., 1977).
  • Ginsberg, H. L., trans., in The Ancient Near East, An Anthology of Tests and Pictures, James B. Pritchard, Ed., (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1958), 92-118.
  • Smith, Mark S. (1994) The Ugaritic Ba'al Cycle; Vol. I: Introduction with Text, Translation & Commentary of KTU 1.1-1.2, (New York: E. J. Brill).
  • Smith, Mark S. (2001) "The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel's Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts" (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
  • van der Toorn, Karel (1995). Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible. New York: E.J. Brill. ISBN 0-8028-2491-9.

External links[edit]

  • "Baal Battles Yahm" (original translation, "Lilinah biti-Anat" 1997, partially based on Smith 1994).