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There was much trade and cultural and religious contacts
among the ancient civilizations of Greece, Crete, Egypt, and
Israel, as well as much older contacts with Turkey and Syria.
The Hebrews and the pagan Canaanites were living right next to
each other, and the Torah constantly condemns their influence.
Cyrus Gordon was the world¶s leading expert on Ugaritic, the language
of the Canaanites, a close relative of ancient Hebrew and Phoenician. He
became convinced, based on their literatures, that the Greek and Israeli
cultures had a common ancient Semitic root, probably centered at Crete.













But although silver coins only go back to 700 B.C.E., money is far older. The
Egyptians used ring money, which could be strung on a string or worn on fingers. The
shekel was an ancient unit of weight, not of money, but eventually became a standard
of money, as in 20 silver shekels. In the Joseph story, 20 pieces of silver is not
anachronistic, nor is 20 shekels of silver, but 20 silver coins definitely would be, while
20 silver shekels might be. This shows how a single word or two can change our
understanding of a Torah passage. If we don¶t read Hebrew then this puts us at the
mercy of the many differing translations. In Leviticus 27:3-7 we read about ³shekels of
silver´ while in Genesis 42:25-28 we read about ³money´, both from the same
translation. This makes it very hard to know if some detail could be a late addition to
the Torah, or not. Later we will see all the problems that arise over the differing
interpretations of a single Hebrew word, that led to
the widespread gentile belief that Jews have horns.
When experts in ancient Hebrew differ over the
meaning of a word, what are we laypeople to do?

2000 year old

Gold ring money Israeli silver shekel
Egyptian metal ring money
 Shofar, bull worship, Baal
 Priest͛s ͞designer jeans͟, Moses͛ horns, veil
 Bestiality, incest, Canaanites
 Ark of the Covenant
 Slingers, David and Goliath
 Esau͛s heel, Cinderella
 Almond branch, snake worship, Thoth
 Finger of God, Tefillin
 Origin of Levites
 Adam and Eve
 Priest͛s ͞designer jeans͟, Moses͛ horns, veil
 Bestiality, incest, Canaanites
 Ark of the Covenant
 Slingers, David and Goliath
 Esau͛s heel, Cinderella
 Almond branch, snake worship, Thoth
 Finger of God, Tefillin
 Origin of Levites
 Adam and Eve



Cow¶s horn

Antelope horn
]am¶s horn
Worship of the bull god is extremely old. The top row left and middle shows religious
bull idols from 8,000 years ago in Turkey in one of the world¶s first cities. Top right is a
sacred bull tomb from Egypt, 5000 years ago. Bottom row is bull god idols from
Summer, Crete, Elam, and Egypt, all about 5000 years ago. The last image, bottom
right, is of Canaanite Moloch, as a bull, and their god of child sacrifice by fire.
 Shofar, bull worship, Baal
 Bestiality, incest, Canaanites
 Ark of the Covenant
 Slingers, David and Goliath
 Esau͛s heel, Cinderella
 Almond branch, snake worship, Thoth
 Finger of God, Tefillin
 Origin of Levites
 Adam and Eve
So we can see why the Torah would not want to even consider the religiously
tainted cow horn for shofars. Now let us look at a key story in the Torah and see
what a wider context can bring to it. When Moses came down Mt. Sinai with the
10 commandments (inscribed by God into stone) he became furious over the
Golden Calf (symbol of Baal) idol that had been made and the orgy in progress.
He broke the stone tablets. For this impetuous act he was forced by God to spend
all night chiseling new tablets and then writing them into the stone by his own ±
Moses¶ - hand, to make a 2nd set (Exodus 34, verses 1,2, and 27).
As momentous as the giving of these divine
commandments was, there were also some much
lesser divine orders that are usually considered beneath
notice. Consider the garments that the Egyptians wore
in their very hot climate. They were short kilts and of
thin linen. The Hebrews wore this during the Exodus.
When Egyptian or Hebrew priests climbed up a stepped
altar, people who gathered around the base could look up
their short kilts. Men did not have underwear. So Moses is
commanded as follows: Exodus 20:23 ±´Do not ascend my
altar by steps, that your nakedness not be exposed upon it´.
In Exodus 28:42 Moses is given instructions for the first
³designer jeans´ for priests - ³You shall also make for them
(Aaron and his sons) linen breeches to cover their nakedness;
A stepped altar
they shall extend from the hips to the thighs´ They are then
told to wear them on all religious occasions, on pain of death.

There is no possible
way to truly understand
this passage except by
considering Egyptian
clothing and stepped
altars ± going outside the
Torah itself.
Here is Michelangelo¶s famous sculpture showing Moses with horns and also a
medieval depiction of a Jew with horns. The standard explanation for this widely held
belief is based on Exodus 34:29,30 where Moses comes down from Mt. Sinai and time
alone with God and either he has grown horns or his face is radiant, depending on how
one key word is understood. Some early Christian translators went with horns. In
Psalm 69:31 and very many Torah places the context shows that horns is correct there
ý  with Moses has either ³horns´ or ³radiant´ (literally ³sending forth beams´) been
used. , the radiant or rays of light meaning only appears in 
writing and is being retroactively applied to the Torah!
There is a very interesting other possibility. Maybe Moses did not grow
horns but simply wore them, for whatever reason, as this American Indian is
doing here. Exodus 29:12 gives a sacrifice ritual involving taking ³bull¶s blood
and put it on the Ô
of the altar with your finger«´ Horned altars are also
mentioned in Exodus 30:2 and 38:2. What is going on here, with the horns?
In 1975 a large horned altar for animal sacrifice was discovered in Israel, from
about 800 B.C.E. It also had a snake symbol as part of it.

What this all means is clear ± the ancient

Hebrews never had a religion that was 100%
separate from that of their pagan neighbors.
They kept sliding into some Canaanite practices
and then had periodic purges of these idols and
rituals. The shofar was never made from a
cow¶s horn but other Baal type of horn symbols
kept creeping in. Also Canaanite serpent idols,
beginning with one made by Moses himself,
described in Numbers 21:9
This serpent cult amongst the Hebrews became such a problem that there was
eventually a purge of it, around 700 B.C.E. by Hezekiah. It is interesting that the
making by Moses of this copper serpent clearly violates the 2nd commandment, against
making idols. Serpent worship was common throughout the region, including Egypt ±
where the Hebrews had just been. Serpents were thought to be able to cure illness.
But back to Moses and his horns. The alternate translation of the key word is not
³horns´ but ³radiant´, as in sending out rays. Modern translations just say ³radiant´ and
give Moses a radiant face, but older versions have led to images of Moses, in art, of
actually having beams of light radiating from his head.
This may be linguistically more accurate, and early
translations say ³head´ and not ³face´
It is possible that Moses is being given here, by later authors, some of the
properties of Shamash, the Babylonian sun god, who is often shown with rays coming
out of his head. The Jews would have been familiar with Shamash from their long
stay in the Babylonian Captivity. Note that the leftmost figure in the bottom left image
has both head rays and horns. The image from Chaldea - Ur (Abraham¶s home town)
shows figures with horned headdresses. Our Statue of Liberty is just a recent
example of this very ancient imagery.
It looks like some fudging went on with the translations and interpretations to try to
make sense of this short Torah passage, with its puzzling meaning. Old versions
went with horns or beams of light coming out of his head. Modern versions go with
a radiant face, which may be an unwarranted and linguistically unjustifiable attempt
to avoid an unpleasant and difficult choice.. There are over 90 uses of that key word
³k-r-n´ in the Tenakh and there it always means horns. So my vote is for ³horns´
and a horn headdress, since the beams of light, or metaphorically radiant,
interpretation of the use of that word first occurs in post-biblical writings..

It is irrelevant
what some key
words in
Hebrew have
come to mean
in —
Hebrew. All
that matters is
what they
meant back
Exodus then goes on to say that Moses¶ new appearance frightened people, so
he put on a veil when talking to them, but took it off when talking to God. Some
Christians make much of this passage and say that God¶s message to the
people, through Moses, was muffled (veiled) and only Jesus could rip it away.

Veiled Arab man

What would otherwise simply be a very minor

puzzling obscure item in the Torah has been seized
on by some Christians as having very weighty
significance. Oy veh!
For those who love more speculative ideas, it is a fact that there is much scholarly
dispute over who was Pharaoh in Egypt during the Exodus, the date of which is very
much up in the air. This is by no means a settled issue. That allows for much
speculation by people from Freud onwards. Some think that Akhenaten was that
pharaoh. He basically invented monotheism in the form of worship of the sun god Aten.
Moses would have been exposed to this and that might explain the light rays imagery
from Moses¶ head in that Exodus passage. The more far-out idea, favored by some, is
that Moses and pharaoh Akhenaten were the same person. Yes, you read that right.
 Shofar, bull worship, Baal
 Priest͛s ͞designer jeans͟, Moses͛ horns, veil
 Ark of the Covenant
 Slingers, David and Goliath
 Esau͛s heel, Cinderella
 Almond branch, snake worship, Thoth
 Finger of God, Tefillin
 Origin of Levites
 Adam and Eve
Moses received much further instruction, including a prohibition in Leviticus 18:23
and 20:15,16 against bestiality. Two points: 1) you don¶t bother to prohibit something
unless people are already doing it, and 2) it is not so much sin as it is religious sin that
the Torah constantly condemns (whoring after false gods, etc.). World myth has many
examples of bestiality, such as Zeus in the form of a swan raping Leda, who then gives
birth to Venus. Or Pasiphae, who climbed into a model cow so as to copulate with a
bull, and then gave birth to the Minotaur monster. Herodotus, in his ³Histories´, tells of
Egyptian women who had sex with goats in public squares, for money. Those randy
Canaanites were known for ritual temple prostitutes (men and women), homosexuality,
bestiality, and general licentiousness. It is possible that the railing against that, in the
Torah, was mostly based on purely religious objections ± like against pagan sexual
fertility rites (Baal was a god of fertility). Canaanite priests of Baal engaged in ritual
sex with heifers as part of fertility rites to head off dreaded droughts and famine.

This custom, of copulation by the king or his priests with heifers or a mare, is
extremely ancient and widespread. It was the climax, with a mare, of the Indo-Aryan
horse sacrifice ritual from many thousands of years ago. Temple prostitution, both
hetero and homo, was also widespread in the region. These are all very much
religious rituals. When the Torah condemned ³whoring after false gods´ that is
probably what they most minded ± not the promiscuous or perverse sex (the whoring
part), but rather its close ties to pagan religions. That and a concern over Jewish
population growth. ³Increase and multiply´ pretty much requires conventional sex and
a stable family. Leviticus 18:3 orders ³You shalt not copy the practices of the land of
Egypt where you dwelt, or of the land of Canaan to which I am taking you´.
Most curious is the omission from the list of prohibited incest in Leviticus 18 and
20 of that between a father and his daughters (like Lot here, Genesis 19:31-38).
Marriage between an uncle and niece is also left out, and is approved of in the
Talmud. Father/daughter incest occurs worldwide and is a frequent subtext in, for
example, Grimm¶s fairy and folk tales. It was practiced in Egypt, which the Hebrews
had just left, as well as brother/sister incest. This odd omission has baffled most
who assume that it is
a simple mistake.
Just as likely, though,
this may indicate the
suppression of
something from the
text that was there
earlier, which would
make sense of this.
Part of the early
codification of the
Torah was the
elimination of some
quite uncomfortable
 Shofar, bull worship, Baal
 Priest͛s ͞designer jeans͟, Moses͛ horns, veil
 Bestiality, incest, Canaanites
 Slingers, David and Goliath
 Esau͛s heel, Cinderella
 Almond branch, snake worship, Thoth
 Finger of God, Tefillin
 Origin of Levites
 Adam and Eve
In Mecca is the sacred Ka¶ba, which contains a small black meteorite. Muslim
pilgrims come and kiss the stone, which was said to have been sent by God to
Abraham. The veneration of this stone and others like it is much older than Islam
and was common in the Near East. It is interesting to compare this to the
Tabernacle tent and the Ark of the Covenant, the dimensions and materials of
which are very explicitly laid out in Exodus 25. Ceremonial stones were venerated
in Canaan and this practice was adopted by the early Hebrews there, in the form
of their ³high places´.
It is well-known that the Ark of the Covenant, in the Holy of Holies part of the
Tabernacle contained the two stone tablets with the 10 commandments. It is a fact,
however, that the Torah in Exodus does  explicitly say that. It is implied but not
directly stated. God says to put into it the Pact or Testimony that he will give to Moses,
which is not identical to saying the two stone tablets. A later tradition in Deuteronomy
solidifies around the two tablets reading. Some think that it was a meteorite that was
put in the Ark (like the Muslim Ka¶ba at Mecca) or that the two tablets were carved from
a meteorite.
 Shofar, bull worship, Baal
 Priest͛s ͞designer jeans͟, Moses͛ horns, veil
 Bestiality, incest, Canaanites
 Ark of the Covenant
 Esau͛s heel, Cinderella
 Almond branch, snake worship, Thoth
 Finger of God, Tefillin
 Origin of Levites
 Adam and Eve
While speaking of stones, let us consider the story of David and Goliath, although it
is not in the Torah. We probably all have images in our mind of something like these
artist¶s conceptions. Slingers were an important part of ancient warfare, including
the Torah account of the conquering of Canaan when the Hebrews reached the
Promised Land. But these pictures here are all wrong. Slingers could sling stones
for amazing distances and with great accuracy. In warfare the slingers were behind
the archers, because they had greater range. David could have been a very long
way away from Goliath.
Slingers usually used specially prepared stones that were rounded off to be pretty spherical.
That shape makes the trajectory more dependable. The balls were slightly over 2 inches in
diameter. The range was over 300 yards! Only a single windup was used and an underhand
release. Prepared balls were made about the same size so the range would be about the
same for each. 60 m.p.h. speeds were common, as modern tests for range and speed show.
Imagine being hit by a 2´ stone going 60 mph!

Babylonian slingers

 Shofar, bull worship, Baal
 Priest͛s ͞designer jeans͟, Moses͛ horns, veil
 Bestiality, incest, Canaanites
 Ark of the Covenant
 Slingers, David and Goliath
 Almond branch, snake worship, Thoth
 Finger of God, Tefillin
 Origin of Levites
 Adam and Eve
We all know the story of Jacob and Esau and the selling of the birthright for a pot of porridge.
Genesis 25 tells how ]ebekah had twins in her womb, who struggled with each other. At birth
Esau emerged first, followed by Jacob holding on to Esau¶s heel. The usual midrash remarks are
how this shows that Jacob was trying to hold Esau back so that he himself could emerge as the
firstborn, with all the rights that confers. But there is a completely different theme being
described here, that has escaped the commentators. There are world-wide myths that feature the
heel as the one vulnerable spot of a hero. Achilles body was immortal except for the heel that his
mother held him by when she dipped him into the river Styx. He later died by a poisoned arrow in
his heel. The Vishnu avatar Krishna died while meditating, when a hunter¶s arrow landed in his
heel. Oedipus¶ ankles were pierced at his birth and he was exposed on a mountain side to die.
Stone images of the pharaoh Akhenaten show him having peculiarly swollen lower legs. There
are many other examples, often involving being lame. St. Jerome said that Jesus was lame and
we all know where, at the end, he eventually got a nail ± in the heel or ankle.
The vulnerable heel theme is a subset of a broader world-wide myth of the Cinderella
story ± the key feature of which is someone with only one shoe or sandal, causing
them to walk funny. Now back to Esau ± the ancient Book of Jubilees, not part of the
established Jewish canon, describes the death of Esau, which the Torah does not, as
being during a battle between Jacob and Esau ± with Jacob killing Esau with an
arrow. This sounds familiar (Achilles, Krishna, etc.) and may preserve an ancient
legend that was suppressed from the Torah, which instead has the brothers
reconciled at the end, in a Hollywood ending.
After wrestling all night with the angel
(Genesis 32:24) Jacob limped from then
on, because of a wrenched hip joint, in
his crotch.
In First Kings 18:26 the limping
(mincing) dance of the priests of Baal is
described. What does all this mean ±
the vulnerable heels, Cinderella,
limping, etc. The symbolic meaning is
this ± these Ô
± Achilles,
Krishna, Jacob, Jesus, etc. had one foot
in this world and
one foot in the next,
and so could not
walk properly. It is a
major theme of
Siberian shamans,
is extremely ancient
and occurs world-
wide. Any body
asymmetry is

 Shofar, bull worship, Baal
 Priest͛s ͞designer jeans͟, Moses͛ horns, veil
 Bestiality, incest, Canaanites
 Ark of the Covenant
 Slingers, David and Goliath
 Esau͛s heel, Cinderella
 Finger of God, Tefillin
 Origin of Levites
 Adam and Eve
There are interesting aspects of the almond tree in the Torah. Aaron casts down his rod
before the Pharaoh and it turns into a snake, which then swallows up the snakes the
Egyptian priests¶ rods have become. Later the rod is used to start the plagues of Egypt
and is clearly a very powerful object. Moses used it to part the ]ed Sea. This same rod
of Aaron is later identified as an almond branch, when Aaron¶s rod miraculously sprouts
flowers and bears almond nuts overnight (Numbers 17:23). Later Jewish tradition says
that the staff of the Messiah will be an almond branch. The Menorah is described in
Exodus 25:31-40 as being based on almond branches and petals. In Jeremiah 1:11, he is
shown by God an almond branch to test his prophetic vision.
Are these all coincidences or is something hidden going on here? What does the
almond signify in myth? I¶m glad you asked. Almonds and snakes were closely
associated with the god Hermes, or Thoth to the Egyptians. There was a Jerusalem cult
of Thoth and the almond tree would have been central to it, just as oak was to the Druids.
Thoth was a moon god (notice how the Jewish calendar is a lunar one). Thoth is
often shown in Egyptian art with a crescent moon on his head, which could be
mistaken for horns or a horn headdress. This cult was gradually absorbed into the
religion of the early Jews and only remnant symbols were left, like Aaron¶s almond
rod and the menorah with its almond shapes. It is a certainty that Moses, while in
Egypt, would have been very familiar with the cult of Thoth and its symbols, like
almonds and snakes. Ancient Judaism was in a constant struggle to distinguish itself
from its pagan neighbors and their religious practices and symbols. ]emnants of
these have lasted to this very day, although the original meanings have usually been
long lost.
 Shofar, bull worship, Baal
 Priest͛s ͞designer jeans͟, Moses͛ horns, veil
 Bestiality, incest, Canaanites
 Ark of the Covenant
 Slingers, David and Goliath
 Esau͛s heel, Cinderella
 Almond branch, snake worship, Thoth
 „ ! 
 Origin of Levites
 Adam and Eve
For the plague of the gnats (Exodus 8:12-15) Aaron strikes the dust with that same
almond rod just discussed and raises a cloud of gnats that overtakes Egypt. Pharaoh¶s
magicians cannot duplicate this and say ³It is the finger of God!´ The word for finger is
an Egyptian word, one of over 300 in the Torah, and the ³finger of God´ expression is an
Egyptian one from that time. Later that same phrase is used in the Torah when
God writes the
(the 1st set) in
stone with his
own finger
(Exodus 31:18).
famous painting
shows the ³finger
of God´ reaching
out to touch
Adam, a good
example of how
this Egyptian
concept has
worked its way
down through the
]emember from before that Thoth was closely associated with the almond rod and
serpents. Moses made the serpent idol, mounted on a staff (almond?) as a healing
charm. Thoth was also the god of healing, hence the medical symbol of the serpents
and the staff, associated with Thoth/Hermes. In Exodus 15:26 God says to Moses that if
they will obey his laws and commandments then he will not bring on them any of the
diseases (plagues) he brought on the Egyptians for ³I am the Lord your healer´. The
Egyptians wore amulets and talisman to ward off disease or evil. An Egyptian medical
patient would wear a headband with the name written on it of the god being invoked.
Does this suggest anything to you? The word ³tefillin´ is not in the Torah. The word
used there is ³totafot´ and has a puzzling linguistic origin. Some experts think it is an
Egyptian loan word. What is clear is that early Judaism was strongly influenced by their
stay in Egypt and then later by their neighbors the Canaanites.
 Shofar, bull worship, Baal
 Priest͛s ͞designer jeans͟, Moses͛ horns, veil
 Bestiality, incest, Canaanites
 Ark of the Covenant
 Slingers, David and Goliath
 Esau͛s heel, Cinderella
 Almond branch, snake worship, Thoth
 Finger of God, Tefillin
 ý  " 
 Adam and Eve
And the 12 tribes of Israel

Descendents of Levi


The Levite tribe has a lot of Egyptian names. No other tribe has
any, that are mentioned in the Torah. The name Moses is usually
given a Hebrew derivation but there is an equally valid Egyptian
language one (consider Pharaoh Tutmoses = son (moses) of Tut)
He was, after all, raised in the Pharaoh¶s household. Maybe only the
Levites were ever in Egypt, and not the other tribes. But there is a
more likely possibility.
All the Levites
were priests.
Perhaps some
were originally
Egyptian priests
who followed
Moses out of
Egypt in the
Exodus, hence
those Egyptian
names among
the Levites. The
10 Plagues must
have impressed
them quite a bit.
The tribe of  has a name
that could be the same Hebrew
word as the athon ± the
giant sea serpent that God
created in the early days of the
Creation (Genesis 1:20-23).
Later God killed the giant
serpent ]ahab in an epic battle,
Isaiah 27:1. Two possible
³Levi´ name derivations are
from one root meaning ³joined´
or another meaning ³coiled´.
There may be some good
reasons to link the Levites and
snakes, aside from this
linguistic connection. Moses
and Aaron were Levites and the
]od of God (Moses¶ almond
branch staff) was turned into a
snake twice in the Torah.
God turns the Levite Moses¶ rod into a
snake (Exodus 4:2-4) and Levite Aaron
does the same. Pharaoh¶s magicians
respond with their own snakes (Exodus
7:9-12). ]emember, from earlier, that
snakes and almonds were sacred to the
Egyptian God Thoth. Maybe these same
magicians left Egypt with Moses, as co-
priests with the Levites, hence the
Egyptian names among the Levites..
³Levi´ / ³Leviathon´ = Joined or coiled

1st American political cartoon Serpent   at

mouth and tail

Maybe the Levites were

snake handlers and
Minoan became head of the snake
snake cult that Hezikiah purged
handler in 2nd Kings 18:4,
destroying the brass
snake idol that Moses
 Shofar, bull worship, Baal
 Priest͛s ͞designer jeans͟, Moses͛ horns, veil
 Bestiality, incest, Canaanites
 Ark of the Covenant
 Slingers, David and Goliath
 Esau͛s heel, Cinderella
 Almond branch, snake worship, Thoth
 Finger of God, Tefillin
 Origin of Levites
We end here, fittingly, back at the very beginning with the Adam and Eve story. The
image on the right is more accurate, as Genesis implies that the snake does not
become a creature that crawls on its belly until   it has corrupted Eve.
The Torah
does not say
³apple´, just
³fruit, and it
has been
thought to be a
fig, grape, or
citron, but not
an apple. God
tells Adam not
to eat the fruit
for ³as soon as
you eat of it,
you shall die´
Genesis 2:17
This creepy painting by Von Stuck inadvertently hits on a key idea. Eating what kind
of fruit would make you die ³as soon as you eat of it´ ± (Genesis 2:17)? The obvious
answer = 
 fruit! Some modern scholars think it was a deadly halucinogenic
mushroom. In any case, it was widely thought in the ancient world that snakes could
and did transfer
their venom to
plants and fruits,
mushrooms. Von
Stuck, 100 years
ago, showed this
idea here very
clearly. It was
also widely
believed that
could bring the
dead back to life
= make you
immortal. When
God curses the snake, in Eden, he says the snake will strike at the Ô of man. We
have discussed this before, and this ends our journey through some Torah mysteries.
In summary, our understanding of the Torah
is greatly enriched by seeing it in context.
Scribes and text codifiers living many
hundreds of years after the events they were
writing about may have themselves
interpreted these events in terms of their own
contemporary experiences (like the 20 pieces
of silver anachronism possibility given earlier).
We today can understand much more about
the Torah when aware of the practices of the
Canaanites and the Egyptians, both very
strong influences on biblical events, as well as
the much later world in which the Torah
scribes and codifiers lived.
Exploring these curious mysteries of the
Torah can be fun whether or not you believe
that these people ever existed or the events
ever happened. We would not think to get the
most out of Shakespeare or Homer without
some background context about the customs
of the world their characters moved within as
well as the world of the authors.
 The Jewish people have moved far beyond these ancient
experiences and legends.

 But exploring these ancient texts and legends is ideally suited

to the Jewish mind-set.

 The ͞People of the Book͟ have become people of books, and

both secular and religious scholarship.

 Further work will throw more light on the topics raised here.

 You can review all this online.

Google on Curious Mysteries of the Torah