Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible Online

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Subject: Religious Studies

Edited by: Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking and Pieter W. van der Horst

The Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible Online contains academic articles on the named gods, angels, and demons in the books of the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint and Apocrypha, as well as the New Testament and patristic literature. This online version contains the second extensively revised edition.

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Jackals איים

(443 words)

Author(s): B. Janowski
I. Name The noun ʾiyyîm, the plural of I אִי*, is attested in Isa. 13.22; Isa. 34.14 (1QIsa.a ʾyyʾmym [?]) and Jer. 50.39. It is generally derived either from Eg. jw or jwjw ‘dog’ (cf. Arab. ibn ʾāwā ‘jackal’) or from III אִי* (< אִיִּי*) ‘(ghostly) islander, beach demon, goblin’ ( HALAT 37; Ges.18 44). The ancient versions (LXX ὀνοκένταυροι, Vg. sirenes, onocentauri, fauni) imagine a tailless ape, or in a derived sense an impure demon. Even if the meaning of the word ʾiyyîm is controversial, nothing speaks against the assumption that a zoologically definable species can also be meant…

Jacob יעק(ו)ב

(964 words)

Author(s): M. Dijkstra
I. Name Jacob son of Isaac is the eponym of the bĕnê yaʿăqôb ( Gen. 34.7, Gen. 13; Gen. 35.5; Ps. 77.16), more frequently called bêt yaʿăqôb. He became the most colourful and revered ancestor of the early Israelite confederation. The name Jacob is most probably a hypocoristicon of Jacob-El frequently found in Mesopotamia from the early second millennium bce onwards (Freedman 1963:125–126; de Vaux 1971:192–193) and also carried by a 16th dynasty Hyksos-ruler (de Vaux 1971:193 and n. 85, see however on the theophoric element - hr, not to be equated with il, Ward 1976). In the New Ki…

Jael יעל

(367 words)

Author(s): K. van der Toorn
I. Name Jael at whose hands Sisera met his death ( Judg. 4–5) has been interpreted as a demythologized incarnation of the goddess Amaltheia (Garbini 1978). II. Identity The principal motive for speculations about the mythological background of Jael is the conjectural connection between the name Sisera (סיסרא) and the name (j)a-sas-sa-ra in a votive text written in Minoan ‘Linear A’. The latter corresponds with Gk. ΣΑΙΣΑΡΑ and belongs to Zeus Krētogenēs, the god born on the isle of Crete (G. Pugliese Carratelli, ΣΑΙΣΑΡΑ, 31 [1976] 123–128). Garbini argues that if the figure of Si…


(277 words)

Author(s): B. Becking
I. Name The Edomite personal name Yĕʿûš ( Gen. 36.5, Gen. 14, Gen. 18; 1 Chr. 1.35; 1 Chr. 7.10; 1 Chr. 8.39; 1 Chr. 23.10, 1 Chr. 11; 2 Chr. 11.19) has been interpreted as a theophoric name comparable with the Arabian lion god Yaǧūṯ,‘the protector’, and the Nabataean deity yʿwt (Robertson Smith 1912). II. Identity Islamic traditions refer to the worship of a deity called Yaǧūṯ among the pre-islamic tribe of the Maḏḥiǧ and in the area of Ǧuraš in Yemen. Qur‘an Sura 71:20–25 and Ibn al-Kalbi’s Book of Idols (ed. Klinke-Rosenberger 1942:34–35) interpret this deity as one of …

Jalam יעלם

(179 words)

Author(s): B. Becking
I. Name The Edomite personal name Jalam/ Yaʿlām ( Gen. 36.5, Gen. 14, Gen. 18; 1 Chr. 1.35) has been considered a theophoric containing the presumed Arabic animal-deity Jaʿlam ‘Ibex’. (Robertson Smith 1912). II. Identity Unlike the other animal-deities proposed by Robertson Smith ( Jaghuṯ; Yaʿûq), Jalam is not attested in pre-Islamic Arabic sources. III. Identity in the Bible In the light of the evidence available, it is impossible to decide whether the name Jalam is theophoric or not. The name can be interpreted alternatively as a hypocoristic sentence name: ‘He is hidden’ (from ʿlm

Japheth יפת

(516 words)

Author(s): B. Becking
I. Name The personal name Yepet/Japheth ( Gen. 5.32; Gen. 6.10; Gen. 7.13; Gen. 9.18–27; Gen. 10.1, Gen. 2, Gen. 21; 1 Chron. 1.4, 1 Chron. 5; Jdt. 2.25 refers to a place name Japheth), does not have a clear Semitic etymology, except for the popular interpretation found in Gen. 9.27: yapt ʾĕlōhîm lĕyepet, “May God enlarge Japheth”, suggesting a connection between the name and I pth ‘to enlarge’ ( HALAT 405–406; Layton 1990: 90). A relation with II pth ‘to be youthful’ or with yph, ‘to be beautiful’, is also possible, though (Isaac 1992:641). Japheth has been compared with the Greek …

Jason Ἰάσων

(990 words)

Author(s): K. Dowden
I. Name The name of Jason, the hero who led the Argonauts in their quest for the Golden Fleece, is borne by several persons in 2 Macc and in the NT. II. Identity The name ‘Iason’ appears to refer to ‘healing’ (ἰάομαι), something for which one might naturally turn in cult to a hero. Correspondingly, Pindar referred to a myth that the centaur Cheiron taught Jason medicine ( Pyth. 4:119 and scholiast). Yet one cannot help suspecting that this is folk-etymology, given his father ‘Aison’ and a possible tribal name and eponym ‘Iasos’ (speculatively, Dowden 1989:122). He receives cult at Abde…

Jephthah’s Daughter

(1,071 words)

Author(s): P. L. Day
I. Name The story of the unnamed daughter of Jephthah is told in Judges. 11. Jephthah vows that, if Yahweh will give him victory over the Ammonites, he will offer up to Yahweh the one who first comes out to meet him when he returns home (v 31). This turns out to be his unnamed daughter. Jephthah’s daughter accepts the consequences of her father’s vow, but asks that she and her female companions be permitted to go into the mountains so that they can lament. Her father grants this request and, at the end of two months, she returns home and her father offers her up as a holocaust sacrifice ( ʿōlâ) to Yahw…

Jeremiel ירמיאל

(525 words)

Author(s): M. Mach
I. Name An angel bearing this name is attested in this form only in 4 Ezra (4.36), i.e. in a work that belongs only to a part of the Vg.-tradition. The name probably derives from the Hebrew root rûm, ‘to be high, exalted’. Since the ‘-el’ ending already includes the theophoric element, one should see in the beginning ‘ye-’ part of the conjugation of a Hebrew verb in the Hifil-clause. The meaning, then, would be ‘God will/may exalt me’. In 4 Ezra the angel is mentioned as the one who answers the questions of the dead concerning their future, i.e. the day of the last judgme…

Jesus Ἰησοῦς

(3,956 words)

Author(s): D. Zeller
I. Name Iēsous is the Greek form of the Hebrew personal name yĕhōšūʿa stamped after its postexilic variant yēšūʿa. The votive name means “Yahweh is help (salvation)” as rightly interpreted by Philo, Mut. 121. It is derived from the root yšʿ, frequent in other Hebrew and Semitic personal names, too ( TWAT 3 1037–1038). In its postexilic form the theophoric element is no longer clearly recognizable. The etymologies in Sir. 46.1 and Matt. 1.21 only perceive the verb yšʿ “to save”. In the OT the most famous and most often mentioned bearer of the name is the successo…


(9 words)

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Jezebel איזבל

(948 words)

Author(s): G. Mussies
I. Name Daughter of Eth.-Baal, king of Sidon, and wife of Ahab, king of Northern Israel. She was an active propagator of the Baal cult (1 Kgs. 16.29–33; 1 Kgs. 18.19; 1 Kgs. 19.1–2; 1 Kgs. 21.25; 2 Kgs. 9.30–37), who persecuted the Yahweh prophets (1 Kgs. 18.4). The meaning of her Phoenician name is disputed; mostly interpreted as ‘where is the Prince’, ‘Prince’ being an epithet of Baal ( Heb. ʾîzebel, pause form ʾîzābel; LXX-NT: Ιεζαβελ; Josephus: Ιεζαβελη, variant reading Ιεζαβηλα). II. Identity In the NT Jezebel occurs in Rev. 2.18–29, in the Letter to the Church at Thyatira (L…