Wow, why so many gods? I guess they didn’t think any of their gods were that good. The Nabataeans obviously weren’t any brighter than the Israelites.
I want to go back and look at their gods, or actually…
The Glory of the Lord
1 Then I looked, and, behold, in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubims there appeared over them as it were a sapphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne.
2 And he spake unto the man clothed with linen, and said, Go in between the wheels, even under the cherub, and fill thine hand with coals of fire from between the cherubims, and scatter them over the city. And he went in in my sight.
3 Now the cherubims stood on the right side of the house, when the man went in; and the cloud filled the inner court.
4 Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub, and stood over the threshold of the house; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the LORD’S glory.
5 And the sound of the cherubims’ wings was heard even to the outer court, as the voice of the Almighty God when he speaketh.
6 And it came to pass, that when he had commanded the man clothed with linen, saying, Take fire from between the wheels, from between the cherubims; then he went in, and stood beside the wheels.
7 And one cherub stretched forth his hand from between the cherubims unto the fire that was between the cherubims, and took thereof, and put it into the hands of him that was clothed with linen: who took it, and went out.
8 And there appeared in the cherubims the form of a man’s hand under their wings.
9 And when I looked, behold the four wheels by the cherubims, one wheel by one cherub, and another wheel by another cherub: and the appearance of the wheels was as the color of a beryl stone.
10 And as for their appearances, they four had one likeness, as if a wheel had been in the midst of a wheel.
11 When they went, they went upon their four sides; they turned not as they went, but to the place whither the head looked they followed it; they turned not as they went.
12 And their whole body, and their backs, and their hands, and their wings, and the wheels, were full of eyes round about, even the wheels that they four had.
13 As for the wheels, it was cried unto them in my hearing, O wheel.
14 And every one had four faces: the first face was the face of a cherub, and the second face was the face of a man, and the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle.
15 And the cherubims were lifted up. This is the living creature that I saw by the river of Chebar.
16 And when the cherubims went, the wheels went by them: and when the cherubims lifted up their wings to mount up from the earth, the same wheels also turned not from beside them.
17 When they stood, these stood; and when they were lifted up, these lifted up themselves also: for the spirit of the living creature was in them.
18 Then the glory of the LORD departed from off the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubims.
19 And the cherubims lifted up their wings, and mounted up from the earth in my sight: when they went out, the wheels also were beside them, and every one stood at the door of the east gate of the LORD’S house; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above.
20 This is the living creature that I saw under the God of Israel by the river of Chebar; and I knew that they were the cherubims.
21 Every one had four faces apiece, and every one four wings; and the likeness of the hands of a man was under their wings.
22 And the likeness of their faces was the same faces which I saw by the river of Chebar, their appearances and themselves: they went every one straight forward.
Stone Block Gods
In the Greco-Roman world as well as the Parthian East, people have always accorded the gods with human form. The Nabataeans on the other hand represented their gods in the form of stelae. These stele could take the form of rocks set upon end, blocks, or shapes carved into a stone wall, or elaborately carved square djin blocks set up at the entrance to their cities.
The are several excellent examples of djin rocks across from the Obelisk tomb, at the entrance to Petra. Visitors should be sure to stop and see these rocks, as they may be the equivalent to Nabataean idols. Along the Siq that leads into Petra, smaller blocks are carved into the walls of the Siq.
Throughout Petra and on the road to Al Beidha other stel
e can be seen carved into the walls of the mountains.
Maximus of Tyre comments in his book Philosophoumena in the 2nd century AD, “The Arabs serve I know not whom, but I saw this statue which was a square stone.”
The Suda Lexicon, which was compiled at the end of the tenth century, refers to older sources which have since been lost. It states: “Theus Ares (Dushrara); this is the god Ares in Arabic Petra.
They worship the god Ares and venerate him above all. His statue is an unworked square black stone. It is four foot high and two feet wide. It rests on a golden base. They make sacrifices to him and before him they anoint the blood of the sacrifice that is their anointment.
While the Nabataeans did not accord their gods with physical representations and include them in their art forms, they did enjoy art in a number of other forms: tomb facades, painted pottery, oil lamps, coins, and jewelry.
In early Nabataean history, the Nabataeans had gods with Arabic names. Some of these were:
Al Qaum – the warrior god who guards the caravans,
Al Kutbay – the god of learning, commerce, writing, and divination
Allat – the goddess of spring and fertility
Al Uzza – the powerful and
Manawat – the god of destiny or fate.
Dushara (Dushares) – lord of the mountains (later in Edom, they adopted the Edomite god).
The historian Strabo mentions that the Nabataeans worshiped the sun and set up altars to it in their homes. He added that they made daily libations on these altars and used incense. The archeologist, Philip Hammond, comments that:
The god of the people was Dushares, “Lord (dhu) of the Shara (Mountains)”. The exact nature of this deity, whether it was a mountain or a solar object like the sun, is still not entirely clear, in terms of the original concepts held about him.
As a contrast, the Sabeans of southern Arabia worshiped the sun cradled in the crescent of the moon.
As Hellenization began to take place around the Nabataean Empire, some archeologists feel that the Nabataeans began to identify their gods with Greek gods:
Dushara was identified with Zeus
Al Kutbay with Hermes/Mercury
AlQaum with Ares/Mars
Manawat with Nemesis
Allat was with Athena/Minerva
Al Uzza with Aphrodite, Urania/Venus, and Caelestis.
Sometimes Allat was equated with Aphrodite, Urania/Venus and Caelestis as well. Al Uzza was also linked to the Egyptian goddess, Isis. Representations of Isis-Al Uzza are thought to be carved on the Treasury in Petra.
During this time of Hellenization, Nabataean deities were sometimes depicted in figurative form like those of the Romans. Traditionally, however, Nabataeans worshiped their own gods in symbolic form such as square block or triangular baetyls, sacred meteorites, or abstract stone blocks or pillars, sometimes enhanced with schematic eyes and nose.
This practice of depicting divinity in abstract form reflects the traditions of the desert Arabs and such West Semitic peoples as the Phoenicians and Canaanites.
The Nabataean Pantheon
The god AlQaum
This god was known as the warrior god who guards the caravans. He was also known as the “Protector of the Clan.” He is said to have drunk no wine, which was typical of the non-agricultural desert gods.
In order to fit in with western civilization, AlQaum was later associated with the Greek/Roman god Ares or Mars. Large numbers of inscriptions bearing his name have been found, and some archeologists think he was a key god to the Nabataeans, protecting them at night.
As a night god, he protected the souls of the sleepers in the form of stars, accompanying them on their nightly journey through the heavenly realms, as well as guiding caravans in the desert by means of the stars.
The god Al Kutbay
Al Kutbay was the god of learning, commerce, writing, and divination. The name Al Kutbay comes from the Arabic ktb which means “to write.” This god was revealed for the first time in 1959 by J. Strugnell when he discovered two carvings at the foot of Jebal Rumm.
On the southwestern granite cliff, the two carvings are side by side and are dedicated to Al Uzza and Al Kutbay.
The inscription reads “Al Kutbay, the one who is in Gaia” (modern Wadi Mousa, at the eastern entrance to Petra.) Then later this same god was recognized in the Lihyanite graffiti of Dedan, a major caravan station between Mecca and Hegra.
The goddess Al-‘Uzza
Al-‘Uzza was the goddess of power. The chief goddesses of the Nabataean pantheon were Al-‘Uzza, Allat, and Manawat. Under Hellenization, Al-‘Uzza was later identified with Aphrodite, Urania/Venus Caelestis, and also linked to the Egyptian goddess, Isis.
Representations of Al-‘Uzza are carved on the Treasury at Petra. The baetyl of al- Uzza-Aphrodite is carved to the left of al-Kutbay. She is also mentioned in the Bosra inscription as a deity of the city, and her cult continued at Mecca until the coming of Islam.
Some archeologists feel that the female goddesses in Petra are all Al-Uzza, but others feel that they are Isis, the Egyptian supreme goddess. The problem with this is that Isis does not appear in any Nabataean god-lists, nor in any known theophoric names. Yet, her attributes and aspects appear to be present in Nabataean temples.
The goddess Manawat/Manat
Manawat was considered to be the goddess of destiny or fate. Under Hellenization, Manawat was associated with the Greek/Roman goddess Nemesis/Fate.
As with Al Uzza, Manawat similarly does not emerge to any major role among the Nabataeans, judging from the relative infrequency with which she was invoked in ancient inscriptions. Her major domain would seem to have been around Hegra, although she, as Al-‘Uzza, survived until the coming of Islam.
Her image does not appear among the pre-Islamic “idols“ at Mecca, however, and she may never have been represented there.
The goddess Allat
Allat was known as the goddess of spring and fertility. Under Hellenization Allat was later identified with the Greek/Roman goddess Athena/Minerva, and sometimes with Aphrodite or Urania/Venus Caelestis.
Inscriptions mentioning Allat range from Hegra in Saudi Arabia to the Hauran in Syria. They include terms of reverence and adoration lasting until the Islamic period. Even at the founding of Islam, an image of Allat, along with one of Al-‘Uzza, were to be found at Mecca.
Some historians claim that respect, if not approval, of this ancient goddess was shown by Mohammed himself, and by other early followers of the Muslim prophet.
The god Dushares
Dushares was known as the lord of the Shara Mountains. These mountains surround Selah and Petra along the edge of Wadi Arabah.
was a principal god of the Nabataeans and seems to have been a god of the daytime. Shaj al-Qaum, on the other hand was the nighttime god, protecting the souls of sleepers and accompanying them on their nightly journey through the heavenly realms.
Initially and traditionally, Dushares was represented in an aniconic form such as a square block, as is represented by the baetyls of Petra.
In 106 AD, after the reorganization of the Nabataean kingdom in conjunction with several adjacent cities of the Decapolis as the Roman province of Arabia, the cult of Dushares continued to prosper.
Some scholars feel that the ancient Nabataean pantheon may have become: Al-Qaum, the male god of the night (moon), Dushara, the god of the day (sun) and the goddess Al-Uzza (stars). Al Uzza and Allat had very similar baetyls, and were probably two names for the same goddess.
Inscriptions bearing their names are not found in the same area. In one area the goddess is known as Al Uzza and in other areas as Allat. Eventually Allat may have taken supremacy as the name of this goddess. In this case the trinity would have been expressed as: Al-Qaum, Dushara, and Allat.
…the temples that their so-called gods were worshiped in.