Christians now believe their religion has been established by the omnipotent, omniscient and Almighty God. But it will be interesting to see how he evolved over centuries. Earlier he was the tribal god of the Israelite, making covenants with them, protecting them like a fiend, killing millions like an ethnic maniac, travelling with them in an arc, giving vent to his anger and vengeance on the people when they went against even his remotest wishes. But after the coming of Christ this god turned against Judaism and inspired Christians to persecute and kill his chosen people for centuries. When Islam was formed, they adopted the same god but bloody wars were fought for centuries between Muslims, Christians and Jews who all believe in the same god!
Bible’s classic pagan deity, Baal-worshiped by Canaanites-was a fertility god and was sometimes called the Lord of Rain and Dew. He was a second tier deity in the pantheon of the Canaanite gods who were presided over by EI whose cohort was Asherah. Yahweh a warrior god and the lord of a number of nature phenomena-like storm, fire and earthquake in the Mid-East region somehow got into the EI group of gods and later when each god was assigned a kingdom he became Israel’s deity.
Yahweh was originally a storm god. He was not a god of the settled people. His habitation was in the southern desert, Nogeb. The mountains rocked at the presence of Yahweh, the god of Israel. (Deuteronomy 32:2) Yahweh came upon his tribe from Sinai and dawned on them from Seit. He shone forth from the mountains of Paran, and advanced from Marybeth with lightning bolts at his right hand. He also manifested himself as a mountain god and revealed his powers in volcanic eruptions and seismic disturbances (Exodus 19:18, Deuteronomy 4:5, Judges 5:4, Kings 19: 8-14). Like any other primitive god he also spoke in thunder. His theophany to Moses was in a flame of fire (Exodus 3:2). He appeared to them in thunder lightning and fire(Exodus 19:16; 24:15) He is continuously remembered as a storm god throughout Hebrew history. (I Kings 8:11, Isaiah 4:5, 30:30). Like the original storm god Baal, Yahweh was known as the rider of the clouds. (psalms: 68:4, Isaiah 19:1) Aramaic Papyri discovered in 1907 at Yeb revealed that in the 5th century BC female consorts were assigned to Yahweh.
He is called a warrior god in Exodus 15:3, ‘God of hosts’ was his frequent title. When he turned a storm God, his war nature and war-capabilities got displaced. It was by a ‘blast of his nostrils’ that He made the red sea do his will (Exodus 15 :8,10) It was by a storm that he slew Israel’s foes at Bethhoron (Josua10:11). He differed from the other tribal all-fathers in that he interfered with the affairs of the Hebrews.
In the course of time, Yahweh began to assume human-like attributes. He was thought to be in human terms with voice, thoughts, emotions, and everything quite like a man. The tribe being nomadic, their god traveled with it in its wanderings. He guarded his tribe by accompanying them everywhere. A tent was provided to house him and he was carried from place to place in a sacred ark.
Abraham who might have lived around 2000 BC was the father of the tribe and his god was Yahweh. In the Judaic traditions, the god of the Hebrews is the god of Abraham. Later he became the patron god of the Israelite. Christians and Muslims, like Jews, trace their god back to the god that, according to the Bible, revealed himself to Abraham in the second millennium BC. Though all the three groups claim the same lineage for their god, they don’t seem to worship the same god. If they worship the same god, crusades, jihads and other Muslim-Christian wars would make us conclude that Yahweh is fighting Yahweh!
Moses who succeeded in his mission of liberating Israelite from Egypt gave Yahweh, the storm god, a slight universal appeal and he instilled a peculiar place for him in the worship and the life of the people. He interpreted his luminous experience in the burning bush during the period of his exile in Median in terms of a revelation from the god. Afterwards, Yahweh is known and worshiped as the god who brought the tribe form Egypt. The Hebrew religion is really grounded in their exodus from Egypt.
According to the prophets this god rebuked the selfish and the oppressors. Assyrians destroyed Israel in 722 BC and Isaiah a prophet of this period foretold the destruction of the Assyrian host because they opposed his god. All prophesies were made in certain difficult periods, to project the power of Yahweh to the tribe.
Later spiritual leaders of the Hebrews de-anthropomorphized Yahweh without converting him into an abstraction comprehensible only to philosophers. He was a god without form or shape but with emotions of anger, love and vengeance. People could understand their deity. The picture of Yahweh was vague and hazy even at the time of their flight from Egypt. Hebrew spiritual leaders managed to evolve this deity into a concrete one and implanted his power in the Hebraic in the course of generations.
Like all the deities of the primitive tribes Yahweh also demanded sacrifices and they were elaborate rituals connected with them. Yahweh liked burnt offering of first fruits and herds but there are statements in the Bible which indicate that he liked human sacrifices too. The story of the attempt to sacrifice Isaac for Yahweh shows that human sacrifice was not repugnant to him. Further there is clear evidence that he demanded the first born. “The first born of thy sons shall thou give unto me (Exodus 20:22, 23:33).This line of thinking is reinforced by the annual commemoration of that terrible night when his angel set forth in the bloody campaign against the Egyptians. The paschal ritual of the Jews was conducted in the memory of the great massacre of the first born of Egyptians. The first born of Israelite could have been sacrificed in the course of the festival for their god.
It was during the time of Jeremiah that a thorough going monotheism appeared among the people. As a scholar puts it, ‘Imperialism was in the air; monotheism was nothing but imperialism in religion.’ Second Isaiah ridicules the idea that there can be more gods than Yahweh. Yahweh slowly loses his earlier character as the tribal god and becomes instead, the universal god.