In the mythology of the ancient Near East, El was the supreme god of the Canaanites*. He was the creator deity, the father of gods and men, and the highest judge and authority in all divine matters and human affairs. In the Old Testament of the Bible, the creator deity is referred to as El, Elohim (a form of El), or Yahweh.

In Canaanite mythology, El was usually represented as an elderly man with a long beard. He was believed to live on Mount Saphon, near the ancient Syrian city of Ugarit. A highly respected deity, El was all-knowing and all-powerful, wise and compassionate. He was sometimes referred to as "the Bull" and was generally shown as a seated figure wearing a crown with bull's horns. The bull suggested El's strength and creative force.

Despite his religious significance, El did not play an active role in Canaanite mythology. Most myths were about the actions of others and involved El indirectly. For example, one story from Ugarit concerned Aqhat, son of King Danel. In return for the king's hospitality, the craftsman god Kothar gave Aqhat his bow and arrows. The goddess Anat wanted the bow and tried to buy it with gold and silver. When Aqhat refused, the goddess offered to give him immortality in exchange for the bow. Aqhat rudely rejected her offer, telling the goddess that she could not make immortal a man destined to die.

deity god or goddess

immortality ability to live forever

Angry about having her offer rejected, Anat asked for and received El's permission to have Aqhat killed. The young man's death brought drought and crop failure. Anat cried over his death and said she would bring him back to life so that the earth might be fertile again. Unfortunately, the tablets containing this myth are in such bad condition that the ending of the story is difficult to interpret.

See also Anat ; Semitic Mythology .

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