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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia


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The national god of the Moabites. He became angry with his people and permitted them to become the vassals of Israel; his anger passed, he commanded Mesha to fight against Israel, and Moabitish independence was reestablished (Moabite Stone, lines 5, 9, 14 et seq.). A king in the days of Sennacherib was called "Chemoshnadab" ("K. B." 2:90 et seq.; see Jehonadab). Chemosh was a god developed out of the primitive Semitic mother-goddess Athtar, whose name he bears (Moabite Stone, line 17; compare Barton, "Semitic Origins," ). Peake wrongly holds that Ashtar-Chemosh was a deity distinct from Chemosh, while Moore and Bäthgen ("Beiträge zur Semitischen Religionsge. schichte," p. 14) regard "Ashtar" in this name as equivalent to "Astarte," who they believe was worshiped in the temple of Chemosh. "Ashtar" is more probably masculine here, as in South Arabia, and another name for Chemosh, the compound "Ashtar-Chemosh" being formed like "Yhwh-Elohim" or "Yhwh-Sebaoth." There seems to be no good reason for denying that Chemosh was a "baal," and that the names "Baal-maon" (Moabite Stone, line 30) and "Baal-peor" (Numbers 25:3; Hosea 9:10) apply to what was practically the same god as Chemosh. The way Mesha brings Baal-maon into his inscription identifies the latter with Chemosh; for when Baal-maon is pleased Chemosh speaks to Mesha (Moabite Stone, lines 30, 31). Whatever differences of conception may have attached to the god at different shrines, there is no adequate reason for doubting the substantial identity of the gods to whom these various names were applied. Hosea 9:10 is proof that at some period (according to Wellhausen, at the time of the prophet himself) the impure cult of the Semitic goddess was practised at Baal-peor (compare Wellhausen, "Kleine Prophetell"; Nowack's Commentary; and G. A. Smith, "Twelve Prophets," ad loc.). Chemosh, therefore,was in general a deity of the same nature as Baal. On critical occasions a human sacrifice was considered necessary to secure his favor (compare 2 Kings 3:27), and when deliverance came, a sanctuary might be built to him (Moabite Stone, line 3). An ancient poem, twice quoted in the Old Testament (Numbers 21:27-30; Jeremiah 48:45,46), regards the Moabites as the children of Chemosh, and also calls them "the people of Chemosh."

The etymology of "Chemosh" is unknown. The name of the father of Mesba, Chemosh-melek ("Chemosh is Malik," or "Chemosh is king"; compare Moabite Stone, line 1), indicates the possibility that Chemosh and Malik (or Moloch) were one and the same deity. Judges 11:24 has been thought by some to be a proof of this, since it speaks of Chemosh as the god of the Ammonites, while Moloch is elsewhere their god (compare 1 Kings 11:7,33). Several critics rightly regard the statement in Judges as a mistake; but such an error was not unnatural. since both Chemosh and Moloch were developed, in different environments, from the same primitive divinity, and possessed many of the same epithets.

Solomon is said to have built a sanctuary to Chemosh on the Mount of Olives (1 Kings 11:7,33), which was maintained till the reform of Josiah (2 Kings 23:13). This movement by Solomon was no doubt to some extent a political one, but it made the worship of Chemosh a part of the religious life of Israel for nearly 400 years.

J. Jr.
G. A. B.

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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Chemosh'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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