Some implications of the volcanic theophany of YHWH on his primeval identity

Nissim Amzallag

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


YHWH's theophany and mode of action are frequently evoked in the Bible as a volcanic event. It is shown here that this representation, of central importance in the story of the Sinai Covenant, is probably not anchored in any specific volcanic eruption experienced by the Israelites in the past. In Antiquity, volcanic activity was specifically associated with the gods who patronized metallurgy, given the homology between lava flowing from a volcano and slag released from a furnace at smelting. Evidence towards such a link is also identified in the Bible. Accordingly, rather than being simply a literary artifice imaging the outstanding powers of YHWH, volcanism may reflect the existence of metallurgical roots in Israelite theology. This contention is supported by Biblical evidences associating YHWH with metal production: (i) his primeval dominion in mining areas, (ii) his special worship by metalworkers, (iii) the representation of his celestial universe as a giant furnace. It is concluded that the volcanic representation of YHWH's theophany and mode of action reveal a surprising level of preservation of the metallurgic religious traditions in the ancient Israelite theology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-38
Number of pages28
JournalAntiguo Oriente
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Metallurgy
  • Origins of Yahwism
  • Sinai Covenant
  • Smelting God
  • Volcanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Classics
  • Archaeology
  • History
  • Archaeology


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