Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible Online

Get access Subject: Biblical Studies and Early Christianity
Edited by: Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking and Pieter W. van der Horst

The Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible Online contains academic articles on the named gods, angels, and demons in the books of the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint and Apocrypha, as well as the New Testament and patristic literature. This online version contains the second extensively revised edition.

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Rabiṣu רבץ

(982 words)

Author(s): M. L. Barré
I. Name Rābiṣu (Sum. maškim) is formally an Akkadian participle from rabāṣu, ‘to crouch, lie in wait’. Evidence from Arabic suggests that Proto-Semitic contained two different roots: rbḏ and rbṣ. In Arabic the former is used with reference to small cattle and denotes their ‘crouching’ or ‘lying down’ (cf. OSA mrbḍn, ‘sheepfold’), though it can also mean ‘to lurk’. The latter has the second (negative) meaning only. The roo…

Rachel רחל

(755 words)

Author(s): M. Dijkstra
I. Name Rachel is in biblical tradition Jacob’s favourite wife and mother of Joseph and Benjamin ( Gen. 30.23–24; Gen. 35.16–20). Outside the Pentateuch she is mentioned in 1 Sam. 10.2; Ruth 4.11 and Jer. 31.15. Rachel was originally an animal name. The noun rāḥēl, ‘ewe’, is attested in Hebrew ( Gen. 31.38; Isa. 53.7), Aramaic (also the Deir Alla inscription I,11) and classical Arabic. Stade (1881), Haupt (1909), O. Procksch ( Die Genesis [KAT 1; Leipzig 1913] 334–335), and M. Noth ( Das System der Zwölf Stämme Israels [Stuttgart 1930] 83) believed her name, as well as Leah’s, w…

Rahab רהב

(1,286 words)

Author(s): K. Spronk
I. Name Rahab is one of the names in the OT of the chaos monster(s) (cf. also Leviathan, Tannin, Tehom [Tiamat], and Yam). Although there are in the neighbouring cultures many parallels to this phenomenon of chaos monsters, the name Rahab seems to have no cognates. The only exception is in an Akkadian text about a chaos monster usually called Labbu. The first syllable in this name is written with the sign kal which can be read as lab as well as reb; so the reading Rebbu (<* reb-bu) is possible too (Lambert 1986:55 n.1). The Hebrew name is probably related to Heb. rhb, ‘assail’, ‘press’, and Akk. raʾā…


(515 words)

Author(s): K. van der Toorn
I. Name Rakib-El is known to have been the god of the kings of Samʾal, a Neo-Hittite dynasty in South-East Anatolia. It has been suggested that the Rechabites, a religious minority group in ancient Israel, were originally named after Rakib-El (Ramey 1968). A variant proposal connects the name with the god Rkb, presumably short for Rakib-El or the epithet rkb ʿrpt, ‘Rider of the clouds’ (Blenkinsopp 1972) II. Identity Rakib-El is a poorly known deity whose name occurs a number of times in Phoenician and Aramaic inscriptions from Zinjirli ( KAI 24:16; 25:4, 6; 214:2, 3, 11, 18; 215:22;…


(241 words)

Author(s): K. van der Toorn
I. Name Ram has been speculated to be the name of a deity on the basis of the name Abram, interpreted theophorically as ‘Ram is father’ (Lewy 1934). II. Identity The only extra-biblical evidence in support of an alleged deity Ram is the Assyrian anthroponym Shu-Rama, ‘He of Rama’ (Lewy 1934:59 n. 72). There can be no doubt about the correctness of Lewy’s reading. In addition to the two references given by Lewy (CCT 1 Pl. 46a:20; Pl. 46b: 14), the name also occurs in AKT 1.72:2.3.6; KBo. 9.6:2; KBo. 28.159:2; 167:3. Though the element Ra-ma is never preceded by the divine determinative dingir, the…

Rapha רפה

(277 words)

Author(s): B. Becking
I. Name In 2 Sam. 21.16, 2 Sam. 18, 2 Sam. 20, 2 Sam. 22 (// 1 Chron. 20.4, 1 Chron. 6, 1 Chron. 8) mention is made of rāpâ, ‘Rapha’, the ancestor of various warriors who battled with David. Rapha has been connected to the Rephaim and interpreted as a deity whose cult centre was in Gath (L’Heureux 1974; McCarter 1983:449–450; HALAT 1191). II. Identity 2 Sam. 21.15–22 relates quarrels between David and a group of Philistine warriors: Jisni-Benob; Saph and an anonymous giant with six fingers on each hand. They are presented as yĕlîdê hārāpâ, ‘descendants of Rapha’. Willeson (1958) interp…

Raphael רפאל

(546 words)

Author(s): M. Mach
I. Name This name is based upon the Hebrew root rpʾ, to heal, hence rōpēʾ, physician etc. Raphael, then, might be translated ‘God healed’. The relation of this name to the Rephaim has not yet been studied. II. Identity The angel Raphael occurs in biblical literature for the first time in the book Tobit. He is apparently one of the four highest angels, known as the archangels in most of the old lists (four in most manuscripts of 1 Enoch 9, 10, 40:9; 54:6; 71:8–9, 13; 1QM. 9, 15; Apoc. Mos. 40; seven 1 Enoch 20). Most revealing is his short speech, Tob. 12.11–15, which shows that Raphael is one …

Raven ערב

(385 words)

Author(s): B. Becking
I. Name The raven, known in the Old Testament as a messenger bird ( Gen. 8.7), has been associated with the divine in Mesopotamia (Nash 1990:75) and Ugarit. II. Identity In the Neo-Assyrian ‘God description text’, the parts of the body of a deity are mystically compared with elements, metals, animals, foods, trees, fruits etc. known from the physical world. The ‘mole’ of the deity is metaphorically seen as a ‘raven’: ú.naga. mušen ( āribu) ki-pil-šú ‘his mole is a raven’ (Livingstone 1986:94 I:9 = SAA 3, 39:9). In the Neo-Assyrian incantation cycle Utukkū lemnūtu, a passage occurs…

Re רע

(1,837 words)

Author(s): J. Assmann
I. Name Re ( Rʿw, Akk. Riʿa, Heb. Raʿ) occurs as a theophoric element in Potiphera (פוטיפרע = PʒdjpʒRʿw, name of the father of Asenath Gen. 41.45), a short form of Potiphar (פוטיפר) the name of Joseph’s Egyptian employer, Gen. 37.36; Gen. 39.1) and Hophra (חפרע), Jer. 44.30 ( ḥʿʿjbRʿw, Gk. Apries, name of Pharao WʒḥjbRʿw). Re is the Egyptian god of creation, the sun and the state, for he symbolizes the cosmogonic energies and qualities that rule the universe and that find their terrestrial incarnation in Pharaoh. Re is the chief of the gods and the…

Rephaim רפאים

(6,092 words)

Author(s): H. Rouillard
I. Name The term rĕpāʾîm occurs 25 times in the Hebrew Bible, most notably in the poetical and the so-called ‘historical’ books. Designating the spirits of the dead, the Hebrew term is related to Ug. rpum, a name for the deified royal ancestors. In several places in the Hebrew Bible, the Rephaim designate the ancient inhabitants of Palestine, characterized by gigantic size. The most probable etymology of the term connects it with the root rpʾ, ‘to heal’. II. Identity The Rephaim, commonly vocalized as an active participle rāpiʾūma, from rpʾ, ‘to heal’, occur frequently in texts…


(9 words)

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Resheph רשף

(2,043 words)

Author(s): P. Xella
I. Name Reseph occurs as ršp in Ugaritic, Phoenician, and Aramaic, as rešep in Hebrew (8 times), as ra-sa-ap at Ebla and in Akkadian, and as r-š-p(-w) in Egyptian. It is the name of one of the most popular West-Semitic gods, venerated in Syria, Palestine and Egypt. The etymology of the name is still very uncertain. It is often assumed that it is related to a root *ršp (?) with the basic meaning “to light, to set on fire” or “to burn” (cf. e.g. Jud.-Aram. rišpâʾ “flames, lightning”). Yet also a derivation from roots such as *srp, *šrb (metathesis?), or even *rṣp can be considered, as wel…