THE SHASU OF YHWH.

I was reading on the origin and development of the worship of Yhwh right through the bronze age, iron age ,the canonization of monotheism to the present day, when I came across the mysterious Shasu of Yhwh. That had me researching on who this people were and why there is so much speculation on them by researchers. Before I get to the Shasu part, it’s interesting to note that Yhwh is the name of the state God of ancient Israel and Judah. His name is a tetragrammaton that was used to remind the people to use the epithet ‘Adonai’ ( lord ) instead of the holy name. There is so much on this topic and I’ll leave that for another day. Shasu, pronounced ‘Shaswe’, is a word that literally means ‘ people who went by foot ‘ and was used by the Egyptians to refer to lawless bandits, nomads and pastoralists or people from different middle East ancient nations be it Edomites, Hapiru, Midianites etc.The Shasu of Yhwh came into the picture when ruins of an ancient temple of the ancient city of Soleb, in Nubia were excavated ( present day northern Sudan ). The temple was built by Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep III, to honour the god Amun-Ra. Within the temple there are a series of columns each with a relief sculpture of a prisoner with his hands tied at his back and a name ring identifying his territory, which were territories conquered by Amenhotep III.

The column of interest was one inscribed, ‘ The land of Shasu of Yhwh, ‘. The immediate conclusions to the inscription were; Around 15B.C, Amenhotep knew about Yhwh, the Exodus must have happened much earlier in history since the pharaoh of the exodus had no clue who Yhwh was ( Exodus 5:2 ) and that a group of people referred to as the Shasu inhabited Canaan and worshipped Yhwh. However, Soleb isn’t the only place the name Yhwh was found, the name was also found in temples built by Ramses II at Amara West and Aksha (still present day Sudan ). In Amara, the inscription read, ‘Yahu in the land of Shasu,’, it also mentioned six groups of Shasu; the Shasu of se’ir ( Edom ), the Shasu of laban, the Shasu of sam’ath, the Shasu of wady hasa, the Shasu of pysps and the Shasu of yhwh.

The Shasu word is also mentioned in the papyrus Anastasi VI, an Egyptian text from the 13th BC. It records the transfer of Shasu tribes specifically the Edomites to the eastern Egyptian delta referred to in the Bible as Goshen, inorder to keep them and their cattle alive. This corresponding to the Bible story of Jacob and his sons ( Genesis 42 – 45 ). The papyrus Anastasi I also uses the term Shasu to refer to a community of giants who lived in Canaan. Speculations link this giants with the very ones the Israelites met during their exodus.

The ifs.

The land of shasu of Yhwh could mean that the shasu of Yhwh were a settled people who had a land of their own and sometimes moved about. Yhwh could also be a geographical place where the shasu wandered such as se’ir, laban, sam’ath etc. The naming of a place by the deity worshipped in the locality not being uncommon in the ancient middle East. In the Bible, however, it’s referred to as Midian, and it’s where Moses first spoke to Yhwh in the form of a burning bush ( Exodus 3:5 and 15 ).Another speculation is that Yahu/Yhw/Jahu in the land of shasu, could also mean that the region was inhabited by two different groups; The Yahu and the Shasu. The theory could be proof of historical conflicts between the shasu, being remnants of the Turkic mongolian colonizers, and the Yahu, being the Judah tribes. The shasu therefore could be nomads who lived in co-operation with other populations but were quick to violence at times of risk.

Some scholars also argue that the worship of Yhwh started with the Edomites and Midianites. This is proven by Edomites of the mines of Timnah,who converted an earlier Egyptian temple to the worship of Yhwh. The biblical verse of judges 5:4 supports this theory by saying:

Lord when you left the mountains of se’ir, when you came out of the region of Edom, the earth shook…

The shasu of Yhwh were therefore hypothetically from northern Edom/ se’ir originally, and later on formed the community of Israel.The shasu of yhwh could also be the Israelites. Mentioned on the ancient inscriptions at Karnak, there was an uprising of a group of Shasu and Habiru who worshipped Yhwh along the border of Egypt and sinai ( 1300 – 1290B.C). Seti I along with his son Ramses II, routed them into Canaan after years of bondage in Egypt as prisoners of war( 1500 – 1200 ).They settled in Se’ir and Midian and others at the hills of Judah to form the ethnic group of Israelites. Egyptian scribes, from then onwards, adapted the term shasu for any group of people that came from the region. This theory is highly disputed since both groups of Shasu and Israelites are depicted in different clothings and hairstyles.

The last of the speculations is that, the Shasu of Yhwh were originally a group of people that escaped Egypt, went through some divine intervention passing through Midian where they picked up the worship of Yhwh from the Midianites . They find their way to the hills of Judea, and spread the message of liberation and Yhwh to the tribes that had fled the canaanite city states. A new community arises composed of nomads, run away slaves and canaanites all united under the freedom loving Yhwh. Their stories, first told and preserved by word of mouth, are later written down to form the Bible.

The interesting bit about the Shasu of Yhwh is that you can choose what speculation to go by!

History’s women.

Being descendants of a male dominated history, the idea of women figures leading and doing the extraordinary is not only alien but unnatural.
I however,support the notion that human societies were originally matriarchal; Women were respected for birthing children, they took up important leadership positions in the society, held together the society and most of the deities were female, but around 3000 B.C. , the patriarchy was born. Lucky for us, history has evidence of women who dared to stand out such as Hatshepsut, Zenobia, Catherine the great, Joan of Arc, Trung sisters, Cleopatra, khutulin, Noor Inayat Khan… The list is long , but in this blog I’ll write about four of my favourites;

Hatshepsut : ( 1479 B.C. – 1458 B.C. ).

After the death of her father, King Thutmose I, twelve years old Hatshepsut married her step brother Thutmose II to become queen. Hatshepsut and Thutmose II had one daughter, Neferure. He had other children through secondary wives including his heir Thutmose III. Upon Thutmose II’ s death, the throne went to his young son Thutmose III and it was Hatshepsut’s duty to handle matters of the kingdom until her step son was of age. The ambitious queen assumed the powers of a pharaoh and fought to maintain her position. She not only wore the traditional fake beard worn by pharaohs, but also had sculptors and painters portray her as a man with a beard and muscles. She was a wise ruler who surrounded herself with political supporters such as her chief minister, Senenmut. Rumor had it that Senenmut had been her lover, there is little proof to this claim… but who doesn’t love a good gossip? As pharaoh, she made great building developments in Egypt and brought back wealth through trading expeditions. Hatshepsut died in her mid forties and was buried in the valley of Kings. Her step son ruled after her death and later on during his reign, had evidence of Hatshepsut as a powerful female ruler in the lineage of the male dynasty erased.

Jeanne d’Arc : ( 1412 – 1431 ).

Jeanne ( famously known as Joan of Arc / The maid of Orléans ) was the daughter of a peasant farmer, living in medieval France. At the age of twelve, Jeanne claimed to have seen visions that were always initiated by a bright light and followed by voices of saint Margret, saint Catherine and Archangel Michael. The voices commanded her to remain a virgin and leave her home to save Orleans. She believed herself to be choosen by God to lead France to victory in the hundred years’ war with no military training and skills. Jeanne convinced the Prince, Charles of Valois, to allow her to lead an army to Orléans where they defeated English and Burgundian forces and emerged victorious. Jeanne inspired the army to win battles, worked as a battle field nurse and encouraged Charles to match to Agincourt and seize the crown. She was captured by Anglo-Burgundians and accused of witchcraft, dressing like a man and heresy. The French king Charles, distanced himself from the accused witch and heretic making no attempt to negotiate her release. At the age of nineteen, Jeanne met with her death when she was burnt at the stake and. Twenty years later, her name was cleared and was sainted by pope Benedict XV.

Theodora: ( 527 CE to 548 CE ).

Theodora’s story is the typical ‘from rags to riches kind of story ‘. She, like her mother before her, worked in the Hippodrome as an acrobat, actress, dancer and stripper. In 525 CE she left the Hippodrome and traveled to Egypt as a mistress to a man. After the love affair ended, she made her way back home a converted Christian. After returning to Constantinople, she got the attention of emperor Justinian. However, Byzantine laws did not permit aristocrats marrying actresses, therefore Justinian revoked the law and married Theodora adopting her illegitimate daughter too. The emperor demanded his wife be crowned as an equal. Theodora is portrayed as a scheming, immoral empress who used her sexuality to control the emperor, but let’s not forget that those are men’s perspectives ( any woman who dared to choose a path other than the usual submissive one was downright demonised ). She was an active politician who fought for women rights, prohibited the trafficking of young girls and made adjustments in the divorce laws. She also supported her husband and this was seen during the Nika revolt where she gave a moving speech about the honor of a ruler and saved her husband’s throne. It’s believed Theodora died of cancer at the age of fourty eight.


The Trung sisters. ( AD 39 – AD 43 ). These sisters were heroines of the first Vietnamese independence movement. Trung Trac, the elder sister, was widowed when her husband was killed by a Chinese general for plotting to overthrow the Chinese Han dynasty colonists. The spirited sisters however were no match for the well trained and equiped Chinese troops. The sisters were defeated, and unable to accept defeat, committed suicide by drowning themselves at the juncture of the Red and Day rivers.

Cursed from laziness.

This is a guest blog by one of my closest friends, Kevin.

They called me lazy for not working hard… They called me lazy just because am cursed.

You ever look at a bird and think, ‘ What if i was born a bird, perhaps then things would be a lot easier?! ‘

I remember as a child, together with my friends, fantasizing of colorful futures and very eager to grow up. The older I got, the more my thoughts faded to a bleak future.
I was in class recently, listening to our laboratory technician talk about the isolation of bacteria from Lake Magadi for them to be cultured in the laboratory and later used for detergents. It struck me then that the very bacteria were employed and purposed for even before they came into existence! It had me thinking what if I was born as one of them.
Why does it have to be this difficult for humans? Why is it that nothing comes easy?

They say the Bible has all the answers to life, right? So I decided to go through my Bible, and Boom! There it was;

Cursed is the ground because of you: Through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow, you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.

~ Genesis 3: 17 – 19. ~

It made sense now, ‘ I’m cursed! And that is the price every human being has to pay. It’s part of being human, ‘.

This week has brought about different fast moving ordeals for me and I’ve been struck with the writer’s block ( no inspiration, no new thoughts or morale whatsover). So on this blog I’m going to write down my random thoughts ( maybe meaningless and of no use to any of you, but will make me happy and fulfilled anyway ).

I think of my cat’s soft fur and how much I love her and the kittens. It’s fascinating how they go about their lives without any complications or thoughts like we humans do. The only thing that they probably think of is food, naps and a cuddle. Deep down, Cats have always given me a sense of home; I always need one around me to feel everything will somehow be okay, listen to music as i stroke the cat’s fur, empty my mind with the sound of their purring and when i sleep, I like to feel their little paws moving about trying to find a comfortable place to sleep.

I still think of lost love,broken hearts and friendships.

I love the idea of souls touching, two people meant for each other from the very start, not having to worry about lonileness cause you’re assured of someone… I listen to alot of Ed Sheeran and soul music, so beautiful that sometimes it brings tears to my eyes. I also can’t stop thinking of kygo’s Raging.

My thoughts are always saying sorry

For the broken heart.
For the lonely heart.
For the tired heart.
For the bleeding heart.
For the suffering heart.

I think about Sophie Turner alot. How beautiful she is on the outside and the amazing person she appears to be on the inside as well. I’d like to be friends with her one day, which is near as impossible because we are both from different worlds ( sigh ).

I think about the books I love: The bleeding heart by Marilyn French,Dolores and Victor and their complicated love affair. She was a single mother, broken and deep and he was a married man, broken and deep. They both saw the invisible lines on each other’s faces and understood each other’s depth. I also think of Jane lambert, from ken Follett’s Lying down with lions, and her attraction to men with a mysterious vibe. Jane, always thinking she could change the men. Oscar Schell, from Jonathan Safran‘s Extremely loud and incredibly close; Young and depressed, Oscar tries to find his father but ends up finding more. Oscar’s grandfather who’d lost his ability to talk, who’d dared to make the mistake of being certain of the future and who never truly held onto the important things. Then there is Deirdre, from Witching hour ( A very old friend of mine whom we grew distant, loved the book very much, and it’s hard thinking of the book without thinking of him too), i liked her most to all the Mayfair witches. Then there is Camille Preaker, from Gillian Flynn’s Sharp objects, who was depressed after her sister’s death and spent time in a psychiatric hospital because of self harm. And Libby Day, from Gillian Flynn’s Dark places, the sole survivor of a massacre. Libby depressed for years and afraid of darkness. I think I love those books best because all those characters could easily be me.

River valley civilizations.

Most of the earliest civilizations flourished due to agricultural activities in River valleys. Archaeologist have uncovered civilizations at the river valleys of; Nile,Tigris and Euphrates, Indus river and Huang He.

Here is a little bit of discussion on the river valleys civilizations.

The Nile Valley.

Of the four river-valley civilizations, the Nile civilization is the most famous. The Nile valley’s first inhabitants called their land kemet meaning ‘ black land ‘, after the soil. Later on, the ancient Greeks renamed the area Egypt. The early inhabitants of Egypt relied on the annual flooding of the Nile for water and grew cereal crops such as wheat and barley. The Nile also provided ducks and geese in it’s marshlands and fish in the water. Papyrus growing wild along the banks of the Nile was harvested and used to make ropes, baskets and writing materials. Around 3000 B.C., Egypt was united by King Menes who ruled both lower and upper Egypt from his capital at Memphis. Menes marked the beginning of the first Egyptian dynasty ( from 3000 B.C. until 332 B.C. , a series of 30 dynasties ruled Egypt ). The Egyptians built lasting monuments to honour their god-kings such as the pyramids and the Sphinx. Religion guided every aspect of the Egyptian life and many deities were worshipped; deities were often represented as half human and half animal. The Egyptians carved picture symbols onto pieces of slate known as hieroglyphics, which was their earliest form of writing. They made several achievements such as advances in mathematics and architecture ( the pyramids and temples are proof of this ), worked out an accurate 365 days calendar and Egyptian doctors wrote directions on papyrus on how to treat wounds and diseases.

Tigris and Euphrates.

The name Mesopotamia means ‘ land between the rivers ‘ in Greek. Around 3500 B.C. , the Sumerians arrived at Mesopotamia and settled. They formed 12 city states which governed themselves independently. The city states each worshipped their own deity and had common features such as the Ziggurat . Archaeologist believe that the writing system the Sumerians invented, the cuneiform, dated to about 3100 B.C. Sumerians wishing to learn cuneiform studied at special schools called eddubas. The professionals later on produced literal works such as the epic poem Gilgamesh, that was written down about 1850 B.C. The Sumerians invented the wagon wheel, the potter’s wheel, the sundial, a 12 month calendar, a metal plow and many more inventions which have prompted one scholar to observe that ‘ History begins at Sumer! ‘.

Indus.

Archaeologist dated the Indus river valley civilization to about 2500 B.C. , they named it The Harappan civilization, after one of it’s major cities Harappa. Another important Harappan civilization city was Mohenjo-Daro. From their ruins, a fortress built on a brick platform overlooked each city ( probably serving as a government or religious center ). Below the fortress, each city was laid out in a grid pattern.

Most Harappan people worked the land and grew wheat, barley, rice and cotton. They also worked bronze and copper into tools, mass produced clay pots, wove cotton cloths and traded with other people including Mesopotamians. The lack of written records has made it difficult to learn as much about the Harappan civilization. By 1500 B.C. the civilization disappeared and historians have many speculations on what could have caused it; probably flooding or Invaders.

Huang He.

The Huang He civilization began around 4000 B.C. and had continued to the present day. The Shang dynasty controlled the river valley from about 1700 B.C. to 1000 B.C. The people developed myths to explain their past. The Shang Kings communicated with the deities and had special powers to call on ancestors by the use of Oracle bones ( They had a priest scratch a question on an animal bone or tortoise shell, the bone would be exposed to intense heat and the cracks on the bone would be interpreted as answers ). They invented writing from the use of Oracle bones, perfected their metal casting skills, carved ivory and Jade statues, wove silk and made fine pottery from kaolin.

Children will break your heart!

Babies are the sweetest creatures on Earth; Chubby, round, happy and innocent without a care in the world. A Parent looks at this beautiful creation and plans for it’s future, vowing to mold it into whatever the parent thinks it should be. So the parent raises the child, works hard to provide, pours their life and love into Parenthood. The parent wants to shape their child’s future into what they want, which is absurd. As a child grows, he/she picks up new lessons, ambitions and dreams, and is mostly influenced by alot from the media, friends and society. All a parent can do is teach and hope.

I never miss to hear stories of heartbreaks such as; A child saying hurtful things to their parent and ruining relationships, a child continuously rebelling, a parent getting calls from school because of their child’s misbehaviour, a child repeatedly disobeying their parent, calls because of a child whose been arrested, older children alienating themselves from their parents, a child ending up in a prison instead of pursuing a career etc etc.

A parent is led to a point in life where they blame themselves and question why they signed up for Parenthood? As much as the child brings them happiness, the child also contributes to the parent’s heartbreaks, which are inevitable.

Here are a few tips on how to deal with heartbreaks from your child:

  • Do not react in anger but with love and empathy ( Focus on what the child went through instead of what the child did).
  • Give yourself some space to feel the sadness and work through the pain before confronting your child.
  • Do not blame yourself: It’s impossible to control how your child’s life runs, all you can do is try.
  • Let the child learn from their mistakes without interfering. That way, the child will be more likely to shy away from repeating the mistake.
  • Do not withdraw your love from the child, after all, it’s only parents who can have their hearts broken and still love with every bit.
  • It’s important to remember that every mistake is a learning opportunity for your child and one day they will come to appreciate your efforts as a parent ( especially when they have children of their own!).
  • Lastly, don’t ever get tired of getting down on your knees and interceding for your child.

Religion in the Fertile Crescent.

The fertile crescent has birthed many religions, some which we still practice today such as Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Being the self appointed research historian I am, I did alot of research and here is a summary, for all my history nerds.

First things first, the fertile crescent is a crescent shaped fertile area that stretches from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian gulf. The region includes modern day Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Syria and Iraqi.

A Polytheistic fertile crescent.

By 3000 B.C. the Sumerians had formed 12 city states in the Tigris-Euphrates valley which included the famous cities of Babylon, Ur, Uruk and Eridu. Each city state had a chief deity who was worshipped in a Ziggurat / temple ( The Ziggurat was made of sun-dried bricks and decorated with colored tiles. A staircase climbed to a shrine atop the Ziggurat).

The Sumerian deities included; Anu, Enlil, Utu, Nanna, Inanna, Ninhursag, Enki, Nergal, Tamuz… The list goes on. Although the Sumerians worshipped and honored their many gods, they felt no personal connection with them. They pictured their deities as unpredictable and selfish beings who had little regard for human beings. Ordinary people depended on their own personal deities who not only protected them but also acted as mediators between them and the greater deities. The Sumerians also loved adventure tales. A good example is the story of Utanapishtum of Shurrupak ( a summary);

The gods were planning to create a great flood. The god Ea, warned Utanapishtum of the great flood and advised him to tear down his house, build a ship and into the ship bring seed of all living creatures. Utanapishtum did as advised, he took his family into the boat and closed the door. The old gods were ashamed of what they did and Ishtar cried ‘O how could I have done this to my people!’. Utanapishtum sent out birds to confirm whether the flood had subdued. When the flood subdued, the god Enlil touched his forehead and blessed his family.

Adapted from Gilgamesh. Retold by Herbert Mason.

NB: There is a striking similarity between the Bible’s Noah, and Utanapishtum of Shurrupak. Skeptics argue that the Jews borrowed the story from the Gilgamesh account that dates back to the 2000s B.C. I Believe the flood was an actual event that was passed down through generations. Since the Bible is God inspired, it therefore is a more accurate depiction!

The Akkadians ( nomadic semites) invaded and conquered the Sumerians in the 2000s B.C. led by Sargon I. According to legend, Sargon was born a herder, his mother abandoned him as a baby, setting him in the Euphrates river in a reed basket where a farmer found him and raised him as his own. The Akkadians adopted the Sumerian deities and practices.

The Amorites arose under a powerful ruler Hammurabi, whose main capital city was Babylon. They were a polytheistic people with deities such as Marduk, who was later known as Bel meaning ‘lord’, Shamash, Nergal, Tiamat and Ea.

The Assyrian empire rose to it’s full glory by about 650 B.C. with it’s capital city at Nineveh. The Assyrians worshipped deities such as Ashur, Ishtar, Shamash, Eilil and Ea.

The Monotheistic fertile crescent.

The Bible remains one of the main rich source of the fertile crescent history. Abraham originally lived in the city of Ur, where they worshipped the moon god Nanna. Around 1900 B.C. Abraham left Ur, along with his family and belongings and became a nomad. Linking Egypt and Mesopotamia was a strip of land called Canaan which The God of Abraham, Yahweh, had decided to give him. Yahweh determined wrong and right and expected people to act justly with each other. The teachings exist today as the religion of Judaism that shares many of its aspects with Christianity and Islam.

The Persians were the most powerful nation in the fertile crescent during the 540s B.C., under the powerful Cyrus. They were Polytheistic up until the 570 B.C. when a prophet called Zoroaster called for religious reforms. He preached that the world was divided by a struggle between good and evil. The god Ahura Mazda led the forces of good and a villain god, Ahriman, led the forces of evil. At the end of time, Ahura Mazda would triumph over Ahriman. Zoroaster also taught that humans had to choose between good and evil. Those who fought on the side of Ahura Mazda would be rewarded with eternal life and those who chose Ahriman would be condemned after death to eternal darkness and misery. These teachings were recorded in a book called the Avesta.

Christianity began with a Jew named Jesus who grew up in Nazareth. Jesus travelled through Galilee and Judea from about A.D. 30 to A.D. 33, preaching and winning followers. Jesus urged the people to turn away from sin. He urged that God was all forgiving towards all those that repented no matter how evil they’d been. Jesus’ disciples believed he was the Messiah, while other Jews considered Him as a somewhat astray Rabbi. In about A.D. 33, Jesus was arrested as a political rebel and crucified. After Jesus’ death, his disciples proclaimed He’d risen from death and began preaching Jesus is the way to salvation. His teachings are recorded in the Bible’s new testament.

Islam which means ‘ submission to the will of Allah ‘ began with Muhammad. After his marriage to Khadija, a wealthy widow, Muhammad spent time alone praying and fasting in a cave. In A.D 610, Islamic teachings hold that Muhammad had a vision calling him to be the apostle of the one true God Allah, to ‘recite’ and to ‘ rise and warn’ . Muhammad preached on social justice and equality. After a brief illness, Muhammad died at Madinah in the A.D. 632. His teachings have been recorded in the Quran.