• James E Aarons DVM

Ishtar, Lion Goddess of Ebla


The other main temple, in fact the largest temple at Ebla, was located in the Lower Town North, and was part of a large cult complex, Ishtar’s Cult Area, also dedicated to the great goddess, in her quality as patron deity of the whole town. Ishtar’s Temple in the Lower Town (Area P) featured, like the other contemporary temples, one long cella, and was turned to the South, and it was located by the edge of a wide open space, the Cisterns Square, where ceremonies took place, also in the open, during which gifts for the goddess were thrown in favissae excavated in the square area. On the west side of the square Ishtar’s Cult Terrace stood, an imposing and massive stone structure, with a wide and inaccessible court inside, meant to host the goddess’s lions, according a peculiar tradition typical of the great Syrian goddess’s main sanctuaries. The complex was completed by a residential sector for priests, not very well preserved, and it was close to the Northern Palace, a royal building, whose functions were certainly related with the cult building

Katie could not resist the urge to enter into ancient Ebla's southwest gate, becoming mesmerized to the level of sleeping inside Ishtar's ancient temple.

“Behind the farmhouse rose a massive earth wall forty feet high, dwarfing the structure with its enormous height. The western wall stretched north almost one half mile, and the southern wall ran half that length. There was a broken corner just behind the farmhouse, making a gateway. This place beckoned to her. The gates wanted her to come in, the walls wanted her to stand on top of them, and the temples wanted her to live within them. It was a pull she felt… mesmerizing, magical, and beautiful. It took her breath away.”

— Jim Aarons- Inconvenient Goddess

Ishtar's Stone Cult Terrace in Ebla was built to hold lions! The structure is a large inaccessible court with no entrances, its outer walls inclined toward the inside from bottom to top. Here is where the sacred lions of the great goddess were kept.

We have archaeological evidence to suggest that Israelite identity was relatively established into a familiar form by around 1000 BCE, and certainly by 800 BCE or so, even monolatrous Israelites worshipping Canaanite gods in addition to YHVH seem to have been clear on the notion that YHVH was the proprietary God of Israel, but these other gods, being Canaanite gods, were worth worshipping because they were local, and had predated Israelite securing of the Land. In other words, there was some acknowledgement even by worshippers of Canaanite gods that they were "their" gods, and only "our" gods by virtue of territorial conquest (even if the historical truth might have been de facto conquest by colonization). So, the answer to your question, as far as I have been able to tell, is both yes and no. I believe Canaanites were among the earliest Israelites, but that proto-Israelites also came from elsewhere.

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Ishtar, Lion Goddess, Chapter 23

Ishtar's Ebla Temple, Chapter 21