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In Ancient Semitic religion, specifically Canaanite religion, the term Adon (ʾdwn, Hebrew אדון, from a triliteral "hollow" root D-I-N or D-W-N, cognate with Akkadian adannu "mighty"), literally "lord, patron", has been in use as a theonym from the Late Bronze Age at least, contrasting with Ba`al "master".
In Canaanite (Ugaritic) tradition, ʾadn ilm, literally "lord of gods" is an epithet of El, but ʾadn could also be an epithet of other gods, especially Tammuz. The epithet of Tammuz enters Greek tradition as a proper name, Adonis, the youthful lover of Aphrodite.
Hebrew tradition makes Adon "lord" or Adonai "my lord" an epithet of the God of Israel, depicted as the chief antagonist of "the Ba`als" in the Tanakh. The epithet came to be used as an euphemism to avoid invoking the deity's proper name, Yahweh.
The word ADON may also have the letter -I added to it, giving the form ADONI (pronounced adonee), a non-Deity title always used for a human superior (occasionally an angel). So with the forms of Lord, ADONAI is reserved for the One God alone. No human is addressed as ADONAI. On the other hand ADONI (adonee) is reserved for human superiors. The Messiah is called ADONI, the lord of David, in Psalm 110.1. See, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “Lord,” p. 157; Hastings Dictionary of the Bible, “Lord,” Vol. 3, p. 137; Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, p. 531; Wigram, The Englishman’s Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the OT, p. 22; Herbert Bateman, “Psalm 110:1 and the NT,” Bibliothecra Sacra, Oct.-Dec., 1992, p. 438.
In Ugaritic texts, ʾdn in its meaning as "lord" appears a number of times. Used to refer to the lord and father over deceased kings, the term ʾadn ʾilm rbm (meaning "the Lord of the Great Gods"), is thought by some scholars[who?] to be a divine epiteph of Ba`al,[dubious ] while others think it refers to El, Mardikh, Yaqar or Yarikh. ʾAdn ʾilm (meaning "the Lord of Gods") also appears in the texts to refer to El, and when Yam is described in at being at the height of his power, he is proclaimed ʾadn or "lord (of the gods).
Ugarit family households were modeled after the structure of the divine world, each headed by an ʾadn (meaning in this context "master" or "patron"). Generally, this was the patriarch of the family and there may be some relation between ʾadn and the Ugarit word for "father", ʾad.
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- Gesenius, Hebrew Lexicon, s.v. ADWN, DWN
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- West, 1997, p. 448.
- Gordon et al., 1987, p. 211.
- Van Dijk-Hemmes et al., 1996, p. 211.
- van der Toorn, 1999, p. 532.
- Cook et al., 2001, pp. 48-49.