Mot (Semitic god)
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|Deities of the ancient Near East|
|Religions of the ancient Near East|
In Ugaritic Mot 'Death' (spelled mt) is personified as a god of death. The word is cognate with forms meaning 'death' in other Semitic and Afro-Asiatic languages: with Arabic موت mawt; with Hebrew מות (mot or mavet; ancient Hebrew moth or maweth); with Maltese mewt; with Syriac mautā; with Ge'ez mot; with Canaanite, Egyptian, Berber, Aramaic, Nabataean, and Palmyrene מות (mwt); with Jewish Aramaic, Christian Palestinian Aramaic, and Samaritan מותא (mwt’); with Mandaean muta; with Akkadian mūtu; with Hausa mutuwa; and with Angas mut. The name of the god, in its abstract meaning of death, survives use in the English language in the game of chess, "mate".
Mot 'Death', son of 'El, according to instructions given by the god Hadad (Ba‘al) to his messengers, lives in a city named hmry ('Mirey'), a pit is his throne, and Filth is the land of her heritage. But Ba‘al warns them:
that you not come near to divine Death,
lest he made you like a lamb in his mouth,(and) you both be carried away like a kid in the breach of his windpipe.
Hadad seems to be urging that Mot come to his feast and submit himself to Hadad.
Death sends back a message that his appetite is that of lions in the wilderness, like the longing of dolphins in the sea and he threatens to devour Ba‘al himself. In a subsequent passage Death seemingly makes good his threat, or at least is deceived into believing he has slain Ba‘al. Numerous gaps in the text make this portion of the tale obscure. Then Ba‘al/Hadad's sister, the warrior goddess ‘Anat, comes upon Mot, seizes him, splits him with a blade, winnows him in a sieve, burns him in a fire, grinds him between mill-stones and throws what remains on the field for the birds to devour.
But after seven years Death returns, seeking vengeance for the splitting, burning, grinding, and winnowing and demanding one of Ba‘al's brothers to feed upon. A gap in the text is followed by Mot complaining that Ba‘al has given Mot his own brothers to eat, the sons of his mother to consume. A single combat between the two breaks out until Shapsh 'Sun' upbraids Mot, informing him that his own father 'El will turn against him and overturn his throne if he continues. Mot concedes and the conflict ends.
But earlier in a philosophical creation myth Sanchuniathon has referred to great wind which merged with its parents and that connection was called Eros 'Desire':
From its connection Mot was produced, which some say is mud, and others a putrescence of watery compound; and out of this came every germ of creation, and the generation of the universe. So there were certain animals which had no sensation, and out of them grew intelligent animals, and were called "Zophasemin," that is "observers of heaven"; and they were formed like the shape of an egg. Also Mot burst forth into light, and sun, and moon, and stars, and the great constellations.
The language here is confusing, a bad summary and possibly corrupt, and the form Mot here is not the same as Muth which appears later. But it may be that the full and coherent account would have made clear that muddy and putrescent Death is the source of life.
According to H.H. Ben-Sasson's A History of the Jewish People, 1976, page 11-12: "From the Ugaritic evidence ... Other central deities [of the Canaanite pantheon] were ... Moth, the deity of death and the nether world" (Jeremiah 9:21; and Habakkuk 2:5).
- Putting God on Trial- The Biblical Book of Job A Biblical reworking of the combat motif between Mot and Baal.