Anath (Anat) is a prominent figure in the Canaanite mythological texts, dating to c. 1400 b.c.e., discovered at Ugarit on the Syrian coast. She is a maiden/warrior goddess, the sister or consort of the fertility and storm god Baal. She plays a major role in the Ugaritic myths, rescuing Baal from the underworld and defeating Mot, the god of death.
In the Hebrew Bible, however, Anath is barely visible. Her name appears only within the place names Beth-anath/anoth (Josh 15:59; 19:38; Judg 1:33) and Anathoth (Josh 21:18; 1 Kgs 2:26; Isa 10:30; Jer 1:1) and the personal names Shamgar ben Anath (son of
Anath, in NRSV) (Judg 3:31; 5:6), Anthothijah (1 Chr 8:24), and Anathoth (1 Chr 7:8; Neh 10:19).
These names are generally taken to reflect the worship or veneration of the goddess Anath among Israelites. Beth-anath, for example, means “house or temple of Anath. Anathoth is the plural of the name Anath, just as Ashtaroth (compare Deut 1:4) is the plural of the divine name Ashtar (Astarte). The name Shamgar son of Anath, however, might not mean “Shamgar, son of [the goddess] Anath.” The formula “[personal name], son of [personal name],” usually places one’s father’s name in the second position. Therefore the name Anath, in this instance, may be a shortened form of a masculine name such as Anathothijah or Anatyahu, which may simply mean “sign(s) of YHWH.” If so, then Shamgar’s name would have nothing to do with the goddess Anath. Yet because Shamgar was a warrior and Anath a warrior deity, and because place names such as Beth-anoth point to the veneration of the goddess among some Israelites, the label “son of Anath” following Shamgar’s name may indeed connect him with the goddess. Extrabiblical data support such a possibility.
McCarter, P. Kyle, Jr. “Aspects of the Religion of the Israelite Monarchy: Biblical and Epigraphic Data.” In Ancient Israelite Religion: Essays in Honor of Frank Moore Cross, edited by Patrick D. Miller, Jr., Paul D. Hanson, and S. Dean McBride, 137–155. Philadelphia: 1987; Walls, Neal H. The Goddess Anat in Ugaritic Myth. Atlanta: 1992.
Meyers, Carol, General Editor. Women in Scripture. New York: 2000.
How to cite this page
LaRocca-Pitts, Beth. "Anath: Bible." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 1 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on September 2, 2014) <http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/anath-bible>.