RESHEPH (Heb. רֶשֶׁף), Canaanite "netherworld" god of the pest (appearing as an element in Mari and Sargonic personal names; see Huffmon, in bibl.). As a god, Resheph did not have a significant place in the pantheon of Ugarit, since his name was semantically assimilated in the word ršp, "pestilence" (see "The Legend of Keret," trans. by H.L. Ginsberg, in: Pritchard, Texts, 143, line 19, where ršp is rendered by "pestilence"). In addition, the name occurs as an element in Ugaritic personal names. In the Ugaritic-Akkadian god list (see Ugaritica, 5 (1965), 45:26) Resheph is identified with Nergal, the Akkadian god of the netherworld and pestilence (for further data cf. ibid., p. 57). One mythological fragment from Ugarit reads: bʾl ḥṣ ršp, "Resheph, the lord of arrow."

In late bilingual inscriptions from the Phoenician-Hellenic cult of Cyprus, Resheph is identified with Apollo (cf. also the place-name Arsuf = Apollonia). In one of the Amarna letters (EA 35:13) the logogram MAŠ.MAŠ (= Nergal, the pest god) can be read "Resheph" (cf. also Ugaritica, 5 (1965), 667; AFO, 21 (1966), 59). Like the above-mentioned fragment from Ugarit, Phoenician inscriptions from Cyprus also read ršp ḥṣ ("Resheph at the arrow").

Resheph was an important god in the Aramaic pantheon of the eighth century B.C.E. (see, e.g., the inscription of Panammu I; H. Donner and W. Roellig, Kanaanaeische und aramaeische Inschriften, 1 (1967), p. 38 no. 214: 1, where the divine names Hadad and El are followed by Resheph). A Hittite-Phoenician bilingual inscription from Karatepe carries the words ršp ṣprm, "Resheph of the birds" (like "arrow," a figure of speech for swiftness). An orthostat found at Karatepe features a god with a bird in his hands.

In Egypt, from the 18th Dynasty on, Resheph was known as the god of war (see Pritchard, Pictures, no. 473, where Resheph appears together with Qadeš and ʿAnat; see also no. 474, no. 476; cf. further in bibl.) and the Pharaoh as a warrior is compared to him. The god Mikal of Beth-Shean, whom inscriptions from Cyprus connect with Resheph, is portrayed with similar characteristics (see Pritchard, Pictures, no. 487).

In the Bible

While Resheph is not mentioned in the Bible as a god, the word reshef appears in various uses:

(a) Resheph as a personal name in I Chronicles 7:25 (some scholars assume that there is some confusion here, questioning the probability of a Canaanite theophoric personal name in an Ephraimite family; but the name may not necessarily mean the Canaanite god; see below);

(b) in the general meanings of: "flame" (of true love, jealousy; Song 8:6); "arrow," i.e., "'flame' of the bow" (rishpe qeshet, Ps. 76:4);

(c) a synonym of dever, "pestilence" (Deut. 32:24; LXX "bird," thus also the traditional interpretation, Ex. R. 12:4; Hab. 3:5; cf. Ps. 78:48);

(d) "bird"

(?) (Job 5:7; cf. Ber. 5a: reshef means demons (?) and (burning) pains).


J. Leibovitch, in: Annales du service des antiquités de l'Égypte, 48 (1948), 435–44; A. Caquot, in: Semitica, 6 (1956), 53–68; M. Dahood, in: Studi Semitici, 1 (1958), 83–86; H.B. Huffmon, Amorite Personal Names in the Mari Texts (1965), 263 (incl. bibl.); W. Helck, Geschichte des alten Aegypten (1968), 161.

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Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.