Hadad, the Moabite God
Image: A statue of the Moabite bull-shaped god Hadad discovered at Ataruz in Jordan.
Archaeologists digging in a 3,000-year-old Iron Age temple site at Ataruz in Jordan have found a statue of the Moabite bull-shaped god Hadad. The god Hadad appears in the Old Testament as Rimmon (2 Kings 5:18).
Ataruz was a town east of the Jordan in Gilead. The town appears in the Old Testament as Ataroth and it is mentioned both in Numbers 32:3 and 32:34 and it was located in the territory of the tribe of Gad. The city was captured from Sihon, the king of the Amorites and from Og, the king of Bashan (Numbers 32:33). Numbers 32:34 says that “the children of Gad built Dibon, and Ataroth, and Aroer.”
The name of the city also appear in the Mesha Stele as “Ataroth,” where Mesha, king of Moab boasted of its destruction:
“Now the men of Gad had always dwelt in the land of Ataroth, and the king of Israel had built Ataroth for them; but I fought against the town and took it and slew all the people of the town as a satiation (intoxication) for Chemosh and Moab” (ANET, 320).
Below are a few excerpts from the article announcing the discovery:
Among the findings are a statue of a bull-faced god and nearly 300 vessels, lamps and altars for religious rituals. In antiquity, the bull was often tied to the principal deities of the region, including El, Hadad and Baal.
Much of what is known of the Ataruz temple has been learned from King Mesha, immortalized in a basalt tablet listing his victories and accomplishments. Known as the Mesha Stele, the tablet was discovered near Dhiban and is now on display in the Louvre in Paris.
The Moabites -- whom the Bible says are descended from Moab, a grandson of Lot and a nephew of Abraham -- are believed to have been Canaanite tribes that settled in the land between the River Jordan and the Eastern Desert near what is now Dhiban in the 14th century BC. Their reign came to an end with the Persian invasion around the 7th century BC.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary