Mot the God of Death and the Underworld

Death is god in the religion of ancient Canaan. The name of the god of death was Mot, known as Mavet in Hebrew. The story of the god of the underworld was unearthed along with clay tablets from Ras Shamra, formerly known as Ugarit, in Syria. These tables were inscribed with poems now called the Baal Cycle. Get to know Mot, death god of Canaanite mythology.

The portrayal of the Devil in the movie Spawn of 1997 is quite close to the image of the Canaanite god of death
Source: Spawn (1997) by Todd McFarlane Entertainment

The Birth of Death

Respects I shall not send to Death, nor greetings to El’s beloved, the Hero.

— Baal Cycle

Mot, the god of death, was a favorite son of the supreme God El. Yes, the death god was among the Elohim, the Children of God, many of whom intermarried with human beings and bore the Nephilim (Genesis 6). Mavet was such a favorite son of El that the god of the dead was often called God’s beloved, God’s darling, and the Hero. Does Death have a mother?

Yes, of course. The god of death was not born out of nothing. Mavet was a son of El by none other than his wife, Asherah, the goddess of the abyss. Indeed, the god of the dead was among the seventy gods and goddesses born out of the divine union of El (the Heaven) and Asherah (the Abyss).

The Abode of Death

Go down into the nether reaches of the earth! Then shall you set face toward his city, Hemry. Lo, the throne on which he sits, in the midst of the land of his inheritance, and the guards of the defense of the gods. Do not draw near the god of death.

— Baal Cycle

The god of the dead rules Sheol, the name of hell for both Hebrews and the Canaanites, who say that such dark place is found deep beneath the earth. Yes, the god of death and god of the underworld are one and the same. The throne city of the god of hell goes by the name Hemry. Presumably because the god in hell is God’s favorite son, El provided his dear underworld god an army from the defense of gods. Indeed, the Canaanite death god is immensely powerful from his abode in the underworld.

Sheol, better known as Hell, the abode of Mot the god of death
Source: Painting by John Martin

The Face of Death

A lip to earth, a lip to heaven, and a tongue to the stars. So that Baal may enter his inwards, yea, descend into his mouth.

— Baal Cycle

The most prominent feature that terrifyingly identifies the god of death is his mouth. The god of the underworld has a yawning wide mouth, so wide that giant beings like gods can enter its dark cavernous depth and descend into his innards.

The throat of the underworld god is huge and cavernous too: a black chasm rising from the bowels of the earth. The death god has no need of sending messengers to other gods; the god of hell simply calls from his throat, his voice booming over land, his words clear and loud, reverberating from the deep wide nothingness that was Death’s throat.

Everyone is cautioned from coming near the mouth of the god of underworld, for they would not come out of the gaping entrance alive. The hell god’s commodious mouth was not wide and spacious for nothing.

Death is voracious, always hungry for humans

The Cause of Death

Death can’t be satisfied, but gathers to himself all nations, and heaps to himself all peoples.

— Habakkuk 2:5

Why do all people die? The Canaanites say that people die because the god of death is hungry all the time. Indeed, the god of hell is infinitely voracious. Don’t come near the god of the underworld, because Mavet will eat you.

The death god’s yawning black mouth is not toothless. Quite the reverse, the underworld god will munch you like a lamb, crush you like a kid in his mouth — although you’d probably be a small insufficient morsel to the god of the dead. The god in hell devours even fellow, giant gods.

The god of underworld wants to devour no less than the king of gods. Not just because the hell god wants to rule the world. Not simply because Death wants to rule both gods and men. Mot has an ax to grind. The god of death wants to avenge his brother, who was slain by Baal, the king of gods

The Vengeance of Death

Death was infuriated, and sent his word back to Baal. He declared that, because Baal had destroyed the Serpent Lotan, he would exact revenge by devouring Baal.

— Baal Cycle

The god of the underworld wants to open his mouth wide, so Baal the king of gods could descend into his innards. That would be sweet scrumptious revenge for the demise of the death god’s brother, the Leviathan. Nobody kills the beloved brother of the god of death and get away with it alive. The god of underworld summons Baal down his gaping throat, so the latter could pay the price for slaying Leviathan, the god of the sea and rivers.

The Power of Death

Death has come up into our windows, has entered into our palaces, to cut off the children from outside, and the young men from the streets.

— Jeremiah 9:21

Baal Hadad, the god of clouds and rain, cowered in his palace, afraid of the god of the underworld. Baal knew that the god of death is most powerful. It was futile to resist the god of hell. Baal never did so with the Leviathan, but the king of gods submitted himself to Death, submitted himself as slave to the underworld god forever.

This death god commanded his new slave to die. The hell god ordered Baal to come down to the bowels of the earth, come down to the city of the god of the dead; so the god of underworld can eat him like a lamb, crush him like a kid in his mouth. And there in the hell of gods the ruler of underworld imprisoned Baal.

Drought and famine, the wake of Death
Source: Tomas Castelazo via Wikimedia Commons

The Wake of Death

I shall put him [Baal] in the grave of the gods of the earth, along with his clouds, his wind, his storm, his rains!

— Baal Cycle

What did the world see in the wake of the death of Baal Hadad? Drought and famine came after the death of the god of cloud and rain. When the god of the underworld took Baal Hadad, nothing was left in the world above but a parched earth devoid of vegetation. Plants of the field expired from the dearth of moisture, animals died of hunger, and human beings wasted away, dying in the drought and sterility that lingered in the wake of Mot the god of death. The earth needed Baal Hadad back. The world needed the god of clouds, wind and rain alive again.

The Demise of Death

As with the heart of a cow toward her calf, as with the heart of an ewe toward her lamb, so is the heart of Anath toward Baal.

— Baal Cycle

Anath was Baal’s sister, and the fierce virgin goddess of war came to her brother’s rescue. Descending into the underworld, Anath met the god of death face to face. The goddess of war ripped the garment of the god in hell. The warrior goddess tore the clothes of the god of hell. Anath demanded that the god of underworld give her brother back.

But the god of the dead was defiant. Hence, with the sword Anath cleaved Death. With a pitchfork Anath winnowed Death. Anath burned Death, and ground him in the millstones. At last, in the open field Anath planted what remained of the hell god.

In the same way that no plants grow in the field without rain, no Death grows back to life unless there was rain. And it wouldn’t rain unless the god of clouds and rain was alive and free. If Baal had been free, he would send rain over the earth. If Baal had been free, the god of fertility would chase away the drought. Baal Hadad had to live once more.

And he did. Out of Sheol, Baal came back.

The god of clouds and thunder came back with a vengeance. When the god of the underworld had grown back, Baal seized the death god, smacked Mavet on the shoulder, smote Death with a stick. Baal defeated the underworld god, sending the god of death back to hell.

The Fear of Death

The god of hell is proud. The underworld god is vengeful. Baal shall pay for the humiliation of Death, the god of underworld swore in his abode in hell.

Sure enough, the death god came back to take Baal from his throne in the Mountain of Saphon and into the underworld once again.

What stopped the god of the underworld from taking Baal back to hell? No one else but El, the father of gods. Mavet was afraid of God, afraid that the Almighty Father may take away his throne in Sheol. Hence, the god of death bowed  to God’s wishes. Death bowed to the king of gods, Baal Hadad, for —

The god of death is afraid. El’s Beloved, the Hero, is frightened.

— Baal Cycle

The Grim Reaper, the Western counterpart of the Canaanite god of death
Source: Incry via Wikimedia Commons

Death is Watching

Though the god of the dead, failing to rule the world, came back to hell empty-handed, the hell god continues to consume people. The Canaanites believe that the god of the underworld eats every soul, devours every being on earth. In his throne in Sheol the death god sits, eating, munching every life. The Canaanites were convinced, the god of underworld will eat you too, someday, on a day that perhaps you never see coming. The god of hell will devour you like a lamb in his mouth. The god of death will crush you like a kid in his jaw. Until then, Death is watching.

Which view about death do you think is best?

View Results

 Loading ...
Published December 4, 2013