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A History of the God Iarhibol and His Worship

IARHIBOL -Image of Palmyra (YAR-hi-bol) alt. spelled: Yarhibol, Jarihibol

Iarhibol was one of the earliest, if not the first god of Palmyra, which was first settled by the Amorites.  He was the God of the Spring of Ecfa. This is thought to have been the earliest settled place in the Oasis, as the first inhabitants would have settled directly around the water source. Iarhibol was known as the "Idol of the Spring" and "Patron of the Blessed Spring."

Superintendents of this spring were called "epemeletes" in Greek, and "rb yn" in Palmyran. (There would have been pronounced vowels in this word which were not written in the Palmyrene inscriptions.)

Iarhibol played an important part in the official life of Palmyra. He bore witness for individuals, and attested oaths. He allotted parts of Palmyrene territory to particular Gods, giving those Gods control over that land. A sample inscription, for instance, reads:

Let Abgal, his brothers, and the members of his house be remembered to Iarhibol, who gave the god Abgal authority over this locality. Let whoever fears the god Abgal be remembered!" (Abgal was a genie of the desert, the patron of camel travel and bedouins of the Palmyrene steppe.)

Iarhibol excercised his authority over the life of the city by means of oracles. Some texts say that Iarhibol chose his oracles directly by "taking hold of them"  The "bol" part of the name Iarhibol probably means he was an early form of the Canaanite-Phoenician "Baal" meaning lord. (a designation of a god of a locality.)

Later, as Palmyra became a city, and newer tribes supplanted Bel (the sky/father god who is called "Zeus" in the Greek texts of Palmyra) the cult of Iarhibol was incorporated within Bel's cult. Iarhibol never lost his position as a leading deity of Palmyra, however. His privileged position as ancestral god continued to be acknowledged, and his position in the civic cults never diminished. If anything, the worship of Iarhibol was expanded, as he took on solar connotations being paired with the moon god Aglibol as an attendant of Bel.

Iarhibol also seems to be the "Anonymous God" of Palmyra, who had many altars and inscriptions dedicated to him without being named, except as "The One Whose Name is Blessed Forever." Not only are many such altars and inscriptions present in the region of the Spring of Ecfa, but also elsewhere in Palmyra which further attests to Iarhibol's importance as a civic deity.

Iarhibol continued to be worshipped throughout all periods of Palmyra, up until the 4th century. Inscriptions to Iarhibol continued until the very end of the Pagan era. The worship of Iarhibol spread beyond Palmyra, and existed in the Roman empire wherever citizens of Palmyran origin had settled. There was a temple to Iarhibol in the city of Dura Europos, and he was also worshipped in the Janiculum temple of Rome. A historical precedent exists for the worship of Iarhibol to exist in many geographical areas.

There is much to recommend the worship of Iarhibol in modern times. As an ancient deity of both a life giving Spring and the Sun, he presides over many powers much needed today, including:

LIGHT - Personal illumination, understanding, wisdom, clarity, focus, the removal of 'dark' emotional and mental aspects from situations.

LIFE - Personal physical and mental energy, enthusiasm, enjoyment, passion and zeal.

STRENGTH - Fortitude, courage, and power, both for individuals and community.

TRUTH - Honest information and interaction between people flourishing in the spiritual light of the Sun, which cannot be clouded by darkness or deceit.

GROWTH - Abundance, health, increase and progress, brought forth by Light and nourished by the Blessed Waters.

HONOR - As a civic and military deity, Iarhibol presides over worthy and honorable actions.

PROPHECY - As a God of Prophecy, Iarhibol brings divine knowledge and inspiration.

Allied Cults

  • Bel - Bel became the supreme deity of Palmyra, equivalent to Zeus. As part of this pantheon, Iarhibol became a Solar deity, a civic deity, and a god of military might as well as the God of the Blessed Spring of Ecfa.
  • Aglibol (Calf of Bel) - Depicted as a lunar god with a crescent behind his head. Power of plant growth and fecundity is his. His brother is Malakbel, the servant and holy messenger of the cult, and they are often worshipped together, and sometimes depicted shaking hands in front of a cypress tree. The two gods are commonly worshipped together wherever Palmyrene soldiers are stationed together, whether in the East or the multitudinous provinces of the Empire.
  • Malakbel (Angel of Bel) - Malakbel has rays of light on his satuary, much like Iarhibol. Malakbel is rarely depicted wearing a cuirass, he is more commonly shown in Persian garb. He is the holy messenger of Bel and a trusted mediator of God. As a mediator, he has some status in the cult of Bel. Since Bel is often considered to be a great and universal, though invisible deity, Malakbel sometimes tends to supplant him as the visible image of that god, much as the Christians revere Christ as much as, or more than, his master, the Lord. Malakbel is often conflated with the god Mercury, but also has a role as a ‘good shepherd’ and herdsman, a protector of flocks who was born of a tree.
  • Manawat - An Arabian Goddess worshipped as part of the "Assembly of Holy Gods" of Palmyra.
  • Herta - a Babylonian deity worshipped at Palmyra.
  • Nanai - a Babylonian deity also worshipped at Palmyra.
  • Reshef - a Canaanite deity identified with Apollo
  • Bol'astar - a Palmyrene deity worshipped as part of the "Assembly of Holy Gods."
  • Baaltak - "Young Lady";  a Goddess whose cult was associated with that of Bel; possibly his consort.

This page was last updated on January 1, 2012