About sixty years after the Israelites’ Exodus, highly unusual religious developments took place in Egypt. Some scholars view those developments as an attempt to adopt Monotheism—perhaps under the influence of the revelations at Mount Sinai. What they have in mind is the reign of Amenhotep (sometimes rendered as Amenophis) IV who left Thebes and its temples, gave up the worship of Amon, and declared ATEN the sole creator god.
As we shall show, that was not an echo of Monotheism, but another harbinger of an expected Return—the return, into view, of the Planet of the Cross.
The Pharaoh in question is better known by the new name he had adopted—Akhen-Aten (“The servant/worshipper of Aten”), and the new capital and religious center that he had established, Akhet-Aten (“Aten of the Horizon”), is better known by the site’s modern name, Tell el-Amarna (where the famed ancient archive of royal international correspondence was discovered).
Scion of Egypt’s famed eighteenth Dynasty, Akhenaten reigned from 1379 to 1362 B.C.E., and his religious revolution did not last. The priesthood of Amon in Thebes led the opposition, presumably because it was deprived of its positions of power and wealth, but it is of course possible that the objections were genuinely on religious grounds, for Akhenaten’s successors (of whom most famed was Tut-Ankh-Amen) resumed the inclusion of Ra/Amon in their theophoric names. No sooner was Akhenaten gone than the new capital, its temples, and its palace were torn down and systematically destroyed. Nevertheless, the remains that archaeologists have found throw enough light on Akhenaten and his religion.
The notion that the worship of the Aten was a form of monotheism—worship of a sole universal creator—stems primarily from some of the hymns to the Aten that have been found; they include such verses as, “O sole god, like whom there is no other… The world came into being by thy hand.” The fact that, in a clear departure from Egyptian customs, representation of this god in anthropomorphic form was strictly forbidden sounds very much like Yahweh’s prohibition, in the Ten Commandments, against making any “graven images” to worship. Additionally, some portions of the Hymns to Aten read as if they were clones of the biblical Psalms—
O living Aten,
How manifold are thy works!
They are hidden from the sight of men.
O sole god, beside whom there is no other!
Thou didst create the earth according to thy desire
whilst thou wast alone.
The famed Egyptologist James H. Breasted (The Dawn of Conscience) compared the above verses to Psalm 104, beginning with verse 24—
O Lord, how manifold are thy works!
In wisdom hast thou made them all;
the Earth is full of thy riches.
The similarity, however, arises not because the two, Egyptian hymn and biblical Psalm, copy each other, but because both speak of the same celestial god of the Sumerian Epic of Creation—of Nibiru—that shaped the Heavens and created the Earth, imparting to it the “seed of life.”
Virtually every book on ancient Egypt will tell you that the “Aten” disc that Akhenaten made the central object of worship represented the benevolent Sun. If so, it was odd that in a marked departure from Egyptian temple architecture that oriented the temples to the solstices on a southeast-northwest axis, Akhenaten oriented his Aten temple on an east–west axis—but had it facing west, away from the Sun at sunrise. If he was expecting a celestial reappearance from a direction opposite to that of where the Sun rises, it could not be the Sun.
A close reading of the hymns reveals that Akhenaten’s “star god” was not Ra as Amon “the Unseen,” but a different kind of Ra: it was the celestial god who had “existed from primeval time … The one who renews himself “ as it reappears in all its glory, a celestial god that was “going afar and returning.” On a daily basis, those words could indeed apply to the Sun, but on a long-term basis, the description fitted Ra only as Nibiru: it did become unseen, the hymns said, because it was “far away in heaven,” because it went “to the rear of the horizon, to the height of heaven.” And now, Akhenaten announced, it was coming back in all its glory. Aten’s hymns prophesied its reappearance, its return “beautiful on the horizon of heaven … Glittering, beautiful, strong,” ushering a time of peace and benevolence to all. These words express clear messianic expectations that have nothing to do with the Sun.
In support of the “Aten is the Sun” explanation, various depictions of Akhenaten are offered; they show (Fig. 68) him and his wife blessed by, or praying to, a rayed star; it is the Sun, most Egyptologists say. The hymns do refer to the Aten as a manifestation of Ra, which to Egyptologists who have deemed Ra to be the Sun means that Aten, too, represented the Sun; but if Ra was Marduk and the celestial Marduk was Nibiru, then Aten, too, represented Nibiru and not the Sun. Additional evidence comes from sky maps, some painted on coffin lids (Fig. 69), that clearly showed the twelve zodiacal constellations, the rayed Sun, and other members of the solar system; but the planet of Ra, the “Planet of Millions of Years,” is shown as an extra planet in its own large separate celestial barque beyond the Sun, with the pictorial hieroglyph for “god” in it—Akhenaten’s “Aten.”
What, then, was Akhenaten’s innovation, or, rather, digression, from the official religious line? At its core his “transgression” was the same old debate that had taken place 720 years earlier about timing.
Then the issue was: Has Marduk/Ra’s time for supremacy come, has the Age of the Ram begun in the heavens? Akhenaten shifted the issue from Celestial Time (the zodiacal clock) to Divine Time (Nibiru’s orbital time), changing the question to: When will the Unseen celestial god reappear and become visible—”beautiful on the horizon of heaven”?
His greatest heresy in the eyes of the priests of Ra/Amon can be judged by the fact that he erected a special monument honoring the Ben-Ben—an object that had been revered generations earlier as the vehicle in which Ra had arrived on Earth from the heavens (Fig. 70). It was an indication, we believe, that what he was expecting in connection with Aten was a Reappearance, a Return not just of the Planet of the Gods, but another arrival, a New Coming of the gods themselves!
This, we must conclude, was the innovation, the difference introduced by Akhenaten. In defiance of the priestly establishment, and no doubt prematurely in their opinion, he was announcing the coming of a new messianic time. This heresy was aggravated by the fact that Akhenaten’s pronouncements about the returning Aten were accompanied by a personal claim: Akhenaten increasingly referred to himself as the god’s prophet-son, one “who came forth from the god’s body,” and to whom alone the deity’s plans were revealed:
There is no other that knoweth thee
except thy son Akhenaten;
Thou hast made him wise in thy plans.
And this, too, was unacceptable to the Theban priests of Amon. As soon as Akhenaten was gone (and it is uncertain how … ), they restored the worship of Amon—the Unseen god—and smashed and destroyed all that Akhenaten had erected.
That the Aten episode in Egypt, as the introduction of the Jubilee—the “Year of the Ram”—were the stirrings of a wider expectation of a Return of a celestial “star god” is evident from yet another biblical reference to the Ram, yet another manifestation of a Countdown to the Return.
It is the record of an unusual incident at the end of the Exodus. It is a tale that is replete with puzzling aspects, and one that ends with a divinely inspired vision of things to come.
The Bible repeatedly declared divination by examining animal entrails, consulting with spirits, soothsaying, enchanting, conjuring, and fortune-telling to be “abominations unto Yahweh”—all manners of sorcery practiced by other nations that the Israelites must avoid. At the same time, it asserted—quoting Yahweh himself—that dreams, oracles, and visions could be legitimate ways of divine communication. It is such a distinction that explains why the Book of Numbers devotes three long chapters (22–24) to tell—approvingly!— the story of a non-Israelite Seer and Oracle-teller. His name was Bil’am, rendered Balaam in English Bibles.
The events described in those chapters took place when the Israelites (“Children of Israel” in the Bible), having left the Sinai Peninsula, went around the Dead Sea on the east, advancing northward. As they encountered the small kingdoms that occupied the lands east of the Dead Sea and the Jordan River, Moses sought from their kings permission for peaceful passage; it was, by and large, refused. The Israelites, having just defeated the Ammonites, who did not let them pass through peacefully, now “were encamped in the plains of Mo’ab, on the side of the Jordan that is opposite Jericho,” awaiting the Moabite king’s permission to pass through his land.
Unwilling to let “the horde” pass yet afraid to fight them, the king of Mo’ab—Balak the son of Zippor—had a bright idea. He sent emissaries to fetch an internationally renowned seer, Bala’am the son of Be’or, and have him “put a curse on these people for me,” to make it possible to defeat and chase them away.
Balaam had to be entreated several times before he accepted the assignment. First at Balaam’s home (somewhere near the Euphrates River?) and then on the way to Moab, an Angel of God (the word in Hebrew, Mal’ach, literally means “emissary”) appears and gets involved in the proceedings; he is sometimes visible and sometimes invisible. The Angel allows Balaam to accept the assignment only after making sure that Balaam understands that he is to utter only divinely inspired omens. Puzzlingly, Balaam calls Yahweh “my God” when he repeats this condition, first to the king’s ambassadors and then to the Moabite king himself.
A series of oracular settings are then arranged. The king takes Balaam to a hilltop from which he can see the whole Israelite encampment, and on the Seer’s instructions he erects seven altars, sacrifices seven bullocks and seven rams, and awaits the oracle; but from Balaam’s mouth come words not of accusation but of praise for the Israelites.
The persistent Moabite king then takes Balaam to another mount, from which just the edge of the Israelite encampment can be seen, and the procedure is repeated a second time. But again Balaam’s oracle blesses rather than curses the Israelites: I see them coming out of Egypt protected by a god with spreading ram’s horns, he says—it is a nation destined for kingship, a nation that like a lion will arise.
Determined to try again, the king now takes Balaam to a hilltop that faces the desert, facing away from the Israelite encampment; “maybe the gods will let you proclaim curses there,” he says. Seven altars are again erected, on which seven bullocks and seven rams are sacrificed. But Balaam now sees the Israelites and their future not with human eyes but “in a divine vision.” For the second time he sees the nation protected, as it came out of Egypt, by a god with spreading rams’ horns, and envisions Israel as a nation that “like a lion will arise.”
When the Moabite king protests, Balaam explains that no matter what gold or silver he be offered, he can utter only the words that God puts in his mouth. So the frustrated king gives up and lets Balaam go. But now Balaam offers the king free advice: Let me tell you what the future holds, he says to the king—”that which will come about to this nation and to your people at the end of days”—and proceeds to describe the divine vision of the future by relating it to a “star”:
I see it, though not now;
I behold it, though it is not near:
A Star of Jacob is on its course.
A Scepter from Israel will arise—
Moab’s quarters it will crush,
all the Children of Seth it will unsettle.
—Numbers 24: 17
Balaam then turned and cast his eyes toward the Edomites, Amalekites, Kenites, and other Canaanite nations, and pronounced an oracle thereon: Those who will survive the wrath of Jacob shall fall into the hands of Assyria; then Assyria’s turn will come, and it shall forever perish. And having pronounced that oracle, “Balaam rose up and went back to his place; and Balak too went on his way.”
Though the Balaam episode has naturally been the subject of discussion and debate by biblical and theological scholars, it remains baffling and unresolved. The text switches effortlessly between references to the Elohim—”gods” in the plural—and to Yahweh, the sole God, as the Divine Presence. It gravely transgresses the Bible’s most basic prohibition by applying to the God who brought the Israelites out of Egypt a physical image, and then compounds the transgression by envisioning Him in the image of “a ram with spreading horns”—an image that has been the Egyptian depiction of Amon (Fig. 71)! The approving attitude toward a professional seer in a Bible that prohibited soothsaying, conjuring, and so on adds to the feeling that the whole tale was, originally, a non-Israelite tale, and yet the Bible incorporated it, devoting to it substantial space, so the incident and its message must have been considered a significant prelude to the Israelite possession of the Promised Land.
The text suggests that Balaam was an Aramaean, residing somewhere up the Euphrates River; his prophetic oracles expanded from the fate of the Children of Jacob to the place of Israel among the nations to oracles regarding the future of such other nations—even of distant and yet-to-come imperial Assyria. The oracles were thus an expression of wider non-Israelite expectations at the time. By including the tale, the Bible combined the Israelite destiny with Mankind’s universal expectations.
Those expectations, the Balaam tale indicates, were channeled along two paths—the zodiacal cycle on the one hand, and the Returning Star’s course on the other hand.
The zodiacal references are strongest regarding the Age of the Ram (and its god!) at the time of the Exodus, and become oracular and prophetic as the Seer Balaam envisions the Future, when the zodiacal constellation symbols of the Bull and the Ram (“bullocks and rams for sevenfold sacrifices”) and the Lion (“when the Royal Trumpet shall be heard in Israel”) are invoked (Numbers Chapter 23). And it is when envisioning that Distant Future that the Balaam text employs the significant term At the End of Days as the time to which the prophetic oracles apply (Numbers 24: 14).
The term directly links these non-Israelite prophecies to the destiny of Jacob’s offspring because it was used by Jacob himself as he lay on his deathbed and gathered his children to hear oracles regarding their future (Genesis Chapter 49). “Come gather together,” he said, “that I may tell you that which shall befall you at the End of Days.” The oracles, individually stated for each one of the twelve future Tribes of Israel, are deemed by many to be related to the twelve zodiacal constellations.
And what about the Star of Jacob—an explicit vision by Balaam?
In scholarly biblical discussions, it is usually considered in an astrological rather than an astronomical context at best, and more often than not, the tendency has been to deem the reference to “Jacob’s Star” as purely figurative. But what if the reference was indeed to a “star” orbiting on its course—a planet prophetically seen though it is not yet visible?
What if Balaam, like Akhenaten, was speaking of the return, the reappearance, of Nibiru? Such a return, it must be realized, would be an extraordinary event that occurs once in several millennia, an event that had repeatedly signified the most profound watersheds in the affairs of gods and men.
This is not just a rhetorical question. In fact, the unfolding events were increasingly indicating that an overwhelmingly significant occurrence was in the offing. Within a century or so of the preoccupations and predictions regarding the Returning Planet that we find in the tales of the Exodus, Balaam, and Akhenaten’s Egypt, Babylon itself started to provide evidence of such wide-spreading expectations, and the most prominent clue was the Sign of the Cross.
In Babylon, the time was that of the Kassite dynasty, of which we have written earlier. Little has remained of their reign in Babylon itself, and as stated earlier those kings did not excel in keeping royal records. But they did leave behind telltale depictions—and international correspondence of letters on clay tablets.
It was in the ruins of Akhet-Aten, Akhenaten’s capital—a site now known as Tell el-Amarna in Egypt—that the famed “el-Amarna Tablets” were discovered. Of the 380 clay tablets, all except three were inscribed in the Akkadian language, which was then the language of international diplomacy. While some of the tablets represented copies of royal letters sent from the Egyptian court, the bulk were original letters received from foreign kings.
The cache was the royal diplomatic archive of Akhenaten, and the tablets were predominantly correspondence he had received from the kings of Babylon!
Did Akhenaten use those exchanges of letters with his counterparts in Babylon to tell them of his newfound Aten religion? We really don’t know, for all we have are a Babylonian king’s letters to
Akhenaten in which he complained that gold sent to him was found short in weight, that his ambassadors were robbed on the way to Egypt, or that the Egyptian king failed to inquire about his health. Yet the frequent exchanges of ambassadors and other emissaries, even offers of intermarriage, as well as the calling of the Egyptian king “my brother” by the Babylonian king, must lead to a conclusion that the hierarchy in Babylon was fully aware of the religious goings-on in Egypt; and if Babylon wondered, “What is this ‘Ra as a Returning Star’ commotion?” Babylon must have realized that it was a reference to “Marduk as a Returning Planet”—to Nibiru orbiting back.
With the tradition of celestial observations so much older and more advanced in Mesopotamia than in Egypt, it is of course possible that the royal astronomers of Babylon had come to conclusions regarding Nibiru’s return without Egyptian aid, and even ahead of the Egyptians. Be that as it may, it was in the thirteenth century B.C.E. that the Kassite kings of Babylon started to signal, in a variety of ways, their own fundamental religious changes.
In 1260 B.C.E. a new king ascended the throne in Babylon and adopted the name Kadashman-Enlil—a theophoric name surprisingly venerating Enlil. It was no passing gesture, for he was followed on the throne, for the next century, by Kassite kings bearing theophoric names venerating not only Enlil but also Adad—a surprising gesture suggesting a desire for divine reconciliation. That something unusual was expected was further evidenced on commemorative monuments called kudurru—”rounded stones”—that were set up as boundary markers. Inscribed with a text stating the terms of the border treaty (or land grant) and the oaths taken to uphold it, the kudurru was sanctified by symbols of the celestial gods. The divine zodiacal symbols—all twelve of them—were frequently depicted (Fig. 72); orbiting above them were the emblems of the Sun, the Moon, and Nibiru. In another depiction (Fig. 73), Nibiru was shown in the company of Earth (the seventh planet) and the Moon (and the umbilical-cutter symbol for Ninmah).
Significantly, Nibiru was depicted no longer by the Winged Disc symbol, but rather in a new way—as the planet of the radiating cross—befitting its description by the Sumerians in the “Olden Days” as a radiating planet about to become the “Planet of the Crossing.”
This way of showing a long-unobserved Nibiru by a symbol of a radiating cross began to become more common, and soon the Kassite kings of Babylon simplified the symbol to just a Sign of the Cross, replacing with it the Winged Disc symbol on their royal seals (Fig. 74). This cross symbol, which looks like the much later Christian “Maltese Cross,” is known in studies of ancient glyptic as a “Kassite Cross.” As another depiction indicates, the symbol of the cross was for a planet clearly not the same as the Sun, which is separately shown along with the Moon-crescent and the six-pointed star symbol for Mars (Fig. 75).
As the first millennium B.C.E. began, Nibiru’s Sign of the Cross spread from Babylonia to seal designs in nearby lands. In the absence of Kassite religious or literary texts, it is a matter of conjecture what messianic expectations might have accompanied these changes in depictions.
Whatever they were, they intensified the ferocity of the attacks by the Enlilite states—Assyria, Elam—on Babylon and their opposition to Marduk’s hegemony. Those attacks delayed, but did not prevent, the eventual adoption of the Sign of the Cross in Assyria itself. As royal monuments reveal, it was worn, most conspicuously, by Assyria’s kings on their chests, near their hearts (Fig. 76)—the way devout Catholics wear the cross nowadays.
Religiously and astronomically, it was a most significant gesture. That it was also a widespread manifestation is suggested by the fact that in Egypt, too, depictions were found of a king-god wearing, like his Assyrian counterparts, the sign of the cross on his chest (Fig. 77).
The adoption of the Sign of the Cross as the emblem of Nibiru, in Babylon, Assyria, and elsewhere, was not a surprising innovation. The sign had been used before—by the Sumerians and Akkadians. “Nibiru—let ‘Crossing’ be its name!” the Epic of Creation stated; and accordingly its symbol, the cross, had been employed in Sumerian glyptic to denote Nibiru, but then it always signified its Return into visibility.
Enuma elish, the Epic of Creation, clearly stated that after the Celestial Battle with Tiamat, the Invader made a grand orbit around the Sun and returned to the scene of the battle. Since Tiamat orbited the Sun in a plane called the Ecliptic (as other members of our Sun’s planetary family do), it is to that place in the heavens that the Invader had to return; and when it does so, orbit after orbit after orbit, it is there that it crosses the plane of the ecliptic. A simple way to illustrate this would be to show the orbital path of the well-known Halley’s Comet (Fig. 78), which emulates on a greatly reduced scale the orbit of Nibiru: its inclined orbit brings it, as it nears the Sun, from the south, from below the ecliptic, near Uranus. It arches above the ecliptic and makes the turn around the Sun, saying “Hello” to Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars; then it comes down and crosses the ecliptic near the site of Nibiru’s Celestial Battle with Tiamat—the Crossing (marked “X”)—and is gone, only to come back as its orbital Destiny prescribes.
That point, in the heavens and in time, is The Crossing— it is then, Enuma elish stated, that the planet of the Anunnaki becomes the Planet of the Cross:
The Crossroads of Heaven and Earth it shall occupy…
The central position he holds…
It is he who without tiring
the midst of Tiamat keeps crossing;
Let “Crossing” be his name!
Sumerian texts dealing with landmark events in Mankind’s saga provide specific indications regarding the periodic appearances of the Planet of the Anunnaki—approximately every 3,600 years—and always at crucial junctions in Earth’s and Mankind’s history. It was at such times that the planet was called Nibiru, and its glyptical depictions—even in early Sumerian times—were the Cross.
That record began with the Deluge. Several texts dealing with the Deluge associated the watershed catastrophe with the appearance of the celestial god, Nibiru, in the Age of the Lion (circa 10,900 B.C.E.)—it was “the constellation of the Lion that measured the waters of the deep,” one text said. Other texts described the appearance of Nibiru at Deluge time as a radiating star, and depicted it accordingly (Fig. 79)—
When they shall call out “Flooding!”
It is the god Nibiru…
Lord whose shining crown with terror is laden;
Daily within the Lion he is afire.
The planet returned, reappeared, and again became “Nibiru” when Mankind was granted farming and husbandry, in the mid-eighth millennium B.C.E.; depictions (on cylinder seals) illustrating the beginning of agriculture used the Sign of the Cross to show Nibiru visible in Earth’s skies (Fig. 80).
Finally and most memorably for the Sumerians, the planet was visible once again when Anu and Antu came to Earth on a state visit circa 4000 B.C.E., in the Age of the Bull (Taurus). The city that was later known for millennia as Uruk was established in their honor, a ziggurat was erected, and from its stages the appearance of the planets on the horizon, as the night sky darkened, was observed. When Nibiru came into view, a shout went up: “The Creator’s image has arisen!” and all present broke into hymnal songs of praise for “the planet of the Lord Anu.”
Nibiru’s appearance at the start of the Age of the Bull meant that at the time of heliacal rising—when dawn begins but the horizon is still dark enough to see the stars—the constellation in the background was that of Taurus. But the fast-moving Nibiru, arcing in the skies as it circled the Sun, soon descended back to cut across the planetary plain (“ecliptic”) to the point of Crossing. There the crossing was observed against the background of the constellation of the Lion. Several depictions, on cylinder seals and in astronomical tablets, used the cross symbol to indicate Nibiru’s arrival when Earth was in the Age of the Bull and its crossing was observed in the constellation of the Lion (cylinder seal depiction, Fig. 81, and as illustrated in Fig. 82).
The change from the Winged Disc symbol to the Sign of the Cross thus was not an innovation; it was reverting to the way in which the Celestial Lord had been depicted in earlier times—but only when in its great orbit it crossed the ecliptic and became “Nibiru.”
As in the past, the renewed display of the Sign of the Cross signified reappearance, coming back into view, RETURN.