God of war and disease
Canaanite God Resheph.jpg
An Egyptian stele depicting Resheph
ConsortAdamma (in Ebla); Itum (in Egypt)
Mesopotamian equivalentNergal

Resheph (also Reshef and many other variants, see below; Phoenician: 𐤓‬𐤔‬𐤐‬, ršp; Eblaite Rašap, Egyptian ršpw) was a deity associated with plague (or a personification of plague), either war or strong protection,[1] and sometimes thunder in ancient Canaanite religion. The originally Eblaite and Canaanite god was then more famously adopted into ancient Egyptian religion in the late Bronze Age during the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt (late fifteenth century BC), also becoming associated with horses and chariots.[2][3]

In Biblical Hebrew, רֶשֶׁףresheph is a noun interpreted as "flame, lightning" but also "burning fever, plague, pestilence".[4]


Resheph is known by a multitude of names, including Rahshaf, Rasap, Rashap, Resep, Reshef, Reshpu, Rapha, Repheth, and others that are not standardized.[2][3]



Egyptian hieroglyphs

The name is found in third millennium tablets from Ebla, as Rašap (Ra-ša-ap), listed as divinity of the cities of Atanni, Gunu, Tunip, and Shechem. Rasap was one of the chief deities of Ebla, with one of the four city gates named in his honor.[5]

References to ršp gn or gunu(m) have been found at Ugarit and Ebla, respectively. These have been variously interpreted as associating Resheph with the shield and protection, or the city Gunu, or gardens, or the cemetery.[6][7][8]

In Eblaite texts from the 3rd millennium BCE the goddess Adamma, sometimes also associated with gunu(m),[9] was his wife. However, this tradition is absent from later sources, and Adamma instead reappeared in a dyad alongside Kubaba, a goddess associated with lawsuits, known from Carchemish.[10]

Several Eblaite documents list the offerings made to Resheph and his spouse Adamma in Tunip alongside these to Hadabal in Hamat, which may indicate these towns were located close to each other.[11] Resheph, Hadabal and Hadad all received an offering consisting out of two pairs of bull horns and a mace each year.[12]


Ršp was an important Ugaritic deity. He had the byname of tġr špš "door-warden of the Sun".[13] Sacrifices to Ršp (ršp gn) were performed in gardens.[14]

Ugaritic Ršp was equated with the Mesopotamian deity Nergal.[15] Fauth (1974) argued that ršp in the later Canaanite period no longer referred to a specific god and could be used as a byname, as in Rešep-Mikal (𐤓𐤔𐤐 𐤌𐤊𐤋) at Kition.[13] Teixidor (1976) based on an epithet ḥṣ in Kition (interpreted as "arrow"), identifies Ršp as a plague god who strikes his victims with arrows as Homeric Apollo (Iliad I.42-55), and argues for an interpretatio graeca of Ršp with Apollo in Idalium.[16]

Although Resheph is usually equated with Nergal, it has been speculated that sometimes Rašap could be read as the logogram dNIN.URTA in personal nouns,[17][18] as well as suggesting that the lack of Resheph in the god-lists from Emar could result from him being identified with Ninurta at times.[19] This would explain how Resheph can embody contradicting divine qualities such as being a god of pestilence and disease on one side, but also of healing if propitiated, on the other – all at once. Thus there would be a "Resheph of plague" and a "Resheph of healing". Another hint at this ambivalent aspect of the god is given by the Luwian deity named Runtiya designated with the cuneiform writing dLAMMA, that’s been identified as a special version of Resheph called "Rašap of the he-goats" or "Rašap of the birds" (ršp ṣprm) in the Luwian-Phoenician Karatepe Bilingual,[20] and equated with Hermes (Mercury),[21] when instead Ugaritic Resheph is usually identified with Nergal who embodies more so the qualities associated with the planet Mars. Runtiya is connected with the deer, similar to the Canaanite deity Attar who was associated with the antelope. Although in the Hittite myth Kurunta/Runtiya is slain by Tarhun (Teshub) and a god designated as "Ninurta"; it’s also renown that the logograms dNIN.URTA[22] and dURAŠ[23] are used to write the name of the god Tašmišu as well, and that Tašmišu whilst being regarded as a brother and ally of the storm-god, is also equated with Papsukkal,[24] a helper or servant of deities, who could have been the one that aided Tarhun in slaying Kurunta and was also designated with the same logographic writing used for the name of Ninurta as well.

Resheph is mentioned in Ugaritic mythological texts such as the epic of Kirta[25] and The Mare and Horon.[26]

Although the iconography of Resheph shares the gazelle with that of the Egyptian-Canaanite Shed, Cornelius (1994) writes that "the rest of the attributes are totally different".[27]


Egyptian limestone stele depicting Qetesh standing on a lion and wearing the headdress of Hathor, flanked by Min (left) and  Resheph (right)
Egyptian limestone stele depicting Qetesh standing on a lion and wearing the headdress of Hathor, flanked by Min (left) and Resheph (right)

Probably introduced in Egypt by the Hyksos, Resheph was not assimilated into the Egyptian pantheon until the New Kingdom's Eighteenth Dynasty along with other Near Eastern deities. His consort was Itum.[28][29] He was frequently associated with Seth and Montu, other deities related to war and plague, but he also formed a triad with Min and Qetesh. Qetesh was connected with Hathor, but not synonymous with her.

He was usually depicted anthropomorphically, as a man brandishing a weapon, sporting a typical Syrian beard, and wearing the white crown of Egypt and/or a gazelle’s head on his own.[28][29] A temple dedicated to him is attested in Memphis, but he was likely worshipped in many Nile Delta regions. His cult survived well into the Ptolemaic Period.[28]

As a war deity, he was related to kingship as shown by a stele erected by Amenhotep II near the Great Sphinx.[28] For the same reason, his bellicose nature became associated with fighting diseases such as abdominal pain, believed to be caused by a demon called Akha.[29]

The theonym is usually written as hieroglyphic ršpw, where the final -w is added in analogy to other Egyptian divine names.[30]


Resheph was one of the Western Semitic gods adopted by the Hurrians (other examples include Ishara, Hebat and Eblaite war god Aštabi). He appears in Hurrian texts under the name Aršappa or Iršappa, often with the epithet "(tutelary god) of the market," and was among the gods incorporated into the pantheons of Samuha and the Hittite capital Hattusa under the influence of Hurrian religion.[31]

Hebrew Bible

In Biblical Hebrew, resheph רֶשֶׁף‎ means "flame, firebolt", derived from שָׂרַף‎ "to burn".[32] Resheph as a personal name, a grandson of Ephraim, occurs in 1 Chronicles 7:25 (here written as Rephah in King James Version). The Latin Vulgate renders his name as Reseph.[33]

In Habakkuk 3:5, describing the procession of Eloah (אֱל֙וֹהַ֙‎) from Teman and Mount Paran, mention deber and resheph as going before him, in the King James Version translated as "pestilence" and "burning coals". Due to the discovery of both deber and resheph as theonyms in Ebla, this passage has been reinterpreted as describing a procession of the retinue of El going to war with Yam.[34] In Job 5:7, there is mention of the "sons of resheph", translated in the Septuagint as νεοσσοὶ δὲ γυπὸς, "the young of the vulture",[35] and in the King James Version as "sparks".

In popular culture

In the 1998 animated historical film, Prince of Egypt, the Egyptian high priests Hotep and Huy invoke the name of Resheph (as Reshpu) during their song "Playing with the Big Boys now", as part of a pseudo-magical show to trick Moses.

In the book saga Lords of Deliverance from Larissa Ione, the fourth horseman is called Reseph, the personification of Sickness and Plagues and the brother of the first horseman Ares, personification of war, of the second horseman Limos (who is the only woman of the group), personification of Hunger, and of the third horseman Thanatos, personification of Death.

See also


  1. ^ Christiane Zivie-Coche , "Foreign Deities in Egypt", UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology p 6
  2. ^ a b "Reshep | Ancient Egypt Online".
  3. ^ a b "Egyptian Gods: Resheph".
  4. ^ רֶשֶׁף in Gesenius, Hebrew Lexicon.
  5. ^ Giovanni Pettinato, The Archives of Ebla: An Empire Inscribed in Clay. Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1981 ISBN 0-385-13152-6
  6. ^ Studi semitici, 1981
  7. ^ López Grande, Maria José (October 1993). El dios Reshep: análisis arqueológico, iconográfico y epigráfico de una divinidad semítica. Madrid: Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. pp. 56–60, 68, 99–100, 136, 899, 901. hdl:10486/6913. ISBN 978-84-695-0421-5.
  8. ^ del Olmo Lete, Gregorio; Sanmartín, Joaquín (12 February 2015). A Dictionary of the Ugaritic Language in the Alphabetic Tradition (2 vols): Third Revised Edition. BRILL. pp. 299–. ISBN 978-90-04-28865-2.
  9. ^ A. Archi, Cult of the Ancestors and Funerary Practices at Ebla [in:] Ebla and Its Archives. Texts, History, and Society, 2015, p. 546-547
  10. ^ A. Archi, The Gods of Ebla [in:] J. Eidem, C.H. van Zoest (eds.), Annual Report NINO and NIT 2010, 2011, p. 7
  11. ^ A. Archi, Hamath, Niya and Tunip in the 3rd Millennium B.C. according to the Ebla documents, Studi micenei ed egeo-anatolici 52, 2010, p. 38
  12. ^ A. Archi, Šamagan and the Mules of Ebla. Syrian Gods in Sumerian Disguise [in:] S. Valentini, G. Guarducci (eds.), Between Syria and The Highlands. Studies in Honor of Giorgio Buccellati & Marilyn Kelly-Buccellati, 2019, p. 43
  13. ^ a b Wolfgang Fauth: Rezension von: Wolfgang Helck: Betrachtungen zur Großen Göttin und den ihr verbundenen Gottheiten. In: Gnomon. 46.7 (1974), p. 689.
  14. ^ Wiseman, D. J. (23 December 2013). "Mesopotamian Gardens". Anatolian Studies. 33: 143. doi:10.2307/3642702. JSTOR 3642702.
  15. ^ Barré, M. L. (1 January 1978). "dLAMMA and Rešep at Ugarit: The Hittite Connection". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 98 (4): 465–467. doi:10.2307/599760. JSTOR 599760.
  16. ^ Teixidor, Javier (1 January 1976). "The Phoenician Inscriptions of the Cesnola Collection". Metropolitan Museum Journal. 11: 65. doi:10.2307/1512684. JSTOR 1512684.
  17. ^ Van Soldt 1991, p. 26.
  18. ^ Languages and Cultures in Contact: At the Crossroads of Civilizations in the Syro-Mesopotamian Realm - Karel van Lerberghe, Gabriela Voet, p. 155.
  19. ^ Ar Or - Volume 73, Orientální ústav (Akademie věd České republiky), Orientální ústav, 2005, p. 168.
  20. ^ Wolfgang Fauth: Gnomon. 46, 1974, pp. 689.
  21. ^ The God Resheph in the Ancient Near East - Maciej M. Münnich, p. 213.
  22. ^ Schwemer 2001, p. 499.
  23. ^ Schwemer 2001, p. 500.
  24. ^ Schwemer 2001, p. 553.
  25. ^ tablet 1/CAT 1.14, column 1, lines 18-20; tablet 2/CAT 1.15, column 2, line 6
  26. ^ CAT 1.100, lines 30-31
  27. ^ Cornelius, Izak (1994). The Iconography of the Canaanite Gods Reshef and Baʻal: Late Bronze and Iron Age I Periods (C 1500-1000 BCE). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. p. 16. ISBN 978-3-7278-0983-5.
  28. ^ a b c d Wilkinson, Richard H. (2003). The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. New York: Thames & Hudson. pp. 126–127. ISBN 978-0-500-05120-7.
  29. ^ a b c Hart, George (2005). The Routledge Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses. London/New York: Routledge. p. 137. ISBN 0-203-02362-5.
  30. ^ Reshef, Encyclopedia of Religion (2005).
  31. ^ A. Archi, The West Hurrian Pantheon and Its Background [in:] B. J. Collins, P. Michalowski, Beyond Hatti. A tribute to Gary Beckman, 2013, p. 14
  32. ^ Strong's Concordance H7565
  33. ^ "Latin Vulgate Bible with Douay-Rheims and King James Version Side-by-Side+Complete Sayings of Jesus Christ".
  34. ^ John Day, "New Light on the Mythological Background of the Allusion to Resheph in Habakkuk III 5", Vetus Testamentum 29.3 (1979), 353–355.
  35. ^ Dunham, Kyle (2016). The Pious Sage in Job: Eliphaz in the Context of Wisdom Theodicy. Wipf and Stock Publishers. p. 24, footnote 30. ISBN 978-1-4982-7459-3.