Tammuz

TAMMUZ (tăm'ŭz, Heb. tammûz). A fertility god widely worshiped in Mesopotamia, Syria, and Palestine; equivalent to Osiris in Egypt and Adonis of the Greeks. His consort was the goddess Ishtar (Astarte or Ashtoreth). Their cult involved licentious rites. Tammuz was supposed to have been killed by a wild boar while shepherding his flocks. His wife rescued him from the underworld. His death was taken to represent the onset of winter. The long dry season was broken by spring rains when he came to life again. The fourth month of the Babylonian and later Jewish calendar was named for him (June-July). The only mention of him in the Bible occurs in connection with the custom of women mourning for him (Ezek.8.14), which, being observed at the very gate of the temple of the true God, seemed to the prophet one of the most abominable idolatries. His Greek name, Adonis, is derived from the Phoenician and Hebrew word for “Lord.”


TAMMUZ. The Sumer. deity of spring vegetation, he was also husband and brother of Ishtar, and goddess of fertility, who seduced and then betrayed him. He is represented on seals as the protector of flocks against wild beasts. In the Babylonian saga his death and visit to the underworld represents the annual wilting of vegetation in the scorching heat of summer. His return to earth, brought about by the descent of the mourning Ishtar into the nether world, represents the renewal of nature. The annual mourning rites for Tammuz took place on the second day of the fourth month (June/July), giving rise in post-Biblical times to the Jewish practice of naming their fourth month Tamuz. In Ezekiel’s time, a variation of this rite of mourning found women weeping at the N gate of the Temple (Ezek 8:14). The cult of Adonis in Syria and that of Osiris in Egypt had many affinities with the Tammuz rites. In remote parts of Kurdistan a variation of the rite is still practiced. In the opinion of some scholars, Tammuz stands for the king, who, in turn, represents all men in their potential for participating in the divine nature of Ishtar, the principle of life and fertility.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

tam’-uz, tam’-mooz (tammuz; Thammouz):

(1) The name of a Phoenician deity, the Adonis of the Greeks. He was originally a Sumerian or Babylonian sun-god, called Dumuzu, the husband of Ishtar, who corresponds to Aphrodite of the Greeks. The worship of these deities was introduced into Syria in very early times under the designation of Tammuz and Astarte, and appears among the Greeks in the myth of Adonis and Aphrodite, who are identified with Osiris and Isis of the Egyptian pantheon, showing how widespread the cult became. The Babylonian myth represents Dumuzu, or Tammuz, as a beautiful shepherd slain by a wild boar, the symbol of winter. Ishtar long mourned for him and descended into the underworld to deliver him from the embrace of death (Frazer, Adonis, Attis and Osiris). This mourning for Tammuz was celebrated in Babylonia by women on the 2nd day of the 4th month, which thus acquired the name of Tammuz (see Calendar). This custom of weeping for Tammuz is referred to in the Bible in the only passage where the name occurs (Eze 8:14). The chief seat of the cult in Syria was Gebal (modern Gebail, Greek Bublos) in Phoenicia, to the South of which the river Adonis (Nahr Ibrahim) has its mouth, and its source is the magnificent fountain of Apheca (modern `Afqa), where was the celebrated temple of Venus or Aphrodite, the ruins of which still exist. The women of Gebal used to repair to this temple in midsummer to celebrate the death of Adonis or Tammuz, and there arose in connection with this celebration those licentious rites which rendered the cult so infamous that it was suppressed by Constantine the Great.

The name Adonis, by which this deity was known to the Greeks, is none other than the Phoenician ’Adhon, which is the same in Hebrew. His death is supposed to typify the long, dry summer of Syria and Palestine, when vegetation perishes, and his return to life the rainy season when the parched earth is revivified and is covered with luxuriant vegetation, or his death symbolizes the cold, rough winter, the boar of the myth, and his return the verdant spring.

Considering the disgraceful and licentious rites with which the cult was celebrated, it is no wonder that Ezekiel should have taken the vision of the women weeping for Tammuz in the temple as one of the greatest abominations that could defile the Holy House.

See Adonis.

(2) The fourth month of the Jewish year, corresponding to July. The name is derived from that of a Syrian god, identified with Adonis (Eze 8:14).

See above, and CALENDAR.