That some great religious movement, ascribed by tradition to Abraham, did take place among the Semites at an early date is undoubted. What the object of this movement was it is difficult to decide. 63 It should be remembered that the Chaldeans worshipped a plurality of gods, supposed to have been symbolized by the seven planets. Among these deities the sun-god held a comparatively inferior position, the moon-god, coming before him in the second triad. 64 It was at Ur, the special seat of the worship of the moon-god, 65 that Abraham is said to have lived before he quitted it for Haran; and this fact, considered in the light of the traditions relating to the great patriarch, may, perhaps, justify us in inferring that the reformation he endeavored to introduce was the substitution of a simple sun-worship for the planetary cult of the Chaldeans, in which the worship of the moon must to him have appeared to occupy a prominent place. The new faith was, indeed, a return to the old phallic idea of a god of personal generation, worshipped through the symbolical betylus, but associated also with the adoration of the sun as the especial representative of the deity. That Abraham had higher notions of the relation of man to the divine being than his forerunners is very probable, but his sojourn in Haran proves that there was nothing fundamentally different between his religious faith and that of his Syrian neighbors. I am inclined, indeed, to believe that to the traditional Abraham must be ascribed the establishment of sun-worship throughout Phoenicia and Lower Egypt, in connection with the symbols of an earlier and more simple phallic deity. Tradition, in fact, declares that he taught the Egyptians astronomy; 66 and we shall see that the religion of the Phoenicians, as, indeed, that of the Hebrews themselves, was the worship of Saturn, the erect pillar-god, who, under different names, appears to have been at the head of the pantheons of most of the peoples of antiquity. The reference in Hebrew history to the teraphim of Jacob's family recalls the fact that the name assigned to Abraham's father was Terah, a "maker of images." The teraphim were, doubtless, the same as the seraphim, which were serpent-images, 67 and the household charms, or idols, of the Semitic worshippers of the sun-god, to whom the serpent was sacred.
Little is known of the religious habits of the Hebrews during their abode in Egypt. Probably they scarcely differed from those of the Egyptians themselves; and, even with the religion of Moses, so-called, which we may presume to have been a reformed faith, there are many points of contact with the earlier cult. The use of the ark of Osiris and Isis shows the influence of Egyptian ideas; and the introduction of the new name for God, Jahve, is evidence of contact with late Phoenician thought. 68 The ark was, doubtless, used to symbolize nature, 69 as distinguished from the serpent- and pillar-symbols which had relation more particularly to man. The latter, however, were by far the most important, as they were most intimately connected with the worship of the national deity, who was the divine father, as Abraham was the human progenitor, of the Hebrew people. That this deity, notwithstanding his change of name, retained his character of a sun-god, is shown by the fact that he is repeatedly said to have appeared to Moses under the figure of a flame. The pillar of fire which guided the Hebrews by night in the wilderness, the appearance of the cloudy pillar at the door of the tabernacle, and probably of a flame over the mercy-seat to betoken the presence of Jehovah, and the perpetual fire on the altar, all point to the same conclusion. The notion entertained by Ewald, that the idea connected with the Hebrew Jahve was that of a "Deliverer" or "Healer" (Saviour), 70 is quite consistent with the fact I have stated. Not only was the primeval Phoenician deity, El, or Cronus, the preserver of the world, for the benefit of which he offered a mystical sacrifice, 71 but "Saviour" was a common title of the sun-gods of antiquity.