Early in the morning of October 7, Hamas forces from Gaza launched 5000 missiles into Israel. This opening salvo of a major offensive covered a breach of the border, allowing armed militants to swarm into kibbutzim and to attack a rave party in the sands of the Negev Desert. It was fifty years and one day after the start of the Yom Kippur War, the last major invasion by hostile forces into Israel. It was also the finale of the week-long Feast of Tabernacles.
If ever you’ve struggled to picture the Canaanite war goddess Anat during this series of podcasts, then the massacre that followed is a perfect window into her nature. The timing is impeccable as a pointer to her influence. She is a threshold spirit who claims the dominion of ‘appointed time’. So the commemorative aspect of the date, a half-century—a Jubilee period—on from the Yom Kippur conflict, as well as its position in this year’s calendar at the end of a divinely appointed ‘mo’ed’, the Feast of Tabernacles, aligns so finely with her mode of operation.
The Feast of Tabernacles in the first month of the Jewish civil year corresponds to Ra’shu Yeni, the New Wine Festival held in the twelfth month of the old Canaanite calendar. Both celebrations were undertaken by living in roughly made booths for as long as a week. This Canaanite ritual occasion is considered by some scholars to be emblematic of the role of Anat in the Baal Cycle: as she had waded knee-deep in the blood of Baal’s enemies, so the Canaanite farmers treading their grapes would be wading knee-deep in red-purple juice.
So, in several different ways—historically commemorative of a defeat of Israel’s enemies, as well as a matching up of an appropriate Jewish festival with a Canaanite custom—the timing was a perfect ‘kairos’ node, that ideal alignment in space-time for the seizing of opportunity through striking the vulnerable part of a body and making a sacrifice. This ancient and savage concept of ‘kairos’ is far removed from its modern sanitised sense as an auspicious and opportune time.
Anat made her claim for precedence of worship on this date through:
- A significant commemoration of a war (she’s a war goddess, after all)
- A significant commemoration of her own blood-letting at Ra’shu Yeni (note the partial similarity to the commemoration at the Last Supper where blood and wine are identified)
- A triply ‘appointed time’ over which she claims rights
Apart from the timing, there are other aspects of Anat’s influence on display as well. Her alter-ego, Lilith, was evident in the barbaric butchering of babies, the hatred of children and their consequent slaughter, as well as the taking of them as hostages. Anat herself was indiscriminate in slaughter—just as was apparent on October 7 in the killing of elderly civilians, young revellers at a trance party in the desert, whole families and community groups.
It’s very easy to point the finger in condemnation solely at Hamas but the spiritual climate is much more complex and volatile than that. It’s not hard to see how they are influenced by Anat. Yet, in fact, both sides are under her sway in different ways.
Quite a few commentators have compared the spiritual aspects of this war to the raids of Amalek. But I think that is to miss so many of the nuances. Perhaps the closest equivalent is to be found in the story of Samson and Delilah—which, not surprisingly, ends in Gaza.
Samson underestimated the Philistines. They been living in close proximity for many years and Samson had even married a Philistine woman. However, over time, mutual provocation and tit-for-tat retaliation hardened the attitude of both sides into unrelenting hostility. The Philistines of Gaza eventually decided enough was enough.
The issue that pushed them to the brink was the taking of their city gates. Samson had been visiting a prostitute in Gaza (!) when the locals discovered he was in their town. So they waited outside the city gates, intent on killing him when he left. But Samson, realising their plot, hoisted the gates on his shoulders and walked with them towards Hebron.
O, clever Samson! Have you ever wondered why the men of Gaza didn’t attack him while he was holding those gates and was so seriously encumbered by the massive load that he could hardly defend himself? Now, the Philistines could have killed him then and there but they were unwilling to violate threshold covenant—that covenant that covered anyone who entered their city. While Samson remained in the city, he couldn’t be touched. So, by picking up the gates, he was effectively extending the boundaries of the city and thus his own protection.
He outwitted the men of Gaza who, by the way, must have been extremely honourable. He manipulated threshold covenant to his own advantage and, in the process, shamed the citizens of Gaza. Imagine the laughter on the part of friends and the mocking jokes of their enemies on hearing that the great guardian gates of Gaza had just been ripped up, slung on someone’s shoulders and marched over to Hebron. It wasn’t just a disaster, it was a humiliating and shaming disaster.
Samson had used the honour of the men of Gaza as a weapon against them. And so he came to underrate them as a threat. They, in turn, began to search for the secret of his strength. And they already had an advantage—they’d been familiar with him long enough to know that he not only had a couple of weaknesses but how to exploit them. One was a lust for women, and the second was that he couldn’t stand being nagged.
So they bribed his new wife, Delilah. Here we get to the part of the story where Anat comes out into the open. Delilah’s name encodes Lilith, and therefore Lilith’s alter-ego, Anat. Delilah was apparently a Hebrew woman, not a Philistine. She had to be bought off, rather than simply pressured by her countrymen as had happened with Samson’s first wife. Delilah’s weakness was money apparently—lots of it—and she was willing to sell out her husband to the enemy for the right price. Her warnings, however, to Samson suggest she was playing a careful double game.
Samson’s story, at this point, devolves into pride and complicity with the enemy. His reactions are so unconcerned that it’s possible he was in on the game and, together with his wife, was cheating the Philistines of a massive fortune in silver shekels. Even if he wasn’t, he was certainly complicit with putting himself in the hands of his enemies by the time he was betrayed for the third time—assuming it was betrayal and not simply miscalculation on both his part and that of Delilah. He couldn’t have been blind to the fact his wife was selling him out so, either way, he was culpable in his own eventual capture. Clearly he believed himself invincible and invulnerable.
Taken prisoner in Gaza, he was mocked and mistreated and eventually died there by bringing down the feasting hall on the heads of the revellers. On a purely human level, his mistakes were manifold:
- He underestimated the enemy
- He had a sense of superiority and invulnerability
- He put himself in harm’s way and deliberate danger
- He failed to address his own weaknesses
- He didn’t learn from his mistakes
- He ignored evidence of repeated betrayal
- He played brinkmanship games with his enemies
- He allied himself with informers
And, on a spiritual level, he married into a family who worshipped Anat (as evidenced by Delilah’s name). He had no regard for the Nazarite vows and the covenantal protection of God that came with them. He tried to manipulate covenants—both with God and with man. He abused the grace of God. He had a violent temperament, especially when thwarted, and so was easily tempted by Anat to savage counter-attacks.
Why didn’t God protect Samson? We might ask the same question about those slaughtered on October 7. And although we can’t be sure of God’s ultimate reasons, the parallels with Samson tell us quite a bit. Samson had come to rely on his own strength, rather than the God who was the source of that strength. He also relied on his own cunning, rather than on wisdom, remaining unconcerned that he was playing fast and loose with the protective covenant of God. He’d got so used to ignoring that covenant he didn’t even realise until too late that it had been withdrawn—by his own self-sabotage in failing to keep his mouth shut.
We can’t know why God did not protect the communities of the kibbutzim near the Gaza border. However, we can know it’s extremely unwise to play fast and loose with covenant by dancing around a silver buddha in the desert at a trance party. That’s a counterfeit of the singing and dancing around the Tabernacle during the feasts at the gilgals in Israel’s earliest history.
Can we truly expect God’s full defence when we’ve negotiated a treaty with His enemies? All in all, it isn’t just one side complicit with Anat. When we covenant with threshold guardians, God honours that choice. He withdraws His covering so we can experience the protection of our covenant partner. And by ‘we’ here, I’m not just alluding to Hamas and the Israeli Knesset, I mean ‘we’, the citizens of earth and people of the twenty-first century. We are so much in league with Anat that we are as blind as Samson when it comes to realising we are betraying ourselves, betraying God and sabotaging our own civilisation.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past year since I first found faint references to Anat in John’s gospel describing the wedding feast at Cana, it’s that this is the threshold spirit that people not only fear but are, paradoxically, unwilling to remove from their lives. Here’s the real crunch issue: believers are more afraid of Anat than they are of God, and they secretly wonder if she’s the more powerful. Most of us simply don’t trust God sufficiently to ask Him to annul the covenant with her. So we hold back, trying to keep two impossible alliances.
I hope I’ve convinced you that now is the appointed time to stop being double-minded on this issue. Because I don’t believe anyone can effectively pray for Israel and Gaza without removing all allegiance to Anat from their soul. And I also know that such a loyalty is hidden so deep in believers’ hearts that very few even recognise it as being there. So:
Lord, we confess that we’ve been like Samson and abused Your grace and assumed that Your covenantal protection would be our safeguard, even while we betrayed You, even while we maintained hidden alliances with Your enemies. Father God, we come to You acknowledging that Jesus triumphed over Anat during His life and in His death and resurrection and we ask Him to be our mediator in cancelling any covenant, agreement, pledge or understanding we have with her, or with Lilith, or with any other name this spirit of dispossession, slaughter and wanton destruction uses. We ask that You rebuke this spirit and her allies and forbid any kind of retaliation whatsoever by this spirit or her allies for asking that any and all covenants be annulled. We ask for the power of the Cross of Jesus to be applied, so that the revoking proceeds without backlash or further consequence. Pour Your divine gentleness, lowliness, meekness and humility into the places in our lives where this ungodly covenant was formerly lodged, and overflow their power of strength-under-control to those we come in contact with, so that their alliances with Anat may be exposed and then nullified by Your irresistible grace.
In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, Yeshua HaMashiach, the conqueror of dispossession, the restorer of inheritance and the Prince of Peace. Amen.