Resheph (also Reshef and many other variants; Canaanite ršp רשף; Eblaite Rašap, Egyptian ršpw) was a deity associated with plague (or a personification of plague), war, 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.
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.
References to ršp gn have been found at Ebla and Ugarit. These have been variously interpreted as associating Resheph with the shield and protection, or the city Gunu, or gardens, or the cemetery.
Ugaritic Ršp was equated with the Mesopotamian deity Nergal. 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 at Kition. 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.
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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. 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. 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.
As a war deity, he was related to kingship as shown by a stele erected by Amenhotep II near the Great Sphinx. 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.
The theonym is usually written as hieroglyphic ršpw, where the final -w is added in analogy to other Egyptian divine names.
In Biblical Hebrew, resheph רֶשֶׁף means "flame, firebolt", derived from שָׂרַף "to burn". 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 Rapha.
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. 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", and in the King James Version as "sparks".
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.