On the holiday that we call Easter, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We must admit, though, that questions surround this holiday. What do eggs have to do with an empty tomb? What does a bunny have to do with a risen Savior? Over my next few posts, I’m going to explain how the resurrection of Jesus Christ came to be celebrated with the holiday that is now known as Easter. I’ll also explain how some of the trappings of the holiday, things such as eggs and bunnies, became associated with it. My goal here is not to try to give the first and last word on this subject. I simply want to give you the core basics of it.
Now, to get us started, we need to read Genesis 10:8-10:
Cush begat Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD.” And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.
(For the record, the land of Shinar ultimately came to be known as the kingdom of Babylon. Today we call that land Iraq.)
Now, what you need to know is that Nimrod had a wife. Her name was Semiramis, and she was the first high priestess of idolatry. Her story is not found in the Bible, but it is certainly found in the ancient records of the history of this world. According to the story, Semiramis gave birth to a son. His name was Tammuz. Semiramis claimed that Tammuz was conceived in her womb by a sunbeam. In other words, she claimed that he was conceived miraculously. This claim led to the worship of both Semiramis and Tammuz. Semiramis became known as “the queen of heaven,” and Tammuz became known as a miraculously conceived, Savior-like figure.
As the story continues, when Tammuz grew up he was killed by a wild boar. Semiramis then wept for her dead son for forty days, after which he reportedly arose from the dead. This was a lie, of course. Either Tammuz wasn’t killed by a wild boar or he didn’t rise from the dead. But people believed the lie. This furthered the purported divinity of both mother and child, and the worship of them grew.
The primary symbol of this mother-child religion was the scene of the motherly Semiramis holding the infant Tammuz in her arms. Semiramis had these images set up as worship shrines along all of the major highways running in and out of Babylon. Worshippers stopped at these shrines and burned candles and incense to her.
Many Bible scholars now refer to the mother-child religion as the Babylonian cult. Whatever we call it, one thing is clear: From its very inception, it was Satan’s master counterfeit to the true story of Jesus. Make no mistake, there is a reason (and not a godly one) why Semiramis and Tammuz interchange so easily with Mary and Jesus.
Well, over the next one thousand years, the religious system (cult) that began in ancient Babylon spread it’s influence through the known world. Would you believe that archaeologists have uncovered mother-child images from ruins as far as ancient China? These ruins date back to several centuries before the birth of Jesus.
And as the Babylonian cult system of worship spread across the known world, it took on new facets and details. For example, the names of Semiramis and Tammuz were changed to fit the languages of the various cultures. Some of the other names for Semiramis, the queen of heaven, were: Isis, Astarte, Ashtoreth, and Ishtar. Tammuz became known by names such as Baal and Adonis. Still, though, despite the frequent cultural changes and the changing of the names, the fundamentals of the system of religion remained the same.
Sadly, even the nation of Israel, God’s chosen nation, eventually succumbed to influence of the Babylonian cult. In Jeremiah 7:17-18, Jeremiah relates what God had said to him:
Do you not see what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven, and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke Me to anger.
Then, in Jeremiah 44:15-18, we see more of this same kind of thing:
Then all the men who knew that their wives had burned incense to other gods, with all the women who stood by, a great multitude, and all the people who dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying: “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD, we will not listen to you! But we will certainly do whatever has gone out of our own mouth, to burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, were well-off, and saw no trouble. But since we stopped burning incense to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine.”
As you can see, the worship of the queen of heaven, Semiramis, eventually became common practice in Israel. The people even attributed their abundance and blessing to her!
Next, let’s read Ezekiel 8:13-14. Here Ezekiel says of God:
And He said to me, “Turn again, and you will see greater abominations that they are doing.” So He brought me to the door of the north gate of the LORD’s house; and to my dismay, women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz.
Remember that, according to the legend, Tammuz was killed by a wild boar, after which Semiramis wept for forty days. Those forty days ended with Tammuz’s resurrection from the dead. In honor of his resurrection, those who followed the mother-child religion observed an annual forty day period of mourning and weeping for Tammuz. That mourning and weeping is what Ezekiel saw those women of Israel doing.
(More to come next post.)