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In the opening chapters of the Apocalypse of Abraham that discuss Abraham's conversion from idolatry, the pagan gods Merumath, Nakhin, Barisat, Zouchaios and Ioav are named.

What do we know about these gods? Can they be traced to actual pagan traditions?

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G.H. Box, in his 1918 translation and commentary on the book, translates the gods names as Merumath, Barisat, Nahon, Zucheus, and Joavon.

Notably, each of the idols is identified by the material it is made from, following the pattern established in the first chapter of the book (i.e. 'my father Terah to his gods of wood and stone, gold and silver, brass and iron', cf. Deuteronomy 4.28; Isaiah 60.17; Daniel 5.4).

  • Merumath is 'hewn out of stone'
  • Barisat 'is made of wood'
  • Nahon is 'the iron god'
  • Zucheus is 'made of gold'
  • Joavon is 'forged of silver'

Box comments in his introduction that Merumath and Barisat are 'sarcastic names' derived from Hebrew and Aramaic:

  • Merumath = ʾeben Měrūmā, 'stone of deceit' (Hebrew)
  • Barisat = bar ʾishtā, 'son of the fire' (Aramic)

The names ridicule the idols: 'Merumath' because he is made of stone, but is no god worthy of worship, and 'Barisat' because he was built from wood which was burnt in the fire. If there is a meaning behind the names Nahon, Zucheus, and Joavon, we would expect it to follow this pattern, though I haven't found any scholars who offer suggestions.

However, another theory proposed in more recent decades, is that the names are ciphers for the five prevailing empires that ruled over the Jewish people.

Rubinkiewicz, 'Apocalypse of Abraham', The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, p 682:

The Slavonic text of the Apocalypse of Abraham contains several Hebrew names, words, and phrases. The most impressive examples are the following: Ioavan is a Slavonic deformation of the Hebrew ywn (Greece); Souzouch is probably a transcription of the name kwrwŝ (Cyrus); and Maroumat is an abbreviation of the Hebrew Martā Rômā.

If this is the case, the choice of the materials may be influenced by Daniel 2.31-45 and 5.4. The former in particular identifies a series of kingdoms, which was commonly interpreted in the Second Temple period as referring to Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome.

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