Helios, the Greek sun-god, rides his four-horse chariot across the sixth-century C.E. mosaic floor of the Beth Alpha synagogue, in Israel’s Jezreel Valley. The night sky, sprinkled with stars and the moon, still shines around him. The scene lies at the center of an elaborate zodiac mosaic in the middle of the nave floor. Similar zodiacs decorated a number of ancient synagogues; they illustrate an ancient Israelite tradition of retaining elements of pagan sun worship in their own worship.

Several Biblical passages support the identification of Yahweh with the sun: “The Lord came from Sinai and dawned from Seir upon us; he shone forth from Mount Paran” (Deuteronomy 33:2). The expression “Yahweh of Hosts” (1 Samuel 4:4) could imply that Yahweh was head of all the stars and, like Helios, was associated with the most important star of all—the sun.