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Incense and sacrifice were offered to Baal (
In early years the title Baal seems to have been used for the Lord (Yahweh). When the Lord’s people came into Canaan, they naturally and innocently began to think of him as the “possessor” and “lord” of the land—as indeed he was. Even David described the Lord as “Baal” (
2. A descendant of Reuben, the firstborn son of Jacob (
3. A Benjamite (
4. A town somewhere on the border of Simeon (
5. In conjunction with another name it is often the name of a man and not of Baal, e.g., Baal-Manan, a king of Edom (
The most important use of the title in the OT is its reference to the great active god of the Canaanite pantheon, who controlled rain and fertility. An equation with Hadad, the Amorite god whose nature and functions were almost identical, seems clear. The probability is that Amorite settlers brought their gods with them in the great westward migratory movement early in the second millennium b.c., the name of Hadad changing to Baal as they settled in Canaan. In process of time Baal became the region’s chief deity. Some scholars believe that part of this process can be traced in the Ugaritic texts. El was doubtless the original head of the Canaanite gods, but Baal is described, not as the son of El, but as the son of Dagon, another Amorite deity, prob. a vegetation or grain god. Temples to both Baal and Dagon have been discovered at (the site of ancient Ugarit), but not one dedicated to El himself. In the Ugaritic texts El is a rather nebulous figure, a “father of years” who dwells at the “Source of the Two Deeps” and conveys his instructions by messengers, suggesting both his age and his remoteness. Moreover, Ashirat (the Biblical “Asherah”), the consort of El, appears to be in process of transfer to Baal, which hints further at the latter’s displacement of El. It is perhaps of significance that the OT links Baal and Asherah together (e.g.
Baal’s importance at Ugarit is unquestioned. His name appears more than 150 times in the texts published to date, the form Aliyan Baal (Baal the Strong) is found seventy times and the compound Baal-hadad on approximately twenty occasions. He is connected with Mt. Sapon, the “mountain of the gods of the north,” usually identified with the modern Jebel el-Aqra, N of Ras Shamra, in a way which is reminiscent of Mt. Olympus, the home of the Gr. pantheon (cf. the reference to Yahweh in
In the numerous texts discovered at Ras Shamra two main myth-complexes concerning Baal may be distinguished. The first concerns a crucial conflict with Prince Sea-Judge River (prob. only one god is indicated, the Lord of Waters) who has tyrannized the gods. Baal, with the assistance of the artificer-god, Kothar wa-Khasis (“the Skillful and Percipient One”), defeated his opponent, who was henceforth confined to his proper realm. Some scholars would equate Prince Sea with Lotan “the twisting serpent,” the Leviathan of the OT. This conflict with the dragon or chaos monster is a recurring element in the mythology of thewhich has influenced the language and thought-forms of the OT. They have been thoroughly demythologized, however, and connected with Yahweh’s absolute sovereignty over all the forces of this world. This Canaanite myth concerning Baal’s victory provided a convenient, as well as a graphic illustration of that sovereignty. The origin of the may be the occasion when Yahweh’s victory over the forces of chaos was celebrated, possibly at the New Year Festival in the , in a rite which developed from a Canaanite prototype.
The second myth-complex has no such echo in the OT. It is in the realm of the fertility cult with its dying-rising god motif. Aliyan Baal, at the height of the summer drought (i.e. when vegetation is dying and the land parched) was slain by Mot (Death). Anath searched for the body with the assistance of the sun goddess, Shapsh. She found it, and after numerous animal sacrifices (seventy each of buffaloes, neat, small cattle, deer, mountain goats, and roebucks) Baal was restored to life and reigned over Mot, thus assuring life and fertility for the year ahead. This myth was acted out with a background of sympathetic magic at the Canaanite New Year Festival and, with its vital connection with the desired fertility, was doubtless the most important feature of the cultic year. It was attended by the appropriate response from the worshipers, culminating in the grossly sensuous rites accompanying the sacred marriage, in which ritual prostitution of both sexes was a prominent feature.
W. R. Smith, The Religion of the Semites (1927); A. S. Kapelrud, Baal in the Ras Shamra Texts (1952); C. F. Pfeiffer, Ras Shamra and the Bible (1962); J. Gray, The Canaanites (1964); A. S. Kapelrud, The Ras Shamra Discoveries and the(1965).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
ba’-al: (ba`al; or Baal): The Babylonian Belu or Bel, "Lord," was the title of the supreme god among the Canaanites.
I. NAME AND CHARACTER OF BAAL
II. ATTRIBUTES OF BAAL
IV. TEMPLES, ETC.
V. USE OF THE NAME
VI. FORMS OF BAAL 1. Baal-berith
I. Name and Character of Baal: In Babylonia it was the title specially applied to Merodach of Babylon, which in time came to be used in place of his actual name. As the word in Hebrew also means "possessor," it has been supposed to have originally signified, when used in a religious sense, the god of a particular piece of land or soil. Of this, however, there is no proof, and the sense of "possessor" is derived from that of "lord." The Babylonian Bel-Merodach was a Sun-god, and so too was the Can Baal whose full title was Baal-Shemaim, "lord of heaven." The Phoenician writer Sanchuniathon (Philo Byblius, Fragmenta II) accordingly says that the children of the first generation of mankind "in time of drought stretched forth their hands to heaven toward the sun; for they regarded him as the sole Lord of heaven, and called him Beel-samen, which means `Lord of Heaven’ in the Phoenician language and is equivalent to Zeus in Greek" Baal-Shemaim had a temple at Umm el-Awamid between Acre and Tyre, and his name is found in inscriptions from the Phoenician colonies of Sardinia and Carthage.
II. Attributes of Baal: As the Sun-god, Baal was worshipped under two aspects, beneficent and destructive. On the one hand he gave light and warmth to his worshippers; on the other hand the fierce heats of summer destroyed the vegetation he had himself brought into being. Hence, human victims were sacrificed to him in order to appease his anger in time of plague or other trouble, the victim being usually the first-born of the sacrificer and being burnt alive. In the
III. Baal-Worship: In the earlier days of Hebrew history the title Baal, or "Lord," was applied to the national God of Israel, a usage which was revived in later times, and is familiar to us in the
V. Use of the Name. In accordance with its signification the name of Baal is generally used with the definite art.; in the Septuagint this often takes the feminine form, aischane "shame" being intended to be read. We find the same usage in
VI. Forms of Baal. 1. Baal-berith:
Baal-berith ba`al berith; Baalberith, "Covenant Baal," was worshipped at Shechem after the death of Gideon (
Baal-gad ba`al gadh; Balagada, "Baal [lord] of good luck" (or "Baal is Gad") was the god of a town called after his name in the north of Palestine, which has often been identified with Baalbek. The god is termed simply Gad in
Baal-hamon ba`al hamon; Beelamon is known only from the fact that Solomon had a garden at a place of that name (
Baal-hermon ba`al chermon; Balaermon is found in the name of "the mountain of Baal-hermon" (
Baal-peor ba`al pe`or; Beelphegor was god of the Moabite mountains, who took his name from Mount Peor (
Baal-zebub ba`al zebhubh; Baalmuia Theos ("Baal the fly god") was worshipped at Ekron where he had famous oracle (
ba`al, ("lord," "master," "possessor"):
(1) A descendant of Reuben, Jacob’s first-born son, and the father of Beerah, prince of the Reubenitcs, "whom Tiglath-pileser (
(2) The fourth of ten sons of Jeiel (
(3) In composition often the name of a man and not of the heathen god, e.g. Baal-hanan, a king of Edom (
(4) A city of the tribe of Simeon (
Dwight M. Pratt