People - Ancient Near East: Baal
Ancient Near East
Baal in Wikipedia
Ba‛al (Biblical Hebrew בעל, pronounced [ˈbaʕal], also spelled Baal in English) is a Northwest Semitic title and honorific meaning "master" or "lord" that is used for various gods who were patrons of cities in the Levant, cognate to Akkadian Bēlu. A Baalist or Baalite means a worshipper of Baal.
"Ba‛al" can refer to any god and even to human officials; in some texts it is used as a substitute for Hadad, a god of the rain, thunder, fertility and agriculture, and the lord of Heaven. Since only priests were allowed to utter his divine name, Hadad, Ba‛al was commonly used. Nevertheless, few if any Biblical uses of "Ba‛al" refer to Hadad, the lord over the assembly of gods on the holy mount of Heaven, but rather refer to any number of local spirit-deities worshipped as cult images, each called ba‛al and regarded in the Hebrew Bible in that context as a false god.
Baʿal, (bāʾ-ʿayn-lām), is a Semitic word signifying "The Lord, master, owner (male), keeper, husband". Cognates include Standard Hebrew (Bet-Ayin-Lamed; בַּעַל / בָּעַל, Báʕal, Akkadian Bēl and Arabic بعل. The feminine form is Baʕalat (Hebrew בַּעֲלָה Baʕalah, Arabic بعلـة baʕalah) signifying "lady, mistress, owner (female), wife".
The words themselves had no exclusively religious connotation, they are a honorific title for heads of households or master craftsmen, but not for royalty. The meaning of "lord" as a member of royalty or nobility is more accurately translated as Adon in Semitic.
"Ba'al ul bayt" in modern Levantine Arabic is widely used to mean the head of the household, literally 'Master of the House' and has a somewhat jocular, semi-mocking connotation. In modern Levantine Arabic, the word Báʕal serves as an adjective describing farming that rely only on rainwater as a source of irrigation. Probably it is the last remnant of the sense of Baal the god in the minds of the people of the region. In Amharic, the Semitic word for "owner" or "husband, spouse" survives with the spelling bal.
Deities called Ba'al and Ba'alath
Because more than one god bore the title "Ba'al" and more than one goddess bore the title "Ba'alat" or "Ba``alah," only the context of a text can indicate of which Ba'al 'lord' or Ba'alath 'Lady' a particular inscription or text is speaking.
Hadad in Ugarit
Main article: Hadad
Further information: Baal cycle
In the Bronze Age, Hadad (or Adad) was especially likely to be called Ba'al, Hadad was far from the only god to have that title.[dubious – discuss]
In the Canaanite pantheon as attested in Ugaritic sources, Hadad was the son of El, who had once been the primary god of the Canaanite pantheon.
Ba'al of Tyre
Melqart is the son of El in the Phoenician triad of worship. He was the god of Tyre and was often called the Ba'al of Tyre. 1 Kings 16:31 relates that Ahab, king of Israel, married Jezebel, daughter of Ethba’al, king of the Sidonians, and then served habba’al ('the Ba'al'.) The cult of this god was prominent in Israel until the reign of Jehu, who put an end to it (2 Kings 10:26):
And they brought out the pillars (massebahs) of the house of the Ba'al and burned them. And they pulled down the pillar (massebah) of the Ba'al and pulled down the house of the Ba'al and turned it into a latrine until this day.
Some scholars claim it is uncertain whether "Ba'al" 'the Lord' refers to Melqart in Kings 10:26. They point out that Hadad was also worshipped in Tyre. However this position negates the real possibility that Hadad and Melqart are one and the same god, only having different names because of different languages and cultures, Hadad being Canaanite and Melqart being Phoenician. Both Hadad and Melqart are professed to be the son of El both carrying the same secondary position in the pantheons of each culture. This fact reveals them to be the same deity with different names due to different languages. A contemporary example of this would be God in English and Dios in Spanish.
Josephus (Antiquities 8.13.1) states clearly that Jezebel "built a temple to the god of the Tyrians, which they call Belus" which certainly refers to the Baal of Tyre, or Melqart.
Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. Ahab also made an Asherah (pole) and did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him.
In any case, King Ahab, despite supporting the cult of this Ba'al, had a semblance of worship to Yahweh (1 Kings 16-22). Ahab still consulted Yahweh's prophets and cherished Yahweh's protection when he named his sons Ahaziah ("Yahweh holds") and Jehoram ("Yahweh is high.")
Ba'al of Carthage
The worship of Ba'al Hammon flourished in the Phoenician colony of Carthage. Ba'al Hammon was the supreme god of the Carthaginians, and is believed that this supremacy dates back to the 5th century BC, apparently after a breaking off of relationships between Carthage and Tyre at the time of the Punic defeat in Himera. He is generally identified by modern scholars either with the Northwest Semitic god El or with Dagon, and generally identified by the Greeks, by interpretatio Graeca with Greek Cronus and similarly by the Romans with Saturn.
The meaning of Hammon or Hamon is unclear. In the 19th century when Ernest Renan excavated the ruins of Hammon (Ḥammon), the modern Umm al-‘Awamid between Tyre and Acre, he found two Phoenician inscriptions dedicated to El-Hammon. Since El was normally identified with Cronus and Ba‘al Hammon was also identified with Cronus, it seemed possible they could be equated. More often a connection with Hebrew/Phoenician ḥammān 'brazier' has been proposed, in the sense of "Baal (lord) of the brazier". He has been therefore identified with a solar deity. Frank Moore Cross argued for a connection to Khamōn, the Ugaritic and Akkadian name for Mount Amanus, the great mountain separating Syria from Cilicia based on the occurrence of an Ugaritic description of El as the one of the Mountain Haman.
Classical sources relate how the Carthaginians burned their children as offerings to Ba'al Hammon. See Moloch for a discussion of these traditions and conflicting thoughts on the matter. From the attributes of his Roman form, African Saturn, it is possible to conclude that Hammon was a fertility god.
Scholars tend to see Ba'al Hammon as more or less identical with the god El, who was also generally identified with Cronus and Saturn. However, Yigael Yadin thought him to be a moon god. Edward Lipinski identifies him with the god Dagon in his Dictionnaire de la civilisation phenicienne et punique (1992: ISBN 2-503-50033-1). Inscriptions about Punic deities tend to be rather uninformative.
In Carthage and North Africa Ba'al Hammon was especially associated with the ram and was worshiped also as Ba'al Qarnaim ("Lord of Two Horns") in an open-air sanctuary at Jebel Bu Kornein ("the two-horned hill") across the bay from Carthage.
Ba'al Hammon's female cult partner was Tanit. He was probably not ever identified with Ba'al Melqart, although one finds this equation in older scholarship.
Ba`alat Gebal ("Lady of Byblos") appears to have been generally identified with ‘Ashtart, although Sanchuniathon distinguishes the two.
Priests of Ba'al
The Priests of Ba'al are mentioned in the Hebrew Bible numerous times, including a confrontation with the Prophet Elijah (1 Kings 18:21-40), the burning of incense symbolic of prayer (2 Kings 23:5), and rituals followed by priests adorned in special vestments (2 Kings 10:22) offering sacrifices similar to those given to honor the Hebrew God. The confrontation with the Prophet Elijah is also mentioned in the Qur'an (37:123-125)
Ba'al as a divine title in Israel and Judah
At first the name Ba'al was used by the Jews for their God without discrimination, but as the struggle between the two religions developed, the name Ba'al was given up in Judaism as a thing of shame, and even names like Jerubba'al were changed to Jerubbosheth: Hebrew bosheth means "shame".
The sense of competition between the priestly forces of Yahweh and of Ba'al in the ninth century is nowhere more directly attested than in 1 Kings 18, where, Elijah the prophet offering a sacrifice to Yahweh, Ba'al's followers did the same. Ba'al in the Hebrew text did not light his followers' sacrifice, but Yahweh sent heavenly fire to burn Elijah's sacrifice to ashes, even after it had been soaked with water.
Since Ba‘al simply means 'Lord', there is no obvious reason for which it could not be applied to Yahweh as well as other gods. In fact, Hebrews generally referred to Yahweh as Adonai ('My Lord') in prayer (the word Hashem - 'The Name' - is substituted in everyday speech). The judge Gideon was also called Jeruba'al, a name which seems to mean 'Ba‘al strives', though the Yahwists' explanation in Judges 6:32 is that the theophoric name was given to mock the god Ba‘al, whose shrine Gideon had destroyed, the intention being to imply: "Let Ba‘al strive as much as he can ... it will come to nothing."
After Gideon's death, according to Judges 8:33, the Israelites went astray and started to worship the Ba‘alîm (the Ba‘als) especially Ba‘al Berith ("Lord of the Covenant.") A few verses later (Judges 9:4) the story turns to all the citizens of Shechem — actually kol-ba‘alê šəkem another case of normal use of ba‘al not applied to a deity. These citizens of Shechem support Abimelech's attempt to become king by giving him 70 shekels from the House of Ba‘al Berith. It is hard to dissociate this Lord of the Covenant who is worshipped in Shechem from the covenant at Shechem described earlier in Joshua 24:25, in which the people agree to worship Yahweh. It is especially hard to do so when Judges 9:46 relates that all "the holders of the tower of Shechem" (kol-ba‘alê midgal-šəkem) enter bêt ’ēl bərît 'the House of El Berith', that is, 'the House of God of the Covenant'. Either "Ba‘al" was here a title for El, or the covenant of Shechem perhaps originally did not involve El at all, but some other god who bore the title Ba‘al. Whether there were different viewpoints about Yahweh, some seeing him as an aspect of Hadad, some as an aspect of El, some with other perceptions cannot be unambiguously answered.
Ba'al appears in theophoric names. One also finds Eshba'al (one of Saul's sons) and Be'eliada (a son of David). The last name also appears as Eliada. This might show that at some period Ba‘al and El were used interchangeably; even in the same name applied to the same person. More likely a later hand has cleaned up the text. Editors did play around with some names, sometimes substituting the form bosheth 'abomination' for ba‘al in names, whence the forms Ishbosheth instead of Eshba'al and Mephibosheth which is rendered Meriba'al in 1 Chronicles 9:40. 1 Chronicles 12:5 mentions the name Be'aliah (more accurately be‘alyâ) meaning "Yahweh is Ba‘al."
It is difficult to determine to what extent the 'false worship' which the prophets stigmatize is the worship of Yahweh under a conception and with rites, which treated him as a local nature god, or whether particular features of gods more often given the title Ba‘al were consciously recognized to be distinct from Yahwism from the first. Certainly some of the Ugaritic texts and Sanchuniathon report hostility between El and Hadad, perhaps representing a cultic and religious differences reflected in Hebrew tradition also, in which Yahweh in the Tanach is firmly identified with El and might be expected to be somewhat hostile to Ba'al/Hadad and the deities of his circle. But for Jeremiah and the Deuteronomist it also appears to be monotheism against polytheism (Jeremiah 11:12):
Then shall the cities of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem go and cry to the gods to whom they offer incense: but they shall not save them at all in the time of their trouble. For according to the number of your cities are your gods, O Judah; and according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem you have set up altars to the abominination, altars to burn incense to the Ba‘al.
Multiple Ba'als and 'Ashtarts
One finds in the Tanach the plural forms bə'ālîm 'Ba'als' or 'Lords' and aštārôt Ashtarts, though such plurals don't appear in Phoenician or Canaanite or independent Aramaic sources.
One theory is that the people of each territory or in each wandering clan worshipped their own Ba'al, as the chief deity of each, the source of all the gifts of nature, the mysterious god of their fathers. As the god of fertility all the produce of the soil would be his, and his adherents would bring to him their tribute of first-fruits. He would be the patron of all growth and fertility, and, by the use of analogy characteristic of early thought, this Ba'al would be the god of the productive element in its widest sense. Originating perhaps in the observation of the fertilizing effect of rains and streams upon the receptive and reproductive soil, Ba'al worship became identical with nature-worship. Joined with the Ba'als there would naturally be corresponding female figures which might be called 'Ashtarts, embodiments of 'Ashtart. Ba'al Hadad is associated with the goddess "Virgin" Anat, his sister and lover.
Through analogy and through the belief that one can control or aid the powers of nature by the practice of magic, particularly sympathetic magic, sexuality might characterize part of the cult of the Ba'als and 'Ashtarts. Post-Exilic allusions to the cult of Ba'al Pe'or suggest that orgies prevailed. On the summits of hills and mountains flourished the cult of the givers of increase, and "under every green tree" was practised the licentiousness which was held to secure abundance of crops. Human sacrifice, the burning of incense, violent and ecstatic exercises, ceremonial acts of bowing and kissing, the preparing of sacred cakes (see also Asherah), appear among the offences denounced by the post-Exilic prophets; and show that the cult of Ba'al (and 'Ashtart) included characteristic features of worship which recur in various parts of the Semitic (and non-Semitic) world, although attached to other names. But it is also possible that such rites were performed to a local Ba'al Lord and a local 'Ashtart without much concern as to whether they were the same as that of a nearby community or how they fitted into the national theology of Yahweh who had become a ruling high god of the heavens, increasingly disassociated from such things, at least in the minds of some worshippers.
Another theory is that the references to Ba'als and 'Ashtarts (and Asherahs) are to images or other standard symbols of these deities, statues, and icons of Ba'al Hadad, 'Ashtart, and Asherah set-up in various high places as well as those of other gods, the author listing the most prominent as types for all.
A reminiscence of Ba'al as a title of a local fertility god (or referring to a particular god of subterraneous water) may occur in the Talmudic Hebrew phrases field of the ba'al and place of the ba'al and Arabic ba'l used of land fertilised by subterraneous waters rather than by rain.
The identification of Ba`al as a sun-god in historical scholarship came to be abandoned by the end of the 19th century as it became clear that Ba`al was the title of numerous local gods and not necessarily a single deity in origin. It also became clear that the "astralizing" (association or identification with heavenly bodies) of Ancient Near Eastern deities was a late (Iron Age) development in no way connected with the origin of religion as theorized by some 19th century schools of thought.
Until archaeological digs at Ras Shamra and Ebla uncovered texts explaining the Syrian pantheon, the demon Ba‘al Zebûb was frequently confused with various Semitic spirits and deities named Baal, whereas in some Christian writings, it might refer to a high-ranking devil or to Satan himself.
Early demonologists, unaware of Hadad or that "Ba'al" in the Bible referred to any number of local spirits, came to regard the term as referring to but one personage. Baal (usually spelt "Bael" in this context; there is a possibility that the two figures are not connected) was ranked as the first and principal king in Hell, ruling over the East. According to some authors Baal is a duke, with 66 legions of demons under his command.
During the English Puritan period, Baal was either compared to Satan or considered his main lieutenant. According to Francis Barrett, he has the power to make those who invoke him invisible.
In grimoire tradition, the demon Bael was said to appear in the forms of a man, cat, toad, or combinations thereof. An illustration in Collin de Plancy's 1818 book Dictionnaire Infernal rather curiously placed the heads of the three creatures onto a set of spider legs.
Another version of the demon Baal is Beelzebub, or more accurately Ba‘al Zebûb or Ba‘al Zəbûb (Hebrew בעל-זבוב), who was originally the name of a deity worshipped in the Philistine city of Ekron. Ba‘al Zebûb might mean "Lord of Zebûb", referring to an unknown place named Zebûb. Some scholars[who?] have suggested that Ba'al Zebul which means 'lord prince' was deliberately changed by the worshippers of Yahweh to Ba'al Zebub ('lord of the flies', zebûb being a Hebrew collective noun meaning "fly") in order to ridicule and protest the worship of Ba'al Zebul. (NIV Study Bible published by Zondervan)
In Christian demonology, Ba‘al Zebûb (anglicized Beelzebub) came to be identified as a demon or devil.
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