The Worship of
This excavated bronze
figurine of Baal reveals a haughty look, given to him by a Canaanite
Ba'al the God
of Ancient Canaan
Baal the Life Giver
Baal (ba'al) was an ancient Canaanite and Mesopotamian deity associated
with agriculture. He was believed to be the "giver of life"
and mankind was dependant upon him for providing what was necessary to
sustain the farms, flocks and herds. He was also called the "son of
Dagon" (who was in control of the grain), and "Hadad" the
storm god who would provide plentiful rains after hearing his voice
The land of Canaan was devoted to the worship of Baal.
The Semitic word Baal means "lord" or "master" and
the Canaanites believed that Baal was in absolute control over nature
and over people. They believed that the only god who was superior to
Baal was his father El, but Baal was the principal deity of the land. It
was he who was in charge of the rain and the weather, and man's survival
was dependent upon Baal's provision.
"One may question that those ancient enemies of
Israel were as evil as the Bible claims that they were, but even a
superficial glance at Canaanite religion alone ably demonstrates their
iniquity. Base sex worship was prevalent, and religious prostitution
even commanded; human sacrifice was common; and it was a frequent
practice--in an effort to placate their gods--to kill young children
and bury them in the foundations of a house or public building at the
time of construction: Joshua 6:26 "In his days did Hiel the
Bethelite build Jericho: he laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his
Howard E. Vos, "An Introduction To Bible Archaeology" Revised
ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1953) pp. 17-19.
Many clay tablets have been unearthed from Ras Shamra the prehistoric
city of Ugarit of the Amarna Letters, many of them revealing the myths
told about the deities of the Canaanite pantheon including its chief
male god Baal. One story reveals an interesting account about Baal's
conflict with Mot, the powerful god of death, who was represented by
drought and sterility. The Canaanites saw this conflict between Baal and
Mot as ongoing. Mot demanded Baal, the life givers' surrender, and the
cry when forth:
"Baal is dead! What will return him to life;
whereupon all nature blossomed again and El proclaimed: "Baal the
conqueror lives; the prince, the lord of the earth, has revived."
The Powerful Attraction to
Baal in Israel and Judah
1 Kings 16:30-34 Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil
in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him. And it came
to pass, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the
sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took as wife Jezebel the
daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal
and worshiped him. Then he set up an altar for Baal in the temple of
Baal, which he had built in Samaria. And Ahab made a wooden image. Ahab
did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings
of Israel who were before him. In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho.
He laid its foundation with Abiram his firstborn, and with his youngest
son Segub he set up its gates, according to the word of the LORD, which
He had spoken through Joshua the son of Nun.
Yahweh, the God of Israel, continually condemned the
worship of Baal, and the Lord sent His prophets to warn them of this
idolatry and of the corruption of Baal's fertility rites. During the
period of the kings of Israel Baal worship was prevalent, and even
commanded. Queen Jezebel, the Phoenician wife of king Ahab, had 450
prophets of Baal as her court counselors. Elijah challenged them on
Mount Carmel and Yahweh proved to be the true God.
It wasn't long before the Kings of Judah followed in
the footsteps of their brother in the North:
1 Kings 14:22-24 Now Judah did evil in the sight of
the LORD, and they provoked Him to jealousy with their sins which they
committed, more than all that their fathers had done. For they also
built for themselves high places, sacred pillars, and wooden images on
every high hill and under every green tree. And there were also
perverted persons in the land. They did according to all the
abominations of the nations which the LORD had cast out before the
children of Israel.
Baal worship was a powerful attraction to the people
of Israel and eventually led to their destruction and exile. The
Northern Kingdom of Israel wanted idolatry and the Lord gave them over
to Assyria, the Southern Kingdom of Judah wanted idolatry and the Lord
gave them over to Babylon, both lands filled to the brink with idolatry.
Various Names of Baal in
Baal-gad ( "lord of good fortune," Josh
Baal-hamon ( "lord of wealth," Song 8:11)
Baal-hazor ( "Baal's village," 2 Sam 13:23)
Baal-meon ( "lord of the dwelling," Num 32:38)
Baal-peor ( "lord of the opening," Deut 4:3)
Baal-tamar ( "lord of the palm tree," Judg 20:33), and others.
Ba'al-ze'bub was the form of the name of Baal who was
worshiped at the Philistine city of Ekron. Baal, under this aspect of
worship, was viewed as the producer of flies and therefore able to
control this pest so common in the East..
Some Interesting Quotes about
In Biblical Canaan "on the
hillsides are grown vines and lives, which, with natural pine and cedar
forests in the Lebanon and Amanus, were the main products of the land.
Moreover, soil which is eroded builds up fertile pockets of earth and
even considerable plains. Such cultivable land was regarded as 'Baal's
land', that is to say, land where cultivation depends on the activity
of the god manifest in the autumn and winter rains. These rains are
heralded by thunder, and 'the lord' (Baal) was known to the Canaanites
by his proper name Hadad, 'the Thunderer', or Rimmon, which means the
same. The term 'Baal-land' as distinct from irrigated land has survived
down to the present day in Muslim law when making tax assessment for
- John Gray, Near
"Baal, one of the sons of El
[the chief god of the Canaanites], was the executive god of the
pantheon, the god of thunder and winter storms, the dynamic warrior god
who champions the divine order against the menacing forces of chaos. He
is also identified with vegetation and the seasonal fertility
cycle...Baal is sometimes called the 'son of Dagon'. Dagon was also a
god of vegetation, specifically corn, which is what his name
means....As the summer drew to an end and the rains were due, the
peasants would suffer a crisis of anxiety - would the rains come? By
calling upon Baal, the rain god, and encouraging his intervention by
rituals of imitative magic involving sexual union, their tensions were
released and purged."
- Magnus Magnusson, BC -
The Archaeology of the Bible Lands
"The goddess peculiarly
associated with Baal is Anat, like Ishtar a goddess of love and war.
She complements Baal, abetting him in his conflict and vindicating him
when he succumbs, possibly reflecting the role of women at the critical
seasons of transition in popular religion or when the order of the gods
is temporarily in eclipse. Related to such phases is certainly the
weeping of the women in Jerusalem for Tammuz (Ezekiel 8:14) and
possibly the annual lamentation of the maidens of Israel, which may be
only secondarily related to the mourning for Jephthah's daughter
- John Gray, Near
"Verily Baal has
fallen to the earth,
Dead is Baal the Might!
Perished is the Prince, lord of the earth!
Then the Kindly One, El the Merciful
Comes down from his throne, he sits on the footstool,
And (coming) off the footstool, he sits on the ground
He sprinkles dirt signifying grief on his head,
On his pate the dust in which he wallows;
For clothing he covers himself with a loincloth;
He scrapes his skin with a stone,
With a chipped flint as a razor
He cuts off side-whiskers and beard;
He rends his shoulder (with his finger-nails);
He scores his chest as a garden plot,
Even as a valley-bottom his trunk he lacerates.
He raises his voice and cries:
Baal is dead! What will become of the people?
The Son of Dagan (is dead)! What of the multitudes (of men)?
After Baal I shall go down to the underworld!
"Here we have the
mourning rites, familiar among the ancient Semites and in Israel.
Generally at death, which is a crisis in society when the community is
especially open to the influences of the supernatural, normal
activities were suspended to thwart those forces. Thus the normal
resorts were avoided, one forsook one's usual seat to sit on the
ground, like Job on the village midden (Job 2:8), or begrimed the
personal or the clothes with dust and scored the face or the body. that
last practice was specifically banned in Israel (Deuteronomy 14:1) in
protest against what was seen as a barbarous Canaanite rite."
- John Gray, Near
Baal in Smith's Bible Dictionary
the supreme male divinity of the Phoenician and Canaanitish
nations, as Ashtoreth was their supreme female divinity. Some
suppose Baal to correspond to the sun and Ashtoreth to the moon;
others that Baal was Jupiter and Ashtoreth Venus. There can be no
doubt of the very high antiquity of the worship of Baal. It
prevailed in the time of Moses among the Moabites and Midianites, Nu
22:41 and through them spread to the Israelites. Nu 25:3-18; De 4:3
In the times of the kings it became the religion of the court and
people of the ten tribes, 1Ki 16:31-33; 18:19,22 and appears never
to have been permanently abolished among them. 2Ki 17:16 Temples
were erected to Baal in Judah, 1Ki 16:32 and he was worshipped with
much ceremony. 1Ki 18:19,26-28; 2Ki 10:22 The attractiveness of this
worship to the Jews undoubtedly grew out of its licentious
character. We find this worship also in Phoenician colonies. The
religion of the ancient British islands much resembled this ancient
worship of Baal, and may have been derived from it. Nor need we
hesitate to regard the Babylonian Bel, Isa 46:1 or Beaus, as
essentially identical with Baal, though perhaps under some modified
form. The plural, BAALIM, is found frequently, showing that he was
probably worshipped under different compounds, among which appear--
1. BAAL-BERITH (the covenant Baal), Jud 8:33; 9:4 the god
who comes into covenant with the worshippers.
2. BAAL-ZEBUB (lord of the fly), and worshipped at Ekron.
3. BAAL-HANAN. a. The name of one of the early kings of
Edom. Ge 36:38,39; 1Ch 1:49,50 b. The name of one of David's
officers, who had the superintendence of his olive and sycamore
plantations. 1Ch 27:28
4. BAAL-PEOR (lord of the opening, i.e. for others to join
in the worship). We have already referred to the worship of this
god. The narrative (Numb 25) seems clearly to show that this form of
Baal-worship was connected with licentious rites.
Baal in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE
VI. FORMS OF BAAL
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
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 Old Testament this
is euphemistically termed "passing" the victim "through the fire" (2
Ki 16:3; 21:6). The forms under which Baal was worshipped were
necessarily as numerous as the communities which worshipped him.
Each locality had its own Baal or divine "Lord" who frequently took
his name from the city or place to which he belonged. Hence, there
was a Baal-Zur, "Baal of Tyre"; Baal-hermon, "Baal of Hermon" (Jdg
3:3); Baal-Lebanon, "Baal of Lebanon"; Baal-Tarz, "Baal of Tarsus."
At other times the title was attached to the name of an individual
god; thus we have Bel-Merodach, "the Lord Merodach" (or "Bel is
Merodach") at Babylon, Baal-Melkarth at Tyre, Baal-gad (Josh 11:17)
in the north of Palestine. Occasionally the second element was noun
as in Baal-Shemaim, "lord of heaven," Baalzebub (2 Ki 1:2), "Lord of
flies," Baal-Hamman, usually interpreted "Lord of heat," but more
probably "Lord of the sunpillar," the tutelary deity of Carthage.
All these various forms of the Sun-god were collectively known as
the Baalim or "Baals" who took their place by the side of the female
Ashtaroth and Ashtrim. At Carthage the female consort of Baal was
termed Pene-Baal, "the face" or "reflection of Baal."
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 King James Version. Hence
both Jonathan and David had sons called Merib-baal (1 Ch 8:31; 9:40)
and Beeliada (1 Ch 14:7). After the time of Ahab, however, the name
became associated with the worship and rites of the Phoenician deity
introduced into Samaria by Jezebel, and its idolatrous associations
accordingly caused it to fall into disrepute. Hosea (2:16) declares
that henceforth the God of Israel should no longer be called Baali,
"my Baal," and personal names like Esh-baal (1 Ch 8:33; 9:39), and
Beelinda into which it entered were changed in form, Baal being
turned into bosheth which in Heb at any rate conveyed the sense of
The Bible Mentions a lot Concerning
2 Kings 23:5 - And he
put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had
ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah,
and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned
incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to
the planets, and to all the host of heaven.
10:25 - And it came to pass, as soon as he had made an end
of offering the burnt offering, that Jehu said to the guard and to
the captains, Go in, [and] slay them; let none come forth. And they
smote them with the edge of the sword; and the guard and the
captains cast [them] out, and went to the city of the house of
11:17 - For the LORD of hosts, that planted thee, hath
pronounced evil against thee, for the evil of the house of Israel
and of the house of Judah, which they have done against themselves
to provoke me to anger in offering incense unto Baal.
12:16 - And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently
learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, The LORD liveth;
as they taught my people to swear by Baal; then shall
they be built in the midst of my people.
23:4 - And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and
the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to
bring forth out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were
made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host
of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of
Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Bethel.
18:21 - And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How
long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD [be] God, follow him:
but if Baal, [then] follow him. And the people
answered him not a word.
18:19 - Now therefore send, [and] gather to me all Israel
unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four
hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred,
which eat at Jezebel's table.
11:13 - For [according to] the number of thy cities were thy
gods, O Judah; and [according to] the number of the streets of
Jerusalem have ye set up altars to [that] shameful thing, [even]
altars to burn incense unto Baal.
- And Joash said unto all that stood against him, Will ye plead for
Baal? will ye save him? he that will plead for him,
let him be put to death whilst [it is yet] morning: if he [be] a
god, let him plead for himself, because [one] hath cast down his
32:29 - And the Chaldeans, that fight against this city,
shall come and set fire on this city, and burn it with the houses,
upon whose roofs they have offered incense unto Baal,
and poured out drink offerings unto other gods, to provoke me to
- And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him,
Take thy father's young bullock, even the second bullock of seven
years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy
father hath, and cut down the grove that [is] by it:
17:16 - And they left all the commandments of the LORD their
God, and made them molten images, [even] two calves, and made a
grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal.
21:3 - For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah
his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal,
and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshipped all the
host of heaven, and served them.
- And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold,
the altar of Baal was cast down, and the grove was cut
down that [was] by it, and the second bullock was offered upon the
altar [that was] built.
10:22 - And he said unto him that [was] over the vestry,
Bring forth vestments for all the worshippers of Baal.
And he brought them forth vestments.
2 Kings 3:2
- And he wrought evil in the sight of the LORD; but not like his
father, and like his mother: for he put away the image of Baal
that his father had made.
10:18 - And Jehu gathered all the people together, and said
unto them, Ahab served Baal a little; [but] Jehu shall
serve him much.
- Then the men of the city said unto Joash, Bring out thy son, that
he may die: because he hath cast down the altar of Baal,
and because he hath cut down the grove that [was] by it.
18:40 - And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of
Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and
Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.
16:31 - And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing
for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he
took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of
the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and
32:35 - And they built the high places of Baal,
which [are] in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons
and their daughters to pass through [the fire] unto Molech; which I
commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should
do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.
2:8 - The priests said not, Where [is] the LORD? and they
that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed
against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and
walked after [things that] do not profit.
22:41 - And it came to pass on the morrow, that Balak took
Balaam, and brought him up into the high places of Baal,
that thence he might see the utmost [part] of the people.
7:9 - Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear
falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after
other gods whom ye know not;
1:4 - I will also stretch out mine hand upon Judah, and upon
all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will cut off the remnant of
Baal from this place, [and] the name of the Chemarims
with the priests;
18:25 - And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal,
Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress [it] first; for ye
[are] many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire
19:18 - Yet I have left [me] seven thousand in Israel, all
the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every
mouth which hath not kissed him.
22:53 - For he served Baal, and worshipped
him, and provoked to anger the LORD God of Israel, according to all
that his father had done.
23:13 - And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria;
they prophesied in Baal, and caused my people Israel
- For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and
multiplied her silver and gold, [which] they prepared for Baal.
Return to Bible History
Bibliography on Ancient Baal Worship
Elijah, Yahweh, and Baal
by Gunkel and Hanson, 106 Pages, Pub. 2014
Bible History Online
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