« Baader, Franz Xaver von Baal Baalbek »



Various Forms of the Name (§ 1).

Meaning and Use of the Name (§ 2).

The Conception of Baal (§ 3).

Special Baals in the Old Testament (§ 4).

The Baal-cult in Israel (§ 5).

Ceremonies of the Baal-worship (§ 6).

1. Various Forms of the Name.

Baal is frequently mentioned in the Old Testament as a god of the idolatrous Israelites, as well as of the Phenicians, Philistines, and Moabites (?). The name also occurs in a proper name of the Edomites, in Phenician and Aramaic inscriptions, in Greek and Roman authors (Baal, Bal), in the Septuagint and writings dependent on it, and in Josephus. Greek and Latin writers for the most part speak of Bēl, Bēlos, Bel as a Babylonian as well as a Syrian and Phenician god. The form Bal is more frequently found in composite Phenician proper names as Abibalos, Hannibal, etc., according to which the Phenicians pronounced the name of the god ba‘l (cf. P. Schröder, Die phönizische Sprache, Halle, 1869, p. 84). The Phenicians carried their religion wherever they went, and thus the worship of Baal was very widely spread. Even the Semitic Hyksos in Egypt, according to Egyptian testimony, worshiped the god Bar (= Ba‘al; cf. E. Meyer, Set-Typhon, Leipsic, 1875, p. 47, and ZDMG, xxxi, 1877, p. 725; W. Max Müller, Asien und Europa nach altägyptischen Denkmälern, Leipsic, 1893, p. 309).

2. Meaning and Use of the Name.

There can be no doubt of the identity of the names Ba‘al and Bel, the Babylonian god mentioned in the Old Testament, the Bēl or Bēlos of the Greeks, i.e., the Assyrian Belu (Bilu) contracted from Be‘el, which is modified from Ba‘al by the influence of the guttural. In an Esarhaddon inscription Ẓil-Bel (” Baal is protection” ) is the name of a king of Haziti, i.e., of Gaza (E. Schrader, Keilinschriften und Geschichtsforschung, Giessen, 1878, pp. 78-79), where Bel is evidently used for the Canaanitic Baal. The ” bol” in the names of the Palmyrene deities Aglibol and Yaribol (and ” bel” in Malakbel) may be still another form of Baal.

The Hebrew word ba‘al means ” owner” or ” lord,” also ” husband,” as possessor of the wife. The names of Semitic divinities all set forth the idea of power, and thus present a conception different from that of the Aryan divinities (cf. A. Deissman, in The Expository Times; xviii, 205 sqq.). Furthermore, it has been disputed whether ba‘al in the sense of ” lord” was an epithet of honor attached to divinity in general, or was given as a proper name to a definite local god. In favor of the latter supposition is the fact that there was a Baal of Tyre, a Baal of Sidon, a Baal of Harran, a Baal of Tarsus, and so on. When in later times many such local deities were worshiped in close proximity, the name ” Baal” designated the principal god of a place; for he alone could there be called the owner or lord. From this can be explained the later confusion between the Canaanitic Baal and the Babylonian Bel, also the fact that Baal was called Zeus by the Greeks and Jupiter by the Romans. When ba‘al occurs in the Old Testament with the article, this does not prove that there was a special god called Baal; it shows only that ba‘al appears in the Old Testament not as a proper name but rather as an appellative noun. The use of the article in the Old Testament can be explained from this, that in cases where the Old Testament speaks of an actual Baal-cult, some one Baal among the many is meant; the later Old Testament usage, especially that of Jeremiah, employed ” the baal” in the sense of ” the idol.”

3. The Conception of Baal.

If Baal were merely the designation of some god 391as owner of a place of worship or the honorary title of a god, an inquiry into the common meaning of the word would not be necessary. But such an in quiry is suggested by the statements concerning the Baals of different places. From the Arabic appellative meaning of the word, it has been supposed that in places naturally irrigated the deity was worshiped as the Baal of that place. According to Hosea (ii, 15), the idolatrous Israelites imagined that the conception of gods worshiped by them, whom the Baal. prophet otherwise calls “the Baals,” were the authors of the good things of nature. Sacred springs are also found in places where the Tyrian Heracles was worshiped. But this does not necessarily imply that some special terrestrial notion must be connected with Baal. It is easy to understand how among an agricultural people like the Canaanites, the god of heaven could be conceived as god of agriculture, for the field can not produce without the blessing of heaven. But it is possible that in different Baal-cults a Vestrial idea and the conception of Baal as heaven god, at first distinct and separate, afterward grew together, as in the case of Astarte (see Astorew). It is erroneous to assert that every individual god who had the name of Baal was worshipped as lord of heaven; still more so to hold that each was especially worshiped as a sun-god, or that Baal was everywhere and at all times so represented. While there is no evidence of the solar meaning of Baal, it is certain that the Phenicians at times attributed to their Baal or Baals some solar characteristics. As generally in the Phenician deities, beneficent and destructive powers were not separated but were represented as being combined in one and the same deity, so it was with Baal, so far at least as both powers were thought of as proceeding from heaven or more particularly from the sun. That Baal bestows natural blessing, has been seen above. Names like HannZal “ grace of Baal,” Asdrubal “ Baal helps,” Baal-shams “ Baal hears,” Baal-shamar “ Baal keeps,” and the like, designate him as a benevolent god. That human sacrifices were offered to Baal can not be inferred from the Old Testament. The passages Jer. xix, 5; xxxii, 35 speak of children who were offered to Moloch, and the Baal mentioned there is only a general designation of the idol. That the Baal-prophets cut themselves in the service of their god (I Kings xviii, 28) can not be regarded as a substitute for human sacrifice. The representative animal of Baal was the bull, which also represented the ancient god of the Hebrews.

4. Special Baals in the Old Testament.

Certain Baals are named in the Old Testament with epithets which designate them more exactly: (a) Baal-Berith, worshiped by the Shechemites (Judges ix, 4; cf. verse 46; viii, 33), denotes probably the protector of a definite covenant or “the Baal before whom agreements are made.” (b) Baal-Peor (Num. xxv, 3, 5; Deut. iv, 3; Hos. ix, 10; Ps. cvi, 28), also simply Peor (Num. xxv, 18; xxxi, 16; Josh. xxii, 17; cf. the name of a Moabite city Beth-Peor, “temple of Peor,” Deut. iii, 29; iv, 46; xxxiv, 6; Josh. xiii, 20), was a god of the Moabites (Num. xxv, 1–5) or of the Midianites (Num. xxv, 18, xxxi, 16), worshiped on Mount Peor, where the Israelites committed whoredom with the daughters of Moab (Num. xxv, 1) or Midian (Num. xxv, 8). (c) Baal-Zebub, see Beelzebub. Certain place-names compounded with Baal (not necessarily all, cf. II Sam. v, 20) were originally god-names, the word beth (” temple” ) being understood in the place-name. Baals known from such place-names are: (d) Baal-Gad (Josh. xi, 17; xii, 7; xiii, 5), the “fortune-bringing Baal.” Gad (Isa. lxv, 11; perhaps also Gen. xxx, 11) occurs independently as a name of a deity (see Gad). (e) Baal-Hermon (Judges iii, 3; I Chron. v, 23), usually identified with Baal-Gad, the designation of the Baal worshiped on Mount Hermon. (f) Baal-Meon (Num. xxxii, 38; Ezek. xxv, 9; I Chron. v, 8), the god of a Moabite (Reubenite) city, the full name of which reads Beth-Baal-Meon (Josh. xiii, 17), contracted into Beth-Meon (Jer. xlviii, 23), i.e., “temple of the Baal of Meon.” (g) It is possible that Baal-Zephon (Exod. xiv, 2, 9; Num. xxxiii, 7), the name of a station of the Israelites on the Red Sea, belongs here. Zephon, or more correctly Zaphon, is known as a god-name from Egyptian, Phenician, Carthaginian, and Assyrian inscriptions. Baal-Tamar, a place mentioned in Judg. xx, 33, may also be derived from the name of a god, and Baal-Hamon (Song of Sol. viii, 11), Baal-Hazor (II Sam. xiii, 23), Baal-Perazim (II Sam. v, 20), and Baal-Shalisha (I Sam. ix, 4; II Kings iv, 42) were probably designations of local deities, of whom nothing is known.

5. The Baal-cult in Israel.

There can be no doubt that, in ancient times, the Hebrews called their god the Baal, whether they used this name to designate Yahweh, or a special Baal worshiped beside him. The latter can not be proved; the former is indicated by names of the Davidic time compounded with Baal. The worship of the Canaanite Baals in opposition to the Yahweh-worship had many adherents among the Israelites as early as the time of the Judges (Judges ii, 11, 13; iii, 7; vi, 25 sqq.; x, 6; I Sam. vii, 4; xii, 10). There is no proof that the Hebrews upon their settlement in Canaan adopted the Baal-cult practised there, but the fact can hardly be doubted. The earliest certainty comes from the time of King Ahab of Israel, who, influenced by his Phenician wife, introduced the Phenician Baal-worship, erecting a Baal-temple in Samaria and appointing a numerous priesthood (I Kings xvi, 31–32; xviii, 19). Elijah (q.v.) vigorously opposed this idolatrous cult (I Kings xviii). Jehoram, Ahab’s son, put away a Baal-column erected by his father (II Kings iii, 2), but did not extirpate the cult. Jehu abolished the worship of the Phenician god (II Kings x, 21–28). But in the eighth century the prophet Hosea speaks of Baal-worship as existing in Israel without stating which “Baal” or “Baals” are meant. Of the Baal-cult in Judah we know only that it was abolished under the influence of Jehoiada, the priest (II Kings xi, 18). Probably under the influence of Athaliah, grandmother of Joash and daughter of the Phenician 392Jezebel, Baal-worship had been introduced into Judah (cf. II Chron. xxiv, 7); this Baal was no doubt Melkart of Tyre. Not much reliance can be placed upon the statement (II Chron. xxviii, 2) that Ahaz worshiped the Baals (but cf. II Kings xvi, 3-4). In the statement (II Kings xxi, 3) that Manasseh reared up altars ” for Baal” (better ” for the Baals” ), Baal may be a general term for idol. Whenever Jeremiah speaks of the Baal (ii, 8; vii, 9; xi, 13; xxii, 29), he generally means ” the idol” (so also II Kings xvii, 16), which is especially evident from II Kings xi, 13 (cf. ” the Baals,” ii, 23; ix, 14). In Zephaniah, too (i, 4), in ” the remnant of Baal” the word Baal is equivalent to ” idolatry.” In the time of Jeremiah the idolatrous Judeans worshiped the sun, the moon, and the host of heaven. All these powers Jeremiah calls ” the Baal” or ” the shameful thing” (Jer. xi, 13). The name Baal was so obnoxious to the later scribes that they substituted for it the word bosheth, ” shame,” a word used as early as Jeremiah; and the Alexandrian Jews, as Dillmann has shown, read in their Greek text the word aischynē instead of Baal, which explains the use of the feminine article before Baal (cf. Dillmann, Ueber Baal mit dem weiblichen Artikel, in the Monatsberichte der Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, phil.-hist. Klasse, 1881).

6. Ceremonies of the Baal-worship.

For the mode of worship in Israel reference can be made only to those passages of the Old Testament in which Baal-worship is undoubtedly to be understood as the cult of the Phenician god. He was worshiped with sacrifices and burnt offerings (II Kings x, 24) especially of bullocks (I Kings xviii, 23), and by kissing his images (I Kings xix, 18). In the Baal-temple of Samaria the pillar of Baal was of stone (II Kings x, 27). Usually a Baal was worshiped in conjunction with Astarte (Judges ii, 13; x, 6; I Sam. vii, 4; xii, 10). A Baal-altar with an Asherah is mentioned in Judges vi, 25. According to II Chron. xxxiv, 4, the ḥammanim or sun images stood on or beside the altars of Baal. When the statement is made that incense was offered upon the roofs to the Baal (Jer. xxxii, 29; cf., on the ” burning of incense” to the Baal in general, Jer. vii, 9; xi, 13), not Baal-worship, but worship of the stars is meant (Jer. xix, 13; Zeph. i, 5; cf. II Kings xxiii, 12). In the time of Ahab there were many priests and prophets (about 450) of Baal (II Kings x, 19; I Kings xviii, 19). The prophets worshiped the god by leaping around the altar (I Kings xviii, 26) and by cutting themselves with knives and lances (verse 28). The leaping appears to have been a means of inducing the trance-state (verse 29), it may also have been a part of the cult. The ” vestry” mentioned II Kings x, 22 probably belonged to the royal palace, and was not intended for the official robes of the priests. See Asherah; Ashtoreth; High Place.

Bibliography: Smith, Rel. of Sem., pp. 93-113 (best); J. Selden, De dis Syris, London, 1617; F. Münter, Religion der Karthagar, pp. 5-61, Copenhagen, 1821; F. C. Movers, Die Phönizier, i, 169-190, 254-321, 385-498, Bonn, 1841; R. Rochette, L’Hercule Assyrien et Phénicien, in Mémoires de l’académie des inscriptions of belles-lettres, new series, vol. xviii, part 2 (1848), 9-374; D. Chwolsohn, Die Ssabier, ii, 165-171, Leipsic, 1856; L. Diestel, i Jahrbücher für deutsche Theologie, 1860, pp. 719-734; H. Oort, The Worship of Baalim in Israel, from the Dutch by Colens, London, 1865; E. Schrader, Baal and Bel, in TS, 1874, pp. 335-343; W. W. Baudissin, Jahve et Moloch, pp. 14-41, Leipsic, 1874; B. Stade, in ZATW, vi (1886), 303-306; F. Baethgen, Beiträge zur semitischen Religionsgeschichte, pp. 17-29, Göttingen, 1888; R. Pietschmann, Phönizier, 182 sqq., Berlin, 1889; Benzinger, Archäologie, consult index; Nowack, Archäologie, ii, 301-305; E. Sachau, Baal-Harran in einer altaramäischen Inschrift, in Sitzungsberichte der Berliner Akademie, 1895, pp. 119-122; F. Vigouroux, Les Prètres de Baal, in Revue Biblique, part 2, 1896, 227-240; DB, i, 209-211; EB, i, 401-409; H. Gunkel, Elias, Jahve, und Baal, Tübingen, 1907.

On Baal-Peor: E. Kautzsch and A. Socin, Die Aechtheit der moabitischen Alterthümer geprüft, pp. 69-77, Strasburg, 1876; W. Baudissin, Studien zur semitischen Religionsgeschichte, ii, 232, Leipsic, 1878; F. Baethgen, Beiträge zur semitischen Religionsgeschichte, pp. 14-15, 261, Göttingen, 1888. On Aglibol and Malachbel: Lajard, Recherches sur le culte de Cyprès, in Mémoires de 1’académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres, new series, vol. xx, part 2 (1854), 39-40; Levy, in ZDMG, xviii (1864), 99-103; M. de Vogüé, Syrie centrale, inscriptions sémitiques, 1868, pp. 62-65. On Baal in Hebrew proper names: Geiger, in ZDMG, xvi (1862), 728-732; E. Nestle, Die israelitische Eigennamen und ihre religionsgeschichtliche Bedeutung, Leipsic, 1876; G. B. Gray, Studies in Hebrew Proper Names, London, 1896.

« Baader, Franz Xaver von Baal Baalbek »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |