In the Northwest Semitic languages
, and Aramaic
—the word baʿal
" and, by extension, "lord",
a "master", or "husband".
Cognates include the Akkadian Bēlu
),[c] Amharic bal
and Arabic baʿl
) and baʿl
still serve as the words for "husband" in modern Hebrew and Arabic respectively. They also appear in some contexts concerning the ownership of things or possession of traits.
The feminine form is baʿalah
), meaning "mistress" in the sense of a female owner or lady of the house
and still serving as a rare word for "wife".
Suggestions in early modern scholarship also included comparison with the Celtic god Belenus
Bronze figurine of a Baal, 14th–12th century BCE, found at Ras Shamra (ancient Ugarit
) near the Phoenician coast. Musée du Louvre
Baʿal was also used as a proper name by the third millennium BCE, when he appears in a list of deities at Abu Salabikh
Most modern scholarship asserts that this Baʿal—usually distinguished as "The Lord" (הבעל
, Ha Baʿal
)—was identical with the storm
and fertility godHadad
it also appears in the form Baʿal Haddu
Scholars propose that, as the cult of Hadad increased in importance, his true name came to be seen as too holy for any but the high priest to speak aloud and the alias "Lord" ("Baʿal") was used instead, as "Bel
" was used for Marduk
among the Babylonians and "Adonai
" for Yahweh
among the Israelites. A minority propose that Baʿal was a native Canaanite
deity whose cult was identified with or absorbed aspects of Adad
Regardless of their original relationship, by the 1st millennium BCE, the two were distinct: Hadad was worshipped by the Aramaeans
and Baʿal by the Phoenicians
and other Canaanites
Baʿal is well-attested in surviving inscriptions and was popular in theophoric names
throughout the Levant
but he is usually mentioned along with other gods, "his own field of action being seldom defined".
Nonetheless, Ugaritic records show him as a weather god
, with particular power over lightning
, and fertility
The dry summers of the area were explained as Baʿal's time in the underworld
and his return in autumn was said to cause the storms which revived the land.
Thus, the worship of Baʿal in Canaan
—where he eventually supplanted El
as the leader of the gods and patron of kingship—was connected to the regions' dependence on rainfall for its agriculture, unlike Egypt
, which focused on irrigation from their major rivers. Anxiety about the availability of water for crops and trees increased the importance of his cult, which focused attention on his role as a rain god.
He was also called upon during battle, showing that he was thought to intervene actively in the world of man,
unlike the more aloof El. The Lebanese city of Baalbeck
was named after Baal.
The Baʿal of Ugarit was the epithet of Hadad
but as the time passed, the epithet became the god's name while Hadad became the epithet.
Baʿal was usually said to be the son of Dagan
, but appears as one of the sons of El in Ugaritic
Both Baʿal and El were associated with the bull
in Ugaritic texts, as it symbolized both strength and fertility.
is his older sister and wife. She is sometimes mentioned bearing his child.
He held special enmity against snakes, both on their own and as representatives of Yammu
"Sea"), the Canaanite sea god and river god
He fought the Tannin
), the "Twisted Serpent" (Bṭn ʿqltn
the Fugitive Serpent" (Ltn Bṭn Brḥ
, the biblical Leviathan
and the "Mighty One with Seven Heads
" (Šlyṭ D.šbʿt Rašm
Baʿal's conflict with Yammu is now generally regarded as the prototype of the vision recorded in the 7th chapter
of the biblicalBook of Daniel
As vanquisher of the sea, Baʿal was regarded by the Canaanites and Phoenicians as the patron
and sea-going merchants.
As vanquisher of Mot
, the Canaanite death god
, he was known as Baʿal Rāpiʾuma (Bʿl Rpu
) and regarded as the leader of the Rephaim
), the ancestral spirits, particularly those of ruling dynasties.
From Canaan, worship of Baʿal spread to Egypt by the Middle Kingdom
and throughout the Mediterranean
following the waves of Phoenician colonization
in the early 1st millennium BCE.
He was described with diverse epithets and, before Ugarit was rediscovered, it was supposed that these referred to distinct local gods. However, as explained by Day
, the texts at Ugarit revealed that they were considered "local manifestations of this particular deity, analogous to the local manifestations of the Virgin Mary
in the Roman Catholic Church
In those inscriptions, he is frequently described as "Victorious Baʿal" (Aliyn
or ẢlỈyn Baʿal
"Mightiest one" (Aliy
or "Mightiest of the Heroes" (Aliy Qrdm
), "The Powerful One" (Dmrn
), and in his role as patron of the city "Baʿal of Ugarit" (Baʿal Ugarit
As Baʿal Zaphon
), he was particularly associated with his palace atop Jebel Aqra
(the ancient Mount Ṣapānu and classical Mons Casius).
He is also mentioned as "Winged Baʿal" (Bʿl Knp
) and "Baʿal of the Arrows" (Bʿl Ḥẓ
inscriptions describe Bʿl Krntryš
, "Baʿal of the Lebanon" (Bʿl Lbnn
), "Baʿal of Sidon" (Bʿl Ṣdn
), Bʿl Ṣmd
, "Baʿal of the Heavens
" (Baʿal Shamem
Baʿal ʾAddir (Bʿl ʾdr
), Baʿal Hammon
), Bʿl Mgnm
Baʿal (בַּעַל) appears about 90 times in the Hebrew Bible
in reference to various gods.
The priests of the Canaanite Baʿal are mentioned numerous times, most prominently in the First Book of Kings
. Many scholars believe that this describes Jezebel
's attempt to introduce the worship of the Baʿal of Tyre
to the Israelite
in the 9th century BCE.
Against this, Day
argues that Jezebel's Baʿal was more probably Baʿal Shamem
, the Lord of the Heavens, a title most often applied to Hadad, who is also often titled just Ba‘al.
18 records an account of a contest between the prophet Elijah
and Jezebel's priests. Both sides offered a sacrifice
to their respective gods: Ba'al failed to light his followers' sacrifice while Yahweh
's heavenly fire burnt Elijah's altar to ashes, even after it had been soaked with water. The observers then followed Elijah's instructions to slay the priests of Baʿal,
after which it began to rain, showing Yahweh's mastery over the weather.
The title baʿal
was a synonym in some contexts of the Hebrew adon
("Lord") and adonai
("My Lord") still used as aliases of the Lord of Israel Yahweh
. According to some scholars, the early Hebrews
did use the names Baʿal ("Lord") and Baʿali ("My Lord") in reference to the Lord of Israel, just as Baʿal farther north designated the Lord of Ugarit
This occurred both directly and as the divine element of some Hebrew theophoric names
. However, according to others it is not certain that the name Baal was definitely applied to Yahweh in early Israelite history. The component Baal in proper names is mostly applied to worshippers of Baal, or descendants of the worshippers of Baal.
Names including the element Baʿal presumably in reference to Yahweh
include the judge Gideon
(also known as Jerubaʿal, lit.
"The Lord Strives"), Saul
's son Eshbaʿal
("The Lord is Great"), and David
's son Beeliada ("The Lord Knows"). The name Bealiah
("The Lord is Jah
"; "Yahweh is Baʿal")
combined the two.
However John Day states that as far as the names Eshba’al, Meriba’al, and Beeliada (that is Baaliada), are concerned it is not certain whether they simply allude to the Canaanite god Ba’al, or are intended to equate Yahweh with Ba’al, or have no connection to Ba’al.
It was the program of Jezebel
, in the 9th century BCE, to introduce into Israel's capital city of Samaria her Phoenician worship of Baal as opposed to the worship of Yahweh
that made the name anathema to the Israelites.
At first the name Baal was used by the Jews
for their God without discrimination, but as the struggle between the two religions developed, the name Baal was given up by the Israelites as a thing of shame, and even names like Jerubbaal were changed to Jerubbosheth: Hebrew bosheth
Eshbaʿal became Ish-bosheth
and Meribaʿal became Mephibosheth
but other possibilities also occurred. Beeliada is mentioned renamed as Eliada
and Gideon's name Jerubaʿal was mentioned intact but glossed as a mockery of the Canaanite god, implying that he strove in vain.
Direct use of Baʿali continued at least as late as the time of the prophet Hosea
, who reproached the Israelites for doing so.
Brad E. Kelle has suggested that references to cultic sexual practices in the worship of Baal, in Hosea 2, are evidence of an historical situation in which Israelites were either giving up Yahweh worship for Baal, or blending the two. Hosea's references to sexual acts being metaphors for Israelite "apostasy".
("Lord of the Covenant
") was a god worshipped by the Israelites
when they "went astray" after the death of Gideon
according to the Hebrew Scriptures
The same source relates that Gideon's son Abimelech
went to his mother's kin at Shechem
and received 70 shekels
"from the House of Baʿal Berith" to assist in killing his 70 brothers from Gideon's other wives.
An earlier passage had made Shechem the scene of Joshua
's covenant between all the tribes of Israel
and "El Yahweh
, our god
and a later one describes it as the location of the "House of El Berith".
It is thus unclear whether the false worship of the "Baʿalim" being decried
is the worship of a new idol or the continued worship of Yahweh, but by means of rites and teachings
taking him to be a mere local god within a larger pantheon. The Hebrew Scriptures record the worship of Baʿal threatening Israel
from the time of the Judges
until the monarchy
and the present form of Jeremiah
seem to phrase the struggle as monolatry
. Yahweh is frequently identified in the Hebrew scriptures with El Elyon
, however, this was after a conflation with El in a process of religious syncretism
) became a generic term meaning "god", as opposed to the name of a worshipped deity, and epithets such as El Shaddai
came to be applied to Yahweh alone, while Baal's nature as a storm and weather god became assimilated into Yahweh's own identification with the storm.
In the next stage the Yahwistic religion separated itself from its Canaanite heritage, first by rejecting Baal-worship in the 9th century, then through the 8th to 6th centuries with prophetic condemnation of Baal, sun-worship, worship on the "high places", practices pertaining to the dead, and other matters.
Baʿal Zebub (Hebrew
: בעל זבוב
occurs in the first chapter of the Second Book of Kings
as the name of the Philistine
god of Ekron
. In it, Ahaziah
, king of Israel
, is said to have consulted the priests of Baʿal Zebub as to whether he would survive the injuries from his recent fall. The prophet Elijah
, incensed at this impiety, then foretold that he would die quickly, raining heavenly fire on the soldiers sent to punish him for doing so.Jewish
scholars have interpreted the title of "Lord of the Flies" as the Hebrew way of calling Baʿal a pile of dung
and his followers vermin
although others argue for a link to power over causing and curing pestilence
and thus suitable for Ahaziah's question.
renders the name as Baälzeboúb
(βααλζεβούβ) and as "Baʿal of Flies" (βααλ μυιαν, Baäl muian
). Symmachus the Ebionite
rendered it as Beëlzeboúl
(Βεελζεβούλ), possibly reflecting its original sense.[i]
This has been proposed to have been B‘l Zbl
for "Prince Baal".[j][k][l]
's 1667 epic Paradise Lost
describes the fallen angels
collecting around Satan, stating that, though their heavenly names had been "blotted out and ras'd", they would acquire new ones "wandring ore the Earth" as false gods. Baalim
are given as the collective names of the male and female demons (respectively) who came from between the "bordering flood of old Euphrates
" and "the Brook that parts Egypt from Syrian ground".
mentions that Prophet Elias (Elijah
warned his people against Baʿal worship.
Indeed, Elias was among the messengers
; when he said to his people: "Will you not fear
! Do you call upon Ba'l and leave the best of creators, Allah, your Lord and the Lord of your first forefathers?" And they denied him, so indeed, they will be brought [for punishment
], except the chosen God's servants
, the sincere
; We left for him to the later generations: Peace be upon Elyaseen.
- ^ The American pronunciation is usually the same but some speakers prefer variants closer to the original sound, such as /
bɑːˈɑːl/ or /
- ^ Ugaritic: 𐎁𐎓𐎍, romanized: baʿalu; Phoenician: 𐤁𐤏𐤋, romanized: baʿl; Biblical Hebrew: בעל, romanized: baʿal, pronounced [baʕal]).
- ^ This cuneiform is identical to the ⟨ 𒂗 ⟩ which is taken as EN in Sumerian texts. There, it has the meaning "high priest" or "lord" and appears in the names of the gods Enki and Enlil.
- ^ In surviving accounts, Baʿal's power over fertility extends only over vegetation. Older scholarship claimed Baʿal controlled human fertility as well, but did so on the basis of misinterpretation or of inscriptions now regarded as dubious. Similarly, 19th-century scholarship treating Baal as a personification of the sun seems to have been badly taken. The astrotheology of Near Eastern deities was an Iron Age development long postdating the origin of religion and, following its development, Bel and Baʿal were associated with the planet Jupiter. The sun was worshipped in Canaan as either the goddess Shapash or the god Shamash.
- ^ Herrmann argues against seeing these separate lineages literally, instead proposing that they describe Baʿal's roles. As a god, he is understood as a child of El, "father of gods", while his fertility aspects connect him to the grain god Dagan.
- ^ The account is patchy and obscure here. Some scholars take some or all of the terms to refer to Litan and in other passages ʿAnat takes credit for destroying the monsters on Baʿal's behalf. Herrmann takes "Šalyaṭu" as a proper name rather than translating it as the "powerful one" or "tyrant".
- ^ This name appears twice in the Legend of Keret discovered at Ugarit. Before this discovery, Nyberg had restored it to the Hebrew texts of Deuteronomy, 1 & 2 Samuel, Isaiah, and Hosea. Following its verification, additional instances have been claimed in the Psalms and in Job.
- ^ "The etymology of Beelzebul has proceeded in several directions. The variant reading Beelzebub (Syriac translators and Jerome) reflects a long-standing tradition of equating Beelzebul with the Philistine deity of the city of Ekron mentioned in 2 Kgs 1:2, 3, 6, 16. Baalzebub (Heb ba˓al zĕbûb) seems to mean “lord of flies” (HALAT, 250, but cf. LXXB baal muian theon akkarōn, “Baal-Fly, god of Akkaron”; Ant 9:2, 1 theon muian)."
- ^ Arndt & al. reverse this, saying Symmachus transcribed Baälzeboúb for a more common Beëlzeboúl.
- ^ "It is more probable that b‘l zbl, which can mean “lord of the (heavenly) dwelling” in Ugaritic, was changed to b‘l zbb to make the divine name an opprobrius epithet. The reading Beelzebul in Mt. 10:25 would then reflect the right form of the name, a wordplay on “master of the house” (Gk oikodespótēs)."
- ^ "An alternative suggested by many is to connect zĕbûl with a noun meaning '(exalted) abode.'"
- ^ "In contemporary Semitic speech it may have been understood as ‘the master of the house’; if so, this phrase could be used in a double sense in Mt. 10:25b."
- ^ "In NT Gk. beelzeboul, beezeboul (Beelzebub in TR and AV) is the prince of the demons (Mt. 12:24, 27; Mk. 3:22; Lk. 11:15, 18f.), identified with Satan (Mt. 12:26; Mk. 3:23, 26; Lk. 11:18)."
- ^ "Besides, Matt 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15 use the apposition ἄρχων τῶν δαιμονίων ‘head of the →Demons’."
- ^ a b "Baal". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. Retrieved 26 December 2019. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
- ^ "Baal". Lexico. Oxford University Press and Dictionary.com. Retrieved 26 December 2019.
- ^ a b "baal". Merriam-Webster Online. Retrieved 26 December 2019.
- ^ Webb, Steven K. (2012). "Baal". Webb's Easy Bible Names Pronunciation Guide.
- ^ De Moor & al. (1987), p. 1.
- ^ a b c Smith (1878), pp. 175–176.
- ^ a b AYBD (1992), "Baal (Deity)".
- ^ Romans 11:4
- ^ Huss (1985), p. 561.
- ^ Oxford English Dictionary (1885), "Baalist, n."
- ^ a b c d e f DULAT (2015), "bʕl (II)".
- ^ Kane (1990), p. 861.
- ^ a b Strong (1890), H1172.
- ^ Belin, in Gilles Ménage, Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue françoise, 1750. Ménage constructs a derivation of both the "Chaldean" Bel and the Celtic Belin from a supposed word for "ball, sphere", whence "head", and "chief, lord"
- ^ Decker, Roy (2001), "Carthaginian Religion", Ancient/Classical History, New York: About.com, p. 2
- ^ Herrmann (1999a), pp. 134–135.
- ^ Batuman, Elif (18 December 2014), "The Myth of the Megalith", The New Yorker
- ^ Allen, Spencer L (2015). The Splintered Divine: A Study of Istar, Baal, and Yahweh Divine Names and Divine Multiplicity in the Ancient Near East. p. 216. ISBN 9781614512363.
- ^ DULAT (2015), "šlyṭ".
- ^ Deut. 33:12.
- ^ 1 Sam. 2:10.
- ^ 2 Sam. 23:1.
- ^ Isa. 59:18 & 63:7.
- ^ Hos. 7:16.
- ^ a b Herrmann (1999a), pp. 132–133.
- ^ "Baal | ancient deity". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2017-08-04.
- ^ Lipiński (1992).
- ^ Cross (1973), p. 26–28.
- ^ Lipiński (1994), p. 207.
- ^ a b Josephus, Antiquities, 8.13.1.
- ^ a b c BEWR (2006), "Baal".
- ^ a b 1 Kings 18
- ^ 2 Kings 23:5.
- ^ 2 Kings 10:22
- ^ Ayles (1904), p. 103.
- ^ 1 Chron. 12:5.
- ^ Easton (1893), "Beali′ah".
- ^ 1 Chron. 9:40.
- ^ Judges 6:32.
- ^ Hosea 2:16
- ^ a b Jgs. 8:33–34.
- ^ Jgs. 9:1–5.
- ^ Josh. 24:1–25.
- ^ Jgs. 9:46.
- ^ Deut. 4:1–40.
- ^ Jer. 11:12–13.
- ^ a b AYBD (1992), "Beelzebul".
- ^ 2 Kings 1:1–18.
- ^ Lurker (1987), p. 31.
- ^ Jongeling, K. (1994). North-African Names from Latin Sources. Research School CNWS. ISBN 978-90-73782-25-9.
- ^ Milton, Paradise Lost, Bk. 1, ll. 419–423.
- ^ Quran 37:123-130 (Sahih International).
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