The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Vol. 1

By Geoffrey W. Bromiley; Everett F. Harrison et al. | Go to book overview

b
BAAL bā'ǝl "Heb. ba'al < Bab. Belu. or Bel-'lord'; Gk. Baal". The supreme fertility-god of the Canaanites.
I. Name
II. Character
III. Worship
IV. Various Forms of Baal

I. Name.-In the Râs Shamrah texts, the first of which were discovered in 1929, the designation "Baal" is found about 240 times either alone or in a compound. The com-

"Baal of the lightning," stele from Râs Shamrah. The small human
figure may be a deity or a person in the god's care. (Louvre)

bination aliyn b'l, referring to the same god, is specified about seventy times and mainly in those passages where sacrifices are offered to Baal. The name is most widely employed alone as a title; as such it occurs about 150 times. About twenty times Baal is called Hadad or is used in a compound form of Hadad, the Semitic storm-god of the ancient Near East who was perhaps universally known in the ancient world. Though Hadad (Addu of the Amarna Letters) and Baal were two separate gods, the Râs Shamrah tablets indicate no differentiation. The two names are employed as though they belonged to the same god, giving a strong indication that the characteristics of Baal were similar to those of Hadad. Hadad's mission, as well as his symbol (the bull, a symbol of fertility), was assumed by the Canaanite Baal. Baal is further mentioned as bn dgn, i.e., "son of Dagan," the fertility-god who was also worshiped by the Philistines (Jgs. 16:23; 1 S. 5:2). His close relationship to Hadad and Dagan leaves no doubt that Baal was considered the fertility-god of the Ugaritic religion.

The Râs Shamrah tablets give no indication that Baal was in any sense a local god. As the word in Hebrew also means "possessor," however, it is quite possible that when used in a religious sense the name signified the god of a particular area of land or soil. Thus the forms under which Baal was worshiped were necessarily as numerous as the communities that worshiped 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 were Baal-meon ("Baal of Meon," Nu. 32:38), Baalhermon ("Baal of Hermon," Jgs. 3:3), Baal-hazor ("Baal of Hazor," 2 S. 13:23), Baal-peor ("Baal of Peor," Nu. 25:3). At other times the title was affixed to the names of an individual god; thus there were Bel-Marduk ("the lord Marduk") at Babylon, Baal-Melqart at Tyre, and Baal-gad (Josh. 11:17) in the north of Palestine. Occasionally the second element was a noun, as in Baal-berith ("lord of the covenant," (Jgs. 9:4), Baal-zebub ("lord of flies," 2 K. 1:2), and Baal-hamon ("lord of abundance or wealth," Cant. 8:11). All these various forms of the fertility-god were collectively known as the Baalim (be'ālîm, Heb. pl. of Baal).

II. Character.-The Râs Shamrah tablets, as well as the statuettes and stelae found there, have produced an abundance of information relating to the character of Baal. His character as the storm-god is expressed on a sculptured stele. In his left hand he is seen grasping a thunderbolt, the extension of which converts into a spearhead, and in his right hand he is swinging a club overhead. He dons a helmet adorned with the horns of a bull, which emphasizes his role as the supreme fertility-god of the Ugaritic religion.

-377-

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The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Vol. 1
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Introduction vii
  • Contributors† xi
  • Abbreviations xix
  • A 1
  • B 377
  • C 567
  • D 851
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