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Reference: Baal (1)


The chief male deity, as Ashtoreth is the chief goddess, of the Canaanites and Phoenicians. Baalim, the plural form, expresses the various aspects of Baal, as different localities viewed him. Baal is also associated with Aaherah, inaccurately translated "THE GROVE" or "groves" (Jg 3:7; 2Ch 33:3; 34:4; 2Ki 23:5-6). (See ASHERAH.) Baal means lord, in the sense of owner, possessor; but Adown means lord, master. The Hebrew article distinguishes the proper name Baal from the common noun; Bel, the Babylonian idol (Isa 46:1), is related. Midian and Moab, as early as Moses' time, tempted Israel, by Balaam's devilish counsel (Re 2:14; Jos 13:22; Nu 25:18), to worship the phase of the deity called Baal-peor (Numbers 25), from peor, "aperire hymenem virgineum" corresponding to the Latin, Priapus.

Terrible licentiousness not only was sanctioned, but formed part of the worship. A plague from Jehovah destroyed 24,000 Israelites in consequence, and was only stopped by the zeal of Phinehas. Moses subsequently, when warning the people from this example, notices no circumstance of it but one, which, though in the original narrative not stated, was infinitely the most important to advert to, but which none but spectators of the fact, perfectly acquainted with every individual concerned in it, could possibly feel the truth of. "Your eyes have seen what Jehovah did because of Baal-peor, for all the men that followed Baal-peor the Lord thy God hath destroyed them from among you. But ye that did cleave unto the Lord your God are alive every one of you this day" (De 4:3). For Moses to have used this argument was extremely natural but if a forger had asserted this at hazard, and put it in Moses' mouth it seems very strange that it is the only circumstance he should forget to notice in the direct narrative, and the only one he should notice in his reference to it (Graves, Pentateuch, 1:4).

Baal worship prevailed much in Israel, except during Gideon's judgeship (hence called Jerubbaal, "let Baal plead"), up to Samuel's time (Jg 2:10-13; 6:26-32; 8:33; 10:6-10). At Samuel's reproof they put away this worship (1Sa 7:4). Solomon brought back Ashtoreth worship to please his foreign wives. Ahab, king of Israel, under Jezebel's influence (daughter of Ethbaal, priest of Baal and king of Zidon), established the worship of Baal and Asherah ("the groves"): 1Ki 16:31-33; 18:19-22. Elijah successfully for a time resisted it. His influence and that of king Jehoshaphat produced its effect in the following reign and that of Jehu. It was laid aside for Jeroboam's calves, under Jehoram, Ahab's son (2Ki 3:2), and under Jehu (2Ki 10:28); but for the most part prevailed until the Lord in vengeance removed the ten tribes from their land (2Ki 17:16).

Baal worship also in Judah found entrance under Ahaz (2Ch 28:2-3), but was suppressed by Hezekiah (2Ki 18:4). Manasseh sought to bring Judah to the same state of Baal worship as Israel had been under Ahab (2Ki 21:3; compare Mic 6:16). Josiah made a thorough eradication of it (2Ki 23:4-14). A remnant of it and an effort to combine idolatry with Jehovah worship still in part survived until the final purgation of all tendency to idols was effected by the severe discipline of the Babylonian captivity (Zep 1:4-6). The Hebrew for "Sodomites" (1Ki 14:24; 15:12; 22:46; 2Ki 23:7) is qideshim, "those consecrated" to the vilest filthiness, which constituted part of the sacred worship! Flat roofs at Jerusalem were often used as altars (Jer 32:29).

Standing images, or possibly pillars or obelisks (matsebah) were his symbols (1Ki 14:23; 2Ki 18:4; 23:14; Mic 5:13). "Sun images" (hammanim; Isa 17:8; 27:9; 2Ch 34:4) "were on high above the altars" of Baal (Jer 43:13); "the images of Bethshemesh," literally "the pillars (obelisks) of the house of the sun." At Tyre one title was Malqereth "King of the city." In a Maltese inscription, Melkart, lord of Tyre, is identified with "Hercules, the prince leader" of the Greeks; from melek "king," and qereth "of the city." Tyre's colonies (Carthage, etc.) honored Melkart, the god of the mother city; the name appears in Hamilcar. An inscription at Palmyra names him Baal Shemesh, owner of the sun. Philo says his title among the Phoenicians was Beelsamen (shamain), "owner of the heavens."

Plautus also in his Poenulus calls him Bal-samen. Contrast Melchizedek's title for Jehovah, "Possessor Qoneh; not Baal of heaven and earth" (Ge 14:19). High places were chosen for Baal worship, and human victims were sometimes offered as burnt offerings (Jer 19:5). The worshippers wore peculiar vestments (2Ki 10:22). They gashed themselves with knives at times to move his pity (1Ki 18:26-28). The name appears in Asdrubal ("help of Baal"), Hannibal ("grace of Baal"), Adherbaal, Ethbaal. His generating, vivifying power is symbolized by the sun (2Ki 23:5), as Ashtoreth is by the moon, Venus, and the heavenly hosts.

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