Lord, 1. In the Old Testament denotes an idol of the Phoenicians, and particularly of the Tyrians, whose worship was also introduced with great solemnities among the Hebrews, and especially at Samaria, along with that of Astarte, Jg 6:25-32; 2Ki 10:18,28. See ASHTORETH. The plural, Baalim, signifies images or statues of Baal, Jg 2:11; 10:10. Of the extent to which the worship of this idol was domesticated among the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, we have an evidence in the proper names of persons; as, among the former, Ethbaal, Jerubbaal; and among the latter, Hannibal, Asdrubal, etc. Among the Babylonians, the same idol was worshipped under the name of BEL, which is only another form of the word Baal, Isa 46:1; Jer 50:2; 51:44. The worship of Baal was established in Babylon in the famous tower of Babel, the uppermost room of which served at the same time as an observatory, and as the repository of a collection of astronomical observations.
That in the astronomical, or rather, astrological mythology of the East, we are to look for the origin of this worship in the adoration of the heavenly bodies, is conceded by all critics. The more common opinion has been, that Baal, or Bel, is the sun; and that, under this name, this luminary received divine honors. But the Greek and Roman writers give to the Babylonian Bel the name of Jupiter Belus, meaning the planet Jupiter, which was regarded, along with the planet Venus, as the guardian and giver of all good fortune; and formed, with Venus, the most fortunate of all constellations, under which alone fortunate sovereigns could be born. This planet, therefore, many suppose to have been the object of worship under the name of Baal, as also the planet Venus under that of Astarte. Not that the sun was not an object of idolatrous worship among these nations, but in that case he is represented under his own name; as 2Ki 23:11.
The temples and altars of Ball were generally on eminences. Manasseh placed in the two courts of the temple at Jerusalem altars to all the host of heaven, and in particular to Astarte, 2Ki 21:5,7. Jeremiah threatens the Jews who had sacrificed to Baal on the house-top, Jer 32:29; and Josiah destroyed the altars which Ahaz had erected on the terrace of his palace,
Human victims were offered to Baal, as they were also to the sun. Jeremiah reproaches the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem with "building the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt-offerings unto Baal," Jer 19:5; an expression which appears to be decisive as to the actual slaying by fire of the unhappy victims to Baal. See MOLOCH.
The children of Israel were prone to serve Baal. See Nu 25:3 Jg 2:14; 3:7. Under Samuel they put away their idols, 1Sa 7:4. This continued under David and Solomon; but under Ahab, whose wife Jezebel was a daughter of the Zidonian king Ethbaal, the worship of Baal was restored with great pomp, 1Ki 16:31.
Joined with other words, Baal signifies also other false gods. Baal-Berith, or the "lord of the covenant," was a god of the Shechemites, Jg 8:33; 9:4. Baal-Peor, or "the lord of Peor," was a filthy idol of the Moabites, 5/3/type/isv'>Nu 25:3,5; Ho 9:10. Baal-Zebub, "lord of flies," was a god of the Philistines at Ekron. See BEELZEBUB.
2. The word BAAL also occurs in many compound names of places, not always having any reference to the idol.
Illustration: Figure of Baal Carried in Procession
(1.) The name appropriated to the principal male god of the Phoenicians. It is found in several places in the plural BAALIM (Jg 2:11; 10:10; 1Ki 18:18; Jer 2:23; Ho 2:17). Baal is identified with Molech (Jer 19:5). It was known to the Israelites as Baal-peor (Nu 25:3; De 4:3), was worshipped till the time of Samuel (1Sa 7:4), and was afterwards the religion of the ten tribes in the time of Ahab (1Ki 16:31-33; 18:19,22). It prevailed also for a time in the kingdom of Judah (2Ki 8:27; comp. 2Ki 11:18; 16:3; 2Ch 28:2), till finally put an end to by the severe discipline of the Captivity (Zep 1:4-6). The priests of Baal were in great numbers (1Ki 18:19), and of various classes (2Ki 10:19). Their mode of offering sacrifices is described in 1Ki 18:25-29. The sun-god, under the general title of Baal, or "lord," was the chief object of worship of the Canaanites. Each locality had its special Baal, and the various local Baals were summed up under the name of Baalim, or "lords." Each Baal had a wife, who was a colourless reflection of himself.
2. Descendant of Reuben. 1Ch 5:5.
BAAL, BEL, or BELUS, denoting lord, a divinity among several ancient nations; as the Canaanites, Phoenicians, Sidonians, Carthaginians, Babylonians, Chaldeans, and Assyrians. The term Baal, which is itself an appellative, served at first to denote the true God, among those who adhered to the true religion. Accordingly, the Phoenicians, being originally Canaanites, having once had, as well as the rest of their kindred, the knowledge of the true God, probably called him Baal, or lord. But they, as well as other nations, gradually degenerating into idolatry, applied this appellation, to their respective idols; and thus were introduced a variety of divinities, called Baalim, or Baal, with some epithet annexed to it, as Baal Berith, Baal Gad, Baal Moloch, Baal Peor, Baal Zebub, &c. Some have supposed that the descendants of Ham first worshipped the sun under the title of Baal, 2Ki 23:5,11; and that they afterward ascribed it to the patriarch who was the head of their line; making the sun only an emblem of his influence or power. It is certain, however, that when the custom prevailed of deifying and worshipping those who were in any respect distinguished among mankind, the appellation of Baal was not restricted to the sun, but extended to those eminent persons who were deified, and who became objects of worship in different nations. The Phoenicians had several divinities of this kind, who were not intended to represent the sun. It is probable that Baal, Belus, or Bel, the great god of the Carthaginians, and also of the Sidonians, Babylonians, and Assyrians, who, from the testimony of Scripture, appears to have been delighted with human sacrifices, was the Moloch of the Ammonites; the Chronus of the Greeks, who was the chief object of adoration in Italy, Crete, Cyprus, and Rhodes, and all other countries where divine honours were paid him; and the Saturn of the Latins. In process of time, many other deities, beside the principal ones just mentioned, were distinguished by the title of Baal among the Phoenicians, particularly those of Tyre, and of course among the Carthaginians, and other nations. Such were Jupiter, Mars, Bacchus, and Apollo, or the sun.
The temples and altars of Baal were generally placed on eminences: they were places inclosed by walls, within which was maintained a perpetual fire; and some of them had statues or images, called in Scripture, "Chamanim." Maundrell, in his journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem, observed some remains of these enclosures in Syria. Baal had his prophets and his priests in great numbers; accordingly, we read of four hundred and fifty of them that were fed at the table of Jezebel only; and they conducted the worship of this deity, by offering sacrifices, by dancing round his altar with violent gesticulations and exclamations, by cutting their bodies with knives and lancets, and by raving and pretending to prophesy, as if they were possessed by some invisible power.
It is remarkable that we do not find the name Baal so much in popular use east of Babylonia; but it was general west of Babylonia, and to the very extremity of western Europe, including the British isles. The worship of Bel, Belus, Belenus, or Belinus, was general throughout the British islands; and certain of its rites and observances are still maintained among us, notwithstanding the establishment of Christianity during so many ages. A town in Perthshire, on the borders of the Highlands, is called Tilliebeltane or Tulliebeltane; that is, the eminence, or rising ground, of the fire of Baal. In the neighbourhood is a Druidical temple of eight upright stones, where it is supposed the fire was kindled. At some distance from this is another temple of the same kind, but smaller; and near it a well still held in great veneration. On Beltane morning, superstitious people go to this well, and drink of it; then they make a procession round it nine times. After this they in like manner go round the temple. So deep-rooted is this Heathenish superstition in the minds of many who reckon themselves good Protestants, that they will not neglect these rites, even when Beltane falls on the Sabbath.
In Ireland, Bel-tein is celebrated on the twenty-first of June, at the time of the solstice. There, as they make fires on the tops of hills, every member of the family is made to pass though the fire; as they reckon this ceremony necessary to ensure good fortune through the succeeding year. This resembles the rites used by the Romans in the Palilia. Bel-tein is also observed in Lancashire.
In Wales, this annual fire is kindled in autumn, on the first day of November; which being neither at the solstice nor equinox, deserves attention. It may be accounted for by supposing that the lapse of ages has removed it from its ancient station, and that the observance is kept on the same day, nominally, though that be now removed some weeks backward from its true station. However that may be, in North Wales especially, this fire is attended by many ceremonies; such as running through the fire and smoke, each participator casting a stone into the fire.
The Hebrews often imitated the idolatry of the Canaanites in adoring Baal. They offered human sacrifices to him in groves, upon high places, and upon the terraces of houses. Baal had priests and prophets consecrated to his service. All sorts of infamous and immodest actions were committed in the festivals of Baal and Astarte. See Jer 32:35; 2Ki 17:16; 23:4-5,12; 1Ki 18:22; 2Ki 10:19; 1Ki 14:24; 15:12; 2Ki 23:7; Ho 4:14. This false deity is frequently mentioned in Scripture in the plural number, Baalim, which may intimate that the name Baal was given to several different deities.
There were many cities in Palestine, whose names were compounded of Baal and some other word: whether it was that the god Baal was adored in them, or that these places were looked upon as the capital cities,