|FAQ ID # 2411|
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|I know Baal was worshipped in early Biblical days but what or who was Baal? Is he worshipped today?|
|Answer / Solution|
|The pagan peoples who inhabited the land of Canaan before the Israelites arrived also worshiped many gods and goddesses. The Canaanite literature discovered at RAS SHAMRA (on the site of the ancient city of Ugarit) on the Syrian coast provides abundant information about several gods mentioned in the Bible.
The Canaanite god most often referred to is Baal, which means "lord" or "master." The word could be used as a title for any person who owned something, or any god considered to be a lord or master. But the word Baal soon became identified with various regional gods that were thought to provide fertility for crops and livestock. As a god who symbolized the productive forces of nature, Baal was worshiped with much sensuality (Num 22:41; Judg 2:13; 1 Kings 16:31-32).
Baal appeared in many forms and under many different names. The Bible often makes reference to the Baalim (the plural of Baal; KJV) or to the Baals (NKJV; Judg 2:11; 1 Kings 18:18; Jer 2:23).
The word Baal was often used in forming names, such as Baal of Peor (Deut 4:3; Baal-peor, KJV). Peor was the name of a mountain in Moab. Baal of Peor was an idol of Moab (probably to be identified with Chemosh) which Israel was enticed to worship with immoral practices. In several passages the idol is simply called Peor (Num 25:18; Josh 22:17).
Baal-Berith, which means "lord of the covenant," is a name under which Baal was worshiped in the time of the judges at Shechem, where he had a temple. In Judg 9:46 he is called simply the god Berith.
Baal-Zebub, which means "lord of the fly," was "the god of Ekron" (2 Kings 1:2-3,6,16)-the name under which Baal was worshiped at the Philistine city of Ekron. This god was worshiped as the producer of flies, and consequently as the god that was able to defend against this pest. In the New Testament, reference is made to Beelzebub, a heathen god considered the chief evil spirit by the Jewish people (Matt 10:25; 12:27; Luke 11:18-19). The Pharisees called him "the ruler of the demons" (Matt 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15), and Jesus identified him with Satan.
This word Baal was also used in personal names, but when the worship of Baal became a problem in Israel, Baal was replaced by Bosheth, which means "shame" (probably because it was shameful to have the name of a pagan god as part of one's name and because Baal was a shameful god). For instance, Merib-Baal (1 Chron 8:34; 9:40), the name of the son of Jonathan, became Mephibosheth (2 Sam 9:6-13), and Esh-Baal (1 Chron 9:39) became Ishbosheth (2 Sam 2:8).
The Canaanite god Baal was known as Zebel Baal ("prince Baal") or Aliyan Baal ("Baal the strong"), as well as by a number of other titles. Baal was considered the god who brought rain and fertility (especially good harvests and animal reproduction). In a number of passages in Canaanite literature he is identified as Hadad, another god believed to bring the rains, storms, and fertility. This god Hadad is the god Adad of Assyria.
Archaeologists have discovered rock carvings that show Baal holding a club in his right hand and a lightning flash with a spearhead in his left. These symbols identify him as the god of rain and storm. Baal is also known as the "rider of the clouds," a term showing his power over the heavens. Ps 68:4, "Extol Him who rides on the clouds," gives this title to the God of Israel-a declaration that the Lord, and not the false god Baal, is ruler over the heavens.
(from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright (c)1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)
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