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Bible Dictionaries

Holman Bible Dictionary

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(bay' uhl) Lord of Canaanite religion and seen in the thunderstorms, Baal was worshiped as the god who provided fertility. He proved a great temptation for Israel. “Baal” occurs in the Old Testament as a noun meaning, “lord, owner, possessor, or husband,” and as a proper noun referring to the supreme god of the Canaanites, and often to the name of a man. According to 1 Chronicles 5:5 , Baal was a descendant of Reuben, Jacob's firstborn son, and the father of Beerah. Baal was sent into exile by Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria. The genealogical accounts of Saul's family listed in 1 Chronicles 9:35-36 indicates that the fourth son of Jehiel was named Baal.

The noun comes from a verb that means to marry or rule over. The verb form occurs in the Hebrew text 29 times, whereas the noun occurs 166 times. The noun appears in a number of compound forms which are proper names for locations where Canaanite deities were worshiped, such as Baal-peor (Numbers 25:5; Deuteronomy 4:3; Psalm 106:28; Hosea 9:10 ), Baal-hermon (Judges 3:3; 1 Chronicles 5:23 ), and Baal-gad (Joshua 11:17; Joshua 12:7; Joshua 13:5 ).

Baal Worship in Canaan Baal worship revolved around two themes that represented the conception of Baal his worshipers held. Baal was both the sun-god and storm-god. He was worshiped as sun-god when the people wished to express thanks and gratitude for light and warmth and fertility. Worship of Baal as storm-god took place to appease the destructive nature of Baal, demonstrated by drought and storms that devastated the vegetation of the worshipers. The efforts to appease Baal whenever adverse conditions prevailed culminated in the sacrifice of human beings, usually the firstborn of the one offering the sacrifice. The victims were burnt alive, a practice in the Old Testament termed “to pass through the fire” (2 Kings 16:3; 2 Kings 21:6 ). Baal worship was as diverse as the communities in which he was worshiped. Each locality had its own Baal, who was named after the city or place to which he belonged. Baal was considered the owner or possessor of the land on which his followers lived.

Baal Worship in Israel The Northern Kingdom of Israel, under the leadership of Ahab of the household of Omri, was led to worship Baal as the state god (1 Kings 16:31 ). The prophets Elijah and Elisha delivered the condemnation of God concerning Baal worship and tried to rid the land of the idolatry (1 Kings 18:17-40; 2 Kings 1:9-16 ).

The worship of Baal infiltrated the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The reform movement of Hezekiah was reversed when Manasseh became king (2 Kings 21:2-16 ), as he reinstated Baal worship, along with worship of Assyrian gods and other gods.

The conflict between Baal worship and the worship of the Lord God is described in the Book of Hosea. The judgment of the people of God for their idolatry, and their restoration is disclosed in Hosea 2:1 . The Bible writers affirmed the supremacy of Yahweh and condemned the worship of any other gods beside Yahweh. See Canaan.

James Newell

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Baal'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hbd/​b/baal.html. 1991.
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