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Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words

Baal, Master

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Ba‛al (בַּעַל, Strong's #1167), “master; baal.” In Akkadian, the noun belu (“lord”) gave rise to the verb belu (“to rule”). In other northwest Semitic languages, the noun ba‛al differs somewhat in meaning, as other words have taken over the meaning of “sir” or “lord.” (Cf. Heb. ‘adon.) The Hebrew word ba‛al seems to have been related to these homonyms.The word ba‛al occurs 84 times in the Hebrew Old Testament, 15 times with the meaning of “husband” and 50 times as a reference to a deity. The first occurrence of the noun ba‛al is in Gen. 14:13: “And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with [literally, "ba‛al’s of a covenant with”] Abram.”

The primary meaning of ba‛al is “possessor.” Isaiah’s use of ba‛al in parallel with qanah clarifies this basic significance of ba‛al: “The ox knoweth his owner [qanah], and the ass his master’s [ba‛al] crib: but Israel does not know, my people doth not consider” (Isa. 1:3). Man may be the owner [ba’al] of an animal (Exod. 22:10), a house (Exod. 22:7), a cistern (Exod. 21:34), or even a wife (Exod. 21:3).

A secondary meaning, “husband,” is clearly indicated by the phrase ba‛al ha-ishshah (literally, “owner of the woman”). For example: “If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband [ba‛al ha-ishshah] will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine” (Exod. 21:22). The meaning of ba‛al is closely related to ish (“man”), as is seen in the usage of these two words in one verse: “When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband [ish] was dead, she mourned for her husband [ba‛al]” (2 Sam. 11:26).

The word ba‛al with another noun may signify a peculiar characteristic or quality: “And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh” (Gen. 37:19); the KJV offers a literal translation of the Hebrew — “master of dreams” — as an alternative.

Thirdly, the word ba‛al may denote any deity other than the God of Israel. Baal was a common name given to the god of fertility in Canaan. In the Canaanite city of Ugarit, Baal was especially recognized as the god of fertility. The Old Testament records that Baal was “the god” of the Canaanites. The Israelites worshiped Baal during the time of the judges (Judg. 6:25-32) and of King Ahab. Elijah stood as the opponent of the Baal priests at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:21ff.). Many cities made Baal a local god and honored him with special acts of worship: Baal-peor (Num. 25:5), Baal-berith at Shechem (Judg. 8:33), Baal-zebub (2 Kings 1:2-16) at Ekron, Baal-zephon (Num. 33:7), and Baalhermon (Judg. 3:3).

Among the prophets, Jeremiah and Hosea mention Baal most frequently. Hosea pictured Israel as turning to the baals and only returning to the Lord after a time of despair (Hos. 2:13, 17). He says that the name of ba‛al will no longer be used, not even with the meaning of “Lord” or “master,” as the association was contaminated by the idolatrous practices: “And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, that thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Ba-a-li [ba‛al]. For I will take away the names of Ba-alim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name” (Hos. 2:16- 17). In Hosea’s and Jeremiah’s time, the ba‛al idols were still worshiped, as the peoples sacrificed, built high places, and made images of the ba‛alim (plural).

In the Septuagint, the word ba‛al is not uniformly translated: kurios (“lord, owner”); aner (“man, husband”); the simple transliteration; and ba‛al. The KJV has these translations: “Baal, man, owner, husband, master.”

Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Baal, Master'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words.​dictionaries/​eng/​vot/​b/baal-master.html. 1940.