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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Baal (1)

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BAAL (BAALI, BAALIM) . Used generally, the word ba’al means ‘possessor,’ ‘inhabitant,’ ‘controller.’ Thus, a married man is called ‘possessor of a woman’ ( 2 Samuel 11:26 ), a ram, ‘possessor of horns,’ and even the citizens of a locality are denoted by this word ( Judges 9:2 ; Judges 20:5 , 1 Samuel 23:11 f., 2 Samuel 21:12 ). With a similar meaning, it is applied to numerous Canaanitish local deities (pl. ba’alim , Judges 2:11 ; Judges 3:7 ; Judges 8:33 ; Jdg 10:10 , 1 Samuel 7:1 ; 1 Samuel 12:10 , 1 Kings 18:18 ; coll. sing. ba’al , Judges 2:13 , Jeremiah 11:13 etc.; cf. Baal-gad, Baalath-beer , and other compounds of this word). These gods were supposed to manifest themselves in the fertility, or in some startling natural formation, of the locality where they were worshipped. Such an animistic conception is evident from the fact that they were worshipped in high places and in groves, where such rites as prophecy ( Jeremiah 22:13 ), fornication ( Jeremiah 7:9 ), self-mutilation ( 1 Kings 18:28 ), and child-sacrifice ( Jeremiah 19:5 ) were practised under the guidance of kemârim or idolatrous priests ( Zephaniah 1:4 ). The same idea is also clear from the use of this word among the Arabs, who designate land irrigated by subterranean springs as ‘Ba’l land,’ i.e. land inhabited by a spirit. Gradually, however, some of these gods assimilated more abstract powers (cf. Baal-berith ), and as their votaries extended their powers over a greater area, became the Baal par excellence, i.e. the controller of the destiny of his worshippers (cf. Judges 6:25 , 1 Kings 16:31 ; 1Ki 18:26 ; 1 Kings 19:18 [in the last three passages, Melkart of Tyre]).

So great a predilection for cults of such a nature was shown by the Israelites, from the time of their entrance into Canaan until the fall of the monarchy, that Jabweh was given this title. Thus Saul, a zealous worshipper of Jahweh, names (1 Chronicles 8:33 ) one of his sons Eshbaal , and one of David’s heroes is called ( 1 Chronicles 12:5 ) Bealiah (‘J″ [Note: Jahweh.] is Baal’); cf. also Meribbaal ( 1 Chronicles 9:40 ), Beeliada ( 1 Chronicles 14:7 ), Jerubbaal ( Judges 8:35 ). A confusion, however, of Jahweh and the Canaanitish deities seems to have taken place, to avoid which, Hosea ( Hosea 2:16-17 ) demands that Jahweh be no longer called Ba‘ali (‘my Baal’), but ’Ishi (‘my husband’). Under the influence of such prophecies the Israelites abandoned the use of Baal for Jahweh , and in later times developed so great an antipathy to this word that later revisers substituted bôsheth (‘shameful thing’), not only wherever Ba’al occurred for the Canaanitish deities ( Hosea 9:10 , Jeremiah 3:24 ; Jeremiah 11:13 ), but also, forgetful of its former application to Jahweh, in some of the above names (see Ishbosheth), supposing them to allude to local gods.

N. Koenig.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Baal (1)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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Tuesday, November 24th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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