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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Ba´al (lord, master). As the idolatrous nations of the Syro-Arabian race had several gods, this word, by means of some accessory distinction, became applicable as a name to many different deities.

Baal, (with the definite article, Judges 2:13; Jeremiah 19:5; Jeremiah 32:35; Romans 11:4) is appropriated to the chief male divinity of the Phoenicians, the principal seat of whose worship was at Tyre. The idolatrous Israelites adopted the worship of this god (almost always in conjunction with that of Ashtoreth) in the period of the Judges (Judges 2:13); they continued it in the reigns of Ahaz and Manasseh, kings of Judah (2 Chronicles 28:2; 2 Kings 21:3); and, among the kings of Israel, especially in the reign of Ahab, who, partly through the influence of his wife, the daughter of the Sidonian king Ethbaal, appears to have made a systematic attempt to suppress the worship of God altogether, and to substitute that of Baal in its stead (1 Kings 16:31); and in that of Hosea (2 Kings 17:16), although Jehu and Jehoiada once severally destroy ed the temples and priesthood of the idol (2 Kings 10:18, sq.; 11:18).

We read of altars, images, and temples erected to Baal (1 Kings 16:32; 2 Kings 3:2). The altars were generally on heights, as the summits of hills or the roofs of houses (Jeremiah 19:5; Jeremiah 32:29). His priesthood were a very numerous body (1 Kings 18:19), and were divided into the two classes of prophets and of priests (2 Kings 10:9). As to the rites by which he was worshipped, there is most frequent mention of incense being offered to him (2 Kings 23:5), but also of bullocks being sacrificed (1 Kings 18:26), and even of children, as to Moloch (Jeremiah 19:5). According to the description in 1 Kings 18, the priests, during the sacrifice, danced about the altar, and, when their prayers were not answered, cut themselves with knives until the blood flowed. We also read of homage paid to him by bowing the knee, and by kissing his image (1 Kings 19:18), and that his worshippers used to swear by his name (Jeremiah 12:16).

As to the power of nature which was adored under the form of the Tyrian Baal, many of the passages above cited show evidently that it was one of the heavenly bodies; or, if we admit that resemblance between the Babylonian and Persian religions which Munter assumes, not one of the heavenly bodies really, but the astral spirit residing in one of them; and the same line of induction as that which is pursued in the case of Ashtoreth, his female counterpart, leads to the conclusion that it was the sun.

Baal Berith

Ba´al Be´rith, covenant-lord (Judges 9:4), is the name of a god worshipped by the people of Shechem (Judges 8:33; Judges 9:4; Judges 9:46).

Baal Peor

Baa´l Pe´or appears to have been properly the idol of the Moabites (Numbers 25:1-9; Deuteronomy 4:3; Joshua 22:17; Psalms 106:28; Hosea 9:10); but also of the Midianites (Numbers 31:15-16).

It is the common opinion that this god was worshipped by obscene rites. The utmost, however, that the passages in which this god is named express, is the fact that the Israelites received this idolatry from the women of Moab, and were led away to eat of their sacrifices (cf. Psalms 106:28); but it is very possible for that sex to have been the means of seducing them into the adoption of their worship, without the idolatry itself being of an obscene kind. It is also remarkable that so few authors are agreed even as to the general character of these rites. Most Jewish authorities represent his worship to have consisted of rites which are filthy in the extreme, but not lascivious. With regard to the origin of the term Peor, it is supposed to have been the original name of the mountain; and Baal Peor to be the designation of the god worshipped there. Some identify this god with Chemosh.


Ba´alze´bub (fly-lord) occurs in 2 Kings 1:2-16, as the god of the Philistines at Ekron, whose oracle Ahaziah sent to consult. There is much diversity of opinion as to the signification of this name, according as authors consider the title to be one of honor, as used by his worshippers, or one of contempt.

The analogy of classical idolatry would lead us to conclude that all these Baals are only the same god under various modifications of attributes and emblems: but the scanty notices to which we owe all our knowledge of Syro-Arabian idolatry do not furnish data for any decided opinion on this subject.

Baal is often found as the first element of compound names of places. In this case, Gesenius thinks that it seldom, if ever, has any reference to the god of that name; but that it denotes the place which possesses, which is the abode of the thing signified by the latter half of the compound.





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Baal'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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