(Hebrews id. בִּעִל, lord or master), a generic term for god in many of the Syro-Arabian languages. As the idolatrous nations of that race had several gods, this word, by means of some accessory distinction, became applicable as a name to many different deities. SEE BAAL-BERITH, SEE BAAL-PEOR; SEE BAAL-ZEBUB. There is no evidence, however, that the Israelites ever called Jehovah by the name of Baal; for the passage in Ho 2:16, which has been cited as such, only contains the word baal as the sterner, less affectionate representative of husband. It is spoken of the master and owner of a house (Ex 22:7; Jg 19:22); of a landholder (Job 31:39); of an owner of cattle (Ex 21:28; Isa 1:3); of a lender of money, i.e. creditor (De 15:2); also of the head of a family (Le 21:4); and even of the Assyrians (or the princes) as conquerors of nations (Isa 16:8). SEE BAALIM. It also occurs very frequently as the first part of the names of towns and men, e.g. BAAL-GAD, BAAL-HAMON, BAAL-HANAN, etc., all which see in their alphabetical order, and compare SEE BAAL. As a strictly proper name, and in its simple form, Baal stands in the Bible for a deity, and also for two men and one village. SEE GUR-BAAL; SEE KIRJATH-BAAL; SEE MERIB-BAAL.
1. This name (with the article, הִבִּעִל, hab-Ba'al, Jg 2:13; Sept. ὁ Βάαλ, but also ἡ Βάαλ, Jer 19:5; Jer 39:18; Ro 11:4) is appropriated to the chief male divinity of the Phoenicians, the principal seat of whose worship was at Tyre, and thus corresponds with ASHTORETH, their supreme female divinity. Both names have the peculiarity of being used in the plural, and it seems that these plurals designate either (as Gesenius, Thes. s.v. maintains) statues of the divinities, or different modifications of the divinities themselves. That there were many such modifications of Baal is certain from the fact that his name occurs with numerous adjuncts, both in the O.T. and elsewhere, as we have seen above. The plural BAALIM is found frequently alone (e.g. Jg 2:11; Jg 10:10; 1Ki 18:18; Jer 9:14; Ho 2:17), as well as in connection with Ashtoreth (Jg 10:6; 1Sa 7:4), and with Asherah, or, as our version renders it, "the groves" (Jg 3:7; Jg 2
Chronicles 33:3). There is no difficulty in determining the meaning of the name, since the word is in Hebrew a common noun of frequent occurrence, having the meaning lord, not so much, however, in the sense of ruler as of master, owner, possessor. The name of the god, whether singular or plural, is always distinguished from the common noun by the presence of the article (הִבִּעִל, הִבּעָלַים), except when it stands in connection with some other word which designates a peculiar modification of Baal. In the Chaldaic form the word becomes shortened into בּעֵל, and thence, dropping the guttural, בֵּל, BEL, which is the Babylonian name of this god (Buxtorf, Lex. Chald. et Talin; so Gesenius, Furst, Movers; the identity of the two words is, however, doubted by Rawlinson, Herod. 1, 247).
There can be no doubt of the very high antiquity of the worship of Baal. We find his cultus established among the Moabites and their allies the Midianites in the time of Moses (Nu 22:41), and through these nations the Israelites were seduced to the worship of this god under the particular form of Baal-peor (Nu 25:3 sq.; De 4:3). Notwithstanding the fearful punishment which their idolatry brought upon them in this instance, the succeeding generation returned to the worship of Baal (Jg 2:10-13), and with the exception of the period during which Gideon was judge (Jg 6:26 sq.; 8:33) this form of idolatry seems to have prevailed among them up to the time of Samuel (Jg 10:10; 1Sa 7:4), at whose rebuke the people renounced the worship of Baalim. Two centuries pass over before we hear again of Baal in connection with the people of Israel, though we can scarcely conclude from this silence that his worship was altogether abandoned. We know that in the time of Solomon the service of many gods of the surrounding nations was introduced, and particularly that of Ashtoreth, with which Baal is so frequently connected. However this may be, the worship of Baal spread greatly, and, together with that of Asherah, became the religion of the court and people of the ten tribes under Ahab, king of Israel, who, partly through the influence of his wife Jezebel (q.v.), 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 (1Ki 16:31-33; 1Ki 18:19,22). And though this idolatry was occasionally put down (2Ki 3:2; 2Ki 10:28), it appears never to have been permanently or effectually abolished in that kingdom (2Ki 17:16). In the kingdom of Judah also Baal-worship extensively prevailed. During the short reign of Ahaziah and the subsequent usurpation of his mother Athaliah, the sister of Ahab, it appears to have been the religion of the court (2Ki 8:27; comp. 11:18), as it was subsequently under Ahaz (2Ki 16:3; 2Ch 28:2), and Manasseh (2Ki 21:3).
The worship of Baal among the Jews appears to have been appointed with much pomp and ceremonial. Temples were erected to him (1Ki 16:32; 2Ki 11:18); his images were set up (2Ki 10:26); his altars were very numerous (Jer 11:13), being erected particularly on lofty eminences, SEE HIGH-PLACE, (1Ki 18:20), and on the roofs of houses (Jer 32:29); there were priests in great numbers (1Ki 18:19), and of various classes (2Ki 10:19); the worshippers appear to have been arrayed in appropriate robes (2Ki 10:22; comp. Lucian, De Dez Syra, 50). His priesthood (the proper term for which seems to be כּמָרַים, kemarim', so called from their black garments) were a very numerous body (1Ki 18:19), and were divided into the two classes of prophets and of priests (unless the term "servants," which comes between those words, may denote a third order — a kind of Levites, 2Ki 10:19). As to the rites by which he was worshipped, there is most frequent mention of incense being offered to him (2Ki 23:5), but also of bullocks being sacrificed (1Ki 18:26), and even of children, as to Moloch (Jer 19:5). According to the description in 1 Kings 18, the priests during the sacrifice danced (or, in the sarcastic expression of the original, linped) about the altar, and, when their prayers were not answered, cut themselves with knives until the blood flowed, like the priests of Bellona (Lucan. Pharsal. 1, 565; Tertull. Ayologet. 9; Lactant. Div. Instit. 1, 21). We also read of homage paid to him by bowing the knee, and by kissing his image (1Ki 19:18; comp. Cicero, in Verrem, 4, 43), and that his worshippers used to swear by his name (Jer 12:16). SEE CHEMARIM.
Throughout all the Phoenician colonies we continually find traces of the worship of this god, partly in the names of men, such as Adher-bal, Asdru- bal, Hanni-bal, and still more distinctly in Phoenician inscriptions yet remaining (Gesenius, Mon. Phan. passim). Nor need we hesitate to regard the Babylonian bel (Isa 46:1) or Belus (Herod. 1:181) as essentially identical with Baal, though perhaps under some modified form. Rawlinson distinguishes between the second god of the first triad of the Assyrian pantheon, whom he names provisionally Bel-Nimrod, and the Babylonian Bel, whom he considers identical with Merodach (Herod. 1, 510 sq.; 521
sq.). Traces of the idolatry symbolized under it are even found in the British Isles, Baal, Bal, or Beal being, according to many, the name of the principal deity of the ancient Irish; and on the tops of many hills in Scotland there are heaps of stones called by the common people "Bel's cairns," where it is supposed that sacrifices were offered in early times (Statistical Account of Scotland, 3, 105; 11:621). SEE ETHBAAL.
The same perplexity occurs respecting the connection of this god with the heavenly bodies as we have already noticed in regard to Ashtoreth. Creuzer (Symb. 2, 413) and Movers (Phon. 1, 180) declare Baal to be the Sun-god; on the other hand, the Babylonian god is identified with Zeus by Herodotus, and there seems to be no doubt that Bel-Merodach is the planet Jupiter (Rawlinson, Herod. 1, 512). On the whole, Baal probably represents properly the sun, and, in connection with Astarte, or the moon, was very generally worshipped by the idolatrous nations of Western Asia, as representing the great generative powers of nature, the former as a symbol of the active, and the latter of the passive principle. Traces of this tendency to worship the principal luminaries of heaven appear frequently in the history of the Israelites at a very early period, before Sabianism as such was distinctly developed (Ex 20:4; De 4:19; De 17:3; 2Ki 23:11). Gesenius, however (in his Thesaur. Heb.), contends that Baal was not the sun, but the planet Jupiter, as the guardian and giver of good fortune; but the view of Mainter (in his Religion der Babylonier) seems most tenable, who, while he does not deny the astrological character of this worship, still maintains that, together with and besides that, there existed in very early times a cosmogonical idea of the primitive power of nature, as seen in the two functions of generation and conception or parturition, and that the sun and moon were the fittest representatives of these two powers. It is quite likely that in the case of Baal, as well as of Ashtoreth, the symbol of the god varied at different times and in different localities. Indeed, the great number of adjuncts with which the name of Baal is found is a sufficient proof of the diversity of characters in which he was regarded, and there must no doubt have existed a corresponding diversity in the worship. It may even be a question whether in the original notion of Baal there was reference to any of the heavenly bodies, since the derivation of the name does not in this instance, as it does in the case of Ashtoreth, point directly to them. If we separate the name Baal from idolatry, we seem, according to its meaning, to obtain simply the notion of lord and proprietor of all. With this the idea of productive power is naturally associated, and that power is as naturally symbolized by the sun; while, on the other hand, the ideas of providential arrangement and rule, and so of prosperity, are as naturally suggested by the word, and in the astral mythology these ideas are associated with the planet Jupiter. In point of fact, we find adjuncts to the name of Baal answering to all these notions, e.g. Βεελσάμην Balsamen (Plaut. Pen. v. 2, 67)= בעלאּשׁמין, "Lord of the heavens;" בעלאּחמן, Baal-Hamon (Gesenius, Mon. Phan. p. 349), the Sun-Baal (comp. the similar name of a city in Song 8:11); בִִּעלאּגָּד, Baal-Gad, the name of a city (Jos 11:17), q.d. Baal the Fortune-bringer, which god may be regarded as identical with the planet Jupiter. Many more compounds of Baal in the O.T. occur, and among them a large number of cities, which are given below. There has recently been discovered among the ruins of a temple on Mount Lebanon an inscription containing the name Bal-marcos, the first part of which is evidently identical with the Phoenician Baal, who appears to have been worshipped then under the title of "the god of dancing" (Biblioth. Sacra, 1843, p. 559 sq.). Dr. Wilson, when at Damascus, obtained the impression of an ancient scarabeus, on which was carved an inscription, in the old Phoenician alphabet, containing the title לבעל, "to Baal" (Lands of Bible, 2, 769). See BAALIM. 2. (Sept.Βαάλ.) A Benjamite, fourth son of Jehiel, the progenitor of the Gibeonites, by his wife Maachah (1Ch 8:30; 1Ch 9:36). B.C. post 1618.
3. (Sept. Βαάλ v. r. Βεήλ) and even Ι᾿ωήλ.) A Reubenite, son of Reia and father of Beerah, which last was among the captives transported to Assyria by Tiglath-Pileser (1Ch 5:5). B.C. ante 738.