Her'cules ( ῾Ηρακλῆς) is mentioned in 2 Macc. 4:19 as the Tyrian god to whom the Jewish high-priest Jason sent a religious embassy (θεωροί), with the offering of 300 drachmae of silver. That this Tyrian Hercules (Herod. ii, 44) is the same as the Tyrian Baal is evident from a bilingual Phoenician inscription found at Malta (described by Gesenius, Monum. Ling. Phaen. 1, 96), in which the Phoenician words, "To our Lord, to Melkarth, the Baal of Tyre," are represented by the Greek ῾Ηρακλεῖ Α᾿ρχηγέτει. Moreover, Herakles and Astarte are mentioned together by Josephus (Anf. 8, 5, 3), just in the same manner as Baal and Ashtoreth are in the Old Testament. The further identity of this Tyrian Baal with the Baal whom the idolatrous Israelites worshipped is evinced by the following arguments, as stated chiefly by Movers (Die Phonicier, 1, 178). The worship of Baal, which prevailed in the time of the Judges, was put down by Samuel (1Sa 7:4), and the effects of that suppression appear to have lasted through the next few centuries, as Baal is not enumerated among the idols of Solomon (1Ki 11:5-8; 2Ki 23:13),. nor among those worshipped in Judah (2Ki 23:12), or in Samaria, where we only read of the golden calves of Jeroboam (1Ki 12:28; 1Ki 15:26). That worship of Baal which prevailed in the reign of Ahab cannot, therefore, be regarded as a mere continuation or revival of the old Canaanitish idolatry (although there is no reason to doubt the essential identity of both Baals), but was introduced directly from Phoenicia by Ahab's marriage with the Sidonian princess Jezebel (1Ki 16:31). In like manner, the establishment of this idolatry in Judah is ascribed to the marriage of the king with a daughter of Jezebel (comp. Josephus, Ant. 8, 13, 1; 9:6, 6).
The power of nature, which was worshipped under the form of the Tyrian Hercules, Melkarth, Baal, Adonis, Moloch, and whatever his other names are, was that which originates, sustains, and destroys life. These functions of the Deity, according to the Phoenicians, were represented, although not exclusively, by the sun, the influence of which both animates vegetation by its genial warmth, and scorches it up by its fervor (see Davis, Carthage, p. 276-9).
Almost all that we know of the worship of the Tyrian Hercules is preserved by the classical writers, and relates chiefly to the Phoenician colonies, and not to the mother state. The eagle, the lion, and the thunny-fish were sacred to him, and are often found on Phoenician coins. Pliny expressly testifies that human sacrifices were offered up every year to the Carthaginian Hercules (Hist. Nat. 36, 5, 12), which coincides with what is stated of Baal in Jer 19:5, and with the acknowledged worship of Moloch. Mention is made of public embassies sent from the colonies to the mother state to honor the national god (Arrian, Alex. 2, 24; Q. Curt. 4:2; Polyb. 31:20), and this fact places in a clearer light the offence of Jason in sending envoys to his festival (2 Macc. 4:19).
Movers endeavors to show that Herakles and Hercules are not merely Greek and Latin synonymes for this god, but that they are actually derived from his true Phoenician name. This original name he supposes to have consisted of the syllables אר (as found in ארי, lion, and in other words), meaning strong, and כל, from יכל, to conquer; so that the compound means Arconquers. This harmonizes with what he conceives to be the idea represented by Hercules as the destroyer of Typhonic monsters (1. c. p. 430). Melkarth, the Μελίκαρθος of Sanchoniathon, occurs on coins only in the form מלקרת. We must in this case assume that a kaph has been absorbed, and resolve the word into קרתא מלך, king of the city, πολιοῦχος. The bilingual inscription renders it by Α᾿ρχηγέτης; and it is a title of the god as the patron of the city. SEE BAAL.