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Baalism in Canaanite Religion and Its Relation to Selected Old Testament Texts

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The Old Testament did not come to expression in a vacuum. Though such is often the unconscious belief of many, nothing could be farther from the truth. Even the points in the OT which appear to come closest to the idea of mechanical dictation (e.g., the Decalogue) were given in the light of certain historical events (e.g., the Exodus of Israel) and penned by the hand of a man. Israel was in constant contact, in both positive and negative ways, with her neighbors.1 This being the case, it behooves us to utilize all ancient resources available to us in order to uncover the thought-world and religious milieu in which men penned the very words of God. While there is always the danger of leaving the text in history, this should not detract us from seriously engaging the historical data we have, lest we fall off the other side of the hermeneutical horse and modernize the text to our own peril.

The following paper attempts in a cursory way to present the Ugaritic pantheon and its relationship to a few passages from the Old Testament. The paper is divided up into three main sections: 1) the sources for understanding the Canaanite pantheon, with emphasis on the Ras Shamra materials; 2) the gods of the Canaanite pantheon, with special emphasis on Baal; 3) the nature and works of Baal and the Baal cycle, and 4) the relationship of the Ras Shamra texts to four OT references as a brief way of demonstrating the use of Ugaritic material for OT study.

Sources for
Understanding the Canaanite Pantheon

There are several sources for understanding Canaanite life and religion, and in particular the Canaanite pantheon, of which Baal is certainly among the preeminent gods. These sources include the Old Testament, several Greek writers, and the discoveries at Ras Shamra.2 The purpose of this section is to briefly discuss these sources, giving special attention to the Ras Shamra materials, as the primary source for the development of our understanding of Baalism.

The Old Testament Scriptures

There are approximately 89 references to the god Baal in the Old Testament (OT). Further, the OT makes reference to other Canaanite deities including the goddess Asherah (40 times) as well as the goddess Ashtoreth (10 times).3 In total, there appears to be about 139 clear references to major Canaanite deities in the OT.4 In a brief survey of the passages in which reference is made to Baal worship, such things are noted as the high places at which Baal worship occurred within Israel (e.g., Num 22:41)5, Israel's propensity for engaging in Baal worship at certain points in her history (cf. Judges 2:11; 3:7; 8:33; 10:6, 10, Hosea 2:13, etc.), as well as the cultic practices of certain Baal prophets (cf. 1 Kings 18:25-29).

While the information contained in the OT is helpful in attempting to understand Canaanite religious practices, especially as it concerns Baalism, it is nonetheless, according to many scholars, limited in at least two ways. First, most of the references to Baalism do not attempt to explicate a complete picture of the beliefs or the cult, but only mention it in passing. Second, and in connection with the first limitation, the OT writers maintain a polemical stance towards Baalism and therefore present an extremely pejorative viewpoint. Helmer Ringgren argues:

For a long time our primary source for Canaanite religion was simply the presentation of it in the Old Testament. This, as is well known, is of a polemical nature, and can therefore not be expected to give an objectively correct picture of the religion. Furthermore, it is not an ordered presentation but one consisting of individual remarks made in passing.6

While it is true that the OT writers were severely critical of Baal worship, it does not follow that they were not objective in terms of their denunciations—denunciations given in the light of Israel's revealed religion and Canaanite cultic worship. The fact that so much of what the OT says regarding Baalism corroborates descriptions found in the Ras Shamra texts is proof enough that when the OT writers denounced Baalism for certain practices, they were indeed accurate and justified. Having said this, however, it is clear that the OT is not giving a complete, "blow by blow" description of the religious practices of the Canaanites. In the end, then, it is fair to say that the OT is accurate in what it affirms on this subject, but limited in what it says.7

Classical Greek Writers

Perhaps the most important Greek writer is Lucian of Samosata in Syria (died ca. AD 180). His work, On the Syrian Goddess, although late and influenced by Hellenistic ideas, nonetheless remains a valuable source for relaying information regarding the temple and cult of Astarte in the Syrian city of Hierapolis.8

The work of Philo of Byblos (ca. 100 BC) on Phoenician religion, preserved now only in excerpts, some of which are found in Eusebius' Praeparatio Evangelica, is based on what Sanchuniaton (a Phoenician priest) had told him.9 Sanchuniaton, for his part, apparently received his information from Hierombalus, who wrote around 1200 B.C.10 According to Eusebius' positive testimony concerning the worth of Philo's historical data, and the fact that earlier data from Ugarit tend to confirm Philo's work, it is generally taken as fairly reliable, and as such, provides yet another source for understanding Canaanite religion.11

Archaeological Data

There have been tremendous archaeological finds in the regions of Syria and Palestine, Egypt and Ethiopia, Asia Minor, Arabia, Cyprus and the Aegean since the early part of this century. In terms of religious sites, there has been the identification of places of worship, temples, smaller shrines, and open-air sanctuaries. This includes temples discovered at Ugarit (temples for Baal worship as well as temples for Dagan, Taint, Qatna and Byblus in Syria), Beth-shan, Ai, Lachish and Megiddo in Palestine. Also, open-air structures at Megiddo and Tell en Nasbeh have been excavated. There have also been religious altars found at Zorah and Megiddo. Further, cult objects have been found including libation bowls, pottery incense stands, steles representing deities, as well as other artifacts relating to pagan worship.12 The interpretation of this material, however, is very difficult and in contrast to the unbridled enthusiasm and speculation which characterized the initial period of excavations, later archaeologists have been much more cautious in their method and in the explication of their views.13 The real value of this evidence is realized, however, when written records accompany the unwritten sources.14

Ras Shamra Materials

Until early in this century our knowledge of Canaanite religion was scant to say the least. Relying heavily upon the sources listed above, we possessed no clear firsthand knowledge of these people and their customs.15 But, all that was to change substantially in 1929 with the discovery of the Ras Shamra texts. The entire story of their discovery—involving a peasant farmer who accidentally plowed up a flagstone covering an entrance to a burial chamber—as well as the history of their excavation, has been well documented.16

The Languages Represented and Date of the Ras Shamra Texts

From 1929 to the present day literally thousands of texts have been found at Ugarit.17 One of the most significant finds included a room with many clay tablets written in cuneiform characters. Several languages were represented, including Akkadian, Sumerian, Hurrian, Egyptian, Hieroglyphic Hittite, Cuneiform Hittite, as well as others. There was also one unknown alphabetical cuneiform language which was later deciphered and became known as Ugaritic. Much was written in this language including texts relating the customs of ancient Syria and Canaanite religion (e.g., Baal worship). Ugaritic has also proven helpful in vocabulary studies relating to the OT.18 According to Cyrus Gordon, the texts date from the late bronze age, approximately the early fourteenth century B. C.19 Johannes De Moor dates the texts a little more broadly from 1400-1200 BCE.20 This being the case, however, it would appear that the traditions recorded therein antedate the texts by perhaps two or three hundred years.21 At the time of the initial production of the texts, Ugarit was a flourishing city carrying on business at an international level, and these texts, as one piece of the grand puzzle of Ugarit, tend to confirm, with other artifactual evidence, that such was indeed the case.

The Literary Nature of the Texts

The literary nature of the texts excavated at Ugarit (i.e., Ras Shamra) vary greatly. In general they are either poetry or prose, but they deal with a wide variety of subjects including legal matters, personal issues, religious issues (e.g., myths, epics, and prayers) and so on. The tablets that deal strictly with the Baal cycle appear to be about 6 in number though not all portions of the texts (i.e., clay tablets) remain. The story of Aqhat is recorded on 3 tablets and the story of Kirta is preserved on three tablets as well. There are also three tablets that preserve what is probably a sequel to Aqhat, namely, the record of The Healers. Thus there are about 15 tablets which deal with Ugaritic religious deities and all of them were found in the library of the chief priest of Baal in the city's main temple complex. They are also the work of the same scribe—a certain individual named Ilimilku.22 It is from these texts that the following information concerning the Canaanite pantheon and the Baal cult is ultimately derived.

The 'Gods' of the Canaanite Pantheon and the Names of Baal

The Gods of the Canaanite Pantheon

The Canaanite pantheon included a vast array of deities many of which remain enigmatic to us and the information about which is reduced simply to a name.23 The following discussion will concern itself with the principal Canaanite deities about which we have some positive knowledge. These include: 1) El; 2) Ashtoreth; 3) Anat; 4) Illib; 5) Yamm; 6) Mot; 7) Resheph; 8) Sapas (Shemesh); 9) Baal.


There is no little discussion in the literature regarding the position and role of El among the Canaanite gods, and in particular his relationship to Baal. Before considering this, however, we must first say a word about El as the creator and father of the gods. There is no "creation account" per se in the Ugaritic texts published to date, but there are epithets in both the Ras Shamra texts and other Canaanite materials that indicate that El was viewed as the creator. He is called bniyu binwti "creator of the created things" in CTA 4.II.11; 4.III.32; 6.III.5, 11; 17.I.25.24 This may include the world, but some argue that the evidence is inconclusive on this.25 But, in a Canaanite myth from Boghazky there is the mention of El as the creator of "the heaven and the earth"—a title given to none other in the pantheon.26 Further, the gods are referred to as his "family" or "sons" and he often bears the epithet "bull" as a symbol of his virility.27 He appears first in the god-lists, which probably indicates his supremacy, but it is has been argued that this might refer instead to the order of the parade of his symbols in cultic procession.28 El is also regarded for the most part as the king over the gods and people and indeed earthly kings were often seen to have some connection with the god, ruling as a visible representation of his rule. In order for the gods to see him they had to travel to the place referred to as the "source of the two rivers, the fountain of the two deeps." He usually appeared to the gods in visits and men in visions.29 Unfortunately, his character is generally spoken of as deplorable; in fact, it has been argued that El's seduction of two unnamed women is one of the most sensuous in all of Ancient Near Eastern literature.30


Athirat, or as she is referred to sometimes, Ilat (i.e., goddess of the god El), is the most prominent goddess in the Ugaritic pantheon, though her origin appears to go back well before Ugarit (1200-1400 B.C.E.) to the time of the Ebla tablets. In the Ugaritic pantheon she is the consort of El. She is referred to as the "mother of the gods" or "procreatress of the gods." She thus shares in El's creative work. She is also referred to as "Lady Athirat of the sea" and by the Semitic word qd (i.e., holy). She figures prominently in the Ugaritic texts in which Baal and Anat are requesting from El a palace for Baal to live in (CTA 4), texts concerning Shahar and Shalim (CTA 23) and in another wherein she is said to receive a sheep offered in sacrifice.32

The name Asherah is the designation often given this goddess in the Old Testament. The Asherim of the OT refer to the female cult objects which were used in conjunction with male cult objects in the worship of Baal. The only discrepancy between the OT and the Ras Shamra texts is that in the latter she appears to be the consort of El, but in the former she seems to be placed in association with Baal. But, as Day points out, there is a second millennium Hittite myth which describes her as "going after" Baal. The OT may just be representing the eventual outcome of that pursuit, i.e., Athirat "caught up with her man."33


Baal is of course one of the principal deities in the Canaanite pantheon and was regarded as the storm and fertility god. Because the paper is primarily concerned with him, we will simply mention him here and make extended comments regarding his names in the next subsection and will take up the issue of the Baal cycle and in his role in selected OT texts under "Baal's Character and His Works" and "Baalism and Selected OT Texts" below.


Anat is the sister and probably the consort of the god Baal. She was known as the goddess of love (i.e., sensuality)34 and war.35 It was through her prowess that Mot was defeated and Baal raised to life again. She is regarded in the texts as beautiful—a fact corroborated by her epithet, "maiden"—but her disposition is quarrelsome and driven. Coogan summarizes her character well:

The only goddess with a vivid character is Anat. She is Baal's wife and sister, and is closely identified with him as a source of fertility and a successful opponent of the forces of chaos; like Baal she lives on a mountain. Her fierce temper is directed against the gods and mortals alike, and with her thirst for violence and her macabre trappings—a necklace of human heads, a belt of human hands—Anat has been compared to the Hindu goddess Kali.36


The Mari texts speak of the god Dagan whose name probably means "grain," though this is not certain. Apparently there was a temple at Ugarit dedicated to Dagan as two stone tablets found just outside the temple appear to indicate. Dagan does not play a primary role in the Ugaritic texts though he is thought to be related to fertility and worshipped in the Euphrates valley from earliest times.37


The meaning of the epithet "Yamm" is sea. He is regarded in the Baal myth as one of Baal's major adversaries. He is referred to several times in the OT (explicitly or implicitly) where it is claimed that the Lord has dominion over him (e.g., Ex. 15:4-10 [Moses' song]; Job 9:8; Ezek 28:1-8). He is accompanied in the texts by two sea monsters, namely, Litar (Leviathan) and Tunnan (Tannin in the Bible) and he himself rules the sea.


The name "Mot" means "death" and as such he is the god of the underworld. In the Baal cycle he is the one who "kills" Baal and refuses to let him go despite the requests of Anat.38


The god Resheph (Heb. "pestilence") is responsible for the demise of Kirta's family and he is seen in many Ugaritic cultic texts as one who receives several offerings. Earlier in the late 3rd millennium B. C. E. he was worshipped as a patron god of the kings of Ebla. He was also one of the most popular gods in the worship of the Egyptians of the nineteenth dynasty.39 Some scholars closely link Resheph with the god Mot.40


The god Kothar (i.e., skilled one) was very popular at Ugarit and was regarded as a divine craftsman.41 Several texts indicate that he was a magician, master builder, seaman, and a maker of weapons (including the composite bow). It is he who makes the palace for Baal after Baal's "resurrection" from the dead (KTU 1.4: v. 50ff). He is often identified with the Babylonian god Ea, who himself was a god of wisdom, both practical and theoretical.42

Names and Titles for Baal and Baal Place Names

The following discussion concerns the various names and titles of Baal, as well as places named after him. The names and titles come primarily from the Ugaritic material and the place names come from the OT. The purpose of this section is not to be exhaustive, per se, but simply to give some of the most important and representative facts under this topic.

    Names and Titles of Baal

Baal. Both in the Hebrew Scriptures and in the Ras Shamra texts the term "baal" is used in a generic sense, meaning "lord," as well as in the sense of a proper name.43 It was in the latter sense that the term became a fixed designation for the god Hadad (i.e., the storm god) some time perhaps as early as the Hyksos period—the seventeenth or sixteenth centuries.44

Son of Dagan. Several times in the Ras Shamra texts, El is referred to as the father of the gods, yet in at least a dozen places, Dagan45 is said to be the father of Baal. As Conrad L'Heureux says: "The most problematic datum is that while El is presumed to be the father of the gods, Baal regularly bears the epithet bn dgn, "son of Dagan."46 This may point to the intrusive nature of the god Baal indicating that he was involved in a process of assimilation into an older Canaanite pantheon, but the "seams" are still evident. The fact that Baal is said to be in need of a temple is further evidence that the assimilation was not complete. Therefore, since Baal is said only to be the son of Dagan (and indeed carries some of his characteristics), and appears to be a later addition to the Canaanite pantheon, we should not regard him as related to El as a son. Kapelrud is quite adamant about this: "whenever the designation bn. dgn is used in the texts, there can be no doubt that Baal was really considered the son of Dagan, and not the son of Il, the chief deity of the Ugaritic pantheon."47

Hadad. Hadad was a war-like god48 whose cult covered most of the Near East (e.g., middle Euphrates, Babylonia, Assyria) at the time of the Ras Shamra texts.49 He is also found in the Amarna letters and those from Mari as well. The designation hd is most often found in the Ugaritic texts and it is usually in association (i.e., in parallel) with Baal. Therefore, Hadad and Baal were two distinct gods who were merged into one in Canaanite theology, well before the writing of the Ras Shamra texts. After the synthesis of the two gods, it appears that Baal (no longer simply an appellation, but a proper name) had become a dying and rising fertility god, as well as a storm god who functioned as an able warrior.50

Aliyn Baal. This is the second most common designation for Baal (approx. 65x). The term Aliyn appears to denote the idea of power and strength. Oldenburg, based on an etymology relating Aliyn to the Ugartic root l’n translated the compound name as "Most Mighty Baal."51 Driver gives a similar translation: "the victor Baal."52 Worth mentioning is the fact that when the Ras Shamra texts were originally found, many scholars held that Baal and Aliyu Baal were two distinct gods. But, as Kapelrud points out, such a thesis cannot be maintained as both terms are used repeatedly interchangeably. Thus they refer to one and the same god who possesses the same attributes and carries out the same functions.53 In summary, then, the name Aliyu Baal designates Baal as a victorious warrior (as seen in his defeat of Yamm) and it is perhaps for this reason that the Israelites found him attractive.54

Lord and God of Sapan. Sapan has generally been identified as mount Sapan (Saphon) north of the Ugarit about 30 miles and rising into the air about 5800 feet. It was regarded by the Canaanites as the dwelling place of Baal. Ringgren explains:

Baal's dwelling place is the mount Sapan, north of Ugarit, the Kasios of the Greeks. This mountain was clearly to the Canaanites what Olympus was to the Greeks; it was not only the dwelling place of Baal but the site of the assembly of the gods . . .In a recently published text a description is given of how Baal, who is called Hadd, sits enthroned upon his mountain here called Sapan and 'the mount of victory'.55

It is on this mountain, which could be seen from Ugarit and which was often under cloud cover, that Baal lived, reigned, and was buried by Anat after his death. Since Baal was considered the rain god it was "only natural that this mountain was considered the living place [for him] and that a cult place in honour of him may have been found there."56

Rider of the Clouds. Baal is also referred to about 12 times as "the Rider of the Clouds" which undoubtedly testifies to his control over the rain and storms. Psalm 68 may have been written, in part, as a polemic against Baal worship wherein it is indicated in verse 4 that YHWH is the one who rides the clouds.57

Bull Baal. The title Bull Baal connotes Baal's sexual potency and primacy in the pantheon as the fertility god. Baal is seen on the Baal au foudre stele with club and lance, lightning, and horns—the last of which represent his fertility and power as Bull Baal.58

    Certain Baal Place Names

Baal was worshipped, according to the OT, in numerous areas and communities after which he was often named. This does not mean that Baal was simply a local god, or that the widespread belief in Baal was of a monolithic nature, but that he was venerated far and wide, among many people.59

There are several place names for the worship of Baal. The following is a sample list: 1) Baal-berith ("covenant Baal) was worshipped at Shechem after the death of Gideon (Judges 8:33; 9:4); 2) Baal-gad ("Baal of good fortune") might refer to a town after his (i.e., Baal's) name in the Lebanon valley (cf. Jos. 11:17; 12:7; 13:5; Is 65:11); 3) Baal-hamon ("lord of abundance or wealth") is mentioned in connection with a fruitful vineyard belonging to Solomon (Song of Songs 8:11); 4) Baal-hermon ("Baal of Hermon") might be another name for Baal-gad, perhaps located in the north of Israel near Mt. Hermon; 5) Baal-peor ("Baal of Peor") was the god of the mountains of Moab who took his name from Peor. Israel involved herself in the Moabite cult and 24,000 were killed by God (Num 25:1-9; Dt 4:3); 6) Baal-Zebub ("Lord of the fly god") was the god of the Philistines who, some contend, either drove flies away or gave oracles by the buzzing of a fly.

    Baal's Character and His Works: The Interpretation of the Ugaritic Baal Cycle

Global Interpretations of the Baal Cycle

There are differing interpretations of the overall meaning of the cycle; does it relate to the seasons of the year or to certain political realities affecting the people of Ugarit? There is a general consensus on the fact that the myth focuses on the kingship of Baal, but in terms of life realities reflected in the epic, there is much disagreement. Arvid Kapelrud and Johannes C. de Moor are typical of those who argue for an interpretation of the myth as it relates to the seasons of the year.60 De Moor says that the myth "described the mythological prototype of the normal agricultural and cultic year of the people of Ugarit."61 Mark Smith, on the other hand, emphasizes the political nature of the myth. He says:

It is well-known that political language dominates the Baal Cycle, but it should be recognized that the Baal Cycle presents the universe as a single political reality connecting different levels. This political reality of Baal's rule integrates three levels, cosmic, human and natural. First, the Baal Cycle concentrates on the interaction of the deities in the larger cosmos . . . Second, the political events in the Baal Cycle reflect a concern for human society . . . Third, the Baal Cycle uses natural phenomena, especially lightning, thunder and rains to underscore the political power of Baal, the Storm-god.

Having read the Baal Cycle, it would appear to me that while there is some evidence for Smith's thesis (KTU 1.3: I.iii), the bulk of the material should be interpreted as de Moor and others have suggested. In the end Smith's thesis is somewhat reductionistic and unable to adequately account for certain data, including the death of Baal, and his association with so many aspects of nature. His certain death each year is better linked to the ending of the rains and the drying up of the ground (i.e., lack of fertility) due to the scorching sun. There is no doubt that the Ugaritic worshippers related their lives to the struggles of Baal (e.g., in political distress) as is common among worshippers and
their deities, but the overall reading of the cycle as political seems more applicational than interpretational.

A Brief Overview of the Cycle

The entire Baal Cycle is written on 6 tablets preserved well enough to understand the general flow of the material but with several lacunae ranging from 10 to 40 lines or more.62 The first two tablets describe the battle of Baal with the Sea god, Yamm. The next two tablets explain how, after much effort, Baal and Anat get underway with the building plans for Baal's palace. The final two tablets outline Baal's struggle with Mot and possibly Ashtar.

    The Battle of Baal with Yamm(u)

According to de Moor the animosity between Yamm and Baal "represents the mythological prototype of the short Syrian winter with its gales, rain, hail and occasional tides."63 In the myth itself it appears that the battle between the two emerged from the fact that Baal (the head and father of the gods) contests Yamm's right to take over control of Ilu's property even though Ilu gave him the right to do it. In fact Ilu commands Yammu to take control of the kingship and the wealth.64

So he [Ilu] proclaimed the name of Yammu.
[Lady Athiratu] answered:
"For our maintenance [you are the one who has been proclaimed],
you are the one who has been proclaimed 'master'!"
[And the Bull Ilu answered:]
"I myself, the Benevolent, Ilu the good-natured,
[have taken you] in my hands,
I have proclaimed [your name].
[Yammu is your name],
your name is beloved of I[lu Yammu]
[And I shall give you] a house of my own silver,
[a palace] of [gold]
[You may take it] from the hand of Ba Jlu the Almighty,
[from the hand of the son of Daganu],
because he has reviled us [ ],
[ ].
Chase him away from the chair of his kingship,
from the seat of the throne of his dominion.65

From the preceding citation it is obvious that neither Ilu (i.e., El) nor Yammu (i.e., Yamm) care a great deal for Baal.66 Ilu, for whatever reason, has put Yammu, his beloved son, up to the deed of taking the kingship from Baal and indeed to inherit all of Ilu's gold. Yammu sends messengers to convey the news to Baal, who does not give in to Yammu's edict of subjection. Instead, with the help of Kothar, and a club (and some magical incantations) made by him, Baal finally—after a failed first attempt—vanquishes Yamm (KTU 1.3: III.).

    The Construction of Baal's Palace

After the defeat of Yamm, while Baal was living in the palace of El, he sought Asherah and El in order that he might have a palace of his own. With the help of Kothar, Baal makes some furniture for Asherah in order to garner her support and motivate her to intercede on his behalf before El. Baal even enlists the support of Anat and, although he was somewhat hesitant at first, El nonetheless ends up consenting to Baal's wishes. With a new temple in place the suggestion in the texts is that the rains will come when expected (see KTU 1.4; IV.v). There is also the possibility that the myth represents the actual building of the temple in Ugarit and its dedication every year, but there does not appear to be any hard data to confirm such an interpretation.67 Also, Oldenburg states that after the defeat of Yamm and the building of a temple, Baal has now "achieved unlimited rule in the sky."68 This is generally correct, but it must be remembered that El is still in a position of power (however docile he seems to be at times) and Mot is still able to put Baal to death for a period.69

Baal's Struggles with Mot

Baal recognizes that Mot is a formidable enemy.70 It is unclear in the texts how, but Baal is either summoned or challenged to meet Mot in the nether world. Surprisingly Baal goes and submits to Mot's power. Thus Baal, as the rain and storm god, must give in to the other gods when his time each year is complete.71 He is not in control of nature, but is indeed subject to its laws. With the death of Baal, the dry season comes.

Thus Baal died as it were, and Anat went hunting for his body and found it. She then buried him properly to ensure his peace in the nether world and it was this burial, of course, that was enacted in the cult in order that Baal might resurrect each year and bring fertility to the earth. In the meantime, to ensure some measure of fertility during his absence, Baal copulated with a heifer. Ringgren also argues, probably correctly, that Baal's intercourse with the heifer, which itself produced a son, was to guarantee "a descendant in case Baal's expedition to the underworld should go wrong"; it was not only to guarantee some fertility in his absence.72 Some time later Anat kills Mot and Baal is free to rise from the nether world and commence his activity in the world. His first goal is to put to death the sons of Asherah who rejoiced when he was taken to the nether world by Mot. In the end it appears that Mot is never able to completely vanquish Baal, in part, due to the influence of the father of the gods, El.

    The Canaanite Pantheon and the Old Testament
      A Methodological Comment

Since the discovery of the Ugaritic materials at Ras Shamra, there has been a great deal of comparative work done in order to explicate the relationship between the Canaanite pantheon and cult, and Israelite faith and practice. These comparisons are necessary and have in many cases been fruitful for illuminating texts (also customs, etc.) of the Old Testament heretofore not as clearly understood. As in all comparative work, however, there are dangers that need to be addressed on a case by case basis.73 Some of the basic problems involved with this process include: 1) the Ugaritic culture expressed in the Ras Shamra texts may not be a complete and accurate a picture of the Canaanites who lived further to the south, and to the degree that this is true, these sources cannot necessarily be used to recreate Biblical situations where Israel is involved in some way with the Canaanites; 2) there is also the chronological problem, namely, that the Ugaritic culture flourished and died out before the Israelites came to prominence in the land of Palestine; 3) the fact that there is some distance between Ugarit and the southern regions of Palestine where Israel was situated could result in distinctions in culture, language and general ways of thinking and doing; 4) the Ugaritic texts as shown above are often times quite fragmentary and conclusions often rest on a restoration of the text in question. Taken together these four considerations should produce caution among specialists making comparisons in this field.74

    The Myth/Cult of Ugarit and Parallels in the Old Testament Texts

There are numerous texts in the OT for which we now possess further illumination as a result of the discoveries at Ras Shamra. While the focus of this paper is not on the OT per se, but on Baalism and the Ugaritic texts, I will nonetheless comment on a handful of passages from the OT to show the relationship this background material has to the OT. The following is a brief synopsis of 4 passages from the OT and their relationship to Baalism and Canaanite worship.

      Exodus 15 and the Song of Moses

Central to the Baal cycle is Baal's conflict, the order he brings, his kingship, and his palace. These same themes can be seen to be running through Yahweh's defeat of the Egyptian army as expressed poetically by Moses in Exodus 15:1-18. Instead of Yahweh competing with the Sea (Yamm) as Baal does, he is competing against the Egyptian armies. In this case he resolves the conflict—that is, creates order from chaos—with a resounding victory over his enemy by using the Sea as the instrument of his judgment. But just as in the Baal epic, there is another enemy for Baal, namely Mot, so it is with Yahweh. After the defeat of the Egyptians he too will face future enemies (12-14), but instead of defeat like Mot, he will surely gain the victory. After complete victory has been accomplished, Yahweh will establish his inheritance on a mountain75 and there will be a sanctuary for him (v. 17; cf. Baal's dwelling place on Mt. Sapan and the palace he so desired).76 From these similarities it appears that Moses has the structure of the Baal myth or a very similar tradition in mind as he writes.

      Numbers 25:3

In Numbers 25:1-3 Moses records for posterity a grievous sin of Israel against Yahweh. Apparently there was a site for Baal (of Peor) worship at Shittim and when Israel was there her men began to engage themselves in sexual immorality with Canaanite women, and along with that (probably as a part of the worshipping cult), bowed the knee to Baal. This description of the sexual immorality of the Baal worshipping women is consistent with what we know from Ugarit about the nature of the pantheon, as outlined above. While our evidence from artifacts and the Ras Shamra texts is not explicit about immorality in the cult, it is certainly overt in the mythical texts.77 It would appear, then, that the Canaanite worshippers sunk to the moral levels of the deities they worshipped. Is not the testimony of history that one becomes what one worships? One need only think for a moment of later Greco-Roman religion and the activities of the mystery religions.78 The information in the Ugaritic materials, then, corroborates well the remarks of Scripture.79

      1 Kings 18

There is perhaps no clearer encounter between Baalism and Yahwism in the OT than that recorded in 1 Kings 18:16-42. Ahab accuses Elijah of making trouble for Israel, after which Elijah himself responds by saying that it is Ahab who has brought trouble upon Israel (i.e., a drought; 1 Kings 17:1)80 by worshipping the Baals—a thing forbidden by the Lord (1 Kings 16:17-18). Elijah decides to settle the issue of which God is to be worshipped in Israel once and for all, by challenging the prophets of Baal to a contest.81 While there is some debate as to the precise identity of the Baal worshipped at Mount Carmel (e.g., Carmel, Balbek, Baal Shemem, etc.), we may say with G. H. Jones that:

Whether Baal Carmel was identified with Melqart or with Baal Shamem is immaterial, for it seems that all Phoenician and Palestinian gods were in the last analysis weather and sky gods. What is important is that in the eyes of the Israelites a deity who had control over the natural order exercised the same function as the Canaanite Hadad and so presented a challenge to Yahweh's sovereignty in the land.82

The point to be made here is that the Ugaritic materials corroborate the biblical testimony concerning Baal as a rain, lightning and storm god. The very god who was supposed to bring lightning (cf. the Baal au foudre stele) was now unable to; instead Yahweh brings the "fire from heaven" demonstrating that He is really sovereign over nature—with the concomitant conclusion that He is also sovereign over Baal. Baal might have been able to handle Yammu, Mot and even El, but He is no match for Yahweh.

The Ugaritic texts have also cleared up a problem with the use of "the prophets of Asherah" in this pericope (18:19). At one time, according to Rowley, scholars felt that the expression was an intrusion into the text "since they are not mentioned in the sequel and Asherah is elsewhere used in the Bible of a religious symbol, rather than a deity."83 But Rowley argues that the situation no longer obtains because:

it is now securely known from the Ras Shamra texts that there was a goddess Athirat [which denotes Asherah in Hebrew; see discussion above], and it may be noted that Josephus tells us that Ittobaal was the priest of Astarte [also Asherah], who must therefore have been a consort of Melkart.84

      Psalm 29

Psalm 29 is a hymn which can be broken down into three basic parts; 1) the call to praise (1-2); 2) the reason for the praise (3-9); a conclusion to the praise with a focus on God's kingship and protection.85 Due to the fact, in verses 3-9, that the voice of the Lord is associated with thunder (v.3b), water (v. 3a,c), and lightning (v. 7) some have regarded the psalm as originally a Canaanite or Phoenician hymn to Baal, later adapted by the Israelites for use in the Yahweh cult.86 While recognizing the obvious Canaanite parallels in the psalm (e.g., vocabulary and structure) Craigie, for his part, is not ready to admit of such a history for the psalm. Instead he argues that the psalm is a "psalm of victory" with its antecedents in the Song of the Sea (Moses) in Exodus 15 (cf. also the Song of Deborah in Judges 5:4-5, 19-21). The psalm, then, since it contains all these allusions to Canaanite myth is really a polemic directed at Baal and the pantheon and represents a middle stage in the development in the Hebrew tradition of victory psalms.87 In commenting on Psalm 29 Habel rightly says:

In the conflict between the faith of Israel and the Canaanite religious culture, the storm image was apparently employed to emphasize the truth that Yahweh's involvement in history and life was not obscure or hidden and rarely suaviter in modo, but was frequently spectacular or disruptive and always fortiter in re beyond anything that the limited kingship of Baal permitted. It served to Magnify the magnalia of Yahweh and highlight the sovereignty of His choice of Israel in its polemic against Baal worship.88

In summary, at least three considerations emerge from a comparison of Psalm 29 with Ugaritic texts: 1) Ugaritic is helpful for Hebrew vocabulary; 2) it is quite possible to use the terms and expressions of an opponent and "fill" them with one's own meaning;89 3) caution must be exercised before hypotheses are developed around the relationships of these texts.

There are literally scores of other passages which could have been discussed here in order to further demonstrate the relationship of Ugaritic texts to the Old Testament.90 In general Ugaritic materials from Ras Shamra have aided us in our understanding of the Canaanite people in the late bronze age, the vocabulary, grammar, structure and even music of the psalms,91 backgrounds to the OT92 as well as vocabulary, theology, and concepts in the Old Testament.


The Canaanite pantheon, as described in the Ugaritic sources, is composed of several gods, perhaps the most important being Baal himself as the storm and fertility god. While there are various interpretations of the Baal cycle, the seasonal approach as advanced by de Moor is that which probably best accounts for the data. These texts are extremely valuable for our understanding of the Canaanite culture, for hitherto we had no positive witness outside the OT, and a paucity of other sources, to these people.

The texts from Ugarit have also been of immense help in promoting our understanding of the OT, its vocabulary, thought structures and religious/historical backgrounds in general. The material must be handled with care in the process of making comparisons and certain limitations involving dating and geographical distance must be kept in mind.

Selected Bibliography


Albright, W. F. Archaeology and the Religion of Israel. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1942.

________. Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan. Reprint. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1978.

Anderson, A. A. Psalms 1-72. In The New Century Bible Commentary. Edited by Ronald E. Clements. 2 Volumes. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972.

Attridge, Harold W. and Robert A Oden, Jr. Philo of Byblos: The Phoenician History. The Catholic Biblical Quarterly Monograph Series. Edited by Bruce Vawter, et al. Washington: The Catholic Biblical Association of America, 1981.

Baumgarten, Albert I. The Phoenician History of Philo0 of Byblos: A Commentary. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1981.

Beyerlin, Walter, ed. Near Eastern Religious Texts Relating to the Old Testament. Translated by John Bowden. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1978.

Block, Daniel Isaac. The Gods of the Nations: Studies in Ancient Near Eastern National Theology. Evangelical Theological Society Monograph Series. Edited by Allan Fisher and David B. Kennedy. Number 2. Jackson, MS: Evangelical Theological Society, 1988.

Coogan, Michael David, ed. Stories from Ancient Canaan. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1978.

Craigie, Peter C. Psalms 1-50. Word Biblical Commentary. Edited by John D. W. Watts. Volume 19. Waco: Word Books, Publishers, 1983.

Craigie, Peter C. Ugarit and the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983.

Curtis, Adrian. Ugarit (Ras Shamra). Cities of the Biblical World. Edited by Graham I. Davies. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985.

Day, John. God's Conflict with the Dragon and the Sea: Echoes of a Canaanite Myth in the Old Testament. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

Dearman, J. Andrew. Religion and Culture in Ancient Israel. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1992.

De Moor, Johannes C. An Anthology of Religious Texts from Ugarit. Religious Texts Translation Series NISABA. Volume 16. Edited by M. S. H. G. Heerma van Voss, et al. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1987.

Driver, G. R. Canaanite Myths and Legends. Old Testament Studies Series. Number III. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1956.

Gordon, Cyrus H. Ugarit and Minoan Crete: The Bearing of Their Texts on Western Culture. The Norton Library. New York: W. W. Norton, 1966.

________. Ugaritic Literature: A Comprehensive Translation of the Poetic and Prose Texts. Rome: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1949.

Gray, John. The Legacy of Canaan: The Ras Shamra Texts and Their Relevance to the Old Testament. 2nd ed. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1965.

Habel, Norman C. Yahweh Versus Baal: A Conflict of Religious Cultures. New York: Bookman Associates, 1964.

Harrison, R. K. Introduction to the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969.

Hendel, Ronald S. The Epic of the Patriarch: The Jacob Cycle and the Narrative Traditions of Canaan and Israel. Harvard Semitic Monographs. Number 42. Edited by Frank M. Cross. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1987.

Hill, Andrew E. and John H. Walton. A Survey of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991.

Kapelrud, Arvid S. Baal in the Ras Shamra Texts. Copenhagen: C. E. G. Gad, 1952.

________. The Ras Shamra Discoveries and the Old Testament. Translated by G. W. Anderson. Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1963.

Lewis, Theodore J. Cults of the Dead in Ancient Israel and Ugarit. Harvard Semitic Monographs. Number 39. Edited by Frank M. Cross. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1989.

Livingstone, G. Herbert. The Pentateuch in Its Cultural Environment. 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987.

L'Heureux, Conrad E. Rank among the Canaanite Gods El, Ba Jal and the Repha'im. Harvard Semitic Monographs. Number 21. Edited by Frank M. Cross. Missoula, Montana: Scholars Press, 1979.

Mullen, E. Theodore, Jr. The Assembly of the Gods: The Divine Council in Canaanite and Early Hebrew Literature. Harvard Semitic Monographs. Number 24. Edited by Frank M. Cross. Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1980.

Oldenburg, Ulf. The Conflict between El and Ba Jal in Canaanite Religion. Supplementa ad Nvmen, Altera Series. Volumen Tertium. Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1969.

Ostborn, G. Yahweh and Baal: Studies in the Book of Hosea and Related Documents. Lund, Sweden: Gleerup, 1956.

Pfeiffer, Charles F. Ras Shamra and the Bible. Baker Studies in Biblical Archaeology. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1962.

Ringgren, Helmer. Religions of the Ancient Near East. Translated by John Sturdy. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1973.

Smith, Mark S. The Ugaritic Baal Cycle. Supplements to Vetus Testamentum. Volume 55. Edited by J. A. Emerton, et al. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1994.

Sznycer, Maurice. "The Religions and Myths of the Western Semites—And Some Problems of Method." In Mythologies. 2 Vols. Translated by Wendy Doniger. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1991. I: 182-89.

________. "Ugaritic Gods and Myths." In Mythologies. 2 Vols. Translated by Wendy Doniger. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1991. I: 206-15.

West, James King. Introduction to the Old Testament. 2nd Edition. New York: MacMillan Publishing, 1981.


Anderson, James Edward. "The Idolatrous Worship of Baal in Israel." Unpublished Ph.D. Diss. Dallas Theological Seminary, 1975.

Koch, Klaus. "Ba Jal Sapon, Ba Jal Samem and the Critique of Israel's Prophets." In Ugarit and the Bible. 159-174. Edited by George J. Brooke, Adrian H. W. Curtis and John F. Healey. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 1994.

Lindsey, F. Duane. "Judges." In The Bible Knowledge Commentary. Edited by Roy B. Zuck and John F. Walvoord. 2 Volumes. I: 373-414. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985.

Merrill, Eugene H. "Numbers." In The Bible Knowledge Commentary. Edited by Roy B. Zuck and John F. Walvoord. 2 Volumes. I: 215-58. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985.

Miller, Rocky S. "Psalm 93: A Polemic against Baal of the Ras Shamra Texts." Th.M. Thesis. Dallas Theological Seminary, 1975.

Owen, Jonathan Clark. "Psalm 104: Yahweh's Polemic against the Ugaritic Pantheon." Th.M. Thesis. Dallas Theological Seminary, 1985.

Patterson, Richard D. and Hermann J. Austel. "1, 2 Kings." In The Expositor's Bible Commentary. Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein. Volume 4. 1-300. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988.

Ross, Allen P. "Psalms." In The Bible Knowledge Commentary. Edited by Roy B. Zuck and John F. Walvoord. 2 Volumes. I: 779-899. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985.

Smith, Mark S. "Mythology and Myth-Making in Ugaritic and Israelite Literature." In Ugarit and the Bible. 293-341. Edited by George J. Brooke, Adrian H. W. Curtis and John F. Healey. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 1994.

Walton, John H. Ancient Israelite Literature in its Cultural Context. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1989.

White, Randall Fowler. "Victory and House Building in Revelation 20:1-21:8: A Thematic Study." Ph. D. Diss., Westminster Theological Seminary, 1987.


Bordreuil, Pierre and Dennis Pardee. "Le combat de Balu avec Yammu d'apres les textes ougaritiques." MARI 7 (1993):63-70.

Caquot, Andre. "Le dieu Athtar et les textes de Ras Shamra." Syria 35 (1958): 45-60.

Cazelles, Henri. "Phnicie (Religion de)." In Dictionaire des Religions. Edited by Paul Poupard. Paris: Press Universitaire de France, 1984.

Cooper, Alan M. "Canaanite Religion: An Overview." In The Encyclopedia of Religion. Edited by Mircea Eliade. New York: MacMillan Publishing, 1987.

Coogan, Michael David. "Canaanite Religion: The Literature." In The Encyclopedia of Religion. Edited by Mircea Eliade. New York: MacMillan Publishing, 1987.

Craigie, P. C. and G. H. Wilson. "Religions of the Biblical World: Canaanite (Syria and Palestine)." In The New International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Revised Edition. Volume 4. Edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988.

Cunchillos, J. L. "Le Dieu Mut, Guerrier de El." Syria 62 (1985): 205-18.

Curtis, A. W. H. "The Subjugation of the Waters Motif in the Psalms; Imagery or Polemic?" JSS 23 (1978): 245-56.

Day, John. "Asherah in the Hebrew Bible and Northwest Semitic Literature." JBL (1986): 385-408.

________. "Echoes of Baal's Seven Thunders and Lightnings in Psalm XXIX and Habakkuk III 9 and the Identity of the Seraphim in Isaiah VI." Vetus Testamentum XXIX (1985): 143-51.

Eakin, Frank. "Yahwism and Baalism Before the Exile." Journal of Biblical Literature 84 (1965): 407-14.

Gaster, T. H. "The Battle between the Rain and the Sea. An Ancient Semitic Nature-Myth." Iraq 4 (1937): 21-32.

Gibson, J. C. L. "The Theology of the Baal Cycle." Orientalia 53 (1984): 202-219.

Grabbe, L. L. "The Seasonal Pattern of the Baal Cycle." UF 8 (1976): 57-63.

Jung, K. G. "Baal." In The New International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Revised Edition. Volume 1. Edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979.

Livingstone, G. Herbert. "The Relation of the Old Testament to Ancient Cultures." In The Expositor's Bible Commentary, ed. Frank Gaebelein. 339-56. Vol. 1. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979.

Rowley, H. H. "Elijah on Mount Carmel," Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 43 (1960): 190-219.

Unger, Merrill F. "Archaeology and the Religion of the Canaanites," BibSac 107 (1950): 168-74.

1 Arvid S. Kapelrud, The Ras Shamra Texts and the Old Testament, trans. G. W. Anderson (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963), 78: "Over and over again the Old Testament shows that the Israelites did not only borrow from the Canaanite ways of worship but constantly relapsed into them."

2 Further sources on aspects of the Canaanite culture as a whole include the discoveries at Ebla (3rd Millennium B.C. E.) Mari and Tel el Amarna. These findings, as important as they are, do not contribute as much to an understanding of Canaanite religion as do the texts from Ras Shamra at Ugarit. The Mari texts are principally Mesopotamian in substance and the Amarna texts—letters from Palestine—are not particularly religious but discuss political correspondence between several Levantine vassal rulers and Pharaohs Amenophis III and IV. For further discussion see P. C. Craigie and G. H. Wilson, "Religions of the Biblical World: Canaanite (Syria and Palestine)," in The New International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, rev. ed., ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 4: 95-96.

3 Some argue that these apparently refer to the same female deity, known also in Canaanite literature as Athtart and in the Greek world as Astarte. See Charles F. Pfeiffer, Ras Shamra and the Bible, Baker Studies in Biblical Archaeology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1962), 12. Overall, this thesis seems unlikely.

4 Cf. BDB, 127-28. See also, James Edward Anderson, "The Idolatrous Worship of Baal by Israel" (Th.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1975), 6-7.

5 The reference here to lu^b* tomb* probably refers to the "high places of Baal." See Philip J. Budd, Numbers, Word Biblical Commentary, ed. John D. W. Watts, vol. 5 (Waco, TX: Word Books, Publisher, 1984), 266.

6 Helmer Ringgren, Religions of the Ancient Near East, trans. John Sturdy (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1973), 125.

7 But cf. Alan M. Cooper, "Canaanite Religion: An Overview," in The Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. Mircea Eliade (New York: MacMillan Publishing Group, 1987), 35, who says: "It is generally agreed that the biblical witness to Canaanite religion is highly polemical and, therefore, unreliable." This statement as it stands is, of course, a non-sequitur. A polemical approach precludes neither honesty nor accuracy. The charge of "unreliable" must be demonstrated on other grounds.

8 Ringgren, Religions, 126.

9 See Ringgren, Religions, 126, who says: "The discoveries of the last decades have in general confirmed that his facts are reliable, but it must always be remembered that he has a very strong tendency to systematize his material, and that he gives his own euhemeristic interpretation of it in presenting the gods as men who because of their service to mankind have come to receive worship."

10 See Anderson, "The Idolatrous Worship of Baal by Israel," 22-23.

11 See William Foxwell Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan: A Historical Analysis of Two Contrasting Faiths (Garden City: NY: Doubleday & Company, 1968), 217-18. But see also Cooper, "Canaanite Religion: An Overview," 35, who says that "the comparability of the Phoenician History with authentic Canaanite data should not be overstressed. At best Philo's information probably sheds light on the religion of late hellenized Phoenicians, and offers no direct evidence for second millennium Canaanite religion." For earlier and more positive assessments of Philo's historical reliability, see Harold W. Attridge and Robert A. Oden, Jr., Philo of Byblos: The Phoenician History, in The Catholic Biblical Quarterly Monograph Series, ed. Bruce Vawter (Washington, DC: The Catholic Biblical Association of America, 1981), 3-9; E. Theodore Mullen, The Divine Council in Canaanite and Early Hebrew Literature, Harvard Semitic Monographs 24, ed. Frank Moore Cross (Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1980), 12. Attridge, Oden and Mullen consider Philo's work to be very accurate.

12 For a discussion of the archaeological finds up to the 1940's and the development of critical methods in order to understand the materials properly, see William Foxwell Albright, Archaeology and the Religion of Israel (Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1942), 36-67. For a further description of the finds up until the early 1960's see Arvid S. Kapelrud, The Ras Shamra Discoveries and the Old Testament, trans. G. W. Anderson (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963), 3-16.

13 For a general discussion of the history of the interpretation of the texts up until the early 1960's see Kapelrud, Discoveries, 17-28. For his criticism of Ren Dussaud's method and conclusions, see pages 17-19.

14 See Ringgren, Religions, 126.

15 Arvid S. Kapelrud, Baal in the Ras Shamra Texts (Copenhagen: C. E. G. Gad, 1952), 11. See also Pfeiffer, Ras Shamra and the Bible, 7.

16 See Pfeiffer, Ras Shamra and the Bible, 9-18; Michael David Coogan, ed. and trans., Stories from Ancient Canaan (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1978), 10-11; G. R. Driver, Canaanite Myths and Legends, Old Testament Series, vol. 3 (Edinburgh: T & T Clarke, 1956), 1.

17 In a discussion with K. Lawson Younger, Jr., (Feb. 1997) he stated that there have been at least 500 more texts discovered at Ras Shamra since 1993-95. Apparently these were all in Ugaritic, date from 1400-1200 B. C. E., and represent a wide variety of genres including sacerdotal traditions. Unfortunately, very few have been published.

18 Pfeiffer, Ras Shamra and the Bible, 15.

19 Cyrus Gordon, Ugaritic Literature: A Comprehensive Translation of the Poetic and Prose Texts (Rome: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1949), IX.

20 Johannes C. De Moor, An Anthology of Religious Texts from Ugarit, Religious Texts Translation Series, ed. M. S. H. G. Heerma Van Voss, et al, vol. 16 (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1987), viii.

21 Coogan, Stories, 11. See also De Moor, Anthology, 99, f n 481 and the scribal habits of Illimilku and how they may be interpreted as inferring an oral tradition behind the texts.

22 See, for example, (KTU 1.4:IV.viii); (KTU 1.6:

23 There have been two "god lists" published from the Ugaritic materials. In all there seems to be about 33-34 gods. See Cooper, "Canaanite Religion: An Overview," 37; Albright, Gods of Canaan, 140-45. But, some argue that there were as many as 70 gods at Ugarit. See Pfeiffer, Ras Shamra and the Bible, 29.

24 CTA=Corpus des tablette en cuniformes alphabtiques, ed. A. Herdner. See also Mullen, The Divine Council, 13-14.

25 Cooper, "Canaanite Religion: An Overview," 37.

26 Mullen, The Divine Council, 15.

27 Some have raised three or four arguments against the sexual potency of El. Perhaps the most important includes the claim in a Canaanite myth, preserved only in Hittite, that El was impotent. Conrad E. L'Heureux, Rank Among the Canaanite Gods: El, Ba Jal and the Repha'im, Harvard Semitic Monographs, ed. Frank Moore Cross (Missoula, Montana: Scholars Press, 1979), 8, says that this is untenable and misconstrued out of context.

28 Cooper, "Canaanite Religion: An Overview," 37. Given his overall pre-eminence it would seem reasonable to conclude that the order of the list refers to him as the god in the highest authority.

29 Albright, Gods of Canaan, 121.

30 Albright, Archaeology, 75.

31 This goddess is also referred to at times as Astarte. See Coogan, Stories, 13.

32 For further information on the origin, role and relationship of this goddess to the OT, see John Day, "Asherah in the Hebrew Bible and Northwest Semitic Literature," JBL 105 (1986): 385-408.

33 See Day, "Asherah," 399.

34 Albright, Archaeology, 75. All three goddesses, Astarte, Asherah and Anat, expressed their sexuality in a sensual manner, not in a maternal way.

35 Perhaps this is why some scholars amend "Shamgar ben Anath" to read "Shamgar of Beth Anath" (Judges 3:31; 5:6) to indicate a city in which the goddess of war, Anath, was worshipped. See D. McIntosh, "Anath," in The New International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. Geoffery W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids Eerdmans, 1988), I: 121.

36 Coogan, Stories, 13.

37 Albright, Gods of Canaan, 124.

38 Kapelrud, Baal, 119.

39 Cooper, "Canaanite Religion: An Overview," 39.

40 Pfeiffer, Ras Shamra and the Bible, 34.

41 He is also titled, "Kothar-and Khasis" which means "the very Skillful and Intelligent One."

42 See Albright, Gods of Canaan, 135-37.

43 Ulf Oldenburg, The Conflict between El and Ba'al in Canaanite Religion (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1969), 58.

44 Albright, Gods of Canaan, 124. See also Ringgren, Religions, 131, who suggests that Baal referred to a proper name around the sixteenth to fifteenth centuries.

45 The deity Dagan and Dagan are probably to be identified as one and the same. See T. C. Mitchell, "Dagan," in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, rev. ed. ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 1: 851.

46 L'Heureux, Rank among the Canaanite Gods, 12.

47 Kapelrud, Baal, 52-53.

48 Oldenburg, Conflict, 59, says: "The only likely etymology for the name hdd is the cognate Arabic root which means "to demolish with violence, with a vehement noise."

49 He is found in the Code of Hammurapi (CH Epilogue, XXVII: 64-80; ANET, 179), Enuma Elish (Enuma Elish, VII:47; ANET, 72) and had temples in Babylon, other cities, and indeed in his own city, Bib Karkar. See Oldenburg, Conflict, 61-64.

50 See Kapelrud, Baal in the Ras Shamra Texts, 52. See also Anderson, "Idolatrous Worship of Baal by Israel," 52-53.

51 Oldenburg, Conflict, 58, f n 10.

52 Driver, Canaanite Myths and Legends, 75, line 22: bd. aleyn b['l = "the victor Baal."

53 Kapelrud, Baal in the Ras Shamra Texts, 47-48.

54 Anderson, "The Idolatrous Worship of Baal in Israel," 56. One must also consider the fact that he was responsible for the rains, and in that sense would be extremely attractive to the Israelites also.

55 Ringgren, Religions, 133.

56 Kapelrud, Baal in the Ras Shamra Texts, 57. See also Mark S. Smith, The Ugaritic Baal Cycle, Supplements to Vetus Testamentum, vol. 55, ed. J. A. Emerton, et al. (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1994), xxiv, 122-23.

57 There is debate about the precise significance of the phrase twbrub bkrl. Cf. A. A. Anderson, The Book of Psalms: Psalms 1-72, The New Century Bible Commentary, ed. Ronald E. Clements, 2 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), 1: 484, who says: "It is possible that the appropriation of Baal's distinctive title reflects a deliberate religious polemic against the Canaanite beliefs."

58 Anderson, "The Idolatrous Worship of Baal by Israel," 58-59.

59 For discussion of this phenomena, as well as the following place names for Baal, see K. G. Jung, "Baal," in The New International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, rev. ed., ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 377-78.

60 Kapelrud, Baal in the Ras Shamra Texts, 109, argues against the idea that there are certain historical events behind the cycle. This seems reasonable as certain aspects of the cycle—fighting and defeating a sea monster—fit well into general Ancient Near East mythological ways of thinking. There is no need to postulate certain events in the history of Ugarit (or elsewhere) to account for the events in the myth. For a detailed critique of the seasonal interpretation and a statement of the support for a sequence of historical events behind the myth see C. H. Gordon, Ugaritic Literature (Roma: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1949), 4-5. Anderson, "The Idolatrous Worship of Baal by Israel," 76 argues against Gordon saying that the Eastern Mediterranean is quite accurately described as a cycle between wet and dry seasons, so this cannot be used as evidence against a seasonal-cyclical interpretation of the myth.

61 Johannes C. de Moor, An Anthology of Religious Texts, Religious Texts Translation Series NISABA, ed. M. S. H. G. Heerma van Voss, et al. (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1987), 1. See also T. H. Gaster, "The Battle between the Rain and the Sea. An Ancient Semitic Nature-Myth," Iraq 4 (1937): 21-32; L. L. Grabbe, "The Seasonal Pattern of the Baal Cycle," UF 8 (1976): 57-63.

62 See KTU (Die keil-alphabetischen Texts aus Ugarit) 1.3: I.i; VI.iii as examples.

63 De Moor, Anthology, 29.

64 Cf. Pierre Bordreuil et Dennis Pardee, "Le combat de Ba Jlu avec Yammu d'apres les textes ougaritiques," MARI 7 (1993): 67, who say: "En revanche, la lutte entre Ba Jlu et Yammu semble avoir pour objectif la royaunt et ses deux symboles principaux, le trne et le palais."

65 See de Moor, Anthology, 25-26 (Baal II.iv lines 15-25).

66 Kapelrud, Baal in the Ras Shamra Texts, 103, suggests that Ilu regarded Baal as a rival. So, with the defeat of Yammu, Ilu (or "El") was forced to accept and defer to Baal.

67 Anderson, "The Idolatrous Worship of Baal by Israel," 67.

68 Oldenburg, Conflict, 69.

69 Randall Fowler White, "Victory and House Building in revelation 20:1-21:8: A Thematic Study," (Ph. D. Dissertation, Westminster Theological Seminary, 1987), has written an intriguing dissertation in which he argues that "victory/house-building" is a canonically developed theme in Scripture and accounts for its presence at the consummation after the victory in Revelation 20:1-21:8.

70 This may be due in part to Mot's connections with El. See J. L. Cunchillos, "Le dieu Mut, guerrier de El," Syria 62 (1985): 218, who says: "Mut est un fils de El, bn il de KTU 1.5: I: 12-14 et mme le fils aim sinon Prfr de El (ibidem). Mut est un bn ilm, fils de El et probablament d'Athirat. . . Dans les textes Mut joue le rle d'un guerrier, champion de El, dfenseur des <<fils d'Athirat>>."

71 Cf. Norman C. Habel, Yahweh Versus Baal: A Conflict of Religious Cultures (New York: Bookman Associates, 1964), 95.

72 Ringgren, Religions, 149.

73 See Peter C. Craigie, Ugarit and the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 74-76, who discusses the blind alley that Charles Virolleaud in 1933, and later Ginsberg in 1935, led scholars down in their interpretation of Deuteronomy 14:21. They saw a parallel with a reconstructed Ugaritic text which concerns itself with Canaanite cultic practices involving the cooking of a kid in its mother's milk. In Craigie's view, there is no such parallel and thus we are still uncertain about the meaning of Deut 14:21.

74 For a general statement of the problems of comparison, see Craigie, Ugarit and the Old Testament, 67-68. For a more detailed analysis of the role of OT studies in West Semitic studies, see Maurice Sznycer, "The Religions and Myths of the Western Semites—And Some Problems of Method," in Mythologies, 2 vols., trans. Wendy Doniger (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1991), 1: 182-89, who says: "The first question we would raise in this regard concerns biblical studies, which have had an excessive influence on the development and orientation of West Semitic studies in general and on the study of West Semitic studies in particular."

75 Cf. Thomas Constable, "1 Kings," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. Roy B. Zuck and John F. Walvoord, 2 vols. (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985), 1:526, who says that "Mount Carmel was regarded by the Phoenicians as the sacred dwelling place of Baal." With this in mind, one certainly sees in the text the complete defeat of Baal "on his own turf."

76 Craigie, Ugarit and the Old Testament, 88-100.

77 See also Habel, Conflict, 24-26.

78 See Marvin W. Meyer, ed. The Ancient Mysteries: A Sourcebook (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1987), 86 (the Greek mysteries of Dionysos).

79 See Eugene Merrill, "Numbers," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. Roy B. Zuck and John F. Walvoord, 2 vols. (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985), 1:245-46. See also Duane Litfin, "Judges," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. Roy B. Zuck and John F. Walvoord, 2 vols. (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985), 1:383, for a commentary on Judges 2:10-15 and the same problem of Baal worship later in Israel's history.

80 See Richard D. Patterson and Hermann J. Austel, "1 and 2 Kings," in The Expositor's Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 4 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), 144.

81 On the fact of Baal prophets and the nature of their so-called prophesying see, H. H. Rowley, "Elijah on Mount Carmel," BJRL 43 (1960): 202-03.

82 Gwilym H. Jones, 1 and 2 Kings, The New century Bible, ed. Ronald E. Clements, 2 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984), 2: 316.

83 Rowley, "Elijah," 195.

84 Rowley, "Elijah," 195. Melkart is regarded as the equivalent deity to Baal.

85 Cf. Allen P. Ross, "Psalms," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. Roy B. Zuck and John F. Walvoord, 2 vols. (Wheaton, Victor Books, 1985), 1: 815-16.

86 See A. A. Anderson, The Book of Psalms: Psalms 1-72, The New Century Bible Commentary, ed. Ronald E. Clements, 2 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), 1: 233.

87 Peter C. Craigie, Psalms 1-50, Word Biblical Commentary, ed. John D. W. Watts, vol. 19 (Waco: Word Publishers, 1983), 245-46.

88 Habel, Conflict, 88.

89 See also Kapelrud, The Ras Shamra Discoveries and the Old Testament, 82, who discusses words used in the same way and with the same meaning.

90 On the polemical relationship of Psalm 93 to the Ugaritic pantheon, see Rocky S. Miller, "Psalm 93: "A Polemic against Baal of the Ras Shamra Texts," Th. M. Thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1975), see esp. 59-62. Concerning Psalm 104 see, Jonathon Clark Owen, "Psalm 104: Yahweh's Polemic Against the Ugaritic Pantheon," Th. M. Thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1985), see esp. 44-69.

91 Regarding the music of the psalms, see Craigie, Ugarit and the Old Testament, 79-82.

92 In Amos 1:1, Amos is referred to as a noqed. This has puzzled scholars. But cf. Craigie, Ugarit and the Old Testament, 71-74. who discusses the possibility of the term having sacral connotations based upon the term nqd found in the Baal cycle. For a brief comment on the problem involved in interpreting this word, see Thomas J. Finley, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, The Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary, ed. Kenneth L. Barker (Chicago: Moody Press, 1990), 126-27.

Related Topics: History, Cults/Magic

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