Baal (bāˈəl) [key], plural Baalim bāˈəlĭm [Semitic, = master, lord], name used throughout the Bible for the chief deity or for deities of Canaan. The term was originally an epithet applied to the storm god Hadad. Technically, Baal was subordinate to El, the supreme god, the creator, and the father of Hadad and other gods.
Baal is attested in the Ebla texts (first half of 2d millennium B.C.), and by the time of the Ugarit tablets (14th cent. B.C.), he had become the ruler of the universe. The Ugarit tablets make him chief of the Canaanite pantheon. He is the source of life and fertility, the mightiest hero, the lord of war, and the defeater of the god Yam. There were many temples of Baal in Canaan, and the name Baal was often added to that of a locality, e.g., Baal-peor, Baal-hazor, Baal-hermon.
The Baal cult penetrated Israel and at times led to syncretism. In the Psalms, Yahweh is depicted as Baal and his dwelling is on Mt. Zaphon (Zion), the locale of Baal in Canaanite mythology. The practice of sacred prostitution seems to have been associated with the worship of Baal in Palestine and the cult was vehemently denounced by the prophets, especially Hosea and Jeremiah. The abhorrence in which the cult was held probably explains the substitution of Ish-bosheth for Esh-baal, of Jerubbesheth for Jerubbaal (a name of Gideon), and of Mephibosheth for Merib-baal. The substituted term probably means "shame." The same abhorrence is evident the use of the pejorative name Baal-zebub (see also Satan).
As cognates of Baal in other Semitic languages there are Bel (in Babylonian religion) and the last elements in the Tyrian names Jezebel, Hasdrubal, and Hannibal. The Baal of 1 Chronicles is probably the same as Ramah
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