Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

Baal

Posted by Fredsvenn on June 15, 2015

Baal is the same as Jupiter (Zeus), not Saturn (Cronus) – it is the weather-thunder god. He is a fertility and storm god. He is the god of the thunderstorm, the most vigorous and aggressive of the gods, the one on whom mortals most immediately depend. Baal resides on Mount Zaphon, north of Ugarit, and is usually depicted holding a thunderbolt.
 
Baal, also rendered Baʿal, is a Northwest Semitic title and honorific meaning “master” or “lord” that is used for various gods who were patrons of cities in the Levant and Asia Minor, cognate to Akkadian Bēlu.
 
Baal was one of the most widely worshiped gods in ancient Canaan *, where he was associated with fertility and rain. He was the son of El, the supreme god of the Canaanites, and the husband and brother of Anat, the ferocious goddess of war.
 
“Baal” may refer to any god and even to human officials. In some texts it is used for Hadad, a god of thunderstorms, fertility and agriculture, and the lord of Heaven. Since only priests were allowed to utter his divine name, Hadad, Ba‛al was commonly used.
 
Prior to the discovery of the Ugaritic texts it was sometimes thought that there were various and quite-separate gods called Baal. However, it is now generally accepted that there was one great Canaanite storm-and-fertility deity Baal-Hadad, and local manifestations of this one god.
 
He is the protagonist of a cycle of myths from Ugarit. These tell of a challenge from Yamm (“Sea”), to which Baal responds. The Baal Cycle is a Ugaritic cycle of stories about the Canaanite god Baal, also known as Hadad—the god of rain, storm and fertility.
 
They are written in Ugaritic, a language written in a cuneiform alphabet, on a series of clay tablets found in the 1920s in the Tell of Ugarit (modern Ras Shamra), situated on the Mediterranean coast of northern Syria, a few kilometers north of the modern city of Latakia, far ahead of the now known coast.
 
According to the tales, Yam, the sea god, demanded that Baal be made his slave. He sent messengers to Baal, asking him to surrender, but Baal attacked the messengers and drove them away.
 
Baal then fought with Yam and, using two magic weapons, defeated him and seized control of the waters. In the story, Yam represents the destructive nature of water: rivers and seas flooding the land and ruining crops and killing animals. Baal represents water’s positive powers: rain and dew providing the moisture needed to make crops grow.
 
Ninurta was a Sumerian and the Akkadian god of hunting and war. He was worshipped in Babylonia and Assyria and in Lagash he was identified with the city god Ningirsu. In older transliteration the name is rendered Ninib and Ninip, and in early commentary he was sometimes portrayed as a solar deity.
 
A number of scholars have suggested that either the god Ninurta or the Assyrian king bearing his name (Tukulti-Ninurta I) was the inspiration for the Biblical character Nimrod.
 
In Nippur, Ninurta was worshiped as part of a triad of deities including his father, Enlil and his mother, Ninlil. In variant mythology, his mother is said to be the harvest goddess Ninhursag. The consort of Ninurta was Ugallu in Nippur and Bau when he was called Ningirsu.
 
Ninurta often appears holding a bow and arrow, a sickle sword, or a mace named Sharur: Sharur is capable of speech in the Sumerian legend “Deeds and Exploits of Ninurta” and can take the form of a winged lion and may represent an archetype for the later Shedu.
 
There are a lot of parallels with both and the story of Marduk (son of Enki) who slew Abzu (or Apsu), and delivered the Tablets of Destiny from Kingu to his father, Enki.
 
In the late neo-Babylonian and early Persian period, syncretism seems to have fused Ninurta’s character with that of Nergal. The two gods were often invoked together, and spoken of as if they were one divinity.
 
A certain confusion exists in cuneiform literature between Ninurta (slayer of Asag and wielder of Sharur, an enchanted mace) and Nergal. Nergal has epithets such as the “raging king,” the “furious one,” and the like.
 
In the astral-theological system Ninurta was associated with the planet Saturn, or perhaps as offspring or an aspect of Saturn. In his capacity as a farmer-god, there are similarities between Ninurta and the Greek Titan Kronos, whom the Romans in turn identified with their Titan Saturn.
 
Nergal actually seems to be in part a solar deity, sometimes identified with Shamash, but only a representative of a certain phase of the sun. Portrayed in hymns and myths as a god of war and pestilence, Nergal seems to represent the sun of noontime and of the summer solstice that brings destruction, high summer being the dead season in the Mesopotamian annual cycle.
 
He has also been called “the king of sunset”. Nergal evolved from a war god to a god of the underworld. In the mythology, this occurred when Enlil and Ninlil gave him the underworld. A play upon his name—separated into three elements as Ne-uru-gal (lord of the great dwelling)—expresses his position at the head of the nether-world pantheon.
 
Nergal was also the deity who presides over the netherworld, and who stands at the head of the special pantheon assigned to the government of the dead (supposed to be gathered in a large subterranean cave known as Aralu or Irkalla).
 
In this capacity he has associated with him a goddess Allatu or Ereshkigal, though at one time Allatu may have functioned as the sole mistress of Aralu, ruling in her own person. In some texts the god Ninazu is the son of Nergal and Allatu/Ereshkigal.
 
Nergal is a son of Enlil and Ninlil, along with Nanna and Ninurta. Ordinarily Nergal pairs with his consort Laz. Standard iconography pictured Nergal as a lion, and boundary-stone monuments symbolise him with a mace surmounted by the head of a lion. According to the rabbins, his emblem was a cock and Nergal means a “dunghill cock”, although standard iconography pictured Nergal as a lion.
 
The worship of Nergal does not appear to have spread as widely as that of Ninurta, but in the late Babylonian and early Persian period, syncretism seems to have fused the two divinities, which were invoked together as if they were identical.
 
In the late Babylonian astral-theological system Nergal is related to the planet Mars. As a fiery god of destruction and war, Nergal doubtless seemed an appropriate choice for the red planet, and he was equated by the Greeks to the war-god Ares (Latin Mars) – hence the current name of the planet.
 
In Assyro-Babylonian ecclesiastical art the great lion-headed colossi serving as guardians to the temples and palaces seem to symbolise Nergal, just as the bull-headed colossi probably typify Ninurta.
 
Nergal’s chief temple at Cuthah bore the name Meslam, from which the god receives the designation of Meslamtaeda or Meslamtaea, “the one that rises up from Meslam”. The name Meslamtaeda/Meslamtaea indeed is found as early as the list of gods from Fara while the name Nergal only begins to appear in the Akkadian period.
 
Amongst the Hurrians and later Hittites Nergal was known as Aplu, a name derived from the Akkadian Apal Enlil, (Apal being the construct state of Aplu) meaning “the son of Enlil”. As God of the plague, he was invoked during the “plague years” during the reign of the Hittite king Suppiluliuma, when this disease spread from Egypt. Aplu may be related with Apaliunas who is considered to be the Hittite reflex of *Apeljōn, an early form of the name Apollo.
 
Being a deity of the desert, god of fire, which is one of negative aspects of the sun, god of the underworld, and also being a god of one of the religions which rivaled Christianity and Judaism, Nergal was sometimes called a demon and even identified with Satan.
 
According to Collin de Plancy and Johann Weyer, Nergal was depicted as the chief of Hell’s “secret police”, and worked as “an honorary spy in the service of Beelzebub”.
 
Enlil (nlin), (EN = Lord + LÍL = Wind, “Lord (of the) Storm”) is the God of breath, wind, loft and breadth (height and distance). It was the name of a chief deity listed and written about in Sumerian religion, and later in Akkadian (Assyrian and Babylonian), Hittite, Canaanite and other Mesopotamian clay and stone tablets. The name is perhaps pronounced and sometimes rendered in translations as “Ellil” in later Akkadian, Hittite, and Canaanite literature.
 
Ēl (cognate to Akkadian: ilu) is a Northwest Semitic word meaning “god” or “deity”, or referring (as a proper name) to any one of multiple major Ancient Near East deities. A rarer spelling, “‘ila”, represents the predicate form in Old Akkadian and in Amorite. The word is derived from the Proto-Semitic archaic biliteral ʔ-L, meaning “god”.
 
Specific deities known as El or Il include the supreme god of the Canaanite religion, the supreme god of the Mesopotamian Semites in the pre-Sargonic period, and the God of the Hebrew Bible.
 
ʾIlāh (plural: ʾālihah) is an Arabic term meaning “deity”. The feminine is ʾilāhah (meaning “goddess”); with the article, it appears as al-ʾilāhah. It appears in the name of the monotheistic god of Islam as al-Lāh, that is, translated, “the god”.
 
ʾIlāh is cognate to Northwest Semitic ʾēl and East Semitic forms such as Akkadian ilu. The word is from a Proto-Semitic biliteral Semitic root ʔ-L meaning “god” (possibly with a wider meaning of “strong”), which was extended to a regular triliteral by the addition of a h as in Hebrew ʾelōah and ʾelōhim.
 
Cognate forms are found throughout the Semitic languages. They include Ugaritic ʾil, pl. ʾlm; Phoenician ʾl pl. ʾlm; Hebrew ʾēl, pl. ʾēlîm; Aramaic ʾl; Akkadian ilu, pl. ilānu.
 
In northwest Semitic use, El was both a generic word for any god and the special name or title of a particular god who was distinguished from other gods as being “the god”. El is listed at the head of many pantheons. El is the Father God among the Canaanites.[citation needed]
 
However, because the word sometimes refers to a god other than the great god Ēl, it is frequently ambiguous as to whether Ēl followed by another name means the great god Ēl with a particular epithet applied or refers to another god entirely. For example, in the Ugaritic texts, ʾil mlk is understood to mean “Ēl the King” but ʾil hd as “the god Hadad”.[citation needed]
 
The Semitic root ʾlh (Arabic ʾilāh, Aramaic ʾAlāh, ʾElāh, Hebrew ʾelōah) may be ʾl with a parasitic h, and ʾl may be an abbreviated form of ʾlh. In Ugaritic the plural form meaning “gods” is ʾilhm, equivalent to Hebrew ʾelōhîm “powers”. But in Hebrew this word is also regularly used for semantically singular “god”.
 
The stem ʾl is found prominently in the earliest strata of east Semitic, northwest Semitic, and south Semitic groups. Personal names including the stem ʾl are found with similar patterns in both Amorite and South Arabic which indicates that probably already in Proto-Semitic ʾl was both a generic term for “god” and the common name or title of a single particular god.
 
Ptah/Enki was a “God of Heaven and Earth”, and considered to be a great engineer and master artificer. The Egyptian god Ptah, the demiurge of Memphis, god of craftsmen and architects, is given the title ḏū gitti ‘Lord of Gath’ in a prism from Lachish which has on its opposite face the name of Amenhotep II (c. 1435–1420 BCE).
 
Cross points out that Ptah is often called the Lord (or one) of eternity and thinks it may be this identification of ʼĒl with Ptah that lead to the epithet ’olam ‘eternal’ being applied to ʼĒl so early and so consistently.
 
Ptah is the spouse of Sekhmet and the father of Nefertum. Nefertum was eventually seen as the son of the Creator god Ptah, and the goddesses Sekhmet and Bast, the goddess of warfare in Lower Egypt, the Nile River delta region, before the unification of the cultures of ancient Egypt, were sometimes called his mother.
 
In art, Nefertum is usually depicted as a beautiful young man having blue water-lily flowers around his head. As the son of Bastet, he also sometimes has the head of a lion or is a lion or cat reclining.
 
Ptah was also regarded as the father of the sage Imhotep. Sekhmet also is a Solar deity, sometimes called the daughter of the sun god Ra and often associated with the goddesses Hathor and Bast.
 
Ninhursag is the wife and consort of Enki. She had many names including Ninmah (“Great Queen”); Nintu (“Lady of Birth”); Mamma or Mami (mother); Aruru, Belet-Ili (lady of the gods, Akkadian). According to legend her name was changed from Ninmah to Ninhursag by her son Ninurta in order to commemorate his creation of the mountains.
 
She was a mother goddess of the mountains. As the wife and consort of Enki she was also referred to as Damgulanna (great wife of heaven) or Damkina (faithful wife).
 
Her hair is sometimes depicted in an omega shape, and she at times wears a horned head-dress and tiered skirt, often with bow cases at her shoulders, and not infrequently carries a mace or baton surmounted by an omega motif or a derivation, sometimes accompanied by a lion cub on a leash.
 
Her symbol resembles the Greek letter omega Ω. It appears on some boundary stones — on the upper tier, indicating her importance. The omega symbol is associated with the Egyptian cow goddess Hathor, and may represent a stylized womb. Hathor is at times depicted on a mountain, so it may be that the two goddesses are connected.
 
In Sumerian mythology, Ninsun or Ninsuna (“lady wild cow”) is a goddess, best known as the mother of the legendary hero Gilgamesh, and as the tutelary goddess of Gudea of Lagash. Her parents are the deities Anu and Uras. Ninsun is called “Rimat-Ninsun”, the “August cow”, the “Wild Cow of the Enclosure”, and “The Great Queen”.
 
Ninsun was called Gula in Sumerian Mythology until the name was later changed to Ninisina. Gula in the latter became a Babylonian goddess.
 
Ninsun was originally named Nininsina, according to Pabilsag’s journey to Nibru. According to the ancient Babylonian text, Nininsina wedded Pabilsag near a riverbank. By Pabilsag she bore Damu, a god of vegetation and rebirth in Sumerian mythology.
 
In the Ugaritic Ba‘al cycle, Ēl is introduced dwelling on (or in) Mount Lel (Lel possibly meaning “Night”) at the fountains of the two rivers at the spring of the two deeps. He dwells in a tent according to some interpretations of the text which may explain why he had no temple in Ugarit.
 
As to the rivers and the spring of the two deeps, these might refer to real streams, or to the mythological sources of the salt water ocean and the fresh water sources under the earth, or to the waters above the heavens and the waters beneath the earth.
 
Enki was considered a god of life and replenishment, and was often depicted with two streams of water flowing into his shoulders, one the Tigris, the other the Euphrates. Alongside him were trees symbolising the female and male aspects of nature, each holding the female and male aspects of the ‘Life Essence’, which he, as apparent alchemist of the gods, would masterfully mix to create several beings that would live upon the face of the earth.
 
In 1964, a team of Italian archaeologists under the direction of Paolo Matthiae of the University of Rome La Sapienza performed a series of excavations of material from the third-millennium BCE city of Ebla. Much of the written material found in these digs was later translated by Giovanni Pettinato.
 
Among other conclusions, he found a tendency among the inhabitants of Ebla to replace the name of El, king of the gods of the Canaanite pantheon (found in names such as Mikael), with Ia.[citation needed]
 
Jean Bottero (1952) and others suggested that Ia in this case is a West Semitic (Canaanite) way of saying Ea, Enki’s Akkadian name, associating the Canaanite theonym Yahu, and ultimately Hebrew YHWH.
 
Some scholars remain skeptical of the theory while explaining how it might have been misinterpreted. Ia has also been compared by William Hallo with the Ugaritic Yamm (sea), (also called Judge Nahar, or Judge River) whose earlier name in at least one ancient source was Yaw, or Ya’a.
 
The exact meaning of his name is uncertain: the common translation is “Lord of the Earth”: the Sumerian en is translated as a title equivalent to “lord”; it was originally a title given to the High Priest; ki means “earth”; but there are theories that ki in this name has another origin, possibly kig of unknown meaning, or kur meaning “mound”.
 
Baal’s Battle with Death. Other myths about Baal relate to fertility and the cycle of the seasons. One such story tells of the battle between Baal and Mot, the god of death and infertility. After conquering Yam, Baal complained that he had no house like the other gods did. El agreed to let the crafts god Kothar build Baal a fine house. When it was finished, Baal held a great feast—but he did not invite Mot or send him respectful presents.
 
Greatly insulted, Mot asked Baal to come to the underworld to dine. Although afraid, Baal could not refuse the invitation. The food served at Mot’s table was mud, the food of death, and when Baal ate it, he was trapped in the underworld.
 
While Baal was in the underworld, famine struck the earth, and El searched for someone to replace Baal. Asherah, the lady of the sea, convinced El to give Baal’s throne to her son Ashtar. But when Ashtar, the god of irrigation, sat on the throne, his feet did not even touch the floor. Realizing he could not fill Baal’s place, Ashtar gave up the throne.
 
Meanwhile, Baal’s wife and sister, the fierce goddess Anat, traveled to the underworld. After splitting Mot with her sword, she winnowed him with her fan, burned the pieces in a fire, ground them in a mill, and planted them in the ground. These actions brought Baal back to life. Later Mot was also restored to life, and the two gods again battled each other. In the end, the sun goddess Shapath separated them, Baal regained his throne, and the land became fertile again.
 
Like the story of Yam, this myth emphasizes the importance of rain to the land. Baal represents the fertility of spring rains, while Mot represents the drought of the summer months.
 
The actions taken by Anat against Mot—splitting, winnowing, burning, grinding, and planting—are steps taken by farmers when they harvest wheat. They prepare it for use as food during the winter and sow it to create more crops the next year. By defeating the drought (Mot), the rains (Baal) renew the earth each year and allow life to flourish in the dry Near East.
 
Despite the tendency in the Hebrew Bible to avoid the use of the word as a proper name, it is now quite clear that by pre-Israelite times the term had become the usual name of the weather-god of Syria-Palestine.
 
Because more than one god bore the title “Baal” and more than one goddess bore the title “Baalat” or “Baalah,” only the context of a text, the definitive article, or a genitive following the word in construct can denote which particular god, a text is speaking of.
 
Like the other inhabitants of Canaan, the ancient Hebrews worshiped local gods called Baal and honored their children with names ending with baal —such as Ishbaal, the son of King Saul. In fact, the Hebrew god Yahweh appears to have shared many of Baal’s characteristics.
 
For the early Hebrews, “Baal” referred to the Lord of Israel, just as “Baal” farther north designated the Lord of Lebanon or of Ugarit:
 
At first the name Baal was used by the Jews for their God without discrimination, but as the struggle between the two religions developed, the name Baal was given up by the Israelites as a thing of shame, and even names like Jerubbaal were changed to Jerubbosheth: Hebrew bosheth means “shame”.
 
As the worship of Yahweh became more important, Baal took on a negative meaning for the Hebrews. In the 800s B . C ., a queen of Israel named Jezebel introduced a cult of Baal borrowed from the Phoenicians. She set up the cult as a rival to the official worship of Yahweh.
 
Opposition to Baal grew so strong that over the next century the name Baal was replaced with the term boshet, meaning shame. In later texts, the name of Saul’s son was changed from Ishbaal to Ishbosheth. Later still, Christians considered Baal to be a name for a devil.
 
Baal in Other Ancient Cultures. Worship of Baal was widespread in the ancient Near East. The clay tablets of Ras es-Shamrah date from about 1500 BC., and Baal was also popular in Egypt from about 1400 to 1075 BC. In Mesopotamia, Baal was known to the Babylonians and Assyrians, and he was identified with their national gods Marduk and Ashur. The Greeks called the god Belos and identified him with Zeus.
 
But Baal-hamon was generally identified by the Greeks, by interpretatio Graeca with Greek Cronus and similarly by the Romans with Saturn. The Phoenician god Baal (not always synonymous with Baal-hamon) is generally identified either with the Northwest Semitic god El or with Dagon.
 
In the New Testament of the Bible, Beelzebub is one of the names given to Satan by Jesus. In some places, he is Satan’s main assistant rather than Satan himself. The name comes from Baalzebub, the name of the god of the Philistine city of Ekron. Baalzebub, which means “lord of the flies,” is probably a distorted version of Baal, or “lord of the house.” The origin of the word is unknown.
 
It was the program of Jezebel, in the 9th century BCE, to introduce into Israel’s capital city of Samaria her Phoenician worship of Baal as opposed to the worship of Yahweh that made the name anathema to the Israelites.
 
The competition between the priestly forces of Yahweh and of Baal in the ninth century is attested in 1Kings 18. Elijah the prophet challenged Baal’s prophets to settle the question whether it was Ba’al or Yahweh who supplied the rain. Elijah offered a sacrifice to Yahweh; Baal’s followers did the same.
 
According to the Hebrew Bible, Baal did not light his followers’ sacrifice, but Yahweh sent heavenly fire to burn Elijah’s sacrifice and altar to ashes, even after it had been soaked with water. Directly after that event, Elijah had the prophets of Ba’al slain, and it soon began to rain.
 
Baal Zebub occurs in 2 Kings 1:2–6 as the name of the Philistine god of Ekron: But the angel of the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite, Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say unto them, [Is it] not because [there is] not a God in Israel, [that] ye go to enquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron? KJV, 1611
 
Ba‘al Zəbûb is variously understood to mean “lord of flies”, or “lord of the (heavenly) dwelling”. Originally the name of a Philistine god, Ba’al, meaning “Lord” in Ugaritic, was used in conjunction with a descriptive name of a specific god.
 
Jewish scholars have interpreted the title of “Lord of Flies” as the Hebrew way of calling Ba’al a pile of dung, and comparing Ba’al followers to flies. The Septuagint renders the name as Baalzebub and as Baal muian (“Baal of flies”), but Symmachus the Ebionite may have reflected a tradition of its offensive ancient name when he rendered it as Beelzeboul.
 
Beelzebub, also Beelzebul, is also identified in the New Testament as Satan, the “prince of the demons”. In Arabic the name is retained as Ba‘al dhubaab / zubaab, literally “Lord of the Flies”. Biblical scholar Thomas Kelly Cheyne suggested that it might be a derogatory corruption of Ba‘al Zəbûl, “Lord of the High Place” (i.e., Heaven) or “High Lord”. The word Beelzebub in rabbinical texts is a mockery of the Ba’al religion, which ancient Hebrews considered to be idol (or, false god) worship.

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