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BAAL


176


BAAL


to this stem deity. In several shrines long trains of priests, distributed into several classes (III Kings, x\-iii, 19; IV Ivings. x, 19; xxiii. 5; Soph., i, 4, etc.) and clad in special attire (IV Kings, x, 22) performed the sacred functions: they prayed, shouted to the Baal, led dances around the altar, and in their frenzied excitement "cut themselves with knives and lancets, till they were all covered with blood" (III Kings, xviii, 26-28). In the meantime the lay worshippers also prayed, kneeling, and paid their homage by kissing the images or sj-mbols of the Baal (III Kings, xix, 18; Os., xiii, 2, Hebr.). or even their own hands. To this should be added the immoral practices indulged in at several shrines (III ICings, xiv, 24; IV Kings, xxiii, 7; cf. Deut., xxiii, 18) in honotu- of the Baal as male principle of reproduction, and of his mate Asherah (D. V. Astarthe, A. V. Ashtaroth).

B-\-VL- Worship among the Israelites. — Nothing could be more fatal to a spiritual faith than this sensual rehgion. In fact, no sooner had the Israelites, coming forth from the wilderness, been brought into contact with the Baal-worshippers than they were, through the guile of the Madianites, and the attrac- tions of the hcentious worship offered to the Moabit- ish deity (probabl5- Chamos), easily seduced from their allegiance to Yahweh (Num., xxv, 1-9). Henceforth the name of Beelphegor remained hke a dark spot on the earlj- history of Israel [Os., ix. 10; Ps. cv (in the Hebr. cvi), 28]. The terrible ptmish- ment inflicted upon the guilty sobered for a while the minds of the Hebrews. How long the impres- sion lasted we are hardly able to tell; but this we know, that when they had settled in the Promised Land, the IsraeUtes, again forsaking the One True God. paid their homage to the deities of their Chan- aanite neighbours (Judges, ii, 11, 13, etc.). Even the best families could not, or did not dare, resist the seduction; Gedeon's father, for instance, albeit his faith in his Baal seems to have been somewhat luke- warm (Judges, vi. .31), had erected an idolatrous altar in Ephra (Judges, vi, 25). "And the Lord, being angrj- against Israel, delivered them into the hands of their enemies that dwelt roimd about". Mesopotamians, Madianites, Amalecites. Ammonites, and. above all, Phihstines, were successively the pro\ndential avengers of God's disregarded rights.

During the warhke reigns of Saul and Da\-id, the Israehtes as a whole thought little of shaking off Yahweh's yoke; such also was, apparently, the situa- tion imder Solomon's rule, although the example given by this prince must have told deplorably upon his subjects. After the division of his empire, the Northern Kingdom, first led by its rulers to an im- lawful worship of Yahweh. sank speedily into the grossest Chanaanite superstitions. This was the more easy because certain customs, it seems, brought about confusion in the clouded minds of the unedu- cated portion of the people. Names hke Esbaal (I Par., \-iii, 33; ix. 39), Meribbaal (I Par., ^■m, 34; ix, 40), BaaUada (I Par., xiv, 7), given by Saul, Jonathan, and Da\-id to their sons, suggest that Yahweh was possibly spoken of as Baal. The fact has been disputed; but the existence of such a name as Baalia (i. e. "Yahweh is Baal", I Par., xii, 5) and the affirmation of Osee (ii, 16) are argtunents that cannot be slighted. True, the word was used later on only in reference to idolatrous worship, and even deemed so obnoxious that boshfth, "shame", was frequently substituted for it in compoimd proper names, thus gi%'ing. for instance, such inoffen- sive forms as Ehoda (II Kings, v, 16), Yerubb&heth (II Kings, xi, 21, Hebr.), Isboseth (II Kings, ii. 10) and elsewhere, Miphiboseth (II Kings, ix, 6; xxi. 8); but these corrections were due to a spirit which did not prevail until centuries after the age with which we shall presently deal.


Achab's accession to the throne of Israel inaugu- rated a new era, that of the official worship. Married to a Sidonian princess, Jezebel, the king erected to the Baal of her native city (fid. or Melkart ) a temple (III Kings. x\"i. 31. 32) in which a nmnerous body of priests officiated (III Kings, x^-iu. 19). To what a forlorn state the true faith in the Northern King- dom fell EUas relates in III Kings, xix, 10, 14: "The children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant: they have thrown down thy altars, they have slain thy prophets with the sword." There remained but seven thousand men whose knees had not been bowed before Baal (III Kings, xix, 18). Ochozias, son of Achab and Jezebel, followed in his parents' footsteps (III Kings, xxii, 54), and although Joram, his brother and successor, took away the mdr^ebhoth set up by his father, the Baal-worship was not stamped out of Samaria (IV Kings, iii, 2, 3) until its adherents were slaughtered, and its temple de- stroyed at the command of Jehu (IV Kings, x, 18-28). Violent as this repression was, it hardly survived the prince who had imdertaken it. The annals of the reigns of his successors witness to the religious corruption again prevaihng; and the author of IV Kings could sum up this sad history in the following few words: "They forsook all the precepts of the Lord their God: and made to themselves two molten calves, and groves [Sshcrahi], and adored all the host of lieaven: and they served Baal. And consecrated their sons, and their daughters through fire: and they gave themselves to divinations, and sooth- saj-ings: and they deUvered themselves up to do evil before the Lord, to provoke him. And the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them from his sight, . . . and Israel was carried away out of their land to Assyria, unto this day" (IV Kings, xra, 16-18. 23).

Meanwhile the Kingdom of Juda fared no better. There, also, the princes, far from checking the drift of the people to idolatrj', were their instigators and abettors. Estabhshed by Joram (IV Kings, viii, IS), probably at the suggestion of Athaha his wife, who was the daughter of Achab and Jezebel, the Phce- nician worship was continued by Ochozias (IV Kings, viii, 27). We know from IV Kings, xi, 18. that a temple had been dedicated to Baal (verj- Ukely the Baal honoured in Samaria) in the Holy City, either by one of these princes or by AthaUa. At the latter's death, this temple was destroyed by the faithful people, and its furniture broken to pieces (IV Kings, xi, 18; II Par., xxiii, 17). If this reaction did not crush utterly the Baal-worship in Juda. it left verj' httle of it ahve. since, for over a century, no case of idolatry is recorded by the sacred writers. In the reign of Achaz, however, we find the evil not only flourishing again, but countenanced by public authority. But a change had taken place in juda's idolatn,'; instead of the Sidonian Baal, Melek (Mo- loch), the cruel deity of the Ammonites, had become the people's favourite (II Par., xxviii. 2; IV Kings, x\-i, 3, 4). His barbarous rites, rooted out by Eze- chias, appeared again with the support of Manasses, by whose influence the AssjTo-Babylonian astral deities were added to the Pantheon of the Judean idolaters (IV Kings, xxi, 3). The meritorious efforts of Josias (1\ Kings, xxiii, 4, 5) produced no lasting results, and after his death the various super- stitions in vogue held sway imtil "the Lord cast out from his face Juda and Jerusalem" (IV Kings, xxiii, 32, 37; xxiv, 9, 19. and elsewhere).

The Babylonian invasions dealt to the Baal-worship in Palestine a deadlj- blow. At the restoration Israel shall be Yahweh's people, and He their God (Ezech., xiv, 11), and Baal will become altogether a thing oif the past.

Selden, De diii syrU (1617); Gigot, Biblicnl Lectures (Baltimore, 1901), V; Id., OuOinet of Jewitk Hittory (New