the common source of all streams, and proceeding along this line it was possible for the numerous baals to be regarded eventually as mere forms of one absolute deity. Consequently, the Baal could be identified with some supreme power of nature, e.g. the heavens, the sun, the weather or some planet. The particular line of development would vary in different places, but the change from an association of the Baal with earthly objects to heavenly is characteristic of a higher type of belief and appears to be relatively later. The idea which has long prevailed that Baal was properly a sky-god affords no explanation of the local character of the many baals; on the other hand, on the theory of a higher development where the gods become heavenly or astral beings, the fact that ruder conceptions of nature were still retained (often in the unofficial but more popular forms of cult) is more intelligible.
A specific Baal of the heavens appears to have been known among the Hittites in the time of Rameses II., and considerably later, at the beginning of the 7th century, it was the title of one of the gods of Phoenicia. In Babylonia, from a very early period, Baal became a definite individual deity, and was identified with the planet Jupiter. This development is a mark of superior culture and may have been spread through Babylonian influence. Both Baal and Astarte were venerated in Egypt at Thebes and Memphis in the XIXth Dynasty, and the former, through the influence of the Aramaeans who borrowed the Babylonian spelling Bel, ultimately became known as the Greek Bēlos who was identified with Zeus.
The history of Baalism among the Hebrews is obscured by the difficulty of determining whether the false worship which the prophets stigmatize is the heathen worship of Yahweh under a conception, and often with rites, which treated him as a local nature god; or whether Baalism was consciously recognized to be distinct from Yahwism from the first. Later religious practice was undoubtedly opposed to that of earlier times, and attempts were made to correct narratives containing views which had come to be regarded as contrary to the true worship of Yahweh. The Old Testament depicts the history of the people as a series of acts of apostasy alternating with subsequent penitence and return to Yahweh, and the question whether this gives effect to actual conditions depends upon the precise character of the elements of Yahweh worship brought by the Israelites into Palestine. This is still under dispute. There is strong evidence at all events that many of the conceptions are contrary to historical fact, and the points of similarity between native Canaanite cult and Israelite worship are so striking that only the persistent traditions of Israel's origin and of the work of Moses compel the conclusion that the germs of specific Yahweh worship existed from his day. The earliest certain reaction against Baalism is ascribed to the reign of Ahab, whose marriage with Jezebel gave the impulse to the introduction of a particular form of the cult. In honour of his wife's god, the king, following the example of Solomon, erected a temple to the Tyrian Baal (see above). This, however, did not prevent him from remaining a follower of Yahweh, whose prophets he still consulted, and whose protection he still cherished when he named his sons Ahaziah and Jehoram (“Yah[weh] holds,” “Y. is high”). The antagonism of Elijah was not against Baalism in general, but against the introduction of a rival deity. But by the time of Hosea (ii. 16 seq.) a further advance was marked, and the use of the term “Baal” was felt to be dangerous to true religion. Thus there gradually grew up a tendency to avoid the term, and in accordance with the idea of Ex. xxiii. 13, it was replaced by the contemptuous bōsheth, “shame” (see above). However, the books of Deuteronomy and Jeremiah (cf. also Zeph. i. 4) afford complete testimony for the prevalence of Baalism as late as the exile, but prove that the clearest distinction was then drawn between the pure worship of Yahweh the god of Israel and the inveterate and debased cults of the gods of the land. (See further Hebrew Religion; Prophet.)
BAALBEK (anc. Heliopolis), a town of the Buka‛a (Coelesyria), altitude 3850 ft., situated E. of the Litani and near the parting between its waters and those of the Asi. Pop. about 5000, including 2000 Metawali and 1000 Christians (Maronite and Orthodox). Since 1902 Baalbek has been connected by railway with Rayak (Rejak) on the Beirut-Damascus line, and since 1907 with Aleppo. It is famous for its temple ruins of the Roman period, before which we have no record of it, certain though it be that Heliopolis is a translation of an earlier native name, in which Baal was an element. It has been suggested, but without good reason, that this name was the Baalgad of Josh. xi. 17.
Heliopolis was made a colonia probably by Octavian (coins of 1st century A.D.), and there must have been a Baal temple there in which Trajan consulted the oracle. The foundation of the present buildings, however, dates from Antoninus Pius, and their dedication from Septimius Severus, whose coins first show the two temples. The great courts of approach were not finished before the reigns of Caracalla and Philip. In commemoration, no doubt, of the dedication of the new sanctuaries, Severus conferred the jus Italicum on the city. The greater of the two temples was sacred to Jupiter (Baal), identified with the Sun, with whom were associated Venus and Mercury as σύμβωμοι θεοί. The lesser temple was built in honour of Bacchus (not the Sun, as formerly believed). Jupiter-Baal was represented locally as a beardless god in long scaly drapery, holding a whip in his right hand and lightning and ears of corn in his left. Two bulls supported him. In this guise he passed into European worship in the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D. The extreme licence of the Heliopolitan worship is often animadverted upon by early Christian writers, and Constantine, making an effort to curb the Venus cult, built a basilica. Theodosius erected another, with western apse, in the main court of the Jupiter temple.
When Abu Ubaida (or Obaida) attacked the place after the Moslem capture of Damascus (A.D. 635), it was still an opulent city and yielded a rich booty. It became a bone of contention between the various Syrian dynasties and the caliphs first of Damascus, then of Egypt, and in 748 was sacked with great slaughter. In 1090 it passed to the Seljuks, and in 1134 to Jenghiz Khan; but after 1145 it remained attached to Damascus and was captured by Saladin in 1175. The Crusaders raided its valley more than once, but never took the city. Three times shaken by earthquake in the 12th century, it was dismantled by Hulagu in 1260. But it revived, and most of its fine Moslem mosque and fortress architecture, still extant, belongs to the
- The sanctuary of Heracles at Daphne near Antioch was properly that of the Semitic Baal, and at Amathus Jupiter Hospes takes the place of Heracles or Malika, in which the Tyrian Melkart is to be recognized (W. R. Smith, Rel. Sem. 2nd ed. pp. 178, 376). See further Phoenicia.