JC Myth (5.2): Saviors, Christs, and Other Gods: “Baal”

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Chapter Five: Saviors, Christs, and Other Gods: “Baal”

Baal (the warring son of the most high god, El) performed somewhat like another hero, that is, Jesus Christ (Baal’s brother, nephew, or son). Moses’ Song of the Sea (Ex. 15:1-8, Ps. 29) mimics the Ugaritic Baal story in his battle with Yam/Yamm (the sea god).”[1] [2]

Alan G. Hefner wrote regarding Baal (also known as Beelzebub, Lk. 11:15):

“In ancient religions the name [Baal] denoted sun, lord or god. Baal was a common name of small Syrian and Persian deities. Baal is still principally thought of as a Canaanite fertility deity. The Great Baal was of Canaan. He was the son of El, the high god of Canaan. The cult of Baal celebrated annually his death and resurrection as a part of the Canaanite fertility rituals.”[3]

Notice the word “lord.” Now look at this: “And it hath come to pass, in that day, An affirmation of Jehovah, Thou dost call Me — My husband, And dost not call Me any more — My lord” (Hos. 2:16 YLT). Baal’s name denotes “lord,” so this translation is correct, but the KJV translates this: “thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali.” Now I know the passage is saying the Jews wouldn’t call Yahweh master (Baali) but would call him husband (Ishi), but the meaning of the word “Baali” is “1. my lord; A. a deity in the northern kingdom, variation of the name ‘Baal.'”[4] In fact, the ESV translates Hosea 2:16-17: “And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more.” Karen Armstrong wrote:

“In the Old Canaanite religion, Baal had married the soil and the people had celebrated this with ritual orgies, but Hosea insisted that since the covenant, Yahweh had taken the place of Baal and had wedded the people of Israel [Israel was the land, or the earth; see my book We Are Emmanuel]. They had to understand that it was Yahweh, not Baal, who would bring fertility to the soil.”[5]

Yahweh was therefore Baal or Baalim. And Bali (“my Baal”) is symbolic for Yah, who is Yahweh.[6] Jesus did, after all, tell the Jews they were descended from the devil (Jn. 8:44). If they descended from Beelzebub or Baal, then Yahweh was that devil.

According to Mark S. Smith,

“The Ugaritic mythical texts largely feature the deities El, the aged and kindly patriarch of the pantheon; his consort and queen mother of the divine family; the young storm-god and divine warrior, Baal; his sister, Anat [or Anath], likewise a martial deity; and finally, the solar deity.”[7]

As we saw in Psalm 82:1, the Bible calls the supreme god by the name of El. In the Bible El may morph into Yahweh; various Jewish writings and other documents also equate El and Yahweh. If Yahweh was El, then he was Baal’s father, not his brother and not Baal. But we read:

“Jewish ritual and mythology developed directly from Canaanite ritual and mythology. Yahweh was originally the son of the Canaanite God El and brother of the Canaanite God Baal. . . In 1927 they dug up a Canaanite clay tablet library buried at Ugarit, an ancient city along the northern coast of Syria. Hundreds of ancient texts. Same myths. Same rituals. Same Gods. Only centuries earlier than Judaism.”[8]

John W. Loftus wrote: “Yahweh was sired by the god El (short for Elyon) and later superseded him in the evolutionary development of the Israelite religion.” Loftus pointed out several names in the Old Testament that were taken from El’s name: “Ab-el, Emmanu-el, Ishma-el, Samu-el, El-isha, El-ijah, Jo-el, Zerubbab-el (who was supposed to be the long awaited Messiah). They were named after a different god than Yahweh, El.” Loftus further noted that Israel, Michael and Gabriel were also named for El. He pointed out that Yahweh himself was called: “El Shaddai: ‘El Almighty.’ (Gen. 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; Ex. 6:1; Ps. 91:1, 2). El Elyon: ‘El the Most High.’ (Gen. 14:19; Ps. 9:2; Dan. 7:18, 22, 25). El Olam: ‘The Everlasting El.’ (Gen. 16:13).” Smith wrote that “the tradition in ancient Israel favors Bethel originally as an old cult-site of the god El (secondarily overlaid–if not identified–with the cult of Yahweh), perhaps as the place-name Bethel (literally, “house of El”) would suggest (Genesis 28:10-22).”[9] We saw earlier that Jacob’s sons were born in Bethel, so this makes sense. (And, as noted previously, Jesus was born in Beth-el-hem or Bethlehem.)

Baal wanted supremacy, but Father El gave it to Yam, an evil sea god. The other gods cried to Mother Asherah, who petitioned Yam to be more lenient. When he refused “Kindly Asherah, who loves Her children, offered Herself to the God of the Sea. . . Asherah returned to the Source of the Two Rivers. She went home to the court of El.”[10]

When Baal learned of this he was furious, and he set out to do battle with his brother Yam. When Yam heard of Baal’s plot against him, he sent messengers to Father El, saying:

Do not prostrate Yourselves before the Convocation of the Assembly, But declare Your information!

And say to The Bull, My father, El,

Declare to the Convocation of the Assembly:

“The message of Yam, Your Lord, Of Your master Judge River:

Give up, O Gods, Him whom You harbor,

Him whom the multitude harbor!

Give up Baal and His partisans, Dagon’s Son, so that I may inherit His gold!”[11] 

Father El heard Yam’s petition and declared that Baal would bow to Yam. This infuriated Baal, who tried to kill the messengers; but Astarte and Anath grabbed his hands.

After that, Baal built a palace of cedar, brick, and gold. It took six days to prepare the silver and gold, and the brick was laid on the seventh day, at which point there was a big party with slaughtered animals. This is reminiscent of the building of the Jewish temple with its cedars and gold, but Solomon’s temple took seven years, not seven days, to build (1 Kings 6). (It had to be bigger and better than Baal’s temple, I suppose.)

Baal apparently got the big head and refused to give tribute to Mavet (Mot, Mut, Moth, Maweth[12]), the god of death and the underworld. Mavet killed Baal, and Father El was heartbroken. Ashtar the Terrible took over in Baal’s place, declaring that he couldn’t rule in the “heights of Saphon,” and he went down to “rule over all the grand earth.”[13]

By the way, the Hebrew word for “death” is maveth,[14] and the Hebrew word for “sea” is yam.[15] So when we see a Hebrew god (Yahweh/Jesus) conquering death or ruling over the sea, he is actually ruling over the gods Mavet and Yam, just as Baal was. The Hebrew scriptures have simply been cleaned up to help us forget that the Bible presents many gods. Both Baal and Yahweh conquered Mavet (as did Jesus, 1 Cor. 15:26; and we see a prediction of the deaths of gods in Psalm 82 and the prophecy that Mavet would eventually be swallowed up forever, Is. 25:8). Wright wrote regarding Psalm 74:13-14: That same chapter of Psalms credits Yahweh with subduing the sea. Or, perhaps, Sea: some translators capitalize the word, because underlying it is yam, the ancient Hebrew word for the sea god that Baal smote. The Bible also promises, in the book of Isaiah, that Yahweh will “swallow up death forever”—and underlying “death” is the Hebrew word for Mot, the god of death with whom Baal struggled dramatically.[16]

But back to Baal’s story. The virgin Anath, after sacrificing seventy of various animals for poor dead Baal, set out to face Mavet and demand Baal out of Sheol. She seized Mavet, ripped his clothes, and said, “Come, Mavet, yield My brother!” Mavet said he had been roaming to and fro on the earth looking for a lost soul, but he had run into Baal and eaten, or devoured, him (Job 2:2, 1 Pet. 5:8). (Mot swallowed Baal, but Yahweh would prove he was more powerful than Mot or Baal when he swallowed Mot up forever, Is. 25:8.) Anath chopped Mavet to pieces. Then we read:

The Virgin Anath departs.

Then She sets face toward the Torch of the Gods, Shapash.

She lifts Her voice

And shouts:

“The message of Bull-El, Thy father,

The word of the God of Mercy, Thy begetter:

‘Over the furrows of the fields, O Shapash,

Over the furrows of the fields let El set Thee!

As for the Lord of the Furrows of His plowing,

Where is Aliyan Baal?

Where is the Prince, Lord of Earth?'”

And the Torch of the Gods, Shapash, replies:

“I shall seek Aliyan Baal!”

And the Virgin Anath answers:

“As for Me, tis not I, O Shapash!

As for Me, tis not I, but El summons Thee!

May the Gods guard Thee in Sheol!”

Shapash then trekked down into the underworld to rescue Baal from Sheol. When she returned she was carrying him with her, and Baal ascended back to the heights of Saphon (returning to reign with his father). He then set out to destroy Mavet, who was somehow still alive after being hacked up by Anath. Baal vanquished Mavet, the death angel and god of the underworld.

And here, written on “tablets that date to the fourteenth century BCE,”[17] we have a god (son of El) who loses a fight with the sea monster and tastes of death. But the “Torch of the Gods” goes down to Sheol and brings him back up again, at which point he vanquishes death and the god of the underworld and ascends back to his throne. Yes, it is a familiar story, a tale of a resurrected god who vanquishes death and returns to reign again from the lofty heights. It’s an old theme—far, far older than the Christian myth. As Armstrong noted, “The death of a god, the quest of the goddess and the triumphant return to the divine sphere were constant religious themes in many cultures and would recur in the very different religion of the One God worshipped by Jews, Christians and Muslims.”[18]

Tina Rae Collins

My goal is to share my book The Judaeo-Christian Myth one article at a time. If you find these articles interesting or you don’t think I’ll reach my goal (always a possibility, I suppose), and/or you just can’t wait, you can purchase the book by clicking on the picture above or the title in this paragraph. Thanks for reading!

[1] William M. Schniedewind and Joel H. Hunt, A Primer on Ugaritic: Language, Culture and Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 30. See also Murdock, Did Moses Exist? 129. [2] Brian D. Russell, The Song of the Sea: The Date of Composition and Influence of Exodus 15:1-21 (New York: Peter Lang, 2007), 39. See also Murdock, Did Moses Exist? 130, 133. [3] Alan G. Hefner, “Baal,” Encyclopedia Mythica, pantheon.org, 3 Mar. 1997, rev. 11 Jan. 2004, web, 31 Dec. 2014. [4] “Baali,” Strong’s H1180, blueletterbible.org, 2015, web, 22 Jan. 2015. [5] Armstrong, 47. [6] “Bali,” Strong’s 1180, biblehub.com, 2015, web, 11 Apr. 2015. [7] Mark S. Smith, The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel (Biblical Resource Series), 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI/Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002), 2. [8] Pagan Origins of the Christ Myth, Ibid[9] Mark S. Smith, The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel’s Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 32. [10] “Canaanite Myth: The Baal Epic,” theologywebsite.com, 1997-2009, web, 26 Nov. 2014. [11] “Canaanite Myth: The Baal Epic.” [12] “Mot (Semitic god),” wikipedia.org, 20 Jan. 2015, web, 6 Mar. 2015. [13] “Canaanite Myth: The Baal Epic.” [14] “Maveth,” Strong’s H4194, blueletterbible.org, 2015, web, 12 May 2015. [15] “Yam,” Strong’s H3220, blueletterbible.org, 2015, web, 12 May 2015. [16] Wright, 120. [17] Armstrong, 10. [18] Armstrong, 11.

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