Part 6. Canaanite diety names that became Hebrew words 3
Astarte: the goddess of fertility is common throughout the ancient middle east, at times she is cast as Baal's consort (J11). She is known as "Ishtar" in Mesopotamia and the book of Ester is thought by some to originally be a story about Ishtar and Marduk (Ester and Mordeccai) from Babylonian mythology, who triumph over two Elamite deities (NAB1). The book was accepted by the Jews quite late and is the only Old Testament book not found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. While not of Canaanite origin the book of Ester may show that foreign elements did influence the Bible more than previously believed.
The "Queen of Heaven" cult referred to by Jeremiah 7:16-20 is thought to refer to her, though some assign it to Asherah (J11).
Anath (or Anat): the virgin warrior/sister goddess and Baal's sister consort rationalized the merger of the celestial and chtonic deities by the marriage of Anath, El's daughter and Baal the main chtonic god (I12). One should keep in mind therefore that Baal is linked sexually to each of the three main goddesses at some time or another.
Baal: the word meaning "lord" or "master". Baal is called Zebul "the prince" or "rider of the clouds" ie. god of thunder storms/the rainy season, also "lord of the earth" (II Kgs1:2). He is sometimes called Hadad. He is almost always depicted clad only in a loin cloth (see Ephod above) and hurling lighting bolts in his hands (I3). As we noted he is linked to all three goddesses but in the Old Testament he is usually associated with Asherah the mother goddess showing that he had won the Oedipal conflict with El by that time (I Kgs 18:19, II Kgs 23:4).
Baal's name appears strangely enough in one of Saul's sons name "Ishbaal" "the lord/Baal exists" (I Chr 8:33) and both Saul and Jonathan have sons named Meribbaal "he who diffuses (?) the lord/Baal" and the name occurs in Jerubbaal "may the lord/Baal exult" (II Sm 4:4, I Chr 8:34, 9:40, Jgs 6:32). Biblical names ending in "-baal" were later altered to "-bosheth" "shame" by later copyists to clean things up (JB1).
Some of Baal's feats were transferred to Yahweh. The destruction of Leviathan the ancient sea monster (Lotan in the Canaanite texts) is ascribed to Yahweh (Jb 3:8, 41:1 Pss 74:14, 104:26 Is 27:1 Jb 26:12-13). In fact many of the Psalms dealing with Yahweh's restricting the sea or its monsters probably originally to Baal (Pss 89:0-5, 93:1-5, 104:9).
After we look at the Baal Epic below we will want to take a close look at Psalm 29 which seems to be reworked to praise Yahweh not Baal as "Lord of the Storm" (I13).
Return to Table of Contents
(c) 1999 Thomas F. Swezey All rights reserved.