Baal Worship in Early Israel: An Onomastic View

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Within the Deuteronomistic History and in the books of the “writing prophets”, “Baal” is seen as a foreign deity, the worship of whom is a clear betrayal of the God of Israel and his covenant. This betrayal is first mentioned in Judges 2:11 and runs as a major theme throughout the DH, as well as in the writings of Hosea, Jeremiah and others, and is cited as one of the leading reasons for the fall of Israel and then Judah. Outside of the Bible, Baal is known as a major Western Semitic deity, or rather as an epithet or title of such gods as Hadad/Adad. Literally, of course, “Baal” means “lord” or “master”. This paper traces the use of “Baal” in Israelite toponyms such as Baal-Hazor and Baal-Perazim and in personal names such as Baal, Jerubaal, Eshbaal, Mephi/merib-baal and Baaljada, both in the Bible and in epigraphic evidence. Most of these appear in contexts related to the pre-monarchial and early monarchial periods, and mostly related to characters who the Bible does not consider to be idol-worshippers. It is our suggestion that “Baal” in early Israel was considered by some to be a legitimate title for the God of Israel, rather than a foreign deity. Only in the 9th or early 8th century, perhaps because of increased exposure to the Phoenician “Baals”, was this divine title seen as illegitimate and foreign, as reflected by the DH, Hosea, Jeremiah and other sources
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2011
EventThe Society of Biblical Literature International Meeting - London, United Kingdom
Duration: 3 Jul 20117 Jul 2011 (Website)


ConferenceThe Society of Biblical Literature International Meeting
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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