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[bA' ul] Canaanite fertility god

"Baal" means lord or master, and the worship of him was most commonly connected with the tilling of the soil.

The Canaanite cult of Baal celebrated annually his death and resurrection as part of fertility rituals that often included human sacrifice and temple prostitution.

The first Semites to worship Baal were descended from Shem, the oldest son of Noah, in the 14th century B.C. Soon the royalty of all ten tribes of Israel were worshipping Baal as a sun god, and his image was being erected on many buildings. Semitic ceremonies included the burning of incense and the offering of burnt sacrifices, which occassionally consisted of human victims. Officiating priests danced around altars while chanting frantically and cutting themselves with knives to inspire the attention and compassion of Baal. The Israelites ended their worship of Baal after being conquered by the Babylonians.

From Canaan, the worship of Baal spread to the Phoenicians, who prayed to him for protection of their livestock and crops. Priests taught that Baal was responsible for droughts, plagues, and other calamities, so it was important for the people to not anger him in any way. The Phoenicians in turn spread the religion and cult of Baal around the Mediterranean, and he was worshipped in one form or another by virtually every ancient Mediterranean culture until being displaced by monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam).

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The Robinson Library >> Religion and Mythology >> Semitic Religions

This page was last updated on March 23, 2017.