Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Biblical & Archeological Review of the Pagan Deity Baal

Baal and the Bible

Biblical & Archeological Review of the Pagan Deity Baal

David Q. Santos

Judges 2:13 And they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth.

Baal is the most prominent pagan deity found in the Bible and a stumbling block for Israel. Baal is found in fifty-two verses of the Bible. Both in the Hebrew Scriptures and in the Ras Shamra texts, the term "baal" is used in a generic sense, meaning "lord," as well as in the sense of a proper name. It was in the latter sense that the term became a fixed designation for the god Hadad (i.e., the storm god) perhaps as early as the seventeenth or sixteenth centuries B.C.[1] The Smith revised Bible dictionary says, “Baal, the supreme male divinity of the Phoenician and Canaanitish nations, as Ashtoreth was their supreme female divinity. Both names have the peculiarity of being used in the plural, and it seems certain that these plurals designate not (as Gesenius, Thes. s. vv., maintained) statues of the divinities, but different modifications of the divinities themselves.”[2] Baal worship infiltrated the culture of the Hebrew people throughout the Bible but was first demonstrated in the Bible by the actions of a Midianite prophet Balaam and Balak, a Moabite king, during the Wilderness wanderings of Israel.

Numbers 22:41 And it came to pass on the morrow, that Balak took Balaam, and brought him up into the high places of Baal, that thence he might see the utmost part of the people.

The Canaanite worship of Baal included ritualistic prostitution in order to seduce men to worship Baal. That doctrine can be seen in all of the historical books of the Bible. Baal worship has a focus on pleasing the wants of the flesh. Pagan Baal worship can be viewed as the antithesis of Yaweyism. Jehovah is a righteous and holy God whose standards are far above ours. He is a God that loves His creation and offers to us as a gift the thing that we need the most; salvation.

In contrast, Baal offers us the things of the world and of the flesh in order to ensnare us into sinning against the one true God. This doctrine can be seen throughout the Bible. It is even discussed in the Book of Revelation.

Revelation 2:14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.

Idolatry and fornication are the “stumbling block” that Balaam used to curse the Israelites. The encounter in the book of Numbers was only the first of many digressions into idolatry and fornication in the name of Baal by the Hebrew people.

Just as Baal is the antithesis of Jehovah, the Israelites are the opposite of the Canaanite people. The chosen people were to be a set aside people who were to remain holy. In contrast the Canaanites did what was right in the sight of their eyes. The Canaanites did not have a righteous God that gave them moral standards to guide their lives. By studying the aspects of Canaanite religion we can do two things: 1. Expose pagan worship for the abomination that it really is in all its aspects. 2. Demonstrate (once again) the preeminent value of scripture as a historically accurate document.

There are two main sources to study Canaanite worship. The first is the Old Testament scripture. The second is Archeological evidence including ancient Greek writers and archeological finds. The most notable archeological find in this case is the Ras Shamra Materials. Randall Price in his paper titled Archaeology and the Legitimacy of the Bible makes a strong case for the preeminence of the Bible over Archeological material. He states, “While archaeology is of great help to our understanding the Bible, the biblical evidence in the text must be given priority over the archaeological evidence from the field. The reason for this is the inherent limitations of archaeology.”[3] Furthermore he compares the vast number of manuscripts available from scripture to confirm accuracy and authenticity verses archeological evidence. The example he uses suggests, “less than 2% of sites in Israel have been excavated…” He continues to make a very strong argument by saying, “Even when this small percentage of sites are excavated, only a fraction of the site is actually examined, and then only a percentage of what is excavated is ever published. Of the 500,000 cuneiform texts that have been discovered over the past 100 years, only 10% have ever been published. Such limitations in archaeology should caution historians, social scientists, and theologians from drawing unwarranted conclusions concerning the biblical text based on the paucity of archaeological remains. However, once we assess the proper purpose of archaeology and acknowledge its limitations, we can successfully compare its material evidence to the biblical record.”[4]

Beginning with the biblical record, the first thing to look at is relevance of the topic to the scripture. There are about 139 references to major Canaanite deities in the Old Testament. These references included mentioning of Baal, Asherah, and Ashtoreth among others.[5] That would suggest that it is a topic that is relevant to the material. The bible gives a good overview of Canaanite worship of Baal and Asherah. First, the bible indicates a timeline. Baal worship was well established in the time of the Exodus, about 1450 B.C.

We see in the Bible the nature of Baalism. It is a false religion that has sought to infiltrate, imitate, and replace the worship of the one true living God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is well demonstrated by 2 Chronicles 24:7. The verse speaks of the use of the holy utensils found in the temple for the worship of Baal.

Ritual prostitution is possibly the most important part of this pagan religion for recruiting purposes. Numbers 25 illustrates the point.

Numbers 25:1-3, “And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel.” Even though God strictly prohibited the eating of forbidden food, fornication and idolatry the Israelites were still seduced.

Another aspect of the Canaanite worship is child sacrifice. 2 Chronicles 28:2-3, “For he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made also molten images for Baalim. Moreover he burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.”

It is true that the Bible does not give a complete and detailed description of every aspect of the Canaanite worship of Baal and Ashteroth. But the Bible does give the greatest insight into the nature of this form of pagan worship. The Biblical record combined with the archeological evidence provides an extremely detailed view of Canaanite worship from the time of Moses to the end of the ancient Canaanite people.

One notable discovery in the realm of Canaanite deities, predominantly forms of Baal, is the Ras Shamra Tablets. Garry K. Brantley, M.A., M.Div in his paper on Pagan Mythology and the Bible describes the background of the Ras Shamra findings. He writes,

“Ras Shamra is the modern name of the ancient city Ugarit. Prior to 1928, archaeologists did not know the exact location of this city. In the early spring of that year, a Syrian peasant was plowing in a field just east of Ras Shamra. His plow accidentally struck a rock, which proved to be a tombstone. The presence of this ancient cemetery suggested to archaeologists that a city was nearby, probably hidden in the tell (mound). Further investigations proved this assumption true.

Claude F.A. Schaeffer of the Strasbourg Museum, and his associate George Chenet, began the systematic excavation of Ras Shamra under the auspices of the French government. In May 1929, their team uncovered the first clay tablets bearing unfamiliar cuneiform (wedge-shaped) writing. Schaeffer, who was not a linguist, entrusted the texts to Charles Virolleaud, an expert in the ancient languages of that area. Virolleaud immediately recognized the significance of these texts. The cuneiform on these newly discovered tablets was unlike any that he had seen previously. Extant cuneiform texts prior to this discovery contained several hundred different symbols. The Ugaritic tablets, however, contained fewer than 30 distinct characters, which suggested to Virolleaud that the tablets displayed a kind of cuneiform alphabet.

Virolleaud made little progress in deciphering the text in the first few weeks. However, as a service to scholars, he published the texts, providing both photographs and copies of inscriptions that his colleagues examined. Hans Bauer, Professor of Oriental Languages in the German University of Halle and skilled in the art of cryptanalysis (code-breaking), succeeded in assigning phonetic values to about eighty percent of the signs after only five days. Other scholars refined his work, and from the summer of 1930 the Ras Shamra tablets recovered by Shaeffer’s team could be translated and read (for a discussion of the archaeological finds at Ras Shamra, see Craigie, 1983; Jackson, n.d.; Kapelrud, 1962; Pfeiffer, 1975).”[6]

The Ras Shamra tablets provided scholars with first hand materials of the Canaanite religion. Until this discovery very little was known about the religious practices and the extent of Baal worship. One very important aspect of Baal worship that these materials brought out, was the numerous cultures that Baal infiltrated into.

From 1929 to the present day literally thousands of texts have been found at Ugarit. Several languages were represented, including Akkadian, Sumerian, Hurrian, Egyptian, Hieroglyphic Hittite, Cuneiform Hittite, as well as others. There was also one unknown alphabetical cuneiform language that was later deciphered and became known as Ugaritic. Much was written in this language including texts relating the customs of ancient Syria and Canaanite religion (e.g., Baal worship).[7] The Ras Shamra texts show us that many cultures and people worshiped Baal. There were many names and titles for Baal identified in this material. This evidence supports the biblical record. The following is a list of some of the names used provided by Rusty Russell at Bible History Online:

Baal-gad ( "lord of good fortune," Josh 11:17)

Baal-hamon ( "lord of wealth," Song 8:11)

Baal-hazor ( "Baal's village," 2 Sam 13:23)

Baal-meon ( "lord of the dwelling," Num 32:38)

Baal-peor ( "lord of the opening," Deut 4:3)

Baal-tamar ( "lord of the palm tree," Judg 20:33), and others.

Ba'al-ze'bub was the form of the name of Baal who was worshiped at the Philistine city of Ekron. Baal, under this aspect of worship, was viewed as the producer of flies and therefore able to control this pest so common in the East..[8] The various languages give reasonable evidence that Baal was worshiped by many cultures as is indicated by the biblical record.

The following exerpt is from an article titled “Biblical Archaeology” and is provided by the Christian Leadership Center.

The 1400 tablets provide us with a vast amount of information about the culture and the religion of the Canaanites at the time of the conquest under Joshua (representing earlier and later beliefs). There are some major contributions from these tablets:

Ritual. Both Ugarit and Israel made “peace offerings” and “whole burnt offerings” and used similar animals in the process. This does not mean that they interpreted these sacrifices the same way, or that one culture borrowed from the other

Fertility. But most important are the epics, of Baal and Anat, or Kirta, of Aghat, and of Dn'il. The religious motifs of the storm god Baal that these texts provide us with are useful in many areas of biblical studies. They show us a culture that was steeped in the fertility ritual. The Bible had always described the Canaanites as morally evil; but the discovery of these tablets showed how depraved the nation actually had become. With these texts we are better able to understand the harsh words the Bible had for the Canaanites.[9]

The debate between secular and biblical historical scholars will most likely continue until every knee bends and every head bows to the Lord Jesus Christ. For the last forty to one hundred years scholars have not been prepared to give good arguments for our faith. This is especially true in the areas of science (i.e. creation) and history. Scholars with a biblical worldview seek truth. Truth is sought, not evidence for our faith. We can do this because we have faith that the truth will affirm our faith as it has time and time again.

Critics like Sarah Belle Dougherty dismiss the Bible. Biblical critics are the same scholars that take Manathos’ manuscripts and build the entire history of Egypt with little debate even though there are only a handful of manuscripts to compare for accuracy. Dougherty, in her paper titled “Fiat Lux: Archeology and the Old Testament” suggests that Archeological evidence only supports biblical record because archeologists were predominantly Jews and Christians. She also argues that the Bible’s foundational stories are mere myth.[10]

It is intellectual suicide for critics of the Bible to discount the Bible’s accuracy. Simply by the sheer number of manuscripts the Bible becomes preeminent. The following table compares some of the accepted works with the number of New Testament manuscripts we have.[11]

Name of Work

When written

Earliest copy


Number of copies


488-428 BC

AD 900




460-400 BC

AD 900




AD 100

AD 1100



Caesar's Gallic War

58-50 BC

AD 900



Livy's Roman History

59 BC-AD 17

AD 900



New Testament

AD 40-100

Earliest scraps AD 130

Complete manuscript AD 350


5000 Greek,

10000 Latin,

9300 other

The Dead Sea Scrolls represent one of the most important discoveries of the last century for Biblical scholars. Two copies of the Book of Isaiah were discovered in 1947. They were dated at about 150 B.C. They were found to be 95% identical to modern Hebrew scripture. The 5% of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling.[12]

The secular scholar seeks evidence above truth because they have belief, not faith. The feel that they must justify the position they have chosen. But at every turn of the road archeology continues to shine a light on scripture as factual, accurate, and relevant. This is true even if these scholars have hardened their hearts as pharaoh did in the time of Moses. Biblical critics often have to eat their words. Such is the case with the House of David: critics were skeptical of the biblical account of David, King of Israel. They suggested that he did not exist. However, there have been several monumental archeological discoveries that provide solid proof for the reign of David. Mario Seiglie reported in his article titled King David: Man or Myth?, “In 1993 a fragment of a monument was found at the site of the ancient Israelite city of Dan that mentioned David and his dynasty… This is the first time that the name David has been found in any ancient inscription outside the Bible.”[13] This evidence just goes to show the supremacy of standing with the Biblical record.

Examining Canaanite religion is very relevant for Christians today. Modern America is reminiscent of ancient Canaan. This country is rampant with idolatry: There is even a television show titled American Idol. To make matters worse there are pagan groups including modern Baal worship. We are truly fortunate that we have such a gracious creator. He offers us a free gift of sanctification even though we do not deserve it. What we deserve is judgment for our sinful nature. But as the apostle Paul says in Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Biblical scholars have waited too long to strongly make our case heard. We should be bold in our pronouncement that Jesus is Christ and that the Bible is the word of God. The Holy Spirit has given us the Bible, which is like a treasure map to truth. The biblical critics, who have rejected the Word, the Father, and Jesus, are seeking truth. But without a map they are just digging random holes in the ground. They are nothing more than glorified grave robbers seeking a reason and meaning for their lives.

It is important to demonstrate the accuracy and reliability of the Bible. Archeological and historical data confirm the scriptures accuracy. From an intellectual perspective the Bible is powerful. More importantly, the Bible is the word of God. Mike Taylor gives a list of why the Bible is reliable: 1. Large number of manuscripts 2. Agreement with archaeology 3. Internal consistency 4. Prophecies fulfilled 5. Life-changing power.[14]

2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” The Bible can and does prove itself with overwhelming evidence. Archeological and historical evidence both corroborate its accuracy. Fulfilled prophesy and internal consistency over thousands of years confirms its claim of being supernaturally inspired.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

The word is our two edged sword. Scripture is what we do battle with. It contains an intrinsic power that can change lives.

1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Unfortunately some critics continue to view the scripture skeptically. Even with all of the evidence they refuse to accept its truths. They even say it is foolishness. That is because the natural man, man without God’s spirit dwelling with in him, can not understand the word of God. Therefore we must continue to stack the evidence up in order to save those that are seeking truth.

Work Cited

Brantley, Gary K. M.A., M. Div. Pagan Mythology and the Bible. 1993. Apologetis Press. http://www.apologeticspress.ort/articles/2017

Christian Leadership Center. Biblical Archaeology.

Dougherty, Sarah Belle. Fiat Lux: Archeology and the Old Testament. 2003.

Taylor, Mike. Why is the Bible Reliable? 2002.

The Online Bible Millennium Edition Version 1.2. Smith’s Revised Bible Dictionary 1999, “Baal”. Winterbourne Ontario, Canada. 2001

Herrick, Greg Th.M., Ph.D. Baalism in Canaanite Religion and Its Relationto Selected Old Testament Text.

Price, Randall. Archaeology and the Legitimacy of the Bible. http://www.imja.come/archeology.html

Rhodes, Ron. Manuscript Support for the Bible’s Reliability. Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries. Rancho Santa Margarita, CA.

Russell, Rusty. The Worship of Baal. Bible History Online.

Seiglie, Mario. King David: Man or Myth? 1996.


[1] Herrick, Greg Th.M., Ph.D. Baalism in Canaanite Religion and Its Relationto Selected Old Testament Text.

[2] The Online Bible Millennium Edition Version 1.2. Smith’s Revised Bible Dictionary 1999, Baal. Winterbourne Ontario, Canada. 2001

[3] Price, Randall. Archaeology and the Legitimacy of the Bible. http://www.imja.come/archeology.html

[4] Price, Randall. Archaeology and the Legitimacy of the Bible. http://www.imja.come/archeology.html

[5] Herrick, Greg Th.M., Ph.D. Baalism in Canaanite Religion and Its Relationto Selected Old Testament Text.

[6] Brantley, Gary K. M.A., M. Div. Pagan Mythology and the Bible. 1993. Apologetis Press. http://www.apologeticspress.ort/articles/2017

[7] Herrick, Greg Th.M., Ph.D. Baalism in Canaanite Religion and Its Relationto Selected Old Testament Text.

[8] Russell, Rusty. The Worship of Baal. Bible History Online.

[9] Christian Leadership Center. Biblical Archaeology.

[10] Dougherty, Sarah Belle. Fiat Lux: Archeology and the Old Testament. 2003.

[11] Taylor, Mike. Why is the Bible Reliable? 2002.

[12] Rhodes, Ron. Manuscript Support for the Bible’s Reliability. Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries. Rancho Santa Margarita, CA.

[13] Seiglie, Mario. King David: Man or Myth? 1996.

[14] Taylor, Mike. Why is the Bible Reliable? 2002.


  1. Thank you very much for sharing this information. I found it Very helpful. A leader in church was discussing this topic just yesterday, and this gave me even more insight on it.

  2. Thank you for your wonderful article. I was wondering whether you have any information regarding the EARLIEST archeological reference to Ba'al. Are there any references to "Ba'al" existing, for example, during the age of patriarchs (18-16th centuries BC)?


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