Journal of Heresies

My search for truth in a world of deceit.

Location: United States

I have what is probably an insatiable desire to search out the answers to what may be impossible questions.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Bible Study Challenge #2

Why are there so many similarities between Yahweh and the god Ba'al?

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Blogger lkn4truth said...

Are you trying to make me public enemy #1? By the time you're done everyone who reads this blog will have me on their hit list. I think the better question is, why are there so many similarities between Yahweh and ALL of the Ancient Near East/Mesopotamian gods? Why single Ba'al out? A great deal of the titles or characteristics attributed to YHWH are first attributed to a handful of other gods from ancient near eastern religious texts including the titles of "Most High God" and/or "Almighty God". Even the manner in which YHWH speaks, the language, the order of blessings and curses, the style of rebukes, etc nearly all have precursors in written texts predating the Hebrew version. One should ask if the Bible is recording YHWH's words "word for word" then why does YHWH speak like all the other gods of the region? Why does he use the same titles and designations? It would appear that YHWH of the Hebrew scriptures is a product of the culture and environment in which he was written about and therefore takes on the flavor and characteristic of all of the gods of that period.

8:53 AM, November 14, 2007  
Blogger fencekicker said...


I'm not trying to make you a public enemy; this is a question I'd like to discuss. Besides, you and Dr. Mariottini did say you wanted a "better" question.

I choose Ba'al, and I specifically used the name of Yahweh, because they have quite a lot in common, and because the worship of Ba'al was a major issue in the split of the northern and southern kingdoms.

The titles "Most High God" and "Almighty God" are connected to the name "El". This is a related issue, but lets focus for now on the Bible's presentation of "Yahweh" and what is known about the god Ba'al.

9:26 AM, November 14, 2007  
Blogger Dr. Claude Mariottini said...


I will be attending the SBL meeting in San Diego and will not be able to comment on your question until after I return from California.

Here is a suggestion: when you ask a question, give your own view on the question. I still don't know the reason you asked question # 1.

Claude Mariottini

6:11 PM, November 14, 2007  
Blogger lkn4truth said...

I have to agree with Dr. Mariottini in that you might want to provide examples. I know you studies this issue a lot Ba'al and YHWH and believe you've come to some conclusions on your own based on the similarities you see. Perhaps you can list those similarities for us and ask what we think. I'm not presently convinced there are any more similarities between Ba'al and YHWH or any other Canaanite deity. I remember you sharing some of the connections with me once and I didn't see the connections you were making. It would help if you point what you see....

7:42 PM, November 14, 2007  
Blogger fencekicker said...

I have read about the issue, and it has raised questions for me, not any definite answers. To me there could be several possible answers. I would very much like others to look at the issue and converse about it, so I have others to compare notes with.

If I give my ideas when asking the question, your answers will likely cease to be about the question and instead will focus on whether you agree or disagree with my ideas. I will be expected to prove my position. I'm not asking these questions to prove my position on them, I am asking because I want to learn, and I learn better when I have other people to talk to who have done a little homework and have developed their own ideas.

I'm not expecting anyone to be able to answer these questions in a matter of minutes. Or, that anyones answer will be flawless. This isn't a trivia contest. I hope that if I ask about something that you haven't studied, you will look into it.

I may provide some examples of similarities if that will help, but not right now. My one son was having some breathing problems today and I had to take him to the pediatrician. He will be okay, he just has a sinus and brochial infection. But, I'm tired.

8:22 PM, November 14, 2007  
Blogger lkn4truth said...

I understand your not wanting to bias our answers but to be honest with you there are so many rabbit holes to chase regarding the Bible that I have no energy to chase them all. I have to have a darn good reason why the subject interests me in order for me invest time researching it. Since I have seen no reason to believe that the similarities between Ba'al and YHWH are any different then all the others I have little desire to try and search for them. The question is why? Why would I invest my mental energy investigating something I do not even understand why it would be significant. If you can explain why this particular study is significant perhaps you'll inspire me to do my own research.

10:56 PM, November 14, 2007  
Blogger fencekicker said...

If we narrow down the rabbit holes and look at them one at a time, we can start eliminating some of them. I think the Ba'al/Yahweh issue is a rabbit hole worth investigating because there were Israelites who saw enough similarities between Yahweh and Ba'al that some may have considered them to be different names for the same god. Certainly, the issue was one worth splitting a kingdom over.

If it had always been clear to the Israelites that Ba'al and Yahweh were not at least compatable, then why did 10 out of 12 kingdoms choose to continue their abominable practices? They must have either thought that Yahweh had no power to do anything about it, or they must have thought that the southern kingdom was wrong. If the biblical texts as we have recieved them accurately depict the beliefs of Israel throughout history, then ten tribes were very bold and foolish to take such a stance in the face of Yahweh.

That is of course the Bible's explanation for the northern kingdom's demise. However, as we read the Bible keeping in mind the characteristics of Ba'al, we find numerous similarities in the titles, powers, acts and commands of Ba'al with those of Yahweh. Did one cult steal them from the other cult? Were they at one time the same cult? Is there another reason? Why are there so many similarities?

Lkn4truth, you mentioned Tammuz in the comments to the previous question and you seem to feel that there is a strong connection between Tammuz certain doctrines; however, Tammuz is only mentioned by name once in the entire Bible. It seems to me that if Tammuz is a rabbit worth hunting, then Ba'al far more.

12:22 PM, November 15, 2007  
Blogger lkn4truth said...

fencekicker, your last comment does indeed help narrow things down a bit. I'm just thinking out loud here so forgive me if I don't make sense.

First, you may recall years ago (has it been that long?) I was saying in rooms on PalTalk that Ba'al is a word that simply means "husband" or "master" depending on the context and that even YHWH himself calls himelf Ba'al according to the Hebrew scriptures. Everyone wanted my head on a pole for blaspheme but the point was this, in the English Bible translations there is a verse where YHWH says there will come a day when they (Israel) will no longer call me "master" but they will call me "husband" and I will be their husband (bad paraphrase)." Some translations use husband and master, others use names of The HEBREW words like "they will no longer call me Ishi but they will call me Bali" (since husband was "Bali" a form of "Ba'al). So, the text COULD read, "there will come a day when they will no longer call me Ishi(master) but they will call me Ba'al" The question becomes how much is Ba'al an actual "name" and how much if it is simply a title or designation?

Another interesting point is that many of the gods were represented as Bulls. I do not recall if Ba'al was but I'm pretty sure it is as evidenced by the Northern kingdoms erecting the golden calves/bulls in Ephraim and Dan. Before the tribes were split, just after coming out of Egypt, the people wanted a god fashioned for them and what did Aaron make? A bull/calf which he then claimed that THIS was the god that brought them out of Egypt. The people, it seems, were used to viewing their god as a bull. In fact there are drawings in Mesopotamia with two bulls that are very ancient and the inscription says YHWH and his cow Israel or something to that effect (it's been a long time since I've seen that). YHWH proclaimed through the prophets looking back on the golden calf event that he was NOT that calf and it was not him. Some believe, like a close friend of mine, that the God of Abraham was named El and that Moses later found YHWH to worship only after marrying a woman who's father happened to be a priest of YHWH (this is recorded in the Bible). Moses brings the people out to worship YHWH the fire god on the mountain, who is particularly good at war, but the people believe in worshipping El, the bull god. When the Israelites wanted to conquer the land they gladly called upon YHWH the fire god who wages war but when times came for peace they quickly returned to the worship of Ba'al and Asteroth who were gods of crops and good harvest among other things. As one place in the prophets state the people refused to go back to worshipping YHWH because things were good for them when they worshiped the queen of heaven (Asteroth). They no longer needed to wage war and were content with a god/goddess of agriculture now. Wow...that was a lot to chew on.

8:04 PM, November 15, 2007  
Blogger fencekicker said...


You are right that ba'al or a related form of the word may used at times as a title translated as lord/husband/master. It is also used at times in the bible as a word for idols. This of course is why its important, as you know, to look at context. It can also be pertinant to our discussion.

Anyway, it is known that there is a god who was called Ba'al and that the bible refers to this god by this name. I suspect the word ba'al didn't come to mean an idol or false god until there was a push to remove the name of Ba'al from Israel.

Was Ba'al the original name of Ba'al? Most scholars believe Hadad (thunderer) and Ba'al are the same god. Is one his name and the other a title? Likewise, could Yahweh, "the ever-existing one" also have been a title that became a name?

Ba'al/Hadad was a storm god. He was the "rider on the clouds", "the lord of heaven", "son of god", "prince/king of earth". He was the son of El, who conquered the seven-headed beast of the sea, and vanquishes death.

Ba'al also has a mountainous abode. Mount Saphon is refered to with the same descriptions as Mount Zion: holy place, pleasant place, inheritance, and portion. Both gods "roar" from their holy mountains, and bring forth the rains in their season.

As you stated, Ba'al is sometimes represented as a calf or bull. El is represented as a bull. The bull symbol is found associated with other gods as well. It may be just a symbol that means "chief male." In Sumeria, the bull/calf symbol was associated primarily with the god Nanna/Sin, the moon god, whose crescent was like the horns of a bull.

Its also interesting to note that the name of the god Ba'al is found in Israelite names. Since most names included a divine name, it is difficult to dismiss the Ba'al portion of those name as the generic form of the word.

11:10 AM, November 16, 2007  
Blogger lkn4truth said...

Again I have to point out that there a lots of similarities between the gods of the ancient near east. Some versions of stories will say one god did something and another version of the story will say a different god did it. Many of the gods use the same titles and designations. Even more confusing that terms like "most high god" doesn't apparently mean what we in English think it means to the ancient near east. I recall a story in which Marduke was called the most high god and in the same story it was clear that Ea created Marduke. How can Marduke be MOST HIGH if another god created him? It also lends the question then if YHWH is the most high god is he the most high god in the way that Marduke was (with another god that created him) or in the English understanding which means one that no other god created? Frankly, the titles and designations are too confusing for me to see value in studying too deeply because, as I said, the rules change depending on what version of the story you are reading. You cannot really definitively say anything about a god because another version of the story may turn that on it's head. The value in looking at the gods of the ancient near east, for me, is in noticing the overall story that is told. Nearly all the stories say that there was one all supreme god at one point that created lesser gods then LEFT. Where the god went is unclear, why that god left is unclear, the stories differ on reasons or are simply silent. But again, they all agree that one supreme god created lesser gods. THAT is of value for me, to see the generalities...not so much the specifics.

2:15 AM, November 17, 2007  
Blogger fencekicker said...


Do you think then that by overlapping all the ancient near eastern stories about the gods one great pattern will emerge? And, that this patter will be the only reliable information able to be gleaned from the ancient world?

I think that the stories have passed through many hands, some honest, others motivated by personal gain. With each new generation, a slight change or a different interpretation is made on the stories so that one hundred generations later, the story barely resembles the one imparted at the beginning (if there was only one to start with). One story may appear generations later in fifty differing versions.

If we overlap every version of the stories of the gods, I think that eventually the only conclusion to be made will be that gods exist, he/she/they have power over us, and were involved in creating/maintaining/destroying our world.

The stories we have are the truth as the writers saw it (or as they wanted it to be) in their own time. To understand them, we've got to think of them in the contexts of their creation. Who wrote it? what was their culture? what was their perspective of the world? What was their motivation for transmitting the stories? What did various words mean to those people? (because as you pointed out, the meanings can change over time).

I agree that some/many of the stories about the various gods are connected. However, to arrive at any sort of conclusion about the events, ideas, or meaning thereof, I think we need to seek out not only the what, but also the who, when, where and why.

For me, seeking out the truth isn't just about God, its about people, places, and time, too. Its the story of our own human history as much as it is about a power greater than ourselves.

I'm sorry if my thought processes annoy you. You and I approach research in different ways. Despite those differences we somehow tend to reach similar conclusions. Btw, you started talking about specifics in your comment on Nov. 15th, so maybe our minds don't work so differently afterall.

It seems we are spending a lot of effort discussing whether my question is worthy of an answer. Wouldn't it be less time consuming to just give an answer?

1:16 AM, November 18, 2007  
Blogger lkn4truth said...

You summed up a lot of my thoughts with this quote you said:

"If we overlap every version of the stories of the gods, I think that eventually the only conclusion to be made will be that gods exist, he/she/they have power over us, and were involved in creating/maintaining/destroying our world."

That's about it. There is absolutely no way to determine which version is more correct than another. None of us were there. the best we can do is read all the stories we can and look for what most likely occurred based on the similarities you see in all the stories. What seems obvious is that the ancients believed that gods created us, that gods had interaction with men and bred giants, that a great god become angry as the breeding of god and men and destroyed massive life in a global flood. That is the history we are left with.

9:38 PM, November 18, 2007  
Blogger Dr. Claude Mariottini said...

Dear Fencekicker,

Your question was: “Why are there so many similarities between Yahweh and the god Baal?” The answer to your question is complex and would take me many pages to answer. I have read your dialogue with lnk4truth, and there are several issues that the two of you raise. What follows is a brief answer to your question:

1. One the reasons there are so many similarities between Baal and Yahweh is the Old Testament is because in popular religion, many people believed that Yahweh and Baal were the same God. This is clearly seen in 1 Chronicles 12:5 where one of the Benjaminites was called “Bealiah,” “Yahweh is Baal.” In fact, many of the people with Baal in their name came from the Northern Kingdom, especially from the tribe of Benjamin.

2. Another reason why there are many similarities between Baal and Yahweh is because many Canaanites were absorbed into Israelite society. Thus, many of these people saw no conflict in worshiping Yahweh and Baal at the same time.

3. Another reason is because Baal and Yahweh both had some of the same characteristics. Both were considered high gods, with the same attributes, and similar characteristics. Thus, the language used to describe both gods were similar. We do the same thing today when we use language to describe the Christian God and some other god. Although the language may be the same, the gods are different.

In fact, there existed a group of people in Israel who believed that Yahweh and Baal were not the same God. The Old Testament text was written primarily by the people who believed that Baal and Yahweh were not the same God. Theologians call this group of people “The Yahweh Only Party.”

One good example of this type of people is found in the Elijah story. In 1 Kings 18:21, Elijah told the people: “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” Elijah and his party believed that Yahweh and Baal were not the same God.

In 1 Kings 19:18, Yahweh told Elijah: “But I shall spare seven thousand in Israel; all the knees that have not bent before Baal, all the mouths that have not kissed him.” Thus, although the number of people who refused to serve Baal was in the minority, these people firmly believed that Baal and Yahweh were distinct.

lkn4truth wrote: “Some translations use husband and master, others use names of The HEBREW words like "they will no longer call me Ishi but they will call me Bali" (since husband was "Bali" a form of "Ba'al). This is statement is not correct.

In Hosea 2:16, Yahweh spoke through Hosea and said: “And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou shalt call Me Ishi, and shalt call Me no more Baali.” The reason for that statement is that in calling Yahweh “Lord,” they used the word “Baal” and the people came to believe that Yahweh was Baal (since a Hebrew word for “lord” and “husband” was “baal”).

Another way of understanding Hosea 2:16 is the way the New Revised Standard Version translates this verse: “On that day, says the LORD, you will call me, "My husband," and no longer will you call me, "My Baal."”

Baal and Yahweh were different gods even though many people believed they were identical. In the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal, the prophets of Baal they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon: “ "O Baal, answer us!" But there was no response; no one answered” (1 Kings 18:26).

And the reason no one answered was because there was no one there. Baal is dead and gone, but the God of Israel, the same God who revealed himself in Jesus Christ, is still alive and here with us. That alone says a lot about the similarity between Yahweh and Baal.

Claude Mariottini

3:07 PM, November 29, 2007  
Blogger fencekicker said...

Dr. Mariottini,

You wrote:

The Old Testament text was written primarily by the people who believed that Baal and Yahweh were not the same God. Theologians call this group of people “The Yahweh Only Party.”

It is this reason that the similarities are troubling. What happens when a group of people who are pushing certain doctrines edits sacred writings and writes out what they believe God is saying? Will they write and edit in an unbiased manner? Or will they make minor alterations to the texts where it appears to support the opposing view? When writing their prophecies, will they add their own interpretion to support their own beliefs?

How do we know that the "Yahweh Only Party" did not tamper with the Word of God? Some might say that God wouldn't allow it. However, there are plenty of Bibles that have been written in more recent times to show that the Bible can be and is at times altered.


4:28 PM, November 29, 2007  

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