Ba’al Hadad of Canaan

The Polytheism of the Canaanites is usually contrasted with the Monotheism of the Israelites. While the nomads of Israel are usually depicted as being morally upright and virtuous, the urbanites of Canaan are always shown to be depraved hedonists who made child sacrifices. The truth is that the Israelites were ethnic Canaanites who split off during the early Iron Age. The Canaanites divided into the Israelites in the south and the Phoenicians to the north. The Canaanite Polytheistic practices that are condemned in the Old Testament are actually Israelite ones. The later editors of the Old Testament wanted to emphasize the pure Monotheism of the Israelites.

The God most often mentioned as the bane of Yahweh and the Israelites is Baal. The particular Baal in question is Ba’al Hadad of Mount Tzapunu, who is known as King and Judge. Ba’al in the Canaanite language means “Lord,” and became a way of addressing Yahweh as well.

Since Ba’al Hadad had died and returned from the Dead, the Canaanites regard Him to be the Protector of Humanity. In the Ba’al Epic, He fights with Yammu, the God of the Sea and Storms. After He defeats Yammu, Motu, the God of Death and Sterility decided to kill Ba’al. Dying, Ba’al goes to Betu Khupthati, the Canaanite Underworld. In his absence, the drought and heat destroys the earth.

Meanwhile, ‘Anatu, the Female Warrior Ally of Ba’al, searches for Him and Motu. Finding Motu, She chops Him up and feeds Him to the birds. Afterwards, Shapshu, the Sun Goddess and Protector of the Dead returns Ba’al Hadad to the Living. After She restores Motu, Shapshu referees the continuing dispute between the two Gods.

Ba’al Hadad keeps the world of humans fertile. He rides the clouds bringing the rains to ensure the earth’s fertility and abundance. These autumnal rains move from the coast eastward to the desert. Therefore, Ba’al Hadad keeps the balance between the desert of Motu and the ocean of Yammu, with his refreshing rains.

O Ba’al Hadad, King and Judge
Your Voice is Thunder.

O Ba’al Hadad, Rider of the Clouds
Mightiest of the Warriors,
You slew Lotan the Seven Headed Dragon
Lord of the Sky
Lord of the Earth
You Bring the Autumn Rains
You allow the crops to grow

O Ba’al Hadad, Protector of Humans
You calm the storms of the sea
You stay the sands of the desert

Further Reading:
Philip West, The Old Ones in the Old Book
Tess Dawson, The Horned Altar and Whisper of Stone

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3 thoughts on “Ba’al Hadad of Canaan

  1. This is a very interesting topic indeed that you’ve encouraged me to read more on. You are right to point out that the Israelites came out of the Canaanites; they believed that, as descendants of Abraham and Jacob (the latter called Israel, and he made a covenant with “God” also), they were chosen people and now looked on all others in their area of Canaan unfavorably. According to some of my reading, however, there is some evidence that the change was gradual, from a henotheism (or monolatrism) towards Yahweh, with symbolic acknowledgement of other Gods, and then a later syncretism between Yahweh and El to form the Jewish supreme Yahweh. The word Israel actually contains that word “El” in it. El was, somewhat like the Greek Kronos, the father of the three great Canaanite divine brothers (that you mention above), and I wonder whether Baal Hadad also being a storm God was part of the reason that led to his conflict with Yam. In any case, it is notable that, while the syncretic supreme Yahweh took his position, the word “El” became synonymous with God. This is why the Mohammed of the Arabs (in the Arabian Peninsula), who belonged to a people related to the Canaanites, later adopted “Allah” as the supreme being in his religion. It seems, in doing so, he unwittingly conflated the then current word “El” (or “Ela” as the Arabs used it) with the ancient father “El”.

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    • One thing more, the Roman Emperor Hadrian enraged the Jews by proposing to construct a Temple to Jupiter (Baal Casius?) in Jerusalem over the ruins of the Jewish Temple! The project never went forward, however, some say because of an earthquake.

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  2. There are several Ba’als in the region since each city had their own Gods.

    As for the Israelites, you are right in that it was a gradual movement. From what I can gather, they didn’t become fully Monotheistic until after the Babylon Captivity. Tracing the origins of the “Monotheistic” God is a complex one, since it seems as you have pointed out, a lot of Gods were combined into one.

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