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