1. In the Old Testament denotes an idol of the Phoenicians, and particularly of the Tyrians, whose worship was also introduced with great solemnities among the Hebrews, and especially at Samaria, along with that of Astarte, Judges 6:25-32 2 Kings 10:18,28. See
That in the astronomical, or rather, astrological mythology of the East, we are to look for the origin of this worship in the adoration of the heavenly bodies, is conceded by all critics. The more common opinion has been, that Baal, or Bel, is the sun; and that, under this name, this luminary received divine honors. But the Greek and Roman writers give to the Babylonian Bel the name of Jupiter Belus, meaning the planet Jupiter, which was regarded, along with the planet Venus, as the guardian and giver of all good fortune; and formed, with Venus, the most fortunate of all constellations, under which alone fortunate sovereigns could be born. This planet, therefore, many suppose to have been the object of worship under the name of Baal, as also the planet Venus under that of Astarte. Not that the sun was not an object of idolatrous worship among these nations, but in that case he is represented under his own name; as 2 Kings 23:11.
The temples and altars of Ball were generally on eminences. Manasseh placed in the two courts of the temple at Jerusalem altars to all the host of heaven, and in particular to Astarte, 2 Kings 21:5,7. Jeremiah threatens the Jews who had sacrificed to Baal on the house-top, Jeremiah 32:29; and Josiah destroyed the altars which Ahaz had erected on the terrace of his palace, 2 Kings 23:12.
Human victims were offered to Baal, as they were also to the sun. Jeremiah reproaches the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem with "building the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt-offerings unto Baal," Jeremiah 19:5; an expression which appears to be decisive as to the actual slaying by fire of the unhappy victims to Baal. See
The children of Israel were prone to serve Baal. See Numbers 25:3 Judges 2:14 3:7. Under Samuel they put away their idols, 1 Samuel 7:4. This continued under David and Solomon; but under Ahab, whose wife Jezebel was a daughter of the Zidonian king Ethbaal, the worship of Baal was restored with great pomp, 1 Kings 16:31.
Joined with other words, Baal signifies also other false gods. Baal-Berith, or the "lord of the covenant," was a god of the Shechemites, Judges 8:33 9:4. Baal-Peor, or "the lord of Peor," was a filthy idol of the Moabites, Numbers 25:3,5 Hosea 9:10. Baal-Zebub, "lord of flies," was a god of the Philistines at Ekron. See BEELZEBUB.
2. The word BAAL also occurs in many compound names of places, not always having any reference to the idol.
These dictionary topics are from American Tract Society Bible Dictionary published in 1859. Public Domain, copy freely.