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Verse 13

"Baal" was the sun god. The Canaanites believed he was the source and communicator of physical life. They credited him with generating the reproductive powers of nature from his own being. This ability included human as well as animal and plant reproduction and fertility.

"Astarte" (Asherah) was the leading female Canaanite deity, a moon-goddess, whose symbol was originally an evergreen tree or grove. "Asherah" also denotes a cult object in the Hebrew Bible, specifically a wooden pole associated with Asherah worship. [Note: John Day, "Asherah in the Hebrew Bible and Northwest Semitic Literature," Journal of Biblical Literature 105:3 (September 1986):385-408. See also William F. Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan, pp. 189-92, 205.]

She was "worshipped as the feminine principle of nature embodied in the pure moon-light, and its influence upon terrestrial life." [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, p. 269.]

"Essentially, the religion of Canaan was based on the assumption that the forces of nature are expressions of divine presence and activity and that the only way one could survive and prosper was to identify the gods responsible for each phenomenon and by proper ritual encourage them to bring to bear their respective powers. This is the mythological approach to reality. Ritual involves human enactments; particularly by cultic personnel such as priests, of the activity of the gods as described in the myths.

"Since Baal was not omnipresent in the strict sense, each cult center would have its own local Baal. Thus there could be Baal-Peor, Baal-Berith, Baal-Zebub, and so on. This explains why the gods of Canaan are sometimes called Baalim (’the Baals’) in the Old Testament. There was only one Baal theoretically, but he was lord of many places." [Note: Merrill, pp. 159, 161. His section on the nature of Canaanite idolatry, pp. 159-61, is a good introduction to this subject. See also Howard, p. 107, for explanation of the Canaanite pantheon.]

The worship of these idols did not involve or necessitate the abandonment of Yahweh. The Israelites worshipped both the idols and the true God. This practice constituted forsaking Yahweh because He demanded exclusive allegiance. The Israelites became syncretistic rather than exclusive in their worship. It is easier to understand why the Israelites apostatized so quickly and so frequently when we appreciate the syncretistic nature of Baal worship.

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