Category: False gods of the Bible


An Asherah pole was a sacred tree or pole that stood near Canaanite religious locations to honor the pagan goddess Asherah, also known as Astarte. While the exact appearance of an Asherah pole is somewhat obscure, it is clear that the ancient Israelites, after entering the land of Canaan, were influenced by the pagan religion it represented.

In the Bible, Asherah poles were first mentioned in Exodus 34:13. God had just remade the Ten Commandment tablets, and Moses had requested God graciously forgive the Israelites for worshiping the golden calf. Verse 10 begins the covenant God made: if the Israelites obey Him, He will drive out the tribes living in Canaan. But they must cut down the Asherah poles. Deuteronomy 7:5 and 12:3 repeat the command nearly verbatim, while Deuteronomy 16:21 commands the Israelites not set up any wooden Asherah poles of their own. Two books later, In Judges 3:7, “The sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth.”

Gideon became the first to fight against the infestation of Asherah poles, although, in his fear, he chopped his father’s Asherah pole down at night (Judges 6:25-27). The books of 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles tell a long story of one king chopping down Asherah poles and another building them back up. King Manasseh of Judah went so far as to install a pole in the temple of the Lord (2 Kings 21:3, 7). In the midst of a great cleansing, King Josiah took out the Asherah pole and ground it to powder, further defiling it by spreading the dust over graves (2 Kings 23:6).

Most areas in that time and place had a god and goddess designated as responsible for the well-being of crops and livestock. Likely, in the constant evolution of pagan gods and goddesses, Asherah was one of the names given for a fertility goddess in the region. Asherah’s consorts varied, depending on the cultic beliefs of the people—sometimes Asherah was said to consort with the Canaanite creator-god, El; or with the god of fertility, Ba’al; or, horrifically, with the Lord God Himself. Asherah poles were wood poles (sometimes carved, sometimes not) or trees planted by the “high places” where pagan worshipers sacrificed, although the specific purpose of the poles is not clear. It’s interesting to note that, while the once-essential “Asherah” has morphed from goddess to wooden pole to obscurity, Father God, Creator of the universe, has never changed.

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As with many details in ancient history, the exact origin of Moloch/Molech worship is unclear. The term Moloch is believed to have originated with the Phoenician mlk, which referred to a type of sacrifice made to confirm or acquit a vow. Melekh is the Hebrew word for “king.” It was common for the Israelites to combine the name of pagan gods with the vowels in the Hebrew word for shame: bosheth. This is how the goddess of fertility and war, Astarte, became Ashtoreth. The combination of mlk, melekh, and bosheth results in “Moloch,” which could be interpreted as “the personified ruler of shameful sacrifice.” It has also been spelled Milcom, Milkim, Malik, and Moloch. Ashtoreth was his consort, and ritual prostitution was considered an important form of worship.

The Phoenicians were a loosely gathered group of people who inhabited Canaan (modern-day Lebanon, Syria, and Israel) between 1550 BC and 300 BC. In addition to sexual rituals, Moloch worship included child sacrifice, or “passing children through the fire.” It is believed that idols of Moloch were giant metal statues of a man with a bull’s head. Each image had a hole in the abdomen and possibly outstretched forearms that made a kind of ramp to the hole. A fire was lit in or around the statue. Babies were placed in the statue’s arms or in the hole. When a couple sacrificed their firstborn, they believed that Moloch would ensure financial prosperity for the family and future children.

Moloch/Molech worship wasn’t limited to Canaan. Monoliths in North Africa bear the engraving “mlk”—often written “mlk’mr” and “mlk’dm,” which may mean “sacrifice of lamb” and “sacrifice of man.” In North Africa, Moloch was renamed “Kronos.” Kronos migrated to Carthage in Greece, and his mythology grew to include his becoming a Titan and the father of Zeus. Moloch is affiliated with and sometimes equated to Ba’al, although the word ba’al was also used to designate any god or ruler.

In Genesis 12 Abraham followed God’s call to move to Canaan. Although human sacrifice was not common in Abraham’s native Ur, it was well-established in his new land. God later asked Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice (Genesis 22:2). But then God distinguished Himself from gods like Moloch. Unlike the native Canaanite gods, Abraham’s God abhorred human sacrifice. God commanded Isaac to be spared, and He provided a ram to take Isaac’s place (Genesis 22:13). God used this event as an illustration of how He would later provide His own Son to take our place.

Over five hundred years after Abraham, Joshua led the Israelites out of the desert to inherit the Promised Land. God knew that the Israelites were immature in their faith and easily distracted from worshiping the one true God (Exodus 32). Before the Israelites had even entered Canaan, God warned them not to participate in Moloch worship (Leviticus 18:21) and repeatedly told them to destroy those cultures that worshiped Moloch. The Israelites didn’t heed God’s warnings. Instead, they incorporated Moloch worship into their own traditions. Even Solomon, the wisest king, was swayed by this cult and built places of worship for Moloch and other gods (1 Kings 11:1–8). Moloch worship occurred in the “high places” (1 Kings 12:31) as well as a narrow ravine outside Jerusalem called the Valley of Hinnom (2 Kings 23:10).

Despite occasional efforts by godly kings, worship of Moloch wasn’t abolished until the Israelites’ captivity in Babylon. (Although the Babylonian religion was pantheistic and characterized by astrology and divination, it did not include human sacrifice.) Somehow, the dispersion of the Israelites into a large pagan civilization succeeded in finally purging them of their false gods. When the Jews returned to their land, they rededicated themselves to God, and the Valley of Hinnom was turned into a place for burning garbage and the bodies of executed criminals. Jesus used the imagery of this place—an eternally burning fire, consuming countless human victims—to describe hell, where those who reject God will burn for eternity (Matthew 10:28).

Asherah, or Ashtoreth, was the name of the chief female deity worshiped in ancient Syria, Phoenicia, and Canaan. The Phoenicians called her Astarte, the Assyrians worshiped her as Ishtar, and the Philistines had a temple of Asherah (1 Samuel 31:10). Because of Israel’s incomplete conquest of the land of Canaan, Asherah-worship survived and plagued Israel, starting as soon as Joshua was dead (Judges 2:13).

Asherah was represented by a limbless tree trunk planted in the ground. The trunk was usually carved into a symbolic representation of the goddess. Because of the association with carved trees, the places of Asherah worship were commonly called “groves,” and the Hebrew word “asherah” (plural, “asherim”) could refer either to the goddess or to a grove of trees. One of King Manasseh’s evil deeds was that he “took the carved Asherah pole he had made and put it in the temple” (2 Kings 21:7). Another translation of “carved Asherah pole” is “graven image of the grove” (KJV).

Considered the moon-goddess, Asherah was often presented as a consort of Baal, the sun-god (Judges 3:7, 6:28, 10:6; 1 Samuel 7:4, 12:10). Asherah was also worshiped as the goddess of love and war and was sometimes linked with Anath, another Canaanite goddess. Worship of Asherah was noted for its sensuality and involved ritual prostitution. The priests and priestesses of Asherah also practiced divination and fortune-telling.

The Lord God, through Moses, forbade the worship of Asherah. The Law specified that a grove of trees was not to be near the altar of Jehovah (Deuteronomy 16:21). Despite God’s clear instructions, Asherah-worship was a perennial problem in Israel. As Solomon slipped into idolatry, one of the pagan deities he brought into the kingdom was Asherah, called “the goddess of the Sidonians” (1 Kings 11:5, 33). Later, Jezebel made Asherah-worship even more prevalent, with 400 prophets of Asherah on the royal payroll (1 Kings 18:19). At times, Israel experienced revival, and notable crusades against Asherah-worship were led by Gideon (Judges 6:25-30), King Asa (1 Kings 15:13), and King Josiah (2 Kings 23:1-7).

VI. FORMS OF BAAL
1. Baal-berith
2. Baal-gad
3. Baal-hamon
4. Baal-hermon
5. Baal-peor
6. Baal-zebub
I. Name and Character of Baal:
In Babylonia it was the title specially applied to Merodach of Babylon, which in time came to be used in place of his actual name. As the word in Hebrew also means “possessor,” it has been supposed to have originally signified, when used in a religious sense, the god of a particular piece of land or soil. Of this, however, there is no proof, and the sense of “possessor” is derived from that of “lord.” The Babylonian Bel-Merodach was a Sun-god, and so too was the Can Baal whose full title was Baal-Shemaim, “lord of heaven.” The Phoenician writer Sanchuniathon (Philo Byblius, Fragmenta II) accordingly says that the children of the first generation of mankind “in time of drought stretched forth their hands to heaven toward the sun; for they regarded him as the sole Lord of heaven, and called him Beel-samen, which means `Lord of Heaven’ in the Phoenician language and is equivalent to Zeus in Greek” Baal-Shemaim had a temple at Umm el-Awamid between Acre and Tyre, and his name is found in inscriptions from the Phoenician colonies of Sardinia and Carthage.
II. Attributes of Baal:
As the Sun-god, Baal was worshipped under two aspects, beneficent and destructive. On the one hand he gave light and warmth to his worshippers; on the other hand the fierce heats of summer destroyed the vegetation he had himself brought into being. Hence, human victims were sacrificed to him in order to appease his anger in time of plague or other trouble, the victim being usually the first-born of the sacrificer and being burnt alive. In the Old Testament this is euphemistically termed “passing” the victim “through the fire” (2 Ki 16:3; 21:6). The forms under which Baal was worshipped were necessarily as numerous as the communities which worshipped him. Each locality had its own Baal or divine “Lord” who frequently took his name from the city or place to which he belonged. Hence, there was a Baal-Zur, “Baal of Tyre”; Baal-hermon, “Baal of Hermon” (Jdg 3:3); Baal-Lebanon, “Baal of Lebanon”; Baal-Tarz, “Baal of Tarsus.” At other times the title was attached to the name of an individual god; thus we have Bel-Merodach, “the Lord Merodach” (or “Bel is Merodach”) at Babylon, Baal-Melkarth at Tyre, Baal-gad (Josh 11:17) in the north of Palestine. Occasionally the second element was noun as in Baal-Shemaim, “lord of heaven,” Baalzebub (2 Ki 1:2), “Lord of flies,” Baal-Hamman, usually interpreted “Lord of heat,” but more probably “Lord of the sunpillar,” the tutelary deity of Carthage. All these various forms of the Sun-god were collectively known as the Baalim or “Baals” who took their place by the side of the female Ashtaroth and Ashtrim. At Carthage the female consort of Baal was termed Pene-Baal, “the face” or “reflection of Baal.”
III. Baal-Worship:
In the earlier days of Hebrew history the title Baal, or “Lord,” was applied to the national God of Israel, a usage which was revived in later times, and is familiar to us in the King James Version. Hence both Jonathan and David had sons called Merib-baal (1 Ch 8:31; 9:40) and Beeliada (1 Ch 14:7). After the time of Ahab, however, the name became associated with the worship and rites of the Phoenician deity introduced into Samaria by Jezebel, and its idolatrous associations accordingly caused it to fall into disrepute. Hosea (2:16) declares that henceforth the God of Israel should no longer be called Baali, “my Baal,” and personal names like Esh-baal (1 Ch 8:33; 9:39), and Beelinda into which it entered were changed in form, Baal being turned into bosheth which in Heb at any rate conveyed the sense of “shame.”

The Bible Mentions a lot Concerning “Baal”    

2 Kings 23:5 – And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven.

2 Kings 10:25 – And it came to pass, as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, that Jehu said to the guard and to the captains, Go in, [and] slay them; let none come forth. And they smote them with the edge of the sword; and the guard and the captains cast [them] out, and went to the city of the house of Baal.

Jeremiah 11:17 – For the LORD of hosts, that planted thee, hath pronounced evil against thee, for the evil of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah, which they have done against themselves to provoke me to anger in offering incense unto Baal.

Jeremiah 12:16 – And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, The LORD liveth; as they taught my people to swear by Baal; then shall they be built in the midst of my people.

2 Kings 23:4 – And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Bethel.

1 Kings 18:21 – And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD [be] God, follow him: but if Baal, [then] follow him. And the people answered him not a word.

1 Kings 18:19 – Now therefore send, [and] gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table.

Jeremiah 11:13 – For [according to] the number of thy cities were thy gods, O Judah; and [according to] the number of the streets of Jerusalem have ye set up altars to [that] shameful thing, [even] altars to burn incense unto Baal.

Judges 6:31 – And Joash said unto all that stood against him, Will ye plead for Baal? will ye save him? he that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst [it is yet] morning: if he [be] a god, let him plead for himself, because [one] hath cast down his altar.

Jeremiah 32:29 – And the Chaldeans, that fight against this city, shall come and set fire on this city, and burn it with the houses, upon whose roofs they have offered incense unto Baal, and poured out drink offerings unto other gods, to provoke me to anger.

Judges 6:25 – And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Take thy father’s young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that [is] by it:

2 Kings 17:16 – And they left all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made them molten images, [even] two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal.

2 Kings 21:3 – For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them.

Judges 6:28 – And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was cast down, and the grove was cut down that [was] by it, and the second bullock was offered upon the altar [that was] built.

2 Kings 10:22 – And he said unto him that [was] over the vestry, Bring forth vestments for all the worshippers of Baal. And he brought them forth vestments.

2 Kings 3:2 – And he wrought evil in the sight of the LORD; but not like his father, and like his mother: for he put away the image of Baal that his father had made.

2 Kings 10:18 – And Jehu gathered all the people together, and said unto them, Ahab served Baal a little; [but] Jehu shall serve him much.

Judges 6:30 – Then the men of the city said unto Joash, Bring out thy son, that he may die: because he hath cast down the altar of Baal, and because he hath cut down the grove that [was] by it.

1 Kings 18:40 – And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.

1 Kings 16:31 – And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him.

Jeremiah 32:35 – And they built the high places of Baal, which [are] in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through [the fire] unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.

Jeremiah 2:8 – The priests said not, Where [is] the LORD? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after [things that] do not profit.

Numbers 22:41 – And it came to pass on the morrow, that Balak took Balaam, and brought him up into the high places of Baal, that thence he might see the utmost [part] of the people.

Jeremiah 7:9 – Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not;

Zephaniah 1:4 – I will also stretch out mine hand upon Judah, and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place, [and] the name of the Chemarims with the priests;

1 Kings 18:25 – And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress [it] first; for ye [are] many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire [under].

1 Kings 19:18 – Yet I have left [me] seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

1 Kings 22:53 – For he served Baal, and worshipped him, and provoked to anger the LORD God of Israel, according to all that his father had done.

Jeremiah 23:13 – And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; they prophesied in Baal, and caused my people Israel to err.

Hosea 2:8 – For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, [which] they prepared for Baal.    

baalBaal was the name of the supreme god worshiped in ancient Canaan and Phoenicia. The practice of Baal worship infiltrated Jewish religious life during the time of the Judges (Judges 3:7), became widespread in Israel during the reign of Ahab (1 Kings 16:31-33) and also affected Judah (2 Chronicles 28:1-2). The word baal means “lord”; the plural is baalim. In general, Baal was a fertility god who was believed to enable the earth to produce crops and people to produce children. Different regions worshiped Baal in different ways, and Baal proved to be a highly adaptable god. Various locales emphasized one or another of his attributes and developed special “denominations” of Baalism. Baal of Peor (Numbers 25:3) and Baal-Berith (Judges 8:33) are two examples of such localized deities.

According to Canaanite mythology, Baal was the son of El, the chief god, and Asherah, the goddess of the sea. Baal was considered the most powerful of all gods, eclipsing El, who was seen as rather weak and ineffective. In various battles Baal defeated Yamm, the god of the sea, and Mot, the god of death and the underworld. Baal’s sisters/consorts were Ashtoreth, a fertility goddess associated with the stars, and Anath, a goddess of love and war. The Canaanites worshiped Baal as the sun god and as the storm god—he is usually depicted holding a lightning bolt—who defeated enemies and produced crops. They also worshiped him as a fertility god who provided children. Baal worship was rooted in sensuality and involved ritualistic prostitution in the temples. At times, appeasing Baal required human sacrifice, usually the firstborn of the one making the sacrifice (Jeremiah 19:5). The priests of Baal appealed to their god in rites of wild abandon which included loud, ecstatic cries and self-inflicted injury (1 Kings 18:28).

Before the Hebrews entered the Promised Land, the Lord God warned against worshiping Canaan’s gods (Deuteronomy 6:14-15), but Israel turned to idolatry anyway. During the reign of Ahab and Jezebel, at the height of Baal worship in Israel, God directly confronted the paganism through His prophet Elijah. First, God showed that He, not Baal, controlled the rain by sending a drought lasting three-and-one-half years (1 Kings 17:1). Then Elijah called for a showdown on Mt. Carmel to prove once and for all who the true God was. All day long, 450 prophets of Baal called on their god to send fire from heaven—surely an easy task for a god associated with lightning bolts—but “there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention” (1 Kings 18:29). After Baal’s prophets gave up, Elijah prayed a simple prayer, and God answered immediately with fire from heaven. The evidence was overwhelming, and the people “fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD–he is God! The LORD–he is God!’” (verse 39).

In Matthew 12:27, Jesus calls Satan “Beelzebub,” linking the devil to Baal-Zebub, a Philistine deity (2 Kings 1:2). The Baalim of the Old Testament were nothing more than demons masquerading as gods, and all idolatry is ultimately devil-worship (1 Corinthians 10:20).