Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible Online

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Edited by: Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking and Pieter W. van der Horst

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The Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible Online contains academic articles on the named gods, angels, and demons in the books of the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint and Apocrypha, as well as the New Testament and patristic literature. This online version contains the second extensively revised edition.

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Baal בעל

(5,067 words)

Author(s): W. Herrmann
I. Name The name baʿal is a common Semitic noun meaning ‘lord, owner’. Applied to a god it occurs about 90 times in the OT. The LXX transcribes Βααλ, Vulgate Baal, plural Βααλιμ and Baalim. Though normally an appellative, the name is used in Ugaritic religion as the proper name of a deity. Also in the Bible, the noun occurs as the name of a specific Canaanite god. II. Identity According to Pettinato the noun baʿal was originally used as a divine name. It is attested as such already in third millennium texts. The mention of dba4- alx in the list of deities from Abu Ṣalabikh (R. D. Biggs, Inscription fr…

Baalat בעלת

(772 words)

Author(s): E. T. Mullen, Jr.
I. Name Baʿalat, ‘mistress’, ‘lady’, ‘sovereign’ ( Heb. baʿălāt; Phoen./Ug. bʿlt; Akk. bēltu), is attested as both a divine name and an epithet in the ancient Near East from the middle third millennium bce. Though the term is attested in the MT as a place name ( Josh. 19.44; 1 Kgs. 9.18; 2 Chr. 8.6), it does not occur in the biblical text as the designation of a divinity. II. Identity In Akkadian, the epithet is applied to a number of goddesses, most often associated with fertility and birth, as d bēlit ilı̄. In addition to being a common designation of Ishtar, this epithet is also…

Baal-Berith בעל ברית

(2,125 words)

Author(s): M. J. Mulder
I. Name Baal-berith (‘Baal of the Covenant’; Judg. 8.33 and Judg. 9.4) and El-berith (‘El of the Covenant; Judg. 9.46) occur only in the Book of Judges as specifications of the Canaanite fertility gods Baal and El of Shechem, an ancient Canaanite city in the hill country between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. Also in Ugaritic texts brt (‘covenant’) is found in connection with Baal. II. Identity In the OT Shechem is often mentioned. Already in Gen. 12.6–7 we are told that Abram went as far in Canaan as the sanctuary at Shechem, and the terebinth tree of Moreh, and that he built there an altar “to the Lo…

Baal-Gad בעל גד

(391 words)

Author(s): Naʾaman
I. Name A location on the northern border of the allotments of the twelve tribes ( Josh. 11.17; Josh. 12.7; Josh. 13.5). Perhaps Baal should be taken as the name of the god and gad as an appellative (‘Baal is fortune’) rather than the other way round (‘Lord Gad’). Gad is known both from place names (Migdal-gad) and personal names (Gaddi, Gaddiel, Gaddiyau) and is best understood as an appellative, i.e., ‘fortune’. Gad as a divine name is attested only in the post-exilic period ( Isa. 65.11) and since that time appears as a theophoric element in names ( TWAT 1 [1973] 920–921). II. Identity Baal-gad …

Baal-Hamon בעל המון

(178 words)

Author(s): Naʾaman
I. Name A location of a plantation of Solomon which he granted to keepers and made highly profitable ( Cant. 8.11). Its name may be homonymous with the place Balamon mentioned in Jdt. 8.3, but they are two different sites. The latter is probably located in the vicinity of Dothan (possibly Ibleam, today Kh. Belʿameh). The name Baal-hamon is not attested elsewhere in the OT and its position remains unknown. II. Identity Literally, Baal-hamon means either ‘Baal of a multitude’ or ‘possessor of wealth’. The first interpretation may ostensibly be compared with the well known divine title “Lord o…

Baal-Hazor בעל חצור

(362 words)

Author(s): Naʾaman
I. Name A location near the town of Ophrah/ʿEphraim (possibly modern eṭ-Ṭaibiyeh) where Absalom kept his sheepshearers and where he assassinated his half-brother Amnon ( 2 Sam. 13.23). It seems that Baal should be construed as the name of god, i.e., ‘Baal of Hazor’. It is generally identified with Jebel el-ʿAṣûr, the highest mountain of Mount Ephraim (1016 m. above sea level), 7 km. north-east of Bethel. The site is not attested elsewhere in the OT and has nothing to do with the Hazor mentioned in Neh. 11.33. Abel (1924) suggested to read 1 Macc. 9.15 as heōs Azōrou óros (in place of heōs…

Baal-Hermon בעל חרמון

(370 words)

Author(s): Naʾaman
I. Name A location on the northern border of the allotments of the twelve tribes ( Judg. 3.3; 1 Chr. 5.23). It seems that Baal should be construed as the name of a god, i.e., ‘Baal of Hermon’. Hermon is identical with Jebel esh-Sheikh, the southern peak of the Anti-Lebanon ( Deut. 3.8; Deut. 4.48; Josh. 12.1, Josh. 5; Judg. 3.3; 1 Chr. 5.23). The place to which the toponym refers must be sought somewhere on its slopes. II. Identity In the list of people Yahweh left within the territory of Canaan appear “the Hivites who dwelt on Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal-hermon as far as Lebo-hamath” ( Judg. 3.3).…

Baal-Judah בעל יהודה

(562 words)

Author(s): Naʾaman
I. Name Baal-judah is an appellation of the town of Kiriath-jearim, the element ‘Judah’ distinguishes it from other localities called by the name Baal (compare byt lḥm yhwdh). It was identified at Deir el-ʿAzhar, a tell near modern Abu-ghosh, about 12 km west-northwest of Jerusalem. II. Identity The place appears only once, in a corrupted form, in the introduction to the story of the transfer of the Ark to Jerusalem ( 2 Sam. 6.2). MT has mbʿly yhwdh (“from the citizens of Judah”). However, not only does the sending of “all the people, who were with him, from the citizen…

Baal-Meon בעל מעון

(259 words)

Author(s): Naʾaman
I. Name A place in the land of Moab listed among the towns of Reuben ( Num. 32.34; Josh. 13.17; 1 Chr. 5.8; Mesha’s inscription). It is also known as Beth-baal-meon ( Josh. 13.17) and Beth-meon ( Jer. 48.23). It is generally identified with Khirbet Maʿin, about 8 km southwest of Madaba. However, no Iron Age remains were found in the course of excavations there. Baal-meon’s exact location has yet to be found. II. Identity Baal-meon was an Israelite town which was conquered by Mesha, king of Moab, in the third quarter of the ninth century bce. Mesha rebuilt the town and made a reservoir ther…

Baal of Peor בעל פעור

(863 words)

Author(s): K. Spronk
I. Name This local god, mentioned only in the OT, is associated with the mountain Peor in the land of Moab ( Num. 23.28) and the place Beth-Peor ( Deut. 3.29; Deut. 4.46; Deut. 34.6; Josh. 13.20). He probably represents there the chthonic aspect of the Canaanite god of fertility, Baal (Spronk 1986:231–233). The name Peor is related to Heb. pʿr, ‘open wide’, which in Isa. 5.14 is said of the ‘mouth’ of the netherworld (Xella 1982: 664–666). According to Num. 25 the Israelites participated in the Moabite cult honouring this god. This incident is recalled in Num. 31.16; Deut. 4.3; Josh. 22.17; Hos.

Baal-Perazim בעל-פרצים

(360 words)

Author(s): Naʾaman
I. Name A location south of Jerusalem, on the way to Bethlehem, where David won his first victory over the Philistines ( 2 Sam. 5.18–20; 1 Chr. 14.9–11). In the story the naming of the place is assigned to David and explained thus: “Yahweh broke ( pāraṣ) through my enemies before me, like a bursting flood ( pereṣ māyim)” (v 20). Since the name Baal-perazim is directly combined with the divine help of Yahweh, it is clear that the element ‘Baal’ was understood by the author as a honorific title of Yahweh (compare Hos. 2.18). Whether the site had a cult place for Yahweh is not clear. I…

Baal-Shalisha בעל שׁלשׁה

(317 words)

Author(s): Naʾaman
I. Name A town from which a man came to Elisha bringing “bread of the first fruits, twenty loaves of barley, and fresh ears of grain” ( 2 Kgs. 4.42; compare Lev. 2.11–12, Lev. 14–16). Elisha stayed then at Gilgal, near Jericho. According to Rabbi Meir, there was no other Palestinian place where fruits so easily come to fruition as in Baal-shalisha ( Tosefta Sanh. 2, 9; bSanh. 12a). Thus, Baal-shalisha must be sought either in the Jordan Valley or on the slopes overlooking Gilgal. II. Identity An important clue for the location of Baal-shalisha is the land of Shalisha, one of the f…

Baal-Shamem בעל־שׁמם

(1,534 words)

Author(s): W. Röllig
I. Name The title ‘Lord of Heavens’, used for the various supreme gods in Syro-Palestine, Anatolia and Mesopotamia during the 2nd millennium bce, later became the name of a specific deity venerated throughout the Semitic world from the 1st millennium bce until the first four centuries of the Christian era. St. Augustin ( Quaest. Hept. VII 16) refers to him as dominus coeli. II. Identity The earliest Phoenician attestation of Baal-Shamem comes from the building-inscription from the 10th century bce of king Yeḥı̄milk in Byblos ( KAI 4). Here Baal-Shamem is named before the ‘Lady o…

Baal-Tamar בעל תמר

(259 words)

Author(s): Naʾaman
I. Name A location north of Gibeah (Tell el-Fûl) where the Israelite troops stood firm against the pursuing Benjaminites after distancing them from their home town ( Judg. 20.33). Eusebius states that in his day there still existed a Beth-tamar near Gibeah, but does not specify its location. Since the second Israelite force which encamped west of Geba (modern Jebaʿ) conquered Gibeah through a surprise attack, it is clear that Baal-tamar must be sought north of the Geba road which starts near Ramah (modern er-Ram). Its exact location remains unknown. II. Identity The ‘date palm’ ( tāmār) …

Baal Toponyms

(450 words)

Author(s): Naʾaman
I. Name The nine toponyms Baal-gad, Baal-hamon, Baal-hazor, Baal-hermon, Baal-judah, Baal-meon, Baal-perazim, Baal-shalisha, and Baal-tamar include various descriptive combinations which are compounded with the divine name or appellative Baal. They are all located in the Canaanite hill country, save for Baal-meon which is located on the plain east of the Dead Sea. There is a difference in the distribution of toponyms which are named by masculine (Baal-X) and feminine (Baalah, Bealoth, Baalath-X) forms. The former are attached to the highlands whe…

Baal-Zaphon בעל צפון

(1,246 words)

Author(s): H. Niehr
I. Name Baal-zaphon literally means the ‘lord of (mount) Zaphon’ and it is a designation of the Ugaritic god Baal. Due to mount Zaphon’s image as the cosmic mountain par excellence in Northwest-Semitic religions, the name ‘Baal-zaphon’ was transferred to further Baal-sanctuaries outside Ugarit. In the OT Baal-zaphon is a place name in northern Egypt where Israel rested during the exodus ( Exod. 14.2, Exod. 9; Num. 33.7). II. Identity In Ugarit the divine name Baal-zaphon only occurs in ritual texts ( KTU 1.39:10; 1.41:33 [rest.]; 1.46:12 [rest.], 14; 1.47:5; 1.65:10; 1.87:36 …

Baal Zebub בעל זבוב

(1,193 words)

Author(s): W. Herrmann
I. Name The name Baal Zebub occurs only four times in the OT ( 2 Kgs. 1.2, 2 Kgs. 3, 2 Kgs. 6, 2 Kgs. 16). In 2 Kgs. 1 an accident of Ahaziah, the king of Israel, and his consulting the oracle of the god Baal Zebub of Ekron is described. For etymological reasons, Baal Zebub must be considered a Semitic god; he is taken over by the Philistine Ekronites and incorporated into their local cult. Zebub is the collective noun for ‘flies’, also attested in Ugaritic (W. H. van Soldt, UF 21 [1989] 369–373: dbb), Akkadian ( zubbu), post-biblical Hebrew, Jewish Aramaic (דיבבא), Syriac ( debbaba) and in other Sem…

Bacchus Βάκχος

(816 words)

Author(s): F. Graf
I. Name Bacchus is the form the Greek Dionysus took in Rome. The name derives from the Greek epithet Βάκχος which denoted both the ecstatic Dionysus and his follower (fem. βάκχη). The epiclesis denoted a fundamental cultic aspect of the Greek god which had become prominent in Roman cult also, as had been the case in other neighbouring cultures: the Etruscans assimilated it as an epiclesis of their god Fufluns, the indigenous equivalent to Dionysus (Fufluns Paxies) (Cristofani & Martelli 1978), the Lydians, like the Romans, transformed it into the name of the god (Bakis) (Graf 1985:285–2…

Baetyl Βαίτυλος

(1,736 words)

Author(s): S. Ribichini
I. Name According to the classical texts, Baitylos (Greek τ for θ: see Eissfeldt 1962:228 n. 1; Hemmerdinger 1970:60) is a ‘Stone-god’. According to Semitic etymology the divine name could be interpreted as ‘House of God/El’, Bethel. Some scholars therefore identify Baitylos with the deity Bethel. The divine name Bethel is known from Gen. 31.13, Gen. 35.7, Amos 5.5 and elsewhere; it may be intended in Jer. 48.13; as a theophoric element in a Babylonian personal name it occurs in Zech. 7.2. The issue of the origin of the divine name Baitylos, of its occurrence in the OT, and…


(525 words)

Author(s): J. Kellens
I. Name The personal name Bagoas to be found in Judith. 12.11 is undoubtedly an Iranian name, although quite difficult to interpret. The second term oas cannot be explained with any certainty, as was acknowledged by Eilers (1954–56) after a strictly formal attempt and, more recently, by Huyse with even stronger scepticism (1990). The first term baga raises problems of another kind. It is a common dialectal singularity of Iranian languages that they gave the old Indo-European word *deiuó (Sanskrit deva, Lat. deus) a negative value and substituted baga- for the former meaning of *daiua-, …
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