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KRONOS Vol X, No. 3
Copyright (c) 1985 by Dwardu Cardona
In describing the religious reformation of Josiah, King of Judah, in the 7th century B.C., Immanuel Velikovsky stressed a verse in the Old Testament which mentions Baal, the Sun, the Moon, and the planets - in that order.(1) He then drew attention to the fact that Democritus used a "division" that was identical, except for the replacement of Baal with Venus - i.e., Venus, the Sun, the Moon, and the planets.(2) On that meagre evidence - and on no other - Velikovsky identified the Canaanite Baal as a personification of the planet Venus.(3)
Velikovsky also offered the opinion that, in an earlier period, Baal had been a name for Jupiter while, earlier still, even a name for Saturn.(4) Despite the fact that no evidence at all was ever offered for this contention, some of Velikovsky's followers picked it up and, without any evidence of their own, repeated the assertion.(5) Other researchers, with their own axe to grind, have presented Baal as representing Mars.(6)
The question that faces us, I need not stress, has nothing to do with who is right and who is wrong. But, if our mythological studies are to progress, erroneous planetary identifications have to be laid to rest. Only then can mythology be viewed in the proper perspective as it applies to cosmic catastrophism which, because of recent rival scenarios, is fast becoming a muddled issue.
Velikovskians are not the only ones who have been trapped in the maze of the Baalim. Forgetting what the ancients themselves said about their gods and those of their neighbors - forgetting, or ignoring, the actual identities embedded in the very names and appellations of these deities - conventional mythologists seem to have vied with one another in confounding what had been clear all along.
Baal eventually found his way into Egypt where he was worshipped at Tanis and Memphis.(7) Ramses II had such respect for the imported deity that he considered himself a warrior like Baal.(8) Of this Egyptianized Baal, A. Wiedmann had this to say:
To E. A. Wallis Budge, Baal was:
To most modern mythologists, Baal was a solar,(11) or a storm and weather god.(12) But there are other theories.
Can we restore order out of this chaos?
In an Ugaritic myth, Baal allows himself to be slain by Mot, god of the underworld. Anat, sometimes referred to as his sister, goes in search of him. When she finds him, she carries his dead body to the top of Mount Tsaphon. Baal regains life and, for a time, continues to reign supreme.(13) Bereft of its trimmings, which have here been omitted, the basis of this myth is identical to those dealing with the death and resurrection of Attis, Osiris, and Adonis - to mention a few. Because of this, William Albright considered Baal a god of vegetation. According to this view, Baal, or Attis, or Osiris, or Adonis, dies when the vegetation dies, and comes back to life with the regrowth of vegetable matter.(14) This, of course, had been the grand theory of James Frazer who explained just about all of mythology in such ecological terms.(15) Originally propounded in a two-volume work, Frazer's main opus on this subject finally swelled into twelve massive tomes. Never has so much effort and erudition been wasted on such a wild goose chase. Unfortunately, despite some early criticism, Frazer's authority carried such weight that even today it is difficult to shake loose the manacles with which he has shackled the correct interpretation of myth. Albright chose to adhere to Frazer's ill-founded interpretation even though Cyrus Gordon, and others, urged mythologists that this is a mistake. Since the god, or gods, in question were said to have been slain once and only once, any cyclic interpretation of the myths becomes untenable.(16)
Are not Attis, Osiris, and Adonis all identifiable as personifications of Saturn?(17) Should not Baal, therefore, also be so identified?
But let us not leave it at that.
To the Babylonians, Baal was known as Bel. Of this god, George Rawlinson wrote:
But, rather than describing "the classical Jupiter", these epithets, especially that of "procreator", more correctly describe the primeval Saturn - as a perusal of David Talbott's work on the subject will easily disclose.(19)
Berossus, who was a priest of Bel at Babylon sometime during the 3rd century B.C., translated certain Babylonian texts on both astrology and astronomy into Greek. He also compiled a history of his country in three volumes. Unfortunately, all of his works have perished, but extracts from his history have been preserved by Alexander Polyhistor, Flavius Josephus, and Eusebius Pamphili.
As was the common practice with the compilation of ancient histories, that of Berossus commences with the creation and organization of the cosmos. In this history it is Bel, here rendered Belus, who created the stars, the Sun, the Moon, and the five planets - in that order.(20)
Is not the above "division" as identical to that of the Second Book of Kings as is the one presented by Democritus? Should we then, in imitation of Velikovsky, supplant the "Baal" of II Kings with "the stars" of Berossus? Sarcasm is not my intent. But, does not the above invalidate the single piece of evidence Velikovsky supplied in favor of Baal's identity as Venus?
As a creator god, Belus/Bel was the equivalent of the Hebrew El/Elohim who was Saturn.(21)
But what then of Elus/El who was considered to have been the father of Belus/Bel/Baal?(22)
Not only is there no contradiction here, the very equation serves as confirmation. The mythic theme which makes Saturn his own son and/or father has been mentioned before in the pages of this periodical. In a while, it shall be mentioned again.
In a recent article, Ev Cochrane ably demonstrated that the traditional ''first man" of various nations was merely a prototype of Saturn.(23) It was no different among the Babylonians. Alexander Polyhistor wrote:
"For the Babylonians say that the first man was Belus, who is Kronos; and that of him was born a son Belus. . . . "(24)
Here, then, from the ancients' own mouth, we have a triple revelation: a) that Belus was Kronos who was Saturn; b) that the "first man" was Saturn, here rendered Belus; and c) that Saturn (Belus) was the son of Saturn (Belus).
Among other lessons, the latter should teach cosmic catastrophists that divine genealogy does not necessarily imply the generation of planets from other planets.
Consider now Rawlinson's words:
It is not that, after Polyhistor, this additional piece of evidence is required, but Rawlinson, who saw in Bel "the classical Jupiter", should have lain greater store in his own comparison. Apart from the fact that it was Saturn, and not Jupiter, who was known as the first king of the world,(26) Bel Nimrod was merely another Babylonian name for Saturn (27)
Even so, let me emphasize that Baal, Belus, or Bel, was not really a name of Saturn. "Baal", like "Bel", actually meant "Lord" and/or "Master".(28) (Alfred de Grazia's contention that "Baal" meant "god"(29) is incorrect.) "Belus", of course, is the Latinized form of "Belos", which, in turn, is the Hellenized - i.e., Greek - form of "Bel". As such, these must be understood as titles or epithets. The ancient Near East recognized more than one such Lord. Each was differentiated by an additional cognomen. Thus we read of Baal Hadad, Baal Hammon, Baal Tsaphon, Baal Shamem, Baal Zebul, and many others. Collectively, they were known as the Baalim - which is simply the plural of "Baal". Did they all represent the same Saturn?
3. The Baalim
Consensus of opinion has generally favored different identities. William Smith and Stanley Cook, for instance, have stated that "the Baals [or Baalim] are not to be regarded necessarily as local variations of one and the same god, like the many Virgins or Madonnas of Catholic lands, but as distinct numina".(30)
It is not my intention, nor is this the proper place, to examine each and every Baal with which the ancient Near East, and other Phoenician settlements, was and were blessed (or cursed). Instead, I intend to call on William Heidel, not so much as an appeal to authority (since, in some matters, I disagree completely with him also) but because he arrived at his conclusion without having had a Saturnian axe to grind. Heidel knew nothing of the Saturnian scenario that has slowly been unfolding these last few years. His insight concerning the Baalim was reached through a detailed comparison of the Hebrew Yahweh with the varied gods of Canaan. Like Smith and Cook, Heidel also believed in the individuality of the various Baalim but, unlike them, he realized that, in the end, they all reduce to one - Kronos/Saturn. Thus he wrote:
Saturn's composite figure, however, did not derive from a multiplicity of deities who were merged into one, but from the belief of the ancients that the Saturnian luminary was once composed of various parts - orb, ring(s), crescent(s), axis; from the likeness it had to various objects - boat, bull, trident, winged rod; from the various interpretations of what it actually was - male, female, benign, malign; as also from the series of evolutionary changes it underwent - father, son, dead, and resurrected.
When the totality of myth and the universality of religious beliefs are taken into account as a tout ensemble, it becomes obvious that the identification of the Baalim with one another was not due to an "irresistible tendency". As Heidel himself understood, even the gods of the Celts were identified with Saturn. How far reaching, then, would this "irresistible tendency" have been? How could different nations, separated by time and geography, have fallen prey to the same tendency?
These gods did not merge into "the single complex of Cronus-Saturn"; they always had been representatives of him. The ancient Hebrews understood this quite well which is why, although the Old Testament often speaks of Baal and the Baalim, only seldom is any one particular Baal singled out by designation from amid the fold.(33) To them, Baal was always the Baal(34) - that is the Lord - for they knew that, despite his varying epithets, there was only one.
1. II Kings 23:5.