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Comment by Cherry Dowling on December 31st, 2013 at 9:53 am

Certain statements regarding Israelite attitudes to Baal worship are presented as fact in this article, when in reality the subtleties of language and translation reveal a different viewpoint.

“The wide-spread and primitive Semitic root (“ba’al”) may be most nearly rendered in English by “possess.” The term “Ba’al,” therefore, which is usually explained as meaning “lord,” is properly “possessor” or “owner,” and is so used in a great variety of applications in common Hebrew speech. Thus we read of the “ba’al” of a house, of land, of goods, of a woman (that is, as a husband). It is also generalized so far as to be a mere noun of relation. Thus a “ba’al of dreams”is a dreamer; a “ba’al of anger” is an angry man; a “ba’al of wings” is a bird; a “ba’al of edges” is two-edged; “ba’alim of a covenant” are allies; “ba’als of an oath” are conspirators. Further, a “ba’al” may be the owner of animals (Isa. i. 3; Ex. xxi. 28 et seq.), but not of men as slaves or subjects, for the phrase in Isa. xvi. 8, the “ba’alim” of the nations, implies dominion over regions rather than over people. “Ba’al” in Hebrew is therefore essentially different from “adon,” which implies personal sway and control. When any divinity is called “ba’al” or “a ba’al,” the designation must be understood to imply not a ruler of men, but a possessor or controller of certain things. On the other hand, the Assyrian (Babylonian) “bÄ“l,” originally the same word, implies especially lordship over men, though it is also, as in all north-Semitic languages, used as a mere noun of relation.”

This tallies with the view that Baals were regional fertility Gods and not seen by Israelites as on a par with YHWH. Titles applied to the God of this name such as “Adonai” and “Elohim” denote their recognition of his sovereign authority ( ). Jacobs actions in anointing a pillar to El (singular form of Elohim) therefore, were not related to Baal worship, where phallic poles were a focal point of sexual rites to ensure fertility. The problem with the sacred poles for worshippers of Yahweh, or Jehovah, was not their form but their significance and recognition as phallic objects devoted to gods other than Jehovah, as per His command:

“I am Jehovah your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You must not have any other gods besides me. You must not make for yourself a carved image or a form like anything that is in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. You must not bow down to them nor be enticed to serve them, for I, Jehovah your God, am a God who requires exclusive devotion.”

Exodus 28:2-5

This instruction was issued after Jacobs death but before the Israelites entered Canaan with its Baal tradition.

Also Jepthah was likely innocent of human sacrifice as discussed in this Wikipedia Article:

Ethelbert William Bullinger,[5] looks at the word “and” in the Jephthah’s vow (Judges 11:31: “whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering”). As he explains [6] the Hebrew prefix “ו” that is translated in the above passage as “and” is often used as a disjunctive, and means “or”, when there is a second proposition. Indeed this rendering is suggested in the margin of the A.V. Bullinger goes on to give examples from the Bible where the same word has been translated as “or”. According to him, the right translation of this passage is: “whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, or I will offer it up as a burnt offering.” Jephthah’s daughter, being the first that came out of the house, was thus, according to Bullinger, dedicated to God. He also says: “In any case, it should have been unlawful, and repugnant to Jehovah, to offer a human being to Him as a burnt-offering, for His acceptance. Such offerings were common to heathen nations at that time, but it is noteworthy that Israel stands out among them with this great peculiarity, that human sacrifices were unknown in Israel.”

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I use Wikipedia frequently but felt it necessary to offer this feedback. Facts are fun!

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