The Canaanite deity, Ba’al Hadad, brewed a stormy rivalry against Mot. The husbanding Lord of the land commanded rains of creaturely and earthly fertility while Mot cast a sterile, deadly shadow. The cosmic games were manipulated by the very creatures that depended on Ba’al’s gift. Ba’al! Ba’al! comes the cry, We need your rains! And under every spreading tree the prostitutional persuasion begins… (Isaiah 57:3-10)
The word “ba’al” means “lord”. The word “lord” in itself is not a negative term. It refers to an individual who has authority, rank or ownership. The term “baal” was used by the Canaanite nations surrounding Israel in reference to the “lords” or “gods” of different spiritual function. These spirits governed different areas of the material world. Ba’al Hadad was the most prominent of these Canaanite deities; god of rain, thunder, fertility and agriculture. His mythological lordship of the land required sexual acts and child sacrifice as fuel for his pleasure and supremacy in battle.
Israel, throughout its history, often adopted several baals at a time and performed these sickening superstitious rituals to gain favor in the material realm. Since these baals were not personal in nature, the obligations were more mechanical; such as, if I put a quarter into a gumball machine, I get a gumball. This sort of relationship didn’t require any selfless sacrifice or communication or negotiation or mutual respect or anything else that accompanies personal relationship.
Yahweh was personal. Institutions of sacrifice or ceremony or ritual in the Jewish faith were not for any mechanical purpose whatsoever. Sacrifice and ceremony did not actually secure rain or harvest or paternity or any other material function. The religious system was set up as a constant reminder of the personal and selfless covenant that Yahweh had established with Israel. God set relationship before Israel and then provided several avenues of communication and relational function as well as constant pictorial and audible reminders of the nature of their union.
These pictures were also presented as a stark contrast to the ritualistic labors of Israel’s neighbors. In this sense, they were evangelistic. Yahweh said over and over again “I am completely different from your mechanical and capricious gods.” God gave favor and abundance to Israel because He loved them… .not because they persuaded Him. His only requirement was that they treat one another with the same favor and abundance. Sadly, Israel never kept their part for very long…