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Baal And Horeb


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#1 Guest_Goodbrew_*

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Posted 09 August 2010 - 07:29 PM

The purpose of this post is to show how the Elijah/Elisha narratives in the middle of 1 and 2 Kings work to counter, not just Baal, but the entire Ancient Near Eastern Pantheon (family of gods: in other words, how the stories show monotheism as opposed to polytheism or some form of syncretism between Yahwistic religion and ANE religion)

This will be done by the following:
Identifying the Baal Elijah is fighting against
Looking at what the defeat of Baal means
Looking at Horeb for an example of how that defeat is taken further
A practical modern day lesson from this.

I will be as brief as I can, in the hopes of not making too long a post (I want people to actually read it), but anything I say you want more information or sources on, I would be happy to give better details.

If you are unfamiliar with the Elijah/Elisha stories, they start in 1 Kings 16 and go about 10 chapters into 2 Kings.

Most of us are familiar with the story of the showdown on Mt. Carmel, where Yahweh shows his power over the impotent god Baal (1 Kings 18). But most modern readers have no idea who Baal is. This may seem like a silly thing to say, as Baal is a false deity, so why should we need to know more than that? Well, knowing who Baal is helps us see how the narratives flow to completely and utterly destroy him every step of the way, not just on Carmel.

Baal of Tyre (the one in Kings) can be easily linked with the Baal in the "Baal Epic"/"Baal Cycle" of the Ugaritic library. This Baal was a storm god (think of Zeus). In most ANE pantheon's, the storm god was the king/ruler. The Baal Epic's primary function is to show the readers how Baal became leader of the gods and establish his divine kingship. As a storm god, he was responsible for rain and fertility of crops and livestock.

When Israel began worshiping Baal, it was out of a polytheism mindset. It was not a rejection of Yahweh (well... yes it was, but not in their minds), but rather an attempted syncretism between Yahwism and Baalism. Because the influence of the surrounding nations was so strong, the Israels were adopting polytheism (I would be happy to provide evidence of this from the text itself).

So lets back peddle to 1 Kings 17:1. The King has just started worshipping Baal, the storm god responsible for rain and fertility, and Elijah bursts onto the scene and says, "Drought time baby." Pwnage. Baal's primary function in human's lives is suddenly stopped by Yahweh.

Then on Mt. Carmel in chapter 18, Yahweh responds by sending "fire from heaven", a phrase often used in ancient text to describe lightning. So Baal was unable to provide rain, and now his main weapon, lightning, is being used by the enemy. Pwnage.

But there is still a problem for the reader. The context of this passage and of the reader is a world that believe in polytheism, so what is to keep somebody from concluding that Yahweh was simply replacing Baal as the storm god? Why not just have the pantheon absorb Yahweh and make him one of them? The new King of the gods!

This is where the theophanies on Mt. Horeb come into play. Elijah is in a cave at the top of Mt. Horeb and we read:

1 Kings 19 "11 The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by."
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper."

What a confusing passage.
Now, before I explain my interpretation, I want to say that this story has a couple of functions, but I am only going to address what it has to say concerning Yahweh and Baal.

Wind, earthquake, and fire are classic storm god imagery and theophanies from surrounding ANE myths. But suddenly Yahweh appears outside them, in a still small voice. Yahweh has transcended the storm god stereotype, and moved into a new concept of deity unlike anything known to the ANE. Both Christian (i.e. Mark S. Smith) and secular (i.e. F.M. Cross) agree that Yahweh not appearing in the first 3 things and then appearing in a still small voice is a complete surprise to the original reader! Yahweh has declared himself independant of the pantheon!
Gods in the ANE existed in the people's eyes by their functions on earth. After having just shown the incredible power of Yahweh on Mt. Carmel, Elijah is very discouraged that Jezebel seems unphased by it. But God is declaring that he is beyond that. He is not limited to the storm god's attributes. He can go even further. This is then seen throughout the Elijah stories, and extends into the Elisha stories. Yahweh essentially fills the role of the entire ANE pantheon!

So, a practical application for the modern reader?
While we don't live in an actual polytheistic world, we live in one with similar properties. The message here is similar to the New Testament one of, "You cannot serve two masters." We don't believe in a family of gods responsible for different aspects of our lives, but we do submit parts of our lives to authorities we believe control them. Even the necesseties of life, money, food, shelter, we revolve our lives around serving the powers that provide us with these things, creating something like a pantheon in our own lives and making God simply part of it, or even ruler of it. But the fact is, this makeshift pantheon doesn't exist. God is the ultimate and only authority on all things.

#2 AFJ

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Posted 27 October 2010 - 05:35 PM

The purpose of this post is to show how the Elijah/Elisha narratives in the middle of 1 and 2 Kings work to counter, not just Baal, but the entire Ancient Near Eastern Pantheon (family of gods: in other words, how the stories show monotheism as opposed to polytheism or some form of syncretism between Yahwistic religion and ANE religion)

This will be done by the following:
  Identifying the Baal Elijah is fighting against
  Looking at what the defeat of Baal means
  Looking at Horeb for an example of how that defeat is taken further
  A practical modern day lesson from this.

I will be as brief as I can, in the hopes of not making too long a post (I want people to actually read it), but anything I say you want more information or sources on, I would be happy to give better details.

If you are unfamiliar with the Elijah/Elisha stories, they start in 1 Kings 16 and go about 10 chapters into 2 Kings.

Most of us are familiar with the story of the showdown on Mt. Carmel, where Yahweh shows his power over the impotent god Baal (1 Kings 18).  But most modern readers have no idea who Baal is.  This may seem like a silly thing to say, as Baal is a false deity, so why should we need to know more than that?  Well, knowing who Baal is helps us see how the narratives flow to completely and utterly destroy him every step of the way, not just on Carmel.

Baal of Tyre (the one in Kings) can be easily linked with the Baal in the "Baal Epic"/"Baal Cycle" of the Ugaritic library.  This Baal was a storm god (think of Zeus).  In most ANE pantheon's, the storm god was the king/ruler.  The Baal Epic's primary function is to show the readers how Baal became leader of the gods and establish his divine kingship.  As a storm god, he was responsible for rain and fertility of crops and livestock.

When Israel began worshiping Baal, it was out of a polytheism mindset.  It was not a rejection of Yahweh (well... yes it was, but not in their minds), but rather an attempted syncretism between Yahwism and Baalism.  Because the influence of the surrounding nations was so strong, the Israels were adopting polytheism (I would be happy to provide evidence of this from the text itself).

So lets back peddle to 1 Kings 17:1.  The King has just started worshipping Baal, the storm god responsible for rain and fertility, and Elijah bursts onto the scene and says, "Drought time baby."  Pwnage.  Baal's primary function in human's lives is suddenly stopped by Yahweh.

Then on Mt. Carmel in chapter 18, Yahweh responds by sending "fire from heaven",  a phrase often used in ancient text to describe lightning.  So Baal was unable to provide rain, and now his main weapon, lightning, is being used by the enemy.  Pwnage.

But there is still a problem for the reader.  The context of this passage and of the reader is a world that believe in polytheism, so what is to keep somebody from concluding that Yahweh was simply replacing Baal as the storm god?  Why not just have the pantheon absorb Yahweh and make him one of them?  The new King of the gods!

This is where the theophanies on Mt. Horeb come into play.  Elijah is in a cave at the top of Mt. Horeb and we read:

1 Kings 19  "11 The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by."
      Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper."

What a confusing passage.
Now, before I explain my interpretation, I want to say that this story has a couple of functions, but I am only going to address what it has to say concerning Yahweh and Baal.

Wind, earthquake, and fire are classic storm god imagery and theophanies from surrounding ANE myths.  But suddenly Yahweh appears outside them, in a still small voice.  Yahweh has transcended the storm god stereotype, and moved into a new concept of deity unlike anything known to the ANE.  Both Christian (i.e. Mark S. Smith) and secular (i.e. F.M. Cross) agree that Yahweh not appearing in the first 3 things and then appearing in a still small voice is a complete surprise to the original reader!  Yahweh has declared himself independant of the pantheon!
Gods in the ANE existed in the people's eyes by their functions on earth.  After having just shown the incredible power of Yahweh on Mt. Carmel, Elijah is very discouraged that Jezebel seems unphased by it.  But God is declaring that he is beyond that.  He is not limited to the storm god's attributes.  He can go even further.  This is then seen throughout the Elijah stories, and extends into the Elisha stories.  Yahweh essentially fills the role of the entire ANE pantheon!

So, a practical application for the modern reader?
While we don't live in an actual polytheistic world, we live in one with similar properties.  The message here is similar to the New Testament one of, "You cannot serve two masters."  We don't believe in a family of gods responsible for different aspects of our lives, but we do submit parts of our lives to authorities we believe control them.  Even the necesseties of life, money, food, shelter, we revolve our lives around serving the powers that provide us with these things, creating something like a pantheon in our own lives and making God simply part of it, or even ruler of it.  But the fact is, this makeshift pantheon doesn't exist.  God is the ultimate and only authority on all things.

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I like the practical part. The patheon of the cares of this life. All of these insitutions, like education, corporations, government have people in them that are influenced by seducing spirits--rulers of the darkness of this world.

I think evolution was one of the things that came from them to a modern secular world.




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