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BAAL-BERITH.

—Biblical Data ("the Ba'al of the Covenant"):

A form of Ba'al-worship prevailing in Israel (Judges viii. 33), and particularly in Shechem (Judges ix. 4). The term "Ba'al" is shown by the equivalent "El-berith" (Judges ix. 46, R. V.) to mean "the God of the Covenant." In considering what the covenant (or covenants) was over which this Ba'al presided, it must not necessarily be concluded that certain definite treaties of the time were alone referred to, such as the Canaanitic league of which Shechem was the head, or the covenant between Israel and the people of Shechem (Gen. xxxiv.). The term is too abstract to have been occasioned by a single set of conditions. Moreover, the temple of the god (Judges ix. 4, 46) in Shechem implies a permanent establishment. Probably the name and the cult were wide-spread and ancient (see Baalim), though it happens to have been mentioned only in connection with the affairs of Shechem.

J. Jr. J. F. McC.—In Rabbinical Literature:

The idol Baalberith, which the Jews worshiped after the death of Gideon, was identical, according to the Rabbis, with Baal-zebub, "the ba'al of flies," the god of Ekron (II Kings i. 2). He was worshiped in the shape of a fly; and so addicted were the Jews to his cult (thus runs the tradition) that they would carry an image of him in their pockets, producing it, and kissing it from time to time. Baal-zebub is called Baal-berith because such Jews might be said to make a covenant (Hebr. "Berit") of devotion with the idol, being unwilling to part with it for a single moment (Shab. 83b; comp. also Sanh. 63b). According to another conception, Baal-berith was an obscene article of idolatrous worship, possibly a simulacrum priapi (Yer. Shab. ix. 11d; 'Ab. Zarah iii. 43a). This is evidently based on the later significance of the word "berit," meaning circumcision.

J. Sr. L. G.
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