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International Encyclopedia Copyright 1969

Baal- ancient Canaanite title for a male deity, meaning simply “lord”.  By about 1500B.C., however:  the people along the eastern Mediterranean coastlands used Baal as the chief name of the storm-god Hadad.  As the personified storm, Baal was the power of nature, considered the king of gods, “the Exalted One, Lord of the Earth.”  The head of the Canaanite pantheon was El, but Baal was the executive force in the divine government.  In northern Syria his consort was the fertility-goddess anath; in the southern Syria it was Astarte; in Palestine during the time of the Hebrew kings it was the mother-goddess Asherah.  As “Lord Storm,” people heard his voice in the thunder; saw his arrow in the Lightning, and through the rain. Considered him the giver of fertility.  The chief myths about him and his cult centered in the annual cycle of nature.  The spring burst of life was the result of the marriage of Baal and the fertility-goddess; the drought resulted when the forces of Mot (death) killed Baal; the rains returned when he was brought back to life.

As a title, ball was also used of the God of Israel, after the Israelites entered Palestine; but because of the great danger in confusing him with the Canaanite Baal there was in Israel a great struggle against the use of the term after the 10th century B.C.

G. Earnest Wright, Harvard Divinity School

Yahweh or Jahveh {ya’we}, the most common name for God in the Hebrew Bible.  It appears 6,823 times.  It is the proper name for the God of Israel, in contrast to the more general name for the Deity, “Elohim.” From the earliest times in the synagogue the name was not pronounced, the word “Adonoi” being used instead.  Since the word was pointed with the vowels of its substitute Adonoi when the vowel points were finally put into the Hebrew text, “YHWH” was mistakenly read as “Jehovah.”  The now more common pronunciation Yahweh is based on inconclusive evidence from ancient sources.

The meaning of “Yahweh is also not certain.  The most convincing scholarly opinion is that it is derived from a Hebrew root meaning to be, and thus “Yahweh” would   mean either  “He Who Always Is” or “He Who Brings Everything into Being.”   In rabbinical literature “Yahweh” is interpreted as referring to God’s attribute of Mercy.  Because the name of Yahweh has four letters in Hebrew it is frequently referred to as the Tetragrammaton  (Gr. “four lettered”).

Consult Moore, G.F., Judaism, Vol. I (1950); Albright, W.F., From the Stone Age to Christianity 92d ed., 1957).

Seymour Siegel,

Jewish Theological Seminary of America

See also Adonoi or Adonai; Elohim.

Cain {kan}, eldest son of Adam and Eve, and brother of Abel, whom he murdered.  For this Cain was cursed by God to live a nomadic existence (Gen. 4).  He was regarded as the ancestor of the Kenite tribe, who, like Israel, worshiped Yahweh, but whose nomadic life Israel disliked.