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The Canaanite god Baal was Yahweh’s main opponent in the struggle for dominance among the ancient Israelites. Karen Armstrong points out that in difficult times the Israelites adhered to Yahwist worship, but that in peace there was a tendency to stray into the Baal worship of the Canaanites (Armstrong 1993, pp. 25–27). The Book of 1 Kings in the Bible tells us that the Baal-Yahweh conflict culminated late in the ninth century BCE during the reign of King Ahab of Israel. Ahab had married Jezebel, a follower of Baal, who was determined to convert Israel to her religion. The prophet Elijah led the fight against Baal, creating with Yahweh various tests which proved the power of his god and established the superiority of Yahweh and monotheism over Baal and his polytheism in the collective Hebrew mind.
Baal, however, was no mean opponent. He was a storm/weather god on whom the Canaanites depended for the fertility of their land. That fertility depended in part on Baal’s relationship with the...
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