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by Wayne Blank
Unfortunately, to their eventual bitter regret, the Israelites became deeply involved in the cult of the Baals. The evil "worship" included perverted sexual behavior, and even sacrificing their infants in fire. It wasn't just misguided - it was outright wickedness.
The term "Baal" is used in various ways in the Old Testament, with the usual meaning of master, or owner. It came to sometimes mean the local pagan god of a particular people, and at the same time all of the idols of the land. It is also found in several places in the plural Baalim, or Baals (Judges 2:11, 10:10). There were many variations, such as the sun god, the god of fertility, and Beelzebub, or the "lord of flies".
According to one tradition, the ancient priest Berosus served Belus, or Bel, as it was originally called. It was allegedly Berosus that partially built the Tower of Babel, named after Baal, or Bel, on the plain of Shinar in the The Tigris-Euphrates Valley. Babylon also originates from the pagan god's name. The writings of Berosus also record the story, apart from the Bible record, of the great Flood.
Through the Moabites, the Israelites became involved with it as the "Baal of Peor" (Numbers 25:3, Deuteronomy 4:3), which they worshiped along with the pagan Ashtoreth, until the time of Samuel (1 Samuel 7:4). Later, the northern ten tribes of Israel became corrupted by it in the time of Ahab (see Kings of Israel and Judah) and Jezebel (1 Kings 16:31-33, 18:19-22). The southern kingdom of Judah also was guilty of it (2 Kings 8:27, 11:18, 16:3, 2 Chronicles 28:2) until their defeat and exile (Zephaniah 1:4-6) by King Nebuchadnezzar.
The priests of Baal were in great numbers (1 Kings 18:19), and of various classes (2 Kings 10:19) throughout the land. Their fraud was exposed however in a great contest with the prophet Elijah on Mount Carmel. Out numbered hundreds to one, Elijah, with the power of God, destroyed them all (1 Kings 18:16-40).