The Ugaritic text of the Myth of Baal (Psalm 104)

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Illustration: The Myth of Baal

Discovered at the site of Ras Shamra (ancient Ugarit), the Myth of Baal is one of the longest literary works of the western Semitic peoples in the second millennium B.C. It begins with a conflict over kingship between Baal, the storm god, and Yam, the sea god. Although Baal is victorious in this battle, he is later defeated and killed by Mot, the god of grain and death. After Baal’s sister, Anat, mourns and buries him, she kills Mot in revenge for her brother’s death. She then grinds up his body and sows it as seed. Subsequently, Baal and Mot came back to life and vie for power once again, with the result that Mot eventually capitulates to Baal. The incident with Yam is interpreted as Baal’s victory over the sea, while the struggle between Baal and Mot is equated to the fretility cycle, with Baal seasonally “disappearing” from the earth.

Psalm 104, a creation psalm, uses some of the imagery known from the Myth of Baal. The Lord’s power over the sea in creation is described (Psalm 104:6 ff). While Baal is the “cloud-rider”, the Lord “makes the clouds His chariot” (104:3). Unlike Baal, however, the Lord is neither killed nor needs help in making the earth produce food (104:13 ff). The attributes of aspects of Baal to the Lords, along with a demonstration of His superiority to Baal, served to exalt and praise the Lord as the true King and God of creation in an environment in which the temptation to worship Baal was rampant.


 

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