Baal Berith

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Fertile Crescent
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Near Eastern Religions
The Levant

Baal Berith, properly Baʿal Berith, was the god of the Canaanite and Israelite city of Shechem, who later came to be viewed as a demon in Christianity. According to the Book of Judges, his temple was destroyed when Abimelech quelled the rising of his subjects.[1][2] The name denotes a form of Ba'al-worship prevailing in Israel, according to the Book of Judges,[3] and particularly in Shechem. The term "Ba'al" is shown by the equivalent "El-berith" to mean "the God of the Covenant." The 'Covenant' (Hebrew: Berith) to which this refers may refer to treaties such as one with the Canaanitic league of which Shechem was the head, or the covenant between Israel and the people of Shechem.[4] The term is considered by some to be too abstract to have been occasioned by a single set of conditions. Moreover, the temple of the god in Shechem implies a permanent establishment. Probably the name and the cult were widespread and ancient (see Baalim), though it is mentioned only in connection with the affairs of Shechem.

Baʿal Berith ("Lord of the Covenant") and El Berith ("God of the Covenant") are two gods, or one god, worshiped in Shechem, in ancient Israel.[5] Berith probably appears also in Ugaritic texts (second millennium BCE) as brt, in connection with Baʿal,[5] and perhaps as Beruth in Sanchuniathon's work.

In the Bible[edit]

Judges is the only Biblical book that mentions Baʿal Berith and El Berith.[6][1][2] It is not clear whether they are separate forms of the gods Baʿal and El or are actually one god. Scholars suppose that he or they may have been (a) fertility and vegetation god(s), based on another passage in Judges.[7] Also unclear is what covenant or covenants are referred to by the name Berith. Elsewhere, some of the Shechemites are called "men of Hamor";[8] this is compared to "sons of Hamor", which in the ancient Middle East referred to people who had entered into a covenant sealed by the sacrifice of a hamor, an ass.[5] "Children" or "sons of Hamor' itself appears in Genesis[9] and Joshua,[10] in both of which, as in Judges,[8] Hamor is called the father of Shechem. Genesis also[11] features a man named Hamor who ruled in the area of Shechem[12] and had a son named Shechem.

Rabbinic tradition equates Baʿal Berith with Beelzebub, the god of Philistine Ekron.[13]

Sanchuniathon's account[edit]

In his euhemeristic account of the Phoenician deities, Sanchuniathon says that a certain Elioun, called also "the Most High", and a female named Beruth dwelt in the neighbourhood of Byblos, on the coast of present-day Lebanon. They had two children—a male called Epigeius/Autochthon/Sky and a daughter called Earth. Because of the latter pair's beauty, the sky and the earth, respectively, were named after them. According to Sanchuniathon it is from Sky and Earth that El and various other deities are born, though ancient texts refer to El as creator of heaven and earth. A relationship with Hebrew bərīt ("covenant") or with the city of Beirut have both been suggested for Beruth. The Hittite theogony knows of a primal god named Alalu who fathered Sky (and possibly Earth) and who was overthrown by his son Sky, who was in turn overthrown by his (Sky's) son Kumarbi. A similar tradition seems to be at the basis of Sanchuniathon's account.

Rabbinic literature[edit]

The idol Baʿal Berith, which the Jews worshipped after the death of Gideon, was identical, according to the Rabbis, with Baʿal Zebub, "the lord of flies," the god of Ekron (II Kings i. 2). He was worshipped in the shape of a fly; and Jewish tradition states that so addicted were the Jews to his cult that they would carry an image of him in their pockets, producing it, and kissing it from time to time. Baʿal Zebub is called Baʿal Berith because such Jews might be said to make a covenant (Hebrew: berith) 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, Baʿal 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.


Baʿal Berith was the chief secretary of Hell, head of its public archives, and the demon who tempted men to blasphemy and murder. When seated among the princes of Hell, he was usually seen as a pontiff. He tells things of the past, present and future with true answers; he can also turn all metals into gold, give dignities to men and confirm them. He was also quite a voluble sort: according to the Admirable History written by Father Sebastien Michaelis in 1612, Baʿal Berith once possessed a nun in Aix-en-Provence. In the process of the exorcism, Baʿal Berith volunteered not only his own name and the names of all the other demons possessing her, but the names of the saints who would be most effective in opposing them.

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • J.C. DeMoor, בעל, Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Alten Testament, hrsg. G.J. Botterweck, H. Ringgren, Bd. 1, Col. 706-718.
  • S. L. MacGregor Mathers, A. Crowley, The Goetia: The Lesser Key of Solomon the King (1904). 1995 reprint: ISBN 0-87728-847-X.
  • "Berith - Goetia, the Lesser Key of Solomon the King: Lemegeton." - Demonology, Fallen Angels, and the Philosophy of Good and Evil. 30 Apr. 2009 <>.

External links[edit]