His strongest denunciation is directed against the religious practices of the time in Judea - the worship of the Canaanite local deities (the Baals), the Phoenician Tammuz, and the sun and other Babylonian and Assyrian gods (vi., viii., xvi., xxiii.); he maintained vigorously the prophetic struggle for the sole worship of Yahweh.
"the Baal"; and the baals of different tribes or sanctuaries were not necessarily conceived as identical, so that we find frequent mention of Baalim, or rather "the Baalim" in the plural.
Baal being originally a title, and not a proper name, the innumerable baals could be distinguished by the addition of the name of a place or of some special attribute.
2 Accordingly, the baals are not to be regarded necessarily as local variations of one and the same god, like the many Virgins or Madonnas of Catholic lands, but as distinct numina.
Each community could speak of its own baal, although a collection of allied communities might share the same cult, and naturally, since the attributes ascribed to the individual baals were very similar, subsequent syncretism was facilitated.
The common source of all streams, and proceeding along this line it was possible for the numerous baals to be regarded eventually as mere forms of one absolute deity.
The idea which has long prevailed that Baal was properly a sky-god affords no explanation of the local character of the many baals; on the other hand, on the theory of a higher development where the gods become heavenly or astral beings, the fact that ruder conceptions of nature were still retained (often in the unofficial but more popular forms of cult) is more intelligible.
One of the best known from earlier days is the great Godthaab Fjord (or Baals Revier) north of 64° N.
The male god Dagon has his partner Astarte (qq.v.), and Baal-zebub, a famous oracle of Ekron (2 Kings i.) finds a parallel in the local " baals " of Palestine.'
The worship of the local sanctuaries did nothing to promote the sense of the religious unity of Israel; Yahweh in the age of the Judges ran no small risk of being divided into a number of local Baals, givers of natural good things each to his own locality.
4 On the old Baals of Palestine, see H.
Although the national God was at once a transcendent ruler of the universe and also near at hand to man, the unconscious religious feeling found an outlet, not only in the splendid worship at Jerusalem, but in the more immediate intercessors, divine agencies, and the like; and when Judaism left its native soil the local supernatural beings revived - as characteristically as when the old placenames threw off their Greek dress - and they still survive, under a veneer of Mahommedanism, as the modern representatives of the Baals of the distant past.'
8 So the Baals 1 Leonard, The Lower Niger and its Tribes (3906), p. 186.
Its only result for the majority was a falling back on the earlier popular cultus of the Baals, and on the heathen customs introduced, or reintroduced, by Josiah's grandfather, Manasseh.