The name Baal in the Bible
In the Bible, the name Baal is applied to two different men, one town and one idol; Baal the male god of Canaan and Phoenicians; counterpart of the female Asherah (Judges 2:13). In the New Testament the name Baal is mentioned only once. The apostle Paul mentions Baal (Βααλ) in his letter to the Romans, as he reviews the story of Elijah (Romans 11:4).
The name Baal appears often as element in compound names, but the two men named just Baal are:
- A descendant of Reuben (1 Chronicles 5:6).
- A son of Jeiel and Maacah of Gibeon in Benjamin (1 Chronicles 8:30).
Note: this name shouldn't be pronounced as a monosyllabic "Bale" but rather as Bah-Al.
Etymology of the name Baal
The word Baal is derived from the common Hebrew verb בעל (ba'al), meaning to own or possess:
Our name Baal is identical to the masculine noun listed above. It means Lord and that's not a bad word at all. It's even readily applied to the relationship between God and man: "For your husband (ba'al) is your Maker..." (Isaiah 54:5). But because the God-man marriage image is so strong in the Bible, worshiping an un-god named Husband must be extra painful for the true Husband. Hence the lavish use of the adultery image where unfaithfulness to God is concerned (Judges 2:17, Ezekiel 16:15, James 4:4).
NOBSE Study Bible Name List translates the name Baal with Lord, Possessor, Husband. BDB Theological Dictionary lists an enormous array of meanings but sticks with Possessor where translating the many specific Baal names (such as Baal Peor, Baal Zebub). Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names grimly states Lord.
There are many names that incorporate the word ba'al but it should be noted that Baal-names do not necessarily have to do with the idol named Baal. In much the same way as we call Jesus Lord, so called the worshipers of Baal their god Lord. Possibly the most striking Baal-name is Bealiah, meaning Yahweh Is Lord.