Enter the Storm-God

Probably the most important bit of evidence that links the religions of the ancient world is the way the storm-god consistently emerged at the head of the pantheons. From Sumer to Rome and beyond, a pattern was repeated in which a first generation of primordial gods was replaced by anthropomorphic deities, who in turn were replaced, often violently, by a younger group headed up by a god of weather. These transfers of power were sometimes violent and usually resulted in the second-gen gods confined to the underworld.

To the Amorites near ancient Israel, the storm-god was called Baal, a title (“lord”) that eventually replaced his original name, Hadad or Addu. As we noted earlier, Baal became king of the gods by defeating the favorites of El, the sea-god Yamm and Mot, the god of death.

The Hurrians, Hittites, and others in northern Mesopotamia (the lands now in northern Iraq, Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan) called the storm-god Tarhunz, Teshub, and Teisheba. He became king by defeating his father, the grain-god Kumarbi and a couple of his monstrous sidekicks.

This story was passed on to the Greeks as the conflict between Zeus and Kronos, the Titanomachy, a ten-year war in which the Olympians, led by the storm-god, rebelled against the Titans. They eventually prevailed and exiled most of the old gods to Tartarus, a place as far below Hades as the earth is below heaven, a special prison reserved for gods.

A version of this was handed down to the Romans, although they believed Saturn managed to escape his underworld prison after losing the war with Jupiter, settling in western Italy where Rome would be founded centuries later.

The only place in the ancient world where the storm-god didn’t emerge on top of the pantheon was Babylonia. There, Enlil was replaced by Marduk, the city-god of Babylon, rather than by the storm-god, Ishkur. Although there are clear parallels between the Babylonian creation myth, the Enuma Elish, and the Ugaritic account of Baal’s battle with Yamm, Marduk was technically not a weather-god. His origins are so humble that scholars don’t know much about him before Babylon emerged as a political power during the reign of Hammurabi. Most of Marduk’s attributes appear to have been borrowed from deities that had been worshiped in Mesopotamia for centuries, including the storm-god.[1]

Like Baal, Marduk is portrayed as a warrior, but that description also applies to other popular gods, such as the Canaanite plague-god Resheph, who was identified with the Babylonian god Nergal, and the Akkadian deity Ninurta. Marduk’s symbol, the spade, suggests that he was originally associated with agriculture, possibly in connection with the construction and maintenance of irrigation canals.[2]

Outside of the Bible, most of what we know about the storm-god comes from the texts discovered in 1928 at Ras Shamra in Syria, the Amorite kingdom of Ugarit destroyed around 1200 BC. As you would expect of a god of weather, he was believed to be the one responsible for the conditions necessary for agriculture.[3] Not coincidentally, his battles with the gods of death and the sea are similar to the tensions between Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon in Greek mythology.

On another level, and more relevant to our study here, Baal was believed to be the lord of the Rephaim, who are called “warriors of Baal” in the Rephaim texts found at Ugarit. Some scholars believe that the Legend of Aqhat, the text designated KTU 1.17, indicates that Baal was believed to have the power to restore life to the dead.[4]

Interestingly, the abode of Baal was very near sites identified with his “father.” Baal’s palace was on Mount Zaphon, today called Jebel al-Aqra. It’s an impressive peak on the Turkish coast just north of the border with Syria, rising more than fifty-two hundred feet from the Mediterranean Sea. According to the Baal Cycle, Zaphon is where the storm-god built his royal home with gold, silver, and fire.[5] It’s very near the Amanus mountain range, identified with the Phoenician god Baal-Hammon (“lord of the Amanus”), and the ancient city of Kumar, identified as a home of his Hurro-Hittite equivalent, Kumarbi. And, as we noted earlier, El was probably venerated at Zaphon before it was associated with Baal.[6]

Because ancient Israel had a lot of contact with Baal-worshipers, the name of Baal’s mountain was burned into the Hebrew psyche. The word for the compass point north in other ancient Semitic languages was simʾal, but it’s tsaphon in Hebrew to this day. This is a clue that helps explain why God chose to part the Red Sea on Israel’s way out of Egypt.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel, ‘They are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” And they did so.

Exodus 14:1–4 (ESV)
Bad Moon Rising

Have you ever wondered why God told Moses to turn around? The Israelites were getting away! Why the about face? Why camp in front of a place called Baal-zephon—which, you’ve noticed, is named for Baal (“lord of Zaphon”)?

More important, what is a place named for the mountain of the king of the Canaanite gods doing on the shore of the Red Sea in Egypt?

These are easy questions to answer if we apply a little history. First, Egyptologists know very well that migrants from Canaan, Amorites called Hyksos (“rulers of foreign lands”) by the Egyptians, controlled northern Egypt for roughly two hundred years between about 1750 and 1550 BC. They brought their art, their architecture, and their gods with them, including Baal. Remember, Baal fought a battle with the sea-god, Yamm, to become king of the gods. Archaeologists have found plenty of evidence at the capital city of the Hyksos, Avaris, to confirm that Baal was not only worshiped there, he was also the patron god of sailors.[7]

The showdown at the Red Sea was specifically engineered by Yahweh. He didn’t part the sea because it was Israel’s only route of escape; He told Moses to turn around and camp in front of a place sacred to Baal.

The smackdown at the Red Sea was only one of several confrontations in the Bible between the Hebrew prophets and the storm-god. The most obvious, of course, was the challenge on Mount Carmel between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. There is more back story to this showdown than we usually hear in church.

For one thing, God sent a drought that lasted three and a half years before the confrontation, then He consumed the sacrifice with the storm-god’s favorite weapon, the thunderbolt. Ahab’s victories over larger Aramean armies in 1 Kings 20, in spite of his rebellious spirit, were victories of God over forces loyal to the storm-god. Note that the king of Aram was named Ben-Hadad (“son of the storm-god”). Letting him go free, a man God had “devoted to destruction,” sealed Ahab’s doom.[8]

There are numerous examples in the Old Testament where epithets of Baal are applied to Yahweh. It’s as though the prophets of God were sending a message to their pagan colleagues: “You think Baal is all that, but he’s not. The real power in heaven belongs to Yahweh.”

For example, Dr. Michael Heiser breaks down how the heavenly scene described in chapter 7 of the Book of Daniel follows the outline of the Baal Cycle:

Ugarit (Baal Cycle)Bible (Daniel 7)
(A) El, the aged high God, is the ultimate sovereign in the council.(A) The Ancient of Days, the God of Israel is seated on the fiery, wheeled throne (cf. Ezekiel 1). Like Ugaritic El, he is white haired and aged (“ancient”).
(B) El bestows kingship upon the god Baal, the Cloud-Rider, after Baal defeats the god Yamm in battle.(B) Yahweh-El, the Ancient of Days, bestows kingship upon the Son of Man who rides the clouds after the beast from the sea (yamma) is destroyed.
 (C) Baal is king of the gods and El’s vizier. His rule is everlasting.(C) The Son of Man is given everlasting dominion over the nations. He rules at the right hand of God.[9]

Baal is repeatedly called the “Charioteer of the Clouds” in the Ugaritic texts.[10] Not only was a similar epithet applied to Yahweh in the Bible (Isaiah 19:1, Nahum 1:3, Zechariah 10:1), He literally appeared in a thick cloud to the Israelites during the Exodus,[11] Elijah in the wilderness, Ezekiel,[12] and the apostles at the Transfiguration[13] (which occurred, not coincidentally, on Mount Hermon).[14] And, lest we forget, Jesus Himself announced that when He makes His triumphant return to the earth, He’ll be “coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”[15]

Does this mean Yahweh was Baal, or that the Israelites and Canaanites somehow confused the two? No. It’s another example of the astonishing pride of the created being who rebelled in Eden and subsequently manifested to the ancient world as the storm-god. Satan/Baal tried to claim titles that rightfully belong to Yahweh.

[1] Daniel Schwemer, “The Storm-gods of the Ancient Near East.” JANER 7.2 (2008), 128.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Wolfgang Herrmann, “Baal.” In K. van der Toorn, B. Becking, & P. W. van der Horst (Eds.), Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (2nd extensively rev. ed.). (Leiden; Boston; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999), 134.

[4] Ibid., 135–136.

[5] Interestingly, per KTU 1.4:vi:30-38, the process took seven days. Nicolas Wyatt, Religious Texts from Ugarit(2nd ed.). (London; New York: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002), 106.

[6] Lipiński, op. cit., 64.

[7] Manfred Bietak, “The King and the Syrian Weather God on Egyptian Seals of the Thirteenth Dynasty.” Studies in Honor of Ali Radwan, Preface by Z. Hawass, ed. by K. Daoud, S. Bedier, Sawsan Abd el Fatah, SASAE 34/I, (Cairo: Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, 2006), 201–212.

[8] 1 Kings 20:42.

[9] Dr. Michael S. Heiser, “What’s Ugaritic Got to Do With Anything?” Logos.com, https://www.logos.com/ugaritic, retrieved 11/23/18.

[10] For example, KTU 1.2:iv:8, 1.2:iv:29, 1.3:ii: 40, 1.3:iv:4, 1.4:v:60, 1.10:i:7, and elsewhere.

[11] The pillar of cloud that went before the Israelites (see Exodus 13:21–-22, 14:19–20, and others) and the glory of the Lord over the tent of meeting (for example, Exodus 33:9–10 and 40:34–38).

[12] His famous wheel-within-a-wheel vision; see Ezekiel 1:4.

[13] Matthew 17:5, Mark 9:7, Luke 9:34–35.

[14] Hermon is the only “high mountain” near Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13).

[15] Matthew 24:30; also Mark 13:26 and Luke 21:27.


  1. Love this

    Father God is a good good Father

    Always letting people choose
    Showing who is sovereign and in control

    He is!

    Elijah said for the Israelites to choose
    If Baal serve him
    If God serve him

    God always has his remnant
    7000 that did not bow their knee.

    Again in Ezekeil God stands up for His Holy Name
    Gog Magog

    One of Jesus’s titles is Desire of All Nations
    We need Jesus

    My fav is when God talks to Elijah
    In a whisper not in an earghquake.

    When Elisha saw Elijah in a cloud going to Heaven
    His mantle fell to the ground
    Elisha said
    My Father, My Father!

    Elijah comes back before the terrible day of the Lord!
    Some say Enoch

    God has stored up hail since the beginning of time.
    The Book of Job states it better than me.

    I love that Book

    Jesus The Christ!
    The Messiah!

    Walked in the garden in the cool of the day with Adam.

    Jesus the only begotten of the father full of grace and truth
    The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory
    The glory of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth.

    For 40 years come this resurection sunday or passover God saved me, redeemed me, sanctified me.

    Of course i did not know all those words or what they meant
    I just knew Jesus changed me from ?

    He has never left me nor forsaken me
    But mostly the precious Holy Spirit, my unpaid counsellor and comforter all these long years has been my constant friend, Jesus always advocating before the throne room of grace.
    Father God is simply a Father
    In the Book of Daniel
    The Ancient of Days

    O how I love Jesus b/c he first loved me

    The Book of Jude
    To be presented with great joy to the Father

    To say thank u for adopting me in the family of God for I did not receive a spirit of fear but of adoption whereby I cry
    Abba Father.

    The little Book of Obadiah.
    One day that prophecy will happen

    I have many friends I would like to see in Heaven
    I cannot wait.

    Swing low O chariot
    Come for to carry me home


    In Christ


  2. Derek: Thank you once again for the insight the Lord has given you concerning the Battle in the Heavenlies that ensues to this day (Reading “Enter the Storm-god” about the significance of the slaying of the prophets of Baal and the encampment at the Red Sea). Yahweh is The King of Kings & the Lord of Lords. Keep up His good work that is in you. Blessings & Wisdom from above be yours!

  3. I love your teaching on this I will be teaching on spiritual warfare

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