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Ba’al Hadad

In case I’ve never mentioned it, I kind of have a thing for storm deities.

Where I grew up, in the southern Midwest, storms are a common and necessary event. You need the rain to grow the crops, and though in winter you can get the sort of deep, soaking rains, in the spring and summer, rain means thunderstorms.

Eye of the Storm God

For some people, this is a very fearful thing, and I respect that. Thunderstorms in the Midwest often mean tornadoes, which are deadly and incredibly destructive. But for me, there was always something that just spoke to me, that lifted the hair on my head and the spirit in my flesh. I like few things better than to stand in the downpour while thunder rolls.

One of the great experiences of my life was to stand on a roof in Jerusalem while thunder crashed and rain poured down upon. That night, after the storm had cleared, the full moon rose as the call to prayer echoed across the valley.

Thunderstorm over Egypt

The middle-east feels ancient in ways that I think are hard for Americans to grasp- our land is old, often primeval, but our presence here is new. Even the First Nations have only been here 12-15,000 years; that’s hardly any time, really. But people have been living in the same spots in the Fertile Crescent for millennia, and when you are there, you can feel it.

Ba’al Hadad (or Adad, and also known as Ishkur) is the ancient Semitic god of thunder. As with many thunder gods, he is also a god of fighting and fertility. His rains bless the crops, but his thunderbolt is thrown in fury.

Ba'al Hadad

He is depicted most often with a sword and a thunderbolt, and sometimes a staff. His consort is the ancient Semitic goddess Asherah/Ashteroth/Anat, who is closely related to Ishtar and Astarte. He is represented also by the sacred bull.

While his cultus was more prevalent in the north, where storms were more crucial to agriculture (since the south depended more heavily on irrigation from the great rivers), he was widely recognized throughout the region. He is one of the deities in the Hebrew Bible who, along with El and Yahweh, become conflated into the monotheistic Adonai of the Israelites. He is also a deity railed against by Hebrew Bible prophets, while at the same time accepted as very real.

I had been aware of Ba’al Hadad in a sort of abstract way for a long time; I knew of the existence of Mesopotamian storm gods, and I was attracted to them as a matter of course.

Ba'al Hadad

But my first real encounter and beginning of understanding of him as a deity came after a fascinating talk delivered by Elisheva Nesher, the Shophet of AMHA, the tribe of Primitive Hebrews.  She did a discussion of primitive Israelite deities, and their depictions, and while I found all of it absolutely riveting, it was Ba’al Hadad who really caught my attention.

No surprise there.

I have yet to explore him as much as I would like, but someday, in my copious free time, I will call his name.

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