Ugaritic Baal and `Anat Cycle

*The cycle is in three parts, each written on two tablets (both sides, 6 columns per side). A colophon informs us that it was copied by "Ilimilku, the master," a scribe and assistant in the court of Niqmad king of Ugarit.

Part I: Baal and Yamm-Nahar.

*El calls on a cessation of violence among the gods, and intends to crown Yamm ("Sea"), the god of the chaotic seas (also called Nahar "River"), king of the earth. Baal ("Lord"), the storm god, and Mot ("Death"), the god of the underworld, are rivals. Yamm sends messengers to El’s court demanding that Baal surrender to him as captive. Baal is indignant, and enters battle with Yamm. Kothar-wa-Hasis, the divine craftsman, has been instructed to build Yamm a palace, but instead helps Baal defeat Yamm by designing two war clubs for him. He speaks:

I say to you, O Prince Baal, I declare O Charioteer of the clouds:

Now your enemy, O Baal; now your enemy you will smite. 

Now you will destroy your adversary.

Take your eternal kingdom, your dominion of all generations

Drive Yamm (Sea) from his throne, Nahar (River) from his seat of rule

. . . 

And the club swoops in the hands of Baal, like an eagle in his fingers

It strikes the head of Prince Yamm, between the eyes of Judge Nahar

Yamm collapses, he falls to the earth; his joints tremble, his body is spent

Baal draws and drinks Yamm, he finishes off Judge Nahar

. . . Victorious Baal. Yamm is dead! Baal shall reign!

*By his defeat over Yamm, Baal becomes king of the earth, and El comes to accept this.

Part II: The Palace of Baal.

*Intermediaries petition El on Baal’s behalf to allow him a palace.

Let a house be built for Baal like them of the gods, and a court like the sons of Asherah

. . . Now, too, the seasons of his rains will Baal observe, the seasons of … with snow; 

and he will peal his thunder in the clouds, flashing his lightnings to the earth

*El grants permission, and Baal summons Kothar-we-Hasis to build a palace for him on his sacred mountain Zaphon. The two argue over whether it should have windows; Baal does not want windows (presumably because it might allow Yamm to invade), but in the end agrees to open windows in the clouds. The house—made of silver and gold bricks--takes 7 days to fire.

Fire is set to the house, flame to the palace

See, a day, two days, fire feeds on the house, flame on the palace.

A third, a fourth day, fire feeds on the house, flame upon the palace.

A fifth, a sixth day, fire feeds on the house, flame upon the palace

There, on the seventh day, the fire dies down in the house, the flame in the palace.

The silver turns into blocks, the gold is turned into bricks

*Baal rejoices, slaughters animals, and has a feast with the gods. Baal opens a window in the clouds and taunts his enemies.

He opens a casement in the house, A window within the palace. Baal opens rifts in the clouds.

Baal gives forth his holy voice, Baal discharges the utterance of his lips.

His holy voice convulses the earth, . . . the mountains quake . . . Baal’s enemies take to the woods.

*Baal sends messengers to the underworld to summon his rival Mot to the feast to celebrate his palace.

Part III: Baal and Mot.

*Mot spurns Baal’s invitation, and sends a taunting reply, that just as Baal’s triumphed over Yamm, so Mot will triumph over Baal.

As you smote Lothan the twisting serpent, you desroyed the crooked serpent, the seven-headed tyrant . . . 

Baal will enter his (Mot) mouth, descend into him like an olive-cake . . . etc.

*The messenger advises Baal to take his storm cloud and descend to Mot with his attendants. Baal obeys, but on the way he lusts after a cow and copulates with her "77 . . . no 87 times" and produces a child Math. Apparently he dresses up the child to look like him, and sends it to Mot. The body is discovered and messengers bring back the report that Baal is dead. Anat and El mourn. Anat goes to the underworld and slays Mot, and reports to El. She (or El) has a dream of fruitfulness on the earth, that convinces her that Baal is alive.

In a dream, O kindly, merciful El; in a vision, O Creator of creatures

The heavens rained fat; the rivers flowed with honey.

Thus I knew that Victorious Baal was alive! Living was the Prince Baal {or Lord} of the earth!

*Baal returns, and after 7 years Mot recovers. Baal and Mot fight until they collapse. The goddess Shapsh warns Mot that it is useless to fight Baal, since El is now on his side. Mot finally concedes and declares that Baal is king.

The Cosmic Battle myth can be detected many places in the Bible. 
A. Simple use

Psalm 29.

The sons of God are called to acclaim Yahweh as king. He subdues the waters with his voice and thunder, and is made eternal king, enthroned above the flooding waters.

Ascribe to the LORD, O sons of gods ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. 

2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory of his name; worship the LORD in holy splendor. 

3 The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over mighty waters. 

4 The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty. 

5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon. 

6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. 

7 The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire. 

8 The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. 

9 The voice of the LORD causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare; and in his temple all say, "Glory!" 

10 The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever. 

Psalm 89

Yahweh/El incomparable among the council of holy ones, he rules upon the back of the sea, he crushed the sea monster Rahab (elsewhere Leviathan), created 4 mountains including Zaphon (the sacred mountain of Baal, 30 miles north of Ras Shamra-Ugarit); cf. 4 sacred mountains of Phoenecian religion.

9 Who among the heavenly beings is like the LORD, a God feared in the council of the holy ones, . . . 

10 You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them. 

11 You crushed Rahab like a carcass; you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm. 

12 The heavens are yours, the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it-you have founded them. 

13 Zaphon and Yamin -you created them; Tabor and Hermon joyously praise your name. 

14 You have a mighty arm; strong is your hand, high your right hand.

B. Historicized

Psalm 104. 

Hymn to Yahweh portrayed as a storm God. Leviathan is his toy.

The myth is historicized in the conquest of Yahweh over enemy nations: Egypt, the Assyrians, Babylonians.

Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, you are very great. 

You are clothed with honor and majesty, 2 wrapped in light as with a garment. 

You stretch out the heavens like a tent, 3 you set the beams of your chambers on the waters, 

you make the clouds your chariot, you ride on the wings of the wind, 

4 you make the winds your messengers, fire and flame your ministers. 

5 You set the earth on its foundations, so that it shall never be shaken. 

6 You cover it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. 

7 At your rebuke they flee; at the sound of your thunder they take to flight. 

8 They rose up to the mountains, ran down to the valleys to the place that you appointed for them. 

9 You set a boundary that they may not pass, so that they might not again cover the earth. 

10 You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills, 

11 giving drink to every wild animal; the wild asses quench their thirst. 

12 By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches. 

13 From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work. 

. . . 

25 Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great. 

26 There go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it. 

27 These all look to you to give them their food in due season; 

28 when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. 

29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die 

and return to their dust. 

30 When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground. 

31 May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works- 

32 who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke. 

Habakkuk 3:1-15

In describing God’s triumph over the Egyptians, God is portrayed like the Canaanite god of storm Baal, coming down from his sacred mountain in a terrifying storm and trampling the chaotic waters and piercing the dragon from tail to neck.

3 God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. [Selah] 

His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. 

4 The brightness was like the sun; rays came forth from his hand, 

where his power lay hidden. 5 Before him went pestilence, 

and plague followed close behind. 6 He stopped and shook the earth; 

he looked and made the nations tremble. The eternal mountains were shattered; 

along his ancient pathways the everlasting hills sank low. 

7 I saw the tents of Cushan under affliction; the tent-curtains of the land of Midian trembled. 

8 Was your wrath against River, O LORD? Or your anger against River or your rage against Sea

when you drove your horses, your chariots to victory? 

9 You brandished your naked bow, sated were the arrows at your command. [Selah] 

You split the earth with rivers. 10 The mountains saw you, and writhed; 

a torrent of water swept by; the deep gave forth its voice. 

The sun raised high its hands; 11 the moon stood still in its exalted place, 

at the light of your arrows speeding by, at the gleam of your flashing spear. 

12 In fury you trod the earth, in anger you trampled nations. 

13 You came forth to save your people, to save your anointed. 

You crushed the head of the wicked house, laying it bare from foundation to roof. [Selah] 

{the Hebrew is uncertain; Day translates this as ripping open the corpse (of the dragon) from head to tail}

14 You pierced with their own arrows the head of his warriors, who came like a whirlwind to scatter us, 

gloating as if ready to devour the poor who were in hiding. 

15 You trampled the sea with your horses, churning the mighty waters.

Psalm 74. 

Here and in Isa 51:9-11, the triumph at the Red Sea over Pharaoh’s armies is depicted in terms of cosmic conflict by means of the images of Canaanite mythology. God is called to remember the uproar (cf. Canaanite myth) of his foes.

O God, why do you cast us off forever? Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture? 

12 Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the earth. 

13 You divided the sea by your might; you broke the heads of the dragons in the waters. 

14 You crushed the heads of Leviathan; you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness. 

15 You cut openings for springs and torrents; you dried up ever-flowing streams. 

16 Yours is the day, yours also the night; you established the luminaries and the sun. 

17 You have fixed all the bounds of the earth; you made summer and winter.

Isaiah 51:9-16 9 Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord! Awake, as in days of old, the generations of long ago! 

10 Was it not you who cut Rahab in pieces, who pierced the dragon (tannin)? 

Was it not you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep; 

who made the depths of the sea a way for the redeemed to cross over? . . . 

You have forgotten the Lord, your Maker, 

who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth . . . 

14 The oppressed shall speedily be released; 

they shall not die and go down to the Pit, nor shall they lack bread. 

15 For I am the Lord you God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar

--the Lord of hosts is his name. 

I have put my words in your mouth, and hidden you in the shadow of my hand, 

stretching out the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, 

and saying to Zion, "You are my people.""

-Exodus from Egypt, delivery from exile, and the future redemption described in terms of the cosmic battle myth and as creation and "new creation".

C. Eschatologized

Isaiah 26:19; 27:1

Your dead shall live, my corpse shall rise . . . 

On that day the LORD with his cruel and great and strong sword 

will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, 

Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will kill the dragon that is in the sea. 

Isaiah 24:18-19
  1. Whoever flees at the sound of the terror shall fall into the pit . . . 
  2. For the windows of heaven are opened, and the foundations of the earth tremble. 
The earth is utterly broken, the earth is torn asunder, the earth is violently shaken.
-Yahweh’s theophany and quaking of the earth (Isa 24:18-19) // Baal appearing in storm when assuming kingship, earth quakes in response, Baal builds temple

-opening of windows of heaven (Isa 24:19) // Ugaritic, thunderstorm

-darkening of lights (Isa 24:23) // Ugaritic

-Yahweh’s kingship accompanied by eschatological banquet on Mt Zion to which all nations comes; Yahweh will swallow up death forever (Isa 25:6-8) // after Baal becomes King and completes temple, holds a banquet on Mt Zaphon to which all gods are invited; immediately after this, story of Baal’s conflict with Mot (Death) the god that swallows up humans.

-Yahweh’s triumph over Leviathan is preceded by resurrection of dead (Isa 26:19, 27:1) // Baal’s resurrection from dead and defeat of Mot, followed by threat of Leviathan

Zech 14:6-8 the new creation will obliterate the old created order: the barrier between earth and water removed; the dualism of creation erased--no more hot/cold, day/night, no more seasons.

Isa 65:17 "For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind"

-consciously recalls Genesis, everything is herbivorous, and the serpent is subdued, with only dust to eat. God is on his holy mountain and all is at peace. 

Dan 7 Son of Man descending on clouds enthroned by the Ancient of Days in place of dragons of the cosmic sea derives from Canaanite Baal mythology (Emerton, Day): Baal the rider of clouds enthroned by El over the cosmic sea and dragons. 

Apocalyptic makes use of the cosmic conflict theme: hence in Daniel, the enemy nations opposed to God’s people are depicted as dragons from the primordial sea over which blows God’s wind: "I, Daniel, saw in my vision by night the four winds of heaven stirring up the great sea, and four great beasts came up out of the sea . . . " These noisy, chaotic beasts must be crushed before God’s kingdom can be established. 

This picture is picked up and memorably expanded in Revelation: the evil enemy state opposed to God’s people (here concretized as Rome) is depicted as a beast rising out of the primordial sea and a land beast. They are empowered by a cosmic many-headed dragon that has been cast out of heaven following a battle there. All of these must be destroyed before God’s kingdom can be established. A cosmic battle ensues, and the dragon and the beast are crushed, and when God’s kingdom is established we are pointedly told that "the sea is no more" (21:1)

The creation cosmic battle myth, the Exodus from Egypt, the return from exile, a final restoration all coincide in the prophets (eg. Isa 51): God’s redemption from exile is a "new creation" described in terms of the origin myths: (Isaiah 51:15-16). The end time (Endzeit) is pictured as the beginning (Urzeit) 

The cosmological perspective is enshrined in the cultic structures (May, JBL 82, 1963, 13): Jerusalem as the mythical Mt. Zion, the cosmic mountain in the recesses of the north (Ps 48:3). On top of the mountain is the Temple where Yahweh, like the Canaanite storm god Baal dwells in gleaming mist. Before the temple is a huge bronze bowl filled with water, described as a "sea" (yam), apparently symbolizing the cosmic sea now subdued and contained at Yahweh’s feet. 

D. Demythologized

Here we will notice unmistakeable reflections of the Canaanite cosmogonic myth. But it is a subversion, a demythologizing: there is no conflict, nothing opposes Yahweh. The Yam and Tehom do not challenge Yahweh; they are his creation. Unlike Enuma Elish where humans are created to serve the gods so they can eat, in Genesis, they are the pinnacle of creation. In the historicizing of the myth, it was already demythologized. In Gen 1 it is thoroughly demythologized to serve priestly interests. The language is there, but the package has been emptied.

Genesis 1

1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. 

6 And God said, "Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." 7 So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. 8 God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day. 

9 And God said, "Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear." And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, "Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it." And it was so. . . . 

14 And God said, "Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth." And it was so. . . . 

20 And God said, "Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky." 21 So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth." 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day. 

24 And God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind." And it was so. 

2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 2 And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.