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The Storm God Baal

MaratewariProbably all of you have heard speaking about “Baal”, the Canaanite divinity fiery opposed by the prophets (see e.g. Jeremy chap. 2, verse 23). Baal is an hebrew word borrowed by Phoenicians, and it was the storm’s god  worshipped by Canaanites before the Israelites conquest of the Promised Land.

We know very little about Baal worship and the places where Canaanite gathered to worship their god. Now, archaeologists made a sensational discovery at Tel Burna. The site of Tel Burna is located in the Shephelah region, which served as a border between the kingdoms of Judah and Philistia in the Iron Age. A fertile area that supported agricultural production, the region became known as the breadbasket of the south and as suggested before by some scholars, we believe that the site is the best candidate for Biblical Libnah. The tel’s prominence is notable in its flat-topped shape, extensive size, and fortification which are still visible today.  Survey finds from the 2009 season indicate that the city was an important entity in the Bronze and Iron Ages.

Here archaeologists, headed by Itzhaq Shai of Ariel University, have discovered a 3,300-year-old cult complex where they have found very interesting cultic objects: three connected cups, thought to have been imported from Cyprus; a cylinder-shaped seal; a scarab bearing Egyptian hieroglyphs; fragments of two masks that may have been used in processions; and massive pithoi that may have held goods paid in tithes or stored food for ritual feasts.

“From the finds within the building, we can reconstruct the occurrence of feasts, indicated by several goblets and a large amount of animal bones. Some of these animal bones are burnt, probably indicating their use in some sacrificial activity,” says Itzhaq Shai at Live Science. Shai thinks the complex may have been devoted to the worship of Baal. The discovery is very important in the study of the Old Testament background and to cast light on the relation between Israel faith and Old Canaanite cult.

Simone Venturini

Scrittore

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