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Baal-Berith was the god of the Canaanite city, who later came to be viewed as the demon Baalberith by Christian demonology. His temple was destroyed when Abimelech quelled the rising of his fickle subjects (Jud. iX. 4, 46). The name denotes a form of Ba'al-worship prevailing in Israel, according to the Book of Judges (viii. 33), and particularly in Shechemmarker (Judges ix. 4). The term "Ba'al" is shown by the equivalent "El-berith" (Judges ix. 46, R. V.) to mean "the God of the Covenant." The 'Covenant' (Hebrew: Berith) to which this refers may refer to treaties such as one with the Canaanitic league of which Shechem was the head, or the covenant between Israel and the people of Shechem (Genesis xxxiv.). The term is considered by some to be too abstract to have been occasioned by a single set of conditions. Moreover, the temple of the god (Judges ix. 4, 46) in Shechem implies a permanent establishment. Probably the name and the cult were widespread and ancient (see Baalim), though it is mentioned only in connection with the affairs of Shechem.

In Rabbinical Literature

The idol Baalberith, which the Jews worshipped after the death of Gideon, was identical, according to the Rabbis, with Baal-zebub, "the ba'al of flies," the god of Ekronmarker (II Kings i. 2). He was worshipped in the shape of a fly; and Jewish tradition states that so addicted were the Jews to his cult that they would carry an image of him in their pockets, producing it, and kissing it from time to time. Baal-zebub is called Baal-berith because such Jews might be said to make a covenant (Hebrew. "Berit") of devotion with the idol, being unwilling to part with it for a single moment (Shab. 83b; comp. also Sanh. 63b). According to another conception, Baal-berith was an obscene article of idolatrous worship, possibly a simulacrum priapi (Yer. Shab. ix. 11d; 'Ab. Zarah iii. 43a). This is evidently based on the later significance of the word "berit," meaning circumcision.

Baalberith in Christian demonology

Baalberith was the chief secretary of Hell, head of its public archives, and the demon who tempted men to blasphemy and murder. When seated among the princes of Hell, he was usually seen as a pontiff. He was also quite a voluble sort: according to the Admirable History written by Father Sebastien Michaelis in 1612, Baalberith once possessed a nun in Aix-en-Provence. In the process of the exorcism, Baalberith volunteered not only his own name and the names of all the other demons possessing her, but the names of the saints who would be most effective in opposing them.

References

  • J.C. DeMoor, בעל, Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Alten Testament, hrsg. G.J. Botterweck, H. Ringgren, Bd. 1, Col. 706-718.


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