Baal, Ashtaroth, The Groves, and Deliverance
By Curt Wildy
And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim: 12 And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that [were] round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger. 13 And they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth.
When creating His holy Bible, God chose His words perfectly; every one of them has meaning in the context in which He provided them. I thoroughly believe that He chose His words not only in light of their meaning, but in light of the meaning of the root words from whence He has ordained that they should derive. This is important because we can get a wealth of spiritual information by looking at the Greek and Hebrew words and their roots.
Some reject this approach, thinking it too carnal and fleshly an undertaking. There are those who scoff at the use of concordances and lexicons and would never think to make use of such things. Yet, God exhorts us to study His word, not boast in running from it. We must wait on Him for insight and understanding, but we should never forsake the means that God has given us to understand His word. The use of means never negates the fact that true knowledge and wisdom is all of Divine grace and power; we must always wait on the Lord for all spiritual understanding of Truth.
Keeping these things in mind, I want to turn to the passage above; in it, we see a picture of every Christian. I indeed say a Christian, given that many would argue that these verses only apply to the false prophets and false professors amongst the church; they argue that only the deceivers can serve Baalim. Although it may have some application to this effect, it is not the spiritual sense; to limit it to false professors, and not bring it home to ourselves, undermines a very important intent of the passage. Remember, God is talking about the children of Israel. Moreover, in the historic context, we see that God grants deliverance later in the chapter; only to His elect, the Israel of God, does He grant spiritual deliverance. We must labour to understand the type and apply it to our everyday lives.
What I Do Not Mean
All of God’s people have gone astray; this we know. We know that we were all just as dead in trespasses and sins, and just as much the children of wrath by nature, as the reprobate. Yet, this is not what I mean when I say that this passage typifies us. When we read of the children of Israel serving Baalim, we need to consider how this applies to the quickened and converted child of God. Before doing so, let me assure you that I do not mean that any Christian truly worships another God, one other than the Triune Jehovah. Despite what many of the Primitive Baptists argue, no child of God will remain a Hindu, Muslim, Talmudist, Animist, or pagan idolator after salvation. No Christian would outright worship Baal and Ashtaroth anymore than they would actively worship Zeus, Krishna, Quetzalcoatl, Allah, or Buddha; their heart is set on Christ alone and in Him do they have their hope (for they know whom they have believed, and they are persuaded, whether with great faith or little faith, that He is able to keep that which they have committed unto Him against that day).
But there is a very real sense in which all true Christians serve Baalim in this world, in which they obey Baal and Ashtaroth for a season. The key to this precept lies in the understanding of what these two names really mean. When we carefully look at the original meaning of these words, some very needful truths are opened to us. However, before we address the definitions, we need to consider….
Doing Evil In The Sight of God
Notice that the first portion, of the first verse, in the opening passage declares And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD. Every Christian has to confess that they do evil in the sight of the Lord. It does not say that they were evil in His sight but that they did evil. There are many who do evil in the sight of Jehovah God, because they are evil in His sight (Scripture is full of such examples). With the saints, however, it is not so. In addressing the sin of David concerning Bathsheba and Uriah, God states in 2 Samuel 11:27 “But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.” The thing David did was literally a “displeasure in the eye or sight of God.” David was still His beloved child, a man after His own heart — but the thing he did was evil in His sight. David understood this when he declared in the historic context “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done [this] evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, [and] be clear when thou judgest (Psalm 51:4).”
Whenever any Christian sins therefore, they remain beloved of God despite the thing they did being an evil in His sight. Though it may not always seem as such in our experience, God is always mindful of everything that we say, think, and do for “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things [are] naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do (Hebrews 4:13).” This is why the Apostle John exhorts us to “do those things that are pleasing in His sight (1 John 3:22).” However, the experience of every quickened saint affirms that we so often fail to do that which is pleasing in His sight. Whatever pleasing thing we do, is solely wrought by Him in us. We have no good deeds, no pleasing works of our own outside of His doings and ordainings.
Baal (Strong’s H1168) was the supreme male divinity of the Phoenicians and Canaanites and was the general equivalent of Zeus in Greek, Bel Marduk in Babylonian, and Jupiter in Roman mythology (though he was also strongly identified with Hercules, Ada, Melqart and other such false deities). In addition to being a false sun god, Baal was also deemed the god of storms and thunder; many believe he is simply a deified form of Nimrod (Genesis 10:8-9) and associate him with pagan sun worship as well. Note that Baalim is simply the plural of Baal (every false god was considered a baal, or lord, so the Canaanites often setup multiple idols/statues in one location). In Jeremiah 19:5 we see that Baal is one and the same with the false Ammonite deity Moloch and Easton states that Chemosh is the Moabite form of Moloch. For this study, I will refer to this false deity collectively as Baal or baalim. Baal (H1168) is the proper noun form of the Hebrew word of the same spelling (baal – H1167 – ba`al – בַּעַל) which means owner, husband, lord, citizens, and inhabitants. The H1168 form always refers to this false god(s), people of the same name, or a town in Simeon. However, the H1167 form is found 82 times in the AV/KJV and is translated man 25x, owner 14x, husband 11x, have 7x, master 5x, man given 2x, adversary 1x, and the rest via various other words.
Note that the Ammonitish version of Baal (Moloch – H4428 – מֶלֶך – melek) means king and comes from the root Hebrew verb malak (H4427 – מָלַך) meaning to reign; to ascend the throne; to induct into royalty; to take counsel. Moloch was also known as Malcam or Milcom (also meaning king or one who reigns). The Moabitish form, Chemosh (H3645 – כְּמוֹשׁ כְּמִישׁ ) means the powerful and is from an unused root meaning to subdue. Clearly the language of authority shines through in these names.
Going back to the word baal (H1167), it is interesting that it is translated most often in the AV/KJV as man. As I aim to develop, the worship of Baal is ultimately the worship of man in the sense of self. When we get to the heart of it, we will see that the serving of Baal is the serving of sinful self just like the serving of its modern day counterpart (the Arminian christ) is the serving of self. The wicked Canaanites worshipped Baalim with as much zeal and sincerity as the Arminians worship their false and idolatrous lord/christ/baal in our day. However, such self-serving manifests in many other ways as well, including the idolatrous manner in which we perceive those who fulfil our lusts and give us pleasure. We see a picture of Baalim worship when we consider the excess adoration given to the stars, (American and other national) idols, celebrities, sports luminaries, and other notable figures and men of renown. Especially amongst younger people, it is quite common to hear them speak of athletes, actors, rock stars, and the like as “gods” (e.g. the gods of metal, or “so and so” is a god).
Baal as Lord/Master/King
As I went over in the post titled Forgiveness When Bowing In The House of Rimmon, particularly in Part Two, a master is one to whom you yield yourself to obey; it is part of the master/servant authority structure.
Romans 6:16 declares “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” Who is it that we yield ourselves to obey? Is it our political leaders? Not hardly; whatever yielding and obeying we give to our leaders, in our own strength, is based solely upon (a) our desire to obtain the benefits (pride, comfort, gain) that we would potentially receive from such obedience or (b) our desire to avoid the detriments (punishment, loss, or other harm) that we would potentially receive due to disobedience. What about our employers? Do we yield ourselves to obey them? No, not really. Whatever yielding we do to them, naturally, is out of our motivation to either (a) make a name for (or feel good about) ourselves, increase in riches, obtain some other benefit or to (b) not get fired, not look bad, not decrease in riches, etc. What of children submitting themselves to their parents, or wives to their husbands, or citizens to the laws of the land? Surely in some way we yield ourselves to obey such things… surely, we do not; we have no natural ability to obey anything other than ourselves. We yield ourselves to ourselves, giving us the appearance of yielding to authority; yet it is all just a means of satisfying our own interests, lusts, and desires. The same applies to those who pretend to obey God; any obedience mustered through ones own natural strength is but feigned obedience, motivated by our pride and covetousness; it is sheer filthiness in the sight of God.
We do not have to wonder about what it is that we submit ourselves to by nature; the Holy Spirit tells us that we yield ourselves to obey: (1) sin (John 8:34, Romans 6:17); (2) presumptuous sins (Psalm 19:13); (3) our sinful lusts (Romans 6:12); (4) unrighteousness unto sin (Romans 2:8, 6:13); (5) iniquity (Psalm 119:133, Romans 6:19); (6) divers lusts and pleasures (Titus 3:3); and (7) uncleanness (Romans 6:19). This is precisely how it has always been since the Garden. Every man and woman is tempted, when they are drawn away of their own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death (James 1:14-15). This is why we are exhorted to “Love not the world, neither the things [that are] in the world… For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world (1 John 2:15-16). This is exactly what our natural mother, Eve, succumbed to when she yielded herself to obey her lusts. She saw that the tree was good for food (the lust of the flesh), and that it was pleasant to the eyes (the lust of the eyes), and a tree to be desired to make one wise (the pride of life) as we read in Genesis 3:6. When her lust had conceived, it brought forth sin (albeit through Adam as far as accountability is concerned, for by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin).
Thus, when we consider these verses, it is clear that Baal is a type of our own sin, lusts, iniquity, unrighteousness, and uncleanness. Baal pictures the sin in us, to which we yield ourselves after the outer man. When we sin, this old man, this master, this lord, is the one who reigns over, gaining the dominion over us temporally and experimentally. It is a picture of what we are by nature, as well as a type of what remains in us to this day as we live out our lives in this fleshly tabernacle.
Baal as Husband
Lords over servants is but one example of such authority structures. Another example is that of husbands and wives; wives are to submit themselves, yield themselves, to their own husbands (Ephesians 5:22-24; Colossians 3:18) and the husbands have the rule over their wives (Genesis 3:16), unto their good, in Agape, self-denying, obedient love (Colossians 3:19 and Ephesians 5:25). The key to peeling through these authority layers is to not limit ourselves by thinking in terms of literal husband and wife, master and slave, or lord and servant relationships, but to think in terms of the general spiritual structure that they all represent. In so doing, we will be able to get to the core of the matter, Lord willing. We will begin to see that the entirety of the Bible tells us one glorious message: We need redemption from self, deliverance from self, salvation from self, and death to self — and the Lord Jesus Christ is that Redeemer, Deliverer, Saviour, and He gives us Eternal Life as He puts us (our wicked selves) to death.
I say all of this, because we read above that Baal also means husband; he was often deemed the husband or consort of Ashtaroth. Should it be a surprise that his name means husband? Who is the believer experimentally married to before they are married to the Lord Jesus? It is the same one to whom all are naturally married. Do not rush to say “the law” because the law is not truly an authority over us — it was not our husband contrary to popular opinion. I know that Romans 7:1 states “Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?” — but in what sense does the law have dominion over us? “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” If we yield ourselves to obey the law, truly; if it has the dominion over us in that sense, then we would obey it perfectly. But we do not yield ourselves to obey the law of God — so how does it have dominion over us in light of Romans 6:16? Remember, “The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law (1 Corinthians 15:56);” by the law [is] the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20); where no law is, [there is] no sin (Romans 4:15); sin is not imputed when there is no law (Romans 5:13); the law entered, that sin might abound (Romans 5:20); the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death (Romans 7:5); sin takes occasion by the law (Romans 7:8); for without the law sin was dead (Romans 7:8); thus we had not known sin, but by the law (Romans 7:7). Taking into account all of these passages, we see that The law has dominion over us, in light of Romans 6:16, only as it relates to it being the strength of sin (it is sin, our own sinful selves, that has the true dominion over us, not the holy, righteous law of God; the law only has dominion by extension, as it relates to our sin). Because The Law is the strength of sin, and sin brings forth death, we are all subject to the penalty of the law (the wages of sin which is death). Hence, both law and death are said to have dominion over us by way of, through, or because of sin.
In 1 Corinthians 7:39 we read that “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.” In Romans 7:2-4 we read “For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to [her] husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of [her] husband. 3 So then if, while [her] husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. 4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, [even] to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.”
When we read the passages above carefully, we see that nowhere does it state that we were once married to the law. This is a common belief, but it is without biblical support. A woman is bound to her husband by the law. But if her husband dies (if he is crucified, put to death, Romans 6:6, Galatians 2:20) she is loosed from the law of her husband (i.e. loosed from being bound to this husband by the law). So then if, while her husband liveth (while that old man of sin is still her complete master, lord, and spouse to whom she is yoked), she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead (crucified with Christ), she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man (even to the God Man). Christians have become dead to the law (dead to the law’s binding of the wife to this former husband) by the body of Christ (Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness); that we should be married to another, [even] to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.” If we look at the husband and wife relationship as an authority structure much like parents to children, masters to servants, kings to subjects, and we keep in mind that the authority is the one to whom we yield ourselves to obey, then we can see (in a type) that the husband of the wife that must be put to death is sinful self. In the place of that sinful self, once it is dead, comes the Bridegroom, [even] Him who is raised from the dead. We become married to Him and He becomes the new authority in our lives. We cease to perfectly yield to self and pleasures for the self and we began to yield to the Bridegroom by His Spirit.
It is important to understand that both the first husband and the wife represent aspects of us. That is why we as the wife are free to marry Christ, but we (as the old man) are deemed to be dead (dead objectively via the victorious, finished work of Christ and dead subjectively through the mortifying of our flesh as we bear our cross and die daily). The Apostle Paul affirms this reality when he states “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Paul was crucified with Christ, his sins and sin nature nailed to the cross. So Paul, the first husband, is dead; he is crucified. Yet Paul lives, Paul the wife lives, but not of himself. Paul, the wife, lives because he is now married to another; spiritually speaking, he is now yoked to Christ and has Him as his authority. The same holds true for all of God’s quickened people.
Yet it goes deeper in that though the first husband was crucified, that old husband is not fully put to death in our experience — we are still in this body of death. In our spirit (created after the image of Christ – Colossians 3:10) that old man is gone, it is truly dead (he has been cast out; that strong man has been bound). But this flesh still has a fallen nature and when it has the dominion, when it becomes the authority, it serves as a baal (lord and husband over us). That is why we are instructed to mortify (literally, put to death, kill) the deeds of the body as we read in Romans 8:13; we are exhorted to mortify therefore our members which are upon the earth (fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry) as we read in Colossians 3:5. We are to do this knowing that they, that are Christ’s, have crucified the flesh (the old man, the first husband) with the affections and lusts (Galatians 5:24); for we are crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20), by whom the world is crucified unto us, and us unto the world (Galatians 6:14); by whom we have put off the old man with his deeds (Colossians 3:9) and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him (Colossians 3:10). But again, subjectively, this is a daily endeavor. The putting off of the old man was done for us by the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ, in light of the cross; it is a done deal. Yet we must still work out our salvation in this life, warring against the flesh, keeping it under subjection and putting it to death. In glory, this baal in the flesh will be utterly destroyed.
Baal as Citizen and Inhabitant
Citizen is another meaning of baal [H1167] as is inhabitant. We read the following concerning the prodigal son in Luke 15:14-17 “And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. 15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. 17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
Consider also Luke 19:12-14 where the Lord Jesus said “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. 13 And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. 14 But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this [man] to reign over us.
Baal typifies the earthly nature to which we are joined and baalim the carnal men with whom we confederate by nature (those who worship and serve self gather with those who do likewise). Neither our old man (or the sinful flesh) nor others who follow after theirs can give us spiritual food… all they can do is send us into the fields of pride and false religion to feed our own fleshly uncleannesses and lusts. Such are in complete enmity against God and declare we will not have this [man] to reign over us. Every time we sin, we declare we will not have this [man] to reign over us. Every time we chase after our own gain, lusts, pride, we declare we will not have this [man] to reign over us. When one reigns, when one has dominion, he is in essence saying that he will not have this man, nor anyone else, to reign over him. Baal is this evil and deadly citizen who seeks to reign and not be broken. He is the one who, in the type, inhabits all of us by nature; he is of the earth, earthy. Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth (Revelation 8:13); Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time (Revelation 12:12). The kings of the earth have committed fornication and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of the fornication of the Great Whore (please keep in mind the Great Whore when we consider Ashtaroth in part two, as the Lord wills).
Unlike the citizens and inhabitants of the earth, we are strangers and sojourners in this land. We have no continuing city, but we seek a heavenly one to come (Hebrews 13:14); one which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11:10-16). Moreover, the Christian is not utterly yoked to that citizen, to that inhabit of the earth; he may serve him for a season, but His loyalty, by God’s grace, is to his (Heavenly) Father and to his King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The dominion of sin has been broken, and though Baal reigns for seasons experimentally (and subjectively) as God ordains, he does not reign utterly or objectively because Christ has the victory and has defeated him.
Baal as Owner
Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 speaks of the abundance and accumulation of goods and the vanity of it all due to the lack of good for the owner (baal, the outer man or old man that can never be satisfied). The verse reads “He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this [is] also vanity. 11 When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good [is there] to the owners (baal) thereof, saving the beholding [of them] with their eyes?”
Baal represents our carnal nature whenever we covet, or lust after things of time and sense (things that are of no real profit). It pertains to that sinful inclination of ours to always want more… to be the owner, the possessor of the things of this world (cattle and goods and riches). It ties in with the accumulation of riches, the seeking of increase and abundance — it ties in with Ashtaroth and the groves.