Posted by: religionthink | November 25, 2007

Dragon Slayers: Indra, Marduk, Yahweh, and Baal- A Literary Comparison Part 4

Dragon Slayers: Indra, Marduk, Yahweh, and Baal

A Literary Comparison Part 4 of 4

By, A.D. Wayman

El, give up the one you are hiding, the one the masses are hiding; give up Baal and his powers, the son of Dagon: I will assume his inheritance.’

Bringing this series of essays to a close we now turn to the god Baal, who was a dominate god in the land of the Canaanites and Hebrews. Baal at times had the same characteristics as Yahweh and at times the Hebrews would implement aspects from both deities into their rituals and religious practice. Below we will discuss the dragon slayer Baal and how he like Yahweh battled the sea god Yam. After the battle he set up his temple on his holy mountain to rule supreme.

The Primal Beginning

The Ugaritic account of creation has still not yet been found or was lacking but the text that alludes to such a creation is written in an erotic poem with imagery that remind us of the Song of Solomon. In the text El sleeps with two wives. During the time of fertility they are wives and during sterile times they are daughters. Also there are some illusions to the deity, El, mating with human wives. From the text one can conclude that the creation sprung from this union.

Excavations of Claude Schaeffer and Georges Chenet, 1934

Word is bought to El: “ The wives of El have borne! What have they borne?” “My two children Dawn and Dusk ! Lift up, prepare for Lady Sun and for the stars [ ].” He Bends, their lips he kisses lo their lip are sweet. From kissing there is conception From embracing there is childbirth they again [ ] count to five[ ] the combination of the twain: “ They go into travail and they bear they Bear the Good Gods The Islanders, Sons of the Sea, Who suck the nipples of the Lady’s breasts!” Word is brought to El: “My two wives, O El, have borne! What have they borne?” “The Good Gods [ ] The Islanders, Sons of the Sea Who suck the nipples of the Lady’s breasts!” A lip to earth A lip to heaven But there do not enter heir mouth Birds of heaven And fish from the Sea.1

The speaker of the last section of this text is the human husband, of the wife, that the god El had impregnated. Such an account may also have comparisons with the Hebrew text of the “Sons of Men” mating with the daughters of the earth. We see here that birth is given to the two opposites dawn and dusk. In Hebrew literature “__ and __” is a “merism” which means opposites are connected with “and” which was used in texts to represent “everything”; such as the use in Gen 1:1 “Heaven and Earth” meaning the world. 2

El appears to be the creator deity in the pantheon based on texts found at Ras Shamra and other sites. It also appears that he lost his power once creation was completed. He is very diplomatic and seems to lack control. It is hypothesized by some that there may be a text concerning the war of the gods but no such text has been found.

The Birth of Baal

Contrary to popular belief there is no account of the birth of Baal. In the Ugaritic texts he is referred to as “The Son of Dagon” which raises questions on how he became so dominate in the Canaanite pantheon. Also some writers hypothesize that there was a war between the gods and that Baal overtook El, castrated him, and took the fertility rites to himself as supreme lord, pushing El to the background*. It is important to point out that no such texts of these accounts have been found in literature of the Ugaritic texts. Some also hypothesize that El forms a coalition with Yam, god of the Sea, to remove Baal from the throne. If such were the case Baal would not need El’s approval for a temple after the battle.3

The Conquest

Like Indra, Marduk, and Yahweh, Baal also fights the dragon, and like the three other deities it is also the sea. Below we see from a translation of the Ugaritic text the messengers of the god Yam coming before the heavenly council or the ‘eloheim” to demand that Baal be turned over. Baal is furious at the disrespect and decides to fight the sea god Yam.

“Leave, lads, do not turn back;
now head toward the Assembly in council,
at the center of the mountain of night.
Do not fall at El’s feet,
do not prostrate yourselves before the Assembly in council;
still standing speak your speech,
repeat your message;
and address the Bull, my father El,
repeat to the Assembly in council:
‘Message of Sea, your master,
your lord, Judge River:
EI, give up the one you are hiding,
the one the masses are hiding;
give up Baal and his powers,
the son of Dagon: I will assume his inheritance.’
” The lads left; they did not turn back;
they headed toward the center of the mountain of night,
the Assembly in council.
There the gods had sat down to eat,
the holy ones to a meal;
Baal was standing by El.
As soon as the gods saw them,
saw the messengers of Sea,
the mission of Judge River,
the gods lowered their heads
to the top of their knees,
and onto their princely seats.
Baal rebuked them:
“Gods, why have you lowered your heads
to the top of your knees,
and onto your princely seats?

Here we may draw some comparisons of this text and also to the texts concerning Marduk, and the fear of the gods in the council to fight Tiamat. Also in Hebrew literature Yahweh takes the place of El and rebukes the gods, as seen in psalm below.

Elohim stands in the congregation of Ěl; He judges in the midst of the elohim. How long would you judge perversely, And show partiality to the wrong? Selah. Give right-ruling to the poor and fatherless, Do right to the afflicted and needy. Rescue the poor and needy; Deliver them from the hand of the wrong. They do not know, nor do they understand, They walk about in darkness. All the foundations of the earth are shaken. I, I said, “You are elohim, And all of you are sons of the Most High. “But as men you die, And fall as one of the heads.” Arise, O Elohim, judge the earth, For You shall possess all the nations. (Psa 82:1-8 TS 1998)

After the council, Baal goes to fight Yam and with the help of Kothar-wa-Hasis, a craftsmen who helps Baal by making weapons, he dose battle with the Sea.

Baal and the Sea

Baal confronts the Sea in battle and the two deities battle for dominance and inheritance.

Sea was strong; he did not sink;
his joints did not shake;
his frame did not collapse.

Baal then uses the club to smash Yam on the head and finally the god of the sea falls. We hear Baal proclaimed the victor.

And the club danced in Baal’s hands,
like a vulture from his fingers.
It struck Prince Sea on the skull,
Judge River between the eyes.
Sea stumbled;
he fell to the ground;
his joints shook;
his frame collapsed.
Baal captured and drank Sea;
he finished off Judge River.
Astarte shouted Baal’s name: “Hail, Baal the Conqueror!
hail, Rider on the Clouds!
For Prince Sea is our captive,
Judge River is our captive.”

The battle with the sea is at times compared to the Song of the Sea found in Exodus 15 1b-18, however another text that may be proper also is the holy war hymn of Habakkuk.

God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. (Selah) His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. The brightness was like the sun; rays came forth from his hand, where his power lay hidden. Before him went pestilence, and plague followed close behind. 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. I saw the tents of Cushan under affliction; the tent-curtains of the land of Midian trembled. Was your wrath against the rivers, O Lord? Or your anger against the rivers, or your rage against the sea, when you drove your horses, your chariots to victory? You brandished your naked bow, sated were the arrows at your command. (Selah) You split the earth with rivers. The mountains saw you, and writhed; a torrent of water swept by; the deep gave forth its voice. The sun raised high its hands; the moon stood still in its exalted place, at the light of your arrows speeding by, at the gleam of your flashing spear. In fury you trod the earth, in anger you trampled nations. 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) 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. You trampled the sea with your horses, churning the mighty waters. I hear, and I tremble within; my lips quiver at the sound. Rottenness enters into my bones, and my steps tremble beneath me. I wait quietly for the day of calamity to come upon the people who attack us. (Habakkuk 3:3-16 NRSV)

After the battle with Sea, Baal calls on the goddess Anet to place a request to El, for a temple to be built. This was done not only to show legitimacy but also to set up his kingdom on his mountain of Zaphon.

Much could possibly be added to this series of essays concerning the dragon slayers for there were many not mentioned. And if the global mythology were to be collected on such a subject it may take up volumes of pages. Deities such as Zeus and the Christ, from the Christian mythos, as found in the apocalyptic texts of Revelation, could also be added. When such texts are compared and contrasted one starts to realize the multifunctional purpose the literature served at a time without modern means of copying and printing. Historical fiction, poetry, history, folk tales, fables, lessons, allegory, and law codes were all used to convey an epic that could be passed on to later generations. When read properly, these texts can impact how we view the world and ourselves. If we look deeper we may find that we may all be “slayers of the dragon”. Below is a quote from Joseph Campbell an anthropologist who contributed much to research the field mythology and religion.

“There’s a certain type of myth which one might call the vision guest, going in quest of a boon, a vision, which has the same form in every mythology. That is the thing that I tried to present in the first book I wrote, The Hero With a Thousand Faces. All these different mythologies give us the same essential quest. You leave the world that you’re in and go into a depth or into a distance or up to a height. There you come to what was missing in your consciousness in the world you formerly inhabited. Then comes the problem either of staying with that, and letting the world drop off, or returning with that boon and trying to hold on to it as you move back into your social world again.”7

1. Gordon, Cyrus H. Ugarit and Minoan Crete: The Bearing of Their Texts on the Origins of Western Culture. New York: Norton, 1966. pg 96-97
2. Brettler, Marc. How to Read the Jewish Bible. NY: Oxford Univ Press, 2007. pg. 45
3. André Caquot and Maurice Sznycer, Ugaritic Religion 1980 pg. 11-13.
4. Coogan, Michael David. Stories from Ancient Canaan. The Westminster Press. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1978. pg. 86-87
5. Coogan. pg. 88
6. Coogan. pg 89
7. The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers


A.D. Wayman is the creator of

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