Baal Out


All the people went to the temple of Baal and tore it down. They smashed the altars and idols and killed Mattan the priest of Baal in front of the altars. (2 Chronicles 23:17)

Getting evicted is hard on a guy, especially when your place is condemned and demolished right before your eyes. Making it even harder is that these same religious looters who are now trashing your place really liked having you around before. They showed up for all your orgies and tipped your temple prostitutes well. They wrote songs about you and made sacrifices to you—sometimes with their delectable tater tots. At one time they thought you were one cool dude. Da god.

Then all of a sudden they get freaking religion. They get all out of sorts about the big, bad Hebrew god who intimidates them with threats of destruction and the claim that he’s the only deity in town. He tells them that he’s the real boss, that he’s the guy who calls all the shots. He tells them that if they don’t toss out all their other gods he’s going to hand them over to the jackals and vultures. He’s holy, see? So he doesn’t like sharing acolytes.

You, on the other hand, weren’t quite so territorial. You didn’t mind if the folks showed a little sentimental affection for Dagon or Asherah or Molech. Hell, you didn’t even begrudge a fire or two once in a while for old El himself, that doddering has-been you gave the boot to. There was plenty of worship to go around. No need to get petty about it. You thought.

So in slips YHWH, smuggled in by those smug, brick-mucking Hebrews. Arrogant SOBs. So YHWH takes a look around and decides he wants the place for himself. He wants all the milk and honey—as if he had diddly to do with it. He’s got no respect for tradition. No thought for credit where credit is due. No acknowledgment that things had been going along just fine for thousands of years before he showed up. No. He wants it all. He want to be a fat cat. He wants to play Robin Hood—steal from the bitch and give to the whore. (Don’t get all uppity; that’s what he himself called them later on.) He makes demands. He fuels racial and religious prejudice. He gets those Hebrews all worked up and it’s crap town for everybody else. It’s a pain in the butt is what it is.

But they’ll be back. It’s all happened before many, many times. They get stoked for YHWH and trash a few temples, but soon they cool off. After a short season of noble and tiring religious rectitude they drift back. They always do. Soon it’s business as usual again, with YHWH nursing his ego and shouldering a huge grudge until the next big blow. The secret is not to take him head on. When he goes nuclear he’s one badassed deity. You do not want to mess with him. Just keep out of his way and bide your time. His Puritanical Highness is his own worst enemy. Eventually his followers get tired of his righteous constipation and are ready for a little party—and they know where to go for a good time. Your place is open 24/7.

Losing the temple is a bummer. it was a nice place. Dumpy, but serviceable. Mattan the priest was kind of a schlep, so he’s no big loss. Besides, there’s more where he came from. Not that it matters. Times are changing. The old temple gig is on the way out. The future is in diversification. There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

.   .   .


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