Baal&Mot Cycle

Baal and Mot battle Negev Rockart

Baal and Mot Cycle

Copyright © 2016 by Yehuda Rotblum

In Canaanite belief, a constant struggle between good and evil is expressed in the myth of Baal and Mot. Baal and Mot were the sons of El, the supreme god of the Canaanites. Baal is associated with fertility and rain and Mot is associated with death and the Underworld. The Canaanite myth, Baal and Mot Cycle, describes their conflict, which is an attempt to explains nature behavior specifically the season’s changes. In this cyclical war they are killed but since gods are immortal they come back to life, cyclically just as nature behaves. According to the myth, the death and rebirth of Baal is the cause of seasons change in the region, it is the reason for alternating cycle of summer or drought and the winter rains.

Baal and Mot Myth

The myth describes their final battle (clay tablets Ugarit KTU 1.6.VI:12–22):

They shake each other like beasts; Mot is strong, Baal is strong.
They gore each other like buffaloes; Mot is strong, Baal is strong.
They bite like serpents; Mot is strong, Baal is strong.
They kick like racing beasts; Mot is down, Baal is down.

Their final battle fight takes place on Mount Zephon and it lasts until they are both exhausted. Finally, Shapash ( God?) arrives, the figure in the middle separating with his hands the warring brothers, and warns Mot that fighting Baal is useless since El now support Baal and will overturn Mot’s throne. Mot is afraid and declares that Baal is now the king.

Baal and Mot struggle in rockart

Fig.1 is a Rockart from Negev Desert that illustrates this last battle. It is a depiction of a strife between two figures: the gods Baal and Mot (each has a bird’s beak, indicating they are gods living in the sky like birds do). As brothers, they are equal in size and power engaged in a fierce struggle, which includes strikes and kicks. One figure is standing with his hand on top, this is Baal. Mot is falling, hit by Baal’s weapon; the lightning bolt, which is also his symbol, the arrow above Baal’s head.

Fig. 1 Baal and Mot struggle, Negev Desert

This simple picture is full of movement. The artist illustrated their frenzied struggle with very few details. As a spectator,  you feel the fight dynamic as if you watching a moving scene. Their final posture reflects the decisive moment and the outcome of this battle. It announces the victory of Baal by showing him standing upright and Mot is falling. The engraver’s message is that the good forces will prevail!

More deciphering, in a new book Rock Art in Israel, available online.

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2 Comments to Baal&Mot Cycle

  1. Yigal Granot says:

    Mr. Rotblum Shalom!
    Nice story you have here and it might be true – but I have a little problem: Baal and Mot were not desert idols or gods. Both of them were gods of the sedentary life not of the nomads. so, where is the proof that these two are really Baal and Mot?

    • admin says:

      Dear Mr. Granot
      The idea here is not the worship or glorification of Baal and Mot it just explains the reasons for seasonal changes in this arid area. This idea was prevalent throughout the Levant including Israel. I find in rockart, in the Negev Desert, many imported foreign ideas from Egypt, Sumer, Canaan, Greece, and Rome and others. So it is never a surprise to find outside influence in this remote desert.

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