Baal-zephon or Baalsapunu, properly Ba Pūnū or sapunu (Hebrew: בעל צפון; Akkadian: dIM Be-el ḪUR.SAG Ḫa-zi; Hurrian: Tšb Ḫlbğ), was the form of the Canaanite storm god Baʿal (lit. "The Lord") in his role as lord of Mount Zaphon;[n 1] he is identified in the Ugaritic texts as Hadad. Because of the mountain's importance and location, it came to metonymously signify "north" in Hebrew; the name is therefore sometimes mistakenly given in translation as Lord of the North.[n 2] He was equated with the Greek god Zeus in his form Zeus Kasios and later with the Roman Jupiter Casius.
Because Baʿal Zaphon was considered a protector of maritime trade, sanctuaries were constructed in his honor around the Mediterranean by his Canaanite and Phoenician devotees. "Baal-zephon" thereby also became a placename, most notably a location mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures' Book of Exodus as the location where the Israelites miraculously crossed the Red Sea during their exodus from Egypt.
The name Baʿal Zaphon never appears in the mythological texts discovered at Ugarit. Instead, it occurs in guides to ritual and in letters, where it is used to differentiate this form of Baʿal from others such as Baʿal Ugarit. The earliest discovered depiction of the god—where he stands astride two mountains in a smiting posture—dates to the 18th century BC. Other depictions show him crowned and bearing a scepter. As a protector of maritime trade, his temples also received votive stone anchors. The treaty between Asarhaddon and King Baʿal of Tyre ranks Baʿal Zaphon third behind Baʿal Shamem and Baʿal Malage. In addition to his temple at Jebel Aqra and Ugarit, Baʿal Zaphon is known to have been worshipped at Tyre and Carthage and served as the chief god of the colony at Tahpanes.
A 14th-century letter from the king of Ugarit to the Egyptian pharaoh places Baʿal Zaphon as equivalent to Amun. Temples to Zeus Kasios are attested in Egypt, Athens, Epidauros, Delos, Corfu, Sicily, and Spain, with the last mention occurring on Rome's German border in the 3rd century.
The books of Exodus and Numbers in the Hebrew Scriptures records that the Israelites were instructed by YHWH to camp across from a place named "Baʿal Zaphon" in order to appear trapped and thereby entice the Pharaoh to pursue them:[n 3]
Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baalzephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in. And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord. And they did so.
Gmirkin identified this as Arsinoe on the Gulf of Suez. A Ptolemaic-era geographical text at the Cairo Museum lists four border fortresses, the third being "Midgol and Baʿal Zaphon". In context, it appears to have been located on a route to the Red Sea coast, perhaps on the canal from Pithom to a location near Arsinoe.
According to Herodotus (who considered it to mark the boundary between Egypt and Syria), at Ras Kouroun, a small mountain near the marshy Lake Bardawil, the "Serbonian Bog" of Herodotus, where Zeus' ancient opponent Typhon was "said to be hidden". Here, Greeks knew, Baal Sephon was worshipped
- This location is usually associated with the modern Jebel Aqra on the Syrio-Turkish border, but that identification has been challenged by Liverani based on Albright's claim that the Amarna letters' Ṣapuna does not refer to the mountain near Ugarit but to a city named Ṣapuma or Ṣabuma at the mouth of the Jabbok. In 1967, Ross[who?] placed it in "the Shephelah region, not far from the kingdom of Gezer. Vita rejected the identification of Ṣabuma with the Biblical Zaphon, proposing it instead referred to Zebʿoim.
- As, for example, by the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.
- Eissfeldt argued that the Biblical mention of Baʿal Zaphon actually referred to the god having originally received credit for the salvation of the Israelites, but it is usually accepted as a placename.
- Niehr (1999), p. 152.
- Fox (2009), pp. 243–258.
- Liverani (1998).
- Albright (1943).
- Vita (2005).
- Spencer L. Allen (2015). The Splintered Divine: A Study of Istar, Baal, and Yahweh Divine Names and Divine Multiplicity in the Ancient Near East. p. 216.
- The Sin of the Calf: The Rise of the Bible's Negative Attitude Toward the Golden Calf. 2010. p. 168.
- DDD, "Zaphon".
- ISBE (1996), p. 381.
- Niehr (1999), p. 153.
- Exod. 14:2-4.
- Num. 33:7.
- EDB (2000), p. 137.
- Eissfeldt (1932).
- Exod. 14:2-4 (KJV).
- Gmirkin (2006), p. 233.
- Lane Fox 2009:253-56.
- "Zaphon", Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, 2nd ed., Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1999, pp. 927–928CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link).
- Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000, ISBN 978-0-8028-2400-4.
- Bromiley, Geoffrey W., ed. (1996), International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Grand Rapids: Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing, ISBN 978-0-8028-3781-3.
- Albright, William F. (1943), "Two Little Understood Amarna Letters from the Middle Jordan Valley", Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 89.
- Eissfeldt, O. (1932), Baal Zaphon, Zeus Kasios, und der Durchzug der Israeliten durchs Meer, Halle.
- Fox, Robin Lane (2009), Travelling Heroes in the Epic Age of Homer, New York: Knopf.
- Gmirkin, Russell E. (2006), Berossus and Genesis, Manetho and Exodus, T. & T. Clark, ISBN 978-0-567-02592-0.
- Liverani, Mario (1998), Le lettere di el-Amarna 1. Le lettere dei "Piccoli Re", Brescia. (in Italian)
- Niehr, H. (1999), "Baal-zaphon", Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, 2nd ed., Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, pp. 152–154.
- Vita, Juan-Pablo (2005), "Der biblische Ortsname Zaphon und die Amarnabriefe EA 273-274", Ugarit-Forschungen, No. 37, pp. 673–677. (in German)