And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali. For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name, Hosea 2:16,17.
For the purposes of this blog post I am going to distinguish between two terms. The first term is translation. We are pretty familiar with this term and in using it I am simply referring to the process of speaking or writing in one language that which was said in another language.
The next term is "transliteration". When a word is transliterated it is not translated, it is brought into the translated document as it appeared in the original, but using the alphabet of the new language.
An example of that can be found in 1st Corinthians 16:22; If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha. You'll notice that Anathema Maranatha is not English. In Greek that would look like; αναθεμα μαραν αθα. The King James Translators didn't translate it. They transliterated it. They took the exact Greek words and made them readable in our alphabet. New bibles attempt to translate it, but the King James translators recognized it as a proper noun and transliterated it. It is not good to be Anathema Maranatha. You have no name, you are seen in heaven as Anathema Maranatha. It means, cursed at his coming. You will notice that "Anathema" (a curse) has entered our language in its own right.
With all of that in mind, I have had questions about the word "Baali" as found in Hosea 2:16. I have introduced Mr. Avi Gold in the pages of this blog before. He is an Israeli Jew who is both devoted to the Tanakh (Old Testament) and a true friend to King James Bible believers. He is a true scholar of many languages both dead and living, and he has much respect for the King James Bible. In that Avi has read the Hebrew Bible all of his life, and that is equally conversant in Biblical Hebrew as he is in English, I asked him about Baali.
For those of you who wonder at me going back to Hebrew to defend the King James Bible when I normally eschew referring to the original languages, keep in mind two things. The King James translators chose to leave a word in Hebrew. Secondly, never forget the Apostle Paul's admonition in Romans 3:1,2; What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. If I have a question about Hebrew or the transmission of the Old Testament, I am going to turn to the caretakers of the oracles of God. The modern habit of referring to Hebrew lexicons is straight out of hell. Our standard Hebrew Lexicons are riddled with anti-Semitic readings placed in their by students of German higher criticism. They are a grief to Jews.
Below is Avi Gold's answer to me when queried about the word "baali".
Dear Pastor John,
Good morning and thanks for your question.
The use of the word Baal and its derivatives in the Hebrew text of Hosea is indeed a fascinating thing to examine. In terms of the Hebrew language, the word "baal" has a rather wide range of usages. It can mean "master" in the sense of "he who is the owner of property" or in the sense of "he who has dominion over something". It can refer to "master of a slave". It can refer to "one who possesses a particular characteristic" in a more abstract sense. It is also the standard Hebrew word for "husband".
In addition, it is the name of an ancient Canaanite god, and this is well documented both in terms of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and in terms of the writings discovered on clay tablets in the city of Ugarit. In the context of Baal as a Canaanite god, two variations in meaning can be distinguished. There was one specific Canaanite god, with a series of mythological stories associated with him, but there were also various local divinities of various cities which were known as "Baal X" (i.e. Baal of the city X). This is why some of the prophets refer to "the Baalim" (plural form of Baal). The people who went astray and worshiped "Baal" were not necessarily worshiping the specific god with the personal name "Baal". Some of them were worshiping one or more local Baals of this or that city.
All of this becomes quite complicated when the word "baal" is used with reference to the God of Israel.
He is, after all, Master of all, and the possessor of various attributes, and allegorically can be seen as "husband", with the Children of Israel as the "bride". For this very reason, when the people go after various pagan gods, this is akin to an unfaithful wife in the imagery utilized by multiple prophets, Hosea included, obviously. Thus, the prophet brings to attention to the reader the highly problematic effect of referring to the God of Israel by the term "baal". People might have imagined this would be showing God respect by recognizing him as Supreme Master. And although the word "baal" as a common noun functions as "master" in Hebrew, its usage when referring to God is highly problematic due to how tangled up the word "baal" is with multiple Canaanite gods.
It is interesting to note that the NIV translates the word "Baali" and renders it master. “In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master. By doing so they have obliterated the truth of the verse. Congregations slide into devilry by shifting the names of God. They think that they are honoring God by calling him Baali, but by doing so they confound him with devils. One person in the congregation may think of master or husband when they hear the name Baali, but the next person hears the name of a local deity. This is similar to the situation in Philippi when a devil possessed young lady follows the Apostle Paul shouting the truth about him (Acts16:16-18). It confuses people to mix the devil with God.
We have a similar situation today. If you go into a modern Evangelical type church, you can see people swaying with raised hands and singing to Yahweh. Yahweh is a devil. Anti-Semitic German rationalists in the late 18th and the 19th centuries dug the name up out of Canaanite deities and confounded it with the letters JHVH that are used in the Hebrew Bible for the name Jehovah. They cemented that pronunciation by convincing themselves and others that the Jews hadn't invented vowels for their first 1500 years of writing.
It is difficult to think of anything more Anti-Semitic than to think that the great civilizations of Egypt, Sumaria, Greece, and Rome figured out vowels but the children of God who were chosen to transmit scripture didn't have vowels. Nevertheless, Fundamental colleges will teach their students that the "vowel points" that are used in Hebrew were not added for the first 1500 years. It places the Jews lower on the evolutionary ladder. It also gives the devil an excuse to insert other vowels into the letters JHVH and presto, God becomes the devil.