Master of Arts (MA)
Primary Subject Area
Religion, Biblical Studies
baal, chaoskampf, cloud, comparative studies, rider of the clouds, ugarit
Alleging parallels between Scripture and other ancient Near Eastern texts has always been a matter of controversy. The controversy has resulted from criticism of the comparative method by those who accuse its users of being overly simplistic or reckless when applying their particular approaches to the texts. This recklessness has resulted in alleged connections that are now considered very loose, unjustified, and harmful to the context of Scripture. In order to avoid the dreaded "parallelomania" that has resulted from hasty conclusions in comparative studies, it is necessary to approach alleged comparative units in a more concrete fashion, synthesizing the best of past approaches and cautiously utilizing those approaches when arriving at conclusions. The comparative element under discussion in this paper is that of divine cloud-riding, and the texts under consideration are Psalm 104:3 and the Ugaritic Epic of Baal. Both the Hebrew Bible and the Ugaritic texts describe Yahweh/Baal as a rider of the clouds. The mythopoetical motif of cloud-riding can be seen in many ancient Near Eastern texts where a storm god races through the heavens on his or her angelic cloud-chariot. This is true also of portions of the Hebrew Bible that describe Yahweh as one "who makes the clouds his chariot, who walks on the wings of the wind" (Ps 104:3). Since Ugarit is, in literature, Israel's most significant Canaanite neighbor, it becomes a matter of interest when Baal is called repeatedly "the Rider of the Clouds" in his respective texts. Is there a legitimate parallel between the Yahwistic motif of cloud-riding and the northern Canaanite expression "Rider of the Clouds"? If so, what is to be made of this parallel and what were the psalmist's intentions by including Baal-like language in his description of Yahweh?