In those early times, Palestine was occupied in its northern section and beyond, by a people now known from the monuments as the Hittite, and in its southern section by the Canaanite. These people, like the Chaldeans and Egyptians, also worshiped the planets. Their chief god was Baal, he being the El of Chaldea, and the Zeus of Syria and Greece. This was the planet Saturn. Baal had his female companion, Baaltis, who was the Balit of Babylon and the Ashera of the Hebrews. Baal became later, in the popular language, the sun, and was worshiped on the tops of hills and the “high places.” His companion goddess had her altars both there and in groves, in forests, under certain noted trees, as the terebinth, pomegranate, and cypress, or along the highways, where, as religious acts, women offered themselves to passers-by, the money received going into the treasury of the god.
At the chief sanctuaries and temples, on of which, that of Tyre, was so rich and grand as to astonish the much traveled Herodotus, were kept the same great class of women, married and unmarried, as were found in Chaldea and Egypt, and for the same purpose. This class at the suggestion of Balaam, their priest, led the Israelites into sin on that notable occasion mention mentioned in the Bible.
Mars, the Chaldean god of war and death, was worshiped in Canaan under the name of Moloch, and its fires were kept perpetually burning to consume its offerings. And it is recorded that at times as many as a thousand human beings, captives of war, were offered at his altars for a victory. He was further propitiated with human victims if, in war, a disaster came, or when a famine or a pestilence appeared. Then, children, young girls, the most beautiful, the purest and best of the families, the firstborn of sons, from the kings to those of the humblest peasant, were thrown alive into the sacrificial fires.
Carthage, Rome’s great rival, founded by Dido, princess of Tyre, B.C. 869, had her Kronos or Moloch altar, as described by the historians, a huge, half-human, half-monster shaped hollow iron caldron, with outstretched arms, and interior cavity flaming with fire, into whose arms hundreds of victims were cast. Hanno’s son, Hamilcar, there offered himself as a burnt offering in the year 480 B.C. When Agathocles of Syracuse besieged Carthage, hundreds of noble boys were thrown in and consumed, while their parents, mute and tearless, stood by and witnessed their burning (for a tear or a groan would have rendered them vain), the shrieks and cries of the victims being drowned by the drums, flutes, double pipes, and clanging symbols of the priests.
The Hittite moon-goddess, the Astarte of the Greeks, also demanded human sacrifices. Like Moloch, her fires were perpetual albeit, as she was a goddess of purity and her priests pledged to purity and celibacy, no married woman might approach her altars save as a sacrifice; her offerings consisting of married women and maidens. All her priests and servants were eunuchs.
Maidens coming to her must remain maidens forever, and her devotees changed apparel, men donning that of the women, and they, the garments of the men.
Priests of Jezebel
Her eunuch priests numbered thousands and at her altars the worshipers gathered by the ten thousands, to the beating of drums, blowing of pipes, and clashing of cymbals of the priesthood. Then the devotees contorted their bodies, bending them backward and forward, till their hair was matted with mire, then swinging aloft their arms and swaying their bodies, they moved around and around until, covered with dirt and sweat, they began to beat themselves with knotted whips, to bite their arms, and cut themselves with knives and swords, bewailing their sins with moan and shriek and anon prophesying, the dancing ever growing more fierce and wild, the scourgings [sic] more bloody and dreadful, until, resembling beasts at a slaughtering, and exhausted, or unconscious, the worshipers fell to the earth, whereupon the eunuch priests passed among the crowd soliciting alms and gifts for the goddess and her treasury, upon which, when the ceremonies had ended, they lived and feasted. Such were the Jezebel’s priests which the prophet Elijah slew at Mount Carmel. Such were the inhabitants of Palestine whom Moses and Joshua were commanded to destroy. Yet there are sentimental souls who think that such commands were cruel. The cruelty lay in suffering them to curse the earth with their dreadful crimes against nature and God.
For four thousand years, the life and thought of men and women of this earth was unlike our modern ways as if they had been inhabitants of another world.
Outside the temples there was no social life for women. If her husband or father was rich, she was shut up in the harem. If of the middle or lower class, her life was but little elevated above that of the slaves her husband owned and with no greater privileges than they.
Yet these people were not ignorant and mere savages. Many of the arts and some of the sciences were known to them and in daily use in the earliest times after the Flood. But the intellect and the whole nature was overpoweringly, superstitiously, religious; and it was gross, debasing, sensual, and cruel, because their conception of the gods was such. It was then, for thousands of years, as in India in more recent times, a case of religiosity gone to seed and withering on its stalk.
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.