The Oxford Research Encyclopedia’s article Ugaritic and Biblical Literature describes how the Ugaritic (Canaanite) religion influenced the Torah (i.e. the old testament). Here’s my summary:
The head of the Ugaritic pantheon, El, appears in the Bible. His name (and its variant Elohim) is usually replaced in English translations by God (or gods), but in a few passages it serves as a proper name. For example, psalm 82 begins:
Elohim (God) has taken his place in the Assembly of El, and in the midst of the elohim (gods) he holds judgment.
Like El, the god of Israel presided over the assembly of the gods, as is also seen in 1st Kings 22:19 and Job 1–2.
Elohim (God) said to Moses: “I am Yahweh. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shadday, but I was not known to them by my name, Yahweh.”
The title El Shadday, often mistranslated God Almighty, actually means El of the Mountain. In the Ugaritic texts, El lived on the cosmic mountain that was the source of all fresh water, and this biblical epithet reflects that mythology.
Other titles of El in the Ugaritic texts are also echoed in the Bible. In Genesis 21:33, Yahweh is called El, the Eternal One, which is similar to El’s title the Father of Time. The phrase the Mighty One of Jacob in Genesis 49:24 is probably a mistranslation of the Bull of Jacob, and in the Ugaritic texts, El is identified as the Bull. The phrase Yahweh, the Merciful and Gracious in Exodus 34:6, is a variant of El the Kind and Compassionate.
Jerusalem had been a center of El worship, as Genesis 14:18–24 illustrates. There Melchizedek was a priest of El Most High (El Elyon):
Melchizedek, king of Jerusalem, brought forth bread and wine. He was the priest of El Most High.
“Blessed be Abram by the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth,” he said. “and blessed be the most high God, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”
Like the mountain of El in the Ugaritic texts, Mount Zion was, especially in apocalyptic vision, the source of fresh water. This is mentioned in Ezekiel 47:1–12, Joel 3:17–18, Revelation 22:1–2, and Zecharia 14:8:
On that day, living waters will go out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea, half of them to the western sea, both in summer and in winter
Many of Yahweh’s characteristics resemble Baal’s or were derived from them. Baal is called Rider on the Clouds, and Yahweh in Psalm 68:4 is called the one that rides upon the heavens.
Yahweh is described in Psalm 29:
The voice of the Lord is upon the waters. The God of glory thunders. The Lord is upon many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; it is full of majesty.The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars. The Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon. He makes them skip like a calf. Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn.The voice of the Lord divides the flames of fire.The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness. The Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the Lord makes the hinds calve, and discovers the forests. In his temple, everyone speaks of his glory.The Lord sits upon the flood. The Lord sits as King for ever. The Lord will give strength to his people. The Lord will bless his people with peace.
According to Smith, this is remarkably similar to the description of Baal in the Ugaritic legends. Like Baal, Yahweh was a victorious warrior who had shown his mastery over the sea. Like Baal, Yahweh had a temple built of cedar.
When Yahweh revealed himself on Mount Sinai in Exodus 19:16–18:
There was thunder and lightning, and thick cloud upon the mountain, and the voice of an exceedingly loud trumpet. Mount Sinai was completely wreathed in a smoke, because the Lord had descended upon it in fire. The smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked terribly.
The same imagery is used to describe Baal:
Baal opened a break in the clouds, sounded his holy voice, and thunder came from his lips. The earth’s high places shook.
When the Lord went out from Seir and marched across the fields of Edom, the earth trembled, the heavens dropped, and water fell from the clouds. The mountains melted before the Lord. Even Sinai shook before the Lord God of Israel.
Just as elements associated with both El and Baal appear in the figure of Yahweh, so too Zion became identified not only with El’s mountain, but also with Saphon, Baal’s mountain just north of the city of Ugarit, as can be seen is Psalm 48:2-3:
Beautifully situated, the joy of the whole earth, mount Zion is in the recesses of Saphon, the city of the great king.
The popularity of the worship of Baal in Israel is illustrated both by repeated attacks on it by biblical writers and by the use of Baal as an element in personal names. Among others, Saul and David gave their children names containing Baal (for example, Baalyada, meaning “Baal knows”). Like the name El, which may also mean “god,” Baal can also mean “lord,” so this word does not always refer to the god.
Anat is the least well attested of the Ugaritic deities in the bible, occurring only in the place names Beth-anath and Anathoth and in the personal name Shamgar Ben-Anath (Judges 3:31 and 5:6).
In the Bible, most scholars detect the goddess Asherah in 2 Kings 21:7 and 23:4, 6–7. In biblical Hebrew the word asherah is also a common noun, meaning a sacred tree or pole used in the goddess’s worship. The asherah is implicitly associated with Yahweh. The Bible prohibits this form of worship of Yahweh: “You shall not set up an asherah of any wood next to the altar of Yahweh” (Deut. 16:21). Because of its disapproval of Asherah, the Bible sometimes associates her name with the god considered to be the divine epitome of idolatry, Baal himself (1 Kings 18:19).
Astarte also occurs in the Bible, but, as in existing Ugaritic sources, little light is shed on her personality. She is called “the goddess” or “the abomination of the Sidonians” (see 1st Kings 11:5).
The deity Mot (Death) is only occasionally mentioned in the Bible. As in the Ugaritic texts, his appetite is proverbial and his presence life threatening (Jeremiah 9:21). His home in the underworld is a palace fitted with gates (Job 38:17). In Isaiah 25:8, it is said that at the eschatological victory banquet Yahweh “will swallow up Death forever”. This is a reversal of the scene where Baal goes down into Death’s mouth to be crushed like a kid in his jaws.
The Origins of Yahweh
For those interested in the origins of Yahweh, see my article Yahweh: From Local Weather God to Almighty Creator.