The antagonism of Elijah was not against Baalism in general, but against the introduction of a rival deity.
The history of Baalism among the Hebrews is obscured by the difficulty of determining whether the false worship which the prophets stigmatize is the heathen worship of Yahweh under a conception, and often with rites, which treated him as a local nature god; or whether Baalism was consciously recognized to be distinct from Yahwism from the first.
The earliest certain reaction against Baalism is ascribed to the reign of Ahab, whose marriage with Jezebel gave the impulse to the introduction of a particular form of the cult.
Originating probably, in the observation of the fertilizing effect of rains and streams upon the receptive and reproductive soil, baalism becomes identical with the grossest nature-worship. Joined with the baals there are naturally found corresponding female figures known as Ashtaroth, embodiments of Ashtoreth (see Astarte; Ishtar).