The Glossary of Terms

Beelzeb or Beelzebul


Dictionary of the Bible, Second Edition

Edited by James Hastings, revised by Frederick C. Grant & H.H. Rowley (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1963)

BAALZEBUB, BEELZEBUL. Baalzebub appears as the name of a Philistine god worshipped at Ekron (2Ki 1:2,3,6,16) while Beelzebul (so RSV; AV and RV Beelzebub) is the name applied to the prince of demons in Mt 10:25, 12:24, Mk 3:22, Luk 11:15,18,19. The older commentators took the form Baalzebub, 'lord of flies,' as original, indicating a deity with the power to send or avert plagues of flies. This was supposed to have been changed by the Jews to the offensive form, Beelzebul, 'lord of filth.' But if such a veiw were correct it would be hard to understand why a minor local deity should become such an important figure in the Ras Shamra tablets favours a different and more plausible explanation. According to this, Baalzebul, 'lord of the mansion' or 'lord of the lofty dwelling' was the original form (preserved in the NT) and would refer not to a local deity but to the great Baal of Syria who would have a local shrine at Ekron. The form Baalzebub is then to be explained as a perversion, made either to ridicule the god or because to a pious Jew the title 'lord of the lofty dwelling' would seem to be appropriate only to Yahweh. This line of explanation derives some support from the title 'master of the house' applied to Beelzebul in Mat 10:25. Other explanations suggest that the name means 'the enemy' or have sought to represent Zebul as a place-name, but without much plausibility. If we accept the most plausible among these explanations, we can understand why Beelzebul came to be regarded as a major demonic power, and his name became interchangeable with that of Satan.

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