Idolatry, Oppression and the Development of Demons: Part 5, The Lord of the Flies

As we continue to reflect upon how the treatment of the demonic in the Bible mixes the political and the spiritual, I want to revisit another post from last month to keep making the point.

In the previous post we revisited how the name Lucifer referred to a political reality--a Babylonian king--imagery that was used by the New Testament authors to describe a spiritual reality, Satan as a star falling from heaven.

In this post we revisit another name for Satan to make a similar point: Beelzebul or Beelzebub.

As I shared last month, in the Synoptic Gospels Beelzebub is described as the "Prince of Demons," a prince Jesus associates with Satan:
Mark 3.22-23
And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”

So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan?"
Similar to what we observed with the name Lucifer, the name Beelzebul (Latin: Beelzebub) mixes the political and the spiritual.

We believe the roots of the name Beelzebul come from 2 Kings. Ahaziah, king of Israel, is injured in a fall. Rather than turning to YHWH, Ahaziah sends his messengers to secure the favor of a different god:
2 Kings 1.2b
So he sent messengers, saying to them, “Go and consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, to see if I will recover from this injury.” 
2 Kings (1.2-3, 6, 16) is the only time the Philistine deity of Baal-Zebub is mentioned in the Old Testament, and the character of this god is a source of speculation. On the surface, the name Baal-Zebub means "Baal of the flies" or "Lord of the flies."

As I've shared before, it's possible that Baal-Zebub was the actual name of the Philistine deity, a god who "masters" or "lords over" the flies and plagues. The other possibility is that the name Baal-Zebub was an insult inserted into the text, changing the real name of the god--Baal-Zebul, "Baal the prince"--to Baal-Zebub, a change in a single letter turning a "prince" into "flies" as an insult to the Philistine god.

Regardless, the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament often used by the New Testament writers, renders Baal-Zebub as Baalzebub. And many scholars believe that Baalzebub, the Lord of the Flies, is the source for the New Testament Beelzebul--the Lord of the Flies becoming associated with the Prince of Demons.

For the purposes of this series, we note again how a demonic entity is associated with a political entity, in this instance the Philistine city of Ekron.

The sin of Ahaziah was idolatry, both political and spiritual in nature, turning to the god of another nation. 

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