Who is Beelzebub in the Bible?
Beelzebub is a term that exists within the pages of the bible, and he is thought to be both a Philistine pagan god and an accomplice to Jesus according to a pharisee in the accounts by Matthew and Mark. However, Beelzebub is also thought to be the Lord of The Flies, The Demon of Gluttony, and the prince of all demons.
In ancient times, there once existed a people who live on the south coast of Canaan, a people who were exiled by King Nebuchadnezzar II from Mesopotamia. They were known as the Philistines and many may recognize them as the people who were engaged in many conflicts with the Israelites, often because of their beliefs in what were considered to be pagan gods.
The Meaning of Beelzebub
Many Jewish scholars see Beelzebub as the Lord of the Flies—or at least attest this to being the title he was given. It is possible that this term was in reference to Beelzebub being considered as animal faeces and his followers were the flies that gathered around said dung.
The term Beelzebub is also thought to have been a Hebraic insult used by the Israelites against the Philistines.
Meanwhile, many Christian interpretations see Beelzebub as simply being another name for Satan or the devil.
Beelzebub in the Old Testament
When we think of these pagan gods, the entity known as Baal is frequently cited. Baal is the god who Jezebel introduced to the Northern Kingdom of Israel when she married King Ahab and Baal is the god that Elijah challenged atop Mount Carmel into lighting a sacrifice—one which Baal failed.
But some associate the pagan god Baal to the demon known as Beelzebub, or in case of the connection with Baal, Ba’al Zebub, who was worshipped in Ekron, a southwestern province in Canaan.
We understand this from the second book of Kings, where we are told that a northern king of Israel known as Ahaziah suffers a terrible fate that leaves him bedridden. However, instead of praying to the Israeli God, Ahaziah tells his messengers to ‘Go and consult Baalzebub, the god of Ekron, to see if I will recover from this injury.’
As we can see, Beelzebub is referred to as the god of Ekron in this passage, but this does not go unnoticed by the Hebraic God who doesn’t take kindly to this. He sends Elijah to intercept the messengers on their way to Beelzebub and tells them,
“Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going off to consult Baalzebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore, this is what the Lord says: ‘You will not leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!’”
The messengers are spooked by this and so return to Ahaziah to declare what they have been told, which sees as Ahaziah several men to apprehend Elijah. But God strikes these men down and soon, Ahaziah has no choice but to have one of his captains beg Elijah for an audience.
Elijah meets with this captain and relates the same message, that if Ahaziah continues to pray to Baalzebub instead of the Lord, then Ahaziah will die in the bed he lays in. Ahaziah never actually does pray to the Lord and must continue to seek help Beelzebub for he never actually recovers from his injuries and dies in his bed.
Beelzebub in the New Testament
We later see Beelzebub in the account by Matthew, where we see Jesus healing the wounded and the sick.
A man whose thoughts have been possessed by a demon is brought to Jesus and Jesus drives the demon out, restoring the man to his original senses. But a Pharisee, a member of an ancient Jewish sect, was less impressed by Jesus’s miracles and detested that which he was doing.
He believed that the only way Jesus could have been driving demons out of people is if he was using demons to facilitate this. The Pharisee declares in Matthew 12:24, “It is only by Beelzebul (Beelzebub), the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”
It is unknown why the Pharisee chose to blame Beelzebub, or Beelzebul as he’s written in some translations, but it could be down to the fact that the Pharisee didn’t know what he was talking about and simply made this inflammatory remark to help in his discrediting of Jesus’ miracle.
It could also be that the Pharisee knew of how the term Beelzebub was used as an insult and so deliberately chose to associate Jesus with Beelzebub to drum up an emotional response from those in attendance and to get them on his side.
In any case, the Pharisee insists that Jesus and Beelzebub are in cahoots and that Jesus can’t be as righteous as he says he is if he is conducting business with a demon. But we are told in Matthew 12:25–27 that Jesus knew their thoughts and he’s able to shut down the Pharisees claim by saying,
“Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”
Essentially, Jesus vindicates himself of this slander by pointing out the illogicality of Beelzebub helping him, for if the demon did, then he would be going against his work or dividing against himself.
Instead, Jesus confirms that he is using the Spirit of God to drive out demons and all those who experience it shall be blessed.
The same account is mentioned in Mark 3:22 when the Pharisee is replaced by a group of Jews who declare that Jesus is possessed by Beelzebub and that this is the only way that he could be able to drive the demons out of people.
Beelzebub in the Testament of Solomon
Beelzebub also plays a significant role in some pseudepigraphical stories, such as the Testament of Solomon. Whilst it is not considered to be biblically cannon, it does feature a very interesting tale of Solomon and how he bends the will of the demon to do his bidding.
In the beginning, we see Solomon received a signet ring from the Archangel Michael so that Solomon can manipulate the demons after having prayed to save a servant from the demon Ornias.
Solomon is then able to bind Ornias using the ring and makes him cut stones to use in the building of his temple. But unsure of what to do with him in the long term, Solomon summons Archangel Uriel, who comes out of the abyss and determines Ornias’ fate.
He demands that Ornias go back to where he came from and to bring forth his leader, the prince of all demons, Beelzebub. Ornias is given the ring of Solomon to use against Beelzebub and we are told that…
“So Ornias took the finger-ring and went off to Beelzebub who has kingship over the demons. He said to him: ‘Hither! Solomon calls thee.’ But Beelzeboul, having heard said to him: ‘Tell me who is this Solomon of whom thou speakest to me?’
Then Ornias threw the ring at the chest of Beelzeboul saying: ‘Solomon the King calls thee.’
But Beelzeboul cried aloud with a mighty voice and shot out of a great burning flame of fire; and he arose and followed Ornias and came to Solomon.”
Solomon questions Beelzebub when he is brought to him by Ornias, asking who he is. To which Beelzebub declares that he is the prince of all demons and that all the chief demons sit beneath him. He also explains that he manifests the appearance of each demon and that he can bring Solomon all of the unclean spirits in the world.
Solomon is curious by Beelzebub’s kind and proceeds to ask if there are any female demons. To which Beelzebub confirms that there is, whereby he returns to the abyss and brings forth on Onoskelis, a female demon who Solomon describes has a very pretty shape and a fair complexion.
However, those of you who like the legs of a woman will probably swipe left on Onoskelis given that she is thought to have had the legs of a mule.
Solomon continues to meet other demons, some of which Solomon recruits to build his temple including the demon Asmodeus. But later, he summons Beelzebub once more and the two seem to have mutual respect for one another, where we see Solomon raised Beelzebub on a seat of honour.
He questions him, asking why he lives the life he leads. To which Beelzebub replies saying,
“Because I alone and left of the angels of heaven that came down. For I was the first angel in the first heaven being entitled Beelzeboul. But now I control all those who are bound in Tartarus. But I too have a child and he haunts the Red Sea. And on any suitable occasion he comes up to meet me again, being subject to me and reveals to me what he has done, and I support him.”—Testament of Solomon, verse 26!
Unfortunately, we don’t seem to learn who this son is. Solomon pressured Beelzebub into revealing the identity of the demon who haunts the Red Sea, this so-called son of Beelzebub. But the demon resists and never relinquishes this information. He only tells Solomon that if he wants to learn of him, he should summon him himself, for he will answer any call.
Solomon also questions his motives, to which Beelzebub replies,
“I destroy kings. I allow myself with foreign tyrants. And my demons I set on to men, so that the latter may believe in them and be lost. And the chosen servants of God, priests, and faithful men, I excite unto desires for wicked sins, evil heresies, and lawless deeds; and they obey me, and I bear them on to destruction, and I inspire men with envy and [desire for] murder, and for wars and sodomy, and other evil things. And I will destroy the world.”—Testament of Solomon, verse 27!
Solomon also learns of Beelzebub’s weaknesses, whereby Beelzebub reveals the name of God is enough to defeat him and to mention it will cause him to disappear at once.
Solomon precedes the command of those above to begin to saw marble, presumably for the construction of his temple and is understood that all other demons cried out in pain at having to bear witness to their prince, Beelzebub, being controlled.
Solomon also demands to know some things about heaven, to which Beelzebub reveals to him that if he burns gum and incense and the bulb of the sea with nod and saffron and light seven lamps in the earthquake, it will fix his house. A possible reference to the completion of his temple.
He also explains that if this is done correctly, dragons can be seen in the sky, pulling the Sun from the east of the West.
Beelzebub in Various Classifications
Outside of these religious texts, Beelzebub has become a fascination for many authors and poets on demonology. As mentioned earlier, Beelzebub is thought to represent gluttony in Peter Binsfeld’s classification of demons.
However, other classifications see Beelzebub pinned as the representation of envy. We can certainly see elements of both traits in Beelzebub from the text provided, particularly the Testament of Solomon, where Beelzebub physically manifests.
You might say that given his motives to destroy Kings and bring out the downfall of man, Beelzebub is demonstrating signs of gluttony, because no amount of conspiring against man is enough. It seems that this is a task he never truly wishes to end and seems to take great pleasure in this endeavour.
We also see him tell Solomon that he incites Envy upon men, and in this, you might say it links to other classifications such as the Lantern of Light, whereby Beelzebub is responsible for the sin of envy.
Meanwhile in Sebastian Michaëlis’ admirable history—a 17th century French Inquisitor—we are told that a demon told Sebastian another classification during the exorcism of a nun. This classification is a little wacky, but it does tell us that Beelzebub was a prince in heaven, and a leader of the Seraphim, the fiery angels with six wings that are thought to sit with God and worship him continually.
In this classification, Beelzebub is also thought to be just beneath Lucifer, in terms of who controls hell and the rest of the demons. Michaëlis also claims that Leviathan was once an angel and that together with Beelzebub and Lucifer, they were the first three to be booted out of heaven.
In John Milton’s poem, Paradise Lost, a demonic trinity is established consisting of Lucifer, Beelzebub, and the demon Azeroth, and this is something that has become a common trend by some demonologists and subsequent writers.
The mystery of Beelzebub is still a large one. Whilst many do consider him to be the second strongest demon under Lucifer, or the prince of demons, others see him as nothing more but a slanderous insult, used against the Philistines in ancient times.
It is also quite remarkable that Beelzebub has established a noteworthy presence in post-biblical literature, and even today, he remains a staying point for many ideas revolving around demonology, especially given that he doesn’t physically show up in the Bible.
Whilst he is mentioned by Ahaziah as being his God and used to denounce Jesus by the ancient Jewish groups, Beelzebub doesn’t have much influence within doctrines.
Art Sources: Douglas Deri, jw.org.