« Belgium Belial Bell, William M'Ilvin »


BELIAL, bî´li-al ("worthlessness"): A word which occurs once in the New Testament (II Cor. vi, 15; better reading Beliar) as the name of Satan, hardly as that of Antichrist; the Peshito has "Satan." In the Old Testament beliyya‘al is not used as a designation of Satan, or of a bad angel; it is an appellation, "worthlessness" or "wickedness" in an ethical sense, and is almost always found in connection with a word denoting the person or thing whose worthlessness or wickedness is spoken of; as, "man of Belial," "son of Belial," "daughter of Belial," "thoughts of Belial," etc. In a few instances beliyya‘al denotes physical destruction; so probably Ps. xviii, 4 (II Sam. xxii, 5), "floods of destruction" (A. V. "ungodly men"; R. V. "ungodliness"). To understand this passage to refer to the prince of hell is against Old Testament usage. Occasionally the adjunct is omitted, as in II Sam. xxiii, 6; Job xxxiv, 18; Nahum i, 15, where the word means the "bad," the "destroyer," the "wicked." Although thus originally not a proper name, but an appellation, in the later Jewish and Christian literature it passed over into a name for Satan, not as the "worthless," but as the "destroyer." It is so used in II Cor. vi, 15, where Paul asks: "What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?" "Belial’ stands for "Satan" also in Jewish epigraphs and apocalyptic writings, such as the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, the Book of Jubilees, and the Jewish interpolations in the Sibylline Oracles.

Bibliography: J. Hamburger, s.v., in Real-Encyklopädie für Bibel und Talmud, vol. i., Leipsic, 1891; W. Bousset, Der Antichrist, pp. 86–87, 99–101, Göttingen, 1895; T. K. Cheyne, in Expositor, 1895, pp. 435–439; F. Hommel, in Expository Times, viii, 472; EB, i, 525–527.

« Belgium Belial Bell, William M'Ilvin »
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