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Beelzebub is the name of a demon derived from Ba‘al Zebûb, Ba‘al Zəbûb or Ba‘al Zəvûv (Hebrew בעל זבוב), with numerous variantsIn addition to Beelzebub, Ba‘al Zebûb, and Ba‘al Zəvûv, (בעל זבוב), there are several variants, such as Belzebud, Beezelbub, Beazlebub, Belzaboul, Beelzeboul, Baalsebul, Baalzebubg, Belzebuth, Beelzebuth, and Beelzebus. a deity worshipped in the Philistine city of Ekronmarker.

In ancient contexts, there appears to have been little, if any, meaningful distinction between Beelzebub and the polytheistic Semitic god named Ba‘al. Monotheistic Jewish reference to Baal was almost certainly pejorative, and grew to be used among other terms for Satan. The name later appears as the name of a demon or devil, often interchanged with Beelzebul.

Examination has sought to interpret the meaning in context to determine the specific reasons for this connotation, and varied religious speculations have run the gamut.

Regardless, the demonization of the deity or deification is thought to have been one basis for the personification of Satan as the adversary of the Abrahamic God, though other influences such as the Zoroastrian Daeva may have contributed.

Religious meaning

Ba‘al Zebûb might mean 'Lord of Zebûb', referring to an unknown place called Zebûb, or "Lord of the Flies" (ba'al being Hebrew for owner or lord and zebûb being a Hebrew collective noun for 'fly'). Biblical scholar Thomas Kelly Cheyne suggested that it might be a derogatory corruption of Ba'al Zebul, 'Lord of the High Place', or 'Lord of Heaven'. The SeptuagintA renders the name as Baalzeboub, SeptuagintB as Baal myîan 'Baal of flies', but Symmachus the Ebionite may have reflected a tradition of its offensive ancient name when he rendered it as Beelzeboul (Cath.Ency.).

The source for the name Ba‘al Zebûb / Beelzebub is in where King Ahaziah of Israelmarker, after seriously injuring himself in a fall, sends messengers to inquire of Ba‘al Zebûb, the god of the Philistine city of Ekronmarker, to learn if he will recover.

Ahaziah fell through the lattice in his upper chamber at Samariamarker and was injured. So he sent messengers whom he instructed: "Go inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this injury." (JPS translation)


Elijah the Prophet then condemns Ahaziah to die by Yahweh's words because Ahaziah sought counsel from Ba‘al Zebûb rather than from Yahweh.

In Christianity, the name Beelzebub or Beelzebul may appear as an alternate name for Lucifer, the fallen angel or else may appear to refer to the name of a lesser devil. As with several religions, the names of any earlier foreign or pagan"deities often became synonymous with the concept of an adversarial entity.

In , the Pharisees accuse Jesus of driving out demons by the power of Beelzeboul, prince of demons, the name also appearing in the expanded version in and . The name also occurs in .

Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Lucifer, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.─


It is unknown whether Symmachus was correct in identifying these names because we otherwise know nothing about either of them. Zeboul might derive from a slurred pronunciation of zebûb; from 'zebel', a word used to mean 'dung' in the Targums; or from Hebrew zebûl found in in the phrase bêt-zebûl 'lofty house' and used in Rabbinical writings to mean 'house' or 'temple' and also as the name for the fourth heaven.

In any case the form Beelzebub was substituted for Belzebul in the Syriac translation and Latin Vulgate translation of the gospels and this substitution was repeated in the King James Version of the Bible, the result of which is the form Beelzebul was mostly unknown to western European and descendant cultures until some more recent translations restored it.

It is unknown if either or both of these names were a title applied to persons, to divinities exclusively, or otherwise were a corruption of such a title, possibly as a denigration.

Apocryphal literature

In the Testament of Solomon, Beelzebul (not Beelzebub) appears as prince of the demons and says (6.2) that he was formerly a leading heavenly angel who was (6.7) associated with the star Hesperus (which is the normal Greek name for the planet Venus (Αφροδíτη) as evening star). Seemingly Beelzebul is here simply Satan/Lucifer. Beelzebul claims to cause destruction through tyrants, to cause demons to be worshipped among men, to excite priests to lust, to cause jealousies in cities and murders, and to bring on war.

Texts of the Acts of Pilate (also known as the Gospel of Nicodemus) vary in whether they use Beelzebul or Beelzebub. The name is used by Hades as a secondary name for Satan. But it may vary with each translation of the text, other versions give the name Beelzebub as Beelzebub, but separates him from Satan.

Later accounts

Beelzebub is commonly described as placed high in Hell's hierarchy; he was of the order of cherubim. According to the 16th century occultist Johann Weyer, Beelzebub led a successful revolt against Satan, and is the chief lieutenant of Lucifer, the Emperor of Hell, and presides over the Order of the Fly. Similarly, the 17th century exorcist Sebastien Michaelis, in his Admirable History (1612), placed Beelzebub among the three most prominent fallen angels, the other two being Lucifer and Leviathan, whereas two 18th century works identified an unholy trinity consisting of Beelzebub, Lucifer, and Astaroth. John Milton featured Beelzebub as seemingly the second-ranking of the many fallen cherubim in the epic poem Paradise Lost, first published in 1667. Wrote Milton of Beelzebub "than whom, Satan except, none higher sat." Beelzebub is also a character in John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, first published in 1678.

Sebastien Michaelis associated Beelzebub with the deadly sin of pride. However, according to Peter Binsfeld, Beelzebub was the demon of gluttony, one of the other seven deadly sins, whereas Francis Barrett asserted that Beelzebub was the prince of false gods. In any event, Beelzebub was frequently named as an object of supplication by confessed witches. After being accused by the Pharisees of possessing Jesus, he has also been held responsible for at least one famous case of alleged demon possession which occurred in Aix-en-Provencemarker in 1611 involving a nun by the name of Sister Madeleine de Demandolx de la Palud who named one Father Jean-Baptiste Gaufridi as a bewitcher of young nuns. Beelzebub was also imagined to be sowing his influence in Salem, Massachusetts: his name came up repeatedly during the Salem witch trials, the last large-scale public expression of witch hysteria in North America or Europe, and afterwards Rev. Cotton Mather wrote a pamphlet entitled Of Beelzebub and his Plot.

In the aftermath of the 1611 Loudun possessions, as the priest Urbain Grandier was burnt at the stake, onlookers saw a fly appear and alleged it was Belzebub fetching his soul.

Lord of the Flies

The Hebrew translation of Beelzebub, 'Lord of the Flies' was the namesake of a book of the same name by British novelist and Nobel laureate William Golding. Beelzebub is alluded to throughout the book.

Notes and references

See also



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