The Bible is brimming with strange, intriguing, and sometimes LOL-worthy tidbits like this.
One of the names of Satan is Beelzebul (or Beelzebub). We see the Pharisees trying to explain away Jesus’ authority over demons by saying Jesus is an agent of Beelzebul, the ruler of demons (Mt 12:24–26; Mk 3:22–23). Obviously, Jesus isn’t in cahoots with the devil. What’s not so obvious to us is the name Beelzebul’s meaning.
Beelzebul means “Lord of dung”
Long before Jesus’ incarnation, the Philistines worshiped an idol the Jews called “Baal-zebub” (2 Kings 1:2–3). This means “Lord of the flies.” While it’s possible that the Philistines worshiped flies, most Bible scholars believe that the idol’s true name was “Baal-zebul,” or, “Baal the prince.” The writer of Kings deliberately altered the name as a dig at the idol.1 Over hundreds of years, the name became even more of a jab: from “Lord of the flies” to “Lord of dung”—the stuff flies buzz around. Plus, it had become a nickname for the Jews’ and Christians’ devil. And that’s where we get Beelzebul. The poop god.
Elijah confronts Ahaziah
And Ahaziah fell through the lattice in his upper chamber which was in Samaria, and became ill. So he sent messengers and said to them, “Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I will recover from this sickness.” But the angel of the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria and say to them, ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron?’ Now therefore thus says the LORD, ‘You shall not come down from the bed where you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’ ” Then Elijah departed. (2 Ki 1:2–4)
Jesus accused of casting out demons by Beelzebul
But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.” And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.” (Mt 12:24–29)
The scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.” And He called them to Himself and began speaking to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. If Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but he is finished!” (Mk 3:22–26).
Wouldn’t it be cool to learn more weird Bible facts (and some not-so-trivial information, too)? I’d love to send cool things like this straight to your inbox!1Elwell, Walter A., and Barry J. Beitzel. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (affiliate link) . Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988.