Jesus and Beelzebub

02 Jul
Beelzebub - 1

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Beelzebub in the New Testament is the same as Baalzebub, the god of Ekron, in the Old Testament (cf. 2Kings 1:2-3, 6, 16). The same was the god of the Philistines. The name means lord of flies (or dung), but its original ending might have been zebhul, meaning house, making the real name of the god mean lord of the house (of the Philistines). The ancient Jews loved to use a play on words in order to demean a god or a hated ruler.[1] Some scholars understand the deities of one nation of the ancient Near East to be the demons of its neighboring nations. With this in mind, the King of Israel, Ahaziah, sent messengers to Ekron, the chief city of the Philistines, to inquire of Baalzebub to be healed of his ailment (2Kings 1:2), that is, cast out the disease. Jesus claimed to exorcise demons by the power of God (Luke 11:20), but he was accused of healing, or casting out demons, by the power of Beelzebub, the chief of demons (Luke 11:15, 18).

Jesus’ miracle immediately follows his teaching about enlarging the Kingdom of God (cf. Luke 11:2), and the giving of God’s Holy Spirit to those who ask (Luke 11:13). On a similar occasion in Galilee Jesus referred to himself as the Master of the House (Matthew 10:25). Although the Greek is different Beel- zebhul would be a synonym, i.e. Master of the House = Lord of the House. Even though the title Beelzebub is a perverted rendering of the real name, the slanderous play on words would not have been overlooked. Jesus was claiming in Jerusalem to be the Messiah. This is why he had set his face like a flint to ascend to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). It was not his time to be crucified, as so many authors of Biblical commentaries write.[2] Rather, Jesus set his face like a flint to go to Jerusalem and confront the authorities there, to make his claim of being the Messiah – the Lord of the House (of Israel).

Some of the folks in the crowd wanted a SIGN (Luke 11:16) that would prove Jesus was, indeed, who he was claiming to be. Healing the mute man by casting out his demon was a sign to that effect, but it wasn’t enough for these people, whoever they were. One might ask what miracle would be accepted, if Jesus already amazed the people by casting out the demon from the mute man. If Jesus made the impossible occur, what could be more impossible than what was already known to be impossible?

No doubt, what his critics wanted Jesus to do was a miracle of his critics’ own choosing. In other words, they claimed Jesus might be setting the miracles up like magicians do today. This was known as sorcery in the first century AD. They simply wouldn’t acknowledge Jesus operated in the power of the Holy Spirit and wanted to believe he was in league with the Devil, as a sorcerer. Therefore, they wanted to name the miracle, tell Jesus what to do in order to prove he wasn’t a fraud or a sorcerer. The problem is, their unbelief wouldn’t end there. These folks would want to see a miracle whenever Jesus made a command. He would have to prove he was operating in the power of God every time he executed his office as Messiah.

Some scholars believe, because Luke tells us Jesus knew their thoughts (Luke 11:17), that what occurs in Luke 11:15-16 wasn’t audible, that Jesus’ enemies only thought Jesus operated in the authority of Beelzebub, and only thought he needed to give a greater sign than healing a mute man. However, this simply doesn’t fit what follows. These folks slandered Jesus in the presence of the great crowd of pilgrims who came to Jerusalem for the Passover. Luke then claims Jesus knew their thoughts, that is, he knew their motives.

They knew what they were doing. These people weren’t simply making honest mistakes nor were they folks who needed to be pitied, because they were so mentally and spiritually crippled that they needed assurance for everything that was done. These men knew exactly what was going on, but openly opposed Jesus’ right to his Messianic office. If saying they openly opposed him is too strong an accusation, they certainly wanted to control Jesus’ power or authority. In other words, they refused to submit to Jesus, their Messiah, no matter which way one looks at what they did here.


[1] An example would be the hated Antiochus Epiphanies (god manifest) became Antiochus Epimanes (the mad one) among many Jews.

[2] There are several ways to interpret Luke 9:51. When we get to Luke 13, I intend to elaborate on how Luke 9:51 could be taken. Was it Jesus’ time or not, and, if so, why didn’t his crucifixion occur at that particular visit to Jerusalem.

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Posted by on July 2, 2017 in Gospel of Luke


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