We often will see the word “wickedness” throughout the Bible, including the Old Testament. Although we can find variances of words that can mean lawlessness or rebellion, one word appears to stand out from the rest - that is the name Belial.
Mostly because Belial is used once as the name of Satan, “What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:15).
We may be familiar with some of Satan’s other names, for instance, another B-name is Beelzebub. But this word, Belial, means more than just a name for the devil.
It seems to be the personification of wickedness and evil. More than just attributed to a single being. In Apocryphal literature, we also witness a different take on this word and what it means.
What Does Scripture Say about Belial?
In the Old Testament, the word appears 20 plus times. Interestingly enough, most of the instances don’t refer to a specific being. So, the verses aren’t saying, “Satan alone is Belial.” Belial appears to be a spirit or personification of evil through people.
For instance, Deuteronomy 15:9 seems to compare Belial to having a wicked heart.
Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin.
This appears to indicate that Belial is a person or being of some sort. Perhaps an argument that Belial is the personification of wickedness and that the children, daughters, and men of it represents symbolism or a metaphor. If one is a son of Belial they are a wicked or lawless person.
However, the one instance we find in the New Testament does use Belial as a proper name for Satan (2 Corinthians 6:15).
So, we can argue that Belial both represents a name of the devil and an all-encompassing title of wicked, worthless men or women.
What Does the Apocrypha Say about Belial?
As with every instance of the Apocrypha, because apocryphal writings do not make up a part of the biblical canonical text according to many Christian traditions, we do have to exercise discernment when we reach a portion of apocryphal text.
Nevertheless, we should mention that we find a different use of the word Belial in these texts. For instance, the Book of Jubilees seems to be another demon who follows Satan.
Another text, from the pseudepigrapha, the Sibylline Oracles, appears to equate Belial with the Antichrist, whom we see doing works of lawlessness and wickedness in Revelation.
As mentioned in the article linked above, even popular literature such as Paradise Lost seems to explore the ideas presented in the Book of Jubilees, making Belial out to be the last angel who fell away from heaven.
In either case, whether Belial truly is another demon or the Antichrist, we need to approach these works with caution and discernment and turn to the canonical Scripture for guidance.
Why Does This Matter?
Why should we care about the name Belial? Why should we care whether it represents a being or just an adjective to describe lawless people?
First, we should realize that the name Belial has negative connotations no matter how you spin it (whether it refers to Satan, to lawlessness, or to another demon). If we hear the name Belial, we should know that whomever it describes is not a person who is walking on the narrow path of righteousness.
Second, we can often see the “sons of,” “daughters of” attribution in the Bible, whether it refers to God or Satan. As Christians, we are sons and daughters of our heavenly father. But those who do not belong to Christ are the sons and daughters of the Father of Lies or “the sons and daughters of Belial.”
Often Satan likes to copy what God does and twist it ever-so-slightly. That applies to the father imagery we see.
Finally, we need to understand the reason why Paul uses the name for Belial in the New Testament. In the context of the Corinthians passage, he talks about not yoking ourselves with unbelievers.
Most often, Christians will use that passage as a reason for why they can’t marry an unbeliever. But the reason Christians don’t yoke (in the most intimate way) with nonbelievers is because nonbelievers, no matter how upstanding, are not children of the heavenly father. This passage calls for a degree of separation in the most intimate of relationships. "Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character'" (1 Corinthians 15:33).
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Hope Bolinger is a multi-published novelist and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 1,200 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her modern-day Daniel trilogy is out with IlluminateYA. She is also the co-author of the Dear Hero duology, which was published by INtense Publications. And her inspirational adult romance Picture Imperfect releases in November of 2021. Find out more about her on her website.