The Lord of the Fly

The Lord of the Fly August 24, 2014

In case you were curious, the meaning of Beelzebub, from the always interested Philologus writing in Forward:

Beelzebub comes, via the Latin Bible, from Hebrew ba’al z’vuv, literally “Lord [or Ba’al] of the Fly.” (Most people know this phrase better as “Lord of the Flies” from the title of William Golding’s best-selling 1954 novel, but in the Bible, z’vuv, “fly,” is in the singular.) Ba’al was the ancient Canaanite sky god and the senior figure in the Canaanite pantheon, and Ba’al Z’vuv is mentioned in the first chapter of Kings II as the name of a Philistine deity who was worshipped by some Israelites, too. . . .

Although some scholars have argued that flies were indeed associated with this god, the name ba’al z’vuv is far more likely to be a jeering pun on the Canaanite ba’al z’vul, “Lord of the Heavens.” This seems clear from the Greek New Testament, where the name occurs several times as Beelzeboul.

The article also describes the evolution of his place in the demonic hierarchy and The Testament of Solomon, “an apocryphal work that, composed in Greek by either Jews or early Christians, purports to be an autobiographical account of King Solomon’s magical dealings with demons.”


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