Erich Lessing

Prince of earth or lord of flies? Some scholars believe that the gospel writers derived the name Beelzebul from “Baalzebub, the god of Ekron” mentioned derisively in 2 Kings 1:2–3. However, both Beelzebul and Baalzebul mean Lord Prince Baal, the Caananite god who was Yahweh’s chief rival. By altering the ending of the name to read Baalzebub, meaning Lord of the Flies, the narrator of Kings portrayed Baal as insignificant.

If the gospel writers didn’t use the name Baalzebub, they did use the same ancient Near Eastern literary practice of diminishing foreign gods by subjecting them to ridicule. If in Kings the mighty Baalzebul is reduced to a lord of flies, in the Gospels the name Beelzebul indicates a powerless minor deity.