In the first century, Paul’s use of the name ‘Belial’ in his letter to the Corinthians would have evoked far more to his readers than just the spirit of abuse. The first thing it would have brought to mind was the rebellion of a group of Watchers against God. Belial was one of the names their leader was known by.
The Hebrew word means the one who is utterly worthless and vile. Because it usually occurs in the phrase ‘sons of Belial’ or ‘daughter of Belial’, it’s often translated worthless fellows or wicked men. The unfortunate consequence of this rendering is that Belial manages to pull off a superb vanishing act. Instead of ‘sons of Belial’ pointing to depraved people who follow a supernatural foe and become part of the family of a rebel angelic commander, we are given the impression that their evil inclinations are a natural outworking of the sin of Adam.
It would not have been seen that way in the first century.
The sin of Adam is, indeed, immeasurably serious because it brought death and decay into the world. Humanity was exiled from Eden and the immediate presence of God. Disobedience had deep and defiling effects. God’s image-bearers were disfigured. Nevertheless, the sin of Adam was—perhaps surprisingly to us today—not seen as the origin of demonic evil. It was not considered to be the source of planetary-wide violence, global abuse and sweeping moral corruption. Instead of resulting from the fall of humanity, this carnage was believed to have come in the aftermath of the fall of the seditious angels.
Only a tiny fragment of the story remains in the biblical account in Genesis 6. That brief summary tells us that angels descended to earth, mated with beautiful women, sired the ‘nephilim’—giants— and the ‘gibborim’—mighty men of old—and, when the earth became a cesspit of aggression, God sent the flood while saving one man, Noah, and his family.
The book of Enoch adds to our understanding of what the people of the first century believed had happened. The book of Enoch, while not considered to be part of the canon of Scripture, was very highly regarded at the time of Jesus and is quoted directly in the epistles as well as alluded to numerous times in early Christian writing.
Enoch tells us that Watcher-class angels, led by Semyaza—elsewhere called Belial—taught their human wives and hybrid children metallurgy to make weapons of warfare, root-cutting and spellbinding for sorcerous potions, womb-striking for abortions and much other restricted knowledge. Their giant children were so large they ravaged the earth, consuming so much grain and livestock that humanity could not provide for their appetites. The giants then ate people before turning on each other as cannibals. The flood was not a punishment—the flood was the only way the last remaining uncontaminated humans could be preserved so the redemption of mankind would be possible.
This is Grace Drops and I’m Anne Hamilton. May the helmet of salvation guard your mind daily.
Thank you to Lorna Skinner of www.riversofmusic.co.uk for the background music.
More on the spirit of Belial can be found in the new paperback, Dealing with Belial: Spirit of Armies and Abuse, Strategies for the Threshold #8.