Who is the “prince of demons” referenced in Matthew 9:34? Jesus’ enemies were pretty familiar with that guy—so much so that they felt confident accusing Christ of being his evil pawn. So who were they talking about?

The “prince of demons” was a title for a high-ranking, fallen angel derisively named “Beelzebul” by the ancient Jews. He appears in the Jewish pseudepigraphical work the Testament of Solomon, where he is overpowered and imprisoned by King Solomon.

The name itself originates from the insulting Hebrew term, “Baalzebub,” which referred to the false god, Baal, and means alternately “Lord of the flies” and “Lord of the dung heap,” Some have assumed Beelzebul to be another name for Satan, which could be the case, but that assumption is inconclusive; the name could also refer to a lesser demon in the service of Satan but who wields some measure of authority over the demonic realm.

In any case, this “prince of demons” is a vile, contemptible being, a force intent on wreaking evil—and the Pharisees of Jesus’ day knew that. Given that knowledge, it’s unlikely that their accusation of Jesus was a serious one. Beelzebul would never free people from demonic possession and captivity; it simply isn’t that being’s nature, nor is it consistent with the goals of the supernatural enemies of God. (Jesus made clear that obvious thinking in Matthew 12:25-29.)

It’s much more likely the Pharisee’s accusation was simply a desperate smear attempt by people who hated Christ. Convincing people that Jesus was associated with the infamous “prince of demons” would have been both a contemptuous personal insult (calling Jesus lower than a big pile of feces) and an attempt to discredit his reputation as a holy man and prophet.

The tragic irony was that, in calling Jesus a slave to Beelzebul, the Pharisees discredited themselves instead of Christ—and entrenched themselves as allies of the so-called “prince of demons” that they claimed to despise.

 

Works Cited:

[BKB, 249; ZP1, 505-506]

 

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