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]



About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

More from Beliefnet and our partners
previous posts

Reader Appeal: Pastors, Bible teachers Genre: Commentary FBSN Rating: B+   It seems strange that asking a theologian to write a Bible commentary would be considered, well, strange. But in the “academic silo” world we live in, the fact is that theologians don’t typically write commentaries. Professors of biblical studies write commentaries, while theologians write, […]

Reader Appeal: Bible teachers, students, Bible Study Nerds Genre: Christian History FBSN Rating: B   Dr. Bryan Litfin is a theology professor at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He also holds a Ph.D. in the field of ancient church history and a master’s degree in historical theology. So, you know, he’s a big ol’ […]

Reader Appeal: Pastors, Teachers, Seminary Students Genre: Commentary FBSN Rating: A   The risk with Christian history and theology is that voices from our shared past are often drowned out by the voices of today’s popular thought leaders and megachurch pastors. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with listening to modern theologians. It’s just that sometimes […]

“Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” It’s interesting that John asked an academic question, recorded in Matthew 11:3, and Jesus responded with a legal answer (Matthew 11:4-6). John’s question really only required a yes-or-no reply, but instead of giving that simple solution, Jesus convened an impromptu, informal […]

Close Ad