In modern North American culture we typically don't think much about the meaning of names. They are usually just strings of sounds that are either pleasing to our ears or not. However, every name has a meaning which can often be understood as a title or description. To know the meaning of the names of people and places in mythological and religious stories can often unlock a deeper understanding of the text. In the case of gods who have been demonized by conquering religions, we can sometimes even come to an understanding of how the god was originally viewed. The entity Belial is one such example that I would like to discuss. Belial is typically portrayed as a prince of Hell and second in command only to Lucifer or Satan.
In Hebrew, the word is Bel-ya'al. The translators of the King James version of the bible often translated it as "wickedness" simply from it's context and totally unrelated to its literal meaning. However, in some cases where Christian translators are trying to give a plausible etymology of the word, they translate it as "without value" or simply "worthlessness". They derive this from the Hebrew words "Beli" meaning "without" and "ya'al" meaning "profit." This is certainly an etymology that suits a Christian agenda. Founder of the Church of Satan, Anton LaVey choose to portray Belial as meaning "Without Master" which is pretty close to one of the possible meanings.
"Beli" or "bely" (I, J and Y all represent the Hebrew letter Yod) means "without" and AL or EL (A and E both represent Aleph) means "God." Therefore, a possible meaning of Belial is "Without God." Considering that I work within a Luciferian paradigm, this translation of Belial is quite meaningful to me. However, this etymology leaves an extra aleph unaccounted for. While this doesn't totally invalidate this possible meaning, I would prefer not to leave any loose ends.
As soon as I see "Bel" in a name, especially if it is right at the beginning, I automatically think of "Bel" or "Baal" which meant "Lord" or "God" in ancient Babylon. The typical usage of Bel, especially in names, is "Lord" as in "having authority over" (for example Beelzebub meaning "Lord of the Flies.") Ya'al typically means "good and profitable". Therefore Bel-ya'al would seem to be a title for one who is the Lord of all that is good and profitable. Considering the anti-material bias of Christianity it makes perfect sense that they would translate this as "wickedness" or "without value." Interestingly it still fits in with LaVey's claim that Belial is connected with the element of Earth (the element of wealth and fertility.)
Considering that the sounds A and E are both the letter Aleph, there is yet another possible translation of Belial. The Hebrew word Ya'el means "goat." Goats, being a type of cattle, can represent prosperity but more typically represent lustfulness and by extension, the powers of creation. The Egyptian creator god Khnemu is a good example of this type of symbolism. He was portrayed as being a potter and having the head of either a ram or goat. He eventually became known as the Goat of Mendes. This possible etymology is also consistent with the claim that Belial is associated with Earth.
In conclusion, we have alternative etymologies that place Belial as being a Lord of Wealth or Lord of Goats. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that before being demonized by the Christians, Belial was a fertility god in charge of prosperity and could even possibly have been a creator god. We can also speculate that perhaps Belial was considered to be one of the uncreated gods or maybe he created and bestowed fertility without the authorization of whatever ruler God was in place at the time.
Like Ariadne's thread, people and place names provide us with a trail out of the twisted labyrinth and back to the source. Etymology is a sword that we can use to cut through the veil of religious propaganda that seeks to keep us ignorant and afraid. Every Lover of Truth should siriusly consider adding it to their Light-Bearer's toolkit.
Also check out my article discussing Lilith.
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