BELIAL be’ lĭ əl (בְּלִיַּ֫עַל, H1175; Βελίαρ). The word is generally understood to come from two common Heb. words meaning “without” and “to profit,” hence signifying “worthlessness” or “wickedness.” From the general concept of unprofitableness the thought moved into the realm of moral force, thus the resultant rendering of “wickedness.” In the OT uses of the word there is no indication of a proper name. The Talmud considers it a compound word meaning “without a yoke,” but with many this view has little or no acceptance. However, others equate it with one who has thrown off the yoke of heaven, hence lawless.
In four instances the meaning appears to be that of destruction: “torrents of perdition” (
For those who see many reminiscenses of mythology in the OT the word suggests a remnant of mythology relating to the subterranean watery abyss. There is no proof for this beyond the claim itself.
The apocalyptic concept of Belial as a person is carried over into a question by Paul in
G. Kittel, ed., Theol. Dict. of the N.T. (1964), I, 607; A. Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians (ICC), 207, 208; KB, 130.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
See ANTICHRIST; MAN OF SIN.