header image
Home arrow Griffin's History arrow The Man of Belial
The Man of Belial PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sylvester Hassell   

The Gospel Messenger—February 1892 


 The Lord hateth the man of Belial, the sower of discord among brethren.—Prov. vi. 12 19.

The Hebrew word BELIAL occurs twenty-seven times in the Old Testament, and once in the New Testament, as follows: 

Deut. xiii. 13; xv. 9; Jud. xix. 22; xx. 13; 1 Sam. i. 16; ii. 12; x. xxv. 17, 25; xxx. 22; 2 Sam..xvi. 7; xx. I; xxii. 5; xxiii. 6; 1 Kings xxi. 10. 13 (twice); 2 Chron. xiii. 7; Job xxxiv. 18; Psalm xviii. 4; xli. 8; ci.3; Prov. vi. 12; xvi. 27; xix. 28; Nahum I. 11, 15; Cor. vi. 15. 

In seventeen of these twenty-eight places, the word Belial is used without translation in our English version; and, in the other eleven places, it is rendered “ungodly,” “wicked,” “naughty,” and “evil,” in the King James version; and “base,” “wicked,” “worthless,” “ungodly,” “vile,” and “evil,” in the Revised version. According to Gesenius, the chief Hebrew lexicographer, Belial means “worthlessness,” “wickedness,” “destruction,” “a destroyer,” and in the New Testament (2 Cor. vi. 15) is the same as “o poneros,” “the wicked one,” “Satan,” (as in Matt. xiii. 19, 38; .1 John ii. 13, 14; iii. 12). The word is used in the Scriptures as the combination or personification of all that is bad—of every thing that is opposed to God—intense selfishness and worldliness, and enmity to everything holy and divine. By consulting the above passages it will be seen that the inspired writers characterize, by this term, the sins of idolatry, selfishness, covetousness, sodomy, drunkenness, irreverence, lawlessness, self-will, rapacity, fornication, rebellion, perjury, forwardness, secret scheming, mischievousness, discord, pride, falsehood, slander, murder, whispering, back-biting, enticement,’ peace-breaking, unrighteousness, darkness, and infidelity; and that they use this term to designate the depraved inhabitants of Gibeah (Jud. xix.), the wicked priests, Hophni and Phineas, Sons of Eli (1 Sam. ii.), the stingy and foolish Nabal (1 Sam. xxv.), the selfish followers of David (1 Sam. xxx.), the rebellious Sheba (2 Sam xx.), the fa1se witnesses against Naboth (1 Kings xxi.), the rebellious followers of Jeroboam (2 Chron. xiii.), and Satan (2 Cor. vi.) In 1 Sam ii. 12, it is declared that these persons “know not God;” and in 2 Sam. xxiii. 5-7, they are contra-distinguished from the covenant people of God. The learned John Milton, in his Paradise Lost (Book i. lines 490-505; and Book ii. lines 108- 118), well represents the personified Belial as not only “reigning in courts and palaces.” but also “frequenting temples and altars”— as “fair and graceful in appearance,” 

‘But all was false and hollow; though his tongue
Dropp’d manna, and could make the worst appear
The better reason to perplex and dash
Maturest counsels; for his thoughts were low
To vice industrious, but to nobler deeds
Timorous and slothful; yet he pleased the ear
With persuasive accents.”

 But the still wiser Solomon, who was inspired with the Holy Ghost, gives us the fullest and closest portrait of “the man of Belial,” in Prov. vi. 12-19: “A naughty person [literally, a man of Belial], a wicked man, walketh with a forward mouth. He winketh with his eyes, he speaketh [shuffleth] with his feet, he teacheth [maketeh signs] with his fingers; forwardness is in his heart, he deviseth mischief [or evil] continually; he soweth discord. Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly: suddenly shall he be broken without remedy. These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination to Him: a proud look, a lying tongue and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.”

“Here, for the first time, we have, as it were, the portrait of the man of Belial—the man who is not to be trusted, whose look and gestures warn all who can observe, against him. The picture is wonderfully life like, individual, yet generic, indicating physiognornic facts that are true at all times. The speech of such an one is tortuous and crafty, he walks (literally) in crookedness of mouth! Not speech only, but all other means by which man holds intercourse with man, are turned to instruments of fraud and falsehood. The wink which tells the accomplice that the victim is already snared, the gesture with the foot and hand, half of deceit, and half of mockery, these would betray him to any one who was not blind. But here also there is a Nemesis. The duper and the dupe shall share the same calamity. The closing words of the 14th verse (‘he soweth discord’), and in the 19th verse (‘he that soweth discord among brethren’), show that the same character is meant throughout. With the recognized Hebrew form of climax, the teacher, in verses 16 to 19, enumerates six qualities as detestable, and the seventh (sowing discord among brethren) as worse than all, (seven, here as else where, representing completeness, whether for good or evil), but all the seven in this instance belong to one and the self-same man, the man of Belial of the 12th verse.” “There is a parallel well worthy of notice between the seven cursed things here and the seven blessed things in the fifth chapter of Matthew. The first and last of the seven are alike in the two lists. ‘The Lord hates a proud look,’ is precisely equivalent to ‘blessed are the poor in spirit’; and ‘he that soweth discord among brethren’ is the exact converse of the ‘peacemaker’. The seven vices, twice enumerated here, are all of them manifestations of hatred against one’s neighbor, or sins against the second table of the Decalogue; yet it is not so much a general unkindness as rather an unkindness consisting and displaying itself in falseness and malice that is emphasized as their common element. And only on account of the peculiarly mischievous and ruinous character of just these sins of hatred to one’s neighbor, is he who is subject to them represented as an object of especially intense abhorrence on the part of a holy God, and as threatened with the strongest manifestations of His anger in penalties.”

 Just, before the portraiture of the man of Belial in Prov. vi., the sluggard is described and warned. The indolent person becomes a busy-body in other people’s matters. “For idleness is the mother of mischief. ‘Pride, fullness of bread and abundance of idleness’ were the sources of Sodom’s iniquity (Ezek. xvi. 49). The idle are sure to be tattlers and busy-bodies, ‘speaking things which they ought not.’—l Tim. v. 13. He who is nobody in deeds is often strong in words. He whose hands are idle has a tongue anything but idle; and he tries by words suited to men’s humors to win that favor which he cannot by deeds. He who will not move even his little finger to any good work, is very energetic in badness. As the agriculturalist applies himself wholly to the plowing and sowing of his land, so the man of Belial gives himself wholly to iniquity, seeking his harvest of gain or of enjoyment of malignity in traducing and lying, or in praising with words, whilst all the time traducing by signs. ‘If the godly, on the contrary, put their hand to the plow of sin at times, yet they look back, and do not sow the bad seed so as to disseminate it far and wide.’ The heart (not merely evil, as all men’s hearts are naturally, but) deliberately and continually, of set purpose, devising wicked imaginations, is set in the middle of the seven abominations; for it is the centre whence the rest emanate. The ‘feet swift to mischief’ expresses the eagerness of unhesitating energy of the bad to carry into effect the wicked ness which their hearts devise. Though evil thoughts arise in the godly, yet the feet, at the promptings of conscience, refuse to carry out the bad suggestions of the heart. Contrast David’s conduct when Saul was in his power in the cave at En-gedi (1 Sam. xxiv. 5), David’s heart smote him because he had cut off Saul’s skirt; so after the numbering of the people.—2 Sam. xxiv. 10).” “The thoroughly evil heart cannot long be hidden; it soon shows itself in evil gestures, words and deeds. Pride is in the front of those sins which God hates. A proud heart has never done anything specially for God’s honor and a neighbor’s good; through humble hearts God does great things.” “The man of Belial is a great hypocrite; with the language, the attitudes, the affected demure looks, and every appearance of extra ordinary piety, he carries on his trade of ‘devouring widow’s houses.’ His mouth, hands, eyes and feet are all employed; and even in his closet, at the church, and at the Lord’s table, he pursues his own selfish and malignant object, with lifted eyes, and bended knees, and hands spread forth. Forwardness is in his heart, and he is continually devising mischief, and sowing discord among those who are at peace, that he may reap some advantage for himself; or because, as the child of the devil, he loves mischief for mischief’s sake; and by all this he only ensures his own destruction, and that often very suddenly, and without remedy. 0, that every Christian were as industrious in doing good, as the man of Belial is in doing bad!”

In Prov. xvi. 27-30, Solomon gives another similar description of the man of Belial: “An ungodly man [a man of Belial] diggeth up evil [or deviseth mischief—diggeth an evil pit for others to fall into]; and in his lips there is as a burning fire. A forward man soweth strife; and a whisperer separateth chief friends. A violent man [‘when violence is not likely to succeed’] enticeth his neighbor [‘he stitcheth the fox’s skin on the lion’s skin’], and leadeth him into the way that is not good [‘to effect his violent purpose of destroying his neighbor’]. He shutteth his eyes [‘in deep meditation’] to devise forward things; moving his lips [‘in silent mental soliloquy’] he bringeth evil to pass.” The expression “shutting the eyes,” may mean the half closed or averted eyes that never look you straight in the face; and moving the lips may mean biting the lips, a sign of restlessness or cunning.

Such is the faithful and repulsive photograph that inspiration draws of “the man of Belial,” for the solemn warning of the people of God to the end of time. Such persons were found among his people in ancient times, and are undoubtedly found among them now; and their number is evidently on the increase. On account of the providential restraints of modern civilization, they do not openly manifest all the abominable traits mentioned in the first paragraph of this article; but the germ of those vices is in their hearts, and the development is checked from, the fear of man, and not from the fear or love of God. It seems especially deplorable that some of these marks of the child of the devil may at times exist in the heart and life of a child of God; but, when such is the case, the latter desires to be purified from these pollutions more than delivered from any bodily ills, and esteems it a kindness and a healing excellent oil for God or a faithful and loving brother to search and try, smite and reprove him, and lead him out of the evil way in the way everlasting.—Psalm cxxxix. 23, 24; cxli. 3-5.

That trait of the man of Belial which Solomon says is most abominable to God, because it is most distressing to His people and most dishonoring to His holy religion of love, is sowing discord among brethren— industriously destroying the fellowship of the saints— laboring, if the principle were fully carried out, to annihilate the visibility of the Church on earth, and proving, as far as such a course could prove, that the Bible is a lie, and that there is no God.

In the only place (2 Cor. vi. 15) where the word Belial is used in the New Testament, it means Antichrist, or Satan; and it is certain, from the Scriptures, that Satan, and not God, is the author of discord and confusion among the creatures and the people of God.—Gen. i., ii., iii.; 1Cor. xiv. 33. All was love and peace and joy in Eden until the great adversary of God and man appeared in the form of the crooked, subtle serpent, and perverting and denying the word of God under the pretense of friendship and advantage, lied and deceived Eve, the weaker vessel, and artfully and malevolently induced her to eat, and to give to Adam, “the fruit of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste brought death into the world, and all our woe,” all the strife and ruin that have cursed the human race. As Satan did in the beginning, so he continues to perpetuate dissension and destruction among mankind, and even among the people of God, by “transforming himself into an angel of light, and his ministers into ministers of righteousness.”—2 Cor. xi. 13-15. To accomplish his ruinous purposes, he still sugar-coats his lies with a thin covering of truth. The “peace-breaker’s words are smoother than butter, and softer than oil, yet are they drawn swords, and war is in his heart.”—Psa. lv. 20, 21. Satan is the prime cause of strife, but the secondary causes, or the means he employs in his devilish and destructive wisdom and workings, are stated in the Scriptures to he falsehood, crookedness, selfishness, prosperity, pride, covetousness, ambition, plotting, conspiracy, scorn, fury, tale-bearing, whispering, back-biting, slandering, carnality, flesh, wicked, designing demagogism, repeating matters, hypocrisy, envy, innovations, words to no profit, foolish and unlearned questions, the untamed, sharp, mischievous, deceitful, devouring tongue, set on fire of hell, and setting the world on fire, and to be destroyed by God.

(Gen. iii.; xxvi.; xxxvi Psalm vii.; 1.; lii.; lvii.; ci.; cxx.; cxxv Prov. ii.; vi.; xv.; xvi.; xvii.; xxii.; xxvi xxix.; Isa., lviii.; lix.; .Jer.; vi.; Row. 1.; 1 Cor. iii.; Gal. V.; 1 Tim. vi.; 2 Tim. ii.; James iii.; Rev. xxi.)

In one sense, to be sure, truth makes strife; light can but contend with darkness, truth with error; Christ sends a sword on earth—institutes and wages an ever lasting conflict with the detestable principles of Satan’s kingdom (Matt. x. 33); God puts enmity between the woman’s and the serpent’s seeds, between the flesh and the spirit, between those who are on the side of God and those who are on the side of the devil.—Gen. iii. 15; Gal. v. 17. “Clothed with the whole armor of God, we are to wrestle, not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness Of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”—Eph. vi. 10-1.8. We are not to compromise the truth, nor make a false, hollow peace with the ungodly world, nor take hush-money from the wicked, nor buy peace from them with money.

But we should separate from the world as we shall finally be separated from it at the end of time.

(Exod. xxxiii. 16; Neh. X 1, 3; 1 Kings xi. 2; 1 Cor. v. 11; Num. xi. 4, 5; xxxiii. 55, 56; Psalm cvi. 35-37; Deut. vii. 3, 4; Luke vi. 22, 23; Cor. x. 20, 21; Matt. xiii. 29, 30; xxv. 32.)

Yet we should speak the truth, not in hatred, but in love both of God and of our fellow-creatures—that love not only in word, but also in deed, without which all our profession of religion is vain.—Eph iv. 15, 16; 1 Cor. xiii. Even in all our conflicts, we are to be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, the soft, strong, safe, comfortable, blessed shoes made by the Lord of hosts as a part of the heavenly armor for all the soldiers of the cross (Eph. vi. 15 ; we are not to wish to call down fire from heaven to destroy our opponents (Luke ix. 54-56), but to heap coals of fire upon their heads by doing them good, and showing them the meek, gentle, forgiving and loving Spirit of Christ (Rom. xii. 19-21); we are not to forbid those servants of God who follow not with us (Luke ix. 49, 50); nor kill our brethren (that is, non-fellowship them) who cannot exactly pronounce our shibboleths, cannot exactly endorse our imperfect views of such great and unfathomable mysteries as predestination and regeneration (Jud. xü. 6; 1 Cor. viii. xiii. 12; Rom. xi. 33; John iii. 8); nor should we dispute for vain glory, which shall be the greatest, in order to gain the victory or mastery over our brethren, nor to lead off a party to be called after our sinful, foolish, and dying names.—Mark ix. 33-37; Acts xx. 30; 1 Cor. i. 10-13. And if, after showing t humble and kind and patient spirit of Christ, we cannot see eye to eye with our brethren, there should be a quiet discontinuance of the agitation of the controverted point, if it is not an essential article of faith; and, if we think it is essential, when our brethren do not so regard it, there might be, for awhile, not permanently, in some degree, not fully, instead of everlasting quarreling and bitterness, a peaceful separation, as in the cases of Abraham and Lott, Jacob and Esau, Rehoboam and the ten tribes, and Paul and Barnabas (Gen. xiii.; xxxvi.; 1 Kings xii. 24; Acts xv. 39, 40)—looking to the Lord for guidance, and praying Him to heal the breach, and to show us and our opponents the truth more fully and clearly, and to give us more of His gentle, unselfish and loving Spirit.

For God is the author of peace, and has promised to bless His people with peace. His kingdom is one of peace; His gospel one of peace. He is the God of peace; Christ is the Prince of peace, who calms the storms of nature and of sin. Blessed are the peace-makers; for they shall be called the children of God. He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth, and will cause the nations to learn war no more; and the lion and the lamb to lie down together. He calls us to peace, and to follow after the things that make for peace, and to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace, and to be at peace among ourselves. And especially as strife generally originates with the ministry, Christ commands us first to be reconciled to our brother before offering our gift (Matt. v. 23, 24)-the reverent and loving obedience to which simple precept of our Lord will bring about at once a great decrease of strife among the people of God.

My brethren, let us not imitate the proud, ambitious, selfish, hateful and hurtful example of Diotrephes (3 John 9, 10), but the meek, unselfish, lovely and loving examples of Moses, Ruth, and the Psalmist.—Heb. xi. 24- 29; Ruth i, 8-18; Psalm c 5, 6. There should be no schism in the body of Christ, but its members should be one as the Father and Son are one.—1 Cor. xii. 12- 27; John xvii. 21. If associations or periodicals foment strife and division among the people of God, they should be abandoned; we would, in that case, be far better off without them than with them. The professor of religion who sows discord among brethren is a man of Belial, a follower and instrument of Satan, and an enemy of God. He is an abomination to the Lord and to all that are animated by the Spirit of the Lord; and he shall he destroyed suddenly and without remedy.


< Previous   Next >


The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.