Be'la (Heb. id. בֶּלִע, a thing swallowed), the name of one place and three men.
1. (Sept. Βαλάκ.) A small city on the shore of the Dead Sea, not far from Sodom, afterward called ZOAR, to which Lot retreated from the destruction of the cities of the plain, it being the only one of the five that was spared at his intercession (Ge 19:20,30). It lay at the southern extremity of the Dead Sea, on the frontier of Moab and Palestine (Jerome on Isaiah 15), and on the route to Egypt, the connection in which it is found (Isa 15:5; Jer 48:34; Ge 13:10). We first read of Bela in Ge 14:2,8, where it is named with Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as forming a confederacy under their respective kings, in the vale of Siddim, to resist the supremacy of the King of Shinar and his associates. It is singular that the King of Bela is the only one of the five whose name is not given, and this suggests. the probability of Bela having been his own name, as well as the name of his city, which may have been so called from him. The tradition of the Jews was that it was called Bela from having been repeatedly ingulfed by earthquakes; and in the passage Jer 48:34, "From Zoar even unto Horonaim (have they uttered their voice) as an heifer of three years old," and Isa 15:5, they absurdly fancied an allusion to its destruction by three earthquakes (Jerome, Quaest. Heb. in Genesis 14). There is nothing improbable in itself in the supposed allusion to the swallowing up of the city by an earthquake, which בָּלִע exactly expresses (Nu 16:30); but the repeated occurrence of בֶּלִע, and words compounded with it, as names of men, rather favors the notion of the city having been called Bela from the name of its founder. This is rendered yet more probable by Bela being the name of an Edomitish king in Ge 36:32. For further information, see De Saulcy's Narrative, 1, 457-481, and Stanley's Palestine, p. 285. SEE ZOAR.
2. (Sept. Βαλά, Βαλέ.) The eldest son of Benjamin, according to Ge 46:21 (where the name is Anglicized "Belah"); Nu 26:38; 1Ch 7:6; 1Ch 8:1, and head of the family of the BELAITES. B.C. post 1856. The houses of his family, according to 1Ch 8:3-5, were Addar, Gera, Abihud (read Ahihud), Abishua, Naaman, Ahoah, Shupham, and Huram. The exploit of Ehud, the son of Gera, who shared the peculiarity of so many of his Benjamite brethren in being left-handed (Jg 20:16), in slaying Eglon, the king of Moab, and delivering Israel from the Moabitish yoke, is related at length, Jg 3:14-30. It is perhaps worth noticing that as we have Husham by the side of Bela among the kings of Edom, Ge 36:34, so also by the side of Bela, son of Benjamin, we have the Benjamite family of Hushim (1Ch 7:12), sprung apparently from a foreign woman of that name, whom a Benjamite took to wife in the land of Moab (1Ch 8:8-11). SEE BECHER.
3. (Sept. Βαλάκ.) A king of Edom before the institution of royalty among the Israelites; he was a son of Beor, and his native city was Dinhabah (Ge 36:32-33; 1Ch 1:43). B.C. perhaps cir. 1618. Bernard Hyde, following some Jewish commentators (Simon, Onomast. p. 142, note), identifies this Bela with Balaam, the son of Beor; but the evidence from the name does not seem to prove more than identity of family and race. There is scarcely any thing to guide us as to the age of Beor, or Bosor, the founder of the house from which Bela and Balaam sprung. As regards the name of Bela's royal or native city Dinhabah, which Fairst and Gesenius render "the place of plunder," it may be suggested whether it may not possibly be a form of דִּהֲבָה, the Chaldee for gold, after the analogy of the frequent Chaldee resolution of the dagesh forte into nun. There are several names of places and persons in Idumaea which point to gold as found there as DIZAHAB, De 1:1, "place of gold;" MEZAHAB, "waters of gold," or "gold-streams, "Ge 36:39. Compare Dehebris, the ancient name of the Tiber, famous for its yellow waters. If this derivation for Dinhabah be true, its Chaldee form would not be difficult to account for, and would supply an additional evidence of the early conquests of the Chaldees in the direction of Idumaea. The name of Bela's ancestor Beor is of a decidedly Chaldee or Aramaean form, like Peor, Pethor, Rehob, and others; and we are expressly told that Balaam, the son of Beor, dwelt in Pethor, which is by the river of the land of the children of his people, i.e. the river Euphrates; and he himself describes his home as being in Aram (Nu 22:5; Nu 23:7). Saul again, who reigned over Edom after Samlah, came from Rehoboth by the river Euphrates (Ge 36:37). We read in Job's time of the Chaldaeans making incursions into the land of Uz, and carrying off the camels, and slaying Job's servants (Job 1:17). In the time of Abraham we have the King of Shinar apparently extending his empire so as to make the kings on the borders of the Dead Sea his tributaries, and with his confederates extending his conquests into the very country which was afterward the land of Edom (Ge 14:6). Putting all this together, we may conclude with some confidence that Bela, the son of Beor, who reigned over Edom, was a Chaldaean by birth, and reigned in Edom by conquest. He may have been contemporary with Moses and Balaam. Hadad, of which name there were two kings (Ge 36:35,39), is probably another instance of an Aramaean king of Edom, as we find the name Ben-hadad as that of the kings of Syria or Aram in later history (1 Kings 20). Compare also the name of Hadad-ezer, king of Zobah, in the neighborhood of the Euphrates (2Sa 8:3, etc.). SEE EDOM; SEE CHALDAEAN.
4. (Sept. Βαλέκ.) A son of Azaz, a Reubenite (1Ch 5:8). B.C. post 1618. It is remarkable that his country too was "in Aroer, even unto Nebo and Baal-meon; and eastward he inhabited unto the entering in of the wilderness from the river Euphrates" (8, 9).