Be'lial stands often, in the Auth. Vers. (after the Vulg.), as a proper name for the Hebrews word בּלַיִּעִל (Beliya'al, Sept. usually translates λοιμός, παρανομία, etc.), in accordance with 2Co 6:15. This is particularly the case where it is connected with the expressions אַישׁ, man of, or בֶּן, son of; in other instances it is translated by "wicked," or some equivalent term (De 15:9; Ps 41:8; Ps 101:3; Pr 6:12; Pr 16:27; Pr 19:28; Na 1:11,15). There can be no question, however, that the word is not to be regarded as a proper name in the O.T.; its meaning is worthlessness, and hence recklessness, lawlessness. Its etymology is uncertain: the first part, בּלַי, = without; the second part has been variously connected with עוֹל, yoke, as in the Vulg. (Jg 19:22), in the sense of unbridled, rebellious; with עָלָה, to ascend, as = without ascent, that is, of the lowest condition; and lastly with יָעִל, to be useful, as = without usefulness, that is, good for nothing (Gesenius, Thesaur. p. 209). The latter appears to be the most probable, not only in regard to sense, but alto as explaining the unusual fusion of the two words, the 9 at the end of the one and at the beginning of the other leading to a crasis, originally in the pronunciation, and afterward in the writing. The expression son or man of Belial must be understood as meaning simply a worthless, lawless fellow (Sept. παράνομος). It occurs frequently in this sense in the historical books (Jg 19:22; Jg 20:13; 1Sa 1:16; 1Sa 2:12; 1Sa 10:27; 1Sa 25:17,25; 1Sa 30:22; 2Sa 16:7; 2Sa 20:1; 1Ki 21:10; 2Ch 13:7), and only once in the earlier books (De 13:13). The adjunct אַישׁ is occasionally omitted, as in 2Sa 23:6, and Job 34:18, where בּלַיִּעִל stands by itself, as a term of reproach. The later Hebrews used ῥακά and μωρέ in a similar manner (Mt 5:22); the latter is perhaps the most analogous; in. 1 Samuel 25, 25, Nabal (נָבָל = μωρός) is described as a man of Belial, as though the terms were equivalent.
In the N.T. the term appears (in the best MSS.) in the form Βελίαρ, and not Βελίαλ, as given in the Auth. Vers. (So in the Test. XII Patr. p. 539, 587, 619, etc.) The change of λ into ρ was common; we have an instance even in Biblical Hebrew, Mazzaroth (Job 38:32) for mazzaloth (2Ki 23:5); in Chaldee we meet with חִרצָא for חֲלָצַים, and various other instances; the same change occurred in the Doric dialect (φαῦρος for φαῦλος), with which the Alexandrine writers were most familiar. The term, as used in 2Co 6:15, is generally understood as an appellative of Satan, as the personification of all that was bad; Bengel (Gnomon, in loc.) explains it of Antichrist, as more strictly the opposite of Christ. By some it is here explained as referring to a daemon (Castell, Lex. s.v. Beliar), or Satan himself (comp. Eph 2:2); but in the O.T. it never has this meaning (Michaelis, Supplem. p. 1119).