Studies in Sonship, part 3: Sons of the Devil
We saw previously how Abigail’s husband, Nabal, was described as being a “son of Belial,” and that it was a figurative expression to denote his wickedness. We could likewise describe Nabal was a “son” of the devil in the figurative sense, couldn’t we? The word “Belial” simply means worthless, wicked, or evil, etc. We find proof that this expression is not meant in the literal sense in the story of Eli the priest.
1 Samuel 2:12 Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD.
Physically, they were the sons of Eli. But in terms of their character and their conduct they were sons of the devil, sons of evil, sons of wickedness.
Isaiah 57:1 The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.
2 He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.
3 But draw near hither, ye sons [Hebrew: ben] of the sorceress, the seed [offspring, children] of the adulterer and the whore.
4 Against whom do ye sport yourselves? against whom make ye a wide mouth, and draw out the tongue? are ye not children of transgression, a seed of falsehood,
The Hebrew for “falsehood” is sheh-ker, and it means lies. Who is the father of lies? Satan. The adversary; the devil. Here in verse 4 we have an expression which calls these people the seed of falsehood, or the offspring of lies. In other words, they are acting in this case like the offspring of the devil. But if you will check the context, it is talking about Israelites. Uh-oh! Good thing it’s figurative language, huh?!
As we read the next verse, do you see an application to our modern society? Still talking to Israel, God charges them with…
5 Enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree, slaying the children in the valleys under the clifts [clefts] of the rocks?
Does that not bring the modern baby-killing industry of abortion to mind? Are we as a nation any better than our forefathers in ancient Israel? Now, let’s use the sorcery connection to segue into an incident in the new Testament.
Acts 13: 6 And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus:
7 Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.
8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.
9 Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him,
10 And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child [huios]
of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?
And so Paul, full of righteous indignation, pulled out his Uzi submachine gun, shot that sorcerer full of lead and sent that child of the devil back to hell where he belonged…. Oops! Wrong translation. What actually happened was considerably more merciful to Elymas, the sorcerer.
11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.
12 Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.
Once again, we see that it is figurative language to describe the man’s behavior, not his ancestry from some supernatural being. Luke could just as easily have used the phrase “son of Belial” to describe Elymas. Let us look at a similar example in the gospel of Matthew. This is where Jesus is severely castigating the scribes and Pharisees.
Matthew 23:15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child [huios: son, offspring] of hell than yourselves.
Let’s analyze this for a moment… What is a proselyte? It is a convert, is it not? This obviously cannot have any reference to any kind of physical descent as in their actually being offspring of hell, or literal sons of the devil. It is talking about the scribes and the Pharisees who are trying to convert people to their way of thinking, to their false doctrines, which Jesus said will make them children of hell.
In other words, it will lead them to hell. “Hell“ here is the Greek word gehenna, which is a metaphor for the lake of fire spoken of in the book of Revelation. It is not an eternal, burning hell fire; we have lectured on that in our series on hell. (That 10 CD, audio lecture series is called “It’s Hell…or Nothing!” You can order it from us by asking for Album A-103, $44 postpaid.)
We need to get it ingrained in our minds that the Bible is overflowing with figures of speech. Did you ever think about this? The Bible is not only God’s inerrant and inspired word to us, but it is also the greatest piece of literature the world has ever seen, or ever will see. After all, who was its Author?
And so if we find in the great literature of the world outside of the Bible that the great authors and poets use word pictures, imagery and symbolism of all sorts, and metaphors and similes in their great literature, does it not make sense that the Bible would be the pre-eminent example, having all of these various kinds of figures of speech demonstrated for us? The great scholar Bullinger wrote a book 100 years ago consisting of about 1,000 pages dealing solely with the scores of different types of figures of speech in the Bible. God’s Word is replete with figurative language. Here is another example.
Ephesians 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children [huios] of disobedience:
Listen to this!
3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children [teknon] of wrath, even as others.
In other words, at one time we were all the “children of the devil,” figuratively speaking, of course.
Did you realize that when Jesus was selecting James and John, the sons of Zebedee, as his disciples, that he gave them a new name?
Mark 3:17 And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons [huios] of
Have you ever noticed how that many people act out their names? By that I mean that they tend to do or to act or to become what their name means, either consciously or unconsciously—mostly unconsciously. Thunder is symbolic of the Word of God, and I believe that Jesus was denoting by this new name that these two apostles were going to become great and powerful preachers or proclaimers of the Word of God. His word would thunder forth through them. And so they did.
We shall continuing laying the foundations for understanding biblical sonship in the next installment of this series. (To be continued.)