Belial in the Dead Sea Scrolls


Belial, the Devil, is prominent in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Reference to him occurs more than thirty times. I searched the translation by Martinez and Tigchelaar. I found Belial used in Rules of the Community (Manual of Discipline) (3), the War Scroll (9), the Thanksgiving Hymns (4), the Psalms and Psalms Pesher (2), and miscellaneous texts (7). He was referred to prevalently in The Damascus Document (10).  I found the phrase "Man of Lies" used once in the Psalms Pesher, and twice in the Damascus Document.


The Rules of the Community


In the Rules of the Community he is described as an evil influence to be avoided "during the dominion of Belial." He is not pictured as someone in human form, who has overt influence on the minds of other human beings, as we would expect at the end of the Millennium. In Column 10, Line 21 we find:

This leads us to conclude that the Rules of the Community were thought to apply to a group of people during the Era of Wickedness. This view has caused scholars to believe the community existed, and that the conduct of the members was being described. They almost universally assigned this to the Essenes. Unfortunately, the Rules may have been created out of an expectation that was never realized.


The War Scroll


On the other hand the War Scroll is designed explicitly for the era at the end of the Millennium. We find such phrases as

The Thanksgiving Hymns


In the Thanksgiving Hymns we find him as a schemer and plotter, influencing men without their knowing. He is working in opposition to God's people. We can also see the severe burden under which the Teacher works in the Last Days of the earth age.

We can see how the influence of Belial works with mankind, attempting to misguide and mislead them.


The Damascus Document


I shall now examine how Belial is described in the Damascus Document.


The Present Era


Column IV

Martinez and Tigchelaar

R. H. Charles

T. H. Gaster

6 Blank Of holiness are the forefathers, for whom

7 God atoned, and who declared the just man as just, and declared the wicked as wicked, and all those who entered after them

8 in order to act according to the exact interpretation of the law in which the forefathers were instructed until

9 the period of these years is complete. According to the covenant which God established with the forefathers. in order to atone

10 for their iniquities, so will God atone for them. But when the period corresponding to the number of these years is complete.

11 there will no longer be any joining with the house of Judah but rather each one standing up on

12 his (own) watchtower. The wall is built, the boundary far away. And during all these years

13 Belial will be set loose against Israel, as God has said by means of the prophet Isaiah, son of

14 Amoz, saying: (Isa 24:17) Panic, pit and net against you, earth-dweller. Blank Its explanation:

15 They are Belial's three nets about which Levi, son of Jacob spoke.

16 by which he catches Israel and makes them appear before them like three types of

17 justice. The first is fornication; the second, wealth; the third,

18 defilement of the temple. He who eludes one is caught in another and he who is freed from that is caught

19 in another. Blank

Blank The first saints whom

7 God pardoned, Both justified the righteous, and condemned the wicked. And all they who come after them
8 must do according to the interpretation of the Law, In which the forefathers were instructed until

9 the consummation of the period of these years. In accordance with the covenant which God established with the forefathers in order to pardon

10 their sins, so shall God make atonement for them. And on the consummation of the period [of the number] of these years

11 they shall no more join themselves to the house of Judah. But shall every one stand up

12 against his net. The wall shall have been built, the boundary been far removed. And during all these years

13 Belial shall be let loose against Israel, as God spake through Isaiah the prophet, the son of

14 Amos, saying: (Isa 24:17) ‘Fear and the pit and the snare are upon thee, O inhabitant of the land.’ Blank This means

15 the three nets of Belial, concerning which Levi the son of Jacob spake,

16 by which he caught Israel and directed their faces to three kinds of

17 righteousness. 11 The first is fornication, the second is the wealth (of wickedness), the third

18 is the pollution of the Sanctuary. He that cometh up from this shall be caught by that, and he that escapeth from this shall be caught

19 by that. Blank

These were the holy men of former times—the men whose sins God pardoned, who knew right for right and wrong for wrong. But all who up to the present time have succeeded them in carrying out explicitly the Law from which those ancients drew their lessons, them too will God forgive, in accordance with the Covenant which He made with those ancients to forgive their iniquities. And when the present era is completed, there will be no more express affiliation with the house of Judah; every man will `mount guard' for himself. `The fence will be rebuilt, and the bounds be far-flung' (cf. Mic. 7.11).

Meanwhile, however, Belial will be rampant in Israel, even as God has said through the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz: "Terror and the pit and the trap shall be upon thee, 0 inhabitant of the land!" (Isa 24.17). The reference is to those three snares, viz. (a) whoredom, (b) lucre, and (c) desecration, concerning which Levi the son of Jacob said that by making them look like three kinds of righteousness Belial ensnares Israel in them. He who escapes the one gets caught in the other, and he who escapes the other gets caught in the third.

1. The author(s) of this document understood that we were in a long and distinct period of history. The start of this era is not defined, except by the human and social conditions of those who know God and those who do not. During this period God offers instruction, understood as the Law, but actually operating as the Correct Teaching, the Torah. The Hebrew word used is ha-torah, The Teaching, but the translators were confined in their understanding to the traditional definition as Law. The author(s) were Jewish men thinking historically in Jewish terms.

2. The author(s) further understood that there would be a consummation of this era. M&T give it as when the period corresponding to the number of these years is complete. Charles gives it as on the consummation of the period [of the number] of these years. Gaster says when the present era is completed. They understood that another world era would follow the one they lived in. Whether that era would be the one we know as anno domini, the Year of our Lord, or an even further one, can not easily be distinguished in the text. The phrasing is suggestive of the Christian era, since there would no longer be joining with the house of Judah. Every individual would mount guard for himself, meaning would develop a relationship with God that would be unique, no longer guided by the Laws of Moses. Micah 7:11 states

The context here is a world era beyond the present Christian era. The translators did not recognize this prophetic reference except for Gaster.

3. During this era Belial would be free to operate. Men of earth would be cursed with his wicked presence. The text describes his influence in three ways, (a) fornication, (b) greed, and (c) lack of respect for the temples of God, whether Jewish or Christian. In our current world these influences have become greatly exaggerated. We have lost all sense of sexual respect. Greed is being expressed everywhere, whether in salaries for corporate management, or in gambling modes, such as sanctioned state lotteries. The Jewish synagogues and Christian churches have lost well nigh all righteous direction.

Note that Belial is not being described in his direct mind penetration that takes over the souls of hapless human beings.

Destruction at the Hand of Belial


Column VIII

Martinez and Tigchelaar

R. H. Charles

T. H. Gaster

These escaped at the time of the first visitation

1 while the renegades were delivered up to the sword. Thus will be the judgment of all those entering his covenant but who

2 do not remain steadfast in them: they shall be visited for destruction at the hand of Belial. This is the day,

3 when God will make a visitation. The princes of Judah are those upon whom the rage will be vented

4 for they hope to be healed but the defect sticks (to them); all are rebels because they have not left the path of

5 traitors and have defiled themselves in paths of licentiousness, and with wicked wealth, avenging themselves. and each one bearing resentment

6 against his brother, and each one hating his fellow. Each one became obscured by blood relatives,

7 and approached for debauchery and bragged about wealth and gain. Each one did what was right in his eyes

8  and each one has chosen the stubbornness of his heart . . .

These shall escape during the period of the (first) visitation,

1 but those who proved faithless shall be delivered to the sword. And this also shall be the judgment of all them who have entered into His covenant, who

2 will not hold fast to these (statues): they shall be visited for destruction through the hand of Belial. This is the day

3 on which God shall visit (as He hath spoken). The princes of Judah were (like them that removed the landmark): Upon them will I pour out (My) wrath (like water).’

4 For they are too sick to be healed And they have been at the head of all the rebels. Because they have not turned from the way of

5 traitors, But have wallowed in the ways of harlots, And in the wealth of wickedness and (in) revenge. And every man beareth a grudge

6 against his Brother, And every man hateth his neighbor. And the committed trespass every man against his next of kin.

7 And drew near to unchastity: And exalted themselves with a view to wealth and unjust gain And every man did that which was right in his own eyes

8 And they chose every man the stubbornness of his heart

these faithful men escaped, while those that turned back were delivered to the sword. Such will be the fate also of those who in the latter days will have entered God's Covenant but not held fast to these things. Them will God punish unto extinction by the hand of Belial. The day on which God will carry out the punishment will be that to which the prophet alluded when he said: "The princes of Judah have become like them that remove landmarks; I will pour out My wrath upon them like water' [Hos. 5.10]. They shall hope for healing, but the blemish shall cling to them. They are all of them apostates in that they have not turned from the way of the treacherous but have sullied themselves with wantonness and with wicked lucre and with the nursing of grudges against their fellows and with hatred of their neighbors. They have cheated their own kin and have had contact with lewdness and have been overbearing by virtue of wealth and possession and have done . every man of them what was right in his own eyes, and have preferred the stubbornness of their own hearts . . .


1. We can see that God will make a visitation. Destruction will come at the hand of Belial. How does he perform this destruction? By inducing in men thoughts that are inimical to the welfare of others, out of lack of righteousness. Unrighteous thoughts can lead to self interests and perversions of reality. As a consequence, men fear, and are guided by their fears. They may fight religious wars, contending who has the correct philosophical reaction to life. They may fight over slavery, and the use of other human beings in subjugation to economic benefits. They may fight over racial supremacy, or economic philosophies. Many are the reasons why men fight with one another.


2. Judah, the land of modern Israel, will be subject to the rage of other nations. Their leaders and their men of political strength, the Princes of Judah, will receive God's judgment. They are rebels against the way of God. They have become licentious, greedy, and resentful against one another. They shall be destroyed as prophesied in Jeremiah and elsewhere.


3. Of curious importance is the phrase obscured by blood relatives, or committed trespass every man against his next of kin, or they have cheated their own kin. The situation is family members of a righteous person who themselves are not righteous. How can a righteous person remain righteous if he is being tempted by family members who are not. I do not mean morality. I mean maintaining a righteous relationship with God. For example, family members may associate with channelers, in perfect innocence. But for the righteous person, who may recognize the iniquity of the channeler,  this is association with evil. This means that the righteous person has a sensitivity to evil that family members do not. This is a most difficult personal dilemma, obscured by blood relatives, or the blood relationship, or it may constitute trespass against the next of kin, against the righteous person, or may mean cheating their own kin.


In these cases the human beings, the family members, may do what is right in their own eyes, and prefer the stubbornness of their own hearts. But there are eternal consequences.


The Spirits of Belial


Column XII

Martinez and Tigchelaar

R. H. Charles

T. H. Gaster

2 Blank Every man over whom the spirits of Belial dominate

3 and who preaches apostasy will be judged according to the regulation of the necromancer or the diviner. But every one who goes astray,

4 defiling the sabbath and the festivals shall not be executed. for it is the task of men

5 to guard him; and if he is cured of it, they shall guard hint for seven years and afterwards

6 he may enter the assembly.

Blank Any man who is ruled by the spirits of Belial

3 and speaks rebellion shall be judged by the judgment of the necromancer and wizard. And he whom he leads astray

4 into profaning the Sabbath and the Feasts shall not be put to death; but it shall be the duty of the sons of man

5 to watch him; and should he be healed of it, they shall watch him seven years and then

6 he shall come into the Congregation. Blank

Any man who is dominated by demonic spirits to the extent that he gives voice to apostasy is to be subject to the judgment upon sorcerers and wizards. If, however, a man desecrate the Sabbath or the festivals through (mental) aberration, he is not to be put to death. In that case, it is the duty of men to keep him under observation. If he recovers, they are to watch him for seven years, and only thereafter may he be readmitted to public assemblies.


These admonitions come in the midst of a long litany of regulations concerning the future members of the body of Israel. They contain all the elements of social conduct that we would expect out of the current world order. Clearly, the author(s) understood this to apply to a devout body of Israel before the advent of great earth changes. Social judgments against necromancers, diviners, sorcerers, or wizards are well defined in the Old Testament, in Leviticus, and elsewhere.

Deut 18:9-14: "When you come into the land which Yahweh your God gives you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you any one who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, any one who practices divination, a soothsayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer, or a charmer, or a medium, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For whoever does these things is an abomination to Yahweh; and because of these abominable practices Yahweh your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before Yahweh your God. For these nations, which you are about to dispossess, give heed to soothsayers and to diviners; but as for you, Yahweh your God has not allowed you so to do.

"A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them." Lev. 20:27

The term "familiar spirit" was used because the Spirit seems to know all about us and the most private affairs of our lives. He became very familiar with anyone who engaged in soliciting Him. The warning is for anyone who hath a familiar spirit.

Thus we see that the overt actions of Belial, the Devil, in his coming destruction of God's people, are not given in these passages from the Damascus Document.