Fly Lord, BaalZebub, and Antisemitism – And We’re Not Talking Bohemian Rhapsody
The sound of the flies was deafening. After the battles when men and horses lay dead or wounded on killing fields during the American Civil War, the open wounds became breeding grounds for flies. A fly can land on a bleeding wound and, in a few seconds, lay hundreds of eggs that produce maggots – the larva form of flies. In the Battle of Gettysburg alone, 51,000 killed or wounded soldiers were joined by 1,500 dead horses. The carnage attracted swarming flies in the hundreds of thousands. Surgeons reported that maggots formed in open wounds less than an hour after bandaging them.
I’ve often wondered about the cause of antisemitism. We can learn something from flies – they are lured by open-festering wounds and use them to reproduce themselves exponentially. Antisemitism doesn’t make any sense. Many have tried to explain it – myself included. There is no logical reason why the Jews have been hated for millennia.
Antisemitism is not logical. It’s emotional. For antisemitism to exist, it needs an open wound – an offense in the soul. If that’s true, then maybe antisemitism is more deeply rooted than we think. Maybe antisemitism is a spiritual issue – an evil spirit, to be more precise – Demonic.
One of the names for Satan in the Bible is Baal-zebub. Baal means lord or master and was the common name for the many gods of the Philistines in Bible times. Each of the gods of Baal ruled over a region or entity. Baal-zebub is translated as “Lord of the Flies.” One meaning from the Jewish Encyclopedia defines Baal-zebub as the controller of flies. In Greece, this same deity was worshiped as the dispenser of flies. The New World Encyclopedia says that fly gods are found in other cultures throughout the world as well.
In the Biblical book of II Kings 1:1-16, it is written that King Ahaziah was leaning on the lattice of his upstairs window and fell to the ground below. He was thought to be impaled in the fall and suffered from an open wound that attracted flies. Consequently, Ahaziah commanded his messengers to “Go, inquire of Baal-zebub (Lord of the flies), the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this sickness.” According to legend, this god had the power to disperse flies or cause flies to swarm. Later, in Jewish thought, Lord of the Flies became a name associated with Satan himself. This demonic entity called Baal-zebub was also known as the inspiration behind pride, envy, arrogance, self-indulgence, and chaos.
I’m thinking perhaps over the centuries that, Satan – the Lord of the Flies – has been on the prowl for open wounds – offenses that people have with Jews – and when he locates the breeding ground, sows hatred, pride, jealousy, and arrogance in the sore, causing it to fester and grow. At least, this is the pattern I see too often in my experience in pushing back against the growing narrative of antisemitism and anti-Judaism in Christian circles.
Like the myths about the Jews taught by the church in the Middle Ages – myths like the Blood Libel and the Desecration of the Host – the skin is often bruised and broken with an emotional story about human rights violations by the Jews against the Palestinians. After the false narrative is embraced, the wound becomes the epicenter for the Lord of the flies to work, and there is little intellectual reasoning that will change a person’s mind because their belief about Jews has formed in the emotional realm of their soul.
I can describe many different ways I’ve seen this develop. One way it happens is on all-expense paid trips to Israel offered by Christian organizations who have allowed their offense toward Jews to become untethered to reality – theologically and historically – and are now leading impressionable tourists to Israel – usually young Evangelical college students. The students are shown the backroads of the West Bank – the undesirable places – and are told heart-wrenching stories of suffering supposedly caused by Jews. By the time the students return home, the wound is bleeding, and antisemitism has taken root.
Statistics prove the manipulation of young Evangelical minds is working. In a survey conducted in 2018, young Evangelical Christians were asked who they sided with in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and 69% said they supported Israel. A similar survey was conducted in March and April of 2021, and the respondents – Evangelicals between the ages of 18 and 29 – were asked where they placed their support, and 33.6 percent said with Israel. This marks a 50% decline in three years. If it’s true the Lord of the Flies is actually an evil spirit, its strategy of reproduction is working.
Offenses toward Jews in the Christian world come in all shapes and sizes. Probably the greatest offense is over Jewish chosenness. Because G-d chose the Jews to be His special people who would bring the light of His revelation to a broken world, this choice has brought great angst within Christianity. The reasoning is if the Jew is chosen, the Christian is not, and this has been the cause of offense that has resulted in jealousy toward the Jewish people inspiring the brutal persecution of Jews by their Christian neighbors.
Ultimately, the offense is toward G-d Himself for making this choice in the first place. Today this wound of offense is festering on Evangelical college campuses where trained Christian theologians – filled with arrogant jealousy – are proclaiming G-d despises the Jewish people so much that He has broken the covenant He made with Abraham, and Jews are no longer His people and all the promises given to Abraham – including the promise of the land of Israel – now belong to Christians not Jews.
They say that false doctrine normally begins with a wound of some kind. This is true for those who are teaching the false doctrine of Replacement Theology (Christians have replaced Jews as the “New Israel”). Somehow they were wounded – maybe because of G-d’s choice of the Jews – and they have never recovered because they have willingly allowed the Lord of the Flies to exploit the sore.
Part of me thinks it’s not too late to heal the age-long wound of antisemitism – especially as it relates to Christian antisemitism which some have described as the oldest and most lethal form of Jewish hatred. Examining Christian antisemitism at an emotional and spiritual level – that it’s caused not by logical and intellectual reasoning but by spiritually evil influences – helps me in my dialogue with Christian leaders and students who have emotionally embraced a lie. Maybe if I can help them remember when the skin was first broken and how the wound occurred, they might realize the growing disdain for Jews, Israel, and Judaism -a hatred as putrid as the maggots in the wounds of Civil War soldiers – is being reproduced in them by the Lord of the Flies.