🔼The name Bel: Summary
- Worn Out, Worthless
- From the verb בעל (ba'al), to be lord.
- From the verb בלה (bala), to be old or worn out.
🔼The name Bel in the Bible
Bel is the name of the patron deity of Babylon. According to The Oxford Companion To The Bible, Bel is another name of Marduk . Marduk is mentioned only once in the Bible, by the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 50:2). Bel gets a little more Biblical screen time, both from Jeremiah (Jeremiah 50:2, 51:44) and Isaiah (Isaiah 46:1). The Septuagint features three apocryphal additions to the Book of Daniel, one of which is a two-parter titled Bel and the Dragon. In the Bel story, Daniel insists that food offered to Bel isn't eaten by Bel, and sets out to reveal the identity of the midnight snacker: Bel's priests, who are subsequently executed.
🔼Etymology of the name Bel
The name Bel is closely related to that of Baal, the patron deity of Canaan, and both names simply mean Lord (or owner, husband, etc):
The verb בעל (ba'al) means to exercise dominion over; to own, control or be lord over. The ubiquitous noun בעל (ba'al) means lord, master and even husband, and its feminine counterpart בעלה (ba'ala) means mistress or landlady.
God is obviously called 'lord' all over the Bible and the sin of the Baal priests (1 Kings 18:40) was not that they called upon some other deity but rather their incessant howling of the word 'lord' without any further responsibility or effects (see Matthew 7:21 and 11:4-5).
It's now commonly believed that there was no actual person behind these gods, so it's without merit to say that Bel and Baal are the same. Obviously, a collective or focused religious reverence of the Babylonian culture is not the same as that of the Canaan culture, and their manifestations (namely Bel and Baal) are also not the same. And that these cultures called their gods Lord is also not so unthinkable, as modern believers do the same thing.
It may also be that the Bel worshipers called their deity Lord, but that the authors of the final version of our Bible (who lived in Babel and competed with the Bel cult), transliterated this name deliberately into בל (Bel), so that it strongly resembled the adverb בל (bal), which is a particle of negation meaning "not". It comes from the root בלה (bala), meaning to be old or worn out:
Verb בלה (bala) means to wear out, annul or use until worthlessness. Adjective בלה (baleh) means worn out. Noun בלוא (belo) describes worn out things or rags. Noun תבלית (tablit) means annihilation or destruction.
Adverb of negation בל (bal) means not. Noun בלי (beli) describes a wearing out, a destruction or a worthlessness. Noun בלימה (belima) meaning nothingness. Noun בליעל (beliya'al) means worthlessness.
Noun בלהה (ballaha) means terror or calamity, but some scholars insists that this noun stems from a second, yet identical verb בלה (bala II), to trouble. If this verb is not a whole other one, it evidently describes trouble of a courage draining and strength depleting nature.
Bel sounds as much like Lord as it does like Nope!.