What is the Source of Jesus’s Authority over Demons?  Matthew 12:22-37

Matthew 12:22-37 describes a confrontation over Jesus’s authority over demons. After healing a demon-oppressed man by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Pharisees declare Jesus casts out demons by the authority of Beelzebul. Some who witness this miracle wonder if Jesus is the son of David, the messiah. But the Pharisees reject this miracle as a messianic sign, he is not casting out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit at all! Jesus considers this rejection to be blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, a sin that will not be forgiven in this age or the age to come.

This story is similar to Matthew 9:32-34. There two blind men called out to Jesus “have mercy on us, Son of David.” When Jesus heals them, the crowd is amazed and declare “nothing like this has been seen in Israel.” The Pharisees, however, declare Jesus drives out demons by the power of prince of demons. In that context, Jesus does not cast out a demon nor does he address the Pharisees. Here he heals a blind and mute man by casting out a demon, and the crowd wonders if he is the son of David. After the Pharisees make their statement, Jesus engages in a scribal debate with them, questioning their reasoning about the source of his power over demons.

The Crowd Reacts to Jesus Casting Out a Demon

As with the healing of the man with a withered hand (Matthew 12:9-14), the miracle itself is not the point of this story. Matthew focuses on the contrasting reactions of the people and the Pharisees.

The people wonder, “Can this be the son of David?” (12:23). This is the only place in Matthew where “all the crowds” are moved by a miracle, which may explain why the Pharisees react as they do. The miracles are now moving a large number of the people to consider the possibility of Jesus as the messiah. Jesus as a local miracle worker is one thing, but it is quite another if he begins to draw larger crowds. The mission of the Twelve has done just that, leading up to the feeding of the 5000.

The title “The Son of David” is a messianic title based on 2 Samuel 7:12-16. The Lord promises David that his son will rule after him and that David’s throne “will be established forever.”

The question adds to the crowd’s amazement. The verb (ἐξίστημι)is used for a reaction to something that does not make sense, so both amazement and confusion, “the main idea is involvement in a state or condition of consternation” (BDAG). Maybe the contemporary pop-English phrase “mind blown” conveys the right sense of the verb. “The crowds saw what Jesus did and it blew their minds.”

The Pharisees claim Jesus casts out demons by the power of Beelzebul

After the Pharisees hear the crowd wondering aloud if Jesus is the Messiah, they respond that he is just a man. “This man” is intentional, Jesus is just a human and not the Son of David, the messiah. Unlike the crowds, the Pharisees are not amazed by Jesus. In Matthew 9:32-34 the Pharisees made a similar declaration in response to dealing a deaf mute who.

The Pharisees claim Jesus is simply a man. He casts out demons because he is in league with the demons. This power comes from the prince of demons (9:34; 10:25).

Is the name Beelzebul or Beelzebub? Beelzebul is a transliteration of the Greek Βεελζεβούλ, “Baal, the Prince.” The name Beelzebub (בַּעַל זְבוּב) means “lord of flies” (2 Kings 1:2-6).  The name (בַּעַל זְבוּל) can mean something like “lord of filth” (BDAG). In the Testament of Solomon, Beelzebul is called the prince of demons:

Testament of Solomon 6:1-3 Then I summoned Beelzeboul to appear before me again. When he was seated, I thought it appropriate to ask him, “Why are you alone Prince of the Demons?” 2 He replied, “Because I am the only one left of the heavenly angels (who fell). I was the highest-ranking angel in heaven, the one called Beelzeboul. 3There also accompanied me another ungodly (angel) whom God cut off and now, imprisoned here, he holds in his power the race of those bound by me in Tartarus. He is being nurtured in the Red Sea; when he is ready, he will come in triumph.”

Is Beelzebul the same as Satan? In 12:26, Jesus uses the name Satan rather than Beelzebul. As John Nolland says “Beelzebul had. Become in time simply an alternative name for Satan” (Matthew, 435).

Jesus knows their thoughts and responds directly to the Pharisees. He first by points out their conclusion does not make sense. Second Jesus declare the Pharisees are in serious spiritual danger by rejecting the clear witness of the Holy Spirit that Jesus is the eschatological Son of Man (Matthew 12:25-29).

4 thoughts on “What is the Source of Jesus’s Authority over Demons?  Matthew 12:22-37

  1. Many thanks for this interesting piece! Is it agreed, then that Jesus had and used the authority, not of God Incarnate , but of Man Anointed?

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