The chief idol of the Babylonians.
BEL, originally one of the Babylonian triad, but synonym, in OT and Apocr with Merodach, 'the younger Bel,' the tutelary god of Babylon (Jer 50:2; 51:44; Isa 46:1, Bar 6:41). See also Baal, Assyria and Babylonia. 'Bel and the Dragon' (in art. Apocrypha,
See Baal (2)
BEL, or BELUS, a name by which many Heathens, and particularly the Babylonians, called their chief idol. But whether under this appellation they worshipped Nimrod, their first Baal, or lord, or Pul, king of Assyria, or some other monarch, or the sun, or all in one, is uncertain. It is, however, probable, that Bel is the same as the Phenician Baal, and that the worship of the same deity passed over to the Carthaginians, who were a colony of Phenicians. Hence the names Hannibal, Asdrubal, &c, compounded with Bel or Baal, according to the custom of the east, where great men added the names of the gods to their own. Bel had a temple erected to him in the city of Babylon, on the very uppermost range of the famous tower of Babel, wherein were many statues of this pretended deity; and one, among the rest, of massy gold, forty feet high. The whole furniture of this magnificent temple was of the same metal, and valued at eight hundred talents of gold. This temple, with its riches, was in being till the time of Xerxes, who, returning from his unfortunate expedition into Greece, demolished it, and carried off the immense wealth which it contained. It was, probably, the statue of this god which Nebuchadnezzar, being returned to Babylon after the end of the Jewish war, set up and dedicated in the plain of Dura; the story of which is related at large, Dan 3. See BABEL.
BEL AND THE DRAGON, an apocryphal and uncanonical book. It was always rejected by the Jewish church, and is extant neither in the Hebrew, nor in the Chaldee languages; nor is there any proof that it ever was so, although the council of Trent allowed it to be part of the canonical book of Daniel, in which it stands in the Latin Vulgate. There are two Greek texts of this fragment, that of the Septuagint, and that found in Theodotion's Greek version of Daniel. The Latin and Arabic versions are from the text of Theodotion. Daniel probably, by detecting the mercenary contrivances of the idolatrous priests of Babylon, and by opening the eyes of the people to the follies of superstition, might furnish some foundation for the story; but the whole is evidently charged with fiction, though introduced with a pious intent. St. Jerom gives it no better title than, "The fable of Bel and the Dragon." Selden thinks that this history ought rather to be considered as a poem or fiction, than a true account: as to the dragon, he observes, that serpents, dracones, made a part of the hidden mysteries of the Pagan religion, as appears from Clemens Alexandrinus, Julius Firmicus, Justin Martyr, and others. See SERPENT.