Son of a… no wait, it’s the OTHER “B” word. Son of Belial. It has a nice ring to it.
Well, that son-of-a comes from the Bible believe it or not. Son of Belial was an odd Hebrew idiom used to describe a man of reprobate character. It appears 27 times in the Old Testament. Be happy ladies, you get a pass on this one.
“Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial….”
1 Samuel, 2:12
Wait. Sons of Eli and sons of Belial? This confusing turn-of-phrase is within the story of Eli the priest and his unruly sons. They ran amok and did whatever they wanted. The kind of language in the story is a nudge-nudge-wink-wink from the author to the reader. For example, when Eli finds out that his sons were killed in battle, he falls down and dies. The text adds in gratuitously, it was because he was so damned fat. It seems that the writer was not a personal fan. Though unkind, it seems that people find saucy ways to tell the truth, even in the Bible. That can even include observations that Eli, your sons could use a bit of fatherly discipline, while you get to lecture us on how to live a holy life. The scribe wasn’t pulling punches. Sometimes it just feels better to tell the truth, in spite of those who think you should never say anything bad, ever.
It’s hard to get the right balance. The gospel of John opens up with an observation about Jesus.
“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Grace AND Truth. Wow. That’s a hard mix. He might be the only one who got the balance right. It might be why God invented marriage. It’s God’s truth-telling machine up close and personal. Any married man will hear lots of truths about himself from his wife, on a list that updates periodically.
I have given this some thought over time. Nice, or truthful. Which is better? I have decided, reaching a certain age, that truth-telling is important. The greatest injustices throughout history have occurred when people were robbed of their own voice and could not tell the truth. Sometimes those victimized simply want to move on. They don’t want to live with the bad feeling forever. Other times, they don’t want to validate how dumb they were to trust someone, by telling the story of their own downfall.
Jesus did not mince his words. He called out fools and hypocrites regularly, enough to get him killed. I wonder what would Jesus do? More than that what would Jesus say? Some ripe words apparently, if you deserved it. I bet it was therapeutic. I bet he slept soundly at night.
Some secrets lay buried in the past, and they dig at people like a scab that just won’t heal. We have some of this in my own family history. Do you tell the truth or just let it rest? I think I am going to speak for the best possible of reasons, for the sake of my Dad.
One family secret, is that my Dad got stuck with a set of circumstances that were not so good. You can say he got royally screwed. You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your own family. The fly in the family ointment was his brother Harry, ten years his senior. My dad was born to an aging father who was not very interested in fathering, and he was likely an “accident”. He was not the favoured son. Harry was the apple of his daddy’s eye, behaviour notwithstanding.
The truth was that my dad’s brother was a son-of-a…, but that would be bashing my grandmother. Maybe I will get Biblical and call him a son of Belial. My grandmother used to say, he was cruel and nasty, from the day he exited the womb. As an adolescent he would torture small animals and that seems to be the trajectory that spelled out his life - the urge to spread malicious harm. He was nasty, condescending, and a bully, not to mention an inveterate liar and thief.
All of that blooms into maturity in manhood. If you could say that evil matures, it is like a bond that pays dividends to those in proximity. My grandfather died and Harry was left to deal with the estate. And deal he did. Mostly into his own pocket by forging my Grandmother’s signature, making well sure to hide his tracks. When she asked for an accounting of her affairs he threatened to put her away as feeble-minded. My grandmother wanted to avoid a lawsuit in the family, so she died poor and my dad meanwhile supported her AND his seven kids without benefit of inheritance.
Anyone who considers matters of justice has to chew over a situation like this, that some people get stuck with. You don’t have to look far for stories of injustice, they transcend boundaries of age, gender, creed or colour. Anyone who talks of “privilege” ignores this basic fact. I think in the Bible they call it sin.
From what I have observed, those who benefit from malice, will not easily be outed. When challenged, they are likely to double down on their worst tendencies rather than beg forgiveness. There is something about malice that sticks in the character. It is sin, gone rotten to the core.
My uncle outlived my Dad, who exited this world a bit early due to cancer. My uncle fashioned a professional identity that aggrandized his time on this earth. He planted a story in the Regina Leader Post suggesting he was a “famous scientist who spent years consulting, and had been instrumental in the invention of the internet”. His self-penned bio sat for years, attached to the awards scholarship he bequeathed to his Alma Mater, the University of Saskatchewan, in his own honour. The funds for this award, were the ill-gotten gains from robbing his mother, and my father.
Truth is therapeutic. Saying it sets you free. You can sleep at night with it off your plate. So let me just say it. Dad, you got screwed. Your brother was a son-of-a…
Tell the truth, and shame the Devil.