What Do Demons Believe about God? (James 2.19)

James 2:19: “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” In his new book The Bible Unfiltered, Michael Heiser says this “verse doesn’t say what many readers presume it says” (214). Is James merely saying that “the demons believe in God, and that doesn’t get them to heaven” (214)? Yes, they believe in God, but James’ point is that just as his reader believe God is one, so do the demons believe that too. “The demons believe something specific about God—and that specific belief is what makes them shudder” (215). “God is one” echoes the Shema of Deuteronomy 6.4, “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” [shema’ is a transliteration of the Hebrew command () which means “Hear!”]. But why would this be scary?

God offered redemption to Israel who came from Israel. Abraham was chosen out of the nations (Gen 10) who were dispersed at the Tower of Babel (11.1-9). Deuteronomy 32:8–9 gives us another perspective on what happened at the Tower of Babel, saying, “When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. But the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.” God called Abraham, “established his ‘portion’—the nation of Israel—[and] he set aside all other nations” and allotted them to divine beings, sons of God (Job 38.7), which are referred to in Deuteronomy (4.19; 17.3) as the “host of heaven” (216). They are also referred to as gods (elohim) and demons (shedim) in Deuteronomy (4:19–20; 17:3; 29:24–26; 32:17). Heiser says that At some point “these sons of God… became corrupt and abused their authority (Ps 82) by seducing the Israelites to worship them instead of the true God (Deut 29:24–26; 32:17)” (216).

The demons (32.17; Jam 2.19) know “God is one.” Salvation was not, is not, and will not be extended to them. God chose to save Israel, and he will never save the demons. “Only the Israelites had the truth about the Most High God: God had become incarnate in Christ. By embracing Jesus, James’ audience was embracing the ultimate outcome of their ancient covenant faith” (217).

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The Father of Lights (James 1.17)

James 1.17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.“ What does James then mean when he says “with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change”? In his new book The Bible Unfiltered, Michael Heiser says, “‘Father of lights’ points to God’s role as creator of the stars and other celestial objects” as seen in the original creation account and in the Psalms (Gen 1:14–18; Pss 136:7–9; 148:1–5—(p. 211)). In Genesis 1.14-18, the sun, moon, and stars were to “be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years.” They marked the changing of the seasons. Heiser remarks that the Greek word (tropē) for the word “change” in James 1.17 is used in Greek literature “to describe the movement and positioning of stars, seasonal changes and their effect on the land, and the two annual solstices” (212). James’ use of “change” and “shadow” connotes an eclipse. So whereas the sun, moon, and stars change positions, the Father does not change.

But God is more than Creator. Ancient Near Eastern cultures, including the OT biblical authors, believed that the stars were heavenly beings.

Deuteronomy 4.19 says, “And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.

Deuteronomy 17.3 says, “and [if someone] has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden….

Job 38.7 says, “when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

James, referring to God as the creator of all heavenly beings, is “emphasizing that they are created and are therefore inferior. God alone is uncreated” (212). There is no darkness in God at all (cf. 1 John 1.5). Though some of his creation fell (see ch. 28 of The Bible Unfiltered, along with Ps 82; Gen 3 and 6), God does not change. He does not fail.

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

Yahweh Divides the Nations

Virgil_Solis_-_Gods_council

Last time we started to look at what Heiser, in his book The Unseen Realm, calls the Deuteronomy 32 Worldview. What we see in Genesis 11 about the tower of Babel has to do with more than dispersing the people. They were “apportioned as an inheritance according to the number of the sons of God” (113).

If It’s Weird…

If you’re wondering about all of this, why it’s important, you should be applauded for making it this far. Heiser’s mentality is this: “If it’s weird, it’s important.” There are many strange things we see in the Scripture and, rather than look into it, we hear some normal, unsupernatural teaching that calms the Bible down. It keeps it from sounding too weird. But Heiser is looking at what the text says and where that brings the reader.

(I will make another post with some of the bizarre texts of the Bible).

Allotment

What happened to the other nations? Heiser tells us, “As odd as it sounds, the rest of the nations were placed under the authority of members of Yahweh’s divine council. The other nations were assigned to lesser elohim as a judgment from the Most High, Yahweh” (114).

We can see this is so in Deuteronomy 4.19-20,

“And beware lest you raise your eyes toward heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all of the peoples under all of the whole heaven. But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day.”

In Deuteronomy 32.8-9 God gives the nations over to the sons of God. Here, God allotted the gods to those nations.

“God decreed in the wake of Babel, that the other nations he had forsaken would have other gods besides himself to worship. It was as though God was saying, ‘If you don’t want to obey me, I’m not interested in being your god — I’ll match you up with some other god.’”

So other “gods,” (which were created by Yahweh, and thus, are lower than him), are now over the nations and they will be worshiped by the peoples of those nations. But their rule will be of corruption.

Psalm 82

Taken from the ESV

God [elohim] has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods [elohim] he holds judgment:

“How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked?

Selah

Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;

nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”

Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for you shall inherit all the nations!

God stands in the midst of his council and holds judgment against the gods, the elohim. They judge unjustly. Being wicked, they give favor to the wicked. Though sons of the Most High, they will all die like humans. In the end, the psalms as Yahweh to stand and “judge the earth” for He will be the one who will judge all the nations.

What’s the Connection?

Like the Nephilim who were men of renown (or “men of the name”), “[t]hose who built the tower of Babel wanted to do so to ‘make a name…’ for themselves” (115). What would this mean? Remember all that we’ve seen with Babel so far. Babylonian ideas about the Nephilim stemmed from thinking the gods gave Babylon their knowledge. Here, these Babylonians want to build a tower to the gods and make a name for themselves.

It meant “perpetuating Babylonian religious knowledge and substituting the rule of Babel’s gods for rule by Yahweh” (115). By now the message was pretty clear. “Humanity had shunned Yahweh and his plan to restore Eden through them, so he would shun them and start again” (115).

But the nations wouldn’t be completely forsaken. Once Abraham was chosen by Yahweh, he was given a promise. In Genesis 12.2-3, Yahweh tells Abraham, “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

What are these other elohim? Well, I can’t give everything away? You’ll just have to buy the book for that answer.

Outline

The Nephilim

Dividing the Nations

The OT Trinity

Buy it on Amazon!

UnseenRealmCover_Final-WEB

And also Heiser’s more condensed version,

supernatural

Buy it on Amazon!

The Tower of Babel

tower-of-babel

Last time we looked at Nimrod, the connections between him and the Nephilim, and we noted that he was a link in the chain to the tower of Babel. Heiser tells us this episode “is at the heart of the Old Testament worldview. It was at Babylon where people sought to ‘make a name (shem) for themselves’ by building a tower that reached to the heavens, the realm of the gods” (112).

The text in Genesis 11.1-9 says a few things I want to highlight.

  • In 11.5 “Yahweh came down to see the city….” How did he come down to see the city? We can look at this in a future post, but I want to make sure it catches your eye.
    w
  • In 11.7 Yahweh says, “Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.”
    Like in Genesis 1.26, there is a plural “us” followed by “the actions of only one being, Yahweh” (112).
    w
  • 11.8 tells us that it was Yahweh who scattered the people.

valckenborch_babel_1595_grt

Deuteronomy 32

Up until recently I thought this was the end of the story. But there’s more to this than many translations let on. Deuteronomy 32.8-9 says, “When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. But the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.”

This text “describes how Yahweh’s dispersal of the nations at Babel resulted in his disinheriting those nations as his people. This is the Old Testament equivalent of Romans 1:18-25, a familiar passage wherein God ‘gave [humankind] over’ to their persistent rebellion” (113).

God was going to start over, and as we see in Genesis 12, he chooses Abraham to begin a new people with. While the tower of Babel’s construction crew wanted to make a name for themselves (Gen 11.4), Yahweh would make Abraham’s name great (12.2). And it was through Abraham that Yahweh would make a people to bless the nations. 

“According to the sons of…”

However, most English Bibles read “according to the sons of Israel” in Deuteronomy 32.8. This has to do with manuscripts, but “sons of God” is the correct reading, as some versions have it (ESV, NRSV, NET, LXX). We don’t really need to go into the minute details to see why the latter option is correct. The tower of Babel incident happened before Abraham was called by Yahweh, and thus before Israel was even a nation (Exod 19ff). “It would make no sense for God to divide up the nations of the earth ‘according to the sons of Israel’ if there was no Israel” (113).

Basically, rather than “filling the earth” (Gen 1.28; 9.1, 7), the people wanted to “make a name for themselves.” Regardless, they were “dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” They’re languages were changed, they were confused, and they split. The earth was divided (10.25). The people were disinherited from being God’s people. Instead, Yahweh “fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God.

Conclusion

What does this mean? Next time we’ll look at what Heiser calls the Deuteronomy 32 Worldview, which includes a look at Deuteronomy 4. Also we’ll see something called the divine council.

Outline

The Nephilim

Dividing the Nations

The OT Trinity

Buy it on Amazon!

UnseenRealmCover_Final-WEB

And also Heiser’s more condensed version,

supernatural

Buy it on Amazon!

Nimrod

Nimrod

The next three posts will cover information on Nimrod, the tower of Babel, and Deuteronomy 4 and 32. These topics are found in chapter 14 of Heiser’s The Unseen Realm. Before that, chapters 12-13 cover what we’ve looked at previously, who and what the Nephilim are, where they came from, and (some) of their place in the story. Chapters 10-11 before that tell us about the serpent in Genesis 3 and some literary links found in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28. This something I won’t cover here, so you’ll have to read about it in The Unseen Realm. Nevertheless, Heiser gives some good (read: not wacky) sense on what the ancient Israelite would have thought of when they read about the serpent in Genesis 3.

So, to rehearse again, Genesis 6.4 says, “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men [gibborim] who were of old, the men of renown [literally, “men of the name” (shem)].”

Mighty Warrior

We’re told that the Nephilim were “might warriors” (or, “gibbor(im)”) and men of renown, or “men of the name.” 

The next time a “mighty man” comes up is in Genesis 10.8-9, “Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord. Therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.’”

This Nimrod “(whose name most likely means ‘rebellion’)”, a great hunter, a mighty warrior, gave birth to nations too (111). In verses 10-11 we see specifically two nations (and one city) that will play a major role in Israel’s story, “The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah….”

Heiser reminds us, “Once again, as with Genesis 6, the Mesopotamian context is transparent. Assyria and Babylon are the two civilizations that will later destroy the dream of the earthly kingdom of God in Israel, dismantling, respectively, the northern kingdom (Israel) and southern kingdom (Judah)” (111).

Connections

As Heiser points out, the text of Nimrod makes connections with Genesis 6 by giving a few clue words:

  • Both Nimrod and the Nephilim were mighty men (gibborim).
  • Both have connections with rebellion (Nimrod’s name and the divine beings’ actions against Yahweh).
  • Both have connections with Babylon.

Conclusion

“The Nimrod description in Genesis 10, in the so-called Table of Nations, is therefore a theological bridge between the violation of Genesis 6.1-4 and the next momentous event in the Torah that will frame the entire story of Israel” (111).

In our next post I’ll look at what happened at the tower of Babel. There’s more to it than we think.

Outline

The Nephilim

Dividing the Nations

The OT Trinity

Buy it on Amazon!

UnseenRealmCover_Final-WEB

And also Heiser’s more condensed version,

supernatural

Buy it on Amazon!

Weird Texts of the Bible

In chapter 2 of The Unseen Realm, Heiser gives a list of weird texts in the Bible. Hopefully after having gone through all of my posts (or maybe you’re starting here first), you can get a taste of the importance of Heiser’s book in putting together the worldview of the biblical authors in a way that helps explain these bizarre texts.

Old Testament

Genesis 15.1

“After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: ‘Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’”

Exodus 23.20-23

“Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him. “But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.

“When my angel goes before you and brings you to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, and I blot them out,

Numbers 13.32-33

“So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”

Deuteronomy 32.17

“They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded.“

1 Kings 22.18-23

“And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?’ And Micaiah said, ‘Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; and the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’

And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ 

Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has declared disaster for you.”

New Testament

John 10.34-35

“Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—”

1 Corinthians 2.6-13

“Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,

‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him’”

1 Corinthians 6.3

“Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!”

Galatians 3.19

“Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.”

Ephesians 6.12

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

1 Peter 3.18-22

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.

Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.”

2 Peter 2.4-5

“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment.”

Jude 6

“And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day.”

Revelation 2.26-27

“The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father.”

Revelation 3.21

“The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.”

Conclusion

There are a lot of weird texts in the Bible, besides the ones we’ve been covering. We can avoid them. We can keep “de-myth” them and make them easier on our ears. Or we can meet the biblical authors head on. I’m not fully endorsing everything Heiser says, but I will say that much of what he is arguing makes sense.

Next will be the brief description we read about Nimrod in Genesis 10, the tower of Babel, and Yahweh dividing the nations.

Outline

The Nephilim

Dividing the Nations

The OT Trinity

Buy it on Amazon!

UnseenRealmCover_Final-WEB

And also Heiser’s more condensed version,

supernatural

Buy it on Amazon!

Why Genesis 6.1-4?

nephreturn

There is at least one Jewish text from the intertestamental (Second Temple) period which says that there were divine beings who were “coming to earth to ‘fix’ mankind” (103). This meant they were coming with their profound knowledge to direct and lead humankind in the way to live. Though they were trying to help, once they put on fresh flesh they couldn’t resist their sexual urges with the women they saw.

1 Enoch chapter 6 says,

“And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. And the watchers, the sons of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: ‘Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.’”

The term ‘Watchers’ is even seen in our Bible. The ESV translates Dan. 4.17 as,

“The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.”

Here, both God and his divine council participate in decision making. “Daniel 4 is the only biblical passage to specifically use the term watcher to describe the divine ‘holy ones’ of Yahweh’s council. The geographical context of Daniel is of course Babylon (Dan 1:1-7), which is in Mesopotamia” (104).

The Watchers (sons of God) produced giant offspring from the women. Other texts associated with 1 Enoch retell the story. One such text is called The Book of Giants, and in it some of the giants are named. One name is Gilgamesh, the “Hollywood star” of the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Relevance?

In my previous post, A Flood of Stories, I said that Genesis 6.1-4 was written as an attack on Babylonian ideas to undermine the “credibility of the Mesopotamian gods and other aspects of that culture’s worldview” (102). Mesopotamia, where Babylon was located, was replete with various flood stories and stories of divine beings coming down to the earth and mating with human women. 

Babylon’s priestly class (the intellectuals) believed that pre-flood Mesopotamian civilization was “handed down by their gods” (108). Because of this divine act, the priests “wanted to connect themselves and their intellectual achievements with knowledge from before the flood. It was their way of claiming that their knowledge and skills were divine and… superior to those of the nations they had conquered.” Thus, the Babylonian gods were superior to all other gods.

So the apkallus were the divine beings who possessed profound knowledge, and Babylonian kings claimed to be descendants of these pre-flood divine figures. “The collective claim was that glorious Babylonia was the sole possessor of divine knowledge, and that that empire’s rule had the approval of the gods” (108).

Of course, this isn’t going to sit well with Israel, the ones who follow Yahweh, the one who is like no other (Is. 45.5). To Israel, the apkallus had demonic origins (being bound up with Mesopotamian demonology, it was only natural to think of the apkallus in this way). Babylonian scholars taught that the apkallus’ divine knowledge survived the flood… in the form of giant offspring.

Here’s the kicker!

Charlie_Brown_Lucy_Moves_Football-1LG-e1285957947277

 The biblical writers agreed that there were giants, “renowned men, both before and after the flood” (108)! But these giant offspring were not of the true God. Instead they “were the result of rebellion against Yahweh by lesser divine beings” (108). So Genesis 6.1-4 (alng with 2 Peter and Jude) portray Babylon’s boast of divine knowledge not as something wonderful, but as “a horrific transgression and, even worse, the catalyst that spread corruption throughout mankind” (108).

Genesis 6.5-7 is a summary of the effect of the sin:

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

Yet Noah… was blameless (Gen 6.8). In fact, he is in the line of Christ (Lk 3.36, 38). The Son of God was never infected with the seed of the serpent (Gen 3.15).

Next Time

I will have four more posts to end the series off. The next post will cover a range of weird texts in the Bible just so all can be reminded (and perhaps see for the first time) that the Bible does say some really odd things. Things that many haven’t heard in a Sunday morning church service. 

The next three posts will deal with Nimrod, the Tower of Babel, and Deuteronomy 4 and 32. All are found in chapter 14 of The Unseen Realm, The next few posts shouldn’t be too long, but hopefully you’ll see how these topics are intertwined.  

Outline

The Nephilim

Dividing the Nations

The OT Trinity

Buy it on Amazon!

UnseenRealmCover_Final-WEB

And also Heiser’s more condensed version,

supernatural

Buy it on Amazon!