Book Review: The Unseen Realm (Michael Heiser)

God [elohim] has taken his place in the divine council;

         In the midst of the gods [elohim] he holds judgment (Ps 82.1, ESV)

What do we make of God, who is “elohim,” holding judgment in the midst of other “elohim”? Psalm 82 states that the gods were being condemned as corrupt in their administration of the nations of the earth” (p. 12, cf. Deut. 32.8).

Dr. Michael Heiser aims to provide an “unfiltered look at what the Bible really says about the unseen realm.” Many Christians are fine believing in the spiritual realm where God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, angels, and demons reside. But often if you go beyond that, they become skeptical. For the last 15 years Heiser has researched the ancient Near Eastern cultures and their writings to grasp the mindset of the ancient Israelite. How differently did they think about the spiritual world than we do today?

Paul said we wrestle against the rulers, authorities, cosmic powers over this present darkness, and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. How did he know this? Who are these beings? It takes putting on the mindset of an ancient Israelite to know this. After reading The Unseen Realm you will see the Bible through new eyes.

Frequently Asked Questions by Christians:

  • What/who are angels and demons and where did they come from?
  • Is there a hierarchy?
  • Did animals talk before the Fall? Why wasn’t Eve afraid of the snake?
  • Why did God send the Flood?
  • Why did God command Israel to wipe out the Canaanites? How can I accept this?
  • Who are the sons of God in Genesis 6?
  • What does this have to do with me as a Christian today?
  • Does it make a difference?

Summary

The Unseen Realm is divided into eight sections made up by 42 chapters. It’s not easy to summarize these eight sections in a few sentences, but I’ll give it a shot. 

Part 1: First Things
This is the book’s introduction where Heiser describes the beginning of his journey and how the weird verses that we don’t give much thought to actually are important.

Part 2: The Households of God
God has a “divine family,” the Divine Council, who serve him and carry out his commands. God also has an earthly family who is to spread God’s name across the globe, fulfilling his commands. Though God, Yahweh, is superior, both families will still rebel.

Part 3: Divine Transgressions
The nachash (the serpent, a divine being) rebels against YHWH and convinces the first man and woman to sin. There are more divine transgressions in Genesis 6, with the offspring residing in the land of Canaan, land given to Abraham and his seed. The tower of Babel “citizens” are dispersed and placed under the rule of lesser gods who try to rival YHWH’s power. There will be war.

Part 4: Yahweh and His Portion
YHWH chooses Abraham out of the dispersion and will create a people out of Abram who will follow Him. He would be a father of many nations, implying that the dispersed nations would be brought back to YHWH. Here we see aspects of the Trinity; lines that are blurred. All believers, Jews and Gentiles, will replace the divine council, and we are already-but-not-yet his council on earth.

Part 5: Conquest and Failure
There are “giant problems” after the Flood. “Yahweh had chosen to accomplish his ends through imagers loyal to him against imagers who weren’t” (215). YHWH’s presence is unwelcome to the rebellious earth-dwellers, and Heiser argues that Joshua’s holy war was against the descendants of the Nephilim, not “normal” humans.

Part 6: Thus Says the Lord
The nations remained under the rule of the foreign gods. Israel, God’s people, was constantly at war with these other nations. The Temple, where Israel met with their God, was like the Garden of Eden. But Israel rebelled, and God commissioned the Prophets, usually in his divine council throne room (Isa 6.1-2). Daniel 7 shows us a man who rides the clouds, and the eternal kingdom given to him will be also be given to the holy ones of the most high (Dan 7.14, 18, 22).

Part 7: The Kingdom Already
“The New Testament” marks the rebirth of a struggle thousands of years in the making” (344). Jesus has the Name of the Lord on him and leads Israel and the Gentiles out of exile in the new Exodus. Pentecost reverses the tower of Babel scene. Believers, being ‘sons of God,’ will have governing rule (Dan 7.14, 18, 22), and they will displace the rebellious beings and judge them (1 Cor 6.3). 1 Peter tells us that baptism is spiritual warfare, “a pledge of loyalty to the risen Savior” (338).

Part 8: The Kingdom Not Yet
Heiser compares the throne room imagery between Revelation and the prophets. He views the foe from the north, Gog and Magog, as having some sort of relation with Bashan, a common spiritual enemy to Israel in the OT. In the end, YHWH will return with his holy ones, angels and glorified humans.

Most sections ends with a quick Section Summary.

Recommended?

Highly recommended. While I think (but I’m not sure) Heiser might be viewing too many texts through his Deuteronomy 32 worldview, he also brings to light texts that many have either overlooked or avoided because of their weirdness.

Though Heiser has stated on his podcast that he is a grammar nerd, his book is surprisingly easy to read. The concepts are heavy because they will likely be something you’ve never heard before, but he is able to simplify the concepts into bite-sized chapters that range between 5-10 pages. Heiser succeeds in making the scholarly world accessible to the layman. Many of the deep, textual matters are left to the footnotes. Though you may not agree with everything Heiser says, he puts together the OT thought world, concepts, and lifestyle into our understanding formed (probably) primarily by the NT. He presents an overarching view of the Bible that appears to work, and it’s one that I will work into my understanding. 

Heiser’s view helps me want to read the Bible more since I have a better understanding of what is happening “behind the scenes.” I have a better understanding of the Israelite mindset, and any book that helps me to read the Bible more (like this one here) is worth the buy.

Lagniappe

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Lexham Press (September 1, 2015)

Previous Posts

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!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Lexham Press. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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

Is the Whole Trinity Seen in the OT?

I’ve been trying to show how the lines of separation between Yahweh and the Angel of Yahweh were blurred in the OT. In my last post we saw how the OT writers portray Yahweh as riding the clouds. He is the ultimate authority. But in the OT there is another who rides the clouds. In one scene we find out that the Son of Man, who we would eventually meet as Jesus in the NT, also rode the clouds. But, these two characters don’t make up a Trinity, only a Binity. In the OT, do the biblical authors blur the lines between Yahweh, the Angel of Yahweh, and the Holy Spirit?

Isa 63.7-10

In Isa 63:7-11, in “an account of the wilderness wanderings, Yahweh is mentioned (v.7) along with the Angel of his presence (v.9). Yahweh was the savior of Israel (v.8), but so was the Angel (v.9)…” (294, n.7).

I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord, the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that he has granted them according to his compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love.

For he said, “Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely.” And he became their Savior.

In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.

10  But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them.

Ps. 78.40-41

“Psa 78:40-41 is a parallel passage to Isa 63:7-11…” (294, n.7).

40  How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert!

41  They tested God again and again and provoked the Holy One of Israel.

Ezekiel 8.1-6

“In Ezek 8 the prophet sees a divine being in the form of a man (v.2). The being is embodied, since he extends his hand to lift him up (v.3). Later (vv. 5-6), the entity speaks to Ezekiel and refers to the temple as ‘my sanctuary.’” (294, n.7).

In the sixth year, in the sixth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I sat in my house, with the elders of Judah sitting before me, the hand of the Lord God fell upon me there. Then I looked, and behold, a form that had the appearance of a man. Below what appeared to be his waist was fire, and above his waist was something like the appearance of brightness, like gleaming metal. He put out the form of a hand and took me by a lock of my head, and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and brought me in visions of God to Jerusalem… And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, like the vision that I saw in the valley.

Then he said to me, “Son of man, lift up your eyes now toward the north.” So I lifted up my eyes toward the north, and behold, north of the altar gate, in the entrance, was this image of jealousy. And he said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel are committing here, to drive me far from my sanctuary? But you will see still greater abominations.”

“Is the entity the Spirit, who is identified as Yahweh by virtue of his reference to ‘my sanctuary,’ or is he the embodied Yahweh, who seems to have been the Spirit as well?” (294, n.7).

The End

This ends my discussions from Heiser’s book (at least for now… before I review The Unseen Realm). I’ve looked at the Nephilim, the tower of Babel, God allotting the nations to be ruled by other gods, and finally the Trinity as viewed in a few texts from the OT. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed these posts and have learned a lot from them too. Heiser’s book has been one of the most (if not the most) informative book I’ve read this year. Highly recommended. My review will be up next.

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!

Daniel 7 and the Cloud Rider

GokuHasANewNimbus

Cloud Riders

One of the biggest threats to God’s people in the OT was another god called Baal. Israel was to be a monotheistic community, a group whose sole devotion was directed towards YHWH only. But as the pages of Scripture repeatedly tell us, Israel didn’t follow the rules.

Baal was the storm and fertility god. So if his followers needed crops, they would pray for rain and grain. In some ways it was easier to be polytheistic, at least for the placebo affect. You don’t just pray to one god because, really, how can one God do it all? So you pray to all gods to get all of your prayers fulfilled.

Yet Baal wasn’t just another face in the crowd. He was one of the higher deities in the polytheistic pantheon. And Israel like to worship him, especially since one form of worship involved sexual rituals. Who could say no to that?

In some of the texts of Ugarit, Israel’s northern neighbor, Baal is called “the one who rides the clouds.” It pretty much became his official title. LeBron James shoots hoops, Baal rides clouds.

Yet, it wasn’t just Baal who rode clouds. To turn all the attention back to Yahweh instead of Baal, the biblical authors “occasionally pilfered this stock description of Baal… and assigned it to Yahweh…” (251). 

There is none like God, O Jeshurun, who rides through the heavens to your help, through the skies in his majesty (Deut 33.26)

O kingdoms of the earth, sing to God; sing praises to the Lord, Selah
to him who rides in the heavens, the ancient heavens; behold, he sends out his voice, his mighty voice (Ps 68.32-33)

Bless the Lord, O my soul!… He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters; he makes the clouds his chariot; he rides on the wings of the wind; he makes his messengers winds, his ministers a flaming fire (Ps 104.1-4)

An oracle concerning Egypt. Behold, the Lord is riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt; and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them (Isa 19.1)

“The effect was to… hold up Yahweh as the deity who legitimately rode through the heavens surveying and governing the world” (252).

Every instance in the OT where someone is riding the clouds, that “someone” is Yahweh. Except, there is… one exception. There is a second figure. A human figure. 

Daniel 7.13, The Lone Exception

Daniel 7.13 reads,

I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

In the NT we find a number of connections to Jesus. A few are given below:

“But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” (Mk 2.10-11)

For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. (Lk 17.24-25)

“Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Lk 24.26)

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming with the clouds of heaven.” (Mk 14.61-62)

Here, “Caiaphas understood that Jesus was claiming to be the second Yahweh figure on Daniel 7:13 — and that was an intolerable blasphemy” (253). Along with these Son of Man texts, there are other connections with Jesus and clouds. 

And when [Jesus] had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. (Acts 1.9).

Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. (Rev 1.9)

Some form of the Trinity was seen in the OT. Even the Jews around and before the first century were talking about “two powers in heaven.” Yet, once Christians began to elaborate on the Trinity, the Jews declared the “two powers” idea a heresy, and belief that still holds today among Jews.

So far we’ve only looked at these “two powers,” but what about the third member of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit? Are the lines blurred with the Holy Spirit too? Heiser brings up a few texts, and I’ll look at them in my next post.

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!

And He Struggled With the Angel

495px-Eugène_Delacroix_-_Jacob_Wrestling_with_the_Angel_(detail)_-_WGA06221

Since I didn’t want you to think The Unseen Realm was only about Nephilim, I wanted to write about the Trinity as seen in the Old Testament. Last time I looked at the blurring between the Angel of YHWH and YHWH himself in Genesis 22. In this post I’ll look at a few texts that deal with God appearing to Jacob.

He Struggled With the Angel

Genesis 32.24-30 says,

24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”

Read Gen 16.13, where Hagar says something similar after seeing the angel of the Lord. With Jacob’s case, this divine being was physical. He could be touched. He was wrestled with. Hosea confirms this divine identity with Hebrew parallelism.

Hosea 12

Hosea 12.3-4 says,

In the womb he [Jacob] took his brother by the heel,

and in his manhood he strove with God.

wwwwwwwwwwwwHe strove with the angel

wwwwwwwwwwwwand prevailed;

he wept and sought his favor.

He met God at Bethel, and there God spoke with us—

Hosea describes Jacob’s struggle as one that occurred with God, the same God who appeared to Jacob at Bethel (Gen 35.1).

Jacob’s Blessing

Finally, in Genesis 48.15-16, Jacob blesses his son Joseph and says,

The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,

the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day,

the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys;

The point isn’t that God is an angel, a created being. It’s that this “angel” is YHWH. Some would say that Jacob is speaking about two beings, YHWH and an angel. But the grammar rules otherwise. The Hebrew word for “bless” is singular “telegraphing a tight fusion of the two divine beings on the part of the author. In other words, the writer had a clear opportunity to distinguish the God of Israel from the angel, but instead merges their identities” (140).

If there is only one Yahweh, why does the biblical author fuse him with the Angel? Or why does he leave the text ambiguous? Why not make sure that the reader understands the difference between the two beings? In my next post, we’ll see another confirming sign. 

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 Trinity in the Old Testament

abraham-yisehaqisaac-the-angel-of-the-lord-har-yhwh-yireh-mount-of-gods-vision

If I could, I’d write a post about just about every chapter of Heiser’s The Unseen Realm. But since that might cross the line a bit, I thought I’d upload a few more to give you a better idea of what this book is about (Hint: the Nephilim only take up a small portion of the book). While I’ll go into the overall view of the book in my review, Heiser brings up a topic that causes many discussions in apologetic and religious circles.

There are “whispers” of the Godhead in the Old Testament.

Take Your Son, Your Only Son

I can’t name all of the instances Heiser writes about, but one example is when Abraham was going to sacrifice his promised son Isaac. So far in Genesis, Abraham has already had a few encounters with YHWH, whether it be:

  • “The Word of YHWH” coming to Abraham (Gen 15.1)
  • The Lord appearing to Abraham (Gen 17.1; 18.1; John 8.56; Gal 3.8)
  • The Lord saying to Abraham (Gen 12.1; cf. Acts 7.2)

But now the visible YHWH figure will be referred to as the “Angel of the Lord.” Though the Angel of the Lord has appeared before (cf. Gen 16.7-11; 21.17), here the line between the Angel and YHWH is blurred. 

In Genesis 22.1-9 Abraham follows the strange command of YHWH and takes Isaac up Mount Moriah to sacrifice him as a burnt offering.

Genesis 22.10-18 reads,

10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

15 And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

The Angel of YHWH calls to Abraham. Abraham isn’t afraid that he might be associating with another god. He recognizes this new voice. But this isn’t YHWH, it’s his “angel,” or “messenger.” Yet this “messenger” commends Abraham for not withholding his son “from me.” Yet in 22.1-2 it was YHWH, not the angel, who commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.

Heiser comments,

“The wording of the text blurs the distinction between Yahweh and the angel by swapping the angel into the role of the person who initially demanded the sacrifice as a test — Yahweh himself…. Consequently the biblical writer had the opportunity to make sure Yahweh and the angel were distinguished but did not do so…. [This wasn’t] a failure. It’s not a careless oversight. The wording is designed to blur the two persons” (136). 

Conclusion

This is a small example, one of many. Reading the NT texts along with the given Genesis texts may help reinforce the point for you. If you need more, I’ll be writing up a few more posts. Or, consequently, you could just buy the book.

Outline

The Nephilim

Dividing the Nations

The OT Trinity

UnseenRealmCover_Final-WEB

Buy it on Amazon or on Audiobook!

And also Heiser’s more condensed version,

supernatural

Buy it on Amazon (or on Audiobook) t00!

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!

A Flood of Stories

Homer-Cyclops-SM-704428

In surveying the options to answer the question, “Who were the Nephilim?,” we last looked at the view that the Nephilim were the offspring of rebellious divine beings. In his book The Unseen Realm. Michael Heiser mentions how 1 Enoch informed the worldview of Peter and Jude. He tells us

“Jewish literature like 1 Enoch that retold the story shows a keen awareness of [the] Mesopotamian context” of Genesis 6, and “Jewish thinkers of the Second Temple period [the period between the testaments] understood… that the story involved divine beings and giant offspring. That understanding is essential to grasping what the biblical writers were trying to communicate” (102).

Genesis 6.1-4 is a polemic, a strong attack on someone or something. It is an effort to undermine the “credibility of the Mesopotamian gods and other aspects of that culture’s worldview” (102). This involves borrowing ideas from the Babylonian culture and changing them to illuminate a correct theology of Yahweh while at the same time discrediting other gods.

“Gilgameche” in History 151

gilgameshintro

It was in university where I first heard the idea that there were other flood stories (e.g., the Epic of Gilgamesh) besides the biblical story of Noah. While this didn’t shake my faith, it struck me as odd. It wasn’t so much hearing that there were other flood stories, but that I had never even heard of this before! But it is true. Mesopotamia is replete with other flood stories that deal with a large boat and the salvation of animals and people. Below are a few notable mentions. 

The Supporting Cast

The apkallus: In the time before the flood, a group of divine beings who possessed profound knowledge. Many were considered evil and were integral to Mesopotamian demonology.

Marduk: the chief god of Babylon

The Apsu: “subterranean waters deep inside the earth” (103).

Their Story

As some of the Mesopotamian stories go, the apkallus mated with women and “produced quasi-divine offspring” which were considered to be two-thirds apkallu (102). This matches the Epic of Gilgamesh, where the hero Gilgamesh “was considered a giant who retained knowledge from before the flood” (103).

In another text, the Erra Epic, Marduk punishes the evil apkallus with banishment to the Apsu (also a part of the underworld). In doing this Marduk commands that the apkallus never come up again (reminding us of 2 Pet. 2.4 and Jude 6-7). The fact that this link is found not in the OT but in the NT (2 Peter and Jude) shows that the intertestamental Jewish writers were keenly aware of the Mesopotamian background.

Conclusion

resized_ancient-aliens-invisible-something-meme-generator-noah-s-ark-and-the-epic-of-gilgamesh-are-a-lot-alike-aliens-d41d8c

No, I’m kidding!

Were the Nephilim really offspring of divine beings who rebelled against Yahweh and had sex with human women? Why do we need to know this? How is it relevant to the rest of Genesis? In my next post it only gets weirder. I’ll look at Genesis 6.1-4 in its original context, along with what we are to do with the Nephilim, some watchers, and why the Israelites cared.

Soap_Opera0luDetail

Don’t worry. This won’t become a soap opera with characters who have no business being in the show.

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!