Review: Lost World Canaanite Conquest

The book was a sheer joy to read. It was accessible yet maintained the highest rigors of scholarship.  John and John Walton affirm the historicity of the conquest narrative, yet they avoid “easy” answers often given by evangelical apologists.  They invite us to enter the thought-world of an ancient Hebrew. They do so by outlining 21 propositions (see below)See the source image

Walton’s propositions:

  1. Reading the Bible consistently means reading it as an ancient document.
  2. We should approach the problem of the conquest by adjusting our expectations about what the Bible is.
  3. The Bible does not define Goodness for us or tell us how to produce goodness, but instead tells us about the goodness God is producing.
  4. The bible teaches clearly and consistently that affliction by God cannot be automatically attributed to the wrongdoing of the victim.
  5. None of the usual textual indicators for divine retribution occur in the case of the Canaanites.
  6. Genesis 15:16 does not indicate that the Canaanites were committing sin.
  7. Neither the Israelites nor the Canaanites are depicted as stealing each other’s rightful property.
  8. The people of the land are not indicted for not following the stipulations of the covenant, and neither is Israel expected to bring them into the covenant.
  9. Ancient law codes such as Lev. 18-20 are not lists of rules to be obeyed, and therefore the Canaanites cannot be guilty of violating them.
  10. Holiness is a status granted by God; it is not earned through moral performance, and failing to have it does not subject one to judgment.
  11. You can’t make a comparison between the Canaanites expulsion from the land and the Israelites’ exile.
  12. The depiction of the Canaanites In Leviticus and Deuteronomy is a sophisticated appropriation of a common ANE literary device.
  13. Behaviors that are described as detestable are to be contrasted with ideal behavior under the Israelite covenant.
  14. The imagery of the conquest account recapitulates creation.
  15. Herem does not mean utterly to destroy.
  16. Herem against communities focuses only destroying identity, not killing people of certain ethnicities.
  17. The wars of the Israelite conquest were fought in the same manner as all ancient wars.
  18. Rahab and the Gideonites are not exceptions to the Herem.
  19. The logic of the Herem in the event of the conquest operates in the context of Israel’s vassal treaty.
  20. The OT, including the conquest account, provides a template for interpreting the NT, which in turn gives insight into God’s purposes for today.
  21. The application of Herem in the New Covenant is found in putting off our former identity.

Examination of his Propositions

P(1) – (2) should be noncontroversial.  The Bible is an ancient semitic document and it should read like one.  It has different assumptions on “what is the worst that could happen?” For us, the worst that could happen in life is genocide or famine.  For a Hebrew it was an improper burial and being forgotten (Ecclesiastes).

P(3) is problematic in how it is stated, though I know what they are getting at. The Bible isn’t a manual for ethics or law, but I do think it gives more detail about “goodness” than they allow.  But they do raise a good point about justice and goodness: justice in the ancient world is tied to order, not so much about “getting what is owed me.”

P(4)-(8)  In many cases, this is John 9.  Walton’s argument is that the Canaanites aren’t simply being driven out of the land “because they are bad.”  I think they are much worse than Walton makes out, but his point holds. The Canaanites are losing their land because God promised the land to Israel.

But what about God’s saying that he will expel/vomit Israel out like he did the Canaanites?  True, Walton downplays that objection. ~8. “No nation other than Israel is ever reprimanded for serving other gods” (79). That kind of makes sense, since Yahweh had disinherited the nations in Genesis 10 and given them over to the beney elohim.

P(10) Good reflection against Pelagianism.  Holiness (qds) Doesn’t mean my good behavior that I have accumulated.  Objects and land in the OT are holy, yet they aren’t moral agents.

P(12) That might be true, but if the Canaanites were guilty of these actions, and if there were demonic Nephilim and Rephaim in the land, then full-scale slaughter was warranted.

P(13) His argument is that the Hebrew ra is relative to the covenant, and not an absolute standard. Nevertheless, one hopes that bestiality and child sacrifice is universally evil.

Demons and idolatry: demons were extraneous to the ANE ritual system.

Repahim:

“The etymology of the words enforcest he unworldly aspects of the enemy, similar to the monstrous bird-men of the Cuthean legend” (148).

“The Rephaim are most commonly associated with the spirits of dead kings, specifically” (149).

Emim: comes from the root word “ema” which would therefore mean “terrible ones” (cited in Eugene Carpenter, “Deuteronomy,” Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary, Old Testament, I:432.

P(14) This was a beautiful chapter.  The conquest narrative is much more than a typological recapitulation of creation.  In being such it shows Yahweh’s victory of chaotic cthonic forces.

P(15)-(16) Herem does involve a lot more killing than modern readers are comfortable with, but that isn’t the point of herem.  It was killing an identity. And it can’t mean total destruction. While gold and metals are herem, Bronze Age technology simply couldn’t destroy and un-atomize these metals.

However, Walton failed to note that most of the cities targeted were those with a heavy presence of Anakim and Rephaim.

Notes on Heiser’s Supernatural

This is a cliffs-notes version of his longer Unseen Realm.

Key argument: “In at least some cases, God decrees what he wants done but gives his supernatural agents freedom to decide what it means” (23).

Image of God

Genesis says God says “Create in our image” and it says God created in his image.”  Since God is speaking to the Divine council and not the Trinity, this means that the Council and God (and presumably we) have something in common (29). We are to image God’s rule on earth.

Divine Rebellions

The Old Testament never says there was an angelic rebellion (37).  Revelation 12:7-12 is talking about the birth of Christ.  There was another corporate transgression, but it was the beings in Genesis 6. Peter and Jude say that these angels are placed in eternal darkness under chains. If we take 1 Enoch seriously (and Peter and Jude) did, then from these beings came the Nephilim, and when the Nephilim died, their spirits became demons.

The physical descendants of the Nephilim are called the Anakim and the Rephaim (Numb. 13:32-33; Deut. 2:10-11; some of these Rephaim show up in the underworld realm of the dead (Isai. 14:9-11).

Cosmic Geography

Deuteronomy 32 Worldview:  Geography in the Bible is cosmic (52).

  • Daniel 9-10: foreign nations are ruled by divine princes.
  • 1 Sam. 26:19: David fears being in a land of foreign gods.
  • 2 Kgs 5: Namaan takes Israelite dirt back
  • Paul uses a range of terms for divine, hostile beings–thrones, principalities, powers

Nota Bene:

  1. Angels don’t have wings.  Cherubim do, but they are never called angels (Heiser 19).
  2. Any disembodied spirit is an elohim (Gen. 1:1; Deut. 32:17; 1 Samuel 28:13; Heiser 20).
  3. God has a supernatural task force (1 Kgs 22:19-23; Ps. 82:1).

Review: Unseen Realm (Michael Heiser)

Writing a book on worldview is so passe.  What really gets people uncomfortable is writing on the supernatural.  We believe in it on paper–as long as it stays on paper. Michael Heiser, by contrast, gives a mini-systematic theology around the Supernatural.  

divine councilA brief summary: God’s Household has a layered authority: high king → elite administrators → low-level personnel.  Psalm 82 is the clearest example in the OT (25). The first Elohim in 82:1 is singular, since it has a singular verbal form (stands).  The second is plural, “since the preposition in front of it (“in the midst of”) requires more than one.”

unseen realm

Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14:

Verse 10: why does God tell him he will die the death of uncircumcised strangers?  He is (presumably) a Phoenician and would be uncircumcised anyway (77). The answer: he is sent to the underworld where there were uncircumcised warrior-kings (Ezek. 32.21; 24-30; 32; Isa. 14.9). This is the place of the Rephaim.

Most people can probably take the argument so far.  Yeah, the Hebrew says that. We might not like it, but it says it.  The next part is the real struggle for belief, though it makes sense to me.  

Argument:  The serpent (Nachash) is a substantival adjective.  He is a serpentine being. This bothers people for some reason.  He reminds you of a snake, but he’s not really a snake.  Although Heiser doesn’t make this next point, this isn’t all that far removed from a lot of UFO occult phenomena.  

I can go further out on the limb here: could the Nachash, or something like it, be what David Icke fantasizes about?  I don’t buy into the Reptilian thesis, at least not how Icke or Sitchin take it, but if those guys are demon possessed/demonized, then they really could be seeing something reptilian.  It’s not logically impossible.

Why wasn’t Eve afraid of a talking snake, if we take the story literally?  Eve was in the garden, which was the meeting place between the heavenly realm and earth.  She knew she was talking to an elohim. Ancient man knew that animals really couldn’t talk. Another common sense observation: if the enemy in the garden was a supernatural being, then he wasn’t a mere snake.

Heiser then connects the nachash to events in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28: the prince of Tyre considers himself an el, who sits in the moshab elohim.

Divine Allotment

God scattered the nations in Gen. 11; Deut. 32:8-9 describes it as disinheriting.

Key idea: God gave ownership of the Table of Nations to the divine council (113). Deut. 4:19-20 makes this clear. Psalm 82 judges these elohim for doing a bad job, and then urges God to rise up for he shall inherit the nations.

The Nephilim

This is where the fun begins. Are the entities in Genesis 6 the line of Seth or the Watchers?

However the Israelites would have interpreted Gen. 6, it is certain they wouldn’t have demythologized the text. The real problem for most is how can an incorporeal being physically interact with a corporeal world?  This is a big problem in analytic philosophy. It is related to the problem of divine action. On a supernatural worldview, it is no problem. But if you are a conservative Christian and hold to the other line of thinking, then you need to explain the following?

Does Matt. 22:23-33 rule out the supernatural view? The Bible tells of angels physically interacting with humans. Some considerations:

  1. This text never says angels can’t have sexual relations. It just says they don’t.

2 Nevertheless, Genesis 6 isn’t the spiritual realm, so the situation doesn’t apply.

3.This event is far less radical in what is required of a belief than the Incarnation.

4.The actions in Genesis 18-19 are physical actions (eating food, taking hold of Lot, etc.).

  1. In Genesis 32:22-31 Jacob wrestles with an elohim and the elohim can be touched and in return physically harm Jacob.
  2. Everyone believes angels can speak, yet on this objection how can an incorporeal being produce sound waves?
  3.  Angels open doors (Acts 5:19)
  4.  They hit the disciples (Acts 12.7).

Space prevents me from developing all of Heiser’s points.  The book is fantastic and I am glad to see it getting a wide readership.  I do think it could have been shorter. While I understand his point about free will and divine foreknowledge, the study of counterfactuals has come a long way and there are answers and alternatives to what he has given.

Appendix: Some neat insights

  1. Bashan was the mount of fallen Watchers.
  2. Og was king of Bashan, and he was of the Rephaim.

Developing an Enochian Worldview

Some of these are inspired by Dr Michael Heiser’s writings, though much of it came from my own working through both the Scriptures and tradition.  Our problem is that we are all students of Dante, whether we admit it or not.  An Enochian worldview, by contrast, sees how “angels” (more on that term later) function within the Divine Realm.

We say things like “we need a biblical worldview” (I used to say “supernatural,” but after talking with some guys on a Reformed online forum, I can’t take that for granted anymore), and we piously nod at the Bible when it says “angels are ministering servants,” but we really don’t let the Bible correct our understanding of Dante.

What Did Dante Say?

You already know this.  If I say “hell,” you think of a fiery underworld.  More to the point, you think there is a class of beings known as demons/devils/fallen angels.  They are either being tortured by fire or torturing others by fire (pop culture tradition isn’t too clear).

But there are some problems with this picture (though it did inspire good music).  The Bible contradicts it in various places.  If you hold that there is one class of beings called angels, which are subdivided into good and bad, with all of the latter in a subterranean realm (or if you are a bit more sophisticated, another dimension), then the following problems occur:

  1. Why is Satan called the prince of the powers of the air (Eph. 2:2) if he is locked underground?
  2. If all the demons are in hell, then why do we wrestle against principalities and powers in the heavenly places (Eph. 6)?
  3. If Ha Shatan is locked underground, then how did he appear before God in Job?
  4. If all the demons are in hell, then how did they possess people in the NT?
  5.  Yet Peter says some were thrust into Tartarus (2 Peter 2:4).
  6. Why does Peter use the word Tartarus when he could have simply said hell or hades?
  7.  Was the spirit in 1 Kings 22:19-23 good or bad?  If he was good, then was God commanding him to lie? If he was bad, then why was he in heaven?
  8. Is God the only kind of Elohim?  You have to say no, because God (singular Elohim) is often speaking to plural Elohim, and even if the latter are just men, they aren’t the kind of Elohim that Yahweh is.

That’s enough for now.  These questions show that the pop worldview about demons is wrong.  Now for my own theses, drawn from Michael Heiser and Derek Gilbert.

1. Sons of God in Genesis 6/Psalm 82:Dt.32:8 refer to elohimic beings, not men.  I won’t argue that thesis at this point. I also think these are what Enoch called the Watchers (alluded to in Peter and Jude; mentioned in Daniel, though those Watchers are good).

2. Their offspring were the Nephilim.

3. Some church fathers and Philo said that the departed souls of the Nephilim were what we call “demons” today.  Maybe.  That might not be provable, but it does remove certain problems.

I am closely following Heiser’s analysis on issues like the Rephaim.

4.  Rephaim: Heiser–”When the term is translated, it is rendered “giants” (1 Chr 20:4 ESV), “shades” (i.e., spirits of the dead; Isa 26:14 ESV), or simply “the dead” (Job 26:5 ESV)”.  Specifically, they are the spirits of dead warrior-kings in the underworld. They are also giants whom the Ammonites called Zamzummim (Deut 2:19–20 ESV).

4a. Og was a Rephaim (Josh. 13:12).

5.  Demons aren’t the same as fallen angels, rephaim, or nephilim.  

  1. They aren’t the celestial ones of 2 Peter 2 and Jude.  Angels are very cautious in the celestial ones’ presence.
  2. With Heiser, I highly recommend questions 72-75 of Doug Van Dorn’s primer on the supernatural.
  3. At this point we see several levels of differentiation:
  4. The corrupt sons of God put over the nations are called shedim, a term of geographical guardianship (van Dorn).
  5. The fallen angels, or Watchers, are imprisoned in Tartarus until the Final Judgment (2 Peter 2 and Jude).
  6. Whatever demons are, they aren’t those above.
  7. A demon, at least in the Gospel exorcism passages, is an unclean spirit.
  8. If Jewish intertestamental literature is to be trusted, demons are the departed spirits of dead Nephilim.  Granted, this isn’t inspired literature, but it was the worldview/social imaginary of those who lived in the apostles’ time.  Jude quoted 1 Enoch, and while 1 Enoch isn’t inspired, Jude acted like it had a lot of truth.

Notes on Heiser’s Unseen Realm, 2

My opening notes here.  A problem with the Sethite reading.

PART 4: YAHWEH AND HIS PORTION

Chapter 16: Abraham’s Word

Throughout the Abrahamic narrative, Abraham “sees” the Word.  Visible Yahweh thesis; Two Powers in Heaven.

Chapter 18: What’s in a Name?

Yahweh tells Moses that he will send an angel and put his Name in the Angel. The Angel will be able to forgive sins (Ex. 23.20-22). “The Name” (Ha-Shem) is a Person (Isaiah 30.27-28; Psalm 20.1, 7).

Chapter 20: Retooling the Template

Believing Israel: God’s Earthly Council

The 70 elders of Israel were a contrast to the corrupt elohim of the divine council (the 70 nations of Gen. 10).

Isaiah 24:23–Yahweh will punish the host of heaven, in heaven. Aside from God’s nuking a few stars, the only plausible reading is God’s punishing the beney elohim.

Rev. 4-5: 24 elders surround God’s throne.  God will replace the corrupt elohim by loyal members of his own family (155ff).

Paul’s logic in Romans 4: Abraham would be the father of many nations, yet the nations besides Israel were then under the domain of the corrupt elohim.

Eden and Sinai

The divine council, which Daniel 7 later on calls a “court” for judgment, mediated the law (Acts 7:52-53; Heb. 2:2).

Chapter 22: Realm Distinction

Holiness and Sacred Space

Azazel.  While it could mean scapegoat (Lev. 16.8), it is also a proper name. One goat is “for Yahweh” and another is “for Azazel.”  The parallelism demands the latter be a proper name (176). The priest isn’t sacrificing to Azazel; rather, Azazel is getting what is his: sin.  Realm distinction and cosmic geography go hand in hand.

PART 5: CONQUEST AND FAILURE

Chapter 23: Giant Problems

nephilim
Go watch the movie “The Fallen Ones.” Yes, it’s terrible but the opening scene is fairly accurate

However the Israelites would have interpreted Gen. 6, it is certain they wouldn’t have demythologized the text.

Does Matt. 22:23-33 rule out the supernatural view? The Bible tells of angels physically interacting with humans. Some considerations:

  1. This text never says angels can’t have sexual relations. It just says they don’t.
  2. Nevertheless, Genesis 6 isn’t the spiritual realm, so the situation doesn’t apply.
  3. This event is far less radical in what is required of a belief than the Incarnation.
  4. The actions in Genesis 18-19 are physical actions (eating food, taking hold of Lot, etc.).
  5. In Genesis 32:22-31 Jacob wrestles with an elohim and the elohim can be touched and in return physically harm Jacob.
  6. Everyone believes angels can speak, yet on this objection how can an incorporeal being produce sound waves?
  7. Angels open doors (Acts 5:19)
  8. They hit the disciples (Acts 12.7).

Nephilim after the flood

Chapter 24: The Place of the Serpent

800px-Mt._Hermon_from_Manara(GllSprng_319PAN)

Israel will face two enemies in the Holy Land: descendants of the Nephilim and those under the dominion of foreign gods.  The former had to be annihilated. The descendants of the Nephilim are related to the Rephaim (Num. 13:11, 20).

Chapter 28: Divine Misdirection

The OT didn’t have a concept of a dying and rising maschiach.  If it did, and if it were obvious, Peter wouldn’t have rebuked Christ for suggesting that.  Christ wouldn’t have had to explain it on the Emmaus Road. It was veiled because if the powers of the world understood it (1 Cor 2), they wouldn’t have put Jesus to death. “Even the angels didn’t know the plan” (1 Pet. 1:12).

Chapter 29: Rider in the clouds

Daniel 7: Divine Council

Cloud rider: in the ANE, someone who rode the clouds was divine (Ugaritic Baal Cycle; Ps. 104:1-4; Isaiah 19:1). Daniel 7 adjusts this in a way: the one who receives this title is someone alongside Yahweh.

PART 7: THE KINGDOM ALREADY

 

Chapter 32: Preeminent Domain

Matthew 16.  There is a connection between Caesarea Phillipi and “Gates of Hades.”  It is the Bashan Mountain region, close to Mt. Hermon. Caearea Phillipi was also called “Panias,” a sanctuary to Zeus and Pan (cf. Eusebius).

Mt Hermon was considered the gateway to the realm of the dead (cf. n15).

israel-2011-267

Chapter 33: A Beneficial Death

Bulls of Bashan

Matthew 27 parallels Psalm 22.

Bashan is the realm of death and Hades.  Also see Amos 4. Amos’s calling the women “cows of Bashan” isn’t simply Amos going on thot patrol. It could very well be that the cows themselves are deities in the form of idols. The Hebrew words dallim and ebyonim are also in Psalm 82.

The Fall of Bashan

Mountain of Bashan/God in Psalm 68 should be translated mountain of gods, since it is immediately contrasted with Mt. Zion.  It wouldn’t make any sense if they were the same: why would the mountain look upon itself with envy?

Chapter 35: Sons of God, Seed of Abraham Gog, Magog, and Bashan

  1.  Gog will come from the heights of the North (Ezek. 38:15;39.2).  The invasion is in a supernatural context. Heiser writes, “The Gog invasion would be the response of a supernatural evil against the Messiah and his kingdom” (364).

A syntactical problem for the Sethite thesis

The Sethite thesis holds that the “sons of God” (beney elohim) in Genesis 6 were the human descendants of Seth, and not the fallen Watchers.  Among other problems, this view has to hold:

Heiser writes:

“The verb form (began) is third masculine singular.  Since the word ‘adam, which is often rendered mankind…in modern translations, does not actually appear in the verse, the most natural reading would be that Seth began to call on the name of the Lord.  If this is the case, then the Sethite view needs to extrapolate Seth’s faith to only men from that point on, since it is the sons of God who must be spiritually distinct from the daughters of mankind” (Kindle loc. 10377).

Heiser goes on to point out hat if you insert “humankind” into the text, you undermine the Sethite thesis, for then you have other human lineages calling on the name of the Lord.

Opening notes on Heiser’s Unseen Realm

This study outline is kind of like a middle east targum.  It is combination paraphrase/outline. For a general idea of this type of thinking, see the following

Satan’s Psy Ops.

unseen realm

God’s Entourage

Job 38.4-7 identifies the heavenly host, the morning stars, with the sons of God (Heiser 23). He isn’t saying that the stars are little gods.  He is simply noting that there are moving entities “up there” in the heavenly realm.

divine council

Angels aren’t exactly the same thing as the beney elohim, as the former are lower-level messengers.

God’s Household

Layered authority: high king → elite administrators → low-level personnel.  Psalm 82 is the clearest example in the OT (25). The first Elohim in 82:1 is singular, since it has a singular verbal form (stands).  The second is plural, “since the preposition in front of it (“in the midst of”) requires more than one.”

Chapter 4: God Alone

Divine Beings are not human

The divine beings in 82:1 can’t be the Trinity, since God says they are corrupt.  It can’t be human, since Jewish elders weren’t given authority over the nations (28). Further, God’s divine council is in the heavens, not on earth.

Other biblical passages:

  • Job 1.6: the beney elohim came to present themselves before God.
  • Judges 11:24; 1 Kgs 11:33.  Gods of other nations
  • Dt. 32.17; demons (shedim)
  • 1 Sam. 28.13; the deceased Samuel
  • Gen. 35.17; angels or Angel of Yahweh.

Plural Elohim Does Not mean Polytheism

Would any Israelite believe that these Elohim were on the same ontological level as Yahweh?  The term elohim is not a set of attributes–that would be polytheism. It means an inhabitant of the spiritual world.

Are They Real?

Dt 32 seems to imply they are. If you believe in the reality of demons, then these elohim/shedim (v. 17) are real.

The “denial statements” (no God besides me) don’t mean that they don’t exist.  Similar language is used of human cities (Is. 47.8 and Zeph. 2.15), yet Nineveh and Babylon aren’t the only cities that exist (34).

What’s the point of even saying God is greater than these elohim if they don’t exist?  It’s like saying, “Among the beings we all know don’t exist, there is none like Yahweh.”

Idols: the ancient world didn’t seriously believe the idol was real, but that demons inhabited them (1 Cor. 10:18-22).

What About Jesus?

Does this mean Jesus wasn’t the only divine Son?  Monogenes doesn’t come from mono + gennao, but from mono + genos (class kind).

As in Heaven, So on Earth

Image/imager: If Gen. 1:26ff doesn’t refer to the Trinity but to the divine council, this doesn’t mean we are created by other Elohim. The following entail:

  • Both men and women are equally included
  • Divine image bearing is what makes us distinct from animals.
  • We either have the image, or we don’t.  It isn’t incremental.

We normally define image of God in the following ways:

  • Intelligence
  • Reasoning
  • Emotions
  • Communication
  • Sentience
  • Language
  • soul/spirit
  • Conscience
  • Free will.

The problem with the above class is that animals have some of these, too (41). The problem with “soul” (nephesh) is that animals also have a nephesh (Gen. 1.20).

The key to the image of God is in the Hebrew preposition in. In English “in” can mean location or result of action.  In Hebrew we are created as God’s image. It is not a capacity we have but a status (42). Klaas Schilder said the same thing.

God’s Two Family Household Councils

We are created to function as God’s imagers on earth.  But God also created administrators for the unseen realm.

Gardens and Mountains

That the image of God is a status, not a set of attributes, is evident from the fact that we are to take dominion over creation, making earth an Eden.  

Key idea: God decrees his will and leaves it to his administrative household to carry out those decrees (1 Kgs 22; Daniel 4:13, 17; 23).

Only God is Perfect

Key idea: The worldview of the biblical writers was ‘Where Yahweh is, so is his divine council” (54ff).

Who is the Satan in Job?  Heiser suggests he is the prosecutor within the divine council (56).

Peril and Providence

Key idea: divine foreknowledge does not necessitate divine predestination (64).

PART 3: DIVINE TRANSGRESSIONS

Trouble in Paradise

Argument:  The serpent (Nachash) is a substantival adjective.  He is a serpentine being. This bothers people for some reason.

Why wasn’t Eve afraid of a talking snake, if we take the story literally?  Eve was in the garden, which was the meeting place between the heavenly realm and earth.  She knew she was talking to an elohim. Ancient man knew that animals really couldn’t talk.

Another common sense observation: if the enemy in the garden was a supernatural being, then he wasn’t a mere snake.

Ezekiel 28: the prince of Tyre considers himself an el, who sits in the moshab elohim.

Verse 10: why does God tell him he will die the death of uncircumcised strangers?  He is (presumably) a Phoenician and would be uncircumcised anyway (77). The answer: he is sent to the underworld where there were uncircumcised warrior-kings (Ezek. 32.21; 24-30; 32; Isa. 14.9). This is the place of the Rephaim.

He leaves the garden of God and goes to the underworld. Is the prince a serpent?  He is “shining” and “radiant.”

Even the claim that God said the snake will “eat dirt” doesn’t mean Nachash was a real serpent.  Heiser writes, “The nachash was cursed to crawl on its belly, imagery that conveyed being cast down (Ezek. 28.8; 17; Isa. 14.11-12, 15) to the ground.  In Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14, we saw the villain cast down to the ‘erets, a term that refers literally to dirt and metaphorically to the underworld” (91).  Anyway, snakes don’t actually eat dirt.

The Nephilim

The Sethite thesis doesn’t make sense out of the language of Jude and 2 Peter 2.  

Daniel 4 describes one of the holy ones of Yahweh’s council as a “Watcher.”

Divine Allotment

God scattered the nations in Gen. 11; Deut. 32:8-9 describes it as disinheriting.

Key idea: God gave ownership of the Table of Nations to the divine council (113). Deut. 4:19-20 makes this clear. Psalm 82 judges these elohim for doing a bad job, and then urges God to rise up for he shall inherit the nations.

Cosmic Geography

David’s dilemma: 1 Sam. 26:17-19; David thinks if he is forced to leave Israel, he will leave Yahweh’s inheritance (117).

Naaman asks for dirt (2 Kgs 5): Naaman views the holy land as holy ground.

Daniel and Paul: Dan. 10. In acts 17:26-27 Paul says that God determined not only the boundaries of the old world, where they could blindly search after God.

The LXX in Daniel 10 refers to the “prince” (sar) as an archonton.  Other Greek translations even older describe both Michael and the enemy as archons, which matches Paul’s language of the rulers of this age (1 Cor 2:6, 8) in the heavenly places (Eph. 3.10).

Heiser then draws the following conclusion: Paul’s terms–principalities/arche, powers/exousia, dominions/kyrios, thrones/thronos–are terms that are used of geographical domain rulership (121).

 

 

 

Review: The Great Inception (Satan’s Psyops)

This book surprised me.  I wondered how sophisticated it would be.  It impressed.  I do feel like some arguments could have been expanded, but overall Gilbert made a reasonably strong case, one that I find convincing.  Please check out his website here.

and here: http://www.derekpgilbert.com/the-great-inception/

The reader is encourage to consult Serro’s work as well.

The argument: Yahweh’s war against the Watchers takes place on a set of mountains, beginning in Eden.

inception

Following Heiser he suggests that the serpent in Genesis 3 was actually a serpentine being (following the fluidity of nachash) rather than Sneaky Snake.

  • He says Nachash can also mean “one who practices divination” (Gilbert 9).  I don’t disagree, but he doesn’t cite any lexical sources.
  • But if Lucifer is an angel, and angels do have a shining appearance, then it might work.

Who was “Satan?”  He never appears by that name early on.  But if we take Isaiah 14 and Ezek. 28 as referring to the garden, then we can infer:

  • He was an anointed cherub
  • He walked on stones of fire

Hermon

Nephilim

It means giants (33). We need to get clear on something: the Nephilim are the descendants (or some of them, anyway) from the intermarriages.  They are not the sires.  Gilbert argues, and I think he is correct, that the Watchers, or other ביני ילוהימ, mated with humans and produced Nephilim.

  1. How likely is it that all the Sethite men were good and all the Cainanite women were bad?
  2. Does this mean that Caininite women never married Sethite men?
  3. Why would this union produce Nephilim, understood by Jews and Christians to be giants?
  4. Why would this union lead to wickedness so great that God destroys the planet?
  5. Every other use of bene elohim means divine beings (34).

Objection: But angels can’t reproduce!

But I answer: That was not the presumption of the men of Sodom. I suppose we can advance the argument.  Who said the Watchers or the ביני ילוהימ were angels in the sense you are thinking of?  I simply deny that premise.

Babel

Gilbert advances the argument that Babel wasn’t Babylon (as Babylon wouldn’t have existed then). Nor was God freaked out that somebody would have built a really big Ziggurat.  What is neat is comparing this with other ANE legends (Satan’s psyops).  Nimrod  was lord of the abzu, the abyss.  The tower of Bab-el would have been built on the abzu (59).  And Bab-el meant gate of the god(s).  So the gate of the gods would have been built on the abyss.

Gilbert asks the question that bourgeois commentators do not:  could Nimrod have succeeded?  It was serious enough that Yahweh personally intervened.

The gods of the nations

This is where it gets neat.  We are familiar with the story that the people spread out.  Part of the punishment was that the people (70 nations) were given to the lordship of the bene elohim-ביני ילוהימ (also 70).

God writes (Dt. 32),

When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,

   when he divided mankind,

he fixed the borders[a] of the peoples

   according to the number of the sons of God (bene elohim; ביני ילוהימ).

It makes no sense whatsoever to say that God fixed the numbers according to the nation of Israel, which didn’t yet exist.  Yet, if we read this as “sons of God,” assuming they are beings which have some kind of hypostatic existence, then other passages in Deuteronomy start to make sense:

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. 20 But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace (Dt. 4)

Why would God alot other nations to do idolatry?  It’s not so much that he wanted them to do that, but that he gave them over to the gods of those nations.

But would Yahweh allot nations to evil beings?  Well, yes.  Think of it as the Romans 1 moment of the Old Testament.  And it is no more “mean” of God to do this than to give people up to sinful passions.

It is because they abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt, 26 and went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods whom they had not known and whom he had not allotted to them (Dt 29).

In short, these are territorial spirits.  And this makes sense of obscure passages in Daniel, where Daniel learns of the war between the princes of Persia, Greece, and Michael.

Sinai

Who was Ba’al Zephon (Ex. 14:3)? Zaphon was the name of Ba’al’s mountain in Egypt.

At Mt. Sinai Yahweh demands that 70 elders approach with Moses and Aaron.  Gilbert concludes, noting the parallels between the 70 elders and the 70 bene elohim, “A day is coming when my (Yahweh’s) people will again take their place in the divine council” (96).

The Typhon Connection

Set was often equated with Ba’al, but he was also identified with Typhon (99).  And when you transpose this onto the Crowley-Lovecraft mythos, you see that the Great Old Ones are prominent, and they could be the bene elohim.

Zaphon

Tie-in with other gods

Gilbert connects the dots between pagan mythologies and biblical demonology, and the list is quite startling:

“Reseph” in the bible is mentioned as plague, and for the Amorites he was a god who spread both healing and disease with his arrows (115). In Babylon he was called Nergal, and by the time Greece emerged as a power, he was depicted as an archer and god of medicine and healing.  His name, obviously, was Apollo.  And he has a role to play in Eschatology (Rev. 9:1-11).  He is Lord of the Abyss.

And when we tie all this together, we see Reseph (similar root structure to seraph, burning one) = Nergal, Lord of the Underworld = Apollo, demon of the Abyss.

Other patterns:

Zeus = Ba’al (lightning, storm connection)

Venus = Aphrodite = Astarte = Ishtar

Who are the Rephaim (Dt. 2:2-5; 8b-12; 18-23).

They are connected with Og and Sihon, giants whom Moses deliberately targeted (they weren’t on the planned invasion route). Hesiod and Enoch (1 Enoch 15:8-12) connect the meropes anthropoi with the Nephilim, children of the Fallen Watchers (157).  Upon their death they would have become spirits/demons, the Council of the Didanu.

Carmel

Angels fought against Jabin (Judg. 5:19-22).

Onto Mt. Carmel:

If our earlier reading is correct, and Yahweh did indeed divide the people into 70 nations (with 70 gods; Dt 32:8-9, using the ESV).  If this reading is wrong, then Paul was wrong to warn against elemental spirits, thrones, demons, principalities.

Amorite spiritual context: the Rephaim/Nephilim, children of Titans, represented forbidden knowledge (sorcery, necromancy, etc. 197).

Zion

Jesus’s transfiguration took place near Mt Hermon.  There were other watchers besides the disciples.  He was sending a message (208-209).  This was the realm of Pan (Paneas = Caesarea Phillipi).  Pan is a goat demon alluded to in the Old Testament (Lev. 17:1-7, which is the same word used in Isaiah 13:19-21).  Azazel in Leviticus 16:6-12 is also connected with goats.

Pan is also related to Aegipan, sometimes connected with the Constellation Capricorn

In his response to the Pharisees Christ links Satan with Ba’al, the storm God.  This means Satan is also linked with Zeus, Thor, and Perrun.

Satan = Ba’al = Zeus = Thor = Perrun.

I’m not quite ready to make that connection, but it is worth considering.

Recap

200 supernatural beings (Watchers, from the book of Enoch) established a rebellion on Mt Hermon.  Their breeding with women in Genesis 6 produced the Nephilim.  They also taught forbidden knowledge.  In response God chained them in darkness (Jude, 2 Peter).

Gilbert brings home Dr Heiser’s arguments and they are strongly worth considering.  If we don’t take the supernatural seriously, we have a flattened ontology and are incapable of dealing with both the bible and the hard facts of reality.

Key resources:

Annus, Amar. 1999. “Are there Greek Rephaim? On the Etymology of Greek Meropes and Titanes.” Ugarit-Forschungen 31:13-30.

–. 2010. “On the Origin of Watchers: A comparative study of the antediluvian wisdom in Mesopotamian and Jewish Traditions.” Journal for the Study of Pseudipigrapha 19 (4): 277-320.

Toon, K. van der. “Nimrod Before and After the bible.” Harvard Theological Review 83: 1-29.

We Believe in One God (Ancient Christian Doctrines)

Bray, Gerald. ed. We Believe in One God (Ancient Christian Doctrines). Intervarsity Press, 2009.

I think I have found the best primary source intro to the Fathers. The only drawback is the somewhat steep price. Gerald Bray (in this volume) gives a running commentary on the Nicene Creed using only the writings of the Fathers. He examines each clause of the Creed up to “things visible and invisible.” He alerts us to the hermeneutical sensitivities of the Fathers while pointing to areas where they were either lacking or refused to pursue the logical development. For example, the Fathers, unlike moderns today, be they conservative or liberal, were very interested in the role of Angels and demons. Their cosmology, untainted by post-Kantian gnosticism, allowed for such a role. Further, the fathers did not develop the doctrine of God’s foreknowledge and predestination in any real sense. Augustine did the most.

My main problem with the book is the lack of Maximus the Confessor. In this review I will post an extended outline. I am doing that because the reader needs to see the logical and narratival development of the Fathers’ use of the Creed (or pre-creedal formulae). Finally, the reader should note that the Fathers had values that we do not necessarily pursue today, such as apostolic succession. But it should also be noted that the situation then is different than now.

Bray begins each section with a brief contextual introduction, then summarizes roughly each Father, and then gives a litany of Patristic quotations. It is truly grand.

Movement of the Creed

We believe (which covers the gamut from knowledge of God, Scripture as the basis of knowledge [Clement Strom. 7.16], to the canon of Scripture, to the interpretation of Scripture.

Apostolic Tradition:

  • “found in the Scriptures” (Irenaeus Adv. Haer. 3.5.1) and passed down by bishops.
  • “Unwritten traditions.” Some were passed down, like the sign of the cross (Basil, On The Holy Spirit, 27.66).

In One God.

  1. Who God Is.
    1. God’s unbegottenness is not the same as his essence (Basil 39).
    2. God is one in nature, not in number. My guess is that Basil says this because number implies distinction (Letter 8.2).
    3. Basil distinguishes between God’s energies and his essence (Letter 234).
    4. Yet Augustine says God’s being and his attributes are the same (“In God to be is the same as to be strong/just/wise; Trinity 6.4.6).
    5. God is not a substance but an essence. Substances subsist. This would mean God subsists in Goodness, rather than is goodness itself (7.5.10).
  2. The Unity of God’s Being
    1. God’s unity is beyond essence (Ps. Dionys. Divine Names 2.4).
  3. The Freedom of God
    1. God knows future events (Iren. Adv. Haer. 4.21.2).
  4. The Divine Will
  5. God’s Attributes
    1. God is above both space and time (Clement. Strom. 2.2
  1. Father-Son relationship
    1. Athanasius: the Son is in the Father because his whole being is proper to the Father’s essence (Contra Ar. 3.23.3).
    2. Cyril of Alexandria: Christ is eternal because the Father is not mind-less.
  2. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
    1. Ephrem: affirms the Filioque (Hymn on the Dead and the Trinity). Father = Mind; Son = Word; Spirit = voice.
    2. Basil: Community of essence (Letter 38.4). Identity of operation proves they have the same nature (Letter 189.7).
    3. Basil: ousia = general; hypostasis = particular. The Godhead is common, the hypostatic characteristics are particular (Letter 236.6).
    4. Basil: True knowledge of God moves from the Spirit through the Son to the Father (Holy Spirit 18.47).
    5. Hilary: Difference between beginning and birth. A thing that begins to exist comes from nothing. A thing that is begotten comes from the same nature (De Trin. 7.14).
    6. Augustine: the substance of God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (De Trin. 3.11.21).
    7. Augustine: Person is a convenient description. We use the term “person” because we have no other way of describing them (De Trin.7.4.8).
      8. Cyril of Alexandria: the nature is modulated through the properties of the hypostases. In each person the entire nature is understood along with its hypostatic property (Dialogue on the Trinity 7).

The Almighty

  1. Augustine: “Almighty” means God can do what he wills (City of God, 5.10.1).

Maker

Heaven and earth

  1. Cyril of Alexandria: No Limits to God. “There is no place that holds divinity, yet it is absent from nothing at all, for it fills all things, goes through all things, is beyond all things and yet within all things” (Commentary on John 11.9).
  2. John of Damascus: God is the Cause of all, the essence of all that have essence (Orthodox Faith 1.12)./
  3. Space and Time:
    1. God’s works are external, unlike the begetting of His Son, which is internal to his being (Athanasius Contra Ar. 1.29).

Of all that is, Seen

  1. Ephrem the Syrian: Threefold nature of Adam’s creation.
    1. Eve took Adam’s body, but not his soul (Comm. on Genesis 1-2).
  2. Augustine’s trichotomism: body, soul, and spirit (On Faith and the Creed 10.23).
  3. Cyril of Alexandria: The soul did not exist before the body (Comm. on John 1.9).

And Unseen

  1. Angels
    1. Shepherd of Hermas: Angel of punishment belongs in the class of righteous angels.
    2. Clement of Alexandria: Spiritual people pray with angels (Strom. 7.12).
    3. Hilary of Poitiers: Angels intercede for us (Homily on the Psalms 129 (130)).
    4. Gregory the Great: Nine different orders of angels: angels, archangels, rulers, powers, principalities, dominions, thrones, cherubim, and seraphim (Forty Gospel Homilies 2.34.7).
  2. Nephilim:
    1. Athenagoras–some angels fell into sexual lust. Their offspring were the Giants (Plea Regarding Christians 24).
    2. Tertullian: sometimes angels assume corporeal form, as when the men of Sodom sought them (On the Flesh of Christ 3).
    3. Yet Chrysostom says the angels cannot have sexual relations (Homilies on Genesis 22.2).
    4. On the other hand, John Cassian says some angels have their own type of body (Conferences 7.13).
  3. Guardian Angels
    1. Shepherd of Hermas: each person has two angels, one evil and one good (Mandate 2.6.2).
    2. Origen: churches, apostles, and individuals each have angels (On First Principles 1.8.1). Nations also have their own angels (cf. Greece and Persia in Daniel; Tyre in Ezekiel; On First Principles 3.3.2).
    3. Jerome: each person has a guardian angel from the moment of birth (Commentary on Matthew 3.18.10).
    4. Theodoret of Cyr: Individuals have angels; nations have archangels (Comm. Daniel 10.13).
  4. Demons
    1. Exorcism still takes place today–Theophilus of Antioch (To Autoclys 2.8).
    2. Fallen angels invented magic and astrology (Tertullian).
    3. Demons only harm those who fear them: Lactantius, Institutes 2.16.