Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Reading The Unseen Realm by Michael Heiser #5

HeiserI am continuing to read through The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, by Michael S. Heiser. Chapters 10-11 continues the discussion about Eden, focused on the identity of the serpent, the nachashI have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the commentary are in blue below. I am using the Kindle version of the book.…

Part 3, Divine Transgressions begins with Chapter 10, Trouble in Paradise. This section deals with the rebellions of God's supernatural imagers and their effect on creation. Chapters 10-11 will discuss one of the main rebels, the nachash, or serpent, that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden. Ancient readers would have understood that the story in Genesis 3 was not talking about a normal snake. This was a divine, supernatural being that was trying to mess up God's plan for humanity and creation. Heiser compares the description of Eden and the guardian cherub there in Ezekiel 28 with the Genesis snake to show that they are describing the same supernatural being. The exegesis within Ezekiel is disputed, but his conclusion makes the most sense with the context of other passages (Rev. 21:7-9).  

An Israelite would have known that the episode described interference in the human drama by a divine being, a malcontent from within Yahweh’s council...If it’s true that the enemy in the garden was a supernatural being, then he wasn’t a snake. 74

Ezekiel 28 browbeats the prince of Tyre using an ancient tale of divine arrogance in Eden, where a member of Yahweh’s council thought himself on par with the Most High. This divine throne guardian was expelled from Eden to the “ground” or underworld. 82

In chapter 11, Like the Most High?, Heiser compares the elements in the story of Eden with the description of Lucifer, helel ben-shachar, the “shining one, son of the dawn.” in Isaiah 14. The issue here is "to whom is the king of Babylon being compared?” (83). Heiser's answer is that he is being compared to the nachash in Eden. Heiser sees the clues in Genesis 3 that this must be more than just a mere snake in the word nachash, which can also carry the meaning, in adjectival form, of being "shiny." There is a little conjecture here with the word meaning, but the immediate and biblical context provides strong enough support for Heiser's point that the snake is surely a divine being. So the nachash tempts Eve and brings about the "Fall" necessitating God's judgment. The nachash is cast out of heaven and consigned to the realm of the dead, while the humans are forced to carry out their mission to subdue the earth with opposition, in drudgery, and without the contingent immortality they had in Eden.

The serpent (nachash) was an image commonly used in reference to a divine throne guardian. Given the context of Eden, that helps identify the villain as a divine being. The divine adversary dispenses divine information, using it to goad Eve. He gives her an oracle (or, an omen!): You won’t really die. God knows when you eat you will be like one of the elohim. Lastly, a shining appearance conveys a divine nature. All the meanings telegraph something important. They are also consistent with the imagery from Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28. 88

After the fall, though humankind was estranged from God and no longer immortal, the plan of God was not extinguished. Genesis 3 tells us why we die, why we need redemption and salvation, and why we cannot save ourselves. It also tells us that God’s plan has only been delayed— not defeated— and that the human story will be both a tragic struggle and a miraculous, providential saga. 91

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