Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Reading The Unseen Realm by Michael Heiser #6

HeiserI am continuing to read through The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, by Michael S. Heiser. I have to say that this book has given me a lot to think about. While I would have some argument with some of his exegesis, I think his main point, “the Divine Council view,” is accurate and provides a good way to put the OT story together.  I 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.…

In Chapter 12, Divine Transgression, Heiser discusses the different views of the rebellion that takes place in Genesis 6.1-4 and prompts Noah's flood. The sin is intermarriage of the "sons of God" and the "daughters of men." Heiser, and I would agree here, takes the supernatural view that the "sons of God" are supernatural beings who break God's boundaries and have sexual relations with human women and give birth to the "nephilim." This certainly appears to be the view of Jude and 2 Peter in the New Testament and the view of early Jewish interpreters. Later views, such as the Sethite view and "Divinized human rulers view," have too many exegetical problems. The point would be that this rebellion inserted an evil supernatural element into the human race that had to be dealt with. The spiritual heritage of this is that the human race is divided into two camps: the children of God and the children of the devil.    

This passage (1 John 3:8–12) describes people whose lives are characterized by wickedness as “children of the devil,” a contrast to the spiritual “children of God.” This is a spiritual lineage, since the children of God have “God’s seed” abiding in them, a reference to the Holy Spirit. Peter echoes the same thought in 1 Peter 1: 23, where he describes those born again (literally, born “from above”) as being born not as mortal offspring or seed, but of “imperishable seed,” through the word of God. The language, then, points toward the spiritual— following Yahweh or following the example of the original rebel, the nachash. 92-93

Biblical theology does not derive from the church fathers. It derives from the biblical text, framed in its own context...For the person who considers the Old and New Testament to be equally inspired, interpreting Genesis 6:1–4 “in context” means analyzing it in light of its Mesopotamian background as well as 2 Peter and Jude, whose content utilizes supernatural interpretations from Jewish theology of their own day. 99-100

Chapter 13, The Bad Seed, continues the explanation of Genesis 6.1-4 and especially focuses on the offspring of the rebellious union of the supernatural and human; the nephilim. Heiser sees this passage as a polemic against the ancient Mesopotamian view that these divine-human hybrids provided wisdom and skills to humanity. In the Babylonian view these "Watchers" (note the same term is used for God's "Holy Ones" in Daniel 4) came down from heaven to form the Babylonian civilization. They fell prey to sexual temptation and were confined to the underworld, but their offspring, the nephilim, were the great heroes of old. Heiser sees the word nephilim as meaning "giant" rather than "fallen one" based on the way the word is translated in the LXX. Genesis 1-11 counters this idea. Instead, the "watchers" and the "nephilim" were rebels who opposed the plan of God as sons of the nachash. This idea of the "sons of the nachash" versus the "seed of the woman" will provide the frame for understanding the rest of the OT.

Genesis 6:1–4 is a polemic; it is a literary and theological effort to undermine the credibility of Mesopotamian gods and other aspects of that culture’s worldview. Biblical writers do this frequently. The strategy often involves borrowing lines and motifs from the literature of the target civilization to articulate correct theology about Yahweh and to show contempt for other gods. Genesis 6:1–4 is a case study in this technique. 102

Genesis 6:1–4 is far from being peripheral in importance. It furthers the theme of conflict between divine rebels (the “seed of the nachash”) and humanity that will impede the progress of Eden’s restoration. It is one of two passages in the Old Testament that fundamentally frame the history of Israel as a people and a land. 109

In Chapter 14, Divine Allotment, Heiser comes to the center of his "Divine Council view" of the Old Testament. In this chapter he links the supernatural rebellions in Genesis 3 and 6 with another rebellion at the tower of Babel in Genesis 10-11. The Genesis 6 rebellion continues in the table of nations as the rebel Nimrod founds Assyria and Babylon (10.6-12), the great enemies of God's people throughout the OT narrative. The tower of Babel is where the people tried to "make a name" for themselves by substituting the gods of Babel for YHWH. God punishes the people by handing them over to the rebellious "sons of God" (Deut 32.8-9, Dead Sea scroll reading as in ESV) and allowing these beings to be the gods of the 70 nations named in Genesis 10 (Deut. 4.19-20). God will then make His covenant with Abraham through whom will come Israel and Messiah to bless and save these rebellious nations.

Deuteronomy 4:19–20 is the other side of God’s punitive coin. Whereas in Deuteronomy 32:8–9 God apportioned or handed out the nations to the sons of God, here we are told 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 is 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.” 114

Humanity had shunned Yahweh and his plan to restore Eden through them, so he would shun them and start again. While the decision was harsh, the other nations are not completely forsaken. Yahweh disinherited the nations, and in the very next chapter of Genesis, he calls Abram out of— you guessed it— Mesopotamia. Again, this is not accidental. Yahweh would take a man from the heart of the rebellion and make a new nation, Israel. 115

Chapter 15, Cosmic Geography, ends section three's description of the "divine transgressions" that form the framework and worldview of the OT. Heiser gives several examples of how seeing the OT this way makes sense, including David's concern that leaving Israel would constitute being "driven from YHWH's inheritance (1 Sam. 26.17-19), Naaman's needing dirt from Israel to worship YHWH (2 Kings 5.15-19), Daniel's vision of the archangel Michael's battles with the "kings" of Persia and Javan (Dan. 10.20-21) and Paul's description of the supernatural world rulers (Eph. 1.20-21, 3.10, 6.12, Col. 2.15). God had given over the nations to rule by these corrupt supernatural beings, but He would battle these powers and redeem these nations through Israel, Israel's Messiah and His kingdom.

The Old Testament therefore describes a world where cosmic-geographical lines have been drawn. Israel was holy ground because it was Yahweh’s “inheritance,” in the language of Deuteronomy 32:8–9. The territory of other nations belonged to other elohim because Yahweh had decreed it. 116

Paul’s rationale for his own ministry to the Gentiles was that it was God’s intention to reclaim the nations to restore the original Edenic vision. 120

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