Thursday, October 12, 2017

Reading The Unseen Realm by Michael Heiser #9

HeiserI am continuing to read through The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, by Michael S. Heiser. This post covers the section, Conquest and Failure, which discusses the story of the conquest of Canaan in Joshua and Judges. It also gives a possible legitimate reason for God’s institution of herem, total destruction, of some of the Canaanites. 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.…

Part 5, Conquest and Failure, shows how the Divine Council view of the OT illuminates the story of the conquest. Chapter 23, Giant Problems, makes the point that the main enemy faced by Joshua and the Israelites in Canaan were the Nephilim, the "giants" who were the offspring of the demonic interaction with human women as in Genesis 6.1-4. The text clearly implies a supernatural origin for these Nephilim whether the interaction was actually sexual or metaphorical. The main purpose of the conquest would have been to eliminate these demonic giants (Numbers 13.32-33).

Since the Nephilim were part of Israel’s supernatural worldview and their descendants turn out to be Israel’s primary obstacle for conquering the promised land, the conquest itself must also be understood in supernatural terms. 185

Either the giant clans are the result of literal cohabitation, or the sexual language is merely a vehicle to communicate the idea that, as Yahweh was responsible for the Israelites’ existence, so the giant clans existed because of some sort of supernatural intervention of rival gods. 188

In Chapter 24, The Place of the Serpent, Heiser connects the Amorites back to the nachash in Eden, the demonic cohabitation with human women in Genesis 6.1-4, and forward to the Babylonian god, Marduk. The point of the story of Israel's battle with the Amorite kings, Sihon and Og, was that the battle was, as in Egypt, between YHWH and these other gods and between YHWH's son, Israel, and the offspring of the demonic gods, the Rephaim/Nephilim.  

For an Israelite, all this meant that the native population of Canaan had a supernaturally sinister point of origin. This wouldn’t be just a battle for land. It was a battle between Yahweh and the other gods— gods who had raised up competing human bloodlines that were opposed to Yahweh’s plan and people. Amos 2.9-10, 197

Those who put the finishing touches on the Old Testament during the exile in Babylon were connecting Marduk and Og in some way. The most transparent path is in fact giant stature. Og is said to have been the last of the Rephaim—a term connected to the giant Anakim and other ancient giant clans in the Transjordan (Deut 2:11, 20). Marduk, like other deities in antiquity, was portrayed as superhuman in size. However, the real matrix of ideas in the mind of the biblical author may be derived from wordplay based on Babylonian mythology. 199, Deut 3.1-11

Chapter 25, Holy War, closes the section on the conquest of Canaan by Moses and Joshua and explains the concept of cherem, "devotion to destruction." Heiser's point is that not all of Canaan was "devoted to destruction." Only the Nephilim were devoted to destruction. The point was to remove the demonic offspring and so whole populations needed to be removed. Other people groups were conquered for Israel to take the land, but whole populations were not destroyed. The Israelites failed to remove all the Anakim leaving some among the Philistines for David and his men to remove later. Cherem is a very difficult concept for moderns to accept because we do not have a supernatural view of the world. This does seem to be the view of the ancient writers however, and we need to read and interpret the Bible with that in mind.

In the view of the biblical writers, Israel is at war with enemies spawned by rival divine beings. The Nephilim bloodlines were not like the peoples of the disinherited nations. Genesis 10 clearly casts the human inhabitants of those nations as owing their existence to Yahweh, as they descended from Noah’s sons and, therefore, Noah— all the way back to Adam, Yahweh’s first human son. The Nephilim bloodlines had a different pedigree. They were produced by other divine beings. They did not belong to Yahweh, and he therefore had no interest in claiming them. Coexistence was not possible with the spawn of other gods. 203

The picture that emerges from the biblical text and archaeology is that vestiges of the Nephilim bloodline were scattered throughout Canaan among a number of other people groups. The aim of the conquest was to drive out all the inhabitants and eliminate these bloodlines in the process. Heiser, 213

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