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).

 

 

 

About J. B. Aitken

Interests include patristics, the role of the soul in the human person, analytic theology, Reformed Scholasticism, Medievalism, Substance Metaphysics
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2 Responses to Opening notes on Heiser’s Unseen Realm

  1. Pingback: Review: Keener on Revelation | Outlaw Huguenot

  2. Pingback: Notes on Heiser’s Unseen Realm, 2 | Outlaw Huguenot

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