Question re Heiser's "What Do Demons Believe about God?" in March/April 2015 BSM

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R. Mansfield | Forum Activity | Posted: Sat, Mar 7 2015 12:00 PM

In the March/April 2015 issue of Bible Study Magazine, Michael Heiser writes,

"When God called Abraham and established his 'portion'--the nation of Israel--he set aside all other nations. Those disinherited nations were allotted to other divine beings, the sons of God, who are elsewhere called the 'host of heaven'... We aren't told just when or how, but these sons of God set over the other nations became corrupt and abused their authority (Ps 82) by seducing the Israelites to worship them instead of the true God..." [see attachment for quotation in context of the full paragraph]

My knowledge of such things is not exhaustive, but I've never heard this interpretation before--(1) that God allotted other nations to angels, and (2) after the allotment, these angels became corrupt and received worship from the inhabitants of the nations.

I don't get the same meaning from the references provided either, but obviously, people read and interpret differently.

Here's my question: Is this interpretation unique to Heiser or are their others who hold to this idea as well? If others hold this idea, who?

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David Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 7 2015 12:47 PM

Heiser seems to have a crush on the word ':Elohhiym. He spends an awful amount of time teasing it out. Not a problem, just an observation. I have a bit of respect for him because he has a "go where the evidence takes you no matter how uncomfortable it makes you" attitude. I like that because that is the only attitude that will get you to the truth. It fairly often takes Heiser to places traditional Bible study isn't familiar with, and that can be a very good thing. Generally speaking, I think that Heiser is headed in the right direction with his ':Elohhiym studies, although I have a few significant divergences. I think that even if he is wrong on any particular, he is going to be far closer than traditional teachings are on this topic. Although I don't see it mentioned in this snippet you posted, one verse that he could marshal to his position is Dan. 10:20. He has spent a lot of time in Psalm 82, a big ':Elohhiym passage. This psalm is one of the places where I diverge with him, although I try to allow for the possibility that we can both be right. Not sure that is possible, but it is whatever it is. Again, I think his direction is a good one. He is making the kinds of tenuous links that can sometimes result in epiphanies and major breakthroughs, or in the neighborhood of one. Just because I end up standing somewhere else, I don't want to take that from him. Of course, sometimes tenuous links snap and there's nothing to show for them. In this case, I think he's in the neighborhood.

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Mark Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 7 2015 1:03 PM

David Paul:
one verse that he could marshal to his position is Dan. 10:20.

The possibility of supernatural beings overseeing individual nations primarily rests on this scripture and on Satan's claim to Jesus that all the nations of the world were his.

Clearly many interpreters would not agree that Psa 82 has anything to do with supernatural creatures. So the jury is out on that one.

What is a bit troubling in the above quote is the leap that goes from Dan 10 back to how this situation began and the subsequent claim these beings corrupted themselves after that time. Heiser makes some equivocations about when and how the corruption occurred, but leaves us with the impression God did this allotting. He is certain it happened after the Tower of Babel (when the individual nations were formed). To me this is claiming an awful lot on slim evidence and inference (and even questionable cross-referencing).

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 7 2015 1:22 PM

I have tried a number of searches and not come up with any resource discussing anything close to this interpretation. A couple of items on side issues but ... The Timeline doesn't provide much support either.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Kenneth Neighoff | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 7 2015 1:26 PM

Could one use ask the author feature for this, even though technically this resource in not in Logos yet.

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Rosie Perera | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 7 2015 1:58 PM

Kenneth Neighoff:

Could one use ask the author feature for this, even though technically this resource in not in Logos yet.

If the "ask the author" feature doesn't connect up to Michael Heiser yet, he is available on email (which Faithlife publishes openly) as mheiser@logos.com.

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George Somsel | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 7 2015 2:53 PM

In the process when Israel moved from polytheism to henotheism and then to monotheism, the gods other than the God of Israel became the gods of other nations and then angels (fallen and otherwise).  Of course we do not believe in other gods, but it's time to give up the idea of angels as well.  For this reason Israel spoke of the gods of other nations as realling existing, but today we do not.  When we do evil, we are responsible for our own acts.

4 Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? 2 You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. 4 Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, "God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"? 6 But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says,

"God opposes the proud,

but gives grace to the humble."

7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Jas 4.1-10

Yes, we still speak of the devil and even say "the devil made me do it", but we are the devil.

george
gfsomsel

יְמֵי־שְׁנוֹתֵינוּ בָהֶם שִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה וְאִם בִּגְבוּרֹת שְׁמוֹנִים שָׁנָה וְרָהְבָּם עָמָל וָאָוֶן

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Derek Ennis | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 7 2015 4:24 PM

FYI.  Heiser has a few YouTube videos on this topic as well as his personal website that I've found helpful in understanding his unique views (Elohim, Divine council, Jewish trinity, etc).  There, I imagine he spells things out in more detail than in a magazine article.  Good stuff in my opinion.

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Alain Maashe | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 7 2015 4:53 PM

Although no intertestamental literature is referenced in the quote from the OP, I suspect that Heiser's view relies heavily on extra-biblical Jewish literature and especially rewriting, interpretation, and expansions of biblical accounts and especially the Torah.

One text immediately came to mind as the possible starting point in the Bible: Deut 32:8

When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. (Deut 32:8)

Cross referencing it with second temple literature produced among others Jubilees 15: 30-32

30 For the LORD did not draw Ishmael and his sons and his brothers and Esau near to himself, and he did not elect them because they are the sons of Abraham, for he knew them. But he chose Israel that they might be a people for himself. 31* And he sanctified them and gathered them from all of the sons of man because (there are) many nations and many people, and they all belong to him, but over all of them he caused spirits to rule so that they might lead them astray from following him. 32* But over Israel he did not cause any angel or spirit to rule because he alone is their ruler and he will protect them and he will seek for them at the hand of his angels and at the hand of his spirits and at the hand of all of his authorities so that he might guard them and bless them and they might be his and he might be theirs henceforth and forever.

Sirach 17:17 also goes along the same lines:

 He appointed a ruler for every nation, but Israel is the Lord’s own portion.

These two texts provides much better "justification" for the beliefs that (1) that God allotted other nations to angels, and (2) after the allotment, these angels became corrupt and received worship from the inhabitants of the nations than the biblical references given in the articles that honestly are far from supportting these conclusions.

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JAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 7 2015 9:37 PM

George Somsel:
it's time to give up the idea of angels

George, I always have thought you were an angel. Devil

"The Christian mind is the prerequisite of Christian thinking. And Christian thinking is the prerequisite of Christian action." - Harry Blamires, 1963

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David Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 7 2015 9:38 PM

This may not directly address what Heiser discusses in the article, but it will present a lot of the background and build-up leading to it.

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R. Mansfield | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 7 2015 9:50 PM

Thanks for all the responses.

I had never heard the assertion Heiser makes in the portion of the article I quoted. Since the Scripture references provided don't (from my perspective) support this argument, I was mainly curious to know if there were other published scholars who hold to the same view. I knew that I had never come across these ideas before in any major commentary (and I'm fairly well read). Evidently, these are not standard ideas, but Heiser's own. Of course, he may decide to respond to this thread and provide commentators who are in agreement with him, which I would welcome. 

Truth is not dependent upon consensus, of course, but common conclusions can help to point one in a particular interpretational direction. 

My goal in asking the question is not to argue against Heiser's ideas (something forbidden by forum guidelines) but simply to gain context if it had existed. 

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HansK | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 7 2015 11:30 PM

Heiser has contributed a lot of notes and articles in FSB on this topic. See for example his notes on Dt 32.8.

See also The Jewish Trinity (OT291 Mobile Ed).

Other writers defending a view like Heiser's (more or less):

  • H. Wheeler Robinson
  • Gerald Cooke
  • E.L. Martin
  • R.J. Clifford
  • Kline
  • Mullen
  • etc etc

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Jack Caviness | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Mar 8 2015 5:48 AM

R. Mansfield:
I had never heard the assertion Heiser makes in the portion of the article I quoted.

He spends a great deal of time developing this theory in the Jewish Trinity Mobile Ed course OT291. He makes some persuasive arguments, although I am not sure I agree with his conclusions.

Kenneth Nieghoff:
Could one use ask the author feature for this, even though technically this resource in not in Logos yet.

I tried throwing some questions that way while working in OT291, but never received a response. Finally gave up the before completing the course.

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JAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Mar 8 2015 7:33 AM

For anyone following who wants to know more about Dr. Heiser's views and areas of interest that he writes about consider visting his web pages . One of his deprecated web pages is linked on the Logos blog.

http://www.thedivinecouncil.com/

http://drmsh.com/

Kenneth Neighoff:

Could one use ask the author feature for this, even though technically this resource in not in Logos yet.

Try this http://drmsh.com/contact/ be sure to read his conditions first before composing your message to him.

"The Christian mind is the prerequisite of Christian thinking. And Christian thinking is the prerequisite of Christian action." - Harry Blamires, 1963

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George Somsel | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Mar 8 2015 9:03 AM

JAL:

George Somsel:
it's time to give up the idea of angels

George, I always have thought you were an angel. Devil

Yes, a fallen one, no doubt.  Tongue Tied  Well, I stand before God, and he is my judge.  Who cares what man thinks?

george
gfsomsel

יְמֵי־שְׁנוֹתֵינוּ בָהֶם שִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה וְאִם בִּגְבוּרֹת שְׁמוֹנִים שָׁנָה וְרָהְבָּם עָמָל וָאָוֶן

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Ben | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Mar 8 2015 9:38 AM

That interpretation of Deuteronomy isn't uncommon. I've seen it several places, among prominent scholars.

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Mike Heiser | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Mar 8 2015 6:33 PM

Thanks for the question!

No, this view isn't unique to me. It's sort of "OT 101" in scholarly OT circles. The idea stems from Deut 32:8-9, reading that passage with the Dead Sea Scrolls (and Septuagint) vs. the Masoretic Text (as the ESV and NRSV do, for example). Deuteronomy 32:8-9 (following the scrolls) says:

      8       When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
      when he divided mankind,
                  he fixed the borders of the peoples
      according to the number of the sons of God.
            9       But the LORD’s portion is his people,
      Jacob his allotted heritage.


We know that "sons of God" is the superior reading for two reasons: (1) The oldest and best Hebrew manuscript data supports it - which is why the ESV incorporated it into its running translation; and (2) the Masoretic text "sons of Israel" makes absolutely no sense - Israel didn't exist at the time of Babel, which was prior to Abraham's call. That's why Israel isn't listed among the nations divided up in Genesis 10 (the Table of Nations).

Notice in the ESV translation that the nations are fixed according to the number of the sons of God (divine beings). Israel alone is Yahweh's "portion" and "allotted heritage". That would mean that the other nations are allotted to the sons of God (by Yahweh's punitive decision). That idea is explicit in Deut 4:19-20, the parallel to Deut 32:8-9:

19 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, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day.

Note here that members of the host of heaven (divine beings) are here "allotted" the all the peoples (nations).

If you trace this "host of heaven" language through the other verses I provided in the article, you find out that these divine beings are the ones to whom Israel bows down in disobedience to Yahweh. They are called shedim (translated "demons") in Deut 32:17, where they are also called elohim ("gods").

All this (and a lot more - I have a book coming out in May on all this and many other things - called The Unseen Realm) is the OT rationale for why the other nations worship other gods -- where the OT gods come from. The answer is that Yahweh created that circumstances as a punishment after Babel. Eventually, these gods/sons of God became corrupt, seducing Israelites to turn away from Yahweh and worship them. Psalm 82 is about their eschatological punishment.

For all those interested in Deut 32:8-9 and this subject, you don't have to wait for my book. Way back in 2001 I had an article on the topic published in Dallas Seminary's journal.  It's available here for free:

http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1278&context=lts_fac_pubs

It's a fairly technical article, but I think most serious Logos users can handle it. :-)

For more all other topics related to the sons of God and the divine council (a term drawn from Psalm 82), you can visit my website: http://www.thedivinecouncil.com. The article above is also found there, along with a lot of other essays.

Mike Heiser

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R. Mansfield | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Mar 8 2015 8:47 PM

Mike, thanks for the explanation. 

I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you didn't mean "It's sort of 'OT 101' in scholarly OT circles" in a condescending manner, although it could be taken that way. As I said in my original post, my knowledge is not exhaustive on such matters, but I do know enough to know that this is not OT 101. Calling it that seems to simply be a rhetorical means of establishing your position as standard and dismissing anyone who questions it. 

Regardless, I was not familiar with the textual variants for בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל in Deut 32:8. As you point out, the DSS reads בני אלוהים, and the LXX is even more specific with ἀγγέλων θεοῦ. So, I now have no problem agreeing that the reading of the Masoretic Text is not the original, and translations that have adapted to "sons of God" have done so correctly.

However, the move from that to the idea that the angels became corrupt after the allotment spoken of in Deut 32:8 and essentially became the pagan gods worshiped by the גּוֹיִם seems to be more than a stretch. Granted, that is my opinion and assessment, but it is based on a lack of scriptural evidence to support this specific point. 

In fact, I could find a few commentaries that dealt with the textual issues, but none jumping to your conclusion. At most, I found someone like Christensen taking a different direction in the Word Biblical Commentary, where he writes,

"The idea here anticipates the later doctrine of guardian angels watching over the nations in Dan 10:13, 20–21; 12:1" (p. 796). 

That much I could probably go along with. 

I was also interested to see if there were any references to this in the early church. While not an exhaustive representation, there was an interesting quotation from Pseudo-Dionysius in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (vol. 3, p. 333):

"Someone might ask why it was that only the Hebrew people were lifted up to the divine enlightenment. The answer to this is that the angels have done their work of guardianship and that it is no fault of theirs if other nations wandered off into the cult of false gods.16 Indeed, it was on their own initiative that these others abandoned the good uplifting toward the divine. CELESTIAL HIERARCHY 9.3."

There was a footnote in that text after the words false gods that read "The Fathers often took Deut 32:8 to show that God had assigned a guardian angel to each Gentile nation."

That confirms the older reading, and the quotation from Pseudo-Dionysius also distinguishes the angels assigned to the nations from the false gods as opposed to equating the two as you suggest. 

Of course, there's much in the Church Fathers I would not agree with, but I find the historical perspective significant to this issue. 

In summary, I agree with you on the correct reading "sons of God" or "angels of God" in Deut 32:8, but I do not agree and see no conclusive evidence for the corruption of the angels assigned to these nations leading the nations into idolatry. That is just too much of a leap. 

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Tony Walker | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Mar 8 2015 9:08 PM

if I was an average church member a post like this would be spooky... But having spent many a night in the mid 2000's on 3rd shift in a warehouse by myself listening to Derek and Sharon Gilbert of pid radio interview the likes of Heiser, horn, and Quayle nothing is a strech I probably haven't heard before. Oh the memories :)

note: that isn't a jab at the names above, I have a lot of respect for those names above. browsing the forums and seeing the subject of the post, nostalgia sprung up in me and took me back to a few years after I was saved, spending night shift with my iPod and bible, when things were much more simple n

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