This isn’t a big deal, but it’s sort of illustrative of how I can be misunderstood, and how Bible translations can be misleading.
I recently received an email that alerted me to the above this way:
The present globalist-versus-Christian war is taking place in both the seen and unseen (spiritual) realms, which are traceable to the beginning of mankind, according to theologian Michael Heiser, author of The Unseen Realm. The original Edenic design outlined in Genesis failed due to man’s sin and was replaced by a new family from Abraham (Deuteronomy 32:8-9). That resulted in the disinherited nations being put under the authority of lesser gods, divine sons of God who became corrupted, this resulting in the long spiritual war that continues today between Yahweh (the God of the Bible) and the fallen gods, demons.
Heiser speculates that these fallen gods (demons) wage war today as disembodied spirits of Nephilim mostly guided by the chief liar, Satan. If we had spiritual eyes, Heiser wrote, we would see our world as mostly darkness peppered with lights of Yahweh’s (God’s) presence in the form of believers scattered across the globe, and we would see clearly that globalism and its followers are truly demonic….
Obviously, this isn’t a direct quotation of me. Rather the quotation comes from page 237 of Col. Bob Maginnis’ book, The Deeper State. The statement ends with a footnote to me — an interview I did with Bob for his book. Bob more or less summarizes things we talked about. But do you see the problem?
Bob refers to the lesser gods who were assigned to the nations (Deut 32:8-9; cp. Deut 4:19-20; 17:3; 29:24-26; Psalm 82, etc.). Those gods (at some point – we aren’t given the chronology in the Hebrew Bible) fell into rebellion against Yahweh. So far so good. But Bob’s statement suggests I think those fallen gods are demons. I don’t, because they aren’t. Demons are the disembodied spirits of dead nephilim (cf. Archie’ Wright’s scholarly work on this subject: The Origin of Evil Spirits: The Reception of Genesis 6:1-4 in Early Jewish Literature, Revised Edition). Neither the nephilim nor their spirits have anything to do with the bad guys of Deut 32:8 and Psalm 82. They are two separate groups of rebels. I read a lengthy statement on this on the Naked Bible Podcast in connection with the episode of how the work of Fern, Audrey, and Beth differs from traditional deliverance ministry.
The mistake is illustrative of the confusion created by the way English Bibles translate Deut 32:17 (here, from the NLT):
17 They offered sacrifices to demons (shedim), which are not God (ʾelōah),
to gods (ʾelohim) they had not known before,
to new gods only recently arrived,
to gods their ancestors had never feared.
The word shedim occurs in that verse and is nearly always translated “demons.” This is an unfortunate translation that confuses OT theology about rebellious spirits. The shedim of Deut 32:17 are not the demons of the gospels (or 2nd temple Jewish literature). As I wrote in The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, the term shedim refers in context to territorial spirits. It is from Akkadian, where the term has a variety of semantic nuances, including territoriality. That fits perfectly with Deut 32:8. Unfortunately, though, a translation like “demons” misses the point of the term and its connection to Deut 32:8. English Bible readers like Bob often naturally conflate Deut 32:8 with what we think of as demons (i.e., those evil spirits Jesus exorcises from people in the gospels) because of the translation (and Christian tradition, which basically conflates all terms for evil entities into “demons”).
To summarize the material at the items linked above, there are three divine rebellions in the Hebrew Bible:
- The nachash (“serpent” or “shining one”) in Gen 3.
- The sons of God in Gen 6:1-4 (also called “Watchers” in 2nd Temple Jewish terminology; in Daniel 4 “Watchers” are holy, unfallen members of the heavenly host). Their offspring are the nephilim giants. When one was killed, its disembodied spirit was called “Watcher” (because their immaterial part was supernatural like those who created them), “demon,” or “evil spirit” in Jewish literature and the New Testament. These are what the gospels refer to.
- The lesser elohim of Deut 32 / Psalm 82 / Daniel 10 and other passages. These are called shedim in Deut 32:17 (“territorial entities / spirits”). They are not connected to the bad guys in number 2 above, or the nephilim.
There are other items I could pick at in the book’s excerpt. For example, the wording suggests the nephilim are somehow associated with Satan in the Bible (they work for him?). There is no such verse in Scripture that has the nephilim working for Satan. At best they have common enemies. Christian tradition tends to think of the supernatural evil world as monolithic and united in agenda. I don’t, as I’ve indicated in interviews. What does it mean that (human?) followers of darkness are “demonic”? Are lost people possessed? But the purpose of this isn’t critique — it’s to point out how Christian Bible readers can be misled by translation and tradition.