I thought I’d share an article that I consider one of the best I’ve ever read for understanding the divine council in biblical theology. It’s a book chapter. I’ve converted it to PDF from my digital edition of book (there’s no copyright prohibition that I can see in it):
Patrick D. Miller, “Cosmology and World Order in the Old Testament The Divine Council as Cosmic-Political Symbol.” Israelite Religion and Biblical Theology: Collected Essays. Vol. 267. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000. Pages 422-444.
That’s the one you refer to at moreunseenrealm.com for chapter 27 under the additional bibliography:
…And this is the one I was looking for many months ago thinking it was an article you had written, when in fact it comes from Miller. Thanks.
I think it would be nice if you would tell people about articles and books that argue against what you and other scholars are saying about the divine council and the existence of other gods. Personally, I have written a self-published book that argues against everything you and other scholars are saying about G-d and monotheism. My book can be read for free on my site http://www.hebrewbiblequotes.com
It is called “Hebrew Bible Quotes that Seem to Contradict Monotheism.”
The “contradiction” of monotheism is one of the centerpieces of The Unseen Realm. Showing the incoherence of that proposition was a focus of my dissertation. I put a lot of that into the book. Consequently, it isn’t my job to write a lot of that material. I give you all the sources for that idea in the footnotes of the book (and I do it as well in published journal articles, many of which are accessible for free on the web). I’m not going to reproduce years of effort on the blog or in the comments. That’s why I wrote the book, and why I’ve written the articles.
But hey, you got your link on my site.
This is why I dislike the term “pre-scientific.” From the article:
“‘The literature in the social sciences and philosophy of religion clearly stresses that symbols are always
embodied in cultural, linguistic, social, and institutional practices of communal life.’ Consequently, the
imagery is relegated to the archaic mythological realm and easily dispensed with.”
Science is mainly about the material universe. To describe the mythic language in the Bible as pre-scientific seems to imply that they were writing about the material universe in mythic language.
At least since the time of Thales (c. 624 – c. 546 BC) philosophers have talked about the universe without mythopoeic language. The article shows that the understanding of the OT is like the Egyptian concept of ma‘at. Their were similar ideas throughout the ancient world. The myths were not so much like entertaining Marvel comic stories as they were allegorical stories concerning philosophy. (Proverbs 1:6-7)
Interesting article. Thank you for posting.
I think Psalm 82 is not Biblical and was not written by a prophet, but was written by someone who believed in the existence of other gods with G-d as the highest G-d. I think Christians have to accept it as Biblical because it is in the New Testament, but that does not make it true. It is possible that the psalm was accepted as Biblical by mistake or by people who had alternative beliefs.
Instead of saying all of the people or Biblical prophets believed in many gods with G-d as the highest one, it is possible that there were people and prophets (real or false) who believed in absolutely one G-d only and others who believed in many gods with G-d as the highest one. You and most scholars seem to be saying that the Bible shows that everyone always believed in many gods with one highest one, but that is just an assumption. You don’t seem to consider the possibility of two different groups with different religious beliefs. Psalm 82 might be from one of the groups and not from both of them.
God Bless You Man! These comments give enlightened meaning to another layer of Jesus’ reply to the disciples who John The Baptist sent to inquire about who He was.
‘Sight to the blind..’
People either get it or they don’t. And I don’t believe it’s accidental. The verses that support this are so many..Matt 13:12-14 – Deut. 29:4 – Isah 42:19-20 -Jer 5:21 -Ezk 12:2 & 20:49 -John 9:39, and my personal favorite…Romans 11:8..and the whole volume of the scripture declares it!
Talking about casting pearls before swine………
The whole concept of The Divine Council is more prevalent than most people realize. It’s right under their noses and they even see it.
The underlying foundation within the world view, expressed through movies, as well as the most successful fantasy fiction and science fiction works, all have a closely mirrored theme, the battle between good and evil ALWAYS has unseen powers that are really helping or hindering, controlling and manipulating everything, whether for good or evil.
Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings, Narnia Chronicles, The Avengers, X-Men, Star Trek and so forth, and the most successful fictional books, The Fall of the Malazan Empire, The Wheel of Time, even Game of Thrones,..there’s always another dimension, always supernatural, powerful beings influencing, controlling, helping or hurting, enhancing or hindering their cause or their competitors.
And when this regularly occurring underlying or even obvious theme is pointed out to many who are believers, and you ask, Don’t you see the spirit behind this work of fiction? Don’t you see the correlation of how God works? He’s not alone up there and neither are the forces of darkness and evil. It’s so awesome and it’s so obvious.
The world view supports the concept of a powerful Divine Council even if it’s through ignorance. Which most of it is.
And when I try to tell my Grandchildren, as I told my own, the biblical scripture IS magic. The Word of God, living, written and spoken, is so full of so much power, and the obvious truths that conceal so many wonderful, amazing and spectacular, supernatural truths are revealed if you only take the time to read and study and breath it all in!
Those stores and TV shows and movies, they dont hold a candle to the truth that’s in God’s Word! All the worldly successes of Hollywood and great works of fiction owe their success to them leeching off the truths whether they realize it or not, even though they do twist and contort it, blaspheme and ridicule it.
Mike, your service and work is so appreciated. Your websites and links, all the information that’s now available, I believe all of this, at this time, is inspired.
“About the time of the end, a body of men will be raised up who will turn their attention to the Prophecies, and insist upon their literal interpretation, in the midst of much clamor and opposition.”
Sir Issac Newton 1642-1727
And I believe you are one of those men. And I think the key word is literal. Due to your work and area of expertise in ancient languages, you have destroyed so many comfortable assumptions and by bringing the ‘literal’ into view through the eyes of the ones who received the words and information, people are being forced to open their eyes. Your interview on The Blaze is a perfect example.
I love the comment you make from time to time. “I refuse to protect people from their bible any longer”
Take Care and God Bless!
Yep – the scope of that article is pretty neat — really provides a number of touchpoints for the council throughout the OT.
You’ve shown everyone that you misunderstand the whole concept. It’s quite evident you don’t understand the meaning of elohim *as used by the biblical writers* — your comments show you are assigning attributes to the term.
You can’t just say there’s non-inspired material in the Bible when you don’t like what it says, either. But the cure is understanding how the biblical writers use elohim.
At any rate, don’t expect a debate on my blog — this is why I wrote The Unseen Realm (and lots of other stuff — you should start with the PDFs on my divine council site: http://www.thedivinecouncil.com).
Your answer to me is that I obviously don’t understand what your books and articles say because I disagree. This comment is illogical and emotional. It is possible to understand what your book and articles say about “elohim” and still disagree with you, although you might not believe that is possible.
Your other answer that I can’t say something in the Bible is not inspired because I don’t agree with it is a religious argument. In my opinion, Psalm 82 does not fit with the rest of the Bible which can actually be true, even if you don’t agree with it.
I don’t want to debate you, but you should at least use logical arguments and not emotional or religious ones against what I say.
I don’t get the impression you understand it. Hence the response. You haven’t produced anything to the contrary that leads me to believe you’ve spotted some problem in what I’m saying. It’s more just disagreement. I look for substantive things like that. If I don’t see it, it’s hard to conclude that you have a substantive criticism or option. You’d have to describe what’s wrong and how you fix it.
I also can’t conclude that you’ve read the published articles by what you’ve said. It would help if you could give me a list of the published articles you’ve read (the journal articles) and what you see wrong — and then explain your corrective.
I don’t care what your religious beliefs are. My arguments aren’t based on religious beliefs. My conclusions held up just fine in my doctoral defense and under peer review.
I believe that scholars say that originally the Bible taught that there were many gods with one G-d above them, and that later people changed some details to say that there was only one G-d. For example, you believe that Deut.32:8-9 “sons of G-d” was changed to “sons of Israel.”
I think that there were two groups of people at the same time. One group believed in many gods with one above, and the other believed in one G-d. I don’t think you can prove which group existed first, and which one changed the Bible.
I think Psalm 82 was written by the group that believed in many gods with one above the rest, and that later it was interpreted by the other group in a more monotheistic way by saying that humans leaders were called gods.
I understand you don’t believe in many gods, but holy beings that were called gods and were in G-d’s council.
You have written controversial books aimed at scholars and regular people, so you have to expect arguments and debates by both scholars and regular people. That is what controversy is all about. If you don’t have the time to deal with both groups of people and their arguments, then you should not write controversial books aimed at both groups. You can’t just expect people to agree with you instantly. Your ideas have to survive in the market place of ideas too. And everyone has a right to disagree and try to defend what they believe to the best of their ability.
You have written books and you want me to respond against a gigantic amount of information in a blog which is impossible. I have looked at books on monotheism by scholars and they seem to mostly agree with you and mention you a lot. I don’t think they are right, but it would take an actual book to argue with your book, and I have that book by me (an amateur) on my site with the link above in my first comment.
I understand you are busy, but you are aiming at regular people, and they have the right to respond back.
You can certainly reply back, but (a) I can’t reproduce the material for answers that already exists in published form — that is why it was published, and (b) you ought to wade through all that material anyway — if you want to know what I think, that’s the way to get at it.
Y’know, it’s interesting that a self-proclaimed “amateur” complains about Mike’s research and position on issues, but doesn’t feel any need to explain who he is, or document his background, education, etc. I’ve been following Mike’s blog and research for several years now, and have been profoundly challenged in many places spiritually, by what I’ve learned, via Naked Bible, and have consequently experienced exponential growth spiritually, in greatly increasing my understanding of the biblical text. All Mike asks is that we do the work of studying the text, a task made much easier by the fruits of his extensive labors. I’ve read through many, many debates and discussions on this blog and the previous version. All of those have resulted in my learning more, and God growing me personally and spiritually. Mike is very open, honest and transparent about his academic journey and the research leading up to this. Those of us who have been faithful readers and blog followers know who he is, where he’s coming from, and his background engenders a certain amount of trust.
Mr. Greifer, on the other hand, is a blank slate. His web site with his free books, has no page documenting anything about him. No religious background, no educational info, nothing. No reason to trust or extend to him any benefit of doubt. Then he comes onto Mike’s blog, seemingly demanding “equal time” for his positions, without doing the work of studying, research, wrestling with texts and God, etc.
So…no. If there’s one thing I remember Mike asking for again and again regarding his Divine Council material, it’s been peer review in the form of contrary opinion backed by research. He’s asked for those who disagree with him to point out where he’s wrong or mistaken. And…they haven’t really been able to. (Apart from some very snarky people, if I recall.) So are you able to challenge him? Sure. But better do your homework first. Don’t simply come here and whine about having to read lots of stuff, and expect to be taken seriously. Read his work. Wrestle with God through it. Learn from it, and grow. If it proves you wrong…then live with it, and go on from there. That’s what the rest of us have had to do, and God is still using it to grow us.
Well said, and thanks; comes with the turf.
First, I would like to say that I am kind of a rude and crude person which is not good, and I did start off in a negative way. Second, I don’t have credentials, so all I can do is present my case to the best of my ability on my internet site.
You trust scholars to tell the truth. I did not attack Dr. Heiser’s honesty. I just disagree with him. I am not saying that his arguments and opinions are unreasonable or based on nothing. I just don’t agree with them which is allowed in scholarship. He has many arguments in his bigger book and in his articles. I have actually read a lot of his work over a long time, so it is not fair to say that I am whining about having to read a lot of what he has written. Actually, his work is very similar to what other Bible scholars say.
It is also not fair to say that I have not done any research or anything. I have worked pretty hard to come up with my own ideas and arguments on this subject. I can only present them to people and if they have time and want to look at them, then they can. You don’t trust me because I don’t have credentials, etc., so don’t trust me. I can only present my arguments, and if you had the ability and the time and the desire to, you could look at them and decide if they make sense to you. That is how people discuss topics.
I agree that I was rude and crude, and I apologize to you, Dr. Heiser, if I offended you.
You say that you are a rude and crude person. I don’t see that, but I do see someone who is very proud, not very humble, and not appreciative of being challenged. You’re demonstrating a lack of desire to learn, which is sad to me.
You mention a lack of credentials. When many folks talk about that, it often means your background, education, etc. For example, I have an M.Div. as a pastor and chaplain. I also have background in the military. If you came to the blog and simply said, I’m so and so, from this background, that would be enough. Many of the posters on Naked Blog are “laypeople” of one variant or another. They are being fed and edified by what God has used Mike to do. Most are deeply appreciative of learning, and finding things out for themselves, and being equipped and empowered by Mike’s work. You don’t seem one of them currently.
You are free to present your case as best as you can. There are many bloggers out there (which you almost seem to be) with equally interesting ideas and theories to yours. Unlike you, most of them probably haven’t self-published their work. Instead, their work is published online for discussion and critique, which is what you profess to desiring….at least, from Mike, to some degree. You are also quite free to disagree with Mike. However, when that happens, this little thing called “proof” or “argument” is required from you. That’s lacking, from what I’ve seen. I’ve glanced over both volumes of your work. They seem filled with your thoughts, conclusions, feelings and ideas about what was going on behind the scenes in the Old Testament. I didn’t see any sources cited, though, nor interaction with anybody else, to demonstrate why your thoughts should be taken seriously. You’re asking others (like Mike) to accept your views as factual, when your books show fewer sources and footnotes than the worst of my undergraduate papers. It doesn’t help your case.
I’ve followed Mike’s blogs for close to five years. I’m familiar with most of the posters’ handles, and remember any number of discussions and debates that have occurred. You say you’ve read a lot of his work over a long time…yet I don’t remember you posting on the blog prior to this past month. Mike has long welcomed people genuinely interested in learning and growing. You would have been able to ask questions, disagree, etc., as long as you were willing to learn.
You speak about trust. Trust doesn’t happen as a result of credentials; it’s a matter of who the person is. I’ve read enough of Mike’s work, and listened to enough podcasts, to “know” him without actually having met him. That inspires more trust of work that I think makes sense of the Bible. You’ve been all but point-blank asked who you are, your background, etc., and have not picked up on some not so subtle hints. Earning the right to be heard means sharing who you are, and becoming a part of community. It means potentially embracing the possibility that some of your sacred cows may be turned to holy hamburger. You may not be there. But when you are, Mike is not simply a great teacher, but can be a good friend as well. Most of us are very thankful for that.
I’ve learned from Mike about the value and importance of peer review, and of studying many different kinds of scholarship to understand the Bible better. Your arguments don’t currently make sense to me, because a) you’re not opening yourself up to being wrong (you presume you’re correct…what if you’re not?), and b) all I saw in your books were your conjecture and opinions about this or that, with no interaction with anybody else. You’re asking for discussion, when it seems you really want a self-validating echo chamber. When you’re called on this, you dismiss responses as being “emotional” and “illogical”, likely because you don’t like the responses. Are you perhaps the one being emotional or illogical here instead, because you didn’t get the reception you desired?
I am being as gracious and humble here as I know to be. If you wish to join the conversation, please consider what I’ve written, and rethink your motives and conclusions. Be open to learning and discovering that you’re mistaken in what you think, and go on from there. Otherwise, this community may not be for you.
I wonder if I might ask a question.
If so, this is it.
I have tried to find information on the net about this, but so far no one as I am aware of have written anything about it.
The hebrew word for angel is malak, and the hebrew word for king is melek. In hebrew there are only consonants, therefore, the two words are spelled the same way, as “mlk”.
In the OT, there are some places where I believe “angel” or “angels” would have been a better translation, than king or kings. So the question is: In hebrew, is there a way to discern what meaning mlk has, other than guessing from the context?
One example, where I think angel would be a better translation of mlk, than king, is of course Isa 14:4, another Ez. 28:12, and even Ps. 68:14. It would give much more meaning to the texts, and be in line with the “divine council” theology.
The two words are not spelled the same way in Hebrew (and other Semitic languages). Here they are by consonants:
king = m-l-k (three consonants)
angel/messenger = m-l-‘-k (four consonants – one is an aleph that is often skipped in transliteration into English)
Having said that, m-l-k can be translated “rulers” and in certain OT passages (and again, other languages like Ugaritic) can speak (in context) of divine rulers instead of earthly ones.
Ok, thank you. So f. ex Ps. 68:14 still could, or should, have been translated “divine rulers”, judging from the context, or at least been supplied with a note that it may have meant divine rulers (which gives meaning to the text [there was something going on in the heavenlies]).
Also Ps. 48:4 will open up a very interesting story, if translated “divine rulers”, especially if one suppose that the northerly Zion is Mt. Sirion. Why other mention the Tarshish fleet, unless it refers to God hunting down the rephaim at that time, even to sea.
It will also be a parallel to Enoch 1:4-7, with almost the same wording.
I have another question, if I may. In Ezekiel 39:18, it speaks of the “fatlings of Bashan”, pointing to the enemies of Israel coming with Gog to invade the country. None of those enemies were from Syria. Have you thought about what “Bashan” may point to in that context? (Also here have I sought on the net for an answer but not found any). To me, it seems to say that the “gibborim” are connected to Bashan, the land of the nephilim giants, in some way, but if they come from other nations than Syria, how can they be fed in Bashan. So, this Bashan is a symbol of something else than the earthly Bashan. It also seems to support the idea that giants, or something closely related, will appear in the endtime. Not only the soldiers, but also the political leaders, will have been “fed in Bashan”.
“Divine rulers” isn’t merited by the text of Psa 68:14, which reads only mlkm. There is no adjective that might be translated “divine” (like a phrase mlkm elohim). As such, “divine rulers” is highly interpretive.
Bashan is an important part of the “foe from the north” motif in the OT. I devote some space to that in The Unseen Realm. It is part of both the geographical north and the cosmic (theological/religious) north (zaphon / tsaphon / tsaphanu in Ugaritic). It basically speaks of evil forces (human and/or divine) hostile to Yahweh and his people. As such, it’s at times not easy (or even preferable) to identify the forces from northern regions with one particular people group.
I did not cite sources because I don’t like to discuss the opinions of individual scholars. I like to discuss the usual translations and explanations of Hebrew Bible quotes that I see in most books and articles. These translations and explanations are in every book, so I think they are considered to be common knowledge and I don’t have to give credit to any particular scholar for them.
I then give my own alternative translations and explanations. Just because you don’t think I have proven anything, does not mean I did nothing. You might not be able to check the Hebrew and you don’t see scholarly citations, so you think I have done nothing to prove my point.
There is no point to discussing opinions of particular scholars about different quotes if you are saying that the Hebrew Bible quotes actually say something else. Why should I argue about a certain scholar’s opinion when I am saying that the foundation of his or her opinion is wrong in the first place?
I know that this is an old article, but I wanted to give you an example of what I consider to be a mistake that you and many other scholars believe.
You think Deuteronomy 32:8-9 says that God will set the borders of peoples according to the number of the sons of God because the “portion” of the Lord is His people, Jacob, the lot of His inheritance.
I think it could say the borders of peoples will be set according to the number of the sons of Israel because the Lord “divided” His people, Jacob, the lot of His inheritance.
When He gives nations inheritances, I think He will set up borders (for the peoples of Israel) according to the number of the sons of Israel. I think at first, it is about giving the nations inheritances, but then it is about the tribes of Israel. Genesis 28:3 and Genesis 48:4 say that Jacob will become an assembly of “peoples” which I think are the tribes.
This doesn’t make any sense. “The peoples” are not the tribes of Israel because “the nations” aren’t the tribes (each tribe isn’t a separate nation).
You also have to throw out Deut 4:19-20 from the discussion, along with a handful of other passages that re-purpose Deut 32:8-9.
I think the tribes can be called “peoples” as I showed in two quotes that Jacob will become an assembly of peoples in Genesis 28:3 and 48:4. I said that Deuteronomy 32:8-9 mention G-d giving inheritances to the nations and then setting up the borders of the peoples (tribes) of Israel.
Also, theoretically, it could say “When the highest of nations was inherited (niphal), when He will separate the sons of mankind (or possibly a man), He will set up the borders of peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel, because the L-rd divided His people, Jacob, the lot of His inheritance.”
Israel was called the highest of nations in Deuteronomy 26:19 and 28:1. I am not sure if there was a niphal form of the verb “to inherit”, but the hiphil form “to cause to inherit” should have a yud in it, I assume, and there isn’t one. Also, the word adam can mean mankind or a man, but most likely mankind.
This is poetry, so it says He gave nations inheritances and He set up Israel’s borders for 12 tribes or peoples since He divided His people up. It doesn’t have to mean this happened in one day literally.
I am sorry. I forgot to clarify that I think the nations are not Israel, but the actual nations probably because they were also given inheritances. I meant the peoples are the tribes of Israel only.
and that’s the problem. The peoples aren’t the tribes.
“dividing up the nations/peoples” and allotting the tribes their inheritance” (which, by the way, is an altogether different word) are not the same thing. The nations divided in Deut 4 are obviously the followers of the host of heaven (the “pagan” nations), not the tribes of Israel.
Honestly, this is unnecessarily convoluted thinking that hasn’t considered Deut 4 and other passages. The most troublesome part of it is Deut 32:9 — a reference to Jacob/Israel after “but” — a clear CONTRAST with the peoples of v. 8.
I am not saying that your explanation is not a possible explanation, I am saying that there are other possible explanations too. You ignored what I said about Jacob becoming an assembly of peoples in two quotes in Genesis. What does that refer to? Why can’t that be the tribes being called peoples? What is the big difference?
I believe that it says when the nations were given inheritances, God also gave Israel an inheritance that was divided into smaller sections for each son of Israel. I am not saying Israel is called “the nations” too. You and other scholars think that the borders of people refers to the borders of all of the nations, when He could be changing the subject from the nations to Israel.
You don’t have to look at Deuteronomy 4 to understand Deuteronomy 32, if it says “sons of Israel” and not “sons of God.” That does not make sense since it never says how many sons of God there are, even if each nation had it’s own god or son of God.
Deut 4:19-20 and Deut 32:8-9 are talking about the same thing. Every OT scholar recognizes that. Deut 17:3; 29:23-26; 32:17 are also contributing materials. It’s hermeneutics 101 to compare Scripture with Scripture. I allow passages that discuss the same set of ideas to interact. You don’t, because it’s lethal to your view.
I did compare scripture with scripture, but you would not explain why I was wrong about Jacob becoming a “company of peoples” in Genesis 28:3 and Genesis 48:4.
This would fit my translation of Deuteronomy 32:8-9, that He will set up borders of peoples according to the number of Israel’s sons because God divided His people Jacob, if the tribes could be called “peoples” poetically.
The text clearly (ki – clause in Hebrew) intends a *contrast* between vv. 8-9, not an apposition. The grammar is fatal to the idea, as is Deut 4:19-20. This isn’t about semantic range of one term. It’s broader than that. Isaiah and Psalm 82 also references Deut 32 in ways that also make the idea incoherent. And finally, the line “sons of Israel” doesn’t even exist in a Hebrew text older than 100 AD.
This notion is just dead on arrival.
I think there were two groups of people with different religious beliefs. One group believed in many gods with God as the highest one and the other believed in just God. I think each group had slightly different versions of Deuteronomy 32:8-9 and 43.
Even if you think the group that believed in only God was wrong, it is still important to understand what they wrote in their version of scriptures. I think they wrote something that has been misunderstood in Deuteronomy 32:8-9. I think they wrote “…He will set up borders of peoples (referring to the tribes) according to the number of the sons of Israel, because the Lord divided His people, Jacob, the portion of His inheritance.”
Even if they were wrong, it does not mean their words don’t matter. What they actually said should matter, and I think scholars have misunderstood their words. The usual translation does not make sense as much as this one. I don’t know if it is humanly possible for an amateur to be right about something like this, but that is my opinion of what it says.
I know that nothing I say can be right, but I will just say this. Most of the difficult Hebrew Bible quotes are difficult because they are poetry, and people are trying to read them as prose because poetry is “convoluted.” If you read poetry as prose, it is easier, but probably not right. My explanation about Deuteronomy 32:8-9 allows it to be poetry which is a little convoluted, unfortunately. Your way of reading it actually sounds funny at the end, but my way sounds more poetic.
What sounds funny is the how your reading takes a very clear contrast and ignores it (Yahweh’s portion vs. the nations). It couldn’t be clearer. That’s why no one in the history of scholarship has put forth your view.