The Offspring of The Serpent and the Divine Council

In order to understand the special destiny of Eve and her relationship to the serpent, one has to dive into Genesis 6, the “sons of God,” and a few other topics. First of all, I would be remiss if I did not specifically attribute where I received this concept. Dr. Michael Heiser’s book “The Unseen Realm” was an epiphany to me and put together many loose pieces I had been thinking on for some time. I strongly recommend it.

The Divine Council is best exemplified in Psalm 82. I have provided two different translations to show the variance in understanding of the passage:

 

[Psa 82:1-8 ESV] 1 A Psalm of Asaph. God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: 2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” 5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6 I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; 7 nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.” 8 Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!

 

[Psa 82:1-8 NET] 1 God stands in the assembly of El; in the midst of the gods he renders judgment. 2 He says, “How long will you make unjust legal decisions and show favoritism to the wicked? (Selah) 3 Defend the cause of the poor and the fatherless! Vindicate the oppressed and suffering! 4 Rescue the poor and needy! Deliver them from the power of the wicked! 5 They neither know nor understand. They stumble around in the dark, while all the foundations of the earth crumble. 6 I thought, ‘You are gods; all of you are sons of the Most High.’ 7 Yet you will die like mortals; you will fall like all the other rulers.” 8 Rise up, O God, and execute judgment on the earth! For you own all the nations.

 

There are three main conceptions of the highlighted part above, characterized in different translations as “the divine council”, “the assembly of El”, or sometimes “the great assembly” [1]. This is the translation from Hebrew “adat el”[2]:

 

  1. God is talking about a specific divine council over which he presides (ESV); or
  2. God is talking about a “great” or “magnified” assembly, interpreting “el” as an emphatic (KJV, NIV); or
  3. This is a polemic of sorts against another religion, and specifically against the “assembly of El”, where the Ugaritic god El presided over an assembly. God is characterized as “invading” the assembly and pronouncing judgment.

I believe it is all three, and that the “assembly of El” of the Ugarits is actually a polytheistic adaption of what was originally true – God indeed has a council. It does not mean that council is comprised of relative equals as in the polytheistic context, however. God renders judgment within his council onto a hierarchy of divine beings who were given responsibilities to do justice, to teach knowledge, and to maintain the guiding original principles for creating the earth. Those divine beings have their subordinates, and so down the chain of command it goes.

So what is this “divine council”? From this passage alone, we can determine that God is sitting amid some other kinds of presumably divine beings (“gods”, little g). He is chastising them for several things:

  1. They have not helped those who are weak, oppressed, and subject to poor circumstances; and
  2. They have not taught the people knowledge and understanding; and
  3. The foundations of the earth are shaken.

As a result, God judges them and says “like men you shall die.” He closes with the statement that “God shall inherit all the nations.” This implies that “the nations” are currently under someone else’s direct dominion, and quite obviously under the dominion of these flawed or failing divine beings. The concept of “the nations” is another crucial one when discussing Israel and the Gentiles, and is something Paul’s revelation shines greater light on, and will be discussed later. The notion of God “invading” the dominion of divine beings who have failed in their mission and judging them is remarkable given Jesus’ mission, and his oft misunderstood statement to the Jewish leaders:

[Jhn 10:34-36 ESV] 34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came–and Scripture cannot be broken– 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

If we understand the greater context of the passage from the perspective of the Jewish leaders, this is Jesus invading a space where the Jewish Leaders considered themselves the conduit and sole interpreters of the word of God. To them, Jesus is judging them for failing and declaring all that follows will come upon them. In this analogy, the Jews were given a mighty responsibility and charge which they have failed at, and Jesus is declaring their destiny.

At the end of the judgment in Psalm 82, the statement is made, “Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!” By continuance of Paul’s mission, this declares to the biblical reader that “the nations” will still belong to God, although not through the means originally thought when Psalm 82 was originally penned and how it was originally understood. Jesus judges those to whom the word of God came. The Jewish leaders are like “the sons of God” and those who reject him suffer the same fate.

A common approach to Psalm 82 is to force the trinity into the “midst of the gods” verse or to force it into any place where dealing with divine hierarchy is difficult. But if you read further to verse 6, it is clear that the scriptures refer to “sons of the most high” as gods. This is extremely problematic if you do not have some way of understanding the other divine beings that are part of the “council” – it is polytheism unless the reader is informed.

So it seems Psalm 82 is a witness within the scripture that certain divine beings failed, and God is judging them for having failed in their mission to teach and preserve “the nations.”

To rewind to the beginning, Genesis 6 has an oft disputed passage:

[Gen 6:1-4 ESV] 1 When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. 3 Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.

Some have argued that the “sons of God” here are the sons of Seth, which is the view I used to hold. I now reject that view as attempting to explain away things that are mystical and strange, and thereby make the bible more palatable for rationalism.

These divine entities are mentioned elsewhere as well:

[Job 38:4-7 ESV] 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements–surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, 7 when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

[Luk 20:34-36 ESV] 34 And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, 36 for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.

And why would “Sons of God” in Genesis 6 refer to the sons of Seth when it is so clear elsewhere that the “sons of God” are not mere men, and existed – according to Job – when the foundation of the earth was laid? The sons of Seth hypothesis is a very convenient explanation which appears to try to avoid the difficulties of explaining the nature of divine beings which are not God in favor of a neatly wrapped package that allows us to focus on other things.

The scriptures also describe the fall of “The accuser” or “The adversary”:

[Isa 14:12-14 ESV] 12 “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! 13 You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’

[Eze 28:12-15, 17 ESV] 12 “Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord GOD: “You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared. 14 You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you. … 17 Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you.

The scriptures also make it clear that certain divine beings joined this chief divine rebel, and are consigned to judgment. Revelation has its story about the dragon sweeping a third of the “stars of heaven” (note in Isaiah 14 above that Satan wanted to ascend above “the stars of God”) out of the heaven. Peter writes concerning Angels:

[2Pe 2:4-6 ESV] 4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;

The special destiny of Eve’s offspring was to bruise the head of the serpent:

[Gen 3:14-15 ESV] 14 The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

The translation of this set of verses can be problematic. There is a sequence here, but the implication is a back and forth struggle between the serpent and the woman, the serpent’s offspring and the woman’s offspring, and her offspring (“him”, singular) will bruise the serpent’s head, and the serpent will bruise his heel.

David killed Goliath with a stone to the forehead, and it is interesting that David’s lineage includes a Moabitess named Ruth who was sisters with Orpah. There were multiple divisions along the bloodline that lead to the people of God – from Ishmael to Esau. Abraham also had many sons after Sarah’s death which are not fully accounted for in biblical history.

The serpent caused Israel’s backsliding, but he could not stop Israel from eventually bringing forth the seed that would become the Messiah. This pattern continues to apply to the church. As Paul said in a blessing to the Romans, “the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet…” [Rom 16:20a ESV].

 

[1] The three options providedare summaries of much more thorough commentary by the NET bible translators. See NET bible translation notes for this passage for a fuller explanation of my summary.

[2] Some readers may have heard the common simplification that “El” means God. This is context dependent, as El also refers to a particular god in the Ugaritic religion.

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