Divine Council 2: The “Sons of God” and Israel, the “Son of God”

This is a second part to my earlier post, “The Offspring of The Serpent and the Divine Council“. There is some redundancy in content but the intent is to drive the pattern to show how this leads into Israel (and eventually New Israel).

The importance of the Genesis 6 account of “sons of God”, their intermarriage with human women, the flood, and the subsequent scattering at the Tower of Babel is vastly understated in nearly every circle of theology. This represented a kind of a second fall, because the construction of the tower of babel represented a global rebellion against God’s order that sought to elevate and unite humanity by its own coordination and efforts.

[Gen 6:1-2 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.

This chapter of Genesis is largely ignored or explained away by modern Christendom because it presents us with very difficult questions about the nature of the supernatural. Many Christians prefer a second confirming witness in science and show trepidation in affirming explicitly supernatural or even mythical sounding beings or storylines. However, belief in divine beings other than God (which are different from and of a different nature and substance than God) is a crucial element of an honest biblical worldview.

The phrase “sons of God” is something that probably seems self evident as far as its meaning and depth, until one realizes that the phrase appeared in the very earliest portion of the biblical canon. I have included Job first, as scholarly sources tend to believe Job was written before Genesis:

[Job 1:6 ESV] 6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.

[Job 2:1 ESV] 1 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD.

[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?

[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.

[Deu 32:8-9 ESV] 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[i]. 9 But the LORD’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.

There is a view to the notion of the Old Testament “sons of God” that is called the “Sethite view” which I used to believe, but now reject. There are a few important things we can theorize about the sons of God based on the verses above and the Old Testament context:

  1. They are not human beings. This is evidenced by their presence with Satan in Job and the fact that they are mentioned as having “shouted for joy” when God laid the foundation of the earth. Presumably God had not created humankind when he did so, so the original sons of God were not human. However, they apparently can procreate with human women.
  2. The interaction of the sons of God with humankind influenced biblical history and is necessary study material. In Genesis 6, the offspring of the sons of God produced powerful humans and it is theorized that the “giants” such as Goliath of Gath came from these types of unions. In Deuteronomy 32:8-9, what should stand out is while Israel was the Lord’s portion, the borders of the other nations were by the “sons of God” that corresponded to them. Some apocryphal texts present a narrative of the angels of God being given the charge of teaching and instructing those over which they had dominion, for whom they were a form of priesthood. Paul references a sort of hierarchy of angels, and emphasizes that “our battle is not with flesh and blood, but with rulers, principalities and powers of this world”, meaning that behind various nations are specific beings that influence the paths of these nations in some way.

I will exposit more in the next section about this concept of “the Divine Council”, where Israel was meant to be the beginning, the firstborn, and the nations of the earth were intended to be won over by the light that was placed in Israel. Israel would be a sort of priesthood to the rest of the world. This is another pattern which Jesus would begin to fulfill through his own acts and through his church.

The Failure and Judgment of the First Divine Council

The failure of Adam and Israel contrasted with the success of Christ and the Israel of God have heavenly precedent. The worldview of the disciples of Jesus talks of certain events involving angels, and angels as the intermediaries of the covenant and the law.

[Gal 3:19 ESV] 19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.

[Act 7:52-53 ESV] 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

[Heb 2:1-2 ESV] 1 Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2 For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution…

[2Pe 2:4 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…

[Jde 1:6-7 ESV] 6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day– 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

[1Co 6:3 ESV] 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!

These are difficult issues to deal with if we are avoiding the supernatural components of Christianity for the comfort of what is proven by natural means.

Psalm 82 is the elephant in the room that Evangelical denominations avoid like the plague. A full exposition of the chapter is warranted.

[Psa 82:1 ESV] 1 A Psalm of Asaph. God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:

What is described here is a meeting of God and other “Elohim” where he renders judgment in their midst. Academics have sometimes argued that Hebrew religion was polytheistic until it evolved into monotheism, but this is not necessarily the case. Israelite belief had similarities to mythologies of the day, but there’s no need to assume they had a polytheistic stance, like the Ugaritic narrative of El & Baal, or in such narratives as the Epic of Gilgamesh. There is also the clarification that while the Israelite belief was in many divine beings, only one of them is “God.” There is a categoric difference between Yahweh and the “Sons of God”. This difference is diminished in contemporary beliefs of other surrounding nations to the point of polytheism.

If we are sticking to the scriptures and available texts, it is clear that God takes a central, primary, unique role in his council in the Hebrew religion, despite the fact that the other beings present are also “divine.” A working definition of the status of these divine beings is this: more than human, but less than God.

[Psa 82:2-4 ESV] 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.”

This verse, as will become evident from the rest of the chapter, is God commanding the “gods” on how they should render judgment and how they should administer their rule.

[Psa 82:5-7 ESV] 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.”

This third portion of the chapter details how those “gods” failed in their mission, and were therefore subject to judgment from God. The parallel to Israel failing in its calling is obvious.

[Psa 82:8 ESV] 8 Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!

If God judges the “gods”, who is left to administer rule where they once were? God is saying he will arise and show that he is the only God, and all belongs to him. This is echoed in other places:

[Heb 10:12-13 ESV] 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.

There are further echoes of what the Davidic kingdom brought to Israel:

[1Ch 28:2 ESV] 2 Then King David rose to his feet and said: “Hear me, my brothers and my people. I had it in my heart to build a house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the LORD and for the footstool of our God, and I made preparations for building.

Remember, the sons of God were a part of or the entire “Elohim” of the divine council. Why was God so insistent that he wanted to bring forth sons through Jesus?

[Gal 3:23-26 ESV] 23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

The meaning of “sons of God” should be much deeper for you now than at the start of this work. God through his son was seeking to raise up replacements for his divine council! How much richer are those verses that say that “we shall judge angels”? How much less abstract and more concrete are they when we see the New Testament verses in their original context, rather than reading them as post-enlightenment westerners?

[Jhn 1:12 ESV] 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…

“Children” here can be gender-neutral, but the greek word behind it at times can be translated as “sons.” The gender is less significant than the historical context. God is offering, through Jesus, the chance to become the sons of God. This calling was first offered to Jews, then to Gentiles.

The Divine Council Argument Through Paul

Paul’s credentials as a “Hebrew of Hebrews” are invaluable. God knows exactly who he picked, and Paul’s expertise and worldview were a fundamental element of his writings. Paul’s argument in Romans 11 is that the Jews were broken off that the gentiles could be grafted in, but that the gentiles should not be arrogant, since they can be broken off and the glory of that tree will be even greater once the natural branch is re-grafted.

[Rom 11:23-24 ESV] 23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.

This “grafting in” of gentiles to the cultivated olive tree has its roots in the original purpose of raising up a nation and sons to replace the fallen members of the Divine Council. In the same way that many Jews fell by unbelief and the gentile & Jewish church was raised up, those who pursue perfection will receive rewards. Many of Jesus’ parables concern those who are faithful in little and are therefore are given greater responsibilities. Those greater responsibilities and greater works are mentioned by Jesus and Paul:

[Jhn 14:12 ESV] 12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

[1Co 6:3 ESV] 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!

Jesus explains that those who do the small works of believing in Jesus and being his disciple will do those greater works than he – this was in response to a question from Philip that Jesus would “show them the father”, when Jesus had already told them that when they saw Jesus act, they saw the Father act. The small act of believing Jesus, who was in appearance a man, meant they saw greater things – the miracles and teachings he gave and the private explanations he gave his disciples. Likewise, Paul explains that we must be able to judge simple matters, since our destiny, if we are faithful, is to judge angels (currently higher in status than us). The inheritance available to us, described in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, is that if we are faithful as children put under tutors and governors, we will grow into the heirs of rulership we truly are. The inheritance is to become sons of God.

Israel, Son of God

The notion of Israel as the “son of God” is clear from various Old Testament passages. Likewise, this concept of “Sonship” is pervasive throughout the New Testament. This is a set of verses I have brought forward before, but should have greater meaning now:

[Gal 4:1-7 ESV] 1 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

All this talk of “sonship”, or “becoming a son” and “inheritance” is inextricably linked. Israel was chosen as a special nation and designated as “Yahweh’s portion”. To reiterate Deuteronomy 32:

[Deu 32:8-9 ESV] 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.

Israel’s destiny was to be a “light to the nations”, provided they kept themselves pure from the surrounding nations and worshiped Yahweh alone. Israel functioned as the sons of God to the rest of the world, and was called to stay pure. Like the original sons of God, they fell when they mixed themselves with the surrounding nations and committed adultery with them. To make our way to the adultery and subsequent decline of that nation, we must trace Israel’s history.

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