Last Clash of the Titans

Gilbert, Derek P. The Last Clash of the Titans. Defender Publishing, 2018.

Derek Gilbert’s unique skill is in summarizing the very difficulty academic scholarship and placing it in a template that a) makes sense for the reader and b) puts the reader on an eschatological “high alert.”

Study notes here: https://www.derekpgilbert.com/2018/08/18/last-clash-of-the-titans/

Idols were lifeless.  That’s the point.  They functioned, rather, as an antenna. 

Chapter 1: Background

Gilbert quickly goes over the Nephilim thesis, including the faulty reading of Genesis 6.  If this merely refers to the line of Seth, and not to semi-divine beings, then why: a) did they produce giants and b) why were all the Sethite boys good and the Cainite girls bad? c) how did good boys and bad girls produce giants? (Gilbert  loc. 144).

Further, as Gilbert notes, the two surviving sons are mentioned “nowhere in Genesis 6, so reading Seth and Cain into an interpretation” is eisegesis. Appealing to Jesus’s passage in Matt. 22:30 only dodges the hard question.  Jesus was talking about procreation, and he said they only couldn’t do it in heaven. When angels, for lack of a better word, get to earth they can do human things.

Chapter 2: Gods of the Amorites

Mountain cosmology: “the mount of assembly of the divine rebel in Eden is the holy mountain of the Caananite storm god” (1206).  It is Mt. Zaphon, today’s mountain Jebel al-Aqra.

Rephaim: Lords of the Corpse

The etymology of the Rephaim is difficult to discern.  On one hand the lemma rp can simply denote healer and is sometimes used of Yahweh (cf Michael L. Brown, Israel’s Divine Healer). In terms of spiritual warfare (and the Canaanite invasion) it has a darker background.  Some Rephaim were kings, such as Og and Sihon.  Other times they are described as spirits of the dead (Job 26.5; Ps. 88.10).

Isaiah 14 links the Rephaim to Baal and Gog.  It describes the shades (rapha) as rising to greet Lucifer (or he who inhabited Mt. Zaphon, more on that later).

Mt. Zaphon (tsaphon) is in what biblical writers called “the far north,” modern day Syria.  Since that marked the northern end of an invasion route, it made sense to see it as the far north.  It is in the area of Bashan and Hermon, the location to which the fallen Watchers descended and the gate to the underworld.

Chapter 4: From Mesopotamia to Greece

In Greek mythology the Titan Kronos was sent to Tartarus.  Gilbert makes clear this isn’t simply another word for Hades.  Peter knew that term and used it elsewhere (Acts 2:27, 30).  This was a specific place for the “angels who sinned” (who 1 Enoch calls the Watchers and the Mesopotamians call the apkallu; the Greeks call them the Titans).  This means, quite obviously, that fallen angels aren’t demons, since demons are anywhere but the abyss/Tartarus when we see them in the gospels.

It is Gilbert’s argument that the Rephaim “are the demigod sons of the Watchers” (67).

Gilbert points out that in Ugaritic/Amorite cosmology, it took three days for the dead Rephaim to respond to the summoning ritual (KTU 1.21.ii: 1-7).  While we don’t know much about the ontology of the netherworld, we do know that Jesus proclaimed (not preached) to spirits in prison.  Further, Peter mentions these spirits in prison in connection with Noah, referring back to Genesis 6 (and forever demolishing the Sethite thesis). 

Eschatology

Gilbert skillfully dismantles the claim that Gog = Russia.  The Hebrew rosh refers to Gog as a prince, not to Rosh as a place, which some take to be Russia.  Even though the text mentions “the uttermost parts of the north,” to an Israelite this would have been obvious by its very name: tsaphon.  It would have been Mt. Zaphon. The names Ezekiel gives are all in present-day Turkey.  Even more, the war will “bring fire on Magog’s coastlands. Russia has never been a coastal power.

Therefore, we aren’t looking at a geographical north, but a cosmic north (Gilbert 120).  This war is between Mt Zaphon and Mt Zion–it is a “supernatural war for control of the mount of assembly, the har mo’ed (122).

So who is Gog?  The location puts him/it in Turkey, seeming to make him an Islamic leader.  That might not be right, though.  The language of the war is spiritual, located in the cosmic north on the slopes of Mt. Zaphon.  Gilbert doesn’t think he is Baal, though, even though we are at the location of Baal’s mountain.  Gog is Antichrist, which means he can’t be Lucifer or Baal.

Valley of the Travelers

This is the neatest part of the book.  I think there is sufficient evidence to see the Rephaim as the spirits of dead kings, probably Nephilim.  They are currently in the underworld.  Ezekiel 39:11, having documented Yahweh’s slaughter of Gog’s forces, talks about blocking the valley of the Travellers.  This valley is “east of the Sea,” which Gilbert posits as east of the Dead Sea.

The Hebrew word for traveller is oberim, based on ‘br.  It means to “pass from one side to the other.”  What Gilbert is arguing is that it means to pass from one plane of existence to another.  Numbers 21:10-11) mentions the Israelites camping at Oboth and Iye-abarim opposite Moab. Oboth derives from ‘ob, “which refers to summoning spirits of the dead” (Tropper, J. “Spirit of the Dead.” In K. van der Toorn, B. Becking, & P. W. van der Horst (Eds.), Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (2nd extensively rev. ed.) (Leiden; Boston; Koln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans), p. 806).

This is the same area where Moses was buried in, “a place where the Rephaim spirits reputedly crossed over to the land of the living. Is that why Satan, lord of the dead, thought he had a right to claim the body of Moses after his death” (Gilbert132)?  This is the same area where Israel was ensnared by Baal Peor.  Peor means “open wide” (Spronk, K. “Baal of Peor.”  In K. van der Toorn, B. Becking, & P. W. van der Horst (Eds.), Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (2nd extensively rev. ed.) (Leiden; Boston; Koln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans), p. 147).  He is the lord of the entrance to the underworld. 

But does this actually prove the Rephaim were the Travellers in view?  According to ancient texts, probably.  Ugaritic texts specifically referred to the Rephaim as “travellers” (KTU 1.22 ii, 20-27; I, 15).  In connection with Ezekiel, these spirits are going to be at Har Mo’ed.

One of the problems with Armageddon taking place at Megiddo is that Jesus is supposed to land at the Mount of Olives, which is more than fifty miles away.

Gilbert ends by identifying Antichrist as the Chaos figure (Tiamat, Leviathan, Typhon).  Interestingly enough, Irenaeus said Antichrist would be a Titan (Adv. Haer. V.30).

This is not an academic text, but Gilbert has marshaled the best scholarship and we, the readers, are given the opportunity of evaluating the evidence.  On several new points, while not intending to be a scholarly text, Gilbert has broken fresh ground.  

2 thoughts on “Last Clash of the Titans

  1. Pingback: Review of Michael Heiser, Demons | Analytic Anselm

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