Brief Insights for Mastering Bible Study (Heiser)

Heiser, Michael. Brief Insights for Mastering Bible Study. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018.

This book is written on the most basic level. It is designed for the brand new Christian, though there are insights that experienced bible readers can take home. The goal is not to learn a method or a series of steps but to learn how to think critically. You must learn to develop insightful questions.

Study Habits

Memorization isn’t bible study. It is good, perhaps even necessary. Bible study involves thinking and thinking is work. It isn’t a ritual event. And if time is a commodity, Heiser recommends, and I think this is quite good, devoting small increments to thinking about what we have studied.

In chapter 5 Heiser admits we can never have pure objectivity to the text. We can still ask whether our precommitments are impeding our knowledge of what the text is saying.

Geography is important, too. If something happened at a place, look it up on a map. For example, it makes a big difference if the Transfiguration happened around Mt. Herman rather than Mt. Tabor.

Read Journal Articles

Journal articles are published several times a year. They are more up-to-date and cutting edge than commentaries. While not objective, they give you access to a wider range of experts in the field. The average lifespan of a critical article is about twenty years. Think of scholarship before the discovery of Ugarit or the Dead Sea Scrolls.

He then covers linguistic issues in the text: there is no Holy Ghost Greek, the Masoretic Text didn’t fall from heaven, and the books in the canon are not necessarily in chronological order. Per the Masoretic text, this means you can entertain alternative textual readings if you have good warrant to do so.

Heiser points out that the cultural milieu of the bible is not that of late Western Europe. This seems like a truism, but it’s not. People get nervous when the term “Second Temple Judaism” is mentioned, if only because of what NT Wright has done with the term. Be that as it may, what is more likely to be understood by a first century Jew: the writings of that time period or 19th century theology?

Also, don’t worry too much about doing word studies. Most people at the beginner level commit more fallacies on this point than anywhere else (scholars, too). For example, is a butterfly a fly that is made out of butter? That’s what doing word-studies looks like. It’s more profitable to trace concepts throughout the bible than word studies.

Bible Study Tools

Strong’s Concordance is good, but online search engines have rendered it somewhat obsolete. If you are going to use an interlinear bible, use a reverse one. If it is in a bible software it can directly link the words.

I do wish Heiser had gone a bit deeper at times, but this makes a perfect graduation gift for the brand new Christian.

I dare you not to bore me with the bible

Heiser, Michael. I Dare You Not to Bore Me With the Bible

This is a short introduction to Michael Heiser’s program. It covers slightly different ground than Supernatural, which is also seen as an introduction to his more scholarly Unseen Realm. This text works off the premise that “what is strange is probably important.”

If you’ve read Unseen Realm, there isn’t anything new here. But I think you should still get it. It’s only a few dollars on kindle and there are some neat exegetical insights which are perhaps easier to find here than in Unseen Realm.

Who is God’s Witness in the Clouds?

In Psalm 89 God swears by another, one who is presumably on the same level with God an in the clouds. Verses 35-37 form a chiasm:

A. Once for all I have sworn by my holiness;

B.I will not lie to David.

C.His offspring shall endure forever,

C’his throne as long as the sun before me.

B’ Like the moon it shall be established forever,

A’ a faithful witness in the skies.”

Psalm 89 requires an equal to God who is distinct from God yet not another God. God’s holiness (A), which is the same thing as God given divine simplicity, means that his “faithful witness in the skies” (A’) is also God. We see something similar in Revl. 1:4-5.

The Eyes of Ezekiel 1

The whole scene is connected with Babylonian astronomy. No, it is not copying Babylon. It is trolling Babylon. Cherubim have four faces. Possible connection with four cardinal directions. What happens in heaven affects what is on earth. Also, in the Hebrew it reads as if the wheels are covered with eyes (ayin).

Satan’s Fall

Similar material found elsewhere. When Jesus said he saw Satan fall, it wasn’t in the context of a Miltonian pre-history, but as a result of his sending the 70 (The New Table of Nations, Genesis 10) out to get rid of demons. This event is connected with the kingdom. If this happened in the past, then why wasn’t the Kingdom established then?

There is nothing new in this book but it is a good primer to his work. Each chapter is only a few pages long. My only qualm is that sometimes Heiser avoids giving his own conclusion.

Second Coming of Saturn Bibliography

Lord willing, I plan to read Derek Gilbert’s Second Coming of Saturn. While Gilbert does not claim to be a scholar on the level of Michael Heiser, Gilbert is second to none when it comes to putting all the research in one area. In that case he might be more accessible than Heiser. SkywatchTV has a running series on his study notes. I thought it would be a good idea to put most of his footnoted sources in one area.

1 Enoch 6:1–7. George W. E. Nickelsburg and James C. VanderKam, 1 Enoch: The Hermeneia Translation (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2012).

Amar Annus, “Are There Greek Rephaim? On the Etymology of Greek Meropes and Titanes.” Ugarit-Forschungen 31 (1999).

Aren M. Maeir, “A New Interpretation of the Term ʿopalim (עֳפָלִים) in the Light of Recent Archaeological Finds from Philistia.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Vol 32.1 (2007), pp. 25–26.

Brian B. Schmidt, Israel’s Beneficent Dead: The Origin and Character of Israelite Ancestor Cults and Necromancy (Doctoral thesis: University of Oxford, 1991), pp. 158–159.

Christopher B. Hays and Joel M. LeMon, “The Dead and Their Images: An Egyptian Etymology for Hebrew ôb.” Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections Vol. 1:4 (2009), pp. 1–4.

Christopher B. Hays, “Enlil, Isaiah, and the Origins of the ʾĕlîlîm: A Reassessment.” Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 132(2) (2020), p. 226.

Edward Lipiński, “El’s Abode: Mythological Traditions Related to Mount Hermon and to the Mountains of Armenia,” Orientalia Lovaniensa Periodica II (1971), pp. 18–19.

George Heider, The Cult of Molek: A Reassessment (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1985), pp. 390–391.

George W. E. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1: A Commentary on the Book of 1 Enoch, Chapters 1–36; 81–108 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001), p. 184.

Jaap Doedens, The Sons of God in Genesis 6:1–4 (Leiden: Brill, 2019), pp. 250–252.

Josef Tropper, “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; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999), p. 807.

Judd Burton, “The War of the Words, God-kings, and Their Titles: A Preliminary Report on the Linguistic Relationship Between the Rephaim and Royal Titles in Eurasian Languages.” Bulletin of the Institute of Biblical Anthropology (2021), p. 7.

Klaas Spronk, Beatific Afterlife in Ancient Israel and in the Ancient Near East (Kevelaer: Butzon & Bercker, 1986), pp. 168–169.

Klaas Spronk, “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; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999), p. 147.

Klaas Spronk, “Travellers.” 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; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999) p. 876.

 Lluis Feliu, The God Dagan in Bronze Age Syria (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2003), p. 212.

Nicolas Wyatt, “Calf.” 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; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999), p. 181.

Noga Ayali-Darshan, “The Seventy Bulls Sacrificed at Sukkot (Num 29:12–34) in Light of a Ritual Text from Emar (Emar 6, 373).” Vetus Testamentum 65:1 (2015), pp. 7–8.

Renata MacDougal, Remembrance and the Dead in Second Millennium BC Mesopotamia (University of Leicester: Doctoral dissertation, 2014) pp. 58–59.

Scott B. Noegel, “God of Heaven and Sheol: The ‘Unearthing’ of Creation.” Hebrew Studies, Vol. 58 (2017), p. 121.

Sjur Cappelan Papazian, “Abgal or Apkallu.” Cradle of Civilization, April 5, 2015. https://aratta.wordpress.com/2015/04/05/abgal-or-apkallu/, retrieved 5/16/21.

Stephanie Dalley, “Apkallu.” In: Eggler J./Uehlinger Ch., eds., Iconography of Deities and Demons in the Ancient Near East, http://www.religionswissenschaft.uzh.ch/idd/prepublications/e_idd_illustrations_apkallu.pdf, retrieved 6/26/21.

William R. Gallagher, “On the Identity of Hêlēl Ben Šaḥar of Is. 14:12–15.” UF 26 (1994), pp. 140–141.

Wolfgang Herrmann, “El.” 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; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999) p. 275.

Xinhua Wang, The Metamorphosis of Enlil in Early Mesopotamia (Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2011), p. 245.

The World Turned Upside Down (Heiser)

Heiser, Michael. The World Turned Upside Down: The Gospel in Stranger Things. Lexham Press.

You have to be careful using a pop culture piece to illustrate the gospel. Too often it sounds like the Boomer youth pastors who try to relate Marvel to Jesus. I’ll be honest, I read this book primarily to see what Heiser’s take on Stranger Things would be. From that angle, it’s fun. The book isn’t deep or profound, and if you have read anything from Heiser then you know what to expect.

He does deal with some angles that evangelicals and conservatives might not want to approach, mind control and spiritual warfare. Regarding mind control, I just want to link the info Heiser gives. Of course, if you have been aware of MK-ULTRA for some time, none of this is new.
https://www.cia.gov/readingroom/searc…

I always thought “the upside down” was a brilliant description of Sheol. Sheol/Hades isn’t a burning furnace, pace popular imagination. It is the realm of Death. It is where the Rephaim live.

Speaking of which, the section on spiritual warfare was quite good. He recaps his take on the Nephilim. Although Esau’s relatives killed off the Nephilim in Moab (Dt. 2:8-22), they were still in Bashan and Canaan (Dt 2:23-3:11; Num. 13:22, 28ff; Deut. 9:1-2; Josh. 11:21-22). God specifically targeted them in the invasion.

While the Bible doesn’t specifically say that demons are the spirits of the dead nephilim, we do have some clues. In the NT a demon is called an unclean spirit. Things that are unclean are improperly mixed. These spirits resulted from the improper mixing between man and heavenly beings

The Day the Earth Stands Still

by Gilbert and Peck.

More people believe in UFOs than in God.  Rather, more people believe in UFOs than in the traditional understanding of God. That is why there is an urgent need for Christians to give thoughtful, kind, yet firm responses to the UFO movement.  Sadly, most Christian responses are about as robust as the star children at Roswell. Derek Gilbert and Josh Peck help remedy this situation.

While the book has the same “feel” as Gilbert’s earlier Satan’s Psy-ops, it is less exegetical and more of a commentary on current events–at least at first. The later chapters are a gold mine of resources in response to Crowley, Jack Parsons (Scientology!), and H.P. Lovecraft.   In fact, we should spend some time on Lovecraft and Crowley.

While Lovecraft was a materialist, his fiction provided the grounds for later horror thinkers.  Here is where it gets spooky. Lovecraft wrote “The Call of Cthulhu” in 1927, with much of the action taking place in New Orleans. His characters call forth Cthulhu in an orgiastic celebration.  At the exact same time, with no prior knowledge, Crowley summons a demon named “Tutulu” or “Kutulu.” He wrote this on November 1, 1907, the exact time as Lovecraft’s story (44-45).

We’ll come back to Lovecraft.

One of the authors’ theses is that Science Fiction provided a vehicle to communicate “ET” ideas to the larger culture.  

A creepy episode is when members of America’s “9 Ruling Families” channeled a space demon.  I’ll explain. Andrija Puharich was a para-psychologist with connections to US government and various foundations.  He created a think tank whose members included Aldous Huxley and Henry Wallace, FDR’s Vice-President and a 32nd degree Freemason.  On New Year’s Even in 1952 Puharich contacted a Hindu channeler, Dr D. G. Vinod, who conducted a seance and made contact with an entity calling itself “The Nine” (82).

Nine months later another seance was conducted, this time including members from key American families: Marcella DuPont, Alice Bouverie (an Astor), Arthur Young (son-in-law of the Forbes family).

It gets weirder. Vinod had brought a statue of a monkey god named Hanoumn.

I only mention this because the elite of American life believe this stuff, believe they have contacted entities (probably what St Paul called archons).

The authors spend a lot of time on John Podesta’s wikileaks.  While Podesta is one of the creepiest humans on the planet, I don’t think there is a smoking gun regarding ETs.  He did push for ET disclosure under Obama, but as he was moving into the Clinton orbit that wasn’t important for him.  There are a lot of emails to Podesta on disclosure, but very few from him.  

The man is slick.  Think about it. We know the sumbitch is guilty on Pizzagate, yet he never faced judgment. Let’s be blunt: we aren’t going to get him on aliens.

Exoplanet Waterworlds and Chaotic Sea Monsters

Enuma Elish story. Tiamat’s son Enki kills Apsu (fresh water). Tiamat summons forces of chaos.

Baal Cycle.

Both Ps. 74 and Genesis 1 are creation psalms.  The former specifically echoes (and subverts) the Ugaritic Baal Cycle.  In all of these texts–Enuma Elish, Psalm 74, Baal Cycle–there is the question of who defeats the tehom (chaos; in Akkadian it would have been Temtum.  In Sumerian it would have been Tiamat).

The victory of creation is connected with the quelling of the waters.  This is relevant today since occultists follow the doctrine of “order out of chaos,” but not Yahweh’s order.

Leviathan and Behemoth in the End Time

* The Sea is no more.

* Leviathan is Sea-Chaos; Behemoth is Land-Chaos.

Are Evangelicals and Extraterrestrials Compatible?

Much of this chapter is a synthesis of Heiser’s writings on the Nephilim. The authors are flexible, though.  They lean towards the idea that the different ET “races” are likely demonic and/or fallen angels.

Image of God

Whatever imago dei means, it must include, per Genesis 1, the following (184-185):

  1. Both men and women are included.
  2. Divine image bearing is what makes humankind distinct from animals.
  3. It makes us “like God” in some way..
  4. There is nothing “potential” about it.  You either have it or you don’t.

If aliens are demons, couldn’t one argue that at least some aliens are angels?  Peck and Gilbert give a very interesting response to this. When mal’akim appear to man in Scripture, they always appear in humanoid form.  This rules out alien “races” such as Nordics, reptilians, and greys. While Nordics appear human, they never do what angels do. Angels don’t do probes and abductions!

(When Ezekiel sees the cherubim they are in the typical cherubic form: partly beast, four faces, etc.  This gives evidence that Cherubim aren’t really angels in the sense that we use the term).

Uncomfortable implications of the Ancient Aliens hypothesis (190-195).

* The gods were tasked with hard work, so they created humans to do it.

* humans aren’t image-bearers of these gods (which is probably a good thing).

* No evidence that there is anything beyond matter.

* According to the myths, the gods behave the same way as humans.

* The Anunnaki made some bloodlines superior.  Think of the racial implications.

* These aliens are creator-masters, not brothers.

* Unlike the bible, no one is destined to be kings.

Conclusion

Criticisms:  There were some editing problems.  The usual typos. In one appendix the author (Peck, I think) referenced Psalm 8 when he mentioned Proverbs 8.

Review of Michael Heiser, Demons

Heiser, Michael.  Demons.  Lexham Press.

I’ve been preparing this review for about 4 years.  True, Heiser’s book has only been out around a year or so, but I knew he would write this book and I wanted to be ready.  He does not disappoint.  It is the only book of its kind.  There are evangelical texts analyzing what the Bible teaches on demons, but they either repeat cliches or only engage with a surface level reading of the text.  Unger’s is good, but he doesn’t get to the heart of the matter.  Clinton Arnold’s work is fantastic, but only focused on the New Testament.  Heiser’s is one of the first that deal with the best of critical scholarship, yet from an evangelical standpoint.  

Demons and the Dead

Early OT language about the demonic overlaps with terms used for the realm of the dead.  The key concept is that of the Rephaim.  The Rephaim could be giants or shades of the dead (1 Chr. 20:4; Isa. 26:14; Job 26:5).  At least at death they are seen as “supernatural residents of the underworld” (Heiser, loc. Cit. 345).  They were part of the giant clans specifically targeted by Moses and Joshua (Deut. 3:11, 13; Josh. 12:4; 13:12).  They are linked to the Anakim (Deut. 2:10-11).  The Anakim, as you no doubt remember, descended from the Nephilim (Num. 13:33; Gen. 6:4).

Heiser later does linguistic analyses on “Spirits,” the ob, obot, oberim; “those who have passed over.” While there are locations such as Oboth and Abarim in the Transjordan, a tantalizing clue is given in Ezekiel 39:11, The Valley of the Travellers.”  Archeology has shown the remains of megalithic minutes referring to the dead and the underworld.

Knowing one: Deut. 18:9-14 condemns sorcery, which is no surprise.  One practice would have been “utilizing the services of so’el ob we-yiddeoni” (440).  Lev. 19:31 links these knowing ones with the spirits of the oboth (side point: the KJV is actually a better translation on this one).

Azazel.  One reason Azazel simply can’t be the goat offered in Leviticus 16 is that a goat is offered for Yahweh and another for Azazel.  Leviticus 17 gives a bit more information, as it mentions “goat demons.”  The key point is not that a sacrifice is being offered to a goat demon.  Rather, the sins of Israel are being banished outside of the holy realm.

Original Rebel

This is largely a recap from his earlier works dealing with the passages in Isaiah and Ezekiel.  He acknowledges that the passages originally address a human king.  The point, though, is that the prophet’s speech draws upon elements of a primeval rebellion.  Yes, he is talking to the king of Tyre/Babylon, but no one seriously believes the king of Tyre was in the garden of Eden at the beginning of time.

Some say it refers neither to angel nor king, but to Adam in the garden.  There are some weaknesses to that approach.  For one, Adam doesn’t appear anywhere in the texts.  Further, as Heiser notes, we would have to presume “things about Adam that are not in the Genesis episode of the fall” (loc. 1497). Nor do we have any evidence that Adam ever served in the divine council or fancied himself a god.

As to the figure being thrown down to “earth,” Heiser notes places where eretz can mean the underworld (Jonah 2:6) “where ancient warrior-kings await their comrades in death” (Ezek. 32.21, 24-3o).  The divine rebel was sent to the realm of the dead, the underworld.

Satan in Second Temple Judaism

Interestingly enough, Azazel in 1 Enoch functions as the Satan figure.  The OT really didn’t make an overt identification between the Serpent and Satan.  The Serpent was seen as God’s arch-enemy, but as satan was more of a common noun, few made the connection.  This connection, however, is clearly seen by the time of the NT writers.

On the other hand, Azazel could function as the leader of the Watchers (Gen. 6:1-4; 1 En. 8:1).  On the other hand, Azazel is the tenth fallen angel listed, so he probably isn’t the leader.

While the name Belial never refers to a personal being in the OT, it clearly does in the NT. How would NT writers and readers have made the connection?  They did so by means of the intertestamental worldview (Martyr. Is. 2.4; 4.2, etc).  By the time of the NT Belial is more or less the same as “Satan.”

Demons in Second Temple Judaism

This chapter summarizes largely technical concepts and reception of texts like 1 Enoch in the intertestamental period. The one new point that I noticed was his reference to the 3rd century African bishop Commodianus (ch. 3) who linked “the disembodied existence of the giants after their death” to the existence of demons.  Does the Bible, though, say this?  Not directly, but it does give a hint that any early reader would have seen. The Rephaim lived in the underworld and were the spirits of warrior-kings.

Third Divine Rebellion: Chaos in the Nations

As in his earlier works, he links the Tower of Babel incident with the “Deuteronomy 32 worldview.”  I won’t repeat the arguments here. One question that always comes up with his take on Psalm 82 is “when” did this happen?  When did God decide to judge the corrupt elohim?  The Bible doesn’t directly say.

Cosmic Geography

Deut. 32:9 says Israel is Yahweh’s portion and “his allotted heritage.”  With reference to Azazel, deserts are often thought to be the realm of demons (something the early church echoed).  When David has to leave Israel, he says he has been “driven away from the inheritance of Yahweh” (1 Sam. 26:19).

Daniel 10:13, 20 gives the clearest, if briefest reference to cosmic geography.

The Devil and His Angels

If the Hebrew term shaitan was ambiguous, the Greek term Satanos is not.  It clearly refers to the arch-rebel.  It is interesting, however, that “Beelzebub,” the god of Ekron (2 Kgs 1:2-3) is now identified with Satanos. On the other hand, the lemma ba’al in the name could refer back to a more generic Hebrew reading, meaning prince on high, referring to Satan’s leadership.

It is not arbitrary that the devil tempts Jesus in the wilderness, as that is the home of Azazel and Lillith.

What is a demon?

One problem is that we think we already know what this term means.  The fact that we don’t connect biblical dots and that we get our theology from post-Catholic pop culture only makes it worse.  This lets Jungian gnostics and others reinterpret demon as “dark psyche” within all of us.  And if you get your theology from pop culture, it’s hard to argue with them.

A demon is an evil spirit (Matt. 8:31). It’s also called “an unclean spirit.”  Note that it is not called a fallen angel.  Unclean spirit is far more precise and calls the reader back to how “clean/unclean” functioned in a biblical worldview.  Something is unclean when it is an unnatural mixture and/or was in contact with dead corpses (hint: Nephilim).

The Ruling Powers

Paul’s language of “rulers, principalities, powers, dominions, thrones, world rulers” echoes the Deuteronomy 32 worldview.  These are geographical terms. While they sometimes denote physical rulers, Ephesians 6:12, linking them to heavenly places, makes that impossible here.

Application

Heiser correctly notes that a Christian can’t be “possessed” by a demon.  He also points out that possession is the wrong word, in any case.  He also rebuts the Peter Wagner school of Strategic Level Warfare Ministry.  Wagner correctly notes that the bible speaks of cosmic geography.  The problem is that the NT authors never seem interested in casting out lieutenant demons before getting to the generals.

I agree with Heiser that the NT never lists exorcism as a weapon to use; the fact of the matter is that the NT does use it.  But in any case, neither Heiser nor I would sanction the bizarre types of exorcism seen in Roman Catholic culture.  The best antidote to demonic activity is simply spiritual hygiene.

Some Criticisms

While the book is easily the best of its kind, it does run into a few difficulties. There is a lot of repetition in this book, both from his earlier works and from within this work.  Some of that can’t be helped.  He assumes–with reason–that not all readers will have been familiar with his earlier works.  That said, if you have read his earlier works then you more or less know the arguments relating to Enoch, apkallu, and the like.  

That’s not to say there is no new material in the book. There is, and it is good.  

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.  

Shedim: Guardians of the Underworld

Background reading:

http://www.moreunseenrealm.com/?page_id=10

This is part of the “Deuteronomy 32 Worldview.”  Most translations translate verse 17 along the lines of the ESV.

“They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently.”

This gives the idea that Israel sacrificed to non-existent verbal fictions.  But as Heiser, and to a lesser extent John Walton, have shown, the text, when translated properly, says the opposite.  I am going to quote the passage again and put the Hebrew in parentheses.

“They sacrificed to demons (shedim) that were no gods (eloah), to gods (elohim) they had never known, to new gods (elohim) that had come recently.”

This is very different.  “Eloah” is a defective noun that is singular, which means that Israel sacrificed to something other than the true God.  Demons here are shedim.  Shedim comes from the Akkadian shadu, which means guardian spirit of the underworld.  It is a territorial term.   The ESV gets the rest of it correct.

The point is that the shedim are in the category of elohimic beings; only that they are not the supreme God (Elohim).

The Bible Unfiltered (Michael Heiser)

unfiltered

Heiser, Michael. The Bible Unfiltered.  Lexham Press, 2017. Kindle.

Michael Heiser takes several of his core ideas and distills them into a short, readable book.  Each chapter is only several pages long. If you are familiar with his work, then most of this is review.  However, several ideas are readily available for quick retrieval.

Context: the right context for understanding the Bible is the context that produced the Bible (Heiser loc. 240).  This means a supernatural context with supernatural entities. This means not protecting the Bible from the “weird stuff.”

There is an interesting chapter combating cultural marxism.  While it sort of appears out of nowhere, it is much appreciated.  The one thing missing in the Bible’s command to care for the poor is the intermediate role of the bureaucratic, Leviathan state.

Is Heiser (and others) arrogant on modern commentaries?  We might bristle at the claim that older commentaries aren’t superior on the languages, but consider the argument: “Archaeology produces more discoveries. Computer technology makes ancient language analysis more thorough (and faster).  Information becomes more accessible and searchable. It’s no exaggeration to say that what scholars had access to years ago is literally a fraction of what’s available to you today using only a smartphone” (loc. 661).

He isn’t saying Calvin and Matthew Henry are bad.  He’s just doing what Luther did: what right did Luther have to say that his understanding of dikaioo was superior to that of St Barsanuphius?  The sword cuts both ways.

Parsing Yahweh: Yahweh is a third-person form in the Hiphil imperfect.

He repeats his sections on the Angel of Yahweh = Yahweh.  It’s worth considering but I won’t spend much time on it here, save to say that Yahweh is inseparable from his presence.

Good section on the goat demons in Israel’s worldview.  They are the se’irim, to whom there was a constant temptation to sacrifice (Lev. 17:7).

Secret things belong to the Lord: This verse in Deut does not mean we shouldn’t work hard in bible study. Rather, it is the climax of Moses’s sermon about the curses and blessings they will receive for obeying the law.  Rather, it is God’s seeing the secret sins. They are known to God (loc. 1073).

In Mark 5 the demons inhabiting Legion say something rather unique.  Unlike earlier demons, they say Jesus is the God Most High. This language is reminiscent of the Deuteronomy 32 worldview.  The Most High God had disinherited the nations and assigned them to the sons of God. The demons know this. They know Jesus is reclaiming the nations.  He is removing the legal rights.

The Inspiration Process: God didn’t usually download material to his people’s brains.  He didn’t make them “automatically write.” That sounds like divination. If God did do something like that, then why are there differences in the gospels (or the first chapter of Ezekiel)?  Rather, God used instruments, not puppets.

Demons and the Shema:  James isn’t saying that demons acknowledge the existence of a supernatural being, pace literally every sermon on James 2.  Rather, James is connecting this with Shema. The demons know they are outside the plan of God, that God has disinherited them forever.  That is why they are scared.

The Portent (Heiser)

portent

In his stunning sequel to The Facade, Heiser plays no-holds barred with your emotions.   This is what sanctification can look like: people bring their garbage. How do mature Christians guide younger believers through that?  Oh, and the government is trying to kill them.

In the last novel we asked the question, “If presented with ‘evidence’ of aliens, what would you do?”  If you were presented with evidence of “ancient aliens” or a faked second coming, what would you do? Of course, a mature Christian could ignore this.  But most Christians aren’t mature.

Without giving away the ending of the first novel, Brian and Melissa are learning to work through their new situations.  It’s realistic. Heiser doesn’t create cheesey situations or go for easy answers.

This book also develops themes from the first novel.  Earlier we learned of Operation Paperclip. From there we explore Hans Kammler and the Skoda Works plant in the Czech Republic. While this is fiction, Heiser did all of his historical homework and exploded a number of “Establishment Myths” about the ending of WWII.

The ending is still hard to believe. I have my own theories.