The first Sunday of the Epiphany season – Jan 10, 2021
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Scripture reading – Genesis 6:1-8
“When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” 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.” SLIDE 2
“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”
- Chalking of the door?
- “Epiphany: God’s Revealing in Human History – Part 1”. Part 2 next week. According to the early church. Resource list.
- Sometime in the distant past, God created a large family of spiritual beings in heaven of considerable diversity. Why begin here? Part of story, antecedent to humanity
- We normally think of God as being alone in heaven. Neoplatonism: God is the “One”, the “Alone”. He’s not. He is surrounded by a large family (cf. Eph 3:14). “For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.”
- We get a glimpse into this heavenly family when we read the biblical throne room scene passages: e.g., Isa 6; Ezk 1, 2; Dan 4, 7; Rev 4-6.
- The various cosmic family members were created for diverse purposes and have different levels of authority and responsibility. They include: angels (Heb. mal’ak; Gk. angelos = messenger), archangels: 1 Thess 4:16; Jude 9, seraphim (royal throne guardians): Isa 6:1-8, cherubim (throne guardians): Gen 3:24; Ezk 1:5-11, cf. Ps 99:1, living creatures (throne guardians): Ezek 1:5-21; Rev 4:6-9, watchers: Dan 4:13,17,23;5:21, holy ones: Dt 33:2; Dan 4:13,17,23; Zech 14:5; Jude14, rulers (arche): Ep 1:21, authorities (exousia): Ep 1:21, powers (dunamis): Ep 1:21, dominions (kureotes): Ep 1:21, cosmic powers (kosmakrator): Ep 6:12, thrones (thronos): Col 1:16, etc. Some of these names likely overlap and refer to the same creatures, with certain names signifying “type of being” and others, their “rank.” What should strike us is the sheer diversity of cosmic life. What does this suggest to us about God?
- Collectively, these beings are known in the OT as sons of God, beney elohim, beney elim, (Gen 6:2,4; Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:4-7, Ps 29:1-2; 89:6), holy ones qedoshim (Dt 33:2; Ps 89:5,7; Dan 4:13,17,23; Zech 14:5; Jude14), the heavenly host army, tsava (1 Kin 22:19; Dan 8:10; Lk 2:13) or elohim (Dt 3:24; 32:17; Ps 82:1,6). In the NT, the most common referent is angeloi. We’ll use elohim. Elohim is a plural Heb. noun but can be used of a singular entity (i.e., “God”) or plural (“gods”): e.g., Ps 86:8-12. Like the word sheep in English. Mike Heiser refers to elohim as “place of residence term”, designating where a member of the spiritual world lives. Not our normal plane of existence, but can go there if God permits (Isaiah, John, Paul). Demons (shedim) are called elohim in Deut 32:17 (cf. 1 Cor 10:21-22). Even the deceased Samuel is called an elohim in 1 Sam 28:13.
- God collaborates with the elohim in governing the cosmos. We wonder why God uses us as people to do stuff on It is his way. He has been doing the same thing in heaven all along.
- The elohim are the divine equivalent of an ANE dynastic family. The Pharoh’s extended family would rule and administrate Egypt, just as the modern Saudi royal family run Saudi Arabia.
- Some of the higher-level spiritual beings serve on a divine council (edah, cowd): Job 1:6; 2:1; Ps 82:1; 89:6. Ugarit: El, sons of El, lower administrators/messengers. Tradition says there were seventy members of El’s coucil. There would later be seventy elders at the time of Moses and, still later, seventy members of the Sanhedrin. Traditionally, there were 70 nations on earth (Gen 10).
- The satan (“adversary, prosecutor”) apparently was a member of this council. It is conceivable that the fallen elohim that we know as Satan or “the devil” once functioned as a satan. Additionally, Satan appears to have originally been a throne guardian (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7; cf. Ezek 28:11-19).
- God’s council appears to be advisory, deliberative and collaborative. It is not a mere formality. The council helps make decisions (cf.: Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7; 1 Kings 22:19-23; Dan 4:14,24; Zech 3:1-10).
- While these elohim looked on, God created our world and the earthly family that would be put in charge of it (Job 38:4-7). Humans were created to “image” God to the earth and rule it on God’s behalf in wisdom and love (Gen 1:26).
- The humans were placed in a beautiful paradise, Eden, a kind of intersection between the spiritual and material realms, a touch-point between heaven and earth. In this garden paradise, God, his heavenly family and his earthly family lived together in harmony, love and cooperation (Gen 2:5-3:24).
- The humans were tasked with “caring” for Eden and spreading the harmony, order, beauty and shalom of Eden throughout the rest of world (Gen 1:26-28).
- The elohim have rebelled multiple times against God’s rule at various points in human history, ensnaring humans in these various insurrections. Three rebellions are recorded in the early chapters of Genesis. May be others
- Genesis 3:1-24: The rebellion of the nacash and the deception of humans
- Place: Eden (a paradisal mountain garden of God)
- Rebel characters: “Serpent” (nacash) and humans (Rev 12:9; 20:2) Seraph?
- Background texts: Isa 14:12-17; Ezk 28:11-16 (each a prophetic compression of two accounts, one immediate—K of Babylon, Tyre; one ancient: cf. Isa 14:7ff.)
- Offence: Enticed to “become like God,” knowing good and evil experientially
- Consequences: Adam and Eve experienced evil first hand; relational alienation
- Judgment: exile from Eden, effects of sin (curse), death
- Most Xns in our day think this was the cause of all evil on earth. Ancient Jews didn’t. Part of problem, but biggest explanation for evil in the second event.
- Genesis 6:1-8: The cohabitation of the “Sons of God” with female humans
- Place: Not in text, but Jewish tradition says it occurred at Mt. Hermon in northern Israel.
- Rebel characters: “Sons of God” (Job 1:6; 2:1; Ps 29:1-2; 89:5-7) and humans
- Background texts: 2 Ptr 2:4-10; Jude 6-7
- Offense: Crossing of spiritual/material boundary line through Illicit, trans-species sex between elohim and female humans
- Consequences: 1) The offspring of these unnatural unions were nephilim (giant clans) who later populate the Levant, becoming idolatrous and immoral snares to the future Israelites. Rephidim, Amorites. One (Nimrod: Gen 10:8ff.) builds Babylon and Ninevah, two cities that later deport Israelites from the land in exile. 2) Jewish tradition taught that these elohim imparted forbidden knowledge to humans: occult, idolatry, war, weaponry, seduction, immorality. This is when things got really ugly and violent (Gen 6:5-7). Mesopotamians: Apkallu, bragged esoteric knowledge. Meanwhile, back to Mt Hermon in Israel: this area became the center of Baal worship in OT and Pan worship in the NT. SLIDE 9 At the base of Mt Hermon is a gigantic rock outcropping… caves, door to underworld. Called the “Gates of hell” (Mt 6:13-20). Where have you heard that before?
- Judgment: the flood. God mercifully makes a fresh start with Noah’s family.
- Genesis 11:1-9: The building of the Ziggurat of Babylon
- Place: Babylon (Plain of Shinar)
- Rebel characters: Humans (likely led and aided by spiritual beings)
- Background texts: Deut 32:8-9; 4:19-20; Ps 82:1-7
- Offense: Built ziggurat as new Eden to make a name (shem) for themselves and render the elohim accessible and controllable. 300 ft tall, 30 story bldg.. Whitney Hall is 110 ft.
- Consequences: The division of humankind into competing geopolitical units
- Judgment: God temporarily disinherits the nations, putting them under the control of members of the divine council (the “Sons of God”). God mercifully makes a fresh start with Abram and Sarai (Gen 12:1-3).
- These rebellions were disastrous to humans and elohim but did not alter God’s original purpose to one day rule a beautifully restored, peace filled “heaven-earth” in collaboration with humans and elohim. His “decree” or eternal purpose is unchangeable (cf. Eph 1:4-5,11; Rom 8:18-23, 28-30). With each new insurrection, God had to make certain adjustments to the means of accomplishing his purpose, but has never changed his original purpose.
- His restorative purpose unfolded in three movements: 1) The forming of Israel to whom he bound himself in covenant relationship and through whom would come Messiah, 2) The sending of Christ and the Holy Spirit as part of a new covenant with all everyone who turns to him, and 3) The second sending of Christ to restore all things. Next week.
- Marvel at our God, who is so loving as to hang with us no matter how we’ve turned from him, so brilliant as to be able to counter every creaturely evil and so powerful as to undo whatever damage we’ve done by our repeated insurrections (Rom 11:33-36)!
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
36 For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.
- The Bible Project video series on “Spiritual Beings”: https://bibleproject.com/explore/spiritual-beings/
- Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (PDF): https://www.researchgate.net/publication/254783182_Dictionary_of_Deities_and_Demons_in_the_Bible
- Heiser, Michael. Unseen Realm (footnoted); Supernatural (distillation of Unseen Realm)
- Heiser, Michael. YouTube videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZKy1Xt2Ow0 (Part 1 of 4 hour long talks; there are many others on YouTube as well)