Idolatry and God's Punishment
by David Sielaff, 2007
Read the accompanying Newsletter for March 2007
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The Sons of God in Genesis 6:1–4 were worshipped by the Gentile peoples of the world as their “gods” with God the Father’s permission. This was explained in a prior article. 1 Angelic beings, with less power than the Sons of God, were also worshipped as gods. Even human beings who were thought to have become divine such as Pharaohs, kings, heroes, etc., were worshipped, as were the sun, moon and stars. 2 Other gods than YHWH existed in the past, and they exist today, but they are as nothing compared to God the Father. 3
The difficulty Israel had in ancient times was not that other gods existed. Such was the nature of reality in God’s creation. The problem was that Israel worshipped these other gods in direct rebellion to their covenant with YHWH. Israel became fascinated with these other gods. Israel was tempted and succumbed to temptation to worship these other gods.
Upon occasion the Sons of God convened in assembly before YHWH to propose, discuss, argue, and receive His judgments, instructions, and punishments, and these instances are delineated in Scripture. They came when ordered. The Sons of God appear before YHWH along with angels, Satan, cherubim, and other spiritual beings. 4 The occasion of such a group meeting is called by scholars the Divine Assembly or the Divine Council. Either phrase is properly descriptive of biblical reality. Within these assemblies the Sons of God have various titles, one of which is “saints,” which as we noted in the prior article, is the translation of the Hebrew qedoshim which means “Holy Ones.” In this article I will focus on the aspect of the assembly of these Holy Ones, the congregation of the Holy Ones in the context of the Royal Court:
“And the heavens shall praise your wonders, O YHWH:
your faithfulness also [shall praise you] in the congregation of the saints [qedoshim, holy ones].
who in the heaven [sky] can be compared unto YHWH?
who among the sons of Elim can be likened unto YHWH?
El is greatly
to be feared in the assembly of the saints [qedoshim, holy ones], and
to be had in reverence of all them that are about him. 5
O YHWH Elohim of hosts, who is a strong YAH like unto you? …”
Note from this passage that YHWH is an El greatly feared “in the assembly” and held “in reverence” by those around Him. Those who are around YHWH in this assembly are called qedoshim, Holy Ones. They are present at other Divine Assemblies. Where YHWH is, where He places His name, that is where the Assembly meets.
“Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols:
worship him, all you Elohim.
Zion heard, and was glad; and the daughters of Judah rejoiced because of your judgments, O YHWH. For you, YHWH, are high above all the earth:
you are exalted far above all gods.”
Whenever comparisons are made between YHWH and other Elohim, it is in the context of an Assembly, as is shown by Exodus 15:11; Job 15:15; Psalm 77:13; Proverbs 9:10, 30:3 [“holy” in these Proverbs passages is actually qedoshim, “holy ones” in Hebrew]; Daniel 4:13, 17, 23; and Zechariah 14:5. 6
How does the Divine Assembly function? We get a glimpse in the last chapter of First Kings as described to the Kings of Israel and Judah by the Prophet Micaiah just before battle with Syria:
“And Micaiah said, Therefore, hear the word of YHWH. I saw YHWH sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left.
And YHWH said, ‘Who will entice [King] Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’
And one said this while another said that. Then a spirit came forward and stood before YHWH and said, ‘I will entice him.’
And YHWH said to him, ‘How?’
And he said, ‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’
Then He said, ‘You are to entice him and also prevail. Go and do so.’
Now therefore, behold, YHWH has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; and YHWH has proclaimed disaster against you.”
1 Kings 22:19–23
The proceedings described in this passage are similar to those described in Job chapters 1 and 2. In fact, most passages where God Himself puts in an appearance (in vision) are also Divine Assembly passages, although a differing array of participants are indicated in the various contexts. God rarely appears or travels alone. One example would be Isaiah chapter 6 where God and Seraphim are mentioned, but no others. In Ezekiel God travels with His portable throne composed of living beings, the Cherubim. In Job chapters 1 and 2 the Sons of God and Satan are mentioned aside from God, but no others, although the format of deliberation is consistent with other Divine Assembly contexts. God often speaks for the Assembly in the first person plural: 7
“Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then said I [Isaiah], ‘Here am I; send me.’”
Whenever there is an assembly before YHWH significant judgments are made. Sometimes the judgments are good, sometimes the judgments are bad — for someone. God’s judgments without any details of Assembly discussion are given in divine resolutions such as in Genesis 1:26, 3:22, and 11:7 all of which have a plurality to their message. This is not a plurality of majesty, but a plurality of participants involved in discussing, and then announcing and carrying out God’s orders as proclaimed to the Assembly. The result certainly was bad for Job and his family when the Divine Assembly met in Job chapters 1 and 2. Yet even there everything is done according to the will of God.
In fact, it is recognized by scholars that part of the function of the Old Testament prophets was to “know” the deliberations of the Divine Assembly meetings whether in vision or by hearing them. It was their function to communicate that decision or message with the words “Thus says the Lord.” 8 It was Moses’ unique privilege to participate face-to-face in dialogue and deliberations while on Mt. Sinai:
“And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I YHWH will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of YHWH shall he behold …?”
“For who has stood in the counsel [Hebrew sod, meaning assembly or council] of YHWH, and has perceived and heard his word? who has marked his word, and heard it?
I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel [Hebrew sod, assembly], and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.”
Jeremiah 23:18, 21–22
“Surely the Lord YHWH will do [say, speak] nothing, but he reveals his secret [sod, assembly] unto his servants the prophets.”
In today’s society we have legal procedures, agreements, and contracts that are enforced through set “civilized” procedures recognized by individuals, groups, or governments with proper jurisdiction. It was similar in ancient times when God also worked through such processes. Since the 1950s scholars have noted that the Old Covenant which the people of Israel agreed to at Mt. Sinai fits in most particulars to a structure, a format, that was well understood by the parties involved making the covenant.
The format or structure of the Old Covenant was that of an international treaty; a treaty between a superior Lord (God) who dominated an inferior vassal (Israel). The Lord obligated Himself to protect and bless the vassal, and in return the vassal would give honor, loyalty, and obedience to the Lord. Both sides knew the terms and conditions of the treaty because those terms and conditions were specifically defined in the written provisions of the Covenant (or Treaty). Without going into detail here, every Treaty or Covenant between nations in ancient times shared several elements which are found in Israel’s Covenant with God:
(1) A Preamble: A presentation of the parties and issues involved
(2) Historical Prologue: A description of the history that brought the
(3) Stipulations: Rights and responsibilities of each party
(4) Witnesses: This involves the Divine Assembly
(5) Blessings and Curses: These may be carried out by one or more of the
While this Treaty form structure is suggestive and similar to one that would be recognizable and understandable to the people of Israel, keep in mind that God’s Covenant with Israel was unique in history, and it did not fit the Treaty format in all points. That being said, prior to this point, God had only covenanted with individuals as He did with Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and not with any people or nation. 9
In the 1950s George E. Mendenhall wrote an article, and later a short book titled Law and Covenant in Israel and the Ancient Near East. It was noted that Israel’s Covenant had several points of similarity with Ugaritic, Canaanite, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian treaties found in archaeological archives and historical writings. This led to a new way of looking at the Old Covenant. Besides the initial Covenant agreement, occasional Covenant or Treaty renewals commonly followed the format. Such renewals are found in Deuteronomy chapter 9 and Joshua chapter 24.
The importance of all this is that Israel clearly understood they were making a binding contract with God! Precise conditions, prohibitions, allowances, blessings, cursings, punishments, procedures for mercy, appeal, and restitution, all of these things were specified to Israel — in writing — before they agreed to the Covenant.
“Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, ‘All the words which the Lord has said will we do.’ And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord, ...”
For Israel’s part Moses built an altar and the Covenant was sealed when Israel made a peace offering to signify the covenant from Israel’s side (like a peace treaty signature ceremony, Exodus 24:1–8). 10 A formal ceremony and oath to bind the Covenant took place, again, according to custom:
“And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, ‘All that YHWH has said will we do, and be obedient.’”
Moses sprinkled the rest of the blood of the sacrifice on the people of Israel to bind them all. Then fire from God in heaven came down and burnt up the sacrifice it signaled His acceptance of the Covenant. The Covenant was now binding upon every man, woman, and child of Israel, and everyone knew it to be so.
When disobedience occurred God gave warnings, according to the Covenant (and treaty) procedures. This often involved a Divine Council discussion and then a communication from God at the Council which was then given to God’s people, usually through the prophets of God. Occasionally we get to view the deliberations, but most often we are only given the decision of YHWH by the words through God’s representative (Moses or the prophets) by their use of the phrase “Thus says the Lord,” which is used some 400+ times in Scripture.
As participants of the Divine Assembly, the Sons of God were present and shouted for joy when the foundations of the earth were laid (Job 38:4–7). After Adam and Eve sinned, and after they had children, the Sons of God took wives for themselves from among the daughters of men (Genesis 6:1–4). Disastrous results came from those matings. Giants resulted who were exceedingly evil and led subsequent mankind to commit evils so great that God decided to destroy the human extended family except for Noah, his wife, their three sons, and their wives. Scripture does not record any punishment imposed at that time upon the Sons of God for their marrying human wives.
In spite of their pre-flood activities, after the flood God allotted the Sons of God to rule the Gentile nations (Deuteronomy 4:19, 32:7–9), and they witnessed God’s creation of the nation of Israel, which YHWH kept as a nation for His own inheritance. It is at this point that pagan records interact with the biblical record, although in a most unreliable and confused manner. The Sons of God were the gods of the pagan nations. It was their job, their function, to rule and judge righteously those nations. They failed miserably. In fact they failed totally, and God pronounced a terrible judgment upon them.
We come now to Psalm 82. It is a short but most remarkable passage. It gives us a window into the heavenly operations and God’s rule. Scholars have recognized that this Psalm is the sentencing pronouncement, the conclusion of a lawsuit that God has brought against the Sons of God, just as He later brings a complaint and a lawsuit against Israel and Judah for their unfaithfulness.
In the instance of the Sons of God, YHWH, using the title of El, pronounces a death sentence upon the Sons of God. The charges against them are restated as unjust judging and a lack of care for the poor, the fatherless, the afflicted, and the needy. They were not required to solve all the problems of those people, but to rule so they could obtain justice. They did not do so. God was so upset He pronounced death upon them.
1 God standeth in the congregation of the
he judgeth among the gods.
1 Elohim stands in the congregation of El.
He [El] judges AMONG THE ELOHIM.
2 How long will ye judge unjustly,
2 “How long will you judge unjustly,
3 Defend the poor and fatherless:
do justice to the afflicted and needy.
3 Defend the poor [as in weak]
4 Deliver the poor and needy:
rid them out of the hand of the wicked.
4 Deliver the poor [as in weak]
Rid them out of the hand of the wicked.
5 They know not, neither will they
5 They know not, neither will they
6 I have said,
“Ye are gods; and
all of you are children of the most
6 I [El]
7 But ye shall die like men,
and fall like one of the princes.
7 But YOU SHALL DIE LIKE MEN
And fall like one of the princes.
8 Arise, O God, judge the earth:
8 Arise, O Elohim, judge the earth:
In Psalm 82 Elohim are being judged, sentenced to death, and subjected to a “fall like one of the princes.” It is not known who the “princes” of verse 7 refer to, but it is apparent that this punishment is extremely unpleasant. Not only is God’s complaint made that these “Sons of the Most High” judged unjustly, but these divine Sons themselves acted in an evil way by accepting “the persons of the wicked.” This may be a reference to their own “princely” children from their matings with women (their offspring being the Nephilim, Anakim, Rephaim, etc.), giving preference and favoritism to them in their judgments as the gods of the nations. 12 God plays no favorites, not even with His own Sons, when sin is involved.
Those being addressed are “Sons of the Most High.” They are all specifically termed “Elohim” (verse 6). All of the “Sons of the Most High” are sentenced to death (verse 7). This means that if there were 70 of them, corresponding to the 70 nations of the world, they all did evil and they all were to be punished. These Sons had no expectation of death before God pronounced it. One of the criteria of a “god” in pagan religions is the expectation of continued life without end. As far as they knew, they would live forever and that they were immune from death. This seems to be borne out in Psalm 82:7. (Perhaps they had access to and could partake of the Tree of Life referred to in Genesis 3:22.) They are sentenced to death by God Himself. Therefore they will die as punishment for their sins. Remember two points that relate directly to the judgments of Psalm 82:
(1) “The soul that sins, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20), and
(2) “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”
Psalm 82 is contained in the third great division of the Psalms, the Levitical Book, where all the Psalms relate to the sanctuary of the Tabernacle/Temple. It is one of 12 Psalms ascribed to Asaph (Psalm 50 and Psalms 73–83). The title gives it as a “Psalm of Asaph.” To the extent that this title establishes the composition of the Psalm (and I think it does), it means that Asaph saw the vision about the divine judgment about 950 B.C.E. The 8 verses of this Psalm appear to be the end of a Lawsuit procedure where the sentencing portion of the procedure is pronounced.
A Levite, Asaph was King David’s music leader who “prophesied according to the order of the king” (1 Chronicles 25:2) after the Ark of the Covenant was moved to Jerusalem. Elsewhere Asaph is identified as a “seer” (2 Chronicles 29:30).
Psalm 82 specifically concerns the Holy Place of the tabernacle in heaven where YHWH dispenses judgment, even to “Sons of the Most High.” To be recorded, the events must have been seen in a vision by Asaph as a “seer” (2 Chronicles 29:30). YHWH’s judgment upon Elohim who were His own Sons is given as an example (and a warning) to Israel that just judgment is expected by Israel’s leaders, religious and civil, and that unjust judgment will not be tolerated, but will be severely punished.
Most commentaries, Jewish and Christian, state dogmatically that this Psalm refers to judges and priests who represent YHWH to the people of Israel, and who act as though they are immortal and somehow need to be reminded they shall die. This understanding is presented to protect both a false monotheism of later Judaism, and the false Trinity doctrine of Christian orthodoxy. However, the text itself denies such a theory. A comparison is clearly made that these Elohim “shall die like men.” Logically, the objects of these terrible judgments are not men. To think so would make verse 6 a false statement.
The idea of these Sons being human men is further refuted by considering the culture and society of Ancient Israel. Israel was a society where everyday life was near to death. Death was involved in every aspect of ancient life. Death was particularly central to the cult of Israel as commanded by YHWH, by virtue of its sacrificial nature involving the death of animals to substitute temporarily for the death of the sinner. Death was everywhere. Judges of Israel (or judges of the nations, which is another theory) did not need to be reminded that they were mortal.
Therefore the “Sons” of Psalm 82 are not human beings. Mortal humans do not “stand” in Divine Councils of judgment. Human beings do not “die like men.” Human beings do not need to be told that they shall die like men. It is clearly understood.
In verse 6, the phrase “Sons of the Most High” in Hebrew is “Sons of Elyon.” Elyon is a derivative term of El. 13 In Psalm 82 a direct comparison is made between what the Elohim are not, and what they are. They are not men, but they will die like men. At the time of their judgment they are not mortal, they are unlike men, and do not expect to “fall.” Death and the likelihood of death appear to be unknown to the experience of these Sons of God, these Elohim.
Until recent decades much study had been done on the subject of “dying and rising gods,” regarding male deities in agrarian Mediterranean societies. Evidence was at one time considered overwhelming that there was a pattern of death and resurrection common to many ancient gods. Such death and resurrection of gods was seen by some as a precursor or even the original concept behind the death and resurrection of Jesus.
This idea is now discredited and understood to be nonsense. It is currently recognized that the opposite is true. Gods can die. Writing in the authoritative Encyclopedia of Religion in his article “Dying and Rising Gods,” Jonathan Smith explains:
“Despite the shock this fact may deal to modern Western religious sensibilities, it is a commonplace within the history of religions that immortality is not a prime characteristic of divinity: GODS DIE. Nor is the concomitant of omnipresence a widespread requisite: GODS DISAPPEAR.
The putative category of dying and rising deities thus takes its place within the large category of dying gods and the even larger category of disappearing deities. Some of these divine figures simply disappear; some disappear only to return again in the near or distant future; some disappear and reappear with monotonous frequency. All the deities that have been identified as belonging to the class of dying and rising deities can be subsumed under the TWO LARGER CLASSES OF DISAPPEARING DEITIES OR DYING DEITIES.”
Smith, “Dying and Rising Gods?” 14
According to Smith, it was common for pagan gods to die or disappear (not come around anymore when summoned by worshippers) — just like Psalm 82 presents in its vision of judgment against the gods of the nations. This is why temples around the world fell into disuse. The gods stopped showing up! Smith details the consensus of nonbiblical pagan writings regarding several of the ancient gods — “gods die.” Scripture already informs us of that fact. Therefore, we should not be surprised by that fact because, after all, Jesus Christ Himself died, and He was (and is) an Elohim.
I believe a major change took place in world events as the result of actions that God took when He declared His judgment in this Psalm. YHWH removed the power and authority of every god of every nation, except Israel. New gods arose. These new gods were not “born,” but they were angels who took over the responsibilities of the Sons of God. Around the world traditions arose about “the old gods” or “the ancient ones.” 15 God did this because their injustice caused a great problem: “All the foundations of the earth are out of course” (Psalm 82:5). Like the pre-flood evil in the world, the post-flood situation of His sons doing evil became intolerable.
YHWH removed them from office. He took away the “inheritance” of the nations from His Sons, the Elohim, and took back the inheritance of the nations to Himself, just as He took Jacob for His own inheritance (Deuteronomy 4:19–21, 32:8–9) when He created Israel. Further, God pronounces doom upon His own sons. He sentences His Sons of God to death for unrighteous judgment.
One of the times when Psalm 82 took effect was during the time of Jeremiah’s prophetic office:
“See, I have this day set you [Jeremiah] over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant. Moreover the word of YHWH came unto me, saying, ‘Jeremiah, what see you’? And I said, ‘I see a rod of an almond tree.’ Then said YHWH unto me, ‘You have well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it.’”
The full description of what took place during this period of Jeremiah’s prophetic office and its axial significance in history is explained in Dr. Martin’s article “Prophetic Birth of Our Civilization” available at http://www.askelm.com/prophecy/p020701.htm. Jeremiah’s 41 years of ministry was to every nation of the world. He uprooted their religion, their culture, and their society under God’s instructions, and replaced these structures with new ones, based on the Babylonian system. Old religions died out and new religions began. This would have been a perfect time for the punishment of Psalm 82 to take effect. With the “old gods” out of the way, the “new gods” of the new nations could best accomplish God’s purpose in history. Perhaps this was when Satan stopped merely being an accuser, and began being the “god of this age” (Greek of 2 Corinthians 4:4, cf. Ephesians 2:2). Some of the Sons of God may have died soon after Psalm 82 was given, some later, with some final punishments still to take place future to us.
Note that God does not punish the Sons of God for taking wives of the Daughters of Men in Genesis chapter 6:2, 4, but He punished them severely for their later unrighteous rule of the nations that He had assigned to them. Their crimes must have been horrible and flagrant indeed for YHWH to give such a terrible punishment. YHWH, who originally gave the inheritance to these Sons, as mentioned in Deuteronomy 32:8–9, later took away that same inheritance from them for malfeasance and partiality in their functions as judges of the nations in Psalm 82. As Job said during his suffering: “YHWH gave, and YHWH has taken away; blessed be the name of YHWH” (Job 1:21).
God pronounced judgment upon the divine judges. Psalm 82 was placed within the Levitical Division of the Psalms as a severe warning to all human judges to be impartial, rule justly, and to promote the welfare of the poor and dispossessed. Judges, including divine Sons of God, are expected to do justice. If they will not do so, then they shall be held accountable:
“Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.
Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.”
For judges to do what verse 3 says means that judges are to make better the condition of the poor and oppressed that come before them. To do what verse 4 demands means that judges must right wrongs committed against the unfortunate. Why should judges do these things? Because the poor and the weak are ignorant and lack understanding (verse 5). They need help. Life is difficult enough without injustice. At the very least judges are to be impartial. This is important for the nation and even the entire earth because if justice is not done, then creation itself is out of alignment! “All the foundations of the earth are out of course” (Psalm 82:5).
The form of the Psalm 82 judgment is known to scholars as the complaint and judgment portion of what is known as a rîb or covenant Lawsuit between a suzerain (God) and disobedient vassals (the Sons of God). The Lawsuit is the “enforcement” part of the Covenant/Treaty structure discussed above. 16 In other words, Psalm 82 is a portion of a larger lawsuit against the Sons of God, invoking the “Blessings and Curses” sections of a larger agreement between God and His Sons (an agreement that we do not shown the details of in Scripture), but which are reflected in common Near Eastern practice and form. 17
The title of Psalm 82 says that it is a Psalm of Asaph. This indicates that it was given during David’s reign as King of Israel. That tells us an approximate time when the judgment was given. But when was this judgment put into effect? When were the Elohim removed from being the gods and judges of the nations, and when was the death sentence carried out? As stated above, I believe that many of the deaths of the Sons of God took effect hundreds of years later in the time of Jeremiah the Prophet.
It is typical of God that He is merciful and He gives time for repentance. In regard to the Sons of God, God did not immediately commence the judgment He proclaimed. The sentence was carried out later, indeed some much later. Some may have been carried out as early as the time of the prophet Isaiah. 18 I believe most of the judgments occurred during the time of Jeremiah. More research needs to be done on this matter of the timing of punishment of the Sons of God. Some of the Sons of God may still be around. There may yet be a final conclusion to the judgment for those remaining Sons that will occur at the last days, future to us today. Therefore it is difficult to say when the complete fulfillment of the sentencing will occur.
The carrying out of the sentence may have major implications on the understanding of world history. It is my view that angelic forces (good and evil) largely filled the void left by the Sons of Elohim and presented themselves to humans as the gods of the nations, with far less inherent power, authority, sovereignty, and with less ability to influence events (although they try hard to thwart God, as they are required to obey Him). Indeed, we know that in the New Testament Satan is a major influence:
“In whom the god of this world [aion, age] has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”
2 Corinthians 4:4 (cf. Ephesians 2:2)
A thorough analysis of the passages of Daniel 10 regarding the “princes” of Persia and Grecia needs to be made in light of Psalm 82. They do not appear to be Sons of Elohim, but rather seem to be angelic beings just as Gabriel and Michael are angelic beings.
In agreement with Psalm 82 pronouncing the death of the Sons of God, it is not surprising that pagan nations tell of gods who were killed. Canaanite inscriptions from Ugarit relate the death of Baal, killed by the god Mot, while the other gods rejoiced. The god Anat in turn killed the god Mot for killing Baal, and El slew the god Uranos. This latter may be the same story as the Greek Zeus slaying his father Saturn. 19
In ancient times it was common for victorious nations to carry away the gods, or idols, of the conquered and install them in their own temples. This demonstrated the dispossession, abandonment, or exile of the Elohim represented by those idols from the conquered nation. In fact, God’s judgment against certain of the gods of Egypt started during the Exodus, long before King David’s time:
“For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am YHWH.”
In this passage judgment was declared and promised. This was carried out and fulfilled:
“For the Egyptians buried all their firstborn, which YHWH had smitten among them: upon their gods also YHWH executed judgments.”
In both these verses there was a two-fold fulfillment. First there was a judgment against the land of Egypt, against humans and animals, and second, there was a fulfillment against the gods, the Elohim, of Egypt.
Let me pose a question. If the gods of the pagans, such as the gods of Egypt in this verse, were not real and had no actual power, then why would God bother to “execute judgment” over them? Why not just say “the gods of Egypt are not real”? YHWH executed judgment over the firstborn of Egypt, and they died. Are we to suppose that “the gods of Egypt” were any less punished as He prophesied? Indeed, during the time of Nebuchadnezzar God again promised to punish the gods of Egypt (Jeremiah 46:25–26). God also declared he would punish the gods of Babylon, the god Bel by name (Jeremiah 51:44–47). God’s judgments will be done!
In the time of Isaiah, God declared punishment against “the host of the high ones.” Note that “the foundations of the earth” are mentioned here also, just as in Psalm 82:7. This prophesied punishment shall take place at a time future to us today. They will be serious times, dangerous times:
“And it shall come to pass ...
and the FOUNDATIONS OF THE EARTH do shake ...
The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly.
The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again.
And it shall come to pass in that day,
That YHWH shall punish
the HOST OF THE HIGH ONES on high, and the kings of the earth
upon the earth.
And they shall be gathered together [the host and the kings],
as prisoners are GATHERED IN THE PIT,
and shall be SHUT UP IN THE PRISON,
and after many days shall they be visited.”
The phrase “High Ones” is another title for gods (Elohim other than YHWH), who attend the divine assemblies in heaven. In this case the gathering and imprisonment will be done by God, probably at the time of the Second Coming when the Son of Man sends forth His angels into the world (Matthew 13:41–42, 16:27). There are many, many who will be put in the pit as prisoners; so many in fact that they are termed a “host” which is a term used for an army. YHWH is the “most high” El of the “high ones.” 20 The judgment against the “high ones,” along with the judgment of the kings of the earth, is related to the shaking of the foundations of the earth (Job 38:4, 6 and Psalm 82:5 cited above). The gods shall perish from both earth and from the heavens: 21
“But YHWH is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation. Thus shall you say unto them, ‘The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.’”
Toward the end of the kingdom of Judah, God had Jeremiah prophesy that the nation was to be exiled for worshipping pagan gods. Judah was worshipping so many pagan gods that Jeremiah complained there had one god for every town in Judah:
“Then shall the cities of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem go, and cry unto the gods unto whom they offer incense: but they [the gods] shall not save them at all in the time of their trouble. For according to the number of your cities were your gods, O Judah; and according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem have you set up altars to that shameful thing, even altars to burn incense unto Baal.”
The people of Judah made the foolish mistake of trusting the gods of Egypt, and thinking that Egypt and her gods would protect Judah, or that they could flee to safety in Egypt, believing it was out of reach of the Babylonian armies of Nebuchadnezzar.
“YHWH of hosts, the God of Israel, says; ‘Behold, I will punish the multitude of No, and Pharaoh, and Egypt, with their gods, and their kings; even Pharaoh, and all them that trust in him: And I will deliver them [including their gods] into the hand of those that seek their lives, and into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of his servants: and afterward it shall be inhabited, as in the days of old, says YHWH.’”
In a time future to us today, we are informed that the King of the South shall attack the King of the North from Egypt, and shall take away the gods of the King of the North back to Egypt.
“He shall also carry off to Egypt their gods [Elohim] with their molten images and with their precious vessels of silver and of gold; and for some years he shall refrain from attacking the king of the north.”
Daniel 11:8 (Revised Standard Version)
Note again that a distinction is made between the “gods” and “molten images.” They are distinct from each other as they are carried off. This text is not talking about trinkets, boundary markers, or museum artifacts.
In reality, at present there are very few people in Syria, Turkey, or Iraq (the lands ruled in the future by the King of the North) who worship false gods or have idols. The populations are mostly Muslim. Muslim practice forbids the making of images of gods, animals, or even of humans. If they exist such images have not come to light in the media. The peoples of this area are at present much less idolatrous than orthodox Christianity. Apparently, according to Daniel 11:8, at some time in the future there will be a return to worship of pagan gods with molten images in the lands of the King of the North. Those gods and images will be desired and seized by the King of the South. This means that real Elohim, real gods, will be involved in the lands of the King of the North at this time. They may be angelic beings, or they may be Sons of God who have not yet died, the text is not clear. In any case, supernatural beings, and their corresponding images will be captured and carried south to Egypt. These gods are differentiated from their idols.
Jeremiah also prophesied against gods, against Moab and also against Edom:
“… and Chemosh shall go forth into exile, with his priests and his princes.”
Jeremiah 48:7 (Revised Standard Version)
“For Milcam [Molech] 22 shall go into exile, with his priests and his princes.”
Jeremiah 49:3 (Revised Standard Version)
If these gods are not “real” beings, if they are imaginary, then why do God and His prophets proclaim judgment against them? The answer is that these gods not only had names, they were real entities, Elohim who did exist, and they were taken captive and punished as the Biblical text says.
The words “exile” above can also mean captivity depending on the context. Captivity seems to be the lot of some Elohim. Perhaps captivity applies to angelic spirits (1 Peter 3:19 and Jude 6) rather than the Sons of God who were given a sentence of death (Psalm 82). In the future another judgment scene will take place:
“I beheld till the thrones were cast down [set in place], and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment [of the court] was set [ready], and the books were opened.”
YHWH, the chief El, here called “the Ancient of Days” in a vision of a time future to Daniel gives sovereignty to the Son of Man (Daniel 7:13). This is the sovereignty that El took back to Himself in Psalm 82. He gives it to Jesus, the only begotten Son of God (John 1:18, 3:16–18; 1 John 4:9), who was and is righteous, and who is the Son of Man:
“And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, ‘All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.’”
Jesus said to the High Priest during His judgment:
“Hereafter shall you see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”
Just before Christ returns, conditions will be similar in some ways to those before the flood. Note the interesting point Jesus made during this discourse with His disciples:
“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour know no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
But as the days of Noe [Noah] were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”
To be sure Christ’s intent was to emphasize how ordinary life will continue right up to His Second Coming, just as ordinary life continued right up to the flood of Noah. However, notice that Jesus specifies “marrying and giving in marriage” to indicate continuity of life before the disasters of the Last Plagues (Revelation chapter 15ff) from God strike just prior to “the coming of the Son of Man.” But note this, the only marriage events mentioned before the flood were those of the Sons of God taking wives of the Daughters of Men.
I almost hesitate to ask the question, because I do not like the answer. It seems too bizarre in this “modern age”: Does this Christ’s mention of “marriage” in Matthew 24:37–39 mean that events similar to Genesis 6:1–4 (with Sons of God marrying human woman and producing hyper-evil offspring) will occur again just before Christ’s Second Coming? I think that is precisely what Jesus is warning us about in this passage.
The strange and bizarre events that will occur with the beings in the spiritual realm, the Sons of God, the angels, evil spirits, etc., will test our fears and levels of fright. However, we should fear God and nothing else, remembering who we are as God’s children seated with Christ on His throne (Ephesians 1:3).
Fear of the Lord is the basic starting point for everything connected with God. The Sons of God and all too many angels seem to have been foolish and despised wisdom and instruction (Proverbs 1:7). Perhaps because of their proximity and familiarity with God, many of the Divine Assembly abandoned God and committed sin, just like the human family of Adam, and God’s own nation Israel. Perhaps they, like some in reprobate Israel, no longer fear God (Romans 3:18). We should fear God because of the manifold benefits:
It has been said, with some truth, that the word “fear” in these verses means respect, honor, and homage to God the father. While this is all true, there is also the aspect of sheer terror of YHWH in every one of those verses listed above. This is confirmed by Nahum 1:2, and by the apostle Paul in Hebrews 10:30–31. God demands proper respect and fear that is due to Him.
“Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has to us. God is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him.
Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love.”
1 John 4:15–18
One defect that seems to be shared by those who received God’s judgments was that they overestimated God’s patience and mercy, and minimized God’s righteousness and justice. They thought that God “winks” at sin, that He gives a pass at evil against the helpless, and that He ignores completely the cries of those who suffer. God have mercy on those who so falsely believe.
I have more to write on this and related subjects. In the future I will cover the nature and destiny of the Nephilim, the giants who are the offspring of the Sons of God and the Daughters of Men in Genesis 6:1–4. This is a terrible and important subject that relates to the nature of evil spirits.
Second, Psalm 82 is directly referred to in an extended discussion that Jesus had teaching in the Temple with Jews attending the Feast of Dedication. Jesus is asked directly if He is the Messiah. He answers them directly and they do not like the answer because He makes a connection of His messiahship to Psalm 82 in a surprising way that the Jews did not like. The Jews became so angry with Jesus that they tried to seize and attack Him. Read the passage for yourself and see if you can understand what Jesus meant by His reference to Psalm 82. Keep in mind that when Jesus cites one portion of a small Psalm such as this one, He is referring to the entire Psalm, not just that small portion. It is found in John 10:22–39.
David Sielaff, March 2007
2 See Dr. Martin’s article “The Secret of Ancient Religion Revealed,” Part 1 at http://www.askelm.com/doctrine/d030201.htm. That article will lead you to “The Secret of Ancient Religion Revealed,” Part 2.
3 The withdrawal of the Sons of God from their rule of the nations, and God’s punishment of them, was put into effect at the same time that God changed the religious and political structure of the world in the time of Jeremiah the Prophet. Dr. Ernest L. Martin correctly identified this time period that changed the face of the political and religious world. Whole nations and religions rapidly declined and disappeared from the world scene while new nations, religions, and philosophies rose to prominence in history. See Dr. Martin’s presentation: “Prophetic Birth of Our Civilization” at http://www.askelm.com/prophecy/p020701.htm.
4 Such as the 24 Elders referred to in Revelation 4:4, 10, 5:5–14, 7:11–13, 11:16, 14:3, and 19:4.
5 This English translation does not effectively communicate the dread and terror that the Hebrew presents. Likewise the word “reverence” is much milder than the Hebrew word intends to convey. Apparently there is no dread or terror quite like the fear of appearing before YHWH, the creator of all existence, even for these otherwise powerful beings.
“You [YHWH], even you, are to be feared: and who may stand in your sight when once you are angry? You did cause judgment to be heard from heaven; the earth feared, and was still, When God arose to judgment, to save all the meek of the earth.”
You shall experience that feeling of being before God in judgment. However, your experience and my experience shall occur after our resurrection, after we have received our spiritual bodies. We will be bathed in God’s love; and perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).
6 YHWH Himself is the ultimate “Holy One” (Leviticus 20:26; Isaiah 6:3; Psalm 99:3, 5, 9). See E. Theodore Mullen, The Divine Council in Canaanite and Early Hebrew Literature [aka The Assembly of the Gods] (Atlanta: Scholars Press Reprint, 1986), pp. 191–192.
7 “Council” in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (DDD), 2nd extensively Revised Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995), p. 204–208.
8 “Council” in DDD, p. 207.
9 Pittsburgh, 1955. See http://home.earthlink.net/~cadman777/Law_Cov_Mendenhall_PART1.htm#t14 where the entire article can be found online. The provisions and forms of the Covenant/Treaty structure is discussed in Part 2 of the article at http://home.earthlink.net/~cadman777/Law_Cov_Mendenhall_PART2.htm#t14. It is worth reading and gives an excellent background to the concept that God’s Covenant with Israel had points of close similarity with Treaty agreements among nations. See also later works, D.J. McCarthy, Old Testament Covenant: A Survey of Covenant Opinions (John Knox Press, 1972); and Paul Kalluveettil, Declaration and Covenant: A Comprehensive Review of Covenant Formulae from the Old Testament and the Ancient Near East (Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1982). I find Walter Vogel’s survey to be particularly helpful as presented in his short book God’s Universal Covenant: A Biblical Study (University of Ottawa Press, 1986).
10 Many of these Treaty provisions from ancient times are still used in agreements between modern nations. For example when one party claims a treaty has been violated, a designated outside body such as an international court is called upon to arbitrate differences between parties. “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day …” (Deuteronomy 4:26). In ancient Israel God could be the arbiter as well as one of the parties of the Covenant, as well as one of the aggrieved parties. He was presumed to be fair. There was also the office of “accuser” (satan in Hebrew) who testified as a type of prosecutor (Job chapters 1 & 2, and Zechariah chapter 3). Such treaty formalities are still very important among nations. Witness the great lengths all parties went to, going through the formalities of signing the end of hostilities after World War II. After the 1991 war the coalition led by the United States made a treaty with the government of Iraq. Violations of those treaty provisions by Iraq were used as partial justification for the 2003 invasion. Such things are important! Yes, they merely recognize a new status quo of life and balance of power between parties, but nonetheless good order in the creation demands good contracts and clear understandings of both rights and responsibilities in any given situation. God requires and makes use of such things!
11 Selah as a Hebrew term means: “Pay attention to what follows.” In this case it delineates the rîb or ritual covenant “complaint” from the judgment to follow. Even today in court, a restatement of the charge is given prior to sentencing, just like in Psalm 82.
12 Recall that great wickedness was a result of the matings which occurred both before and after the flood. This led to mankind being corrupted still further and brought on the necessity of the flood (Genesis 6:5–7).
13 Recall also that these “Sons” cannot be angels, according to Hebrews 1:5.
14 Underlining and capitals are mine. Smith explains in the bulk of the article that the concept of “dying and rising gods”was a false conclusion based largely on late post-Christian evidence and interpretations popularized by books such as James Frazer’s The Golden Bough. Smith reviews the evidence of each of the gods who allegedly died and rose: Adonis, Aliyan Baal, Attis, Marduk, Osiris, Tammuz/Dumuzi. See his article “Dying and Rising Gods” in Encyclopedia of Religion, edited by Mercea Eliade (New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., 1987), pp. 521–27. This volume is available in most medium-sized libraries.
15 One such example is that of the Titans in Greek mythology. The Titans were the older gods replaced by Zeus and the younger gods. Most every ancient pagan religious tradition has an earlier “old god” history. See two informative websites regarding the Greek gods: “The Ancient Gods” at http://www.hol.gr/greece/ancgods.htm, and “Titan (Mythology)” at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titan_(mythology). The Greek poet Hesiod’s Theogany (~700 B.C.E.) can be read online at: http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/hesiod/theogony.htm.
“A feature common to many is that the ‘olden gods’ are either killed or banished … Frequently they are attested alongside active gods in treaty texts where they are listed in pairs and invoked to serve as witnesses to the mutual oaths.”
“Olden Gods” in DDD, pp. 641–645
See the discussion by Frank Moore Cross, “17. The ‘Olden Gods’ in Ancient Near Eastern Creation Myths,” in Magnalia Dei: The Mighty Acts of God: Essays on the Bible and Archeology in Memory of G. Ernest Wright, ed. by Frank Moore Cross, et al. (Garden City, NJ: Doubleday, 1976). Pagan mythologies are so jumbled that it is not worth time to unravel the50% As50 always the Bible holds the most reliable keys to such matters.
16 Examples of provisions of a Lawsuit are shown in the covenant of YHWH with Israel, Leviticus 26:14–38 and its restatement in Deuteronomy 28:15–68. If Israel disobeyed, the “enforcement” procedure would begin, with procedure and punishments already stated in writing.
17 See Daniel Isaac Block, The Gods of the Nations: Studies in Ancient Near Eastern National Theology, Second Edition (Jackson, MS: Evangelical Theological Society, 2000), pp. 110–21, and McCarthy, Treaty and Covenant. In Ugaritic texts for example, the chief god El takes away various dominions of the various gods who are El’s children. See Marvin H. Pope, El in the Ugaritic Texts, Supplements to the Vetus Testamentum (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1955), pp. 28–29. Unlike the correct biblical description, in Ugaritic texts the god El is the first among equals and is not an absolute monarch. The similarities between some Ugaritic texts and Psalm 82 are so detailed and striking that several scholars have noted them. The reality is that Psalm 82 came first and Ugaritic texts copied them. Ugaritic chronology needs to be corrected. See the University of Edinburgh website about the background of the Ugarit discoveries: http://www2.div.ed.ac.uk/other/ugarit//rsintro/intro001.htm.
18 Those punishments may be confused with judgments and punishments of angels. The judgment and punishment of angels is a separate subject altogether.
19 See Lowell K. Handy, Among the Host of Heaven: The Syro-Palestinian Pantheon as Bureaucracy (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1994), pp. 94, 127, and 129. The Great God Pan, according to Plutarch as cited by Eusebius, died around the time of Christ. See the account in Plutarch’s On the Cessation of the Oracles, 1.17 at http://thriceholy.net/Texts/Oracles.html. As I mentioned in note 17 above, the chronology of Ugarit needs revision.
20 A fascinating study of YHWH as the “Most High” and its implications can be gained by looking at Genesis 14:18ff, 22; Numbers 24:16; Deuteronomy 32:8; 2 Samuel 22:14; Psalm 7:17, 9:2, 21:7, 46:4, 47:2, 50:14, 56:2, 57:2, 73:11, 77:10, 78:17, 56, 82:6, 83:18, 91:1, 9, 92:1, 8, 107:11; Isaiah 14:14; Lamentations 3:35, 38; Daniel 3:26, 4:17, 24f, 32, 34, 5:18, 21, 7:18, 22, 25, 27; Hosea 7:16, 11:7; Mark 5:7; Luke 8:28; Acts 7:48, 16:17; and Hebrews 7:1.
21 Both mortals and immortals are punished for misdeeds or misuse of power, with YHWH as the judge. See Mullen, The Divine Council, pp. 232–33.
22 See Block, The Gods of the Nations, pp. 148–150. The Hebrew consonants mlk can indicate either melek which means king, or Molech, the name of the pagan god, depending on context. Dr. Martin identifies Molech as the King of Tyre in Ezekiel chapter 28. See Dr. Martin’s article “Lingering Idolatry in the Temple of God” at http://www.askelm.com/temple/t000901.htm.
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