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Pt.2a Psalm 82, the other Elohim, and Heiser’s sons of god (Divine Council) interpretations

Psalms (Tehellim) are not to be used to determine doctrine, especially if it is an isolated passage. They are poems, exaltations, praises, prayers songs, ancient hymnals of the Jewish people. Jews were monotheistic, not polytheistic (unless they went into apostasy). There is a small amount of doctrinal content woven throughout the Psalms but that is not its intent. Psalms are singing praises to God, Poetic song literature about Gods character and ways and man’s struggles, and our dependency on God. We should avoid the Psalms for making specific doctrine, it should not be used the same as the letters to the church.

To understand Ps.82 we must look at what it says before and after in order to understand it in its context. Since it is poetic literature, we should expect any representation to be metaphorical. So let’s carefully look into it.

NKJV Ps. 82:1-8 “God stands in the congregation of the mighty; He judges among the gods. 2 How long will you judge unjustly, And show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3 Defend the poor and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and needy. 4 Deliver the poor and needy; Free them from the hand of the wicked. 5 They do not know, nor do they understand; They walk about in darkness; All the foundations of the earth are unstable. 6 I said, "You are gods And all of you are children of the Most High. 7 But you shall die like men, And fall like one of the princes.8 Arise, O God, judge the earth; For You shall inherit all nations. (the KJV is nearly the same)

The point of controversy is found in verse 1.

Three other versions to consider:

Ps. 82:1-6 “God stands in the congregation of the mighty; He judges among the judges . 2 How long will ye judge unjustly, And accept the persons of the wicked? Selah 3 (Jewish Bible According to the Masoretic text Sinai Publishing Tel Aviv, Israel 1971:

The NASB translates this verse as: God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers . How long will you judge unjustly, And show partiality to the wicked?”

RSV Ps 82:1-2 God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: "How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?”

Heiser writes, ” A quick read of Psalm 82 informs us that God has called this council meeting to judge the Elohim for corrupt rule of the nations. Verse 6 of the psalm declares that these elohim are sons of God.” (Unseen Realm)

Is that what Psalm 82 is telling us? Let us seeand understand how wrong he is. Heiser is saying The Elohim will judge the now corrupted Elohim, (in a council meeting) which means this is a repeat of the Day Star (the Devil) falling with the other angels falling along with him in heaven. Heiser is saying there was another apostasy. The Bible says nothing about this event that Heiser introduces. There no hint in this Psalm of God calling a council to meet in heaven, or of their rule over the nations. One must have this already built into their theology to arrive at this conclusion.

Heiser states, “There’s no need to camouflage what the Hebrew text says. People shouldn’t be protected from the Bible.”

No, but we should be protected from any distortion of it.

Who are called gods? From the same book he uses we read in Ps. 148:11 “Kings of the earth and all peoples; Princes and all judges of the earth.”

Later Isaiah we read, 40:23 “He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless.Notice the verses speak of earth.

First we must understand in Ps. 82 that God is judging because of what is not being done right by those he instructed, the childen of Israel.. These are to be protectors of the h. people under God, they are to judge fairly and punish the people’s oppressors, they are told to free the poor and fatherless to be just to the afflicted and needy. Instead they are judging unjustly, partial to the wicked, and the outcome is that the people have no godly leadership and are in darkness.

The overarching theme of Ps 82 is a rebuke of correction of judges who are judging unjustly; “rulers” or “judges.” The question to answer is, who is God speaking to?

As stated previously it takes longer to correct error than it does to teach it. So let’s look and begin to understand the background, the culture and most importantly the Scripture itself.

In his “The Plural Elohim of Psalm 82” (ETS2010 pdf), on page two he says, "there are actually five different entities referenced as elohim in the Hebrew Bible." [he mentions 6 entities]

  1. Yahweh, the God of Israel (over 2000 times) B. The אלהים of Yahweh’s heavenly council, both loyal and disloyal (Psa 82; Psa 89; cf. Deut 32:8-9, 43; Psa 58:112 ) C. The gods of foreign nations (e.g., 1 Kings 11:33) D. Demons (Deut 32:173 ) E. The disembodied human dead (1 Sam 28:13) F. Angels (Gen 35:7 – cf. the context of the plural predicator with אלהים subject.

Heiser ignores this use of elohim that can be applied to living humans, except a dead human. To him it can only apply to his heavenly gods that God made.

The reason for this omission is found further in the PDF, as he emphatically states, “All the figures called [elohim] in the Bible have one thing in common: they all inhabit the non-human realm. That is, they are by nature not part of the world of humankind.”

Heiser presents the term elohim as never being applicable to humans (except once cited – to the dead, who are located in the unseen realm) but this is false. If they can never be human, you would have to reject what Jesus said in Jn.10 to the people when he quoted this Psalm to them, for we see Jesus used it for humans (only). This means what? That they can be human, or he gave it a wrong application. I trust Jesus over any man.

The fact is, in Ps. 45:6 the Davidic king has ‘Elohim’ applied to him, but Heiser fails to mention this. In Ex 7:1 the LORD said to Moses: "See, I have made you as God to Pharaoh.” YHWH says Moses is made an ‘elohim’ to Pharaoh. Neither one of these are about nature but an application of being God’s representative, a function.

So we already see that he is wrong. He also writes, “the Hebrew text should not be translated or exegeted so that it conforms to our theological expectations or needs.”

But that is exactly what he has done. His preconceived ideas on how he has formed his theological construct prevents him from seeing that certain humans can be designated by the word Elohim which shows his flaw of partiality in his interpretation. In fact, Elohim is used profusely in the first 5 books of the Bible for other than what he lists; for both men and for idols (over 60 times).

The first statement in the Bible about other gods is with laban thinking Jacob stole his idol. Gen.31:30;

Gn. 35:2 Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, "But away the foreign gods that are among you, which were idols” V.4 “ they gave Jacob all the foreign gods which were in their hands.”

The use of Elohim for gods as idols is abundant. Again Heiser’s position “that All the figures called [Elohim… inhabit the non-human realm. … not part of the world of humankind.” He is wrong!

Ex 34:15 “ the nations play the harlot with their gods and make sacrifice to their gods ” (which are idols). Israel is instructed “ gods of silver or gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves.” (Ex 20:23)

Several places in Scripture human judges are referred to as ‘elohim’ (the book of Exodus).

Exodus 21:6 “Then his master shall bring him unto the judges (elohim)”

Exodus 22:8-9 “If the thief be not found, then the master of the house shall be brought unto the judges (Elohim)… both parties shall come before the judges (elohim; and whom the judges (elohim) shall condemn...”

Exodus 22:28 “Thou shalt not revile the gods (elohim), nor curse the ruler of thy people.  

In Exod. 12:12 against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD.

There were at least 80 gods of Egypt which were nature or creatures that God judged. Khum- gaurdian of the Nile; Sepek- the crocodile god). It is at this time God is beginning to form the nation Israel, a theocracy under him. Ex 23:13 God later tells Israel to make no mention of the name of other gods, nor let it be heard from your mouth. Josh. 23:8-9: “You shall not make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause anyone to swear by them; you shall not serve them nor bow down to them.”

Ex. 32:1 “Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, "Come, make us gods that shall go before us .” In v:4-5 Aaron said after it was built “ This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt !"

After making the golden calf they called the idol elohim (Exod. 32:8), but they could not call him YHWH elohim. Idols are the majority of usage for Elohim (gods) in the Old Testament when it is applied to other than the one true God (YHWH Elohim).

Ex. 23:24 “You shall not bow down to their gods, (idols called אלהים) nor serve them, nor do according to their works; but you shall utterly overthrow them and completely break down their sacred pillars.”

Why am I'm strongly making this point on the word Elohim used for idols, or men. To show how diverse the word is used and the context should be a factor in its interpretation, as used in Psalm 82. To prove that the meaning is NOT what Heiser makes it out to be.

In the Old Testament the idols are called Elohim which later does bring into further account, 2 Chron. 13:8 “ with you are the gold calves which Jeroboam made for you as gods” (Elohim).

But Heiser seems to intentionally not list idols as one of the explanations for Elohim, which is a crucial omission, since idols are used more than any other thing (that states The gods of foreign nations and demons). Besides, the fact that when it is used as a plural, it means false gods.

Now let’s look at how Elohim is used in the Psalms

Ps. 95:3 “For the LORD is the great God, And the great King above all gods.” V.4 “ For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. But look what it says next v.5For all the gods of the peoples are idolsBut the LORD made the heavens” (this goes with Jeremiahs statement of the gods who did not make the heaven will perish). This is applied to ALL other gods, every one of them.

Ps. 97:7 “Let all be put to shame who serve carved images, Who boast of idols. Worship Him, all you gods .” The Psalmist mocks the idols called gods. Continual exaltation to Israel’s God is FOUND throughout the Psalms 135:5 “ For I know that the LORD is great, And our Lord is above all gods.” (Psalms 136:2; Psalms 138:1.) Meaning anything men call god, and idols included.

In the New Testament Paul explains the idols were called gods but “ by nature are not gods” (Gal. 4:8). This is taught in the Old Testament corroborating the Jewish view in Scripture that the gods of the heathen are nothing but idols (Psalm 96:4-5).

Paul writes in 1 Cor. 10:19-21 “What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons.”

Paul says here that the idols and gods of the pagans are not gods at all but are demons, fallen spirits under the prince and power of the air (Eph.2:2). Does he mean only his time period, or always? This was  and will always be the case.

For Heiser everything is conformed to the pagan religious texts found on Ugarit cuneiform tablets he claims were before Israel was formed as a nation. This is Heiser's basis for his exegesis that he applies to nearly everything.

If demons are the gods worshiped by the nations (one of Heiser’s points), then some of these gods would actually be spirit beings and not just imaginary gods. The Bible explains demons are spirit entities, fallen angels that desire worship from people just as Satan does. This does not mean that the spirits were literally divine gods made by God, We know them as impersonators of God. They want people to believe they are God. These gods of the nations mentioned in the Old Testament were false gods. Applying his own concept of an unseen realm, one should consider inspiration by those very same deceiving spirits attempting to confuse the truth of God with synthesizing the errors of the pagan nations.

1 Tim. 4:1 equates demons with deceitful spirits, misleading, deceiving in their teachings, and describing them as imposters. As 1 Corinthians 10:20 says, there are demons behind idols, in fact anything worshiped that is not the true God can have this spiritual influence.

As one reads the Bible one will notice that Israel is unique among all the Nations. Heiser instead upholds the concept of Israel being formed by syncretism from the nation[s]as they came to be established. They borrowed concepts from the pagans for their religious structure (this error will be covered in detail later, as it is very problematic when compared to the Scripture).

We do not see God’s approval for Israel adopting any nation’s customs, gods or worship into Judaism. There was to be no syncretism for Israel, Hesier claims there was, by using the Ugarit customs of the time.

Heiser writes, “Ugaritic literature also provided explicit parallels to a range of biblical passages. Descriptions of a divine council and its אלהים members were among those parallels.”

How can this be reconciled with Deut. 6:14-15 “You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are all around you.” Deut. 12:30-31 “ that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.' "You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way” Nothing of these nations were to be used.

Israel is continually told not to adopt the nation’s customs or gods, not to even eat of their sacrifices (Ex.34:14-17) The Lord warned them to be separate.

Lev 18:30 “Therefore you shall keep My ordinance, so that you do not commit any of these abominable customs which were committed before you, and that you do not defile yourselves by them: I am the LORD your God.' "

Israel was warned as God was teaching them his ways, Deut. 8:19 “Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the LORD your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish.”

When Israel was on the way to the Promised Land we read in Deut. 13:13 “Corrupt men have gone out from among you and enticed the inhabitants of their city, saying, "Let us go and serve other gods" '--which you have not known.”

These are the gods of the other nations. How do we know this? The only Elohim that is God states it all through the books of the bible, concerning their idols, about their immorality and their worship of creatures and nature (Romans 1).

Deut. 32:17-39 They sacrificed to demons, which are not God--gods they had not known , gods that recently appeared, gods your fathers did not fear. … They made me jealous by what is not god and angered me with their worthless idols.” The Bible tells us in detail what the idols were about.

Ex. 34:15 “they play the harlot with their gods and make sacrifice to their gods.” 2 Kings 17:15-17: “They followed idols, became idolaters, and went after the nations who were all around them” The ways of these nations gods became a snare to them in spite of all the warnings.

Israel was a nation formed by God and his intent was for it to be a theocracy. God would personally instruct Israel. He would be their God, be their  shepherd, judge and helper,  He would be their everything.

2 Sam. 7:23-24: "And who is like Your people, like Israel, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people, to make for Himself a name-- ..."For You have made Your people Israel Your very own people forever; and You, LORD, have become their God.”

Israel was the only nation God took to be His own. He constantly warned them about the other nations influencing their beliefs and worship, that to accept it would break their covenant with Him.

The whole Old Testament period focuses on idols and nature being worshiped as false gods. When God spoke of other gods the majority were idols, the people of the nation’s made these as their gods, these gods were not appointed over nations (as a council), and God condemns Israel for acknowledging, even mentioning these god’s names.

1 Chronicles 16:26: “For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens .”

In light of the statements of other gods, the credentials of God Himself are stated as, “ that the LORD Himself is God (Elohim) in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other ” (Deut.4:39). This is the main qualification for Monotheism, if God knows of no other Elohim in heaven and earth, then the Elohim applied by Heiser to be divine beings (in plural) must mean something else.

The point of part 1 on Psalm 82 is, if elohim can be applied to others than those in Heiser's list, then what he claims is absolutely applied to a ‘divine council’, is absolutely wrong


p.2b Michael Heiser’s paradigm shift on Psalm 82


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