p.2b Michael Heiser’s paradigm shift
Now that we understand some of the historical background and how the term elohim is used, we can further look at who is being judged as the Elohim in Ps.82.
First, we read about how Heiser changed his mind about Psalm 82. Michael Heiser in his 'Unseen Realm' book writes, “ My friend handed me his Hebrew Bible, open to Psalm 82. He said simply, “Here, read that … look at it closely.”
The first verse hit me like a bolt of lightning: God [elohim] stands in the divine assembly; he administers judgment in the midst of the gods [elohim]. …How was it possible that I’d never seen that before? I’d read through the Bible seven or eight times. I’d been to seminary. I’d studied Hebrew. I’d taught for five years at a Bible college. What did this do to my theology?
“I’d always thought—and had taught my students—that any other “gods” referenced in the Bible were just idols. As easy and comfortable as that explanation was, it didn’t make sense here. The God of Israel isn’t part of a group of idols. But I couldn’t picture him running around with other real gods, either.”
Consider how he frames this…when you start with a wrong premise of course it will not make sense and you will be led further away from the truth.
What Hebrew Bible contains this or remotely frames it the way Heiser is?
Jewish Bible According to the Masoretic text Sinai Publishing Tel Aviv, Israel 1971: refers to earthly assemblies, it says in 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 Defend the poor and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and needy. 4 Deliver the poor and needy; rid them out of the hand of the wicked. 5 They do not know, neither will they understand; They walk on in darkness; All the foundations of the earth are out of course. 6 I said, "Ye are mighty ones And all of you are children of the Most High .7 But ye 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 Hebrew Bible (Masoretic) English the JPS 1917 Edition
A Psalm of Asaph.
As traditionally held, the Bible’s focus is on God’s earthly assembly not a heavenly assembly of Gods. We do not read about 70 sons of God or elohim in the Hebrew Bible as Heiser identifies them as.
According to Heiser this Psalm cannot be about Israel (men) but a council of gods that YHWH presides over. That is because the Psalmist reflects Gods concern with Israel’s rulers would make his theory null and void. But a practical reading of this shows God judges them because of their neglect, they judge the people unjustly, show partiality to the wicked? Do not Defend the poor and fatherless; Or Do justice to the afflicted and needy. Nor Deliver the poor and needy; and Free them from the hand of the wicked.
Which would be a daily involvement of judgment to change this occurring among the people.
The Psalmist Asaph probably composed this in the time when Jehoshaphat set to reform the courts of justice. In 2 Chron. 19:5-7, he uses nearly the same words as these first verses in the Psalm. 2 Chron. 19:5-7 “ he set judges in the land throughout all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city, and said to the judges, "Take heed to what you are doing, for you do not judge for man but for the LORD, who is with you in the judgment. Now therefore, let the fear of the LORD be upon you; take care and do it, for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, no partiality, nor taking of bribes."
The psalmist is metaphorically portraying the human rulers of Israel, specifically the Davidic kings, (judges are spoken of as those who administer justice on the king's behalf as in 2 Chron. 19:5-7).
The psalmist has God who gave them their authority and commission, calling these `gods' to account for their failure to properly fulfill their divine duties. They were commissioned to maintain justice in human society.
Those being addressed are portrayed as having no knowledge or understanding, so they fail to rule on His behalf. The result would be the foundations of human society, righteousness and justice, being overthrown (v. 5)
The Hebrew is more accurately translated, " God standeth in the assembly of God." He (God) is in the midst of an assembly of rulers and judges He appointed to do a task. This is not taking place in heaven, but on earth. The assembly is a congregation of the people of Israel. They were chosen from Israel and were appointed as magistrates to exercise their authority over men’s affairs, and to judged them. Throughout the Old Testament God instructs Israel to put away those who do evil among you. To be just, and not pervert justice
The judges appointed over Israel in the Old Testament
The Psalmist Asaph did not write about God warning the gods, but to human judges in the congregation of Israel facing a judgment by God Himself. They are to judge righteously and he is judging them for their failure to do so
Heiser commmenting on this Psalm states, “The explanations I found from evangelical scholars were disturbingly weak, mostly maintaining that the gods (elohim) in the verse were just men—Jewish elders—or that the verse was about the Trinity. I knew neither of those could be correct.”
For one to say they were the Trinity as an explanation would show they do not understand Heiser's concept. But to deny they are men, being so absolute in it, is not proven by Heiser at all, in fact the Bible proves otherwise. And this is what we're going to look at carefully.
This appointment of judges in Israel begins Deut. 1:15-17 “So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and knowledgeable men, and made them heads over you, leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties, leaders of tens, and officers for your tribes. 'Hear the cases between your brethren, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the stranger who is with him . You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small as well as the great; you shall not be afraid in any man's presence, for the judgment is God's. The case that is too hard for you, bring to me, and I will hear it.' (Again it is the same concept spoken of in Ps.82)
God standeth in the assembly of gods he judgeth among the judges (elohim). Means that God is among His own people; and presides in those courts that he has established for them to distribute justice. Their failure: They were judging unjustly and siding with the wicked.
In Scripture we do not read of the angels, or some ‘divine council’ told to just justly and not accept the wicked. We do hear of these instructions over and over again, from God to men.
Deut. 25:1-2 "If there is a dispute between men, and they come to court, that the judges may judge them, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked”
Lev. 19:15 “shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor , nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor.” (Notice the same words in Ps.82; coincidence?)
They are instructed Deut. 16:18-19 “And they shall judge the people with just judgment. You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality.” (same concepts found in Ps.82)
The kings of Israel, the priests the magistrates were to rule over and govern for God. Deut. 33:21 “He provided the first part for himself, Because a lawgiver's portion was reserved there. He came with the heads of the people; He administered the justice of the LORD, And His judgments with Israel."
1 Chron. 17:10 in time of judges 1 Chron. 23:3-4 “Of these, twenty-four thousand (Levites) were to look after the work of the house of the LORD, six thousand were officers and judge.”
A judge who judges according to the Gods Law would render the same decision as God, therefore he is his representative to the people.
2 Chron.19:5-7 “Then he set judges in the land throughout all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city, and said to the judges, "Take heed to what you are doing, for you do not judge for man but for the LORD, who is with you in the judgment . Now therefore, let the fear of the LORD be upon you; take care and do it, for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, no partiality, nor taking of bribes."
Notice he says, they judge for the Lord, they are his representatives on earth (the same words and concepts are used in Ps.82. Not to judge unjustly, or show partiality, to do justly to the people. Why are they to act this way? Because of whom they represent to the people.
God is described as the perfect judge. Deut. 32:4 “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.’
The judges continued to be appointed through Israel’s history. 1 Sam. 8:1 “when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel.”
2 Sam. 7:10-11 “nor shall the sons of wickedness oppress them anymore, as previously, since the time that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel.”
2 Sam. 23:3-4 echoes the requirement 'He who rules over men must be just, Ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be like the light of the morning when the sun rises, A morning without clouds, Like the tender grass springing out of the earth, By clear shining after rain.'
What we notice in reading the accounts from among Israel, is that those appointed as judges, and magistrates over the people, the same language is applied to them that is in Psalm 82. This is not a Coincidence.
The setting of judges over the people was found in all ancient cultures, God used government to bring order to the nations after Noah. This was especially applied for his people that were under Him in their theocracy.
Elsewhere in the Psalms, Ps.2:10-11 “ Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear.”
Judg. 2:16-18 “Nevertheless, t he LORD raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them . Yet they would not listen to their judges, but they played the harlot with other gods, and bowed down to them. They turned quickly from the way in which their fathers walked, in obeying the commandments of the LORD; they did not do so. 18 And when the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge ”
Notice what they are to do. These are appointed men over the tribes of Israel to rule for God/to sit in the place of God and judge righteously.
Ezra 7:25-26 “And you, Ezra, according to your God-given wisdom, set magistrates and judges who may judge all the people who are in the region beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your God ; and teach those who do not know them.”
Now let’s look at Ps 82:1-2 “ God stands in the congregation of the mighty; He judges among the gods. How long will you judge unjustly, And show partiality to the wicked?
If you read the Old Testament, nearly all the Scriptures are all about the judges on the earth, the topic is not about being in heaven, nor is it about heavenly beings.
Another example Ps. 58:1-2: "Do you indeed speak righteousness, O gods? Do you judge uprightly, O sons of men? No, in heart you work unrighteousness; on earth you weigh out the violence of your hands." NASNotice God says, “judge uprightly, O [sons of men]! It doesn’t get any clearer than this.
We continue Ps. 82:2-4 “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.”
This is god telling them to stop Judging unjustly, stop showing partiality, but defend the poor, do justice to the afflicted and needy, deliver them from the wicked. He is giving them a chance to repent to do what is right. Is that what we see with these so called corrupt Elohim over the nations? Of course not!
These instructions are mentioned all throughout the Old Testament. All of these commands are not the duties of heavenly divine (gods) beings to act with men but of those on earth, who are kings, priests, elders and (magistrates) and judges. There are numerous passages that speak these divine duties given to men appointed on Gods behalf. God instructs His kings, priests and judges of Israel on earth to abide by these, this is not said to creatures in heaven who have no position to enforce these commands with the people on earth.There is no Scripture that speaks about any reference to any type of heavenly magistrates to rule over the people, unless it is inserted into one’s theological agenda.
Now let’s look at these points separately
God says in Ex 23:7 “For I will not justify the wicked.” The same words and instructions Heiser claims are given to a council (which is not found in Scripture) is applied and given to mankind.
Ex 23:23 “you shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice. You shall not show partiality to a poor man in his dispute.”
Deut. 1:17 “You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small as well as the great; you shall not be afraid in any man's presence, for the judgment is God's.”
Deut. 16:18-19 “ ou shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality”
Lev. 19:15 “You shall not be partial to the poor.”
These concepts are repeated over and over again for the people to live by, especially for the judges to administer justice. They were to reflect Gods character, Deut. 10:17-18, God who is God of gods, “ who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing.”
Ps. 68:5 God is ‘A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows.”
Are the gods of this so called divine council on the earth to do this? How do they judge all of mankind individually and render justice among men? Where are the examples of this in Scripture.
Deut. 16:19 “You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe.”
Ex 23:2-3 “ nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice. You shall not show partiality to a poor man in his dispute.”
To the people Lev 19:15 'You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor , nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor.
Deut.24:17 "You shall not pervert justice due the stranger or the fatherless”
Deut. 27:19 “Cursed is the one who perverts the justice due the stranger, the fatherless, and widow.”
2 Sam. 23:3 “He who rules over men must be just, Ruling in the fear of God.”
Ps 10:18 God hears “ to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, That the man of the earth may oppress no more.”
Defend the poor and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and needy.
Ex 18:21-22 “Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge.”
God made provisions for them to administer judgment and justice to the people and made it clear He was with them their in their righteous judgment.
Ps. 10:17-18 “You will cause Your ear to hear, To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, That the man of the earth may oppress no more.” (Notice the same words and concepts spoken to the people of Israel that are found in Ps.82, (this tooalso applied to the judges)
Ps. 37:30-31 “the mouth of the righteous speaks wisdom, And his tongue talks of justice. The law of his God is in his heart”
Ps. 72:22 “He will judge Your people with righteousness, And Your poor with justice.” V.74 He will bring justice to the poor of the people; He will save the children of the needy, And will break in pieces the oppressor.”
Ps 146:9 “the LORD watches over the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow; But the way of the wicked He turns upside down.”
Psalms and Proverbs probably have more said about the wicked, than any other book in the Bible.
Prov. 29:27 7 “An unjust man is an abomination to the righteous, And he who is upright in the way is an abomination to the wicked.”
Ex 23:7-8 “I will not justify the wicked. And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the discerning and perverts the words of the righteous.”
Ps 10:2“The wicked in his pride persecutes the poor.”
King David writes, Ps 26:5 “I have hated the assembly of evildoers, And will not sit with the wicked.”
It is later Jeremiah is called to rebuke the people. Jer. 5:2 “among My people are found wicked men. v. 28 “they do not p, thatlead the cause, The cause of the fatherless”
Zeph. 3:4-5 “Her priests have polluted the sanctuary, They have done violence to the law. The LORD is righteous in her midst He will do no unrighteousness. Every morning He brings His justice to light; He never fails, But the unjust knows no shame.”
All of this has been spoken by God about and against those men who represent him; because Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne; Ps 89:14
Deliver or rescue
Prov. 31:4-9 - “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge righteously; defend the rights of the poor and needy. "
2 Chron.19:7 to the judges “ Now therefore, let the fear of the LORD be upon you; take care and do it, for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, no partiality, nor taking of bribes."
This is God asking them to do what is right.
In Ex 21:6; 22:8-9, 28, the same word in the plural is applied to magistrates, and is accurately translated judges, for it relates to the law that they were to uphold. I have shown the very words and concepts of Ps.82, what Heiser says is not applied to humans.
Heiser used this Psalm in Gn.1:26 as Yahweh is among the elohim, stating “ His divine family is his divine administration. The elohim serve him to carry out his decrees.” This error continues in his application elsewhere, by his ignoring the human legislators appointed by God who were the representatives of his divine justice to Israel. For his whole focus is on a wrong application of elohim. They were God’s representatives they were to judged the people fairly, so it would be as if God would be judging among them. Throughout the Scripture we see this said of the judges over Israel, not of any so - called Elohim sons of God - A council in heaven that Heiser speaks of. We see angels being sent from heaven to administer Gods commands.
1 Sam. 8:1-4 Samuel when old made his sons judges over Israel. V. 3 “ But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice.” Exactly what is said why God judges in Ps. 82.
Heiser gives the impression that the term elohim is never applicable to humans, but this is FALSE. As we have already seen he eliminated the crucial application of Elohim used for idols. Most importantly the New Testament determines its meaning by how we find it used by Jesus. If they can never be human, one would have to reject what Jesus said to the men who were leaders found in Jn.10. For we see Jesus specifically applying it to humans. That means what? That they CAN be human, which Heiser utterly rejects, by his disagreeing with Jesus.
In fact Jesus is speaking to the Jews who rejected him as their Messiah. Is he calling them divine beings as the opposers, enemies of God? No! That does not fit well with Heiser's Elohim account in Gn.1:26. are all the Jews 'divine' sons? No. are they the Elohim that ruled over the nations. The term ‘gods’ is not only used against idols but used against those who did not believe Jesus’ words, or whom he claimed to be; the Son of God as their creator.