Psalm 82: Part One – The Divine Council of the Gods

By Brian Godawa

I am going to post a series of five posts over the next month or so about Psalm 82. As I have been writing my novels, I realized that this is a key Scripture in dealing with the activity and fate of the Watchers over the nations. Since these Watchers are my main villains in my novel series, I need to lay out my Scriptural interpretation to justify why my narrative follows the course it does.

These posts are all excerpted from my newest booklet, Psalm 82: The Divine Council of the Gods, the Judgment of the Watchers and the Inheritance of the Nations. You can buy the booklet here.

Introduction: The Divine Council

One of the most intriguing storylines of the Bible is that of Christ’s victory over the powers. When I discovered it, it changed my life. It inspired me to write a series of twelve biblical novels that incarnate that story unlike anything done before (Chronicles of the Nephilim and Chronicles of the Apocalypse).

A Definition

But what exactly is this messianic cosmic battle and how does it affect us? It is sometimes named Christus Victor, and consists of the idea that mankind’s Fall in the Garden resulted in a sinfulness of humanity that was so entrenched against God, that it led to universal idolatry as embodied in the tower of Babel story (Gen 11). As a result of man’s incorrigible evil, God placed all of the nations and their lands under the authority of other spiritual powers, but kept one people and their land for his own: Israel. Those Gentile nations and their gods would be at war with the promised messianic seed of Israel. But in the fullness of time, Messiah would arrive, overcome those spiritual powers of the nations and take back rule of the earth in the kingdom of God.

Gods or Men?

Psalm 82 is a doorway into the Christus Victor narrative because it summarizes the three-act structure of that messianic story of allotment, judgment and inheritance. Here is the full text of the Psalm in all its simple and concise glory:

Psalm 82:1–8
1 God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:

2 “How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked? Selah

3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.

4 Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

6 I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;

7 nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”

8 Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for you shall inherit all the nations!

Much scholarly debate has occurred over the identity of these “gods” of the divine council. Are they human judges who merely represent divine justice or are they actual divine beings? I am convinced that they are Yahweh’s heavenly host of divine beings surrounding his throne, referred to with the technical term, “Sons of God.” Here’s why…

Gods, Not Men

First off, the Psalm itself uses the Hebrew word “Elohim” which is accurately translated as “gods.” As much as Christians have been conditioned to think that the Bible says there are no other gods that exist but Yahweh, this simply is not biblical. I have explained elsewhere, based on orthodox scholars smarter than me (see here and here and here), that the Hebrew word for “gods,” elohim, is not a metaphor, and it is not polytheistic. It is a reference to created yet divine beings that we sometimes imprecisely refer to as “angels.” They are biblically referred to as “holy ones” (Deut 33:2-3; Heb 2:2), “host of heaven” (1 King 22:19-23) or “Sons of God” (Job 1:6; 38:7).

Both the Old Testament and the New Testament refer to false gods as having demonic spiritual reality behind their earthly façade (Deut 32:17; Psa 95:5-6 LXX; Psa 106:37-38; 1 Cor 8:4-6; 10:18-20). It is not polytheistic or henotheistic to acknowledge this biblical reality. But it does open up a view of the world that includes supernatural agents other than Yahweh and “angels” who interact with humans in history.

Psalm 89 clarifies this “assembly of gods” as being divine, not human, because it is in the heavens, not on earth.

Psalm 89:5–7
5 Let the heavens praise your wonders, O Yahweh,
your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones!

6 For who in the skies can be compared to Yahweh?
Who among the gods is like Yahweh,

7 a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones,
and awesome above all who are around him?

In this text, we see that there is an assembly of gods/holy ones who surround Yahweh in the heavens. The text explicitly calls the assembly of Yahweh’s holy ones “gods.” But it uses the hypothetical question of incomparability with Yahweh, “who among the gods is like Yahweh?” The implied answer is none of them. They are gods, but not in the same sense as Yahweh is God. So, there you have it. The Bible itself saying that there are gods, but they are not the same kind of divinity as Yahweh. But they are called “gods.” Something that makes Evangelical Christians skittish, but something one must accept if one accepts the Evangelical principle of Sola Scriptura. If the Bible says it, it’s true, regardless of where our pre-conceived biases may lean.

But there are some who argue that these “gods” are actually human judges who are called “gods” symbolically because they represent God in their identities as judges using God’s Law as their basis. They argue that Moses was told that he would “be as God” to both Pharaoh and Aaron because he spoke on God’s behalf. (Ex 7:1; 4:16).

This cannot possibly be the case. First, there is a BIG difference between being called “gods” (elohim) and “being as God.” Secondly, these elohim are in God’s divine council, which elsewhere is described as a council of spiritual divine beings (Job 1, 2; 1 King 22:19-23). Secondly, this assembly is “in the skies” not on earth where human judges would be. But don’t take my word for it. Ask Jesus.

What Would Jesus Exegete?

Suffice it to say for this article, that if the Bible says it, I believe it and that settles it. I am fine with using the term “divine beings” if you want to feel more comfortable, but the bottom line is that the Sons of God who surround Yahweh’s heavenly throne as his host are divine.

Jesus, God in the flesh, used this very Psalm 82 to justify his claims to deity in John 10:31-39. So if Jesus himself exegetes Psalm 82 gods to be divine, then we need to agree with the author and finisher of our faith.

John 10:34–36
34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

Jesus did not claim to be a representative human judge like other Israelite judges as some propose. That would have been a denial of his deity. Jesus was claiming to be divine. He was defining Sons of God as actual divine beings, not mere human judges. And his point in reciting Psalm 82 was to prove to them that his own claim to divinity was not blasphemous because they already accepted other beings has having divinity.

Job

This heavenly courtroom scene of legal judgment is not an anomaly. It shows up in many places throughout the Bible that indicate a clear context of spiritual beings who engage in council with Yahweh and carry out his judgments. Job 1:6 and 2:1 describe an apparently regular occurrence of “Sons of God” (bene ha Elohim in Hebrew) presenting themselves before Yahweh, along with the satan as legal adversary in that heavenly court.

Satan operates as a spiritual prosecutor seeking indictment of righteous Job by accusing him of self-interest in serving God. We all know the rest of the story. But the important thing for this argument is that the Sons of God are defined in Job as being present at the creation of the heavens and earth, indeed as shouting for joy (Job 38:7). Those are not human judges that existed before man was created, those are God’s heavenly host of divine beings.

There are plenty of other passages that describe the divine council around Yahweh of these heavenly beings who counsel with him and carry out his decisions with duly delegated legal responsibility (1 King 22:19-23; Deut 32:43 LXX; Zech 2:13-3:7; Isa 6:8ff). You can read more about this theological paradigm in my book When Giants Were Upon the Earth. And you can read a story of how this divine council of Sons of God plays out in history in my novel series Chronicles of the Nephilim and Chronicles of the Apocalypse.

In my next post, I will explain the allotment of the nations at Babel and how it begins this storyline of the rise and fall of the Watchers and the inheritance of the nations.

These posts are all excerpted from my newest booklet, Psalm 82: The Divine Council of the Gods, the Judgment of the Watchers and the Inheritance of the Nations. You can buy the booklet here.

 

7 comments on “Psalm 82: Part One – The Divine Council of the Gods

  • Great job Brian! I just read the Unseen Realm and you are right on. I don’t know if you remember me but I went to NIU with you. My name is Bernie Ray

    Reply
    • Hi, Bernie! Looooooong time, no see. Great to hear from you again. Thanks for the words of encouragement. I hope all is well with you.

      Reply
  • Brian I have read Dr. Heiser’s books and he make a good as to what the Palmist meant when using the term “gods” . I have studied a number of other theologians thoughts on Psalm 82. I think you are correct in asking the question as to what are these gods. Are they men or higher beings? The problem with theologians is that three different theologians can read the Psalm and you would most likely get 3 different answers. I usually shy away from books like yours but as a Biblical scholar, my curiosity has seemed to get the best of me in this case so I am wanting to see where you are going with your books. I believe checking them out could have me taking a step back and taking a fresh look at Psalm 82.

    Reply
  • Samii Taylor Yakovetic says:

    Brian, you never disappoint, but continually confirm my “revelations” from scripture. I saw this Psalm in a whole new light when I began researching the Watchers. Their story has always been there, we have just not always had eyes to see and ears to hear. I look forward to future installments through your eyes.

    Reply

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