Psalm 82: Part Three – The Judgment of the Watchers

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.

In my past two posts (1 and 2), I examined Psalm 82 to discover that it talks about God having a heavenly host of divine beings around his throne that counsel with him and carry out his judgments or decisions. They are called “holy ones” (Deut 33:2-3; Jude 14), heavenly host (1King 22:19) the divine council (Psa 82:1), and the Sons of God (Job 5:1; 15:15).

Then I showed how God had separated the seventy Gentile nations at Babel, placing them under the authority of fallen Sons of God, now also called Watchers (Dan 4:13, 17), who were supposed to rule with justice, but instead ruled unjustly and in darkness. This resulted in their punishment.

It is that punishment that I would like to now try to understand from the text.

Like Men You Shall Die

I believe the Watcher’s punishment is loss of both their immortality and their inheritance of nations at Babel. And I will argue that this was accomplished in the first century complex of events of Messiah’s death, resurrection, ascension and arrival of God’s kingdom. Let’s take another look at Psalm 82 to get a good reminder of the narrative.

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!

The first aspect of God’s judgment upon the gods of the nations is in verses 6 and 7. Apparently, their punishment is the loss of immortality, resulting in death like mortal humans. Though they were gods with divine immortality, they will now die like men.

The question is, what is this death? Is it literal or metaphorical? If it is literal, then the text indicates that the immortal Watchers would lose their immortality and die just like earthly princes. It seems to be a humiliation of the heavenly princes who would otherwise survive their earthly princes’ demise. But in this case, the gods are being stripped of their immortality and thus, their divinity. Death does not become divine beings. So death would be a most serious punishment for such a creature.

But what does this death consist of? Do they die and go to Hades? Do they simply cease to exist? It is at this point that the silence of the biblical text tempts us to speculate. But there is a place to find legitimate information that is better than mere speculation. Keep reading to see what that is…

There are texts that are outside the canon—though considered worthy by the canon—to answer the questions that have been raised.

The biblical source material of 1Enoch suggests some detail that may shed light on the ancient Judeo-Christian understanding of the fate of the Watchers. As I have proven in a booklet on the book of 1Enoch, the New Testament has drawn much from this pseudepigraphal text regarding the Watchers of the ancient world. I concluded in that booklet that 1Enoch does not have to be Scripture to be able to use it as a resource because the New Testament uses it as a source.

Jude paraphrases the storyline of 1Enoch and then quotes verse 1:9 to describe God’s coming judgment:

Jude 14–15
14 It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” [This is quoted from 1Enoch 1:9]

Jude 6-7 and 1Peter 3:18 draw from 1Enoch to describe the sin of the Watchers before the Flood and their punishment of being chained in Tartarus “until the judgment of the great day.”[1] One need not require acceptance of 1Enoch as Scriptural canon to affirm its story of the Watchers as having some truth. After all, the New Testament authors do. How much of 1Enoch is true is certainly up for debate. But it is a biblically legitimate resource for seeking some answers.

For a detailed argument of Evangelical Christian respect for the book of 1Enoch, see my booklet on 1Enoch.

The Judgment of Fire

1Enoch 10 describes the fate of the pre-Flood heavenly Watchers who defied God by fornicating with earthly women.  They are first bound beneath the rocks of the earth to await their judgment. And what is that judgment? Death. Just like the punishment explained for the post-Babel Watchers in Psalm 82:7. Then that “death judgment” is further unpacked as involving burning destruction. Here is the actual text:

1 Enoch 10:11-15
And to Michael God said, “Make known to Semyaza and the others who are with him, who fornicated with the women, that they will die together with them in all their defilement. 12And when they and all their children have battled with each other, and when they have seen the destruction of their beloved ones, bind them for seventy generations underneath the rocks of the ground until the day of their judgment and of their consummation, until the eternal judgment is concluded. 13In those days they will lead them into the bottom of the fire—and in torment—in the prison (where) they will be locked up forever. 14 And at the time when they will burn and die, those who collaborated with them will be bound together with them from henceforth unto the end of (all) generations. 15 And destroy all the souls of pleasure and the children of the Watchers, for they have done injustice to man.[2]

These pre-Flood Watchers who fornicated with human women are not the same as the post-Babel Watchers who were allotted the nations, but their judgment of “death” is the same: the loss of their immortality through death. I think it is likely that the death in Psalm 82 involves the same fire as in Enoch 10. And that fire is later described as the “furnace of fire.”

1 Enoch 54:6
 Then Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, and Phanuel themselves shall seize [the sinful Watchers] on that great day of judgment and cast them into the furnace (of fire) that is burning that day, so that the Lord of the Spirits may take vengeance on them.[3]

Whether the “furnace of fire” is literal or not, it certainly pictures God’s final judgment of destruction for those beings. This imagery of a fiery furnace of judgment is also used by Jesus in his parables when he describes the judgment of all sinners and law-breakers at the end of the age.

Matthew 13:41–42
41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (see also Matt 13:49-50)

Though the Matthean parable seems to be referring to human sinners, it is not too much of a stretch to conclude that law-breaking angels who cause sin will be included in that fiery judgment. Especially since 1Enoch describes a furnace of fire for the Watchers as well.

The book of Revelation describes a “lake of fire” where the beast, the false prophet, the devil, Death and Hades, and indeed, all unbelieving sinners will have their end (Rev 20:10, 15; 21:8). Is this lake of fire the same furnace of fire that Enoch and Jesus taught about? The similarities and connections are too strong to deny. They are both used to describe the punishment of sinful humans and Watchers in fire. And they both occur at the same time, the “end of the age,” the “day of judgment.’

Is it too speculative to posit that rebellious post-Babel Watchers over the nations would die the same death that involves the same judgment in the lake (or furnace) of fire as rebellious pre-Flood Watchers and other spiritual and human sinners? Perhaps, but it seems far more speculative to suggest otherwise.

Revelation 20:15; 21:8
15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire…8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Stoicheia: The Elemental Spirits

I believe there is another possible hint at the fiery destruction of the Watchers in 2Peter 3. The relevant passage reads,

2 Peter 3:10-12
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!

In this passage that refers to the judgment of the last days (2Pet 3:3), I want to focus on the word “heavenly bodies.” In Greek, that word is stoicheia. Though some believe stoicheia is a reference to astronomical bodies like the sun, moon and stars, others believe it is better translated as “elements,” such as the periodic table of the material universe. But these are both physical interpretations that reflect our modern scientific materialist bias.

There is another scholarly interpretation that argues for a spiritual interpretation of stoicheia. It is only used five other times in the New Testament. In three of those places, the context seems to refer to the “elementary principles” of the old covenant (Gal 4:3, 9; Heb 5:12). These have nothing to do with the physical periodic table of elements or astronomical bodies.

In the two other places stoicheia occurs (Col 2:8, 20), it is used in reference to the elementary principles of pagan worldviews. But it is here that there is some ambiguity. Some translations render stoicheia here as “elemental spirits,” because there is reason to believe the term is a spiritual one that refers to the bondage of the nations to the spiritual powers.[4] This would be consistent with the Deuteronomy 32 worldview of the Gentile nations under the authority of the Watchers.

If this interpretation of stoichea is applied to 2Peter 3:10-12, then what we see is a picture perfectly consistent with Psalm 82, 1 Enoch, Matthew and Revelation as described above. When the Day of the Lord comes, God will judge and burn up with fire those spiritual powers, the Watchers, who ruled unjustly over the nations along with their human equivalents.

My next post will explore the final verse of Psalm 82, the inheritance of the nations. What is it? When did it occur? And what does it mean that God judges the earth?” It may surprise you, it may not be what you thought.

To see how the rule of the fallen Watchers over the Gentile nations may have played out in history, read my novel series, Chronicles of the Nephilim. To see what the Watcher’s final destruction might have looked like, read my series Chronicles of the Apocalypse.

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.

 

FOOTNOTES

[1] Lest anyone misunderstand Jude’s reference to the location of the binding of the angels, Peter locates it right in Sheol, as Enoch did. He writes that God “did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness” (v. 4). The word for “hell” in this passage is tartaroo, not gehenna, the traditional designation for the English translation of hell. Tartaroo is a Greek word that refers to Tartarus, the deepest location in Sheol, where it was said in Greek lore that the gigantic Titans were chained.  Enoch however says this is where the fallen angels, the Watchers, were chained (1 En. 63:10-64:1).

[2]  James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 1 (New York;  London: Yale University Press, 1983), 18.

[3]  James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 1 (New York;  London: Yale University Press, 1983), 38.

[4] “We may consider the suggestion that stoicheia tou kosmou was Paul’s particular way of referring to “local presiding deities” or “national ‘gods’ ” who rule over territories and races. N. T. Wright has argued for this meaning in Colossians, understanding Paul to be engaged in a polemic against Judaism rather than some sort of Jewish-Hellenistic syncretism, and he sees the same meaning operative in Galatians (see Wright, 101–2, 115–16). Following and developing this line of interpretation we could understand ta stoicheia tou kosmou as a broad, inclusive term that embraced the whole host of spiritual beings known individually as principalities, powers, dominions and rulers, the equivalent to the angels or gods of the nations (see Principalities and Powers). In Galatians 4:8 Paul speaks of the Galatians as formerly enslaved to “those beings which by nature are no gods.” This analysis of the Galatian Gentiles’ former situation resonates with the Jewish notion that the gods of the nations are not really what they appear to be; they are but spiritual powers appointed as national guardians by Yahweh, ultimately subservient to him alone, but falsely regarded as “gods” by the nations.”

Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid, eds., Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 232.

 

2 comments on “Psalm 82: Part Three – The Judgment of the Watchers

  • Question: Does the new Blade Runner film? Hint at the Idea that The Giants of a bye gone era are being reborn into our time.. It seems there are so many hints at Giants being a part of the Blade Runner pardine .The cast mention the replicants as being SOULESS many times. Any truth to this . Jeff Scott

    Reply

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