Psalm 82: Part Two – The Allotment of the Nations to 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 part one, I defined the biblical motif of Christus Victor as Christ’s victory over the spiritual powers who ruled sinful mankind. I defined the divine council biblically as an assembly of gods, called “Sons of God,” “holy ones,” and “heavenly host” who surround Yahweh, engage in legal counsel with him and carry out his decisions.

But the next question is, how did man come under the rule and authority of these gods, these divine beings from Yahweh’s heavenly host?

I am using Psalm 82 as a portal into this fascinating storyline of the Bible. So let’s take a look again at what it says.

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.”

So we see that for some reason, God has given some of these members from his divine council a responsibility to rule over mankind on earth. Where did this come from? Why would God do such a thing? Isn’t God alone the judge of all the earth? And why is he blaming failure to rule on divine beings? Does that make them fallen angels?

To answer those questions, we need to go back to the beginning. Not Genesis 1, but rather, the beginning of the allotment of the nations to the gods. Back to the Tower of Babel. But rather than going straight to Genesis 11, that tells the story of Babel, we need to read what Moses reveals about Babel in Deuteronomy 32…

The Deuteronomy 32 Worldview

Deuteronomy is famously known as the Song of Moses. In it, Moses sings a song of the story of Israel and how she had come to be God’s chosen nation. He begins by glorifying God and then telling them to “remember the days of old” (v. 7).

Deuteronomy 32:8–9
8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
when he divided mankind,

he fixed the borders of the peoples
according to the number of the sons of God.

9 But the Lord’s portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted heritage.

The context of this passage is the Tower of Babel incident in Genesis 11. It’s the only “division of mankind” in the text of Genesis. Rebellious humanity sought divinity in unified rebellion, so God separated them by confusing their tongues, which divided them into the seventy nations described in Genesis 10. The incident at Babel led to the creation of nations and their ownership of those territorial lands as the “inheritance” of those peoples. Nations are essentially God’s creation to protect mankind from destroying itself through idolatrous one world global unity in wickedness.

The apostle Paul referred to this allotment of national boundaries in Acts 17:26 when he said that God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling places.” That one man from whom every nation was made is not Adam, but Noah, because the allotment of nations occurred at Babel, not the Garden.

But that’s not all. Deuteronomy 32 says that the borders of those nations were fixed “according to the number of the Sons of God.” That is, the Sons of God are in authority over these nations, both geographically, and spiritually. This allotment is in contrast with Yahweh’s allotment of Jacob. The seventy nations were allotted to the Sons of God, in the same way that Yahweh allotted to himself the nation of Israel, described as (the people of) “Jacob.”

And allotment is used synonymously in the passage with inheritance and heritage. In fact, the inheritance or allotment of land is one of the major themes of the Old Testament. God promises the Land of Canaan as an inheritance to the twelve tribes of Israel.

Joshua 11:23
23 So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord had spoken to Moses. And Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal allotments.

Allotment and inheritance are covenantal words related to ownership of land.

Since Genesis 10 describes seventy nations, the number of the Sons of God here must be seventy to match those nations. Or maybe seventy groups of Sons of God. But who are these seventy chosen divine beings? They can’t be the myriad of “ten thousands” of heavenly host usually described as being around Yahweh’s throne (Deut 33:2-3; Dan 7:10). They are only seventy. Yet Psalm 82 clearly states that they are part of that divine council. Then, who are they?

Are the Sons of God in Psalm 82 Already Evil?

Psalm 82:3-4 describes these gods as being given responsibility to administer justice over the peoples. The commands that God gives them about not showing partiality, giving justice and rescuing the weak, are all expressions found in the Law and the Prophets (Deut 1:16-17; Jer 22:3; Prov 24:11). The gods of the nations were supposed to rule according to God’s justice.

Another Psalm reflects the same injustice of the ruling gods and their guilt before God’s Word.

Psalm 58:1–2
1 Do you indeed decree what is right, you gods? Do you judge the children of man uprightly? 2 No, in your hearts you devise wrongs; your hands deal out violence on earth.

A shallow reading of both Psalm 82 and 58, gives one the impression that these “gods” are good spiritual powers that are entrusted with authority, since God would not impose bad rulers, would he? And then it appears that they fail to rule justly and end in darkness, which leads to their punishment in 82:7 of “dying like men,” or “falling” like any other earthly ruler. So they sound like good divine beings gone bad.

But I think this is not an accurate understanding. I will argue that the Sons of God who inherited the nations at Babel (Deut 32:8-9) and ruled those nations in antiquity (Psa 82:2-3) were already fallen and evil when they received their allotment. Here’s why…

First, the dominant paradigm of the Old Testament is the single nation of Israel as set apart by Yahweh to be a light to the darkened world of the Gentile nations, considered as a whole to be against God (Isa 49:6; Psa 2:1-2). All the nations worshipped gods that were not Yahweh. And even by the time of the New Testament, the Jews considered the word Gentile to be synonymous with sinner (Matt 5:47; 10:5; 18:17; Act 4:25-26). Paul writes in Galatians 2:15, “We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners.” So the biblical understanding of nations in Genesis 11, Deut 32 and Psalm 82 are Gentile nations who are generically idolaters.

Second, let us not forget that all the nations created at Babel consisted of people in rebellion against Yahweh at the very start. The confusion of tongues and division of mankind was a judgment for sinful man who had sought deity with their pagan temples to the gods. So the context of Deut 32:8-10 is division as judgment, not as neutral separation.

Third, earlier in Deuteronomy, Moses clarifies God’s command not to worship the heavenly host, defined interchangeably as both gods and as astronomical bodies (sun, moon and stars). But he states that he allotted those gods to all the other peoples.

Deuteronomy 4:19–20
19 And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that Yahweh your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. 20 But Yahweh has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day.

This allotment of the gods/host of heaven to the peoples is reminiscent of the description of God “giving over” pagans to their idolatrous worship of creation in Romans 1:24-28. The contrast of God setting apart Israel “to be a people for his own inheritance” in Deut 4:20 after the allotment of the heavenly host in verse 19 is a reiteration of the allotment contrast in Deuteronomy 32. These verses refer to the same allotted inheritance.

In Deuteronomy 4 it’s clear that Yahweh did not give the nations to be ruled by righteous heavenly host who then fell through accepting undeserved worship. Rather, Yahweh gave the host of heaven to all the peoples to worship as their gods because they were already idolaters. He was “giving them over” to their idolatry and giving the false gods their own people to rule over.

On first glance the phrase “to all the peoples under the whole heaven,” would appear to mean everyone, including Israelites. But the context contradicts that inclusion when Moses says, “But Yahweh has taken you (Israel) to be a people of his own inheritance.” “All the peoples under the whole heaven” is contrasted with Israel, not included with her.

Another passage in Deuteronomy reinforces this notion of sinful nations allotted to fallen gods. In Deuteronomy 29:26 Moses tells the Israelites that when they entered the land of Canaan, they “went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods whom they had not known and whom he had not allotted to them.” So God allotted the fallen gods of the heavenly host to the Gentile nations of Canaan.

So, why does Psalm 82 read as if these Sons of God were righteous beings to start? Well, I don’t think it does. I think it is the same principle involved with the giving of the Law of God to man. God did not give the Law to a righteous people, hoping they would keep it and then they failed to achieve that righteous obedience. Rather, God gave the law to an already sinful people to show them their sin and thus their need for atonement (Rom 5:12-14). In the same way, God gives those fallen gods their fallen humanity to rule over in their fallenness. And then the Law exposes the unrighteousness of their rule.

Though I am not dogmatic about the Sons of God being already fallen when they were allotted the nations, I would argue that if they were originally righteous, they must have fallen very quickly, maybe within a few years of Babel. The evidence of the earliest civilization after the Flood that we know of, ancient Sumer, already contains a highly developed sophisticated religion of idolatrous polytheism.

The earliest cultures referred to in the Bible after the Flood are all idolatrous and polytheistic to the core when we meet them: the Canaanites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites, from which God called Abraham (Gen 12). We simply have no historical or biblical evidence of a period of righteous spiritual rulers or righteous worship of Yahweh after Babel. If there was, it didn’t last long enough to merit historical significance or inclusion in the Scriptures.

It makes more sense that Babel proved mankind’s incorrigible depravity. Even after the Flood, they would not worship Yahweh. So Yahweh gave them over to the false gods they already worshipped. Since morality is inherently part of the creation, and is not relative or subjective, then even fallen angels who are awarded territory are still accountable for their behavior. The Sons of God could not claim they were just following orders or performing God’s will at their spiritual Nuremburg Trial to come (Rom 9:19-23).

The Sons of God are Also Called Watchers

One last aspect of the divine council is necessary to understand the big picture in Scripture: the Sons of God who have been allotted the Gentile nations are also called “Watchers,” for the very simple reason that they were given the responsibility of watching over the nations they were given.

In Daniel 10:4-7 the prophet receives a vision at the Tigris river that includes a “man” described in terms reserved in Scripture for divine beings (see Ezekiel 1). Some scholars even argue it could be a pre-incarnate Jesus Christ.

That divine holy one then describes a scenario of heavenly “princes” at war.

Daniel 10:13; 20-21
13 The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia…20 Then he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? But now I will return to fight against the prince of Persia; and when I go out, behold, the prince of Greece will come. 21 But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth: there is none who contends by my side against these except Michael, your prince.

In this passage, we see that the notion of national principalities and powers ruling over earthly kingdoms continued even past the exile into Daniel’s period. The previous prophecies of Daniel 2 and 7-8 had predicted Persia and Greece to be at war, as one kingdom was replaced by the other. But these princes in Daniel 10 are not the earthly rulers, but rather their heavenly counterparts. There is a principality of Persia, a principality of Greece, and Michael the archangel is considered the principality of Israel.

The biblical picture is that the heavenly and earthly rulers were tied together in unity, so that when there was a war on earth, there was a corresponding war in heaven. So much so, that the fates of both heaven and earth were linked. Here are a couple examples from Scripture that reinforce this theme:

In the time of the Judges when Israel fought the pagan kings of Canaan, the battle with Sisera at the river of Megiddo was described within the same paragraph from both perspectives of heaven and earth.

Judges 5:19–20
19The kings came, they fought; then fought the kings of Canaan, at Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo; they got no spoils of silver. 20 From heaven the stars fought, from their courses they fought against Sisera.

identical language is used to link the fighting of the kings on earth with the fighting of heavenly stars. Again, remember, the heavenly host were often considered interchangeably with the heavenly rulers over the earth. When the kings on earth were at war, so their allotted gods were at war.

Another strong example of this equivalence between heavenly and earthly rulers is found in the predicted judgment of them in Isaiah who describes a synchronized judgment of earthly kings and their heavenly rulers:

Isaiah 24:21–23
21 On that day the Lord will punish
the host of heaven, in heaven,
and the kings of the earth, on the earth.

But where do I get the idea that these heavenly rulers are called Watchers? Well, jumping back to Daniel 4, he has another vision where he tells us Watchers are holy ones that come down from heaven.

Daniel 4:13, 17
13 “I saw in the visions of my head as I lay in bed, and behold, a watcher, a holy one, came down from heaven17 The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’

The Watchers are called “holy ones” (Deut 33:2-3; Jude 14), which we saw in a previous post, is another name for the heavenly host (1King 22:19) of the divine council (Psa 82:1), which are also called the Sons of God (Job 5:1; 15:15). So all these terms refer to the same divine beings. Though we do not see the term Watchers used specifically in Daniel 10, we see those ruling principalities of the nations that are also synonymous with the ruling gods/Sons of God/heavenly host of Psalm 82 and Deut 32.

I explain the ramifications of this in detail in my book When Giants Were Upon the Earth. And you can read a story of how the fallen Watchers might have ruled in the heavenly realm as they warred with Israel over the land in my novel series Chronicles of the Nephilim.

In my next post, I will try to explain the judgment of the Watchers and when it most likely occurred in history past. That’s right. It’s not something in our future. I believe it has already happened.

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.

 

 

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