God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment.
That was the Bible chapter that started the journey for author and scholar, Michael Heiser. He describes in his book that he had come from a traditional Evangelical background, so the notion of there being other “gods” beside Yahweh was anathema. Monotheism means there is only one God, right?
But as he sought to understand what it all meant, it opened up a whole new world of theological messaging that reveals the supernatural worldview of the Bible.
And that is what this book did for me. I dedicated my bestselling Biblical Fantasy series first novel, Noah Primeval to Michael Heiser because this theological messaging helped open my eyes to my own modern Christian ignorance of the ancient Near Eastern background of the Bible. Like Elisha’s servant opening his eyes to see the myriad of heavenly host surrounding the valley, so I now saw God’s heavenly host as part of a storyline of redemption that traditional Evangelicalism has missed or misunderstood because of its obsession with modern categories and hermeneutics when interpreting the Bible. (Full disclosure: I now know Michael Heiser personally after reading an early draft of the book)
Heiser lays out a Biblically strong argument that can be read and understood by laity. What is so cool is that it is not just an argument, it is a story. He is clear, concise, and very readable without falling into that trap of abstraction and dry prose that many scholars fall into.
But make no mistake, Heiser is a scholar. His emphasis is in the fields of Biblical Studies and the Ancient Near East. He is published widely in scholarly journals and even has online courses in Hebrew, Greek, Ugaritic (the language of ancient Canaan) Akkadian, Egyptian and Aramaic. This scholarly dude has academic bona fides and he cannot be dismissed. Which is why I think this book will be a game-changer in Evangelical theology. Read it, and you’ll be on the crest of an exciting wave of fresh understanding of the Scriptures.
Heiser avoids both extremes of conservative hyper-literalism and liberal critical demythologizing. He seeks to interpret the text within its ancient Near Eastern context rather than the modern one, which is where both conservative and liberal scholars fail.
Here are just a few of the amazing discoveries you will encounter when reading the book…
The Divine Council
For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord? Who among the gods is like the Lord, a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around him?
God is surrounded by a myriad of heavenly host who are called by many names, like, “gods, “Sons of God,” “Holy Ones,” and “divine council.” They are not merely “angels” floating around his throne, they are divine beings. Yes, divinity in the Bible is not the exclusive prerogative of Yahweh, and it isn’t the same thing as Mormons think either. And these heavenly host have more to do than merely singing “glory” and shining up the place with their bronze-like brightness. They counsel with God (Job 1, 2) and perform tasks appointed by God (1Kings 22), they mediate the Law of God to man (Galatians 3:19 ), perform as witnesses to God’s covenants and curses (Deut 33:1-4; Zech 2-3), and engage in heavenly wars (Daniel 10). There is so much more to these divine beings than meets the casual Bible reader’s eye.
Sons of God and the Nephilim
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.
Okay, this is where a lot of popular Bible teaching gets goofy. But not Heiser. He deftly proves that the Sons of God were not human, but supernatural divine beings from God’s heavenly host, who fell to earth in rebellion and produced diabolical progeny of giants called Nephilim. Yes, giants, NOT merely human “fallen ones.”
This is not some Ancient Aliens mythology, nor is it the sensationalist version that many Christian Nephilim Nuts are teaching. There is a reason for it all, and it has to do with the war between the Seed of the Serpent and the messianic Seed of Eve (Gen. 3:15). And it comes into play many other times in the Old Testament. Many western readers miss it because of our modernist cultural prejudice.
The Divine Allotment
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. But the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.
At the Tower of Babel, God “gave over” the godless to their idols (Romans 1). he placed them under the authority of fallen Sons of God. They are allotted as an inheritance. Each pagan nation is ruled over by these territorial “principalities and powers” who own the deeds to their lands (Daniel 10; Col 2:15; Eph. 6:12). It’s like these fallen gods of the nations are linked to their earthly counterparts of authority, so that whatever happens on earth happens in heaven (Matt 6:10; Dan 10).
When Messiah came, he disinherited the gods and took all the “land deeds” to the nations back, drawing people into the Kingdom of God from every tribe and nation.
Return of the Giants
And Joshua came at that time and cut off the Anakim [giants] from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua devoted them to destruction with their cities. There was none of the Anakim [giants] left in the land of the people of Israel.
So, those giants of Genesis 6 were not a myth or a strange anomaly. They were part of the war of the Seed of the Serpent with the Seed of Eve. And Joshua’s Holy Wars now make more sense because the Anakim giants in the land of Israel (as well as other giant clans) came from the original Nephilim giants of Genesis 6 (Numbers 13:32-33). There is more going on here than merely strange beings showing up arbitrarily in the Bible. And by the way, it says Joshua actually left some in the land of Philistia, you know, that place from whence came the most famous giant of all, Goliath, whom the Messiah King David would slay, along with the last of the Rephaim giant warriors in the land. But there is so much more to it than that. More giants, more Nephilim. We’ve just missed them because we didn’t read the text closely enough, or in it’s original context.
The New Sons of God
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
Christians are “in Christ,” and as such, we have been legally adopted as sons of God, to be one day historically glorified or transformed to be like Christ, the Unique Son of God (1John 3:2). And we will inherit the earth, that which the fallen Sons of God had lost through their failure to rule (Psalm 82). Christ now inherits all the earth, and we inherit with Him and in Him — in place of those original Sons of God.
So Much More
Wow, and believe me, that is only the tip of the ziggurat of all the amazing spiritual truths and theological storyline that Heiser uncovers in Scripture. This Divine Council worldview finally makes sense of so many of the bizarre passages in the Bible that used to seem like strange oddities we would never understand, relics of an ancient world. The Unseen Realm makes the storyline of God’s family inheritance and victory over evil come alive like nothing I’ve read before.
The Unseen Realm is not your mamby pamby “Christian Living” book with six steps to success and how to live a happy talk Christian walk. It’s not a Pietistic book of formulas to manufacture subjective spiritual experiences. It’s not an alternative Christian conspiracy theory to pull you away from the Gospel. This is gritty in-depth Biblical study that opens up the work of God to your mind, heart and soul with fresh excitement and wonder of His glorious mysterious ways.
But it here at Amazon. Buy it now. You won’t regret it. You’ll thank me.
11 comments on “The Unseen Realm: This Book is a Game-Changer for Evangelical Christianity”
Great post and I am looking forward to purchase the books. Here is my only issue, and in my opinion a large one. How – in your opinion – does Dr. Heiser resolve “what was written” vs “what actually is.” Let’s take the giants as an example. So Joshua’s Holy War makes more sense now? That it is actually a battle against the descendants of the original giants? Well, two things. First of all, the Bible also says that Israel was to wipe out all the Cananite nations. It can hardly be understood that ALL that city states of the Canaanite nations were descended from giants nor that ancient Israelites thought that. Not only that, that isn’t even the reason God says they were to wage war against them. It says the Canaanites have lost their claim to the land due to their vile behavior and that their behavior (and beliefs) would rub off on the Israelites. Second and just as important, for the theology to make sense, these had to be real giants and really WERE the offspring between divine beings and women. If there was no procreation, then there were no nephilim. If no nephilim, then there no anakim. If no anakim, then there is no holy war against these descendants.
So it’s one thing to say the text is implying this and that….it’s another thing to say they are in FACT offspring of divine beings. And it’s one thing to say the text is merely trying to teach something theologic here, but if you do, than who was Joshua REALLY fighting?
Please read the book and your questions/skepticisms will be adequately addressed. It did mine and they were similar to yours.
The book answers your questions, especially the footnotes and the companion website (moreunseenrealm.com). Of course, the book doesn’t answer all questions that might be raised, but it does answer your concerns. Dr. Heiser took these issues into account–they are there.
I am going to check out the companion site, but till I get the book, I would like to hear your response.
The concept of the Divine Council as it has been presented is in my opinion highly probable and very very interesting. However, if it is true raises several serious problems:
1. If the Noah`s Flood was only local then the incident of Babel was only a local event. If these assumptions are correct than what happened to the people of China? are they under other elohim or not (there are only 70/72 SoG for people of Babel – that is people of ANE??)
2. What happens to the people who were under other elohim ? Will they go to hell ? Does this worldview gives the answer to the question – what about people who have never been able to
hear the Gospel ??
I think your first question is an excellent question. One that I have asked before and haven’t really received a satisfactory answer to. Another way of asking it is whether “theology ought to match real-time history.” If the worldview is based on God separating the nations across the fact of the earth AT THE TIME OF BABEL and giving control to a bnei Elohim, it doesn’t seem to work with a local flood. Afterall, the Chinese, the tribes in Europe and nations in northern africa etc. etc. were well situated in their native lands. So how could God have separated if people were already separated?
I understand that Dr. Mike Heiser (rightfully) wants us to read the text in context. Fine. But then what? Clearly- in context – the people that wrote the Bible believed in a global flood and that civilization was centralized in Babel, thus allowing for an artificial seperation under the dominion for lesser elohim. But if those facts don’t match up with biblical history, what happens to the theology?
This is a good an thoughtful conversation. Thanks for your civility.
I think that the question “What REALLY happened?” is not the ultimate or most important question to ask. That reveals our modern western bias of interpreting history with a singular secular objective perception of events or facts. There are no brute facts. Every fact is interpreted. That is just not the way ancient history was written.
“What really happened”” was not the question that the writers of primeval history were answering. That is not to say it is all myth or that it is just made up from pure agenda without any reference point. But it is to say that what they were doing with their writing was first and foremost revealing the spiritual truth of life as they lived it, not giving a chronicle of objective empirical observations.
As I see hermeneutics, or the interpretation of the texts, the first question is not “What really happened?”, but rather: What does the text say? Then, What does the text mean in its context? Though “historical veracity” is admittedly sometimes relevant as a tertiary interest, it still doesn’t mean they wrote about history the way we write about history.
Biblical history reveals a spiritual dimension that is simply not available to our modern perception of “what really happened.”
That said, believing that divine beings mated with humans to birth hybrid beings is no more difficult than believing God placed his seed into a Virgin who birthed a man that was both God and human. In fact, I think it may be a deliberate diabolical attempt to mimic what God was going to do. Parting the Red Sea, resurrection from the dead. These are all outrageous absurdities to the secular mind that sees no possibilities for that which extends beyond our natural understanding. Angels procreating is but one more.
Thank you for your comment Brian,
I would say, the analogy of the red sea parting, resurrection of the dead or even virgin birth is inadequate. The worldview of Deut 32.8 of God seperating the nations according to the number of Bnei Elohim require a specific series of events to have happened. The question is did these events happen or not
Now, if they wrote based on the spiritual truths of their reality, how does that affect us? Though they may not have had the empirical methodologies we have, they still believed certain events actually happened in order for those spiritual truths to have made sense. I agree that their history was not as secular as ours, but when rubber meets the road, did they believe certain events happen? I am positive they did. If you asked an ancient Israelite if they believed in a global flood and whether they believed in a concentrated population at one location (babel) they would say “yes”…..therefore, it makes sense for that spiritual philosophy to come out of that belief. But what happens with us today?
I do appreciate where you are coming from. The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative by Hans Frei was a helpful book for me in being able to look more objectively at my own hermeneutic and the way I was looking at things with our modern assumptions toward history.
How things happened is not the same thing as whether they happened or not, and is not so reducible to the demands of modern historical interpretation.
For an ancient to say, “Yes, it happened,” is not what our modern definitions of “happen” mean.
The ancient Hebrew would definitely think Babel happened. But to them, is the story more a description of the true spiritual essence of Babylon, the enemy of Yahweh, than a strict “secular” accounting of the factoids? Nimrod, like many names in the Bible of pagans and deities is most likely a polemical renaming, but that’s what they did. They renamed their enemies as a form of judgment or sovereignty over them.
So, yes, it all really happened, but not necessarily in the way that our modern secularized historicism conditions us to demand.
Genre is another problem with interpretation. Genesis 1 is not a scientific description of physics like we want to read it. It’s a creation story. Different parameters. The Primeval history is not the same kind of history as even the rest of Genesis once Abraham’s story starts.
I often use Paranormal Activity as an example. Imagine, a thousand years from now, they unearth a long forgotten digital copy of the movie. And they assume it must be real history because they don’t know about found footage as a genre anymore, and it follows all the proper formulas of documentary storytelling. Those Americans must have believed it really happened. Well, no, but that didn’t make it “false” or a lie, because we knew the point of found footage as a genre.Genre determinations are far stronger than even “literalness” but that doesn’t invalidate the truth of the text.
I was flirting with stuff like Ancient Aliens, even though I knew it was wrong. I also had a background in Hebrew and Greek. Heiser’s work was like discovering a mountain spring. It changed everything.
I agree. Thanks for your comment, Jacob.