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Deuteronomy 32:8 and the sons of god

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  • #16
    Re: Deuteronomy 32:8 and the sons of god

    p67 Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God

    ("holy ones") and tOxbAc; ("hosts") for inhabitants of heaven,65 a term not utilized in Ugaritic for the heavenly host. The "hosts" of Yahweh (hvhy tOxbAc;) is an umbrella term that includes the variety of
    categories of nonhuman beings who serve God.66 In fact Miller has argued that the "host" of heaven, the divine council, and the Old Testament's portrait of Yahweh as a warrior are linked.67

    The members of the assembly at Ugarit are unambiguously classified as ilm ("gods"), bn il ("sons of El"), and bn ilm ("sons of the gods").68 Specifically in the Keret Epic the Canaanite chief deity El sits at the head of the assembly and four times he addresses its members as either) 'ilm ("gods") or bny ("my sons").69 Both Ugaritic and biblical Hebrew use mlk ("messenger," typically translated "angel") to denote heavenly beings. In Ugaritic and in the Old Testament the terms Myhilox<, Mylixe, and Myhilox< yneB; are not equated with the MykixAl;ma ("messengers"). All these beings are members of the divine council, but within that council a hierarchy exists.70

    Terminology for the meeting place of the assembly.71 In Ugaritic mythology El and his council met to govern the cosmos at the "sources of the two rivers," in the "midst of the fountains of the
    double-deep," and in the "domed tent" of El, located on the mountain of El, Mount Sapanu.72 This mountainous meeting place was also designated phr md, the place of the "assembled congregation,"73 and was associated with both physical and mythical peaks

    65 Job 5:1; 15:15 (Qere); Psalms 89:6-7 (Heb., 7-8); 103:21; Zechariah 14:5. See Carol A. Newsom, "Angels," in Anchor Bible Dictionary, 1:248.

    66 See Psalms 103:19-21; 148:1-5. However, several passages unambiguously distinguish heavenly beings from others (e.g., Isa. 24:21, "And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high
    [MOrm.ABa MOrm.Aha xbAc;], and the kings of the earth upon the earth," KJV), and other passages describe those that dwell in the "heights" (e.g., 14:12-15).

    67 Patrick D. Miller, "The Divine Council and the Prophetic Call to War," Vetus Testamentum 18 (1968): 101-7.

    68 In addition to the citations above with references to the 'ilm, see KTU 1.16; 1.15; 1.40:7-8,42; cf. Mullen, "Divine Assembly," 215.

    69 See KTU 1.16.V.I-28 for El's leadership in the council.

    70 Handy, Among the Host of Heaven, 151-59; Mullen, The Divine Council, 210-16; and Korpel, A Rift in the Clouds, 289-317. See KTU 1.2:1.11; 1.13:25.

    71 Full discussions of this topic occur in Mullen, The Divine Council, 128-74, and Richard J. Clifford The Cosmic Mountain in Canaan and the Old Testament, Harvard Semitic Monographs IV (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1972), 34-176.

    72 Frank M. Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973), 36; Korpel, A Rift in the Clouds, 370; and Clifford, Cosmic Mountain, 98-160. See KTU 1.4; 1.2:111; 1.3:V.5-7; 1.6:1.32-34; 1.101:2; 1.3:111.29.

    73 Korpel, A Rift in the Clouds, 269.


    • #17
      Re: Deuteronomy 32:8 and the sons of god

      p68 Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God

      to the north of Ugarit.74 In like manner Yahweh's sanctuary is on a mountain (Mount Zion), which is located in the "heights" of the north," the NOpcA yteK;r;ya (Ps. 48:1-2).75 The "height of Zion" is a "well watered garden" (Jer. 31:12; cf. Isa. 33:20-22), and in Ezekiel 28:13-16, the terms "mountain of God" and "garden of God" (not to mention Eden) are parallel. The mountain of Yahweh is also called the dfeOm rha ("mount of assembly"), again located in the "heights of the north/Saphon" (Isa. 14:13). The Ugaritic "domed tent," of course, evokes the imagery of the tabernacle.76


      Some interpreters argue against the idea that the Myhilox< of Psalm 82:1b and 6a are heavenly beings by introducing Exodus 4:16 ("And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God [Myhilox<]") and 7:1 ("And the LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god [Myhilox<] to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet," KJV).

      Since Moses is referred to as Myhilox<, the argument goes, the Myhilox< of Psalm 82:1b and 6a also refer to human beings. While it is true that Moses is referred to as an Myhilox< (Exod. 4:16; 7:1), why must Myhilox< refer to a human being in Psalm 82? As discussed, structural elements and parallelism of that psalm argue against this conclusion, as does the logic of verse 6, as well as other passages that refer to plural Myhilox<.77

      The reason Moses is called Myhilox< in Exodus 4:16 and 7:1 is that he was functioning similar to the way a member of God's council would function. Moses was not a mere messenger (he is not referred to as a j`xAl;ma). Unlike prophets such as Jeremiah and Isaiah, who were commissioned in the presence of Yahweh's council, Moses

      74 Clifford, Cosmic Mountain, 34-160.

      75 In addition yDawa (Shadday) may mean "mountain dweller" (Korpel, A Rift in the Clouds, 581; and Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, 48-60).

      76 Richard J. Clifford, "The Tent of El and the Israelite Tent of Meeting," Catholic Biblical Quarterly 33 (1971): 221-27.

      77 For example Psalms 89:6-7 ("For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD? Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings [Mylixe yneb;B;]? In the council of the holy ones [Mywidoq; dOsB;] God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who
      surround him," NIV); 29:1-2 ("Ascribe to the LORD, O mighty ones [Mylixe], ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness," NIV); and Isaiah 24:21, which clearly distinguishes human rulers from the council of Myhilox< ("In that day the LORD will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below," NIV). The only powers in heaven besides Yahweh are the Myhilox< and the divine council.


      • #18
        Re: Deuteronomy 32:8 and the sons of god

        p69 Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God

        regularly spoke to Yahweh "face to face." Moreover, his task went well beyond dispensing revelation; he was a governing mediator, effectively ruling Israel at God's behest. This governing at God's discretion marks him as an Myhilox<, much in the way that Israel's king was called a "son of Myhilox<" (Ps. 2:7; see also 110:3 in the Septuagint). Whether addressing Pharaoh or his own people, Moses as Myhilox< displayed divine authority.

        A second objection to the divine council and its Myhilox< is that Isaiah 40:18-20; 41:5-7; 44:9-20; 46:5-7 denounce idols and forcefully contend that there are no other gods besides Yahweh. Such claims are also present in Deuteronomy 32 itself (vv. 15-18, 21). Since the Scriptures do not contradict themselves, the presence of such passages, particularly when juxtaposed with references to the heavenly council in Deuteronomy 32:8-9 and 43, do not mitigate against the existence of the Myhilox<, but actually assume their reality to make the point of the comparison. Nevertheless how are these statements to be reconciled with the reality of the divine council?

        Simply stated, these passages assert that there is no other Deity besides Yahweh. He is the only true God; all the other Myhilox< have contingent existence and power, were created, and are not omnipotent or omniscient.

        For example in Isaiah 40:12-24 the prophet mocked the idols and their feebleness in comparison to Yahweh, and then wrote, "'To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?' says the Holy One. Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these?

        He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing" (vv. 25-26, NIV; italics added).

        Elsewhere Myhilox< are referred to as "the starry host" (Deut. 4:19; Job 38:7; Isa. 14:13). In Isaiah 40, after asking what heavenly being compares to Him, Yahweh answered His own question by saying that He created these "stars," and they are therefore subject to Him and "line up at His command." It would be nonsensical for the Lord to claim to have created them and then to command entities that do not in fact exist. The juxtaposition of passages like this one with the proclamation that there is only one true God demonstrates that the reality of a divine council of Myhilox< is in no way incompatible with monotheism.


        As noted, Old Testament passages and comparative linguistic data show that the Hebrew Bible includes the concept of a divine as-


        • #19
          Re: Deuteronomy 32:8 and the sons of god

          p70 Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God

          sembly that is undeniably analogous to that at Ugarit (not to mention other ancient Near Eastern civilizations). So there is no need in Deuteronomy 32:8 to opt for the Masoretic reading of "sons of Israel" over "sons of God," which is attested in the Septuagint and 4QDeutq and 4QDeutj. In fact the "sons of God" reading makes much better sense in light of biblical history and Old Testament theology, especially that of Deuteronomy. The same cannot be said for the Masoretic reading.


          Accepting the Masoretic reading in Deuteronomy 32:8 ("he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the sons of Israel") along with the correlation of that verse with Genesis 10-11 results in logical problems. As Tigay notes, "This reading raises a number of difficulties. Why would God base the number of nations on the number of Israelites? . . .Why would He have based the division on
          their number at the time they went to Egypt, an event not mentioned in the poem? In addition, verse 9, which states that God's portion was Israel, implies a contrast: Israel was God's share while the other peoples were somebody else's share, but verse 8 fails to note whose share they were."78

          In other words it makes little sense for God, shortly after He dispersed the nations at Babel, to have based the number of geographical regions on the earth on the, family size of Israel, especially since there was no Jewish race at the time. This problem is compounded when one considers Deuteronomy 32:9. What logical correlation was Moses making when he wrote in verse 8 that God "set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel" and then made the concluding observation in verse 9 that "the LORD's portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance" (NIV)? Certainly the wording suggests a contrast between verses 8 and 9. But what is contrastive about saying God divided the earth into seventy units since there were seventy sons of Israel and then adding that Israel was His own? Once the Masoretic reading is abandoned, however, the point of the contrast becomes dramatically clear.

          The statement in Deuteronomy 32:9 that "the LORD's portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance" (NIV) provides the key for understanding the contrast between verses 8 and 9. Since verse 9
          clearly presents the nation of Israel (here called "Jacob") as an allotted inheritance, the parallelism in the Masoretic text would re-

          78 Tigay, Deuteronomy, 302.


          • #20
            Re: Deuteronomy 32:8 and the sons of god

            p71 Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God

            quire the "nations" of verse 8 to be given as an inheritance as well.79 Hence the point of Deuteronomy 32:8-9 is not merely that God created seventy territorial units after Babel, but that each of these units was given as an inheritance. The question is, To whom were the nations given? This is left unstated in verse 8a, but verse 8b, provides the answer. The parallel makes sense only if the original reading of verse 8b included a reference to other beings (the "sons of God") to whom the other nations could be given. The point of verses 8-9 is that sometime after God separated the people of the earth at Babel and established where on the earth they were to be located, He then assigned each of the seventy nations to the fallen sons of God (who were also seventy in number).80 After observing humanity's rebellion before the Flood and then again in the Babel incident, God decided to desist in His efforts to work directly with humanity. In an action reminiscent of Romans 1, God "gave humanity up" to their persistent resistance to obeying Him. God's new approach was to create a unique nation, Israel, for Himself, as recorded in the very next chapter of Genesis with the call of Abraham (Gen. 12). Hence each pagan nation was overseen by a being of inferior status to Yahweh, but Israel would be tended to by the "God of gods," the "Lord of lords" (Deut. 10:17).

            According to Deuteronomy 4:19 this "giving up" of the nations was a punitive act. Rather than electing them to a special relationship to Himself, God gave these nations up to the idolatry (of which
            Babel was symptomatic) in which they willfully persisted. Seeing these two passages together demonstrates this relationship. "And beware lest you lift up 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 worship them and serve them, things which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven" (Deut. 4:19, RSV).81 "When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all mankind, he set up boundaries for the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. For

            79 The Masoretic reading of this verse implies that the nations of the earth inherited a certain amount of property at God's hand, namely, their own lands, with the translation "When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance" (NIV). However, it seems preferable to view the verse as saying that the nations themselves were given as an inheritance, with the rendering, "When the Most High gave the nations as an inheritance." Examples of the latter sense are in Deuteronomy 1:38; 3:28; 21:16; 31:7; Joshua 1:6; 1 Samuel 2:8; Proverbs 8:21; and Zechariah 8:12.

            80 As noted earlier, at Ugarit there were seventy sons of El (KTU 1.4:VI.46). The sons of God are referred to here as "fallen" in light of Genesis 6 as well as Deuteronomy 4:19.

            81 The same verb "allotted" (qlahA) is used in Deuteronomy 4:19 as well as in 32:8.


            • #21
              Re: Deuteronomy 32:8 and the sons of god

              p72 Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God

              the LORD's portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance" (32:8-9; author's translation, following the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls).

              Tigay notes that these passages "seem to reflect a biblical view that. . . as punishment for man's repeated spurning of His authority in primordial times (Gen. 3-11), God deprived mankind at large of true knowledge of Himself and ordained that it should worship idols and subordinate celestial beings. . . . He selected Abraham and his descendants as the objects of His personal attention to create a model nation."82


              If a divine council does not exist, verses like Psalms 29: 1 and 89:6-7 are eviscerated of meaning. "Ascribe to the LORD, a sons of the gods [Mylixe yneB;], ascribe to the LORD glory and strength" (Ps. 29:1). "For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD?

              Who is like the LORD among the sons of the gods [Mylixe yneb;Bi]? In the council of the holy ones [Mywidoq;-dOsB;] God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him" (89:6-7).

              How hollow it would be to have the psalmist extolling the greatness of God by comparing Him to beings which do not exist, and then in turn to ask these fabricated beings to ascribe glory and
              strength to the Lord!

              How can it be maintained that the Old Testament espouses monotheism when its authors continued to use the terms Myhilox< and Mylixe and "the sons of Myhilox< and Mylixe in reference to nonhuman figures? The solution to this apparent impasse is relatively simple, but requires an adjustment in both the way the English word "God" is defined and how one understands the data of the Old Testament. Making such adaptations will show the uniqueness of Israel's religion in the ancient Near East.

              First, hesitation to embrace the details of the divine council stems from habitually viewing the Old Testament through western eyes. Many Christians have been so conditioned by their concept of the word "God"--who is omnipotent, self-existent, omniscient, omnipresent, and possessing ultimate creative power--that they as-

              82 Tigay, Deuteronomy, 435. The same idea contained in these verses also seems to be the point of Zephaniah 3:9 ("For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent"). David was certainly familiar with this idea, as his incensed tone in 1 Samuel 26:19 indicates: "Now let my lord the king listen to his servant's words. If the LORD has incited you against me, then may he accept an offering. If, however, men have done it, may they be cursed before the LORD! They have now driven me from my share in the LORD's inheritance and have said, 'Go, serve other gods'" (NIV).


              • #22
                Re: Deuteronomy 32:8 and the sons of god

                p73 Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God

                sume the unreality of any entity but one referred to by that word. Would the ancient Semitic mind have defined "God" as westerners do, and then made the same assumption? As already noted, even Isaiah, famous for his diatribes against pagan worship, used language and imagery analogous to depictions of the divine council in other places in the Old Testament and outside it. Isaiah simultaneously affirmed the existence of other heavenly beings and the one true Deity of Israel.

                Unfortunately the ancient Near Eastern religious systems have been referred to as "polytheistic" with the assumption that the ancient Semites believed that all nonhuman entities bearing the label Myhilox< must have been omnipotent, selfxistent, omniscient, omnipresent, and possessing ultimate creative power. As a result current observers often fail to recognize that the ancients in fact understood that the various Myhilox< existed in a hierarchy and with differing attributes.

                The authors of the Old Testament, however, affirmed the existence of plural Myhilox<, while they also asked, "Who among the gods is like you, a LORD?" (Exod. 15:11; cf. Pss. 86:8; 138:1), precisely
                because they already knew that Yahweh is an Myhilox<, but that only He is omnipotent, preexistent, and omniscient. It was no conundrum for the people of Israel to affirm that the word Myhilox< in their language described actual beings that Yahweh had credited, who were members of His council, while knowing that none of these Myhilox< were truly comparable to Him. In fact they could not deny the existence of other Myhilox< since Yahweh had created them! Whereas other ancient Near Eastern religions showed only glimpses of the monotheistic idea,83 Israel alone was consistent in holding to monotheism.

                There is no need to create wholly interpretive, camouflaged translations,84 or to interpret Myhilox< as human "judges," an approach that requires either paying only lip service to an Old Testament hermeneutic that incorporates comparative philology or

                83 As discussions of the pantheons and the phenomenon of the divine council demonstrate, all ancient Near Eastern religions divided their gods into "noncouncil" and "council" groups, the latter forming the "upper tier" of those beings who inhabited the heavenly realms. The fact that there exists evidence in Mesopotamia for monotheistic ideology, and that at least one Egyptian "theology" (the Memphite theology) presents one god as supreme creator of all the others shows that one must not superimpose the exclusivity of the attributes of Yahweh to other Myhilox<, nor should one assume the ancients were incapable of the same distinction. With respect to Mesopotamia in this regard see Johannes Hehn, Die Biblische und die babylonische Gottesidee (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1913); and Bruno Baentsch, Altorientalischer und israelitischer Monotheismus (Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1906).

                84 For example, the New International Version translates Psalm 29:1, "Ascribe to the LORD, O mighty ones [Mylixe yneB;], ascribe to the LORD glory and strength."