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Impressions of “A Companion to the Book of Enoch: A Reader’s Commentary, Vol. I — The Book of the Watchers,” by Michael S. Heiser

Michael Heiser’s commentary of 1 Enoch is fantastic. His commentary ties together scholarly criticism of the first part of Enoch, The Book of the Watchers, and reveals the context of the book’s composition. The closest I can compare it to is Gabriel Said Reynold’s commentary of the Qur’an. Central to the Book are the “Watchers,” fallen angelic beings who may be allegories of Temple Priests. In the book God condemns the Watchers and their sons as he condemned the House of Eli in the Hebrew Bible. But God also promises a renewed world, a Tree, a Throne, a the path of the Holy Mountain required to get there.

A Brief Note

I first read The Book of Enoch after exposure to Canaanite mythology and Robert Alter’s’ Biblical literary criticism.

Since then my reading has expanded to cover more of the allegorical sense of scripture. Augustine of Hippo and Jordan Peterson focused on experientially real meanings of concrete symbols, like with fish or snakes. I read Michael Heiser on the Second Temple supernatural context of the Bible, and N.T. Wright on the politico-religious context of Jesus and Paul. And I read works that derive from the Book of Enoch, like Jubilees and the Qur’an

This effected how I read Enoch. In my previous impressions I was basically lost, except for the “Animal Apocalypse” — an enjoyable retelling of the adventures of the Jewish people, but with all the characters being animals. What was going on, with “Watchers” and giants and the angelology? Now, I think I know.

Allegories and Angels

The rebellion of the sons of God is mentioned in Genesis:

Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, 2 that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.

And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.
Genesis 6:1-4

The Book of the Watchers takes this as a point of departure. And we immediately get characterization. In Hebrew scriptural literature] the first quoted line from a character indicates the character. And the collective character of them are of men seeking women:

And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. And the angels, children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: “Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.”
1 Enoch 6:1-2

But then, somewhat surprisingly for a divine being, we see the character of their leader. And it’s not lust-incarnate or even family-incarnate, but fearfulness mixed with consensus-seeking. He’s acting like a middle-level manager, or a mildly successful politician. Why?

And Samjaza, who was their leader, said unto them: “I fear ye will not indeed agree to this deed, and I alone shall have the pay the penalty of a great sin. And they all answered him and said: “Let us all swear an oath, and all bind ourselves by mutual imprecations not to abandon this plan but to do this thing.” Then sware they all together and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. And they were in all two hundreds, who descended in the days of Jared on the summit of Mount Hermon, and they called it Mount Hermon, because they had sworn and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it.
1 Enoch 6:3-6

A clue is the number of theophoric names — names ending with “-el” (meaning “of God”) among this leadership of the falling angels. The names are Jewish, or at least Canaanite.

And these are the names of their leaders: Samlazaz, their leader: Arakiba, Rameel, Kokabiel, Tamiel, Ramiel, Danle, Ezeqeel, Baraqijal, Asael, Armaros, Batarel, Ananel, Zaqiel, Samsapeel, Satarel, Turel, Jamjael, Sariel.
1 Enoch 6:7

And why, after God commands Enoch (a human being!) to be a prophet to the watchers (angels!)…

Enoch, thou scribe of righteousness, go, declare to the Watchers of the heaven who have left the high heaven, the holy eternal place, and have defiled themselves with women, and have done as the children of earth do, and have taken unto themselves wives: Ye have wrought great destruction on the earth: and ye shall have no peace nor forgiveness of sin.
1 Enoch 12:4-5

… Do the Watchers ask him to intercede for them?

Then I went and spoke to them all together, and they were all afraid, and fear and trembling seized them. And they besought me to draw up a petition for them that they might find forgiveness, and to read their petition in the presence of the Lord of heaven. For from thenceforward they could not speak with Him nor lift up their eyes to heaven for shame of their sins for which they had been condemned.
1 Enoch 13:3-5

The Watchers

Here’s why, at least according to scholars cited by Heiser: “Watcher” is a thin allegory for Temple Priests, who serve in the presence (literally, face) of God. Presuming the author meant the Temple Priests of his own era, then his target were Sadducees:

And He answered and said to me, I heard His voice: “Fear not, Enoch, though righteous man and scribe of righteousness; approach hither and hear my voice.

And go, say to the Watchers of heaven, who have sent thee to intercede for them: ‘You should intercede for men, and not men for you.Whereof you have you left the high, holy, and eternal heaven, and lain with women, and defiled yourselves with the daughters of men and taken to yourselves wives, and done like the children of earth, and begotten giants as your sons.

And though ye were holy, spiritual, living the eternal life, you have defiled yourselves with the blood of women, and have begotten with the blood of flesh, and, as the children of men, have lusted after flesh and blood as those who also do who die and perish..
1 Enoch 15:1-4

The Sadducee Temple priests were targeted by Zealots (as collaborators), Pharisees (for the lack of belief in angels and the resurrection), and early Christians (also for the lack of belief):

But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!”

And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection—and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both. Then there arose a loud outcry. And the scribes of the Pharisees’ party arose and protested, saying, “We find no evil in this man; but if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him, let us not fight against God.”
Acts 23:6-9

The “Watchers” focused on women and power instead of service to God, and used their skills and position for all sorts of schemes not properly focused on God (according to the Zealots, Pharisees, and early Christians):

And all the others together with them took unto themselves wives, and each chose for himself one, and they began to go in unto them and to defile themselves with them, and they taught them charms and enchantments, and the cutting of roots, and made them acquainted with plants. And they became pregnant, and they bare great giants, whose height was three thousand ells. Who consumed all the acquisitions of men. 1 Enoch 7:1-3

To emphasize the point, and bite a bit more, the Sanhedrin of the Sadducees claimed succession to the helpers of Moses, organized in line with advice from Moses’s father-in-law, from the most trusted (Moses and the Rulers of Thousands) to the lowest level of managers, the Rulers of Tens:

So Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people: rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. So they judged the people at all times; the hard cases they brought to Moses, but they judged every small case themselves.
Exodus 18:24-26

The “Watchers” are the lowest, and presumably least competent, in this hierarchy:

These are their chiefs of tens.
1 Enoch 6:8

The fate of the “Watchers” is to see the children, who they raised without fear of God, die.

And inasmuch as they delight themselves in their children, the murder of their beloved ones shall they see, and over the destruction of their children shall they lament, and shall make supplication unto eternity, but mercy and peace shall ye not attain.
1 Enoch 12:6

This is the same fate that befell the High Priest Eli, an ancient days:

Then a man of God came to Eli and said to him,

“Thus says the LORD:

‘Did I not clearly reveal Myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh’s house? Did I not choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be My priest, to offer upon My altar, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod before Me? And did I not give to the house of your father all the offerings of the children of Israel made by fire? Why do you kick at My sacrifice and My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling place, and honor your sons more than Me, to make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings of Israel My people?’

Therefore the LORD God of Israel says:

‘I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.’

But now the LORD says:

‘Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed. Behold, the days are coming that I will cut off your [u]arm and the arm of your father’s house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. And you will see an enemy in My dwelling place, despite all the good which God does for Israel. And there shall not be an old man in your house forever. But any of your men whom I do not cut off from My altar shall consume your eyes and grieve your heart. And all the descendants of your house shall die in the flower of their age. Now this shall be a sign to you that will come upon your two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas: in one day they shall die, both of them.'”
1 Samuel 2:27-34

And as Enoch’s petition for the “Watchers” would fail:

I wrote out your petition, and in my vision it appeared thus, that your petition will not be granted unto you throughout all the days of eternity, and that judgment has been finally passed upon you: yea your petition will not be granted to you. And from henceforth you will not ascend into heaven unto all eternity, and in bonds of the earth the decree has gone forth to bind you for all the days of the world.
1 Enoch 14:1-5

The High Priest Eli also believed the judgment was irrevocable:

Then Samuel told him everything, and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the Lord. Let Him do what seems good to Him.”
1 Samuel 3:18

The Future Priests

But God is the God of Hope. Even the condemnation of Eli’s sons came with a promise:

Then I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who shall do according to what is in My heart and in My mind. I will build him a sure house, and he shall walk before My anointed forever.
1 Samuel 2:35

It is easy enough, when we read Scriptures, to see the priestly predilection for power and sin:

Then the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people assembled at the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and plotted to take Jesus by trickery and kill Him. But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.”
Matthew 26:2-5

Yet God will heal this. Both the To understand the Qur’anicand the Enochian authors promise this:

And heal the earth which the angels have corrupted, and proclaim the healing of the earth, that they may heal the plague, and that all the children of men may not perish through all the secret things that the Watchers have disclosed and have taught their sons. And the whole earth has been corrupted through the works that were taught by Azazel: to him ascribe all sin.
1 Enoch 10:7-8

While the Watchers, standing in for the Priests, seek a legalistic procedure of asking forgiveness through a formal petition, they don’t offer the repentance — the turn of the heart — advocated by the Prophet Isaiah:

But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
And your sins have hidden His face from you,
So that He will not hear.

For your hands are defiled with blood,
And your fingers with iniquity;
Your lips have spoken lies,
Your tongue has muttered perversity…

For our transgressions are multiplied before You,
And our sins testify against us;
For our transgressions are with us,
And as for our iniquities, we know them:

In transgressing and lying against the Lord,
And departing from our God,
Speaking oppression and revolt,
Conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood.
Isaiah 59:2-3,12-13

This is also the meaning of the Qur’anic author: repentance is not a legalistic formula, but a turn of heart made manifest in works:

I indeed forgive those who repent, become faithful, act righteously, and thereafter follow guidance.
Qur’an 20 (Ta Ha):83

The Enochian writer sees this. The resolution to our story is not political games that can be won by Temple insiders, but a world free of oppression:

And cleanse though the earth from all oppression, and from all unrighteousness, and from all sin, and from all godlessness: and all the uncleanness that is wrought upon the earth destroy from off the earth. And the children of men shall become righteous, and all nations shall offer adoration and shall praise Me, and all shall worship Me. And the earth shall be cleansed from all defilement, and from all sin, and from all punishment, and from all torment, and and I will never again send them upon it form generation to generation and forever.
1 Enoch 10:20-22

And as the Letter to the Hebrews urge its audience to be (non-Sadducee!) priests for Jesus Christ

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:14-16

So the author of Enoch urges continuous blessings of God by the (non-Sadducee!) righteous in his audience:

And as often as I saw blessed always the Lord of Glory, and I continued to bless the Lord of Glory who has wrought great and glorious wonders, to show the greatness of His work to the angels and to spirits and to men, that they might praise His work and all His creation: that they might see the works of His might and praise the work work of His hands and bless Him forever.
1 Enoch 36:4

The Mountains of the Lord

The way from the corrupted priesthood to to a renewed world leads up a mountain.

Non-Sadducee Jewish writing during the Roman empire saw an explosion of messianic writing, foreseeing the Lord enthroned on the Holy Mountain:

I, Ezra, saw on Mount Zion a great multitude, which I could not number, and they all were praising the Lord with songs. In their midst was a young man of great stature, taller than any of the others, and on the head of each of them he placed a crown, but he was more exalted than they. And I was held spellbound. Then I asked an angel, “Who are these, my lord?” He answered and said to me, “These are they who have put off mortal clothing and have put on the immortal, and they have confessed the name of God; now they are being crowned, and receive palms.” Then I said to the angel, “Who is that young man who places crowns on them and puts palms in their hands?” He answered and said to me, “He is the Son of God, whom they confessed in the world.” So I began to praise those who had stood valiantly for the name of the Lord. Then the angel said to me, “Go, tell my people how great and many are the wonders of the Lord God which you have seen.”
2 Esdras 2:42-48

Likewise, Enoch looks forward, to the Tree, and to the Throne of the Lord, on the High Mountain

And he said unto me: “Enoch, why dost thou ask me regarding the fragrance of the tree, and why dost though wish to learn the truth?”

Then I answered, saying: “I wish to know about everything, but especially about this tree.”

And he answered saying: “This high mountain which thou hast seen, whose summit is like the throne of God, is His throne, where the Holy Great One, the Lord of Glory, the Eternal King, will sit, when he shall come down to visit the earth with goodness.”
1 Enoch 25:1-3

This is a prophecy looking back, towards Eden, and forwards, toward Golgotha. Thinkers from the Qur’anic author to Thomas Merton have seen the path to paradise going through the a mountain.

Between Eden and Paradise, the beginning and the end, is Purgatory:

The inhabitants of paradise will call out to the inmates of the fire. ‘We found what our Lord promised us to be true; did you find what your Lord promised you to be true?’ ‘Yes,’ they will say. Then a caller will announce in their midst, ‘May God’s curse be on the wrongdoers!’ — Those who bar from the way of God, and seek to make it crooked, and disbelieve in the Hereafter.

There will be a veil between them. On on the Elevations will be certain men who recognize each of them by their mark. They will call out to the inhabitants of paradise, ‘Peace be to you!’ They will not have entered it, though they would be eager to do so. When their look is turned toward the inmates of the Fire, they will say, ‘Our Lord, do not put us among the wrongdoing lot!

The occupants of the Elevations will call out to certain men who they recognize by their marks, ‘Your rallying did not avail you, nor what you used to disdain. Are these the ones concerning whom you swore that God will not extend them any mercy?’ Enter paradise! You shall have no fear, nor shall you grieve.
Qur’an 7 (The Elevations):47-49

Between Eden and Paradise is Jerusalem, the vision predicted by the Prophet Zechariah:

Thus says the LORD:

‘I will return to Zion,
And dwell in the midst of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth,
The Mountain of the LORD of hosts,
The Holy Mountain.’

“Thus says the LORD of hosts:

‘Old men and old women shall again sit
In the streets of Jerusalem,
Each one with his staff in his hand
Because of great age.

The streets of the city
Shall be full of boys and girls
Playing in its streets.’
Zechariah 8:3-5

Te Enochian writer describes the geography of Jerusalem, a location with such significance (Mount Zion, Gehenna) that it transcends the merely topographical…

And there I saw a holy mountain, and underneath the mountain to the east there was a stream and it flowed towards the south. And I saw towards the east another mountain higher than this, and between them a deep a narrow ravine: in it also ran a stream underneath the mountain. And to the west thereof there was another mountain, lower than the former and a ravine between them,: and another deep and dry ravine was at the extremities of the three mountains.
1 Enoch 26:1-5

Within this cosmos geography is the Throne Room of God

And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.
Revelations 22:1-5

A geography that is in fact a cosmology — fire, lighting, and stars:

And the floor was of fire, and above it were lightnings and the path of stars, and its ceiling also was flaming fire. And I looked and saw therein a lofty throne: its appearance was of crystal, and the wheels thereof as the shining sun, and there was a vision of cherubim. And from underneath the throne came streams of flaming fire so that I could not look thereon. And the Great Glory sat thereon, and His raiment shone more brightly than the sun and was whiter than any snow.
1 Enoch 14:17-20

And the promise of New Earth:

Then shall they rejoice with joy and be glad, And into the holy place shall they enter; And its fragrance shall be in their bones, And they shall live a long life on earth, Such as thy fathers lived: And in their days shall no sorrow or plague Or torment or calamity touch them.
1 Enoch 25:6

Conclusion

The Book of the Watchers, the beginning of 1 Enoch, seems to be an allegory of the Sadducee priesthood. The “Watchers” have access to the presence of God and have Jewish-style names, but intentionally choose to band together and ignore God. Whatever personal virtue they had during their rebellion is lost on their children, who become even worse. The Enochian author promises the Watchers / Sadducees are not the end of the story though, but promises all things (including, presumably, the priesthood) are cleansed. In this Watchers echoes both the Old Testament renewal of the priesthood after Eli, and foreshadows the Qur’anic call to Catholic religious centuries later.

I read A Companion to the Book of Enoch: Reader’s Commentary Vol. 1 — The Book of the Watchers (1 Enoch 1-36) in the paperback edition.

Impressions of “The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible,” by Michael Heiser

In the past two years, two scholars have changed the way I think about the Bible. Robert Alter introduced me to the idea of the Bible as literature, specifically a mosaic of literary traditions including the Epic, Dramatic, and even Comedic. And Michael Heiser’s lead me to read more of the intellectual context of the Bible, including the Old Religion of the Canaanites and Pseudoepigraphic work.

And now I dived right in to Heiser’s massive — and massively rewarding — Unseen Realm. It is an intimidating combination of great writing and academic weight. This same combination intimidated me from even bothering to post impressions of most of Alter’s translations (with the exception of the Book of Psalms). But it does no good to leave a mental record of regrettable works without recording those which changed my thinking in a good way.

Most of what follows is my summary of the world painted in The Unseen Realm. But before I do that, I want to compare it against the two works it is closest to: William Dumbrell’s Covenant and Creation, and The End of the Beginning. Heiser and Dumbrell have spent a considerable part of their life developing an expressing a novel interpretation of the Bible by carefully looking for threats in the Bible. Neither use literalism or obviously favor one set of books over the other. Both can serve to open up the Scriptures, by helping the reader see how the reader’s favorite sections understand to other which are harder to understand.

But Heiser is certainly the better scholar. For one, I never feared that Heiser was lying to me, while that is a constant worry reading Dumbrell. From inexplicable and unexplained translation choices, to the silent redefinition of well known terms, to a remarkable blindspot of the meaning of the critical term “Covenant,” Dumbrell’s work is “prophetic” at best, academic malpractice at worst. Dumbrell’s books may well be important in the history of Christian thought — he is the only Christian writer I know who looks forward to not having to follow Jesus and for the Son’s kingship to end — but his logic is so obscured that it’s impossible to tell.

Heiser is superior on every level. He is careful with translations, citing rival translations where possible, and discussing how this or that understanding of the ancient text would impact his writing. He is careful with the social context of the work, paying attention to Canaanite, Babylonian, Second Temple, and (elsewhere) Greco-Roman sources of ideas. While Heiser’s work adds a new layer to the narrative of the Scriptures, unlike Dumbrell he does not present a heretical doctrine. Dumbrell’s poor reader has no idea where any of these ideas come from. Heiser is generous in encouraging the reader to follow-up and dig deeper into the sources.

With that, I will try my best. What follows is a rough sketch of Heiser’s translation, methods and the broad strokes of his conclusions.

If the Bible would be re-written as a modern drama, where should it start? Heiser’s interpretation implies at at the foundation of the church, with Christ speaking the the words to Peter.

When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”

So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter,

and on this rock
I will build My church,
and the gates of Hades
shall not prevail against it.

And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.
Matthew 16:13-20

Catholics read “this rock” as meaning Peter, that to Peter and his successors would be the charge of a church that would last to the end of the world. Protestants have tried to argue that “this rock” perhaps means pebble, implying that Peter’s leadership would die with him.

Only Heiser, as far as I know, argues in the logic of biblical parallelism. If this verse has parallelism, “this rock” is magnified into “the gates of hell” — which must be referencing Mount Ararat, on whose slopes was the city of Caesari Philipii.  Heiser also gives the first reason for the silence I’ve heard: so that those things that live on Ararat do not know either.

This is not simply the foundation of a church in Peter, or in Peter’s apostolic successors — it is a declaration of war.

In our re-written epic, the story would then flash back to the first man. Adam was intended to be King,

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.

And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
Genesis 1:17,26-31

But unlike the Only Begotten Son, the First Created Man failed in his Kingship. He listened to his wife and not to God. Corruption entered the world.

Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:

“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life…

Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life
Genesis 3:9,22-24

The cycle repeats once more with another First Born Son, the nation of Israel. Israel the man was not first born of course — he was the younger twin of his brother Esau — but the nation of Israel is adopted by God as first born. Yet when this is announced the cycle is intensified. The declaration of Israel’s first born status is immediately followed by blood. Not just the fruit of the vine, but the fruit of veins:

Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Israel is My son, My firstborn. So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me. But if you refuse to let him go, indeed I will kill your son, your firstborn.”’”

And it came to pass on the way, at the encampment, that the Lord met him and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses’ feet, and said, “Surely you are a husband of blood to me!” So He let him go. Then she said, “You are a husband of blood!”—because of the circumcision.
Exodus 4:22-26

But like the man Adam, the nation Israel fails. It is corrupted. The line did not end with Adam of course — Seth continued after him — and God offered Moses a similar status as sub-father of all:

And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.”

Then Moses pleaded with the Lord his God, and said: “Lord, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?
Exodus 32:9-11

And even Moses is fallen at last.

And Moses said to them: “Have you kept all the women alive? Look, these women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord. Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man intimately
Numbers 31:15-17

The wicked ones win again.

Now that the good guys have lost twice in a row, who are the bad guys? What is the opposition that keeps corrupting the pattern that God wants, his first-born son ruling as king of the Earth?

Here Heiser, like Dumbrell, is on weaker ground.  He seeks a novel reading with limited Scriptural support.  here the victory goes to Heiser. While Dumbrell continues on and makes claims without support or explanation, Heiser is open about his approach.

He emphasizes two New Testament verses, which describe the rebellion of the angels, and which reference the apocryphal Book of Enoch:

And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day;
Jude 1:6

and

 For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment;
2 Peter 3:4

Both passages appear to reference the pseudo-Enoch’s elaboration

And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: ‘Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.’ And Semjâzâ, who was their leader, said unto them: ‘I fear ye will not indeed agree to do this deed, and I alone shall have to pay the penalty of a great sin.’ And they all answered him and said: ‘Let us all swear an oath, and all bind ourselves by mutual imprecations not to abandon this plan but to do this thing.’ Then sware they all together and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. And they were in all two hundred; who descended ?in the days? of Jared on the summit of Mount Hermon, and they called it Mount Hermon, because they had sworn and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it.
Enoch 6:1-6

This and other adventures (later, in the Book of Enoch, the angels are indeed in prison, and beg Enoch for intercession to the Almighty) appear to be elaborations of the following passage in Genesis:

Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.

And the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown
Genesis 6:1-4

These same Sons of God appear to have a role similar to a consultative legislator:

Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord.
Job 2:1

Yet it is a faulty assembly:

God stands in the congregation of the mighty;
He judges among the gods.

How long will you judge unjustly,
And show partiality to the wicked? Selah
Defend the poor and fatherless;
Do justice to the afflicted and needy.
Deliver the poor and needy;
Free them from the hand of the wicked.
They do not know, nor do they understand;
They walk about in darkness;
All the foundations of the earth are unstable.
I said, “You are gods,
And all of you are children of the Most High.
But you shall die like men,
And fall like one of the princes.”
Psalms 82:1-7

The Assembly of the Gods is also an aspect of the stories from ancient Canaan.

Do these and other such passages support Heiser’s argument? You should read the book and judge for yourself. What I will say though is that, unlike Dumbrell, Heiser cites his sources and provides accurate translations, allowing you to judge him on his merits, and not through his deceptions.

Now, back to our story…

It is Diablos, either the leader or a representative of these Sons of God, who offers this control to Jesus. The Devil tempts Jesus in three geographical locations: the wilderness, Mount Zion, and a an exceedingly high mountain — even today Mt Herman is so high it is called the “eyes of the nation

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:

‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’
and,

‘In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”

Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”

Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.
Matthew 4:1-11

But Herman is not just an exceedingly tall mountain. It is home to Ba’al

namely, five lords of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites who dwelt in Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal Hermon to the entrance of Hamath. And they were left, that He might test Israel by them, to know whether they would obey the commandments of the Lord, which He had commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.
Judges 3:3-4

Thus: : A Declaration of War on the slopes of Mt Herman. The promised, and foiled, rule of the first man, Adam. The promised, and foiled, rule of the firstborn Israel. And now things happen quickly. Christ promises it will happen again! This is going to be a suicide mission!

From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.

Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”

But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
Matthew 26:21-24

Immediately following this, the mission is ratified — again on a “high mountain.” Peter’s line that is it “ood” they are there is striking for the location, and in its optimism. There is but one God. And He is transfigured on top of the gateway to Hell, that rock, Hermon. They saw no evil spirits, no Ba’al, but they heard the voice of God, and beheld Jesus only:

Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
Matthew 17:1-8

Michael Heiser integrates both Testaments (except the Deuterocanon), Second Temple Literature, and Canaanite and Babylonian stories to present a plausible reading of the Scriptures as they would have been understood by literate Jews of the 1st century. The establishment of the Church is a declaration of war. The Transfiguration is its endorsement. The pilgrimage to Jerusalem appears to be a retreat, the Crucifixion the decisive battle — where Christ defeated Death – or rather the rebellious Sons of God — in a stunning entrapment.

The reconcilliation and peace of the Crucifixion is not the peace between equals — it is the peace after a stunning victory over a defeated kingdom:

For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight
Colossians 1:19-22

Whether or not you agree with Michael Heiser, like The Lost World of Genesis One, Judaism and Christianity: A Contrast, and The Crucified Rabbi, it should be ready by anyone looking to critically understand the Bible.

I read The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible in the Audible edition.

The Academic Papers of Michael Heiser

Heiser, Michael. (2006) “Are [the LORD] and El Distinct Deities in Psalm 82 and Deuteronomy 32?. ” Faculty Publications and Presentations. [PDF]
Heiser, Michael. (2007) “Anthropomorphism in P.” Pacific Northwest Regional Meeting of the Social of Biblical Literature. [PDF]
Heiser, Michael. (2009) “The Old Testament Respond to Ancient Near-East Pagan Divination.” Of Global Wizardry: Techniques of Pagan Spirituality and a Christian Response. [PDF]
Heiser, Michael. (2017) “The Divine Council in the Pentateuch.” Evangelical Theological Society 2017, San Antonio. [PDF]

Dr. Michael Heiser is one of my most influential Hebrew Bible scholars. Along with Rev. Steven Boint and Dr. Robert Alter, Dr. Heiser focuses on what the Hebrew writings meant to the people who wrote them. These translators come from different religious and academic traditions — Alter is a Jewish professor, Boint is a Reformed minister, and Heiser ministers in the Evangelical tradition.

Both Alter and Heiser argue that the literary background of the Hebrew Bible was the Canaanite religion, which I’ve referred to as the Old Religion of the Habiru. Because of this I read the Ba’al Cycle and paid attention to how the Canaanite gods were referenced in the Scriptures. Heiser also argues that Second Temple Literature, such as the adventures of the deuterocanon and the First Book of Enoch, are part of the literary background to the New Testament.

The four articles above, which are linked to as PDFs but which are also available as Kindle singles, concern the murky period when the Canaanite religion was becoming what we would recognize as Judaism. An aspect of the Old Religion were the Divine Councils (plural). Perhaps a Catholic reader might call these Communions, in the sense of the Council of the Dead… the Communion of Saints?

Scholars whose divine council research focuses on Canaan and Israel see either three of four tiers within the council, with members of all tiers engaged somewhere in the council’s activities… Even ancestral spirits of the human dead are called as council (“sod”) at Ugarit….

So what’s the point of the divine council? God certainly doesn’t need one, but he chooses to allow his intelligent creations participate with him in how he wants things done — sort of like the Church. God doesn’t need us, either, but he has chosen to propel his will on earth through his believing household.”

From these short papers I was able to see a particular passage in a new way. I had already learned from Alter that when the text states that a superior says X, and then immediately the superior says Y, with no response from the inferior, it indicates a meaningful silence. The inferior party might disagree, or be shocked, or distrustful, but out of deference is not interrupting the inferior.

So take this passage in Genesis, as translated by Alter. The scene is Jacob and his smart, greedy uncle Laban. Laban has deceived Jacob into accidentally marrying a daughter he did not want, leading to the grief of both. But Laban has done well.

I’ve highlighted a specific verse for reference.

And it happened, when Rachel bore Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban,” Send me off, that I may go to my place and to my land. Give me my wives and my children, for whom I have served you, that I may go, for you know the service that I have done for you.”

And Laban said to him, If, pray, I have found favor in your eyes, I have prospered and the LORD has blessed me because of you.”

And he said, “Name me your waves that I may give them.”

And he said, “You know how I have served…”

The New King James Version translates the highlighted portion differently:

And it came to pass, when Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my country. Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me go; for you know my service which I have done for you.”

And Laban said to him, “Please stay, if I have found favor in your eyes, for I have learned by experience that the Lord has blessed me for your sake.” Then he said, “Name me your wages, and I will give it.”
Genesis 30:25-28 (NKJV)

Heiser’s translation of that verse, and his exegesis, reads

But Laban said to him, ‘if I have found favor in your sight, I have learned by divination that [the LORD] has blessed me because of you.

The root of the word ‘divination’ here is these same as that practice condemned in Deut. 18:9-14. ”
The Old Testament Response to Pagan Divination

Indeed, Alter in his footnotes acknowledges this!

I have prospered. Everywhere else in the Bible, the verb niesh means “to divine,” but that makes little sense here, and so there is plausibility in the proposal of comparative semiticists that this particular usage reflects an Akkadian cognate meaning “to prosper.”

Laban, the greedy the smart man, who sacrificed his daughter to ensnare Israel, divined the cause of his blessings: Jacob was in his house. He persued knowledge without love.

Heiser looks not only for the cultural and linguistic context of the Scripture, but into its grammar too. For instance, its widely expected that the the earliest part of the Bible we have is the result of editing work conducted in Babylon after the First Temple was destroyed. One source for this, one of the ancient written or oral traditions combined into the Torah, may have been a “priestly” source that particularly focused on sacrifices. Some have argued that these “priestly” sources did not understand God to be as anthropomorphic as others. Heiser quotes another academic as writing

Blatant anthromorophisms such as God’s walking in the gardens of Eden, making Adam’s and Eve’s clothes, closing Noah’s ark, smelling Noah’s sacrifice, wrestling with Jacob, standing ont he rock at Meribah, and being seen by Moses at Sinai/Horeb are absent in [the priestly source].

(The view of God as anthropomorphic, of having human attributes, was widespread in the ancient and classical near east, from God hosting a heavenly feast with wine in the canaanite religion, to the Son of God hosting a last supper with wine in Christianity.)

But Heiser argues against this, using a database driven approach that reminded me of the debunking in The Treasure of Rennes-le-Chateau:

The comparative totals are quite interesting and defy expectations. Rather than [other sources, called “J” and “E”] containing more instances of clear anthropomorphisms, it is [the Priestly source, “P”] that outnumbers J and E. There were sixteen instance for P compared to a total of nine for J and nine for E. P, therefore, has almost as many anthromorphisms as J and E combined with respect to these searches.

Yet Heiser is also willing to address controversies that are foolish. The 82nd Psalm includes the striking opening

God stands in the congregation of the mighty;
He judges among the gods.
How long will you judge unjustly,
And show partiality to the wicked? Selah…
All the foundations of the earth are unstable.
I said, “You are gods,
And all of you are children of the Most High.
Psalm 82:1-2,6

Which Christ on earth referenced:

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods”’? If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?
John 10:34-36

In a triumph of pedantic scholarship, some read this and conclude

1. God is judging the Gods
2. But God is standing
3. That means God is acting as both prosecutor and judge
4. But prosecutors re lower than Judge
5. Therefore the psalmist means to write “The LORD stands in the congregation of the might; God judges among the gods.”
6. This is not biblical parallelism, but a statement that the LORD is separate, distinct, and inferior to God

Heiser argues against this not only on literary but contextual and historic grounds. A bad argument easily dispatched.

Ironically, there may be a different way to see the One True God as both seated and standing in the Psalm, but neither academic mentions that.

So what is the point? Heiser, directly, does not tell us. These articles appear to stand alone.

But behind them appears to be an internally consistent cosmology. Both The LORD and God are presented with human attributes in Genesis. The LORD and God are not distinct entities, but the same One God. He, the One God, creates and guides creation, with both natural and supernatural creatures assisting in this work. But as there as bad natural deeds so can there be bad unnatural deeds. Discerning this is important for what is to come.

I read these articles in the Kindle editions.