Divine Council

Let’s begin at the the beginning shall we? I guess it depends on how we define the beginning.  What was it like before God created the world?

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
    Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
    Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
    or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
    and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Job 38:4-7

Who were these “ben elohiym”, the sons of God?  We know for certain that they cannot be human or descendants of Adam because they were present at the creation of the world before Adam was created.  So, they must be divine beings of some order, possibly seraph or another type of divine being. I would also rule out them being angelic because the Hebrew word for angel is mal’ak (messenger, ambassador or representative) but that is not the word used in this passage.  All we know at this point is that they are supernatural beings who are neither angels or descendants of Adam.

Perhaps you are wondering if the “sons of God” are not human or angels what could they possibly be?  Actually, the Bible is full of various types of divine beings.  Consider the examples below, none of which are angels.

Sons of God: Job 38:7; 1:6; Gen. 6:2; Deut. 32:8
Cherubim: Gen. 3:24; Ex. 25:20
Seraphim: Is. 6:2; 6:6
Four living creatures: Ezekiel 1:5; Rev. 5:7
Twenty four elders: Rev. 5:8

If we add in the various types of angels (including the rebellious) then the spirit world is replete with divine creatures of a wide variety.  So the “sons of God” were and are divine beings, but not angels.  They have responsibilities different from those of an angelic messenger or representative.

As we move forward we will discover other fascinating places where this phrase “ben elohiym” is used.

We discover something else about God | Yahweh in this Job passage.  That is that before the earth was created God was a relational being with a family.  In other words, before the earth was created the trinity was present with a divine family of “ben elohiym”, the sons of God.  In the passage above God has put Job on the spot and telling him that his divine family was present and celebrating while he was laying out the foundations of the earth.  If this about God having a family before he created mankind is new to you we will revisit it several more times in other passages to reinforce the idea.

What is the divine council?
Just as you are getting comfortable with the idea of multiple types of divine beings in God’s kingdom let me introduce another phrase – “host of heaven”.  Below are two examples where “host of heaven” is found – one is a positive representation and the other negative.  Sometimes you will find “host of heaven” to represent a grouping of all divine beings which would include those who were loyal to Yahweh as well as the rebellious.  

 “You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.
Nehemiah 9:6

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

Divine council is a term related to “host of heaven” in the Hebrew Bible.  When Yahweh sits to preside over a meeting of the “host of heaven” this can be thought of in terms of a meeting of the divine council.  It is a group of divine beings over which Yahweh presides as the “Most High”.  Many passages use the “most High” language but here is one such example.

that they may know that you alone,
    whose name is the Lord,
    are the Most High over all the earth.
Psalm 83:18

There are several passages which will help to illustrate this idea of divine council.

And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; and the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another.  Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’  And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’  And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’
1 Kings 22:19

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. 
Job 1:6; 2:1

And Psalm 82 which we will dive into in a subsequent chapter.

God has taken his place in the divine council;
    in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
Psalm 82:1

In all three of these passages we find God, the Most High, presiding over a meeting of divine beings – hence the divine council.  This should not be construed to mean that God needs the councils input, knowledge or wisdom – he does however value it and chooses to act and make decisions in community.  We might think of his council in the same way in which he relates to his people on earth.  Does he need us; the answer should be obvious?  But he chooses us as his partners in the gospel and he desires to share his kingdom with us.  The divine council is no different.

My absolute favorite picture of divine council is Revelation chapter 5 which I like to call the Messiah’s coronation ceremony.  I would recommend you read the whole chapter for it is amazing.  Since we are discussing divine council see if you can pick out the council members.  You should spot: a mighty angel, 24 elders, four living creatures, Lamb of God, Yahweh on the throne, myriads of angels as well as every creature in heaven and earth.  I would also expect to find the cherubim in this setting as well since they are throne guardians – we will touch on this in a later chapter.  This is the ultimate divine council meeting when the Messiah receives Davidic authority as king; he is no longer the prince of peace.

The point of this discussion is to demonstrate that there is a divine council and God works in concert with his council.  He does not need the council, but rather chooses to have a council.  This is not polytheism.  For he remains Yahweh – God Most High the creator and giver of life.  And he is separate and unique from all created beings (both human and divine).

Divine council in creation
Since we are laying the foundation in the next few chapters for the call of Abram let’s see how council ties in to the creation account.

I find such richness in scriptural subtleties.  For example, during the days of creation when God was establishing the lights in the sky, waters, dry land, plants, animals, etc it was all done with the phrase: “and God said…”.  But when he gets ready to create mankind he looks at his divine council and says:

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.
Genesis 1:26

Before you call me a heretic consider a few points.
If “us” and “our” are referring to the trinity then why didn’t the account use “us” and “our” when God was creating the heavenly bodies, waters, plants and animals?

Saying that “us” and “our” in Gen. 1:26 refers to the trinity is interpreting the Old Testament in light of the New Testament.  This is not how to original Hebrew people would have understood the creation account.  They obviously did not have the New Testament scriptures.

Remember the passage from Job 38 that we looked at earlier?

when the morning stars sang together
    and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Well, just as the sons of God celebrated at the laying the earths foundation they also celebrated at the creation of mankind.  In other words, all of us (the divine beings as well as mankind) share an image and likeness with Yahweh the creator.  It was if God had a meeting of the divine council and said, “let’s create a race of humans who are like us”,  and then he proceeded to execute the plan.

We are beginning to discover that God has both a human family and a divine family.  Throughout the balance of scripture this idea is continually developed and we see numerous intersections where the divine family interfaces with the earthly domain and a few cases where earth invades the spiritual realm such as the case of Paul getting caught up to the third heaven.  Is this not what Eden was about, a place where God dwelt with both his human and divine family living together as one.  We will explore that idea in the next chapter.

Let us finish the chapter with a final thought about the creation of mankind.  When God decided to make us after his own image, joining the ranks of his family what did we do to earn that privilege.  As we will discover when we get to the story of Abraham just as he did nothing to deserve the blessing of God we also did nothing to be blessed with the honor of carrying his image.

But nevertheless, here we stand as an imager of Yahweh with full status as a member of his natural and celestial family to administrate his affairs on the earth.

 

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