We know of the Bible as the story of God’s plan of salvation for mankind. From the first page to the last, we see that he had the end in mind from the very beginning. However, most of the time we see just two parties to the story: the Triune God and mankind, those inhabitants of the third heaven and the first.
However, there is another group that plays the role, the divine council. Part of the group referenced in Ephesians 6:12 which refers to the unseen realm ruled by principalities, two of which are named in a brief reference in Daniel 9. There are a few explicit references to these beings in the Bible along with many references that are implicit.
Without understanding that yes, there is an actual unseen realm and a variety of beings who inhabit it and that some of the words spoken in the Bible are judgments against them, we can completely miss the context of what certain passages are saying.
Dr. Michael Heiser has made an extensive study of the Divine Council. An expert in ancient Near East languages, he has collected over 4,800 references related to it. This 168 page book is a synthesis of those resources and gives an overview of the structure and dynamics of the conflict from Genesis to Revelation.
The book reminds me of “Mere Christianity.” But while Lewis began at square one beginning with a defense that there must be a God and then follows with arguments as to why the Christian God rings true in every area, this book is written for a Christian audience.
Heiser assumes that the reader believes in God and that Christ is the Redeemer of mankind; however, be prepared to check every other assumption you have regarding the make-up of the heavens at the door.
I’ll admit, when I first came across his blog, drmsh.com, and read about the Divine Council, it was uncomfortable. It didn’t fit with what I had been taught in Sunday School, Bible study or church. But having that information, when I read through the Bible, there were passages that opened up to me. There was significance where before it had been just words.
The book begins with the question, “Do you really believe what the Bible says?” The chapter continues point out that while as Christians we profess to believe in a God, Creator, and Redeemer who is outside of space and time, very often we act like confirmed skeptics when it comes to supernatural accounts in the Bible. We skip over the parts that are hard, make us uncomfortable, or don’t fit within the worldview we’ve created.
What it covers
• The make-up of the heavenly government of God, the heads of which were 70 heavenly beings/principalities which were assigned people groups at the dispersion at the Tower of Babel as told in Deuteronomy 32:8. There is a whole other layer to the salvation plan and it was this group, this council, that Jesus is made Lord of all, the name above all other names (Philippians 2:9.) This is the government that he is Lord of, which he won through victory at the cross. (Isaiah 9:6)
• It explains who the Bible is referring to when the world “Elohim” is used.
• It answers questions about those weird verses referring to the Nephilim and the Watchers
• It explains our purpose as God’s “imagers.”
• It talks about free will, God’s will, destiny, and our purpose.
• It gives a fuller picture of what is truly going on, the “battleground in two realms.” (pg 42)
• It explains how the celestial interacts with the terrestrial (Chapter 5: Cosmic Geography)
• It explains the purpose of the Law (Chapter 7: Rules of Engagement.) I think when we as Christians read the Old Testament, we get hung up on all the sacrifices and completely miss that the way to salvation has always, from first to last, been through faith in the Redeemer, God’s Salvation, Yeshua. (Genesis 15:6, Job 19:25)
• It also explains the truly demonically inspired effort to eradicate both the Jewish people and the nation of Israel (pg 75.)
• It explains what sacred ground means and the purpose of all those animals sacrificed. (Chapter 8: Sacred Space.)
• It ties in seemingly unrelated conflicts in the Bible and illustrates how they are part of the same battle (Chapter 9: Holy War)
• It gives a reason for the bits and pieces of the plan and picture of the Messiah in the Old Testament and explains why the message was so cryptic (Chapter 10: Hidden in Plain Sight)
• It gives a different perspective than most on the confrontation between Jesus and Satan and what Jesus was really doing in sending out the 12 and then the 70. (Chapter 11: Supernatural Intent)
• It explains the Second Temple understanding of some of the names of God and descriptors and explains why Caiaphas had such a violent reaction when Jesus said, “You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven (Chapter 12: The Cloud Rider.)
• It explains the meaning of Pentecost where the Holy Spirit gave not just gifts, but was equipping for war (Chapter 13: The Great Reversal.)
• It explains who we are as believers (Chapter 14: Not of this World)
• It explains our position in God’s family (Chapter 15: Partakers of the Divine Nature)
• It explains what is to come (Chapter 16: Ruling over angels.)
I grew up in the church and even went to a private Christian school for a number of years. I thought I knew the stories and understood it. Then I started reading through the Bible for myself . . . and I realized how much I didn’t know and how much I had been taught really didn’t line up with what the Bible said.
Then when you start learning the details of what was going on at the time the words were written and the context in which the writers wrote and read it in that light, most of the time you have to readjust your understanding of it.