One of the biggest threats to God’s people in the OT was another god called Baal. Israel was to be a monotheistic community, a group whose sole devotion was directed towards YHWH only. But as the pages of Scripture repeatedly tell us, Israel didn’t follow the rules.
Baal was the storm and fertility god. So if his followers needed crops, they would pray for rain and grain. In some ways it was easier to be polytheistic, at least for the placebo affect. You don’t just pray to one god because, really, how can one God do it all? So you pray to all gods to get all of your prayers fulfilled.
Yet Baal wasn’t just another face in the crowd. He was one of the higher deities in the polytheistic pantheon. And Israel like to worship him, especially since one form of worship involved sexual rituals. Who could say no to that?
In some of the texts of Ugarit, Israel’s northern neighbor, Baal is called “the one who rides the clouds.” It pretty much became his official title. LeBron James shoots hoops; Baal rides clouds.
Yet, it wasn’t just Baal who rode clouds. According to Michael Heiser in The Unseen Realm, to turn all the attention back to Yahweh instead of Baal, the biblical authors “occasionally pilfered this stock description of Baal… and assigned it to Yahweh…” (251).
There is none like God, O Jeshurun, who rides through the heavens to your help, through the skies in his majesty (Deut 33:26)
O kingdoms of the earth, sing to God; sing praises to the Lord, Selah
to him who rides in the heavens, the ancient heavens; behold, he sends out his voice, his mighty voice (Ps 68:32-33)
Bless the Lord, O my soul!… He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters; he makes the clouds his chariot; he rides on the wings of the wind; he makes his messengers winds, his ministers a flaming fire (Ps 104:1-4)
An oracle concerning Egypt. Behold, the Lord is riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt; and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them (Isa 19:1)
“The effect was to… hold up Yahweh as the deity who legitimately rode through the heavens surveying and governing the world” (252).
Every instance in the OT where someone is riding the clouds, that “someone” is Yahweh. Except, there is… one exception. There is a second figure. A human figure.
Daniel 7:13—the Lone Exception
Daniel 7:13 reads,
I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
In the NT we find a number of connections to Jesus. A few are given below:
“But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” (Mk 2:10-11)
For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. (Lk 17:24-25)
“Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Lk 24:26)
Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming with the clouds of heaven.” (Mk 14:61-62)
About this Heiser writes, “Caiaphas understood that Jesus was claiming to be the second Yahweh figure on Daniel 7:13 — and that was an intolerable blasphemy” (253). Along with these Son of Man texts, there are other connections with Jesus and clouds.
And when [Jesus] had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. (Acts 1:9).
Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. (Rev 1:9)
Some form of the Trinity was seen in the OT. Even the Jews around and before the first century were talking about “two powers in heaven.” Yet, once Christians began to elaborate on the Trinity, the Jews declared the “two powers” idea a heresy, and belief that still holds today among Jews.
So far we’ve only looked at these “two powers,” but what about the third member of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit? Are the lines blurred with the Holy Spirit too? Heiser brings up a few texts, and I’ll look at them in my next post.
- Who Were the Nephilim?
- Why This Topic?
- Three Interpretations on the Nephilim
- Why is Genesis 6.1-4 in the Bible?
- Weird Texts of the Bible
Dividing the Nations
The OT Trinity
- The Trinity in the Old Testament
- And He Struggled With the Angel
- He Rides the Clouds
- The Holy Spirit
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And also Heiser’s more condensed version,