God [elohim] has taken his place in the divine council;
In the midst of the gods [elohim] he holds judgment (Ps 82.1, ESV)
What do we make of God, who is “elohim,” holding judgment in the midst of other “elohim”? Psalm 82 states that the gods were being condemned as corrupt in their administration of the nations of the earth” (p. 12, cf. Deut. 32.8).
Dr. Michael Heiser aims to provide an “unfiltered look at what the Bible really says about the unseen realm.” Many Christians are fine believing in the spiritual realm where God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, angels, and demons reside. But often if you go beyond that, they become skeptical. For the last 15 years Heiser has researched the ancient Near Eastern cultures and their writings to grasp the mindset of the ancient Israelite. How differently did they think about the spiritual world than we do today?
Paul said we wrestle against the rulers, authorities, cosmic powers over this present darkness, and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. How did he know this? Who are these beings? It takes putting on the mindset of an ancient Israelite to know this. After reading The Unseen Realm you will see the Bible through new eyes.
Frequently Asked Questions by Christians:
- What/who are angels and demons and where did they come from?
- Is there a hierarchy?
- Did animals talk before the Fall? Why wasn’t Eve afraid of the snake?
- Why did God send the Flood?
- Why did God command Israel to wipe out the Canaanites? How can I accept this?
- Who are the sons of God in Genesis 6?
- What does this have to do with me as a Christian today?
- Does it make a difference?
The Unseen Realm is divided into eight sections made up by 42 chapters. It’s not easy to summarize these eight sections in a few sentences, but I’ll give it a shot.
Part 1: First Things
This is the book’s introduction where Heiser describes the beginning of his journey and how the weird verses that we don’t give much thought to actually are important.
Part 2: The Households of God
God has a “divine family,” the Divine Council, who serve him and carry out his commands. God also has an earthly family who is to spread God’s name across the globe, fulfilling his commands. Though God, Yahweh, is superior, both families will still rebel.
Part 3: Divine Transgressions
The nachash (the serpent, a divine being) rebels against YHWH and convinces the first man and woman to sin. There are more divine transgressions in Genesis 6, with the offspring residing in the land of Canaan, land given to Abraham and his seed. The tower of Babel “citizens” are dispersed and placed under the rule of lesser gods who try to rival YHWH’s power. There will be war.
Part 4: Yahweh and His Portion
YHWH chooses Abraham out of the dispersion and will create a people out of Abram who will follow Him. He would be a father of many nations, implying that the dispersed nations would be brought back to YHWH. Here we see aspects of the Trinity; lines that are blurred. All believers, Jews and Gentiles, will replace the divine council, and we are already-but-not-yet his council on earth.
Part 5: Conquest and Failure
There are “giant problems” after the Flood. “Yahweh had chosen to accomplish his ends through imagers loyal to him against imagers who weren’t” (215). YHWH’s presence is unwelcome to the rebellious earth-dwellers, and Heiser argues that Joshua’s holy war was against the descendants of the Nephilim, not “normal” humans.
Part 6: Thus Says the Lord
The nations remained under the rule of the foreign gods. Israel, God’s people, was constantly at war with these other nations. The Temple, where Israel met with their God, was like the Garden of Eden. But Israel rebelled, and God commissioned the Prophets, usually in his divine council throne room (Isa 6.1-2). Daniel 7 shows us a man who rides the clouds, and the eternal kingdom given to him will be also be given to the holy ones of the most high (Dan 7.14, 18, 22).
Part 7: The Kingdom Already
“The New Testament” marks the rebirth of a struggle thousands of years in the making” (344). Jesus has the Name of the Lord on him and leads Israel and the Gentiles out of exile in the new Exodus. Pentecost reverses the tower of Babel scene. Believers, being ‘sons of God,’ will have governing rule (Dan 7.14, 18, 22), and they will displace the rebellious beings and judge them (1 Cor 6.3). 1 Peter tells us that baptism is spiritual warfare, “a pledge of loyalty to the risen Savior” (338).
Part 8: The Kingdom Not Yet
Heiser compares the throne room imagery between Revelation and the prophets. He views the foe from the north, Gog and Magog, as having some sort of relation with Bashan, a common spiritual enemy to Israel in the OT. In the end, YHWH will return with his holy ones, angels and glorified humans.
Most sections ends with a quick Section Summary.
Highly recommended. While I think (but I’m not sure) Heiser might be viewing too many texts through his Deuteronomy 32 worldview, he also brings to light texts that many have either overlooked or avoided because of their weirdness.
Though Heiser has stated on his podcast that he is a grammar nerd, his book is surprisingly easy to read. The concepts are heavy because they will likely be something you’ve never heard before, but he is able to simplify the concepts into bite-sized chapters that range between 5-10 pages. Heiser succeeds in making the scholarly world accessible to the layman. Many of the deep, textual matters are left to the footnotes. Though you may not agree with everything Heiser says, he puts together the OT thought world, concepts, and lifestyle into our understanding formed (probably) primarily by the NT. He presents an overarching view of the Bible that appears to work, and it’s one that I will work into my understanding.
Heiser’s view helps me want to read the Bible more since I have a better understanding of what is happening “behind the scenes.” I have a better understanding of the Israelite mindset, and any book that helps me to read the Bible more (like this one here) is worth the buy.
- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: Lexham Press (September 1, 2015)
- 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
Buy it on Amazon!
And also Heiser’s more condensed version,
Buy it on Amazon!
[Special thanks to Lexham Press for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book].