THE DIVINE COUNCIL in action and prophecy is the focus of this week’s Old Testament study. Psalm 82 depicts a courtroom scene in the divine council with Yahweh declaring judgment on the lesser gods who “judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked.” Incredibly, the psalm prophesies a day when the small-G gods die “like men,” which may have something to do with their bad attitude.
Psalm 83 follows with what may be a prophesy of a coming war between Israel and the Muslim nations around it. The psalm takes on new context if we assume the nations mentioned have been allocated to these lesser elohim — which, of course, they were.
Then we return to historical books to hear the rest of Elijah’s life story. The prophet is one of two characters in the Bible (Enoch is the other) who was assumed into heaven without dying. We note the parallel between Elijah’s association with the fire of God from heaven (i.e., the thunderbolt, which was supposed to be the exclusive weapon of Baal) and the power of the two witnesses of Revelation to summon fire from heaven.
And we discuss the short book of Obadiah, a prophecy of judgment against Edom for its participation in the sack of Jerusalem by Babylon in 586 B.C.
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I have considerable difficulty in accepting the “Divine Council” interpretation of Psalm 82 because of Jesus’ comments as recorded in John 10.
Briefly, “the Jews” (as John calls them) were about to stone Jesus for blasphemy “because you, being a man, make yourself God” (ESV). In reply, Jesus points to Psalm 82 and says God Himself called those who received the word of God “gods” and therefore they had no case, since He, Jesus, though also a man was better qualified to be called “God”.
It seems to me that Jesus’ reply makes no sense if those in Psalm 82 were divine.
The Amplified Bible has “So men are called gods by the Law, men to whom God’s message came — and the Scripture cannot be set aside cancelled broken annulled — “.
Similarly, the Complete Jewish Bible has “If he called ‘elohim’ the people to whom the word of Elohim was addressed (and the Tanakh cannot be broken) …”
Likewise the NLT: “And you know that the Scriptures cannot be altered. So if those people who received God’s message were called ‘gods’ …”
and J B Phillips: “And if he called those men ‘gods’ to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken) …”
and so on.
Your understanding of John 10:34 is the majority opinion, to be sure. But there are several points to consider.
First, nowhere else in the OT does “elohim” refer to mortal men. Second, if Jesus was saying that the Jews shouldn’t stone him because Psalm 82 means all of the Jews standing around him were gods as well, why did they try to arrest him anyway? Third, it is incoherent for Jesus to claim divinity in verse 30 (“I and the Father are one”) and then undermine that claim by saying that all other Jews can make the same claim.
We discussed during the study why Psalm 82 doesn’t make sense if the elohim are understood as humans, so I’ll set that aside. The remaining issue, then, is who received the word of God in the passage in John. The verse reconciles easily with Psalm 82 if those who received the word of God were the sons of God, the divine bene elohim, addressed in the divine council setting, not the Jews at Mount Sinai.
Mike Heiser spells this out in detail in a 14-page paper he presented at an academic conference a few years ago. Here’s the link: http://www.michaelsheiser.com/TheNakedBible/SBL%20Psalm%2082%20in%20John%2010%20paper.pdf
Thanks for the response. I don’t say this interpretation is wrong, merely that I have difficulty in accepting it. For example, “God takes his stand in the divine assembly; among the divine beings he renders judgement …” (Psalm 82:1 ISV) is quite explicit in support.
Nonetheless, on balance I still think Jesus’ argument favours what I might call the traditional interpretation. I don’t think He is saying “Whoah! Hold on here. Aren’t we all ‘gods’ according to Psalm 82? So don’t stone me.” Rather it’s a case of “If you don’t like my making myself out to be God, how do you explain Psalm 82?”. The mob, with mob mentality, were not concerned with theology at that stage. Again, Jesus’ argument fails and it would be pointless making it if the beings in Psalm 82 were divine.
In addition, those mentioned in Psalm 82 are further identified by the phrase “to whom the word of God came” (NASB). The Old Testament has many occurrences of the phrase “the word of the LORD came to …” and it’s always to men.