“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
Biblical genealogies are almost certainly among the most difficult passages in Scripture. Not only are most genealogies downright monotonous, but also the Biblical names themselves can be torturous for even the most avid Bible student.
Take Genesis 5 for example, which traces ancestral descent from Adam to Noah. On the surface, there is nothing spectacular to see. Some might give Enoch a little special attention, considering his unusual disappearing act, but overall Genesis 5 simply provides a family tree.
Now genealogies in general are important, especially when tracing the lineage of the Messiah. The Genesis 5 genealogy, therefore, has theological value in its own right, if only as an historical record of mankind before the flood. But when we take a little closer look at the names in Genesis 5 and their root meanings, something amazing happens.
God — in His divine wisdom and perfect knowledge — has planted a hidden message of hope within one of the most mundane passages of Scripture.
Proper names are rarely translated from Hebrew to English, but rather transliterated. The meaning of these Hebrew names in Genesis 5, therefore must be determined by referring to their basic root word. Although not an exact science, what you are about to see is at the very least worth consideration.
When we take the names and their meaning in order from Genesis 5, a message begins to emerge that can only be explained by an omniscient God who inserted an integrated message system within the Hebrew text to announce the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I do not take credit for this discovery and have obtained much of my information from the late Chuck Missler and his ministry at Koinonia House.
The first name, Adam, comes from adomah, and means “man.”
Adam’s son was named Seth, which means “appointed”. When he was born Eve said, “For God hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.” [Genesis 4:25]
Seth’s son was called Enosh, which means “mortal,” “frail,” or “miserable.” It is from the root anash: “to be incurable”; used of a wound, grief, woe, sickness, or wickedness.
Enosh’s son was named Kenan, from which is derived the terms “sorrow,” dirge,” or “elegy.”
Kenan’s son was Mahalalel, from mahalal, which means “blessed” or “praise”; and El, the name for God. Thus, Mahalalel means “the Blessed God.” Often Hebrew names included El, the name of God, as Dani-el, “God is my Judge,” Nathani-el, “Gift of God,” etc.
Mahalalel’s son was named Jared, from the verb yaradh, meaning “shall come down.” Some authorities suggest that this might have been an allusion to the “Sons of God” who “came down” to corrupt the daughters of men, resulting in the Nephilim (“Fallen Ones”) of Genesis 6.
Jared’s son was named Enoch, which means “teaching,” or “commencement.” He was the first of four generations of preachers. In fact, the earliest recorded prophecy was by Enoch, which amazingly enough deals with the Second Coming of Christ.
The Flood of Noah did not come as a surprise. It had been preached on for four generations. But something strange happened when Enoch was 65, from which time “he walked with God.” Enoch was given a prophecy that as long as his son was alive, the judgment of the flood would be withheld; but as soon as he died, the flood would be sent forth.
Enoch named his son to reflect this prophecy. The name Methuselah comes from two roots: muth, a root that means “death” ; and from shalach, which means “to bring,” or “to send forth.” Thus, the name Methuselah signifies, “his death shall bring.”
And, indeed, in the year that Methuselah died, the flood came. Methuselah was 187 when he had Lamech, and lived 782 years more. Lamech had Noah when he was 182.
The Flood came in Noah’s 600th year. 187 + 182 + 600 = 969, Methuselah’s age when he died
Methuselah’s son was named Lamech, a root still evident today in our own English word, “lament” or “lamentation.” Lamech suggests “despairing.”
Lamech, of course, is the father of Noah, which is derived from nacham , “to bring relief” or “comfort,” as Lamech himself explains in Genesis 5:29.
Now when we put these meanings together in order, we get an amazing message.
The Blessed God
Shall come down
His death shall bring
Rest, or comfort.
So now let’s add a few definite articles and conjunctions and we will see the gospel of Jesus Christ contained in this genealogy.
MaN is Appointed Mortal Sorrow, but the Blessed God Shall Come Down Teaching. His Death Shall Bring the Despairing Rest.
From beginning to end the good news of the gospel has never changed. God will provide a Substitute — a Savior for sinful man — and all who trust in Jesus will be saved and will find eternal rest.
“There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.”
[Genesis 6:4 – KJV]
One of most obvious places where fringe culture, conspiracy theory and Biblical truth intersect is in regard to the giants. Although the modern pundits who propagate Darwinian evolution and naturalism vehemently deny such nonsense, the historical testimony from all over the world cannot be dismissed.
Giants once walked this earth.
Some standing at least 15′ tall, weighing nearly 3,000 lbs. Swift, agile, fierce, and immensely strong giants. Their bodies proportionate and symmetrical, not gangly and deformed.
The giants before the flood — called the Nephilim — are believed to have been even taller.
For those of us who have been educated in a post-enlightenment society, where we are taught to apply a strict rationalism to everything, the idea of giants roaming the earth in the ancient past sounds more like a fairytale or science fiction than it does history. But the historical records abound. Giants are as real as can be.
Abraham Lincoln, prior to becoming president, wrote the following journal entry after visiting Niagara Falls. His is just one of many examples of this known phenomenon.
“When Columbus first sought this continent—when Christ suffered on the cross—when Moses led Israel through the Red-Sea—nay, even, when Adam first came from the hand of his Maker—then as now, Niagara was roaring here. The eyes of that species of extinct giants, whose bones fill the mounds of America, have gazed on Niagara, as ours do now. Contemporary with the whole race of men, and older than the first man, Niagara is strong, and fresh to-day as ten thousand years ago.”
[Abe Lincoln, Sept 1848]
Even in our churches, we practically never hear a preacher broach the subject of giants, despite the fact that giants are references over 20 times throughout the Scriptures. Where we treat the subject of the giants as taboo, the Biblical authors mention giants matter-of-factly, like they were commonplace in the ancient world.
For some reason Christians have no problem embracing certain aspects of the supernatural like angels and demons and miracles and the virgin birth and the resurrection, but we have a hard time wrapping our minds around the fact that there were “giants in the earth in those days; and also after that.”
Although it is worth doing a comprehensive secular study of the historical record of giants in the ancient world, which confirms that nearly every culture has either written and/or oral traditions of the giants, my goal here is simply to present what the Bible says about the giants and where they fit into the Biblical narrative.
Giants were the Hybrid Offspring of an Unholy Union
We are first introduced to the giants, called the Nephilim, in Genesis 6, in what the Bible describes as a forbidden union between the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men.” Most scholars agree that the word Nephilim is derived from the root Hebrew word, nephal, which literally means to fall or to lie.
The “sons of God,” therefore, are the fallen ones who abandoned their proper domain and lusted after the daughters of men, forcefully taking any they chose as wives in order to procreate.
The result of this perverse, unholy union? Giants. The Nephilim were a dominant, superior, hybrid offspring of giant warriors, who became known as the mighty men of old, heroes and men of renown in the ancient world. It only stands to reason that giant warriors of such stature would naturally become the dominant kings and rulers of the earth.
Jude describes how this heavenly rebellion in Genesis 6 was profane and treasonous in the eyes of the LORD.
“And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, [strange flesh] serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.”
Jude says the angels who abandoned their proper position in heaven indulged in “unnatural desire,” or literally different flesh. The Book of Enoch adds that the Watchers lusted after human women and came down and took all they wanted [1 Enoch 6:2].
In other words, the sons of God had no business intermingling with the daughters of man. It was a direct violation of the created order established by God and therefore a most perverse act of immorality.
The result of this ungodly transgression was the birth of the giants — a hybrid class of demonic offspring. The giants were not made in the image of God, but in the image of the fallen ones. And they were a direct threat to the human race.
Giants Perpetuated Evil and Violence on Earth
There is no mistake that the giants are directly connected to the complete corruption and defilement of all flesh prior to the flood of Noah’s day. The Biblical account implies that there is a connection between the manifestation of these giants and the wickedness in the earth.
“The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart… Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.”
[Genesis 6:5-6, 11-12]
The Book of Enoch confirms the Biblical account and elaborates on the evil agenda of the Watchers and their giant progeny. The fallen sons of God introduced all sorts of witchcraft, occult magic, astrology, enchantments, sorcery, use of drugs, weapons, genetic engineering, sexual perversion, and demonic blood sacrifice. The giants were bloodthirsty and violent, devouring mankind at will. [See 1 Enoch 7-8]
As I have mentioned before, the giant offspring of the Watchers were designed to accelerate evil and utterly destroy mankind from the earth.
Giants were to be Utterly Destroyed
The more I understand the role of giants in the Biblical narrative, the more I have come to understand God’s purposes in the flood and the subsequent conquest of Canaan. I believe the reason God resolved to destroy the entire earth with a global flood is directly connected to the total elimination of the Nephilim.
At the time of the great flood, only Noah and his family had been uncorrupted genetically. Everyone else on the face of the planet had been compromised by the corruption of all flesh — both man and animal.
The total annihilation of all flesh on the earth makes perfect sense when we insert the presence of the giants in those days. Interestingly, we see the very same relentless command given by God to utterly destroy all the inhabitants of Canaan during the conquest — men, women and children.
What is the connection between the flood and the conquest of Canaan?
GIANTS were in the land. Show them no mercy.
“So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, ‘The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.’”
Giants are the Seed of Satan
Ultimately the mystery of the giants can be understood in one simple verse in Genesis 3, where the LORD tells Satan.
“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
Everywhere the giants are found, they have one mission — destroy mankind and eliminate the seed of the woman. Satan knew enough to understand the coming Messiah would be born of a woman, so in his deranged mind, Satan’s purpose with the giants was to utterly wipe out mankind from the earth and so cut off the lineage of the promised Messiah.
All of sudden the role of the giants can be seen in light of the greater spiritual battle of cosmic forces.
Fortunately, every time Satan and the fallen sons of God have attempted to wipe out mankind from the earth, they have failed and God has triumphed.
Jesus Christ was born of woman in the fullness of time, and He has come to destroy the works of the devil and has conquered all the spiritual forces of evil that have been at work from the beginning!
As David symbolically cut off the head of the giant Goliath … so Jesus, the Son of David, has ultimately crushed the head of the Serpent! Amen!
“Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.”
Tucked nicely within the genealogies of Genesis 5 is a glaring anomaly. Every patriarch in Adam’s lineage is classified as living a full life and having many sons and daughters before dying, except one — Enoch.
Instead of dying a natural death, Enoch apparently was taken by God and translated into heaven. The Biblical text gives few details about this peculiar encounter, but we can draw some conclusions about Enoch from what the Scriptures provide.
Enoch Walked By Faith
The Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible – the Septuagint – renders Genesis 5:22 this way. “And Enoch was well-pleasing to God after his begetting Mathusala…” Genesis 5:24 says that Enoch walked with God and then was no more because God took him.
Although it is possible that Adam and Eve physically walked with the LORD in the garden before the fall, Enoch’s walking with God is best interpreted as navigating on a spiritual journey of faith in a sin-cursed world. There is nothing in the Biblical account that implies that the LORD walked with Enoch in physical form [theophany]. This is not unlike our own “walk” with God as described in the New Testament, as Pauls says, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us walk in step with the Spirit.” [Galatians 5:25]
In other words, Enoch walked by faith, not by sight. Like his great grandson after him, Noah, Enoch was set apart in his generation by his faith in God. Enoch exercised his faith in such a way that the LORD was pleased with him and graciously decided to bring him into his immediate presence.
“By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
[Hebrews 11:5-6 – ESV]
Enoch Did Not Taste Death
“So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”
According to God’s word, there are only two men who have ever lived who did not die a natural death. One is the prophet Elijah, who was caught up to heaven in a whirlwind on chariots of fire [2 Kings 2:11]. The other is Enoch.
The general rule and universal consequence of the fall is that it is appointed for every man once to die and then face judgment. But for whatever reasons, the LORD graciously spared both Elijah and Enoch of tasting the bitterness of physical death.
One possibility is that Enoch and Elijah were foreshadows of what is to come in the last days at the return of the Jesus. According both to Jesus and Paul, the generation of believers who are alive on the earth during the Second Coming of Christ will not taste death but instead will be translated like Enoch.
“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.”
[1 Corinthians 15:51-52]
“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words
[1 Thessalonians 4:16-18]
After all, Jesus does say that just as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be at the coming of the Son of Man.
ENoch WArned of The Coming Judgement
During the Second Temple period of Judaism — approximately 516 B.C. to 70 A.D. — there were many familiar extra-biblical sources of both written and oral tradition that would have been circulated and well read. These writings would have helped the Jews formulate a more informed and robust Biblical worldview. Although not universally recognized as inspired Scripture, these extra Biblical sources provided historical and theological significance within the community of faith, which is why many of them are included in the Apocrypha.
The Book of Enoch is perhaps the most popular of these extra-Biblical writings, primarily because of its elaboration of the mysterious Genesis 6 account, where the Watchers rebelled against God, descended to Mount Hermon, and took human wives, producingan evil hybrid race of giants on the earth called the Nephilim [Genesis 6:1-5]. The Book of Enoch answers many questions and provides many plausible explanations about what really was happening to mankind before the flood.
I encourage all believers to read and become familiar with the Book of Enoch because Jesus and the New Testament authors were quite familiar with it.
This leads to another reason the Book of Enoch is often taken more seriously than other extra-Biblical works. The New Testament authors clearly make reference to it, even quoting it verbatim. Both Peter and Jude refer to Enoch as being a prophet before the flood who was given a specific message of judgment for the fallen sons of God.
Peter and Jude use language that clearly draws directly from the traditional Book on Enoch.
“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly …”
[2 Peter 2:4-5]
“And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire…”
Jude even quotes directly from the Book of Enoch.
“It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.’”
We cannot be certain that the historical Enoch, who lived before the flood is the genuine author of the book that bears his name. Most scholars would say that the Book of Enoch is Pseudepigraphic in that the true author is unknown. But there is at least a good possibility that oral traditions or written compilations were preserved and passed down after the flood and are directly connected to Enoch himself. Either way, Enoch remains both a significant and enigmatic character in the Biblical narrative.
The Two Witnesses
“But after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God entered the two witnesses, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell upon those who saw them. And the witnesses heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Come up here.’ And they went up to heaven in a cloud as their enemies watched them.”
I would be remiss if I wrote about Enoch without mentioning the Two Witnesses in Revelation 11. There are several possible interpretations about the identity of these two witnesses, and because they are not mentioned by name, it leaves room for speculation.
But I am convinced that the identity of the Two Witnesses can be narrowed down to no more than three historical figures — Elijah, Moses, and Enoch.
Elijah is the most certain candidate for at least one of the witnesses for several reasons. First, he never died a natural death. Second, the miraculous powers given to the witnesses — such as shutting the sky — directly points back to Elijah’s earthy ministry. And finally, the prophets all predicted that Elijah would return as a forerunner before the coming of Messiah [see Malachi 4:5-6].
The identity of the second witness is more difficult to determine. I see a correlation with Moses as the prophet of God who also was given the authority to turn waters into blood and strike the land with plagues [Revelation 11:6]. I also see the connection to the Mountain of Transfiguration [Mt. Hermon] where the two witnesses seen with Jesus were Moses and Elijah. And then there is some mystery about why Michael the Archangel and Satan were disputing over the body of Moses [Jude 1:9].
However, Enoch is also a likely candidate because like Elijah, he never died a natural death, and his prophetic ministry is connected to the coming judgment and the return of the Son of Man in glory. Enoch also is linked to the pre-flood world and the unleashing of the spiritual forces of darkness, which Jesus correlated with the generation that will be alive at His coming.
Maybe the LORD does use Elijah and Enoch as His witnesses in the great tribulation and allows them to suffer persecution and ultimately death in their own proper time. Either way, we all would do well to walk by faith in the boldness of Enoch who was unashamed to preach the coming judgment to a wicked and perverse generation.
“Then Cain went away from the presence of the LORD and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch.”
If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times.
“If the Bible is true, then where did Cain get his wife?”
First of all, this is a loaded question with many false assumptions and misunderstandings. Let me consider those assumptions and bring some simple clarity to this objection.
ASSUMPTION #1 – Cain WAs an only Child Left All Alone
The first glaring assumption that skeptics make is that after murdering his younger brother, Abel, Cain must have been the only other human being on the planet besides his parents, Adam and Eve. There are usually two erroneous conclusions drawn from this assumption.
Since Cain was the only child left in the family, then he would have no one to marry. Therefore the Bible is false.
If Cain found a wife in Nod and married her, then from where did she come? Was there an entirely different race of people alive on the earth who did not descend from Adam and Eve? [This is often proposed by those who believe in the unbiblical theory that a pre-adamic race of people who evolved over millions of years.] Therefore the Bible is incomplete.
Fortunately, the Bible provides a simple answer in Genesis 5.
“When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters.”
The genealogies in the Scriptures are not meant to provide a comprehensive account of every child born into a family, nor do they always support chronology. On the contrary, the genealogies serve an entirely different purpose altogether and deal uniquely with God’s covenant with man and His multigenerational faithfulness.
For example, in Luke’s account of the genealogy of Jesus, Judah is listed as the son of Jacob [Luke 3:33-34], but we know that Judah was neither the only son nor the first born son of Jacob. So it is with the genealogies in Genesis. Just because Seth is the only son listed under the line of Adam, we know that Adam and Eve had other sons and daughters who are not identified by name.
Adam was 130 when Seth was born, but nothing in the text prohibits the possibility that many other sons and daughters were born to Adam before Seth. Even if Cain and Abel were the first two offspring of Adam and Eve, a lot can happen in 130 years. Dr. Henry Morris calculated that by the time of Adam’s death, there easily could have been nearly 3 million people on the earth. So by the time Cain was banished, he potentially could have been many other adult brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews and cousins alive on the earth.
The Scripture also tells us that Eve is the “mother of all the living” [Genesis 3:20], so obviously Cain’s wife had to be one of his relatives.
Assumption #2 – Cain Found His Wife in Nod
For those who attempt to harmonize Darwinian evolution with God’s six days of creation in Genesis, there is a fascination with Cain’s wife. They use Cain’s wife to insinuate that perhaps there were other people already alive on the earth who had settled long before God formed Adam and Eve. They contend that this pre-adamic race of humans, or sub humans, evolved over millions of years by naturalistic processes, which explains how Cain could have found a wife living in previously settled civilization.
To hear them tell it, after Cain was banished to the land of Nod in the east he found a flourishing community of other pre-adamic humans settling there, which is where he “found his wife.”
Yet if you read carefully, the Bible says Cain settled in Nod and then it says he knew his wife and she conceived. It never says that Cain found his wife in Nod, but only that after settling in Nod, Cain and his wife came together to produce a child.
Cain could have just as easily found and married his wife before leaving for Nod. There is nothing in the text that says that his wife was already settling there. Furthermore, Cain is the one who built the city there in Nod, so there is no indication that a thriving civilization was already in place.
Assumption #3 – Incest is Against God’s Law
Here in the south we joke about “kissing cousins,” and how some family trees don’t have many branches, if you know what I mean. Incest is frowned upon in today’s culture and rightfully so.
First of all, the Mosaic Law clearly forbids many unsanctioned sexual relationships, including incest [Leviticus 18, 20:17-21]. After the children of Israel were redeemed from Egypt, the LORD prescribed specific laws that would make them holy and distinct from the nations around them. Unlike the civil and ceremonial laws of the Torah, God’s moral code – including incest – remains in place and transcends all times and places.
Secondly, man’s genetic pool has become so diluted over time that families that practice incest suffer from degenerative birth defects, physical deficiencies, and genetic disorders.
So then for Cain to marry his sister, or niece, or cousin, it would have been a direct transgression of God’s law, right? Not to mention just gross.
Not so. The law of Moses wasn’t given to Israel until 430 years after Abraham, and before the law was given, there was no direct prohibition against incest. Even Abram married his half sister, Sarai, which would have been a violation of the Mosaic Covenant, but because it happened before the giving of the law, it was not a transgression. Over time, God progressively began to set parameters for mankind, knowing that the law would be needed to make man conscious of sin.
Once the moral law was given, incest and other sexual sins outside of monogamous marriage are an offense to God and must be avoided.
“For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.” [Romans 2:12]
Also, Pauls says, “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, [Romans 5:20] and that the law “was added because of transgressions.” [Galatians 3:19]
Furthermore, man’s gene pool was pure and uncorrupted before the flood, which eliminated the common genetic mutations and birth defects that are associated with incest today. Although it seems weird to us now, it would have been common for people in the pre-flood world to marry siblings or close relatives.
It was no different for Noah and his family as they began to reproduce after the flood. Noah’s children and grandchildren, like Cain, would have married close relatives at the beginning, but as the effects of sin progressively corrupted the human genome, more problems with incestuous relationships began to surface.
So where did Cain get his wife?
Well, in short, Cain married either a sister or close relative and then settled in the land of Nod.
Even though incestuous marriages were both necessary and common in the ancient world, they did not directly violate God’s law because the law was given much later. Again, the integrity of the God’s word holds up under scrutiny and proves reliable as always.
“Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living soul. And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.”
Bible scoffers and skeptics often appeal to contradictions in God’s word to justify their unbelief. One of the most common objections to the validity of Scripture comes from apparent discrepancies in very first two chapters of Genesis.
When reading on the surface, some have concluded that the Bible provides two entirely different creation accounts, and these accounts, critics say, are contradictory, proving the unreliability of God’s word.
Even Biblical scholars and theologians have bought in to the two creation accounts and as a result have produced all kinds of fantasies to harmonize the apparent inconsistencies in Genesis 1 & 2.
Some Jewish scholars, when writing ancient commentaries on the Old Testament, contrived a bizarre narrative about Adam having two wives — Eve being the second after a character named Lilith in Genesis 1. The sensational legend of Lilith in the Garden persists to this day, but of course there is no no Biblical evidence to support such nonsense.
Many other conspiratorial theories have emerged by scholar and skeptic alike in an attempt to harmonize the apparent contradictions in Genesis 1-2, but all of these attempts are unnecessary. Simply by taking a closer look at the text itself, it becomes clear that there is no need to explain two creation accounts because there is no contradiction whatsoever in Genesis 1-2.
What’s the Problem?
First, I need to address the apparent inconsistencies with Genesis 1 & 2.
In Genesis 1, God makes the plants and trees and all vegetation on Day 3, the fish and birds on Day 5, and the land animals and man on Day 6.
In Genesis 2, God makes man out of ground (Genesis 2:7) and then God makes trees, plants, vegetation (Genesis 2:9), birds and animals AFTER the creation of Adam (Genesis 2:18-20).
So the question is … Did God create the trees and birds and land animals before or after the creation of Adam?
This is usually where most scoffers give each other a high five and drop their microphone, as if they have destroyed the integrity of the Bible. This is usually when the untrained Christian begins to shrink back and doubt the reliability of the Scriptures.
Fortunately, there is no need to fret or fear because not only is there a simple explanation for this apparent contradiction, there are actually TWO!
ANSWER #1 – It’s All in the Details
Far from being a separate creation account, Genesis 2 provides an up-close and detailed account of God’s creative work during Day 6. Whereas Genesis 1 provides a general overview and chronological account of creation, Genesis 2 focuses in on God’s creative work on Day 6, especially with man in the Garden of Eden.
Even though many translations of Genesis 2 imply that God created the trees, birds, and land animals sequentially after creating man, there is one possible explanation. Genesis 2 describes God’s special work in the Garden of Eden beyond what He had already done to form and fill the rest of the earth.
Apparently after filling the entirety of earth with plants and trees and birds and bees and fish in the seas, God redirected His focus on the sixth day and created man in His own image. Having fashioned the crowning glory of His creation in Adam, the LORD now needed to prepare a proper home for man, so He surveyed the land and designated an ideal spot “in the east” and formed the Garden of Eden.
What the Bible describes in Genesis 2, therefore, is not contradictory to what God had already done on Days 3-6, but rather complimentary. After Adam was created on Day 6, God put His finishing touches on the Garden by forming every tree that is “pleasant to the sight and good for food,” along with the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. These trees and vegetation apparently were unique and distinct as being good for food and especially beautiful as the backdrop to the Garden.
The same can be said about the birds and land animals. Having previously created the swarms in the sea and the flocks and herds on the earth, the LORD gave Adam special to privilege of being an eyewitness to creation in the Garden.
In other words, God could have formed one of each kind of animal exclusively in Adam’s presence for a special purpose. As God formed them in front of Adam, the man was able to behold the awesome power of God as a first-hand eyewitness. Plus having named the birds and animals, Adam was given authority over them.
The Garden scene in Genesis 2 is more about the theological significance of Adam’s role and responsibility as God’s representative on earth, having been given authority over all creation. The last of God’s creative works, of course, was woman, as God saved His best work for last!
However, it is important that we understand Adam’s place in God’s created order, as the man was given headship and authority over the animals and also over his own wife. The concept of headship is essential to understanding the Biblical narrative and the role of Jesus Christ – the Second Adam.
In this respect, Eve was not an eyewitness to God’s creative work, as Adam was, and Eve did not receive God’s commandment directly but through her husband.
So one possibility is that instead of two separate creation accounts that contradict each other, the Bible is actually describing complimentary accounts of the same creative work of God. Genesis 1 is an overview of creation, providing a general chronological account of God’s creative work, whereas Genesis 2 is a detailed account of Day 6 of creation that provides the theological framework of the created order and the man’s role of authority over creation.
ANSWER #2 – A More Accurate Translation
A second explanation for harmonizing Genesis 1 & 2 is a much simpler one involving the Hebrew language, specifically when it comes Genesis 2:19.
Many translations, like the King James Version, render the Hebrew word, yatsar, in the simple past tense, which creates the chronological confusion of Day 6.
But other translations, such as the NIV and ESV, have a subtly different rendition.
“Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky.”
[Genesis 2:19 – NIV]
“Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man.”
[Genesis 2:19 – ESV]
These trusted translations remain true to the Hebrew text and suggest a different way of viewing the first two chapters of Genesis. These renderings eliminate the need for chronological clarity altogether, by simply saying that God “had already formed” all the birds and animals before bringing them to Adam in the Garden.
Unlike Genesis 1, Genesis 2 does not suggest a chronology. Therefore, the animals being brought to Adam had already been made and were not being brought to him immediately after their creation. Interestingly, Tyndale’s translation, which predates the KJV, agrees with this translation.
It can be argued that Tyndale and the NIV-ESV are more accurate on this verse because the verb in the sentence can be translated as pluperfect rather than perfect, which is in no violation of the Hebrew text but rather perfectly acceptable rendering according to the rules of Hebrew grammar.
“The pluperfect tense can be considered as the past of the past—that is to say, in a narration set in the past, the event to which the narration refers is already further in the past. Once the pluperfect is taken into account, the perceived contradiction completely disappears.”
So simply by referring to the original Hebrew text, the apparent inconsistencies disappear and the creation narrative is perfectly harmonized between Genesis 1-2.
Personally, I believe both explanations are sound and do not violate the Hebrew text, so either way we can be certain. There is only one creation narrative and not two, further reinforcing the reliability and integrity of God’s word.
And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Theologians, historians, and archaeologists have pondered for centuries on the original location of the Garden of Eden. Unfortunately man’s first home has been lost to the sands of time. Even if the few geographical clues we have in the Scriptures could be validated [see Genesis 2:8-15], it only stands to reason that the catastrophic effects of the global flood in Noah’s day completely rearranged the earth’s topography, leaving little trace of the Garden of God.
Although I do believe Eden was once a literal, physical location on the map, I don’t necessarily believe we could find it today, even if we knew precisely where it was located.
Maybe we are looking at this all wrong. Maybe Eden has been here all along.
Maybe the paradise of God never moved, but rather we have lost the ability to see it. Instead of thinking geographically, maybe we need to think multi-dimensionally.
But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
[1 Corinthians 2:9]
What We Know
The Scriptures provide some interesting clues about the Garden of Eden. Here is what we definitively know.
The Hebrew definition for Eden is pleasure or delight. So it was man’s original home prepared by God for intended for perpetual pleasure and delight.
God Himself planted a lush garden in the eastern part of Eden and placed Adam there to cultivate and work it.
The Garden of God contained in its midst both the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
A main river flowed out of Eden, which first watered the garden, and from there it branched into four headwaters creating four rivers.
Based on the Biblical descriptions, most concede that Eden originally was located somewhere in the fertile crescent.
The Garden of Eden was planted on top of God’s holy mountain, also known as the mount of assembly. (Isaiah 14:13, Ezekiel 28:13-19)
God’s holy mountain was the designated place of intersection between heaven and earth, God and man – between the spiritual realm and the physical world.
Before his heavenly rebellion, the nachash, or serpent, was an anointed guardian cherub in Eden – the most beautiful of God’s creatures.
After Adam and Eve sinned against God, He cast man out of the Garden of Eden and placed cherubim guardians and a flashing sword at the east entrance to prevent man from having access to the tree of life.
The Garden of Eden conveys the same concept as the Greek word, Paradise.
“I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows — and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.”
[2 Corinthians 12:2-4]
“Whom are you thus like in glory and in greatness among the trees of Eden? You shall be brought down with the trees of Eden to the world below.”
From an Ancient Greek perspective, paradise was synonymous with a glorious natural garden or pristine park, where man could enjoy endless pleasures while surrounded by peerless beauty. In Greek mythology, paradise coincided with the legends of the golden age, when men never aged and delights never ceased.
Paradise, however, had been lost, and man greatest pursuit was to discover the way back again.
In John Milton’s classic, Paradise Lost, the devil says, “O sun, to tell thee how I hate thy beams That bring to my remembrance from what state I fell, how glorious once above thy sphere.“
Milton, like so many before and after him, was drawing from the Biblical language of north-south geography in respect to heaven and earth. The Apostle Paul likewise says that he was “caught up” into paradise – or the Garden of God. Ezekiel’s comparative language contrasts Eden with the world “below.”
Of course, Lucifer, the son of the dawn, was cast down out of Eden to the ground. This makes sense if Eden originally was holy mountain, high and lifted up above the earth. The high places have always possessed significance in God’s story, and Eden is no different.
“You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared. You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you. In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.”
And then there is Jesus – God the Son – lifted up and nailed to a tree on top of a mountain. As He is effectively bringing heaven and earth back together again through His sacrificial death on the cross, He makes a promise to the thief beside him.
Today, you will be with in … the Garden of Eden.
According to Jesus’ promise to the thief, the very moment he closed his eyes in death, he immediately opened his eyes in life and found himself in the paradise of God. Maybe instead of being carried up to heaven or traveling “north” to paradise, the thief simply awoke having crossed over into another dimension – the spiritual realm.
Bringing Heaven and Earth Back Together
The mission of Jesus is to redeem all of creation and restore Eden, where the dwelling place of God is with man once again. When Jesus returns to once and for all destroy the devil, death, evil, and hell, God will created a new heaven and a new earth, bringing everything back together in a state of perfection.
John was given a glimpse of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:10-11. He writes, “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.”
I believe in some way, when God reveals the new heaven and earth, He will lift the veil that separates heaven and earth and reveal to us that Paradise has been near to us all along. We just don’t have the eyes to see it right now. We are looking through the glass darkly and the spiritual dimension remains hidden from our sight. But God will be giving us new eyes to see as we were always intended.
Is it possible that God’s Garden restored will surpass the original in splendor and beauty? God is bringing heaven and earth back together in the new paradise, which will have its own river of life watering the Garden and also the tree of life.
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.”
Jesus came to redeem for God a people for His own possession. Jesus came to regenerate the entire Creation and make everything new. Jesus came to bring man to God and God to man, and He came to restore paradise lost and unite heaven and earth again in the Garden of God.
And only those who have been given the right to be called sons of God and who have received resurrection life will dwell with God eternally in the New Eden. Those who conquer in Christ will dwell forever with Him in paradise.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”
“God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: ‘How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?'” Selah
[Psalm 82:1-2 ESV]
I had been a Christian for over 20 years before I ever heard of God’s divine council. When I first heard it explained, it made me feel uncomfortable and directly challenged my theology. I asked …
“Why does an omniscient God need a heavenly council?”
“Who are these other ‘gods’ anyway?”
But as I began to open the Scriptures and study for myself, it was like a major piece of the prophetic puzzle had just been put in place and for the first time so many things made sense.
Once I understood the concept of the divine council, or God’s heavenly court, a significant plot line in God’s story began to come into focus. I discovered new meaning to spiritual warfare and the cosmic mission of Christ. Passages like Daniel 7, Job 1-2, Psalm 82, and Ephesians 6 came alive.
The most difficult barrier I had to jump was the idea that the “gods” in Scripture were real, supernatural beings and not just the figment of man’s imagination. When the Bible speaks of other “gods,” it is not referring to man-made statues, idols, or imaginary myths. These are the glorious ones (2 Peter 2:10) – the sons of God – and they very much exist. Some are good and some have rebelled, as we will see in a minute.
The Biblical authors make it clear that there is only One True Creator and Most High God [Elohim], who has revealed Himself as the LORD [Yahweh] – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Bible progressively builds on this revelation of the One True God through the prophets and ultimately through the incarnation of God the Son – Immanuel – who is identified as the Creator and Lord of all things visible and invisible [John 1:1-4, Colossians 1:15-17, Hebrews 1:1-3].
I want to go out of my way to affirm the supremacy and holiness of the One True God because the concept of the divine council, if not rightly understood, can become confused with a form of polytheism that reduces the LORD God to a mere equal among His peers. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Although the Bible clearly speaks of other gods [elohim], it is clear that these other gods are created beings who find their origin and being in the King and Creator of the universe. Only Yahweh – the God of Israel – is eternal, immortal, self-sufficient, all powerful, omniscient and omnipresent. All other gods and heavenly beings are created by God and for the glory of God. This is why we discover passages like Psalm 97.
“The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory. All worshipers of images are put to shame, who make their boast in worthless idols; worship him, all you gods! Zion hears and is glad, and the daughters of Judah rejoice, because of your judgments, O LORD. For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.”
Who is in the Divine Council?
To fully understand and begin to appreciate the divine council, it is important to be familiar with the royal court motif of the ancient near east. Ancient monarchs may have ruled with absolute authority and sovereignty, but nearly all ancient kings surrounded themselves with a royal council to assist in making decisions. This council included sages, spiritual advisers, military strategists, and members of the royal family. The king may have had the final authority, but a wise king would be willing to share his responsibilities with his council, seeking and sometimes heeding sound advice.
If we rightly understand God’s purpose in creating Adam and giving him dominion over the earth, we also understand the great commission of the Lord Jesus, as he has transferred His authority to all believers and invited us to operate in His kingdom as ambassadors and priests. If God has invited mankind to share in the governance of His earthly kingdom, then we should not be surprised that the Sovereign LORD also has chosen to share his authority with spiritual beings in the heavenly realm.
The prophet Daniel was given a vision of this divine council and provides a descriptive picture that allows us to take a look behind the scenes.
“As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened.” [Daniel 7:13-14]
Daniel’s vision provides a good starting point to understanding who participates in the divine council.
Obviously God – the Ancient of Days – presides as the supreme authority over the council. All other members of the council ultimately defer to God.
The council appears to be a formal assembly, much like a royal court, where the members gather around the throne of God and open the books, or records, for judgment.
There are myriads of angelic beings — potentially millions — surrounding the council – some as servants and others as mere observers.
The formal council is a plurality of co-regents distinguished from the myriads of angelic beings, signified by the multiple thrones in place.
The court sat in judgment, apparently to deliberate and reach formal decisions together.
Other passages begin to provide more clarity about who is involved in God’s heavenly council. In the book of Job, we read, “Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD.” [Job 2:1]
Right off we see the “sons of God“- the bene Elohim – formally presenting themselves before the LORD, so it is safe to say that at least some of the sons of God are members of this heavenly court. Curiously Satan himself also was allowed to present himself before the LORD. I do not believe this implies that Satan is a member of the divine council, although he most likely could have been before his rebellion. For whatever reason, the LORD apparently allows His great adversary to appear before the council on occasion.
Psalm 89 also affirms that the sons of God are among those in the divine assembly.
“Let the heavens praise your wonders, O LORD, your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones! For who in the skies can be compared to the LORD? Who among the sons of God* is like the LORD, a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around him?“
[Psalm 89:5-7 ESV – * also translated as heavenly beings]
Interestingly, this divine council motif is carried into the New Testament with such passages like Matthew 19:28 and Revelation 20. We see that mankind is restored to God through Christ and given authority to reign and judge with him in the coming kingdom. Jesus told his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
But Revelation 4 seems to imply that there are human elders among those in the heavenly council even now. John writes, “Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads.” [Revelation 4:4]
Finally, I would be amiss to mention the reality of Jesus Christ having ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven, which in royal court language is the highest place of authority in the kingdom. The Son of God is Lord over heaven and earth, as so many New Testament passages convey.
“That he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.”
What does the Divine Council do?
If the Creator and King of the universe has a divine council, then what does this council do? After all, who is able to inform the all-knowing, infinitely wise God of something He doesn’t already know?
But that’s not the point. It’s not that God needs a council. He simply wants one. He is a God who desires relationship and who invites His creatures to participate with Him in His rule and reign. Here are a few interesting examples.
In Jeremiah 23, the LORD rebukes the false prophets of Samaria and Judah for seeking counsel from the pagan gods through divination and for practicing all forms of evil and immorality. He warns the people of Judah not to listen to these false prophets.
So the true word of God goes forth from within His council.
“For who among them has stood in the council of the LORD to see and to hear his word, or who has paid attention to his word and listened … I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds.”
[Jeremiah 23:18, 21-22]
Next in 1 kings 22, the LORD calls together His council to determine the sealed fate of wicked King Ahab. God had already resolved to judge Ahab for his idolatry and immorality, but he decides to allow his council to suggest how Ahab would perish.
So the council makes suggestions about the affairs of men.
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; 20and 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. 21Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ 22And 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.’ 23Now therefore behold, the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the LORD has declared disaster for you.” [1 Kings 22:19-23]
In Daniel 4, the divine council again is given the authority to decree the fate of King Nebuchadnezzar, which the Most High affirms. Although the entire chapter is worth reading, here is the reference to the council.
“The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men... And because the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven … It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king.” [Daniel 4:17, 23-24]
Finally, Deuteronomy 32 seems to indicate that after man’s rebellion at the tower of Babel, the LORD confused their languages, divided up the nations and turned them over to the sons of God. It is not clear if the sons of God were still in allegiance with the LORD at this time, or if they had already rebelled. Either way, what we discover soon after Babel and the division of the nations is the birth of all ancient civilizations and the world-wide emergence of pagan idolatry.
The Rebellion within the divine council?
“When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. But the LORD’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.”
Deuteronomy 32 states that at some point after the tower of Babel episode, when the LORD confused the languages and divided up mankind, the nations were assigned to the sons of God. It is not clear if the sons of God were still in allegiance with the LORD at this point or if they had already rebelled from their place in the divine council, but either way history shows that immediately after the tower of Babel we see the birth of every ancient civilization and the world-wide explosion and expansion of pagan idolatry.
When we harmonized Psalm 82 with Deuteronomy 32, it becomes clear that many of the members of the divine council rebelled and were expelled by God. These fallen sons of God became the wicked gods of the nations.
“God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
‘How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.’
They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
I said, ‘You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.‘
Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!”
As we will see next time, this heavenly rebellion provides immense significance to the cosmic mission of Jesus Christ, spiritual warfare, and the concept of cosmic geography, where we begin to understand what the Bible means by the thrones, principalities, cosmic powers, rulers, dominions and authorities at work in this present darkness.
“You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for I had ordained you. You were on the holy mountain of God; you walked among the fiery stones. From the day you were created you were blameless in your ways until wickedness was found in you.”
[Ezekiel 28:14-15 – BSB]
So far in this series, I have investigated the Biblical descriptions of the Hebrew terms, Elohim, and bene Elohim. From the very beginning pages of God’s story, we are introduced to the Most High God and Creator of the universe, and also to the spiritual sons of God, aka the host of heaven.
The LORD God finished His perfect work of creation in 6 days, and as the LORD rested from His work, He made an emphatic declaration.
“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”
“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.”
God’s initial creation was “very good” – without flaw or blemish. Awesome in power. Perfect in beauty. Everything in all creation – both visible and invisible – was declared very good. Based on God’s own appraisal of the original creation, it is safe to say that no corruption, no evil, no transgression, no iniquity had been found in the heavens or on the earth.
God placed man in the garden of Eden, that holy mountain where heaven intersected with earth and where man freely communed with His God. Adam was found walking in fellowship with the LORD during the cool of the day. Eve was crafted by God from Adam and for Adam to compliment and come alongside him in his work. All was well in the world, with God, with man, and with the heavenly host.
And then like a sudden flash of light, a new character abruptly emerges onto the scene. He initially is identified as the serpent – which in Hebrew is nachash. As we continue to read God’s story, however, we come to know him by many different names. By the end of the Bible, the Apostle John confirms the identity of God’s arch enemy and primary adversary.
“And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.”
More than a Talking Snake
Moses, the human author of Genesis, casually inserts the serpent into the story like business as usual. There are at least two ways to look at this. First, Moses was giving a bizarre zoology lesson about a talking snake in the garden of God. After all, Moses later tells us about Balaam’s talking donkey (Numbers 22:30), so maybe he wants us to picture a slithering snake getting cozy with Eve, hissing lies in her ear. Considering that most people are repulsed by snakes, it is hard to imagine this serpent had any resemblance to a cold-blooded reptile.
On the other hand, Moses was trying to convey an entirely different image to his original audience by using the Hebrew term, nachash. Perhaps Moses actually was attempting to describe a supernatural being who is stunningly brilliant, breathtakingly beautiful, and infinitely wise.
After all, if Eden was originally the paradise of God and holy mountain of assembly, it is entirely likely that Adam and Eve regularly saw and interacted with divine beings like the sons of God. Maybe it wasn’t out of the ordinary for Eve to suddenly find herself talking the nachash, and at the same time being enthralled by him.
My point is that the serpent was more than a slithering, hissing, talking snake. He was a morning star, a bearer of light, a divine being who undoubtedly captivated the woman at first sight.
Nachash – the Shining One
One of the translations for the Hebrew word nachash can be rendered as bronze, brass, or copper. Obviously these reflective metals provoke imagery of brightness and luminescence. This should come as no surprise when we consider one of the most commonly used names for the serpent is Lucifer, which is the Latin equivalent for the Hebrew, helel. Lucifer literally means shining one or day star.
When Eve encountered the serpent in the garden, he was shining brighter than a star in the night sky. Lucifer was created the most beautiful of God’s heavenly beings. He was set apart among the sons of God. He was stunningly beautiful in appearance. Consider some of the passages that describe the nachash as the shining one, the morning star.
“How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star (Lucifer), son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!”
“You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared.”
And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”
“And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”
[2 Corinthians 11:14]
Nachash – the Cherub Throne Guardian
The LORD had initially created Lucifer to serve as one of His primary throne guardians in the highest heaven. The third heaven is the place where God, who is beyond time and space, meets with his heavenly host. God’s throne room is there, and because God’s glory cannot be contained, the LORD assigned throne guardians, cherubim and seraphim, to hover around His throne to protect and set boundaries around this holy space. The Hebrew word seraphim literally means fiery serpent, which is a fitting description for the shining one.
But according both to Isaiah and Ezekiel, Lucifer, this son of the dawn, was unmatched and exceptional in power, beauty, and wisdom among the other divine beings God had made. He was distinct among seraphim and cherubim.
“You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. You were blameless in your way from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you. In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you.”
[Ezekiel 28:14-17 ESV]
Isaiah shares a similar description of the nachash.
“You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’”
Nachash – the Father of Lies
Interestingly, the Hebrew word, nachash, can also be used in verb form, when referring to the practice divination. Divination is an abomination in the sight of the LORD God because it is man’s attempt of using occult rituals and practices to acquire secret knowledge. Divination is the practice of elevating and worshiping the demonic pagan gods of the nations above the One True God.
“When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens [nachash], or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the LORD your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you to do this.
Moses describes the serpent as more cunning or crafty than the beasts of the field. He possessed divine knowledge and wisdom that only a supernatural being could. He wasn’t like the animals. He was a heavenly being offering Eve secret knowledge, promising to make her like a god – like an Elohim!
The seduction for Eve was to become like an Elohim, and she believed the serpent’s lie that something was lacking – that in some way she was incomplete and that God was keeping a secret from her. Had she only believed that she was already immortal – an image bearer of God, created to live forever.
And in one impulsive reach to become like God, Adam and Eve were reduced to mere mortals, cursed by their sin and destined to die.
This is why it is so fitting that the serpent is called the father of lies. Jesus says that when the devil lies, he speaks his native language, and his lies are always used to destroy, as he also has been a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44).
The serpent is the master of deception, and he has been deceiving the nations ever since with his destructive lies from the beginning. Satan offers forbidden knowledge of the gods through occult magic and dark arts of divination, sorcery and witchcraft. Only the God of the Bible speaks truth and only God’s word is truth.
Nachash – the Fallen One
Finally, we must understand the serpent as the ultimate rebel. He is the antithesis of God, violently opposed to all that is good in the universe. His beauty and power provoked pride in his heart, and his pride produced a desire to be on equal footing with His Creator. Satan’s sin was a severe violation of the created order and a direct slap in the face of God. Instead of hovering around the throne of GOD and reflecting His glory, this proud seraph desired his own spot in the lime light. He desired to praised and glorified along with the Most High. And as a result, “iniquity was found in him” [Ezekiel 28:15].
The LORD God cast out Lucifer from the highest heaven and limited him to operate in the second and first heaven, bound by space and time. The rebel made his choice and he will not stop his mission of deception and destruction until he finally is cast into the lake of fire.
“I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.”
“In the abundance of your trade
you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned;
so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God,
and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub,
from the midst of the stones of fire.
Your heart was proud because of your beauty;
you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.
“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?”
The Lord Jesus Christ — the Son of God — said something quite profound during his high priestly prayer in John 17. Jesus affirms His own divinity and acknowledges the eternal relationship He has with God the Father.
“Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed …”
“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”
[John 17:5, 24]
God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit have existed eternally together in perfect communion and unmatchable glory. One God in Three distinct Persons. Blessed Trinity. Holy, Holy, Holy is the LORD God Almighty.
The universe and everything in it, both visible and invisible, is contingent upon the existence of our Creator God. In my last post, I discussed the first proper name used for God — Elohim — and affirmed that the God of the Bible is the uniquely supreme God and Creator of the universe. The Apostle Paul affirms this in one of the early creeds of the faith, speaking of Jesus the Son of God.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
God clearly created everything — both visible (the material universe) and invisible (the spiritual realm).
If we study God’s original creation week in Genesis 1, we are given essential details about the creation of the earth, the skies, the seas, and the land. We are told about the formation of the birds, the fish and the land animals. And God pays special attention to the creation of man, who is made in His own divine image and becomes the crowning glory of His creation [Genesis 1:26, Psalm 8:5].
All of this involves things visible and physical in nature.
But at some point before God laid the foundations of the earth and made man in His own image, God first created spiritual beings in the heavens. As we will see, these beings differ in name and variety — cherubim, seraphim, angels, holy ones, glorious ones, the heavenly host, watchers, and sons of God. Although some of these terms and descriptions overlap throughout the Scriptures, my goal is to take a look at each of them in turn.
There are significant differences in many of the proposed theories about when God created the heavenly beings. Some adhere to a gap theory, which places an undetermined amount of time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 to account for the introduction and interaction of these spiritual beings.
Although I find many problems with the gap theory and see no Biblical grounds for it, the Bible does place the creation of heavenly beings prior to the creation of the earth, or at least simultaneously with it. As Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning (time) God created the heavens and the earth. I believe that the heavens (plural) represent both the visible universe (space) and also the invisible heavens, which the Bible calls the third heaven or the highest heaven.
“You alone are the LORD. You created the heavens, the highest heavens with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to all things, and the heavenly host worships You.”
“Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth with all that is in it.”
Introducing the sons of God — Bene Elohim
Based on our introductory passage in Job 38:7, the LORD says that at the same time He was laying the very foundations of the earth, “the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy.”
According to the Scriptures, the sons of God were present to witness God’s creative power and to praise the work of His hands. God had his purposes in first creating the heavenly host before He began His work on the physical world.
What a scene! As God worked, the “morning stars” burst forth in harmonious song, praising the Most High. As God formed the earth, moon, sun and stars, the sons of God shouted for joy, glorifying their Creator.
But who are the “sons of God” — The bene Elohim — and why is this phrase so important to understanding the bigger picture in God’s redemptive work?
Adam, the son of God
Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus — the beloved Son of God — all the way back to Adam, the first man, whom he also calls the son of God. Adam did not have an earthly father, so therefore he received life directly from God, making him a son of God.
The same can be said for the heavenly host, which is why they are called the sons of God. The sons of God are created, supernatural beings who abide in the spiritual realm. I presume that just as Adam was created in the image of God, the sons of God were created to be imagers of the Most High and reflect His glory to one another and back to Him.
In the same way that God shared His rule with Adam to be His representative and joint-heir of the earth, I believe God also shares His rule and administration of the heavens with the sons of God. This is not because God needs help ruling the universe in any way. God graciously chooses to invite His creations into relationship with Himself and gives them the privilege of sharing in His governance in both heaven and on earth.
Of course, we know that through the temptation and the fall, Adam abdicated his role and authority as God’s representative on earth though the highest form of rebellion and spiritual treason. The serpent [another spiritual being] beguiled Adam and Eve to believe the lie and by so doing subverted man’s legal right to the earth. That is why Satan, or devil, is now called the “god” or “prince” of this world.
In other words, it can be said that one of the spiritual sons of God, who was once called “O morning star, son of the dawn” [Isaiah 14:12], led the entire human race into death trap of sin and rebellion.
The sons of God and the Giants
After the initial rebellion with the serpent in the garden (Genesis 3), we quickly discover another heavenly rebellion that also involves the sons of God in Genesis 6. Again, this spiritual rebellion is designed to proliferate evil, subvert God’s plan of redemption, and completely destroy mankind.
“When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the LORD said, ‘My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.’ The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
As the sons of God cohabited with human wives, they produced an ungodly offspring of evil giants who began to introduce all forms of sorcery, witchcraft, violence and sexual immorality. Basically, the sons of God were introducing forbidden knowledge and dark arts that accelerated man’s ability to self-destruct. This is precisely why the LORD was grieved that he had made mankind and resolved to destroy the earth with a global flood. The spawn of evil had spread throughout the entire earth and had to be purged.
As God started over with Noah and eventually entered into covenant with Abram, the promise of a Savior began to become more defined. The LORD told Abram that through His offspring all the nations of the earth would be blessed. The promised Messiah would eventually restore what had been lost as a result of these spiritual rebellions.
Jesus the Messiah — the Unique Son of God
The Apostle John states the purpose of his gospel saying, “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” [John 20:31]
John also calls Jesus the one and only Son of God, meaning He is species unique. Like Adam, Jesus has no earthly father, but was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born in the fullness of time as God in human form — Immanuel.
And the entire mission of Jesus is to destroy the works of the devil, restore sinners to God through the cross, conquer death and the grave through the resurrection and give men the legal right and authority to become sons of the living God. All that Adam lost and the rebellious sons of God have corrupted, Jesus came to restore and redeem!
In Christ we spiritually reborn and now are promised to receive transformed, resurrection bodies, as we eagerly await our adoption as sons of God (Romans 8:23). And we too, one day will be shouting for joy in the new heaven and the new earth in the assembly of the holy ones!
It is only when we understand who the original sons of God truly are that we can fully appreciate the glory and power of God’s redemptive work in Christ Jesus.
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become sons of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.”
Pick up a Bible. Turn to the first sentence of the first chapter of the first book, and you will be introduced to the Author and Creator of the universe. The very first character we meet in God’s story is most fittingly God Himself.
In the beginning God …
Or as rendered in the Hebrew — ראשית ברא אלהים את השמים ואת הארץ׃
The Hebrew word first used to describe God is — Elohim — which is the second most common name used in the Old Testament for God behind Yahweh (LORD), which is the proper name of the God of Israel.
Interestingly, however, the name Elohim is not used exclusively for the LORD God of Israel — meaning that the Bible refers to other, lesser spiritual beings with the same Hebrew terminology. For example, in 1 Kings 11:33, the Hebrew author in naming other pagan gods uses the very same word — Elohim — to describe them.
“Because they have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess [elohim]of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god [elohim] of Moab, and Milcom the god [elohim] of the Ammonites, and they have not walked in my ways, doing what is right in my sight and keeping my statutes and my rules, as David his father did.”
[1 Kings 11:33]
Another example is Psalm 8:5, where David describes how the LORD created man “a little lower than the angels,” but again the Hebrew word used in this passage is elohim. There is an entirely different Hebrew word, malak, most often translated as angel, or messenger. The ESV provides a more accurate rendering for Psalm 8:5.
“Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings [elohim] and crowned him with glory and honor.”
Finally, we find passages like Psalm 82 and 89 that describe the heavenly assembly of holy ones who are participating with God in the divine council. In context these aren’t evil heathen gods, nor are they merely angels, but rather the Psalmist is conveying a picture of this divine council of lesser “gods” who surround the throne of the LORD God and participate with Him in governance.
“God [Elohim] has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods [elohim] he holds judgment.”
So by studying the original language of the Old Testament, we can learn that the Hebrew word Elohim can be used for a variety of spiritual beings, including heathen gods, angelic messengers, heavenly beings, sons of God, and of course God Himself.
Now, I know what you may be thinking. This is beginning to sound a lot like pagan polytheism. Some of you may be thinking that to acknowledge other “gods” in the Bible is a direct threat to the traditional, Biblical understanding of monotheism, which would be the most serious heresy.
And that’s because from a western, modern, English speaking context, we automatically apply a specific set of divine attributes to the word “G-O-D,” that only the One True God can possess. We rightly affirm that God is the uncaused first cause and creator, eternal, self-sufficient, supreme, preeminent, superlative, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and immutable. These attributes only apply to the God of the Bible.
There is only One Uncreated Creator and Lord of the universe from whom, by whom and for whom everything else exists. In that strict sense, there is only One True God – Yahweh – the God of Israel. As the revelation of God progressed into the New Testament, we discovered that this One Supreme God exists in three distinct Persons of the Godhead — Father, Son and Spirit. And for the record, I fully affirm monotheism in this sense.
No ancient Israelite or 1st Century Jew would ever propose that pagan gods or angelic messengers are equal to the God of Israel. Far from it! Just because the word Elohim is used to describe a variety of spiritual beings — including the One True Creator God — does not mean the Old Testament audience believed in some form of polytheism.
In no way does the Biblical understanding of Elohim reduce the God of the Bible to being just one god among many equals. Quite the contrary. The Biblical authors go out of their way to ensure Yahweh is Holy, set apart, and fully distinct from all other created beings.
This is why we find verses like the one above that describes the LORD as the “God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God.” [Deuteronomy 10:17] Moses is intentionally distinguishing the LORD God of Israel as the Elohim of elohim. He is supremely unique.
But at the same time, the ancient Israelites had a much more robust understanding of the spiritual realm than do most modern believers. Most church traditions — if they broach the subject at all — basically limit the spirit realm to God and the devil, while maybe sprinkling in a few angels and demons here or there.
A cursory reading of the Bible reveals how the Jews viewed Yahweh in comparison to all other spiritual beings, and honestly, without a better understanding of the reality and hierarchy of other, lesser divine beings in the spiritual realm, our Bibles just don’t make total sense.
For example, after crossing the Red Sea, Moses leads the children of Israel in a victory song where he says …
“Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods [elohim]? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?”
The Biblical authors distinguish Yahweh from lesser gods by using comparative language like what we find in Isaiah 37, where the prophet acknowledges the LORD God [Elohim] as the Creator of all.
“O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God [Elohim], you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth.
We read passages like Exodus 20:2-3, where the LORD prescribes His very first commandment to the people of Israel. He says …
“I am the LORD your God [Elohim], who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods [elohim] before me.”
Why would the LORD command His people to worship Him exclusively and forsake the other “gods” of the nations if these gods didn’t exist? Why would the ancient Israelites need to be reminded that Yahweh was superior to wooden idols and figments of the human imagination?
Unfortunately, because of a rigid and misinformed view of Biblical monotheism, that is precisely how many Christians perceive these other “gods.” They either limit them to graven images or disregard them altogether as imaginary beings — all because they are afraid that by acknowledging other, lesser gods exist somehow they would be violating the essential Biblical doctrine of monotheism.
Understanding the nature of the Elohim
One of the most helpful teachings on this topic comes from Dr. Michael Heiser — the resident Hebrew scholar for Logos Bible software. You can discover more about Dr. Heiser here on his website.
Heiser says that instead of automatically attributing a particular set of attributes to the Hebrew word, Elohim, we must understand the term to represent a category of beings that live in the unseen realm. In other words, to the ancient Israelite Elohim denoted any disembodied, divine being that lived in the spirit realm. Mankind lives on earth in a visible, physical world, while all Elohim, whether good or bad, live in the heavens, or the spirit world.
“Yahweh is inherently distinct and superior to all other gods. Yahweh is an elohim (a god), but no other elohim (gods) are Yahweh… Since God is a spirit, and in fact the supreme Spirit, and he is “father of all spirits” (Heb. 12:9), then the realm of the spirits is ‘where God lives.’ The beings who belong to the spirit realm are therefore ‘divine.’ The best word to capture that conception is elohim. An elohim is a divine being, in that an elohim is an inhabitant of the spiritual plane of reality.”
So just to recap. I have established that the Bible describes many different supernatural beings with a variety of attributes that reside in the spirit realm — all of which can be identified as Elohim in the Old Testament. Of these divine beings, only Yahweh – the God of Israel – is the One True God. He is unique and supreme to all other spiritual beings, or gods, as He alone is the Creator and Lord of all.
Yahweh is the God of gods and Lord of both heaven and earth. Furthermore, Jesus Christ is the Creator of all things both visible and invisible (John 1:1-4, Colossians 1:15-17, Hebrews 1:1-3.) All other Elohim are created beings and therefore inferior to the LORD.
Now that we can understand the spiritual realm within a proper Biblical context, we can begin to discover just who these other divine beings are and what is their role in God’s epic story of redemption.