Old Testament Surprising Insights


Part II


In this second part on the Old Testament, I am presenting some recent scholarly insights on some phrases used in its chapters. Some of these are new understandings and others are not, but not necessarily mainstream Christian interpretations even though they have been around since the 2nd century.

The question came to my mind recently, "Why are the Jews God's chosen people?" I had joined a Bible Study group and we were studying the New Testament but I wanted to study the Old Testament. I felt like I knew the New Testament but in order to understand it better and how it related to the Old Testament I had to understand why God created Israel and had a chosen people.

I must have made the question available all the way to heaven because shortly thereafter I was given the answer. God didn't tell me with an inner voice or through anyone I knew, He led me to find the answer when I was not even looking for it. I joined a book club and suddenly I had access to a lot of books written on the Old Testament and I found the answer. What had kept me mainly reading only the New Testament was because I have always found the Old Testament hard to read, for several reasons, the main one being that I could not understand why there was so much God-ordained killing of other people in the Promised Land and why these "chosen people" were so disobedient and unfaithful to Yahweh both before and after they were given the Promised Land.

Some people, and especially those close to me for many years, looked at the God in the Old Testament as an "angry judgmental God" who sits on a throne and sends people to hell because they are not obeying his will. Thus, this Old Testament God was therefore not the true God of Abraham but a false god the people worshipped! Why? Because this God told his people to massacre other people that they had conquered.

Although this was not my belief, I was adversely affected by this condemnation of the Old Testament Yahweh. I knew Yahweh was the true God but I did not understand, for example, why all the pagan people that God's chosen people had been sent to conquer had to be annihilated, especially all of them including women and children. What sin had they done that was different than the people of Israel's sin? And why was God getting angry with His people?

I believe the Holy Spirit led me to some profound answers and a much deeper understanding of the Old Testament in why God created a "separate and chosen people" and why God was angry with them time and time again. I understand now why the people that God chose as the Israelites leaders, such as Moses, Joshua, and Gideon were different from the ordinary people.

And, astoundingly, I discovered that the One God, Yahweh, was already known as a plural God by the ancient Israelites before Christianity ever had the belief in a trinitarian Yahweh. The Jews knew two Yahwehs - one invisible, a spirit, the other visible, often appearing in human form. Sometimes these two Yahwehs (called "two powers") appear together in the same text. More on that below. Rabbinical scholar Alan Segal produced what is still the major work on the idea of two powers in heaven in Jewish thought in his book, Two Powers in Heaven. Segal argued that the two powers idea was not deemed heretical in Jewish theology until the second century C.E.  After the rise of Christianity, the Rabbis in the first century declared this Godhead view to be heresy to counteract the Christian claim of Jesus as the Christ, one with God. Early Judaism understood that there was still one God and there was no sense of a violation of monotheism as either figure of Yahweh were somehow as one.

Where do we learn such knowledge and history? Generally, not within the Church. It is not because we are ignorant Christians but because most of us don't read Hebrew or Greek or have the time or inclination to study word-for-word translations of the Bible or Jewish history. Before the introduction of the Worldwide Web, encyclopedias were some of the greatest resources for studying history. Today, we not only have access to online Bible translations of the original Hebrew or Greek but also modern scholars and theologians now have greater access to ancient texts and older fragments (which have been revealed from various sources over the last century). Many have devoted their lives to uncovering the mysteries hidden in Scripture and sharing their knowledge with the world.

I have mentioned a few of these scholars and some of their books in part 1 and elsewhere on this site. Michael S. Heiser is an American biblical Old Testament scholar and Christian author and I highly recommend his books. He seeks to understand the Old Testament not only from the Bible itself but also within the cultural understanding of the words used by the Biblical authors at the time of their writing and what they believed their words were conveying. Dr. Heiser also has many free podcasts to do your own studies on the OT before buying any of his books, if so inclined.

The Watchers and Their Contribution to Sin on the Earth
Previously, I shared in part I of this series on the Bible and the Old Testament some current scholarly thoughts on some of the main highlights in the Old Testament such as the meaning of the term "sons of God" and what rebellions by man and supernatural beings occurred and their importance. Christians are very familiar with two of the main rebellions from Genesis chapter 3 with Adam's disobedience to God; and after the flood, the congregation of God's people building the tower of Babel instead of obeying God's command to fill the earth.

One of the important missing rebellions I previously shared in part 1 as well as in my article "Is the Old Testament God a God of Love?" is found in Gen. 6:1-8, and the possible true meaning that few Christians have been given or understand from those verses, where the Watchers took physical form and mated with human women. Without this knowledge of what the 2nd Temple Jews (500-70 A.D.) believed, as well as early Christians, it is hard to properly understand why God brought about the flood, who were the Nephilim, and what part they played in the ensuing years after the flood, and why God was annihilating these Nephilim through his chosen people.

Fortunately, in my New Age studies, The Book of Enoch was part of our background studies. While the book is noncanonical and most likely has a lot that is not entirely accurate, Dr. Heiser points out that it was widely read and considered a sacred book in the Jewish community and is quoted from in Jude 1:14-15 and 2 Peter 2:4 and by many other Jews and early Christians. It was not written by Enoch but is still important for Christians to know because this was the understanding that Jews had about who the Nephilim were and how they were created. After the discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Qumran Caves, it came to light that First Enoch did have copies in Hebrew when prior to the 1940's it was believed the earliest extant copies were only in the Greek Septuagint (LXX) the book that Jesus and the prophets quoted from.

Babel and the Spead of Idol Worship
Most Christians today believe that the only reason humanity is sinful and wicked is because of the Fall. This is not the thinking of the Jews living in the Second Temple Period. They considered the Fall as part of the reason. Yet, the greater reason for them was that the Watchers were to blame for the proliferation of evil on the earth, as well as the debacle at Babel. So too the New Testament writers, being predominantly Jewish from that period, had a similar outlook.

Without this knowledge our whole view of the Old Testament is askew. We see mankind as disobedient and sinners and constantly getting in trouble with not obeying God's commands and covenants. Thus, outside of the Serpent in Eden as a supernatural being tempting Eve to sin we do not understand why the pagans were worshiping other gods and demons, and why Yahweh created Israel. Sermons talk about these "chosen people" but not the real reason they became the "chosen".

You can read such ideas as "Israel was called out of the nations to be God’s chosen people", which is incorrect. God called Abram (later called Abraham), a pagan, out of Babylon and appears to him telling him what He plans to do through him. He is told that his descendants will be made into a great nation which later is called Israel.

Referring back to Deuteronomy 32:8-9 again:

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. (ESV)

The LXX has "angels of Elohim" instead of "sons of God" that the English Standard Version (ESV) has sons of God. The rest have "sons of Israel".1 If these sons of God/elohim are supernatural beings rather than earthly, the Old Testament story is revised in our understanding and suddenly a new picture appears. Seventy nations are created headed up by these lesser elohim (sons of God). Remember from Psalm 82:1, where there are two uses of elohim (see part I) the Hebrew Bible uses the term “elohim” to speak of any inhabitant of the spiritual world. Yahweh is also called elohim, but no other elohim is Yahweh. The one God Elohim heads up the council of spiritual beings called elohim.

In Gen. 11:7-9 God Yahweh says to His council, “let us go down and confuse their language” and then singularly "Yahweh (alone) confuses their language". This is the divine council “us” similar to Gen.11:6-7. When Yahweh disperses the nations He is disinheriting those nations as his people for their disobedience. He assigns them to the 70 sons of God connected with Gen. 6. (This is explained in great detail in footnote 1's pdf link.)

The "Lord's portion" is the new nation He will create with Abram. Yet what does God say in Gen. 12:1-3? “All nations of the earth would be blessed through Abram, through his descendants.” It was God’s plan all along to give those 70 nations, and their rebellious people, a way back to Himself winding all the way through Israel to Israel’s Messiah: Jesus Christ.

These elohim (sons of God) who rule the 70 nations are later judged by God for their corrupt administration of the nations of the earth given over to them under the authority of God. There are several interpretations for Psalm 82:1-6 but the one that appears true that Dr. Heiser presents is not looked upon by most scholars as the right interpretation of "I said ye are gods". This is the complete verse.

God stands in the divine council;
      he holds judgment in the midst of the gods:
“How long will you judge unjustly
      and lift up the faces of the wicked?
Judge on behalf of the weak and the fatherless;
      vindicate the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the helpless and the needy;
      deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
They neither know nor care—
      they stumble in darkness;
      all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

I have said, “You are gods (elohim),
      sons of the Most High (beney-'elyon), all of you.
Yet you will die like man,
      and you will fall like any other prince.”
Rise up, O God—judge the earth,
      for you shall inherit all the nations. 

Jesus refers back to this Psalm when the Jews threaten to stone him when He tells them, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30).

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law: ‘I said, you are gods?’ If he [God] called them gods, to whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; do you say of him whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You blaspheme!’ because I said, I am the Son of God? (John 10:34-36)

The most accepted interpretation is that these gods are human judges, most specifically, Israelite judges. This makes little sense that they "will die like man" when they are already are man. Yet, if they were angels or sons of God and not human judges, then being spiritual and having to die like men would be a big judgment upon them. The phrase "divine council" is sometimes translated as "congregation", "divine assembly", "assembly of the gods", "heavenly council", "assembly of angels", and "His assembly". Those who adhere to "human judges" translation like the use of "congregation" in this verse whereby the judges thereby are a part of a congregation on earth.

The fact that the Jews again seek to stone him after hearing Jesus' argument is ample demonstration that they did not interpret Psalm 82 as referring to human beings, nor Jesus as saying, in effect, “What's the problem? We’re all gods here.” Rather, they see him as doubling down on what they suppose is blasphemy. 

I bring up this point again, about the elohim rulers of the nations and their judgment, because we do not know how this judgment comes about and when. But if it does not occur until Revelation is fulfilled then we have an unseen enemy who does not want us to worship Yahweh. The Apostle Paul talks about protecting ourselves from evil unseen. "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Eph 6:12). Satan, the rebel sons of God, and others are in the unseen world that intertwines with ours. When someone worships idols and false gods they link themselves with demons. It is not hard to see that if these spiritual beings rebelled against God while in heaven they are going to continue to rebel against God out of heaven unless they have been permanently judged and sent to the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10-15). For these fallen sons of God, keeping God's people from worshiping Him and seeking Him in faith and obedience, counsel and communion would paramount in order to hurt God through His people and prove Him wrong.

Theophanies - The Promised Savior's Appearance in the Old Testament
"You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me" (John 5:39).

What is not necessarily plain to see in the Old Testament chapters is the appearance of the Son of God we later come to know in the New Testament as Jesus Christ. Theologians refer to the appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ as "Theophanies" or "Christophanies". Certain early Christian writers identified the Angel of the Lord as a pre-incarnate Christ. A theophany is an appearance of God, a visible manifestation of a deity. At times, "two divine Persons" are hinted at and even asserted in various Old Testament passages (Psalm 45:1-6; Psalm 110:1-7; Proverbs 30:4). Christophany is an Old Testament appearance of Christ which Christians believe is the second person of the Trinity. This second Divine Person is shown as a distinct but nonetheless co-equal identity within the Divine revelation of the God of the Old Testament. 

The first Christophany recognized as such by scholars is the appearance of God walking in the garden with Adam and Eve. For some, this is seen as a Christophany because of Christ's role in creation (Gen. 3:8, John 1:1-5) as the Word. Eden was like no place on earth and has been lost to the earth since. Adam and Eve had a personal relationship with God and could see and talk to Him because they were sinless. Likewise, God could appear in this sacred place that He created. In Ezekiel 28:13-14 Eden is called the "garden of God" and "God's holy mountain". In the beginning, Eden was God's home on earth.

The next appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ is in Genesis 16:7-10. An angel of the LORD appears to Hagar, a maidservant of Abram's wife Sarah. Sarah gave her to Abram to conceive a child however after she immediately conceives this causes strife between Hagar and Sarah and both became upset with each other. This causes Hagar to leave for the desert. It is here that God speaks to her as the angel of the LORD. He commands her to return to Sarah and obey her and name her son Ishmael. He also said he would "multiply her offspring". These are things that angels do not do. This angel is no mere messenger of God. Hagar says that God (Yahweh) spoke directly to her and that she saw God and lived (Gen. 16:13).

It is the angel of the LORD who also appears to Abraham. First, God (Elohim) tests Abraham by telling him to sacrifice his only son Isaac as a burnt offering on a mountain. After Abraham travels there he sets up the altar and as he is ready to kill his son the angel of the LORD calls out to him and tells him not to lay a hand on his son as now he knows that "you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me” (Gen. 22:11). The "me" is the angel who is one with the God that commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son.

Another example is the well-known story found in Exodus 3:1-6. Moses is tending his sheep when he sees a bush on fire but the bush does not burn. The "angel of Yahweh" appears to him in the fire. Then from out of the fire, Yahweh tells Moses to take off his sandals as he is standing on holy ground. He tells him "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." Then Moses realizes it is God speaking and he is afraid to look. Yahweh tells Moses he is to help free the children of Israel from Egypt.

Here we have the "angel of Yahweh" visible who is speaking and saying he is God, and the invisible Yahweh unseen in the burning bush. There is an ambiguous togetherness and separation between them. Why was the angel of Yahweh needed when Yahweh spoke? After Moses requests a name he can give to the Israelites, Yahweh gives His covenant name: I AM (Exod 3:14).

Lest one still doubts the angel of the LORD is Yahweh, the two are connected again and again in several verses. In Judges 2:1-5 the LORD (Yahweh) appears to the children of Isreal and says: “I brought you up from Egypt and I took you into the land which I had promised on oath to your fathers. And I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you…But you have not obeyed me. The italicized shows that the angel speaks as "I" who did all these things. A few other examples are in Gen. 31:10-13; Gen 48:14-16; and Judges 6.

Moses does help free the Israelites and leads the people to Sinai. There he meets God again where he receives the law for the people before they begin their journey to the promised land. God tells Moses He is sending an angel with them. But this is no ordinary angel, "because he will not forgive your transgression, for my name is in him. But if you listen attentively to his voice and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and a foe to your foes.” (Exodus 23:20-22)

This angel has the name of Yahweh in him and has the power to forgive sins. God was saying that He was in this angel. The "I AM" was going to accompany them to the promised land and fight for them. Without God, they could not defeat the gods of the nations and the Nephilim, those that remained after the flood. Remember, they were called giants.  The I AM of the burning bush would accompany Moses and the Israelites to the promised land and fight for them. Only he could defeat the gods of the nations and the descendants of the Nephilim whom Moses and Joshua would find there.

And giants there were. When the Israelites were sent to spy out the promised land of Canaan by the request of God, they came back and reported to Moses that "However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb. The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country. And the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan” (Num 13:28-29). A few verses later they also told Moses, "it is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them” (Num 13:32-33).  I'll return to the giants shortly.

There are many other examples of "Theophanies" or "Christophanies". Douglas Van Dorn has written a book The Angel of the Lord, where he goes into great detail about the many appearances of the pre-incarnate Christ from the angel of the LORD to the angel as the Word, the Name, the Presence, the Shepherd, and many more. Theophanies can be shown to provide special insight into the presence of God. The presence of God offers us a framework for the whole Bible. For that reason, theophanies are a valuable resource for understanding God and the Scriptures. These Old Testament theophanies are preliminary to the coming of Christ in the flesh. The coming of Christ is their fulfillment (Matt. 5:17).  

40 Years in the Desert
Consequently, in fear of the giants the Israelites rebelled against God and refused to attack the Canaanites except for Joshua and Caleb. This led to God’s judgment upon that first generation of Israelites who were delivered from Egyptian bondage. God then decreed that the Israelites would wander in the wilderness for 40 years as a result of their unwillingness to take the land and believe in God’s word. After 40 years with the angel of the LORD (Yahweh) leading them, only the second generation of the rebellious Israelites was alive except for Joshua and Caleb when they reached the Promised Land.

Even though the Lord had given the new land to His people, they were still required to physically possess it and be tested along the way. And not only did they fail, grumbling for their discomforts and blaming God and Moses, both Aaron and Moses eventually failed and disobeyed God and were thus not allowed to enter the promised land. First Aaron died and just as the Israelites reached the border of the Promised Land, so too did Moses. Joshua was anointed the new leader by Yahweh (Joshua 1:1-2). And to mark the end of the wandering and entrance into the Promised land, just as through Moses the Red Sea was parted, the LORD through Joshua dried up the River Jordan so the Israelites could pass over with the Ark of the Covenant and insight fear in all the inhabitants of the land. And that they did. This miracle would also show the new generation of Israelites the power of God as the first generation had witnessed at the Red Sea.

Joshua meets the Angel of Yahweh
“And it happened, when Joshua was by Jericho, he looked up, and he saw a man standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said, ‘Are you with us, or with our adversaries?’ And he said, ‘Neither. I have come now as the commander of Yahweh’s army.’ And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and he bowed down and said to him, ‘What is my lord commanding his servant?’ The commander of Yahweh’s army said to Joshua, ‘Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so.”  (Joshua 5:13-15)

It is clear that this man with the drawn sword is the angel of Yahweh and not an angelic being for several reasons. The Hebrew phrase for "the man with the drawn sword" in the verses is the same as in Numbers 22:23 and 1 Chronicles 21:16. Both explicitly name the Angel of Yahweh as the one with “drawn sword” in hand. The second reason is when Joshua bows down and he is commanded to take his sandals from his feet which brings us back to Exodus 3:5 and the words spoken by the Angel of Yahweh in the bush.

If this were an angelic being that is being worshiped, the angel would advise the human to stand up; to not worship them because they are servants of God just like the people they are visiting (Acts 19:25-26; Rev. 19:10; Rev. 22:8-9) unless it was a fallen angel like Satan. Yet with Moses and the burning bush and Joshua, worship is not only allowed but it’s also demanded: "take off your sandals for the place you are standing is holy".  The only conclusion is that this is God demanding worship from man. 

Throughout the book of Joshua, while under Joshua's leadership who is under God's, the Israelites conquer the nations that were living there. It is here that many Christians are deeply troubled by the role that warfare plays in this account of God's dealings with his people. Yet if you read through the book you can see God's mercy given before he commands what Bible scholars call this herem warfare. The Hebrew word means “to devote something to total destruction.” The text that most clearly points to the conditional character of herem is in Josh. 11:19-20.  Thus there were conditions that could be met by some cities in Canaan. For others, God hardens their heart so they have to be destroyed for their wickedness.

Before this destruction God's mercy allowed the Canaanites to remain in the land as long as they did. In Gen. 15:13-16, God told Abraham that his descendants would have to remain slaves in Egypt for 400 years before taking possession of Canaan, “for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” So God's mercy gave the Amorites time to turn around or continue in their evil ways. The Amorites are described as the last remnants of the giants who once lived on earth in Deuteronomy 3:11.

God makes it clear to the Israelites that it is “not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations…” (Deuteronomy 9:5). Then in Deuteronomy 20:16-18, God explains why and who the Israelites must annihilate. They must not leave any who will corrupt the people with their false worship of other gods. God’s reason for commanding their death was not genocide but capital punishment. The conquest was more about ending the Canaanites’ religious and cultural practices than ending their lives.

So what were some of these sinful acts the Canaanites did? According to the Old Testament, the Canaanites and other tribes in the land widely practiced idolatry, incest, adultery, child sacrifice, homosexuality, sexual orgies and bestiality.  These were abominations that made those tribes depraved beyond redemption. (Lev.18:21-30; Deut.18:9-14, Deut. 12:29-31) God said, “They built high places to Baal in the Valley of Beth-hinnom and immolated their sons and daughters to Molech (the God of child sacrifice) bringing sin upon Judah; this I never commanded them, nor did it enter my mind that they should practice such abominations" (Jeremiah 32:35). The Old Testament unequivocally commands that those who do any one of these things deserve to die.

One of the most familiar stories in the Bible is the story of David and Goliath of Gath (“the Gittite”). David kills Goliath with a stone. Goliath is described as "a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, whose height was six cubits and a span" (Samuel 17:4). Goliath appears to have a brother and three sons who were also of giant stature. (2 Sam 21:22); (1 Chronicles 20:4-8) Goliath was a Rephaim. There were other tall warriors among the Philistines. Deuteronomy 2 speaks of other giant groups who are known by other nations as the Emim, the Rephaim, and the Zamzummim.

The Anakim appears to be the original giants from the Nephilim mentioned in Gen 6:1-4. Moses and Joshua encountered them. The land east of the Jordan River was heavily populated with very tall individuals known as Emim. (Deut 2:10-11) The Zamzummim are mentioned in Deut 2:20. They are also called the Zuzim. The Rephaim are mentioned most often in connection with the conquest of the Promised Land. Some of the Rephaim giants survived the wars of Moses and Joshua and their descendants settled in the Philistine city of Gath. Moses encountered King Og who we read had a bed thirteen feed in length. (Deut. 3:11–13 Josh 12:4) The Amorites also stood in the way of Israel claiming the Promised Land. They are described as being exceptionally tall. (Amos 2:9-10).

Not all Philistines were giants. Joshua 11:22 states that the only Anakim (a particular line of giants) left by that time were in Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod. The fact that Joshua felt it was worth telling the readers about the population status of the giants is noteworthy.

Although we cannot find a direct connection to the dangers of the Nephilim and the Watchers seed infecting the bloodline of Jesus in the Bible we can see the importance of the purity in Jesus' bloodline in both the Old and New Testament. It is beyond the scope of this article to explain whether Jesus' lineage was pure or whether it is meant to be symbolically related to anointed kings or to only the bloodline of Mary. But if the interpretation of Gen 6 is that the sons of God were Watchers and that the mixing of angelic seed with a human is a horrendous sin it would give a sound reason for God's judgment of the Flood. "God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good" (Gen. 1:21) meaning no animal, angel or man should mix with another outside its kind.

God chose a man, Noah, because he was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. Noah was not sinless. "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."

In all three rebellions previously mentioned man is not imaging God. Adam and Eve start off sinning in believing someone other than Yahweh and His Word. When the Watchers disobey God's will and interfere with mankind, when angels were not to embody and make their home in the realm of the physical, they inadvertently create a new species - not man or angel. The wickedness on earth increases exponentially. 1 Enoch expresses that the Watchers will be punished with no chance of redemption for their sin of interference with God's imagers, mankind God created in His own image.  God banished them to an eternal prison named Tartarus.

God's Chosen People Fail Again and Again
After the flood mankind again does not heed God's Word or commands and turns to their own devices in having a relationship with their "god". But not the God Yahweh. God again abandons mankind to their will and desire to follow spiritual gods and starts over with the creation of "His chosen people" through Abram, although Abraham was not untainted but also followed other gods. His lineage traced back to Noah's son Shem.

Abraham proved to be a great leader because he had faith in Yahweh and was obedient to His will. Likewise, Joshua and a few others were also very faithful to Yahweh and His will. Yet the descendants of Abraham who became the chosen people who were descendants of Israel were not obedient. Like yo-yos, they were up and down in their faithfulness and if they were in discomfort they bitterly complained. If they saw a miracle they were impressed and were temporarily obedient. Yet they could not remain obedient for the most part although Yahweh proved His powerfulness to them again and again.

The entire book of Judges (covering 400 years) also serves as an example of Yahweh punishing those who are not obedient to His laws or covenants. Joshua addressed Israel before he died and warned them to stay faithful to God after his death.

Therefore watch yourselves carefully, that you love the LORD your God. For if you turn away and cling to the rest of these nations that remain among you, and if you intermarry and associate with them, know for sure that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become for you a snare and a trap, a scourge in your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land that the LORD your God has given you, for if they did not, they would certainly be punished. Joshua warned, “Be very careful therefore, to love the Lord your God. For if you turn back, and join the survivors of these nations left here among you…know assuredly that the Lord your God will not continue to drive out these nations before you…” (Joshua 23:11-13)

After Joshua dies there is no successor that God assigns to the people. Throughout Judges, you read that instead of remaining loyal to God and following His laws, these generations of Israelites wander in their faith and began worshiping idols. They also did not break down the pagan altars whereby the angel of the LORD spoke to them.

"I said, I will never break my covenant with you. And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this? Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you" (Judges 2:1-4).

While under Joshua's leadership, not all the Canaanites were driven out by the time of Joshua's death, as commanded by God, resulting in some of their cities, cultures, and religious practices remaining. Once the people of Israel mingle with the Canaanites (and intermarry), their loyalties become divided between their God Yahweh and the gods of the Canaanites. the Israelites even took slaves of the people: “When Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not in fact drive them out” (Joshua 17:13).

As punishment, God “gave them over to plunderers who plundered them”. After a time, the Lord would heed the people’s “groaning” and would send a judge to deliver them from their oppressors. Unfortunately for them, after the judge died, the people of Israel would again abandon God, and He would again deliver them into the hands of their enemies as punishment. Judges 6 shares the terrible condition the Israelities experienced by the Midianites.

The Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian seven years. The hand of Midian prevailed over Israel; and because of Midian the Israelites provided for themselves hiding places in the mountains, caves and strongholds. For whenever the Israelites put in seed, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the east would come up against them. They would encamp against them and destroy the produce of the land, as far as the neighborhood of Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel, and no sheep or ox or donkey. For they and their livestock would come up, and they would even bring their tents, as thick as locusts; neither they nor their camels could be counted; so they wasted the land as they came in. Thus Israel was greatly impoverished because of Midian; and the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help. (Judges 6:1-6)

God calls a prophet for Israel, Gideon, to deliver the children of Israel out of servitude to the Midianites. The angel of the LORD then appears to Gideon and directs him to save Israel from the hands of the Midians. At first, Gideon does not realize it is an angel of Yahweh (visible) speaking to him until He performs a miracle and disappears and then the voice of Yahweh (the invisible) speaks to him. "And the Lord said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die" (Judge 6:23).

The Israelites also began indulging in violence and basically descending into chaos following their own rule. The book concludes with stories of rape, murder, and civil war, and ends with, “In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

The Coming Messiah
The ultimate goal of God in creating a new nation and people under Abraham, God's chosen people, was to produce the Messiah, Jesus Christ who would be the Savior of the world. God is not only omnipotent, the supreme power who created this world, He is omniscient, knowing the past, present, and future. Long before the nation of Israel was created for God's people God had a plan for the joining together all people and the judgment of evil after man first sinned. (Genesis 3:15) It is here that we find the first promise of the Savior/Messiah.

Later, in the prophecy in Genesis 12 God specified that the Messiah would come from the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Still later, God gave a prophecy narrowing down the promised Messiah's ancestry to the line of David. Ephesians 2:1-10 focuses on how through Christ Jesus we are saved through faith. God graciously reconciles us to Himself, and verses Eph 2:11-22 focus on healing the breach between people so that we become one family under God, both Jews, and gentiles.

God did choose the Israelites as His chosen people, but in the New Testament we find that there is also a new chosen people, in addition to the old, those who believe in Christ, through “faith” in the blood shed by Jesus. Christians may or may not be in the lineage of Abraham but they can be joined to Christ and His kingdom.

Matthew 3:9 has John the Baptist speaking to the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to where he was baptizing people and telling them to repent. He said to these Jewish leaders, "And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham."

He was giving them a warning that the coming judgment of Christ the King, would not exempt them from the judgment and that they would be saved just because they were Israelites from Abraham's lineage, or priests, and study the law, or are steeped in ritual. Their fruits were not good. And they of all people should well realize that God had not withheld His judgment on the chosen people in the past for their unfaithfulness. He had never broken any of His promises to the nation of Israel. He had always saved a small remnant of the people.

Then John also adds that God is able to raise up new children of Abraham even from these stones. He would not exempt them just because they were outside of Abraham's lineage. God will add those who trust in Christ to Abraham's line even though they are not direct descendants of Abraham. Thanks be to God!

There are several more astounding points to cover in what Jesus accomplished in His mission on earth which I will continue in part III.


1Michael Heiser wrote a detailed explanation on why these sons of God are not humans in his Deuteronomy 32 and the sons of God.