The guilt of the heavenly host, part 2: Psalm 82

The suggestion that the oracle of judgment against the host of heaven//kings of the earth (Isa 24:21-23) might well be read in the light of the earlier oracle against the Day Star//king of Babylon (chapter 14, esp. vv. 12-15)–and thereby viewing the heavenly host as guilty of a hubris against Yahweh that results in the oppression of humans below–would be complemented by Psalm 82:

  1. God has taken his place in the divine council;
    in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
  2. “How long will you judge unjustly
    and show partiality to the wicked?                   Selah
  3. Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
    maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
  4. Rescue the weak and the needy;
    deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
  5. They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
    they walk about in darkness;
    all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
  6. I said, “You are gods,
    sons of the Most High, all of you;
  7. nevertheless, like men you shall die,
    and fall like any prince.”
  8. Arise, O God, judge the earth;
    for you shall inherit all the nations!

The “gods” (=the heavenly council = sons of the Most High) have positions of authority; specifically, it is assumed they are responsible for passing judgment against oppressors and on behalf of the oppressed. God (capital “G”) stands so far above them that he must pass judgment against them for failing in their judicial responsibilities. As punishment, God sentences the “gods” to human death: their immortality has been revoked. Having done away with these lesser gods, the judgment of the earth (against the wicked, to the relief of the oppressed) now rests with the Most High God himself.

To return to the thought of an earlier post, this judgment and doing away with lesser heavenly judges in favor of the immediate rule of the Most High God would parallel well the anticipated doing away of the sun and moon (rulers in Gen 1:16, 18) as lights in favor of Yahweh’s infinitely more glorious presence.

Published in: on June 27, 2014 at 9:15 am  Leave a Comment  

The guilt of the heavenly host

Having noted the anticipated judgment of the host of heaven alongside the kings of the earth in Isaiah 24:21-23, readers may be left asking why they are deserving of such judgment. Verse 5 may provide some insight:

The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants;
for they have transgressed the laws,
violated the statutes,
broken the everlasting covenant.

Many understand this as a reference to the covenant made with humanity through Noah (cf. Gen 9:16), which would agree with the deluge language in Isaiah 24:18 (cf. Gen 7:11). Whatever its reference, however, it may not connect well with any action on the part of the host of heaven.

Perhaps more promising is a glance back at the oracle against Babylon in chapters 13 and 14. In the midst of a vision of the king of Babylon’s descent into sheol are words against “Day Star, son of Dawn” (helel ben shakhar) in Isaiah 14:12-15. Typically understood as the insertion of a well-known story of that time and place so as to magnify by association the king of Babylon’s fall, it lines up well with the passage in Isaiah 24:

  • The Day Star is a member of the host of heaven
  • He is condemned alongside a king of the earth
  • His judgment involves a banishment to “the far reaches of the pit” (cf. Isa 24:22)

If Isaiah 14 provides a specific example of something which Isaiah 24 speaks of in general, it may indicate that the crime of the heavenly host is a crime of hubris against Yahweh. If the actions of the king of Babylon are of any additional insight, this hubris against Yahweh may further involve the oppression of others.

Published in: on June 25, 2014 at 9:53 am  Leave a Comment