Friday, February 02, 2018

The fall of angels

The OT doesn't have much explicitly to say about the fall of angels. Whether Isa 14 & Ezk 28 allude to that primordial event is contested. Scholars commonly claim that the fall of angels represents an Intertestamental development. Indeed, that Satan evolved in Second Temple Judaism. However, I'd like to consider a neglected text:

If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’... (Deut 13:1-2).

That raises an interesting question: what's the source of a false prophet's supernatural knowledge (foresight) and supernatural power (miracle)? In theory, he might be empowered by God. However, that runs counter to the companion passage:

But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die (Deut 18:20).

Yet if God is not the source, then by process of elimination, doesn't that leave evil spirits as the source of the false prophet's superhuman abilities? 

But in that case, were they always evil, or did they become evil. If so, that entails a declension from their original condition. 


  1. What do you think of Heiser's books on the subject of fallens angels in the OT? If I recall he thinks The accuser in Job is not a devil or demon at all.

  2. I would think the book of Job would be a prima facie counterexample. Whatever else it is, it isn't intertestamental! At least it shows the concept of a cosmic bad guy around earlier.

  3. I will be thinking out loud here, so pardon any incoherence on my part:

    1. Could the signs and wonders that the false prophet performs simply be smoke and mirrors, without a supernatural cause? The false prophet may have gotten lucky in predicting an event, or been able to facilitate an illusion of a sign and wonder.

    2. Could the false prophet perform the sign and wonder with the help of another god in the pantheon? I struggle somewhat with this solution. There are places in Deuteronomy that acknowledge the existence of other gods. At the same time, Moshe Weinfeld presents a cause in Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School that those are Deuteronomy's sources, and the author of Deuteronomy himself depersonalized the others gods.

    3. Could the false prophet perform the sign and wonder with the help of a demon? I am not sure if they believed back then that demons could do miracles. My understanding is that demons could be souls of dead people who did not have a peaceful transition in the afterlife, and they mainly afflicted people rather than trying to deceive.

    Then again, doing a search, Deuteronomy 32:17 appears to equate false gods with shedim (which English translations renders as devils or demons); the word does not appear often in the Bible, and I do not know much about it offhand. It is in the same song that appears to acknowledge the existence of other gods (Deuteronomy 32:8-9).