Tag Archives: The Unseen Realm

The Unseen Realm: The Movie

The Unseen Realm: The Movie

The Unseen Realm
The Unseen Realm is now available on Faithlife TV at this link:

If you’ve ever wondered about some of the strange passages in the Bible that talk about the Nephilim (Gen. 6:1-4; Num. 13:33), the disobedient “spirits in prison” (1 Pet. 3:18-22; 2 Pet. 2:4-5), or the cosmic battle we face against the “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places,” (Eph. 6:12), then Michael Heiser’s book, “The Unseen Realm,” or his more popular version of this same topic, “Supernatural,” is a must read. However, for those who would rather watch a movie than read, Faithlife has now produced a movie version of The Unseen Realm.

The Unseen Realm is narrated by well-known TV  and film actor Corbin Bernsen (L.A. Law and many others). There is also a cast of Who’s Who among evangelical scholars including Michael Heiser, Darrell Bock, Eric Mason, Ben Witherington III, and Gary Yates.

The Unseen Realm: What to Expect

The Unseen Realm
Heiser’s book is available at Amazon USA / UK and Logos Faithlife

If you’ve read Heiser’s book by the same name, or his book “Supernatural,” then you will be familiar with the content of this film. The film is done in a documentary style moving between the insights shared by the various participants. Like Heiser’s book, it begins with a brief look at the beginning of Psalm 82 which introduces a discussion about the Divine Council. It then moves to the meaning of the word “Elohim” (God, gods) and a discussion about its significance in the Old Testament.

Heiser and his companions then explore the entire content of revelation from Genesis through Revelation demonstrating the pervasive theme of cosmic warfare that is revealed in Scripture. One of the benefits of this fascinating journey is an explanation of obscure passages that many of us have tended to avoid, or at least, found confusing.

Strengths of the Movie

Christ's proclamation to the spirits in prison.
Christ’s proclamation to the spirits in prison.

Besides providing an explanation for hard-to-understand passages, Heiser and friends explain the significance of the serpent in the Garden of Eden. They also offer an interesting interpretation of the Conquest of Canaan. In Heiser’s view, the Conquest is aimed at the giant clans who were descended from the Nephilim. The death of the Canaanites was a result of the intermixture of populations. Heiser also contends that this helps explain why the Bible sometimes says to “utterly destroy” the inhabitants and, in other cases, to “drive out.”

Other insights include the Rabbinic teaching of the two Yahwehs (an interpretation  of the Son of Man passage in Daniel). This, along with passages about the Angel of the Lord, demonstrates that the OT provides support for the One God being manifested in different persons (a precursor to the concept of the Trinity).

I have read for years about the connection between Babel and the events of the Day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. While Babel divided the nations through different tongues, Pentecost made it possible to reunite nations through the speaking in tongues. Heiser and friends, however, demonstrate that the connection between these two events goes even deeper. I found this very enlightening.

The biggest strength of The Unseen Realm is the way it ties all of Scripture together. In the process of showing how the Bible describes the cosmic spiritual conflict from beginning to end, it also does a superb job of preaching the gospel and showing why Jesus had to die and rise again.

Weaknesses of the Movie

Dr. Michael Heiser
Dr. Michael Heiser, author of The Unseen Realm.

In my opinion, the biggest weakness of the movie is that it presents a lot of important, but theologically dense, material in a short amount of time. The movie is one hour and eleven minutes long. My familiarity with the book made understanding the movie a lot easier. However, I asked several people (my wife, my brother, and 2 friends) to watch the movie with me who had never read either of Heiser’s books. Each found the movie interesting, but were a little overwhelmed with all of the information presented. Some of the information is new, or offers a different interpretation of passages that some have never heard before. My viewers suggested that they would want to go back through the movie, pausing it and looking up the relevant passages of Scripture in order to check out Heiser’s arguments more carefully.

I am aware that Heiser’s views originally expressed in his book The Unseen Realm caused quite a stir among evangelicals. Some excited, some confused, some afraid that heresy was being advocated. The reaction of my viewers to the film was surprisingly open. They had either heard similar ideas before or found the explanations offered very intriguing. If the movie opens peoples’ minds and leaves them wanting to investigate the teaching at a deeper level, then it must be considered successful, even if it presents a lot of information. To be honest, I don’t know how the film could have covered less. It’s important to see the whole picture presented by Scripture.

The other weakness depends on one’s point of view. Throughout the film different artists are shown creating works of art that relate to the themes beings discussed. I and some of my viewers found this perplexing at times. Not always seeing how the art connected to the message. However, there was agreement that the time spent on showing the creation of the artwork allowed the viewer time to absorb what was being discussed. Those who are artistic may have a more positive response to the use of the artwork in the movie.

Final Evaluation

My overall response to the film, and that of my viewers, is a positive one. I believe this film is an effective way of communicating these truths of Scripture. If one is patient and follows the presenters and their presentation all the way through to the end, the film delivers a wonderful sense of the depth and beauty of God’s plan. Of course, not everyone will agree with everything in the film (or book). However, anyone who takes the time to view it will definitely find spiritual nourishment and be prodded to search out the topics presented in greater detail. I heartily recommend The Unseen Realm (movie and book) to all who are interested in better understanding the cosmic battle we are in and the wisdom of God’s unfolding plan.

To purchase The Unseen Realm: The Movie, click on this link. A trailer of the film is also available at this link.

(Thanks to Logos/Faithlife for providing me  with a link to preview the film for free. However, I was under no obligation to provide a positive review.)

Angels: A Review of Heiser’s Latest Book

Angels: A Review of Heiser’s Latest Book

Angels
Michael Heiser’s latest book is available from Lexham Press

The New Age movement of the 90s saw a resurgence in the interest of angels. The popular TV show Touched by an Angel, was evidence of this upsurge of interest. I even knew a lady who held “angel seminars,” which was especially interesting in light of her lack of belief in the Bible and holding no theology degree or any special qualifications! A combination of mythology, misinformation, and misunderstanding of the Bible has led to many faulty notions about angels. In his latest book, Angels: What the Bible Really Says About God’s Heavenly Host,” Michael Heiser (resident scholar at FaithLife/Logos), sets the record straight. As Heiser states in his Introduction, “What you’ll read here isn’t guided by Christian tradition, stories, speculations, or well-meaning myths about angels. Instead our study is rooted in the biblical terminology for the members of God’s heavenly host, informed by the wider context of the ancient Near Eastern world and close attention to the biblical text” (p. xiii).

This book is a follow-up to Heiser’s ground-breaking book The Unseen Realm (or it’s less technical, more popular version entitled Supernatural). One can certainly benefit from Angels without having read one of the previous volumes, but this book will make you want to pick up one of the aforementioned volumes if you are not acquainted with them.

Content of Angels

michael heiser
For more from Michael Heiser see his blog at http://drmsh.com and his podcast at http://www.nakedbiblepodcast.com

Heiser’s introduction begins by asking the question “Why Bother?” Although some may find the subject of angels intriguing, isn’t it really a periphery topic in Scripture? Heiser provides four answers: 1) The simplest explanation is, “…if God moved the biblical writers to take care when talking about the unseen realm, then it matters” (p. xiv); 2) Like us, heavenly beings are created in God’s image and through a study of them we become more aware of what it means to be God’s imagers; 3) Since God’s plan is ultimately to unite all things in heaven and earth, a study of angels helps us to better understand and appreciate that plan; and 4) it helps us to anticipate the great plan that is in store for us as we reign eternally with Christ.

Chapter 1: “Old Testament Terminology for the Heavenly Host”–Heiser points out that not all heavenly beings are angels. This chapter also has a very helpful breakdown of OT terminology of divine beings into three categories: 1) Terms that describe nature; 2) terms that describe status; 3) terms that describe function. This three-fold breakdown is very illuminating and worth the price of the book alone.

Chapter 2: “The Heavenly Host in Service to God”–While the previous chapter discussed some of the functions of divine beings, this chapter delves into three other areas that include: 1) Participation in God’s heavenly council; 2) Obedience to God’s decisions; and 3) Praise of the Most High.

Chapter 3: “Important Angels”–includes discussions of the Angel of Yahweh (Heiser musters evidence to argue that this being should be identified with the Second Person of the Trinity), the commander of Yahweh’s army (see Josh. 5:13-15), the destroying angel of the passover, and the two angels named in Scripture, Gabriel and Michael, along with the heavenly being known as the Prince of the Host.

Chapter 4–“The Language of the Heavenly Host in Second Temple Judaism”–This chapter, and the next, as the title suggests moves beyond Old Testament descriptions of the divine world and looks at the Jewish writings of the intertestamental period to understand what Jews thought and taught about the heavenly realm. For those who want a breakdown of the usage of the terms used to describe heavenly beings, Heiser has presented some very helpful charts with references to Second Temple texts and the LXX (Septuagint). While Second Temple Judaism did at times conflate some of the OT language by using the term “angels,” to refer to various divine beings, Heiser provides an important study of the LXX to demonstrate that angels didn’t become the only term used. The reason this is important is because scholarly dogma asserts that the Jews of the Second Temple period moved from the earlier polytheism of the ancient Israelites to a strict monotheism. Thus a term such as “gods” found in the OT came to be translated as “angels” in the LXX (e.g., Ps. 8:5). Heiser disputes this by demonstrating that the change in terminology of the LXX is not as widespread as previously asserted. The point in all of this is to show that the diverse language of the OT regarding the heavenly realm never was evidence of a more primitive polytheism. The Jews of the Second Temple period continued to use this same language, demonstrating that they understood the language to communicate truths about the divine realm and not language that compromises a monotheistic outlook. Admittedly for some lay people, this discussion may be more than what they bargained for. However, in scholarly circles, this is a very important issue and Heiser’s research is invaluable in demonstrating that the OT does not teach a form of polytheism.

Chapter 5: “Second Temple Jewish Angelology”–This may be another chapter that the lay person either briefly skims or skips altogether. Yet, like the previous chapter, it is an important one and one that would have left this book incomplete had it not been included. In this chapter Heiser surveys what Second Temple Literature has in common with the OT and how it diverges from the OT. The reason the contents of this chapter are important is that it helps in painting the backdrop to what Jews in the New Testament thought and believed about angels and the divine world.

Chapter 6: “The Heavenly Host in the New Testament”–No doubt this chapter is what many Christians will want to rush to read. But, I would caution that, just as there was a biblical history before the NT documents were written with particular language about heavenly beings, so Heiser’s treatment follows that same route and it is important to get the background knowledge before plunging into this chapter on the NT. One of the important observations made by Heiser in this chapter is his statement that, “For New Testament authors, angelos  [angel] is a catchall term for the supernatural agents who faithfully attend God. The varied vocabulary of the Old Testament and Second [Temple] Jewish literature is therefore largely conflated into angelos” (p. 120). This observation explains why many Christians are unfamiliar with Old Testament terminology (and therefore suspicious of books and teachers who seek to explain that terminology) and why we use the word angels to describe all creatures in the divine realm.

Chapter 7: “Special Topics in New Testament Angelology”–This chapter and the last one (Chapter 8) are catchall chapters and include interesting topics and questions that didn’t fit into the discussion of the previous chapters. The questions discussed in this chapter include, “Who are the ‘angels of the seven churches’ in Revelation 1-3?”, “Can ‘fallen angels’ be redeemed?”,  “Are fallen angels included in reconciling ‘all things’?”, and several more.

Chapter 8: “Myths and Questions about Angels,”–This chapter includes questions about angels submitted to Heiser that he solicited from readers of his former books in preparation for this book. Again, I will not present an exhaustive list, but here are a few: “Angels have wings…and they’re women too?”, “Angels exist outside time and space”, and “Angels can read minds and manipulate the material world.”

Evaluation of Angels

Angels?
What do you mean angels aren’t chubby little creatures with wings?

Heiser continues to perform a great service to the Church and to all who are interested in what the Bible teaches about the heavenly realm and the beings that dwell there. This book may not be for the novice. Heiser refers to the Hebrew and Greek words and the footnotes at times take the discussion deeper, as well as refer to other scholarly literature on the subject. Along these lines, it is more akin to Heiser’s previous book The Unseen Realm, as opposed to Supernatural which was written in a more popular and less technical format. Perhaps in the future, Heiser will do a similar thing with his Angels book? This warning is not to discourage anyone from reading this book, however. It’s not a bad thing to challenge oneself to  reading something that goes a little deeper than what is comfortable. Such reading stretches a person. I often find that Christians challenge themselves to read or study other very technical subjects but when it comes to the Bible they are content to read only what comes easy. For anyone who takes the time, this book is well worth the effort. Having said that, the people who will probably benefit the most from it are pastors, teachers,  and students. Hopefully this book will gain a wide reading, dispelling popular myths about angels as well as providing a solid biblical foundation for understanding them.

Angels is available at Lexham Press, Amazon USA / UK and other internet outlets.

Many thanks to Lexham Press for this free review copy. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Giants or Canaanites? The Conquest

Giants or Canaanites? The Conquest

Was Joshua's primary goal to conquer the Canaanites or the giants in Canaan?
Was Joshua’s primary goal to destroy the Canaanites or the bloodline of the giants in Canaan?

Who was the conquest of Canaan aimed at? Most would respond that the Bible teaches that it was designed to destroy the Canaanites. The word “Canaanite,” can be used as a generic term for the inhabitants of Canaan (e.g., Gen. 10:19; 12:6), or it can refer to one group among others in Canaan (see e.g., the various lists of the inhabitants of Canaan in Gen. 15:19-21; Deut. 7:1-2). In his recent book, The Unseen Realm, Dr. Michael Heiser argues that the main enemy of Canaan was not the various Canaanite peoples themselves, but the descendants of the Nephilim (KJV–“giants”) who are variously called the Rephaim, the Anakim, and a few other names as well (see e.g., Deut. 2:11, 20). Heiser insists that it is not the Canaanites, per se, that the conquest is targeting, but rather, “In the view of the biblical writers, Israel is at war with enemies spawned by rival divine beings” (Unseen Realm, p. 203). In other words, the Conquest of Canaan was more than a physical battle between Israel and the Canaanites, it was a spiritual battle between Yahweh and the gods of Canaan (including those peoples descended from the bloodline of the Nephilim). At first glance, some may scoff that this is just some sensationalist approach to the problem of the Conquest designed to sell books. However, Heiser is no amateur seeking to make a quick buck. Instead, he is a well-known and respected scholar of the Hebrew Bible and ancient Semitic languages. He is also a scholar in residence for Logos/Faithlife and I have previously reviewed his mobile ed course on Biblical Interpretation (see here, here, and here) which is a very helpful introduction on the hermeneutics of Scripture. Furthermore, Heiser himself states that his proposed interpretation of the Conquest is not “. . . an excuse for a reading of the text that is cartoonish or bizarre” (p. 211). The rest of this article will examine Dr. Heiser’s views on the motive behind the Conquest of Canaan, noting their strengths and weaknesses.

Ḥērem and the Giants of Canaan: Heiser’s View

giants
When the Israelite spies return from Canaan they give a bad report to the people saying, “There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” (Num. 13:33–NKJV)

Ḥērem or, kherem (the spelling Heiser employs), is the Hebrew word translated as “utterly destroy” in English translations (see e.g., Deut. 7:2). Heiser defines it this way: “The idea of kherem is broader than warfare. Fundamental to the concept is a sanctioning of some person or thing because it is forbidden either due to an accursed status or due to Yahweh’s exclusive ownership and use” (p. 203). In other words, the concept of ḥērem has cultic connotations. By that I mean something that is taken out of the natural realm and devoted or set apart to Yahweh. This sets the Conquest of Canaan in an atmosphere of spiritual warfare. Some scholars, including Heiser, refer to it as “Holy War.” The key passage for Heiser regarding the Conquest’s focus on the descendants of the giants (Nephilim) is Numbers 13:32-33. According to his understanding of this passage, “. . . it is much more coherent to read the statement as indicating that the Israelite spies saw unusually tall people groups everywhere they went in the land” (p. 204). Heiser does not believe that there were vast numbers of giant clan members, but that they were scattered throughout the Canaanite population. He contends that, “. . . kharam in the conquest accounts is used only of assaults in cities or locales that overlap with giant clan population clusters” (p. 205). He notes that the one exception to this is Deuteronomy 7:1-2 (I will return to this passage later). Other passages which seem to lend strong support for Heiser’s view include Deuteronomy 9:1-2 and Joshua 11:21-22, which are interpreted by some to indicate that the Anakim existed in large numbers throughout Canaan. Heiser is more cautious stating that these passages, do not “. . . require the conclusion that Anakim are to be equated with the entire population of Canaan. Rather, it could just as well mean that wherever (author’s emphasis using italics) Anakim were encountered within Canaan they were eliminated” (p. 205, n. 8).

In the interests of not overextending our discussion here, I have chosen a statement by Heiser that summarizes his position. He states, “The point of this brief reconstruction is not that Israelites took only the lives of the remnant of the giant clans. Others were certainly slain. The point is that the rationale for kherem annihilation was the specific elimination of the descendants of the Nephilim” (pp. 210-211).

Ḥēreming” the Giants: Strengths and Weaknesses

417i-jxItJL._SX337_BO1,204,203,200_I would like to begin this section by acknowledging my indebtedness to Dr. Heiser. His book, The Unseen Realm, has truly opened my eyes to many of the things in Scripture regarding the spiritual realm that I did not take seriously enough, or did not understand. Furthermore, I was almost completely ignorant of the connection between the Conquest of Canaan and the Giant clans, and Heiser’s treatment of this topic has greatly enhanced my understanding. Having made these acknowledgments, I am not fully convinced of his thesis for reasons I will outline below.

There are a few passages where Heiser must make assumptions in order for his interpretation to work. These include:

  1. Deuteronomy 7:1-2 which uses the word ḥērem in relation to the Canaanites and other people groups of Canaan without any reference to the giant clans. Heiser notes this exception and offers an explanation, which is possible, but I need more convincing (see p. 205 for his explanation).
  2. Jericho and Ai were put under ḥērem according to Joshua 6:18, 21; 8:26), but there is no word of giant clans. In a footnote on these passages Heiser states, “Since these locations were put under kherem (when others were not), we have to conclude that some Anakim were known to live in these cities based on the wording of Num. 13:28-29 (p. 206, n. 10). This explanation is definitely a leap in logic. It is possible, but by no means demonstrable that we have to conclude Anakim were in these cities.

My other concern is that Heiser does not address the curse of Noah on Canaan in Genesis 9:25. In my understanding, this curse provides the foundation for the why the land of Canaan will eventually be given to Abraham’s descendants and why the Canaanite peoples are to be destroyed. There is no hint of the Nephilim or their descendants in this passage. Therefore, although it is clear from later passages that the giant clans fall under the ḥērem, the curse on Canaan explains why the Canaanite peoples are to be destroyed. Unfortunately Dr. Heiser does not mention this passage in his book, nor can I find any reference to it on his website (drmsh.com). This seems to be a serious hole in his argument and I would love to hear his interpretation of this passage and how he sees it fitting into his overall understanding of the Conquest.

In conclusion, The Unseen Realm, is a very thought-provoking and eye-opening read. Although I am not fully convinced of every argument made, I have greatly benefitted from Dr. Heiser’s insights and highly recommend this book to those who want a deeper understanding of the Bible’s teaching on the spiritual realm. For those who would like to hear some introductory lectures on this topic by Dr. Heiser, I have included some youtube links below.

Divine Council Intro

The Divine Council Worldview

Dr. Darrell Bock and Dr. Michael S. Heiser discuss The Unseen Realm

Caesarea Philippi and the Nephilim?

Caesarea Philippi and the Nephilim?

The Nephilim are first mentioned in Genesis 6:4.
The Nephilim are first mentioned in Genesis 6:4.

My title for this article is actually greatly abbreviated. If I were to have written out the entire title it would have been something like, “What do Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ at Caesarea Phillippi, the Nephilim, the worship of Baal, and the locations of Mount Hermon and the land of Bashan all have in common? The question sounds crazy and some Bible readers may not even be familiar with places like Mount Hermon or Bashan, and probably know very little about the mysterious Nephilim. So a very natural question is, “Who knows and who cares?” If you’ll bear with me and read through this entire post, I will try to demonstrate the connection between each of these subjects and what we can learn from their connection. Personally, the connection between these subjects has opened my eyes up to things that I had never noticed in Scripture before. As a side-light, it has also increased my conviction that learning biblical geography can help one better understand and appreciate certain stories in the Bible. I will tackle each of these subjects one at a time. As I move from item to item the picture I’m seeking to convey should become more clear. Much of the insight for this post must be credited to Dr. Michael Heiser and his recent book, THE UNSEEN REALM.

Caesarea Philippi

This artistic recreation of the pagan sanctuaries at Caesarea Philippi is on display at the archaeological site.
This artistic recreation of the pagan sanctuaries at Caesarea Philippi is on display at the archaeological site. The buildings from left to right are: 
1. The Temple of Augustus Called the Augusteum (On the Left); 
2. The Grotto or Cave of the God Pan (Behind the Temple of Augustus)
; 3. The Court of Pan and the Nymphs (To the Right of the Temple of Augustus); 
4. The Temple of Zeus (In the Middle)
; 5. The Court of Nemesis (To the Right of the Temple of Zeus); 
6. The Tomb Temple of the Sacred Goats (Upper Right); 
7. The Temple of Pan and the Dancing Goats (Bottom Right)

Caesarea Philippi is famous biblically for being the place where Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” (Matt. 16:13; cf. Mark 8:27). After the disciples mentioned many well-known biblical people, Jesus asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” To which Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). Caesarea Philippi is an interesting place for this confession since, as is usually pointed out by any good commentary, it was a seat of pagan worship in a predominantly Gentile area.

The city known as Caesarea Philippi in Jesus’ time, was originally established by Alexander the Great as a countryside shrine to the Greek god Pan located in a cave that possessed an underground stream so deep, it was considered bottomless. The place was named Paneas and later during the reign of Herod the Great, Herod built a city there. In honor of the emperor, he also built a temple to Augustus. After Herod’s death, his son Philip expanded the size of the city and renamed it Caesarea Philippi in order to honor both Caesar and himself, as well as to distinguish it from the Caesarea built by Herod on the coast. Today the city retains its ancient name, being pronounced Banias (the locals pronounce “p” like “b”). Anyone who checks a good Bible commentary can discover this information, and although it is significant that Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ in this pagan city, it is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding the history of this area.

Mount Hermon, Baal, and the Nephilim

Caesarea Philippi/Banias sits at the foot of Mount Hermon in this photo, a mountain believed to be the dwelling abode of Baal in ancient times.
Caesarea Philippi/Banias sits at the foot of Mount Hermon in this photo, a mountain believed to be the dwelling abode of Baal in ancient times.

As the photo above illustrates, Caesarea Philippi/Banias is located at the foot of Mount Hermon (see center and bottom of photo). Mount Hermon is part of a range that divided the land of Israel from ancient Syria and Phoenicia (modern Lebanon). The Phoenicians, worshippers of Baal (think Jezebel–e.g., 1 Kgs. 18:19), actually considered Mount Hermon to be the mountain of Baal. Long before Alexander the Great instituted the worship of Pan in the area, Baal was the main attraction. In fact, Mount Hermon was also known as Mount Baal-Hermon in biblical times (Judg. 3:3; 1 Chron. 5:23).

As if the worship of Baal doesn’t provide Mount Hermon with enough of a tarnished reputation, there is still a more nefarious incident associated with it. According to the Book of Enoch, and Jewish tradition, Mount Hermon was the gathering place of the rebellious angels who descended from its heights to mate with the daughters of men, resulting in the birth of the Nephilim. I have included a copy of chapter 6:1-6 of the Book of Enoch which relates the incident:

<img class=”size-full wp-image-2399″ src=”http://www.biblestudywithrandy.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/1Enoch.jpg” alt=”The Book of Enoch taught that the rebellious angels of Genesis 6 descended from Mount Hermon to mate with the daughters of men and give birth to the Nephilim.” width=”255″ height=”394″ /> The Book of Enoch taught that the rebellious angels of Genesis 6 descended from Mount Hermon to mate with the daughters of men and give birth to the Nephilim.

Book of Enoch
6:1 And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. 2 And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: ‘Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.’ 3 And Semjâzâ, who was their leader, said unto them: ‘I fear ye will not indeed agree to do this deed, and I alone shall have to pay the penalty of a great sin.’ 4 And they all answered him and said: ‘Let us all swear an oath, and all bind ourselves by mutual imprecations not to abandon this plan but to do this thing.’ 5 Then sware they all together and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. 6 And they were in all two hundred; who descended ‹in the days› of Jared on the summit of Mount Hermon, and they called it Mount Hermon, because they had sworn and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it (Charles, R. H. (Ed.). (1913). Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament (Vol. 2, p. 191). Oxford: Clarendon Press.).

To assert that the Book of Enoch teaches that the Nephilim are a result of the rebellious angels who descended from Mount Hermon, is not to suggest that this is necessarily a historical fact. It is only to assert that it was taught in Jewish tradition to be the place of this event. This tradition further enhances the evil reputation surrounding this area. Jews of the 1st century would certainly have been aware of this tradition, as the Book of Enoch was well-known to them. In fact, Peter, the very one who confesses Jesus to be the Christ at Caesarea Philippi, alludes to the Book of Enoch in 2 Peter 2:4-5.

Before leaving a discussion of Mount Hermon, it’s important to point out that its name also has significance. As Heiser states, “Just the name ‘Hermon’ would have caught the attention of Israelite and Jewish readers” (The Unseen Realm, p. 201). The name Hermon is derived from the Hebrew words ḥerem (a thing devoted to God for destruction) or ḥaram (the verb form which means to devote to destruction because it is set apart to God alone). These are the words used in the Conquest narrative (Deut.-Joshua) to describe the utter destruction of the people of Canaan. Heiser believes that this word is particularly connected with the descendants of the Nephilim (e.g., Num. 13:33). Whether Heiser’s theory–that the utter destruction was aimed at the descendants of the Nephilim–is correct must wait for a future post. My point here is that the use of this word once again seems to associate Mount Hermon with the Nephilim.

Bashan–the Place of the Serpent

This map show the area of Bashan colored in green on the right.
This map shows the area of Bashan colored in green on the right.

Moving out in an ever-widening circle, Bashan is the territory in which Caesarea Philippi and Mount Hermon reside. Although one meaning of Bashan is “fertile, stoneless piece of ground,” another meaning of this root is “Serpent” (Lete, del O. G. (1999). Bashan. In K. van der Toorn, B. Becking, & P. W. van der Horst [Eds.], Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible [2nd extensively rev. ed., p. 161]). Bashan has associations with the Rephaim, descendants of the Nephilim going way back in antiquity. Bible students should recall that Israel, under the leadership of Moses conquered this territory which belonged to Og king of Bashan. In fact, Joshua 12:4-5 says it this way:

“The other king was Og king of Bashan and his territory, who was of the remnant of the giants [Hebrew = Rephaim], who dwelt at Ashtaroth and at Edrei, and reigned over Mount Hermon, over Salcah, over all Bashan, as far as the border of the Geshurites and the Maachathites, and over half of Gilead to the border of Sihon king of Heshbon.”

Tablet like these discovered at the ancient Canaanite city of Ugarit further confirm that Bashan was known as "the place of the serpent," and the territory of the Rephaim.
Tablets like these discovered at the ancient Canaanite city of Ugarit further confirm that Bashan was known as “the place of the serpent,” and the territory of the Rephaim.

Note the references to Mount Hermon and the Nephilim in this passage. Not only does the Bible state that King Og of Bashan is a descendant of the Nephilim, according to Heiser the designation of Og as an “Amorite” associates him with Babylon. Furthermore, the dimensions of his bed (see Deut. 3:8-11) “are precisely those of the cultic bed in the ziggurat called Entemenanki–which is the ziggurat most archaeologists identify as the Tower of Babel referred to in the Bible” (Heiser, The Unseen Realm, p. 198). All the connections start to become a little mind-blowing, not to mention confusing for some. I’ll leave it to those interested in pursuing this further to read Dr. Heiser’s book. The point here is that Bashan, the territory in which Caesarea Philippi resides, has ancient associations with the Nephilim, as well as carrying the meaning of  “the place of the Serpent” The association of Bashan with “The place of the serpent,” as well as being a dwelling place of the Rephaim ( a word used in the Bible for the descendants of the Nephilim) also finds confirmation in the Canaanite literature discovered at Ugarit (see photo on left).

The Gates of Hades (Hell)

This cave in Caesarea Philippi, known as the Cave of Pan was also called, "The Gates of Hades." The cave is still visible today to anyone visiting Banias.
This cave in Caesarea Philippi, known as the Cave of Pan was also called, “The Gates of Hades.” The cave is still visible today to anyone visiting Banias.

Finally, in returning to Caesarea Philippi, given the associations of this area with Greek gods, Baal, the Nephilim, and the name “place of the serpent,” it should come as no surprise that it was also associated with the realm of the dead. The Canaanites taught that the Rephaim were the dead spirits of ancient kings, thus associating Bashan with the underworld. Interestingly enough, the Cave of Pan in Caesarea Philippi was called, “The Gates of Hades.” This may be related to the idea that the cave was believed to be a bottomless pit (see comments above). Against this background, Jesus’ statement following Peter’s confession that “the gates of Hades [hell] will not prevail against it (i.e., the church),” is very illuminating!

In conclusion, the fact that Peter’s confession occurs in a pagan area is remarkable enough. But when one learns the history of the area and the traditions associated with it, Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ the Son of God takes on greater significance. This confession is declared in “the place of the serpent.” It is declared in an area associated with divine (the Nephilim), as well as human (worship of Baal) rebellion. In the darkest place possible, Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was, and the light of God shone on Bashan through Peter’s confession.