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Cosmic Geography

Last week we looked at YHWH’s disinheritance of the nations. This was the theological lens through which an ancient Israelite viewed her own nation with respect to all others, and her elohim YHWH, against the gods of the nations. By definition YHWH was superior he was Most High… the title used in Deut 32: 8-9 ..
The Old Testament therefore describes a world were cosmic-geographical lines have been drawn. Israel was on Holy Ground because it was YHWH’s inheritance in the language of Deut 32. The territory of other nations belonged to other elohim because God had decreed it. The Psalm we focused on to start this study (Psalm 82) tells us the lesser elohim are corrupt, we have no information as to how they became that way -only that they are. It is also clear throughout the text that these being were illegitimate for Israelite worship. This idea of cosmic geography clarifies several odd passages of the Bible, and provides dramatic theological backdrop to others. Some of the most startling are in the New Testament and I’ll hold back on those until we get to them. Just remember the paradigm presented here. Today we will get some short and fascinating examples.

David’s Problem

After his anointing by Samuel and victory over Goliath (1 Sam 16-18) David spends a great deal of time trying to get away from the blind rage of King Saul. During the time he is on the run, David must occasionally flee into territory outside the borders of Israel. In one of these episodes David finds Saul in a vulnerable situation and they have this conversation:
1 Samuel 26:17–19 ESV
Saul recognized David’s voice and said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” And David said, “It is my voice, my lord, O king.” And he said, “Why does my lord pursue after his servant? For what have I done? What evil is on my hands? Now therefore let my lord the king hear the words of his servant. If it is the Lord who has stirred you up against me, may he accept an offering, but if it is men, may they be cursed before the Lord, for they have driven me out this day that I should have no share in the heritage of the Lord, saying, ‘Go, serve other gods.’
Translated as heritage of the Lord here it is the same language “no share in the inheritance of YHWH” as in Deut 32, and Deut 4. Is David ignorant of the fact that the God who made heaven and earth can be anywhere? No. In David’s mind, being driven outside Isreal meant not being able to worship YHWH. Note that he does not complain of being driven from the Ark of the Covenant, located at Kiriath Jearim (1 Sam 7:2), or from the Tabernacle, apparently located at Nob (1 Sam 21-22). His complaint is being expelled from the “inheritance” or “heritage” of the Lord — the holy land of his God. David can’t worship as he should if he is not on holy ground. The lands outside Isreal belong to other gods.

Naaman Asks for Dirt

Another fascinating story that illustrates the Israelite cosmic-geographical worldview is the story of Naaman, the commander of the army of Syria, a foreign country just beyond Israel's northern border. Naaman also happened to afflicted with leprosy.
According to 2 Kings 5, at the suggestion of a captive Israelite servant girl, Naaman decides to seek the prophet Elisha for a cure for his condition. He travels to Isreal, but Elisha doesn’t even come out to talk to him in person. He sends a messenger to tell the military hero to wash himself in the Jordan seven times if he want to be healed. Insulted, Naaman at first resists, then relents at the encouragement of his servants. He does as instructed and emerges cleansed from the skin disease. Naaman returned to the prophet, who this time chose to speak with the Syrian. Picking up the story:
2 Kings 5:15–19 (ESV)
Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused. Then Naaman said, “If not, please let there be given to your servant two mule loads of earth, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord. In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter.” He said to him, “Go in peace.”
The brief trip into Isreal and the encounter with YHWH’s prophet have taught Naaman some good theology. He affirms that 2 Kings 5:15
2 Kings 5:15 ESV
Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.”
From henceforth he will sacrifice only to YHWH. But how can he keep that vow after returning to Syria? Simple — he pleads for dirt to take home. Naama views the land of Isreal as holy ground — it is YHWH’s territory. Naaman takes as much dirt as his mules can carry so he can worship YHWH on YHWHs own territory, even thought Naama lives in the domain of the god Rimmon.
We aren’t told if Naaman went home and spread dirt on the floor of a room in his home. We don’t know how he handled his duty to accompany his aged king into Rimmon’s temple. Perhaps he carried dirt with him as a pledge of his believing loyalty to YHWH. What we do know is that the dirt was a theological statement. Dirt from Israel was the means by which Naaman showed his faith and kept his vow to the true Most High God.

Daniel and Paul

Another passage in the Old Testament, Daniel 10, presumes the Deuteronomy 32 worldview. In Daniel 10 we read about a vision of the prophet. Daniel sees a “man” dressed in linen, whom he describes this way: Daniel 10:6
Daniel 10:6 ESV
His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude.
we’ve discussed that shininess or brilliant luminescence is a stock description for a divine being. The radiant figure, who is never identified in the passage, says to Daniel: Daniel 10:12-14
Daniel 10:12–14 ESV
Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come.”
the figure later adds, before ending the conversation: Daniel 10: 20-21
Daniel 10:20–21 ESV
Then he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? But now I will return to fight against the prince of Persia; and when I go out, behold, the prince of Greece will come. But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth: there is none who contends by my side against these except Michael, your prince.
This is one of the odd sections of scripture where there in unanimous agreement that the “princes” referred to in Daniel 10 are divine beings, not humans. This is transparent from the mention of Micheal in the readings, who is called “prince.” This is a concept based on Deut 32: 8-9 ..
This passage, along with Deut 32 is the foundation for Paul’s theology of the unseen world. This is made clear in Acts 17: 26-27
Acts 17:26–27 (ESV)
And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,
Paul alludes to the allotted boundaries of Deut 32 and the nations produced by God’s judgment at Babel, God has disinherited the nations as his people and made a new people from himself, Isreal his own “portion.” Immediately after Babel God will call Abram for that purpose, beginning a covenant relationship with Abraham and his yet unborn descendents. That covenant relationship included the idea that Paul refers to in Acts 17: 27 the drawing of the disinherited Gentile nations. Paul’s rationale for his own ministry to the Gentiles was that it was God’s intention to reclaim the nations to restore the original Edenic vision. Every person in every nation was given the opportunity to repent and believe in the Risen Christ. Salvation was not only for the physical children of Abraham, but for anyone who would believe.
More pointedly, Paul’s terminology for the powers of darkness reflects the cosmic geographical worldview from Deut 32: 8-9 .. The Hebrew word for “prince” used in Daniel 10 is sar. In Daniel 10: 13 , where Michael is called “one of the chief princes,” The Septuagint refers to Michael as one of the chief archonton. (rulers) In other Greek translations of Daniel, a text many consider even older that the Septuagint, the prince of Persia and Israel’s prince, Michael, are both described with the Greek word archon. These are the terms of territorial rule are used by Paul
1 Corinthians 2:6 (ESV)
Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.
1 Corinthians 2:8 (ESV)
None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
Ephesians 3:10 (ESV)
so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 2:2 (ESV)
in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—
Paul uses several terms that he interchanges that are familiar to most who read the Bible studiously.

principalities (arche)

powers/authorities (exousia)

powers (dynamis)

dominions/lords (kyrios)

Thrones (thronos)

Geographical domain rulership

These titles imply domain, geography, territory…
the first three are here Eph 6: 12
Ephesians 6:12 ESV
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.
And Paul writes in Eph 1: 20-21
Ephesians 1:20–21 ESV
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.
and then Colossian says Col 2:15
Colossians 2:15 ESV
He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
The rulers and authorities are disarmed and put to shame by the cross
The incident at Babel and God’s decision to disinherit the nations drew up the battle lines for a cosmic turf war for the planet.The corruption of the sons of God (watchers) set over the nations meant that YHWH vision of a global Eden would be met with supernatural for. Every inch outside Isreal would be contested, and Isreal itself was a fair game for hostile conquest. The watchers (gods) would not surrender their alloted territory back to YHWH, he would have to reclaim them. God would take the first step immediately after Babel. Happy Thanksgiving and may you prepare for the Advent of our Lord.
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