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The purpose and intent of this site is twofold:

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Nachash in the Garden of Eden



THE GARDEN OF EDEN NACHASH

FOREWORD
The following article is based on information taken from the work of Dr. Michael Heiser.  Dr. Heiser earned his PhD in Hebrew Bible and Semitic Languages at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He can do translation work in roughly a dozen ancient languages, among them Biblical Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, Egyptian hieroglyphs, and Ugaritic cuneiform.  He has also studied Akkadian and Sumerian independently.

Genesis 3, Isaiah 14, and Ezekiel 28 seemingly involve Satan, a Nachash, or some type of angelic or spiritual entity.  This article is a report involving the supplied Dr. Heiser information and the actual scripture references.

GENESIS 3:  THE EDEN INCIDENT
I’m certain everyone is aware of the Eden temptation story but allow me to give a few details.  Adam then Eve were created by God and were free to roam the Garden of Eden where they could eat the fruit of any tree except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  The nachash (serpent) tempted or tricked Eve into eating the forbidden fruit and she gave a bite to Adam, who knew better but ate it anyway.

The word serpent is the Hebrew word, nachash, which can be translated as serpent or snake but has other meanings as well.  According to Heiser, the Hebrew root is the basis for a noun, verb, and adjective.  Of course as a noun it is usually the word for serpent.  The verb form means deceiver or diviner with divine knowledge.  The adjective version means bronze or brazen with a bright shine.  Therefore, used as an adjective it should be translated as “shining one.”  Shining or luminosity is a quality that is characteristic of divine beings in the Hebrew bible and other near east literature.

The serpent speaks to Eve and she responds.  The nashash is fully aware of God’s words and therefore this serpentine being has proximity to God and some role in the Divine Council and Eden, which in Genesis is viewed as the residence of God.

Dr. Heiser’s opinion is that the nachash or serpent is not an animal and definitely not a talking snake.  It is a divine being associated with the Divine Council  who freely chose to oppose God’s plan for humanity by prompting the humans to disobey God so they would either be killed or removed from God’s council and family.  The nachash is an angelic-type divine being perhaps masquerading as an animal, but not a member of the animal kingdom.  It may have been in serpentine form or took a serpentine form.

God cursed the serpent to crawl on his belly and eat dust until his life ends.  Serpents or snakes do not eat dirt.  Heiser suspects that God may have put him under the ground as in Sheol which would have him crawling on his belly with nothing to eat but dirt. 

The LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, cursed are you above all the wild beasts and all the living creatures of the field! On your belly you will crawl and dust you will eat all the days of your life.
(Genesis 3:14 NET)



Eden
Genesis appears to describe, in a limited version, the Garden of Eden as the place where God, Adam, Even, a nashash, and probably others lived in a lush vegetated environment.  Was Eden actually located on a dirt and rock earth as many commentators write or was it in a heavenly dimension?  Is heaven and earth in the same place just different dimensions?  Genesis may give some clues.

According to Heiser, it was common in Old Testament culture and literature to describe God’s home or headquarters as a lush garden or as a majestic mountain.  He claims the garden motif was due to Biblical people’s long term desert living which would inspire people to assume that God lived in a lush environment with plenty of water and food.  The mountain was high, remote, and removed from the normal habitation of normal people and thus was the place where God lived.  There are many examples of the “mountain of God” in the scriptures.

In the future the mountain of the LORD's temple will endure as the most important of mountains, and will be the most prominent of hills. All the nations will stream to it,   (Isaiah 2:2 NET)


ISAIAH 14:  THE KING OF BABYLON

As background material, Isaiah 6 refers to a seraph which means serpent.  In Egyptian mythos a seraph is a guardian serpent and in the Egyptian pictorial alphabet is the equivalent of a cherub.

Seraphs stood over him; each one had six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and they used the remaining two to fly.  (Isaiah 6:2 NET)

Isaiah 14:4 begins with a proverb or taunt against the king of Babylon.  The story according to Heiser is about an evil tyrant king, whose pride is described in terms of an ancient story about a divine being who fill from paradise due to rebellion against God.  He claims that Eden is referenced indirectly, though clearly in the case of Isaiah 14.

You will taunt the king of Babylon with these words: "Look how the oppressor has met his end! Hostility has ceased!   (Isaiah 14:4 NET)

Verse 14 introduces Lucifer in the KJV but the NET appears to translate it correctly. The Hebrew word translated as Lucifer is “Helel ben Shachar” which literally means “shining one, son of the dawn.”  The word “Lucifer” was taken from the Latin vulgate translation of “Helel”.  Apparently the KJV merely lifted it verbatim from the Latin without attempting to translate.  The KJV phrase “Lucifer, son of the morning” has some connection to the Latin word for the planet Venus or Lucifer.

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!   (Isaiah 14:12 KJV)

Look how you have fallen from the sky, O shining one, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the ground, O conqueror of the nations!
(Isaiah 14:12 NET)

Many books, commentaries, and papers have been written using Isaiah 14 as the excuse to give Satan another name as Lucifer.  It may, in fact, be referring to Satan, but should not be translated as Lucifer.  It could be referring to another divine being; however, the general dismissal by the elite expositors of the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 as angelic beings limits their discussion to only one fallen angel which is Satan.  Even those who do teach Genesis 6 as fallen angels continue to adhere to the name Lucifer.

This shining one wanted to set his throne on the mountain of God, the mountain of the divine council, above the stars of God.

For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God (El): I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north (Zaphon)   (Isaiah 14:13 KJV)

Note, that in the KJV of Isaiah 14:13 the word translated as “God” is actually “El”.  In Canaanite mythology the stars of El were the deities under the authority of the high god El.  The word “north” in the KJV is actually “Zaphon” which is the Canaanite version of Olympus or the mountain of assembly where the gods met.  Either way, stars are the scriptural sons of God or God assembles His council on some high place probably in heaven or on an actual mountain but in a heavenly dimension not an earthly one.

The KJV Lucifer is actually a shining one or divine being.  As previously stated, the words shining or luminosity is a quality that is characteristic of divine or angelic beings.  It may indeed be Satan but is doubtful as will be shown next.

Sheol below is stirred up about you, ready to meet you when you arrive. It rouses the spirits of the dead for you, all the former leaders of the earth; it makes all the former kings of the nations rise from their thrones. All of them respond to you, saying: 'You too have become weak like us! You have become just like us! Your splendor has been brought down to Sheol, as well as the sound of your stringed instruments. You lie on a bed of maggots, with a blanket of worms over you. Look how you have fallen from the sky, O shining one, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the ground, O conqueror of the nations!
(Isaiah 14:9-12 NET)

It would seem from the scripture this shining one (divine being) was sent to Sheol, and if Satan, it may be a future event.  It appears that Satan is currently “the prince of the power of the air” and “the god of this world.”  For most practical reasons, Satan is not thrown out of the sky (heaven) and down to the ground until the actions related in Revelation chapter 12 occur.


EZEKIEL 28:  THE KING OF TYRE

Ezekiel 28 is another passage concerning an evil tyrant king.  It is about another king, this one involving the king of Tyre whose pride is described in terms of an ancient story about a divine being who fell from paradise because of rebellion against God similar to Genesis 3 and it references Eden directly.

A Bible professor named Van Dyke wrote a paper on Ezekiel 28 and describes the divine being as one with special knowledge, lifted up in pride, then preempts God’s plan and overturns it.  He adds that it is a divine council setting and the preemptor is a divine council member.

Verse 13 states the divine one was in the garden of Eden defined as the garden of God.  He was covered with every precious stone which were prepared on the day of his creation.  These precious stones describe the brightness of God’s throne in other scriptures.

You were in Eden, the garden of God. Every precious stone was your covering, the ruby, topaz, and emerald, the chrysolite, onyx, and jasper, the sapphire, turquoise, and beryl; your settings and mounts were made of gold. On the day you were created they were prepared.  (Ezekiel 28:13 NET)

Verse 14 appears to have a translation conundrum.  The KJV and others render the text as if the divine being is an anointed cherub although the word “art” is an added addition.  The NET and LXX, in my library, render as the divine being was with and anointed cherub, with the NET adding “guardian cherub.”

Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.  (Ezekiel 28:14 KJV)

I placed you there with an anointed guardian cherub; (Ezekiel 28:14 NET)
From the day that thou wast created thou wast with the cherub (Ezekiel 28:14 LXX Brenton)

Below is more information on this peculiar translation.

Heb  "you (were) an anointed cherub that covers and I placed you." In the Hebrew text the ruler of Tyre is equated with a cherub, and the verb "I placed you" is taken with what follows ("on the holy mountain of God"). However, this reading is problematic. The pronoun "you" at the beginning of verse Eze_28:14  is feminine singular in the Hebrew text; elsewhere in this passage the ruler of Tyre is addressed with masculine singular forms. It is possible that the pronoun is a rare (see Deu_5:24; Num_11:15) or defectively written (see 1Sa_24:19; Neh_9:6; Job_1:10; Psa_6:3; Ecc_7:22) masculine form, but it is more likely that the form should be repointed as the preposition "with" (see the Septuagint (LXX)). In this case the ruler of Tyre is compared to the first man, not to a cherub. If this emendation is accepted, then the verb "I placed you" belongs with what precedes and concludes the first sentence in the verse. It is noteworthy that the verbs in the second and third lines of the verse also appear at the end of the sentence in the Hebrew text. The presence of a conjunction at the beginning of "I placed you" is problematic for the proposal, but it may reflect a later misunderstanding of the syntax of the verse.

Regardless, Heiser appears to agree generally, but not totally, with the KJV translation.  For the phrase “anointed cherub” he claims the translators are assuming the word “mashach” means “anointed” but it may come from a Semitic homonym meaning “to shine” and so produce “shining cherub”.  The cherub in Assyrian and Phoenician context is a throne guardian (as in the NET).  In the above Isaiah passage, the throne guardian is called a seraph, which means serpent.  Heiser claims that a seraph and a cherub are essentially the same entity, just from different cultures and contexts.

For the next example, I used the NIV because it contains the actual words that Heiser expressed, “seal of perfection”.  Most other versions render the same basic concept.  The Semitic for “seal of perfection” is “hwtm tknyt”.  Occasionally the “m” at the end is silent rendering “hwt(m) tknyt” which would translate as “serpent of perfection”.

"Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: "'You were the seal of perfection (or serpent of perfection), full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.  (Ezekiel 28:12 NIV)


HEISER’S SUMMARY

Heiser ties the three scripture passages together by concluding the nachash or shining one is a component.  In G3 he is obviously in Eden with Eve; E28 states he was in Eden or the holy mountain of God where he walked among the stones of fire or the divine council; Is14 implied he was in Eden by saying, “he will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly” and that he wanted to set his throne on the mountain of God or the mountain of the divine council (assembly).

Eden was (is) the place of the council according to Heiser.  The “stones of fire” of E28 are in Eden on the cosmic mountain.  The cherub (serpent) figure is in “the seat of God” or “the gods” and envisions himself as God.

GOD’S RETRIBUTION

G3 tells the nachash he will be cursed more than all cattle and every created beast.  On his belly he will go and will eat dust (dirt) all the days of his life.  E28 strikes the nachash from the mountain of God and destroys him from among the stones of fire (divine council).  He has been cast to the ground.  The word translated as “ground” is “erets”.  The word usually means “earth” as in the ground, but in Ugaritic (much of Ezekiel 28 tracks Ugaritic religious texts) it means “netherworld” which is a synonym for Sheol or the place of the dead.  The word is used in this manner in Jonah 2:6.

I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth (erets) with her bars was about me forever (implies Sheol): yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.   (Jonah 2:6 KJV)

Isaiah 26 has several references to the nashash (shining one) sent down to Sheol.  Heiser thinks this may be the reason many people consider Satan to be the king and chief resident of Hell; his headquarters where he stores the souls of sinners.

Sheol (Hell in KJV) below is stirred up about you, ready to meet you when you arrive. It rouses the spirits of the dead for you, all the former leaders of the earth; it makes all the former kings of the nations rise from their thrones.
(Isaiah 14:9 NET)

Your splendor has been brought down to Sheol (grave in KJV), as well as the sound of your stringed instruments. You lie on a bed of maggots, with a blanket of worms over you.  (Isaiah 14:11 NET)

Look how you have fallen from the sky, O shining one, son of the dawn (Helel ben Shachar) ! You have been cut down to the ground, O conqueror of the nations! You said to yourself, "I will climb up to the sky. Above the stars of El I will set up my throne. I will rule on the mountain of assembly on the remote slopes of Zaphon. I will climb up to the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High!" But you were brought down to Sheol (Hell KJV), to the remote slopes of the pit.   (Isaiah 14:12-15 NET)

DEBATABLE QUESTIONS

·         Is Eden the residence of God?
·         Was Eden ever on the surface of the earth?
o   If yes, where is it now?
o   If no, were Adam and Eve ejected from the heavenly realm (dimension) to live on the earthly realm (dimension)?
o   Was Heaven and Earth the same dimension until the Fall?
·         Is Heaven, Earth, and Sheol the same place just different dimensions?
o   Apparently Sheol is not in the middle of the Earth (not discounting the theories of a hollow earth) but could it be in the center in a dimensional system?
o   Is the “Mountain of God” (and Mt. Hermon where the Watchers supposedly appeared) on the earth in a dimensional system?

5 comments:

  1. Good article.
    In Ezekiel chapter 31, in the KJV it describes a tree being exhalted and then thrown down, it also days the trees will be delivers unto death in the nether parts of the earth. As for the Ezekiel 28 description, the annointed cherub had musical instruments inside him.

    Taking into account the Isaiah 14, Genesis 3, Ezekiel 28 and 31
    Could it be that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was the Lucifer/Satan. That the fruit was his testimony, words of his mouth which Adam and Eve believed.
    In many places man/a persona is referred to as a tree.
    Mark 8:24 And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking.
    Matthew 3:10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

    Just food for thought, I love this stuff.

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  2. According to the Interlinear presentation on Bible Hub, the word in Genesis 3:1 for serpent is presented as a noun. How do you come to the conclusion that it is a adjective?

    I am not familiar with the Hebrew markings on their words. Is there some "jot" or "tittle" that indicates this should be considered an adjective?

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  3. Most of my factual information as well as Hebrew usage was borrowed from Dr. Michael Heiser. The information is probably still on his website if one can find it.

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    Replies
    1. Did you ever find said info that Leonard Hopkins asked about? Very interested. Thanks!

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