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Yahweh Son of the Most High! Pt. 1

More OT Proof for God’s Triunity

In this post, I’m going to discuss a particular OT text that has led some scholars to conclude that early Israelite religion wasn’t monotheistic, and did not think that Yahweh was the sole or chief Deity. The passage which I have in view is this one taken from Deuteronomy:

When the Most High (Elyon) gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders[a] of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God.[b] But the Lord‘s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage. Deuteronomy 32:8-9

Footnotes:

  1. Deuteronomy 32:8 Or territories
  2. Deuteronomy 32:8 Compare Dead Sea Scroll, Septuagint; Masoretic Text sons of IsraelEnglish Standard Version (ESV)

Note the following translation of v. 8:

“When God Most High divided up the nations—when he divided up humankind—he decided the people’s boundaries based on the number of the gods.[a] Surely the Lord’s property was his people; Jacob was his part of the inheritance.

Footnotes:

  1. Deuteronomy 32:8 DSS (4QDeutj), LXX; MT the Israelites Common English Bible (CEB) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=deuteronomy+32%3A8-9&version=CEB

And here is the English rendering of the Greek form of the Hebrew text, commonly referred to as the Septuagint (LXX):

“When the Most High divided the nations, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the nations according to the number of the angels of God.”

Certain scholars claim that this passage actually depicts the Most High as someone other than Yahweh, and that Yahweh is one of the sons of God who received Israel as his allotted portion from God (El in Hebrew).

Note what the following scholar says in his comments regarding the theological import of Psalm 82, which is another text used to prove that Yahweh was initially believed to be one of the sons of El:

The author of Psalm 82 wishes to depose the older theology, as the Israelite God is called to assume a new role as judge of all the world. Yet at the same time, Psalm 82, like Deuteronomy 32:8-9, preserves the outlines of the older theology it is rejecting. From the perspective of this older theology, Yahweh did not belong to the top tier of the pantheon. Instead, in early Israel the god of Israel apparently belonged to the second tier of the pantheon; he was not the presider god, but one of his sons. This older picture, assumed in Deuteronomy 32:8-9 and criticized in Psalm 82, presupposes the model of roughly equal national gods for all of the seventy nations of the world, a notion reflected also in the Ugaritic motif of the seventy sons of El and Athirat (CAT 1.4 VI 46). It is true that these expressions of older national theology survive only because they could be conformed to the later monotheistic paradigm: the figure of “the Most High” (‘elyon) in Psalm 82 could be read as a reference to Yahweh, and the Masoretic change in Deuteronomy 32:8-9 marks a shift to a monotheistic reading. However, analyzed not in terms of later monotheism but in terms of the earlier national situation, these two passages offer an important witness to the old monarchic period of theology of the national god… (Mark S. Smith, The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel’s Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts [Oxford University Press, 2001], p. 49; bold and underline emphasis ours)

And here is what Smith writes elsewhere concerning Deuteronomy 32:8-9:

The original god of Israel was El. This reconstruction may be inferred from two pieces of information. First, the name of Israel is not a Yahwistic name with the divine element of Yahweh, but an El name, with the element, *’el. This fact would suggest that El was the original chief god of the group named Israel. Second, Genesis 49:24-25 presents a series of El epithets separate from the mention of Yahweh in verse 18 (discussed in section 3 below). Yet early on, Yahweh is understood as Israel’s god in distinction to El. Deuteronomy 32:8-9 casts Yahweh in the role of one of the sons of El, here called ‘elyon… This passage presents an order in which each deity received its own nation. Israel was the nation that Yahweh received. It also suggests that Yahweh, originally a warrior-god from Sinai/Paran/Edom/Teiman, was known separately from El at an early point in early Israel. Perhaps due to trade with Edom/Midian, Yahweh entered secondarily into the Israelite highland religion. Passages such as Deuteronomy 32:8-9 suggest a literary vestige of the initial assimilation of Yahweh, the southern warrior-god, into the larger highland pantheism, headed by El; other texts point to Asherah (El’s consort) and to Baal and other deities as members of this pantheon. In time, El and Yahweh were identified, while Yahweh and Baal co-existed and later competed as warrior-gods. As the following chapter (section 2) suggests, one element in this competition involved Yahweh’s assimilation of language and motifs originally associated with Baal.

One indication that Yahweh and El were identified at an early stage is that there are no biblical polemics against El. At an early point, Israelite tradition identified El with Yahweh or presupposed this equation. It is for this reason that the Hebrew Bible so rarely distinguishes between El and Yahweh. The development of the name El (‘el) into a generic noun meaning “god” also was compatible with the loss of El’s distinct character in Israelite religious texts. One biblical text exhibits the assimilation of the meaning of the word ‘el quite strongly, namely Joshua 22:22 (cf. Pss. 10:12; 50:1)… (Smith, The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel [William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, Grand Rapids MI/ Cambridge, U.K., Second edition 2002], pp. 32-34; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Another source claims:

Two biblical passages suggest an accommodation of Yahweh to an Israelite pantheon headed by El. According to the LXX and one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Deut. 32:8 regards Yahweh as one of El’s sons, here called Elyon; according to v. 9, Israel was the nation which Yahweh received. The passage presupposes that El was the head of this pantheon and Yahweh was but one of its many members. Ps. 82 describes a heavenly courtroom in which Yahweh takes his stand as plaintiff. Such scenes assume another divinity as the judge, a common role for El in the Ugaritic texts (cf. the label given the heavenly council in Ps. 82:1, ‘adat-‘el, “the gathering of El”; Yahweh’s reference to the other deities in v. 6 as “the sons of Elyon,” a title of El). (Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, by David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, Astrid B. Beck [William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI/ Cambridge, U.K., 2000], EL, p. 385)

In this article I will show that one can hold to the view that texts like Deuteronomy 32:8-9 affirm an early belief that Yahweh was (and still is!) the Son of God Most High (El Elyon), without having to subscribe to the liberal presuppositions and claims regarding the so-called evolution of Israel’s theological beliefs. I will argue that a committed Bible-believing Christian can still maintain his/her belief in the inspiration, preservation and inerrancy of the biblical writings while accepting the fact that the God-breathed Scriptures speak of the eternal God having an eternal Son whose name is Yahweh.

I will try to demonstrate that one doesn’t have to chop up the books of the Holy Bible into distinct and separate units that were only brought together at some later date, and then edited into one cohesive narrative or writing. A person can still maintain the traditional, conservative view of the composition of the sacred writings, while also believing the theory postulated by liberal biblical scholars such as Smith that Yahweh was/is one of the Sons of God, albeit his most exalted and glorious Son who is identical with his Father in nature.

To put this simply, I will be arguing that the Holy Bible proclaims that God Most High has a Son who shares the exalted status, glory, worship, nature and name of his Father. I will also seek to prove that both God and his Son are named Yahweh and are said to be the Most High over all creation. We will then show that the New Testament identifies that Son as the Lord Jesus Christ.

With that said we are ready to proceed to the second part of my discussion (https://answeringallah.com/yahweh-son-of-the-most-high-pt-2/)

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