What Does It Mean To “Stand in the Council”?


Most people think a prophet is someone empowered by God to foretell the future. No doubt, prophets announced God’s intentions, but forecasting future events wasn’t their primary job description. A prophet’s chief task was to serve as God’s mouthpiece to His covenant people Israel and to her enemies. So how did someone become a prophet? Was there some sort of heavenly qualification? In fact, there was.

You might think the standard for a prophet was whether their words came to pass exactly as uttered (Deut 18:15–22). But that’s actually a by-product of the real litmus test, which we read about in Jeremiah:

For who among them has stood in the council (סוד, sôd) of the Lord to see and to hear his word, or who has paid attention to his word and listened? [The Lord says] … “If they had stood in my council (סוד, sôd), then they would have proclaimed my words to my people” (Jer 23:18, 22).

What does it mean to “stand in the council”? Jeremiah elaborates: “to see and to hear his word … to pay attention to his word and listen.” The one essential test of a prophet—that preceded their ability to deliver a divine message—was that the prophet had to see and hear God in His council. [Read more…]

Who Are Gog and Magog, and What’s So Evil about the North?

The terms “Gog and Magog” seem to factor into biblical prophecy quite a bit. Do a Google search for them, and you’ll come up with quite a few conflicting (and sometimes fanciful) articles. Most speculation attempts to tie Gog and Magog’s appearances in Ezekiel and Revelation to a specific geographical location or country.

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The Name of Yahweh and the Angel of the Lord

In Exodus 3, God famously appears to Moses in a burning bush and sends him to rescue the Israelites. Fearing nobody will believe him, Moses says, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” (Exodus 3:13).

And then God tells us his name.

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Was Mary a Virgin?


The prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 is among the most well-known passages in the book of Isaiah. It’s also one of the most controversial, for many reasons.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin (עלמה, almah) shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

It’s difficult to get through the Christmas or Easter season without seeing one of the major news periodicals or educational television networks cast doubt about the meaning of almah (עלמה) in Isaiah 7:14. A favorite argument is that the Hebrew word almah cannot mean “virgin” but instead refers to a young woman of marriageable age—without respect to prior sexual activity. The more precise word for “virgin” is betulah (בתולה), a word not used in Isaiah 7:14. The New Testament author Matthew, we are so often told, mistakenly assumed the term meant “virgin.” His ignorance led to the doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus. But are these assertions correct? [Read more…]

What Really Happened at the Tower of Babel?

Most children who’ve attended Sunday school classes can tell you what happened at the Tower of Babel. King Nimrod wanted to be famous, so he convinced the people of Babylon to build a great tower that would reach heaven.

God could see that the people were becoming prideful and decided that he should go down and mix up their language so they couldn’t understand each other. This teaches us that pride is bad and helps us understand where all the world’s languages came from.

Most adults don’t really have an understanding of this story that’s any more sophisticated. But Dr. Michael S. Heiser, author of The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, would like to remedy that. In this post, adapted from his popular book, Heiser explains what really happened at the tower of Babel and unpacks its implications. Then he goes on to show how the New Testament corrects what happened at the tower of Babel. [Read more…]

Who (or What) Were the Nephilim?

In the sixth chapter of Genesis, we’re confronted with a curious reference to the Nephilim. Who are they? Were they a race who came to be through the mingling of divine beings and the daughters of men? Were the Nephilim engineered by God’s enemies to thwart his plans for mankind?

Even more puzzling is how the Nephilim could show up in Numbers 13—long after the flood. Wouldn’t they have died out in the flood with the rest of humanity? How could they have shown up in Canaan? Is it possible that Noah himself was a Nephilim?!

In his book, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, Dr. Michael S. Heiser (Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible and Semitic Languages at the University of Wisconsin-Madison) unpacks this controversial topic by looking at the passages where the Nephilim show up, exploring a few explanations for the Nephilim’s existence before—and after—the flood. [Read more…]

Who Wrote the Book of Proverbs?


The first book of Proverbs announces, “These are the proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel” (compare Prov 10:1; 25:1). By its own testimony, though, the book of Proverbs had many authors: “These are the sayings of the wise [literally, wise ones]” (Prov 24:23). This same idea—that the proverbs in the book were written by a number of sages—is reiterated in Proverbs 1:6 and 22:17.

But old traditions die hard, and the authorship of these proverbs is still debated. What role did Solomon actually play in writing this Wisdom literature? [Read more…]

God Wasn’t Alone before He Created the World (Says the Bible)

As finite beings in a finite universe, it’s almost impossible for us to imagine what God was doing before time and matter as we know it was created. Was God alone? Was he adrift in a vast nothingness? Does the Bible give us any indication what life was like before the universe existed?

These are some of the questions that Dr. Michael S. Heiser (Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible and Semitic Languages at the University of Wisconsin-Madison) answers in his provocative and enlightening book The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible.

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Does God Need a Co-Signer?

witness-in-the-clouds
We all know why co-signing a loan is required. The bank assumes that the person who is being loaned the money may not be able to repay it. Their commitment or ability is in question. In the Bible, God typically swears by his own character when entering a covenant since there is no one above him who needs to co-sign the agreement (Heb 6:13). There is a fascinating exception to this in the book of Psalms.

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The Elohim: What (or Who) Are They?

The following post explaining the origin of the Elohim is adapted from Dr. Michael Heiser’s The Unseen Realm.

We all have watershed moments in life, critical turning points where, from that moment on, nothing will ever be the same. One such moment in my own life came when I rediscovered the word elohim.

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