Week 1 — Chapter 1: One Small Change, One Big Difference

May 2, 2023 | Divine Council, Manuscripts/Outlines

Note: This manuscript is taken directly from my current small group series at church on Exploring the Unseen: The Supernatural World of the Bible. Contextual references to other lessons have been retained.

Read Supernatural, chapters 1–2. Read and prepare to discuss 1 Kings 22:19–23; Psalm 82; Daniel 4:13–27; 7:9–10.

Intro to Spiritual Beings Video

Central tenant to look out for:

  • If it’s weird, it’s important. Some weird things:
    • Why did God curse humanity for eating a forbidden fruit?
    • Why did biblical writers seem to be obsessed with land?
    • Why does the Bible make a big deal about comparing stone and wood idols to God?
    • Why did God randomly decide to tongue tie every one for building a tower in Genesis 11?
    • Why do NT verses talk about delivering people to Satan or put angels in authoritative positions along God and Jesus? (1 Tim 5:14-21)
    • What’s with with speaking in tongues?
    • Who are the “sons of God” mentioned often in the Old Testament?
    • What’s Satan “the big baddie” really got to do with us having a sin problem?
    • What the heck is with talking snakes?
    • Why do we hear so much about angels and demons in the Bible but don’t really deal with it much today?
  • QUESTION: Have you ever wondered these things? What other strange or weird things have you wondered about or questioned?

I. Introduction

  • Significance of comprehending the supernatural world as depicted in the Bible for a more accurate understanding
  • The tendency of modern Western Christian culture to overlook or minimize supernatural elements in biblical narratives

Think of the story of Noah and the ark, with its pairs of animals streaming to the boat. Every child can picture this. But it’s not so easy to recall the odd event which led up to it. Preachers are tempted to skip over the sons of God marrying the daughters of men (Gen 6:1–4)—whatever that means—hoping to get to the more sensible story of the flood. As a result, what the writer wanted to accomplish may be lost because we’re uncomfortable with what appears to be a super-natural moment in the story. We can only imagine how this harms the meaning of the Bible on a larger scale.

Johnson, R. (2015). Supernatural (A Study Guide). Lexham Press.

II. The Big Picture

  • The study guide, Supernatural, aims to challenge readers to reconsider their understanding of the supernatural world in the Bible
  • Central question: Are the “gods” mentioned in the first commandment (i.e., you shall have no other gods before me) genuine, personal beings or just abstract concepts?
  • Example: Deuteronomy 6:14–15 discusses the Israelites’ temptation to worship real gods in Canaan, not mere figments of imagination

III. The Main Idea

  • Clarifying the concept of “gods” begins by examining the original Hebrew and Greek languages in the Bible
  • The term “elohim” in the Old Testament, a broad title encompassing various meanings related to divinity
  • The presence of elohim variants in ancient Near Eastern languages, suggesting a shared cultural understanding of divine beings
  • Challenges in translating the word elohim accurately and consistently in English

Elohim Video

Does this prove that the gods of the first commandment are real? No, we have more work to do. But the very fact that “God” and “god” are the same word in Hebrew or Greek should lead us to presume in the reality of each elohim/theos until we discover evidence otherwise

Johnson, R. (2015). Supernatural (A Study Guide). Lexham Press.

IV. Digging Deeper

  • Jesus’ awareness of a spiritual society actively engaged in carrying out God’s will, indicating the existence of a spirit world

As you read the references included in this guide, notice that some of the quietest narratives in the Bible depend on spirits functioning as a society among themselves before affecting human beings on earth.

Johnson, R. (2015). Supernatural (A Study Guide). Lexham Press.

  • Exploring the relationship between angels and gods: understanding angels as a type of gods, and gods sometimes functioning as angels
  • Example: Comparison of Psalm 97:7 (gods/elohim) and Hebrews 1:6 (angels) demonstrates the interchangeable nature of these terms

Psalm 97:7 says, “Worship him, all you elohim,” demanding that the gods worship their creator, the God of Israel. When the New Testament quotes this verse in Hebrews 1:6, the writer says it this way: “Let all the angels  of God worship him.” Where elohim, or “gods,” appear in Psalm 97, “angels” appear in Hebrews 1. Very simply, we will find that angels are gods, and that gods can sometimes function as angels.

Johnson, R. (2015). Supernatural (A Study Guide). Lexham Press.

V. Knowledge in Action

  • The importance of making interpretative adjustments for a clearer and more accurate understanding of the Bible

We don’t need to be afraid of our Bibles — Heiser (paraphrased)

  • The primary challenge posed by the study guide Supernatural: determining the existence of other gods and the implications of their existence
  • The potentially significant impact of this small shift in perspective on readers’ comprehension of the Bible and its supernatural elements

If we believe the spirit world is real and is inhabited by God and by spiritual beings he has created ( such as angels ) , we have to admit that God’s supernatural task force , described in the verses I’ve quoted above and many others , is also real . Otherwise , we pay mere lip service to spiritual reality . And since the Bible identifies these divine council members as spirits , we know the gods aren’t just idols of stone or wood . Statues don’t work for God in a heavenly council . It’s true that people in the ancient world who worshipped the rival gods did make idols . But they knew the idols they made with their own hands weren’t the real powers . Those handcrafted idols were just objects their gods could inhabit to receive sacrifices and dispense knowledge to their followers , who performed rituals to solicit the gods to come to them and take up residence in the idol .


Meet Steve

Meet Steve

Hi, I’m Steve, an author, speaker, and Bible teacher with a heart for exploring God’s Word and God’s world.

I’m interested in the surprising connection between creation, theology, business, and storytelling. We explore those themes and more on this blog.

Be sure to browse the site for faith-affirming articles, book reviews, and podcasts!

The Podcast

The Podcast