Bnonn Tennant (the B is silent)

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What is the kingdom of God? Part 3: what happened in Eden

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12 minutes to read Adam was created as the first human member of the divine council. The serpent was a shining, serpentine being who didn’t like Adam being given dominion of the earth instead of someone higher up…like him.

— This blog series has been expanded into a book —
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We’re now ready to see how Adam was the first human member of the divine council—and what he and Satan had to do with each other. This brings us to Eden; to God’s original kingdom. The Bible has more to say about what happened in Eden than just what we read in early Genesis. Indeed, in the process of following the clues, we’ll make a great deal more sense of early Genesis as well.

None of what I’m about to say detracts from the eminently practical reasons to create humanity at a safe, well-watered starting-point; indeed, since the physical often images the spiritual, we should predict an intersection between “logistical benefits” and the representation of spiritual realities. Eden imaged the protection of God by being a physical sanctuary; the life-giving presence of God by being abundant in food and water; etc.

Eden as the divine council chambers

Let us begin with Eliphaz. In his diatribe against Job, he puts the following question to him:

Are you the first man who was born? Or were you brought forth before the hills? Have you listened in the council of God? And do you limit wisdom to yourself? Job 15:7–8

Eliphaz is obviously referring poetically to Adam—the “first man”—and his rhetorical contrast requires us to understand that while Job had not listened in the council of God, Adam had. While Eliphaz is not always to be trusted, this does give us a clue to follow, so let’s see where it leads. Assuming that Adam listened in the council of God, this would bring some clarity to passages which have historically been puzzling.

If Adam was a human member of the divine council, and if he encountered God in the garden of Eden, and if—as we’ve seen—the rest of the council’s presence is taken as given in such situations; then the garden itself would have been the council meeting-place. Although we never see a throne-room in Eden, this idea is corroborated in at least three other ways:

  1. A garden. Most obviously, the divine council was thought to meet in a garden—which is what Adam was created in.
  2. Rivers. In Genesis 2, we learn that Eden was the source of four rivers. If you recall the codewords I listed in the previous installment, this was another common motif for divine council meeting places; in Ugarit, for example, El’s divine council met in a lush garden at the source of two rivers.
  3. A holy mountain. This garden meeting-place was also held to be on a holy mountain; and the Bible explicitly names Eden as such:

And the word of Yahweh came to me, saying, “Son of man, raise a lament over the king of Tyre, and you must say to him, ‘thus says the Lord Yahweh:

“You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect of beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God, and every precious stone was your adornment: carnelian, topaz and moonstone, turquoise, onyx and jasper, sapphire, malachite and emerald. And gold was the craftsmanship of your settings and your mountings in you; on the day when you were created they were prepared. You were an anointed guardian cherub, and I placed you on God’s holy mountain; you walked in the midst of stones of fire. You were blameless in your ways from the day when you were created, until wickedness was found in you. In the abundance of your trading, they filled the midst of you with violence, and you sinned; and I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I expelled you, the guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you.” ’ ” Ezekiel 28:13–17

Now, is this talking about the king of Tyre? Or is it referring to the fall of Satan?

The king of Tyre was obviously not in Eden, the garden of God. He was not an anointed guardian cherub—Ezekiel’s term for a divine throne-guardian. He was not placed on God’s holy mountain—namely, Eden. He did not walk among stones of fire—imagery either evoking the precious stones of a palace meeting-place, or the “morning stars” themselves. None of these things were literally true of the king of Tyre. They were literally true of Satan, the serpent, who was in Eden.

The point of Ezekiel’s taunt-song is that the king of Tyre is so bad that he can be described as if he were Satan. There is a parallel between his hubris and Satan’s; between how far his fall would be, and how far Satan’s was. This parallel, then, illustrates that Satan was present in Eden—which in turn is described implicitly as the divine council meeting place.

There is another passage that uses a similar parallel to make a similar point about the king of Babylon:

How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of dawn! You are cut down to the ground, conqueror of nations! And you yourself said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise up my throne above the stars of God; and I will sit on the mountain of assembly on the summit of Tsaphon; I will ascend to the high places of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.” Isaiah 14:12–14

Isaiah is making the same point about the king of Babylon as Ezekiel makes about the king of Tyre—but this time the allusion trades off narratives within Canaanite religion. Mount Tsaphon is where Baʿal and his council were thought to assemble in Ugarit. Isaiah sees in this narrative a reflection of the divine coup in Eden, and so he appropriates the language of Ugaritic religion to compare the king of Babylon to Satan—who had the hubris to blaspheme God by trying to “correct” his decisions as supreme ruler.

There is some question as to correctly translating the title given to the king of Babylon/Satan here. The Hebrew is heylel ben shachar, which means “heylel, son of shachar.” Although “morning star” is on safe footing for rendering heylel, this word only occurs here in the Hebrew Bible; and while shachar means “dawn,” it was also the proper name of a Canaanite god. Some therefore see the name of a deity here: Heylel—associated with the morning star—whose father was Shachar. They further suppose that Isaiah was referring to a myth in which Heylel was thrown down from Mount Tsaphon. I demur: there is no known Canaanite deity called Heylel who was the son of Shachar; nor is there any Canaanite myth involving his being cast from Mount Tsaphon (aside from scholarly speculation). The morning star was typically represented by Shachar himself, the god of dawn—or by Attar, of whom Shachar may have been an avatar. Either way, there was no deity Heylel associated with Venus. It’s true that Attar did try to fill Baʿal’s shoes, but discovered he was too tiny; so he went to rule the underworld instead. Isaiah probably had this myth in mind, since the comparison is so fittingly mocking to the Babylonian king; but that cannot be the extent of the parallel, because Attar was not thrown down, and he didn’t have the kind of pretensions that the Babylonian king had. So while there is probably a conceptual link being made to the Canaanite deity, I doubt we should translate either Heylel or Shachar as proper names. Intriguingly, the DSS differ from the MT and read הילילheyleyl—rather than היללheylel—so it’s possible Isaiah is actually intending a verb here instead of a noun: “wailer/howler.” A rendering like, “How you are fallen from heaven, o lamenter, son of dawn,” could be correct, and would still conjure up the same associations with the morning star via shachar.

There are further strands of evidence we can draw in at this point—additional puzzling passages that start to make a great deal of sense when we think of them in divine council terms. Firstly, in Genesis 1:26, God says, “Let us make mankind in our image;” and in chapter 3 he speaks of how Adam and Eve have “become like us, knowing good and evil.” Some think this is trinitarian language, but that makes no sense contextually; moreover, it isn’t something we see elsewhere in the Bible. Some think it’s a royal “we,” but while Hebrew had a plural of majesty for nouns, it did not have it for verbs—and “make” in Genesis 1:26 is plural. A far simpler explanation is that God is speaking to the other members of his council, which the original readers of Genesis would have assumed were present. Job 38 certainly indicates their presence at the creation of the world:

“Where were you at my laying the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you possess understanding. Who determined its measurement? Yes, you do know. Or who stretched the measuring line upon it? On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars were singing together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Job 38:4–7

We know who the sons of God are. And we know that “morning stars” is a stock term to describe them. And that brings us to a closer look at Satan—because if you were paying attention, Isaiah 14:12 described him as a morning star. He was a son of God: a member of the divine family-council.

The serpent as a divine being

The obvious objection we must field now is this: Genesis describes Satan as a serpent. Most Christians have interpreted this as a case of animal possession—certainly not as an encounter with a divine being. How can we reconcile the serpent language of Genesis 3 with the connections I have drawn from biblical theology?

The answer is to do some more biblical theology. There are further clues we can connect across the scriptures that conceptually link the language used in Genesis 3, and the language used of the divine council elsewhere. For example, we know from Ezekiel 28 that Satan was a cherub. Chapter 1 describes these cherubs for us:

As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches. And the living creatures were speeding to and fro like the appearance of lightning. Ezekiel 1:13–14

The fact that brightness is a defining feature of these creatures should come as no surprise. As Yoda would say, “Luminous beings are they.” This is also hinted at in places which don’t explicitly mention brightness. For example, we’ve seen in Isaiah 6:2 that God’s throne is flanked by seraphs, sometimes spelled saraphs (many Bibles transliterate the Hebrew plural: seraphim). This word is the same we find in Numbers 21:8–9:

Make for yourself a fiery serpent [saraph] and place it on a pole. When anyone is bitten and looks at it, that person will live.” So Moses made a bronze snake, and he placed it on the pole; whenever a snake bit someone, and that person looked at the bronze snake, he lived. Numbers 21:8–9

Why is the ascription of saraph to the bronze snake important? Aside from the obvious serpent connection, bronze has a brightness to it. For instance, compare this with Daniel’s vision:

I lifted up my eyes and I saw, and there was a man, and he was dressed in linen, and his waist was girded with the gold of Uphaz. Now his body was like turquoise, and his face was like the appearance of lightning, and his eyes were like torches of fire, and his arms and his legs were like the gleam of polished bronze. Daniel 10:5–6

Is this man an archangel—one of the sons of God? The text does not say, but he is engaged in conflict with other beings we have already identified as such: the princes (or rulers) of Persia and Greece (Daniel 10:13). He appears to be a subordinate of Michael. If archangels are ontologically superior to the general host of heaven, then we can infer that a being who can engage in extended conflict with them is surely on a similar level. If archangels are ontologically identical to the rest of the angelic army, and simply hold a greater rank—as is the case with human armies—then the point is moot. Either way, the man who visits Daniel is the same kind of being as an archangel.

Notice how this archangel is described with the likeness of shining metal. He, like Moses’ saraph, is brazen. Already there is an obvious conceptual connection—but it goes further than this, because the “gleam of polished bronze” here in Daniel is, in Hebrew, nechoshet. This word is derived from nachash—the Hebrew term for “serpent” in Genesis 3:1ff. Like some English words—express and home for example—nachash can be a noun, it can be a verb, or it can be an adjective.

We know from Ezekiel and from Isaiah that seraphs have a shining appearance. We know from Exodus that a seraph is serpentine, and that its shining appearance is associated with bronze. We know from Daniel that archangels have a shining, bronze-like appearance that is described with the same root word as nachash. And we know that the serpent of Genesis 3 was a nachash. Thus, there is a kind of conceptual nexus involving saraph and nachash, evoking a serpentine form and a luminous, brazen appearance. Although these terms can refer to mundane snakes, they also seem to refer to luminous, serpentine beings which surround or guard the throne of God. Beings very much like the winged, serpentine gods of Egypt, depicted flanking the thrones of Pharaohs.

Simply put, the clues in Scripture do not lead us to a possessed snake in Genesis 3. The memes in the minds of the original authors and readers point us in quite another direction:

The serpent was not a snake, but rather a luminous serpentine being—one of the council of God.

Satan and Adam as rivals for rulership

As long as the divine council was only comprised of God and his spiritual family, they would logically commune in their natural state: a disembodied form perhaps akin to a shared dream. But if God wished to add Adam to his council, and do so in a way that intersected with Adam’s normal mode of existence, then the whole council would need to be physically perceptible in a physical location, where Adam could interact with them. Hence the garden of Eden.

This being so, the subplot of Genesis 1–3 is not too hard to discern. Why does Satan tempt Adam and Eve? Presumably because he wants them dead; he knows God has given the death penalty for disobedience (Genesis 2:17). Why does he want them dead? Well, the chief point of the creation account is that Adam and Eve get dominion over the world. Yet that’s odd given the existence of superior beings like Satan. We know that God made us a little lower than the elohim, the gods (Psalm 8:5; cf. Hebrews 2:7)—so giving us dominion seems backwards. Satan naturally expected to get dominion of the world himself. He was the superior being. You put the greatest in charge. The angel of angels. So in his mind, how dare God give the world to a pathetic creature like Adam?

Admittedly it is difficult to finesse Satan’s motivations, since we don’t know what it’s like to be a spiritual being. How can we put ourselves in his shoes when he doesn’t have any shoes? That said, given the information at hand, I don’t think Satan cares about Adam’s dominion per se—about taming the plant and animal life and bending it to his will. Rather, I suspect he is interested in taming man and bending him to his will. Thus, if we want to be very specific, I think Satan’s beef was not so much with Adam getting dominion over the earth, but with him not getting dominion over Adam. In Satan’s mind, it’s fine for Adam to have a kind of intermediary authority; he is “head beast” over all the other beasts. But for Adam to be a viceroy of God, not answerable to Satan at all—indeed, for Satan to be excluded from the authority hierarchy entirely—that would certainly rankle. This suggests that Satan’s rebellion was even more a case of cutting off his nose to spite his face than it first appears. Not only was he rebelling, ultimately, against God, which he had to know was a bad idea, but he didn’t even want what Adam had! He just wanted Adam under his thumb; not the world. But if he couldn’t have that, he’d rather see Adam dead and get the world anyway. Of course, this is speculative. We aren’t told what Satan’s plans were. And it doesn’t really matter to us at this point. I’m just trying to follow the clues.

We don’t need to read too far between the lines of Genesis to see a plot to eliminate Adam. The obvious implication is that Satan had a difference of opinion with God as to the propriety of a lesser being holding authority, rather than a greater one—so he tried to stage a coup. With Adam out of the way, God would restore dominion to its “proper” order by putting Satan in charge.

Now, given that he has dominion over man, you might think his plan succeeded—but it didn’t. Not at first. To understand this, we need to now examine the fallout of the curse.



You should probably address who the “sons of fresh oil” are in Zechariah (unless you think or believe they are Joshua and Zerubabel).

You should also characterize this council as not a time to figure things out but as teaching lesser beings the greatness of God. God knew the lying spirit would be successful in bringing Ahab to death whereas the lying spirit only suspected it would be successful. Look at how Eph. 3.10, which you used, speaks instruction. God not only instructs men but angels.

God’s Kingdom in its outward reign is future. It will not be an impersonal kingdom in my conception, but very intimate in that fellowship and communication with His own have already been established.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant

Hey Alex, I still have much study to do in Zechariah. There is a great deal of imagery there that intersects with the divine council (and also much binitarian imagery, especially in chapter 1; cf Truthfully, I don’t understand Zechariah well enough yet to piece everything together. What I’m presenting in this series is a high-level overview of the easier passages, and how they fit together.

I agree that God does teach his council, as he teaches us; and this connection will perhaps become clearer as I develop the series and show where the human kingdom is headed. However, I wouldn’t want to thereby imply that no real deliberation takes place in the council, and that they don’t make real decisions. There is some analogy here between the council deliberations and human prayer. God knows all things in advance, but he still wants his family—human or otherwise—to be active participants in the unfolding of the plan.


Hi Dominic,

The New Testament preaching of The Kingdom of God was a corrective. The King was misapprehended. The O.T. was misrepresented as portraying God as a singularity while indeed He is a unity. A singularity implies need of others I could argue. Paul in Acts 17.25 states that God is entirely without need. It is God’s love to share his life and holiness with us is what I perceive as the factor.
A focus on kingdom is a focus on the subjects and nature of reign. The “new” promise Israel was to look for was a time where “all would know Him” it was not a focus on subjects but on subjects intimately knowing the King. See Heb. 9.15-28 (and surrounding verses) to note that it is not a “New Covenant” but “A New Testament.” ‘Covenant’ has the idea of performance, again a focus off the King. The O. T. showed that humans could not perform the Law hence The Divine Human King, Jesus.


The picture you’ve painted over parts 1-7 has been dimly forming in my mind for some time. Now brought sharply into focus. In all 37 years of walking by faith, never has my mind been so blown. This is truth, you can feel it in your gut. Blessings.


Re. Satan’s balk at God giving the dominion of the earth also see Psalm 68:15-17

“O mountain of God, mountain of Bashan;
O many-peaked mountain, mountain of Bashan!
16 Why do you look with hatred, O many-peaked mountain,
at the mount that God desired for his abode,
yes, where the Lord will dwell forever?”


Also think you’re correct in your comment on prayer above. You may want to cover off dominion theology heresy though, as many will jump to the conclusion that that is what you’re espousing. To be clear dominion theology is the belief that it’s up to us to usher in the kingdom of god on earth, and is used as a justification for actively seeking wealth and positions of power and influence etc. It’s very popular with mega church leaders of the type you see on TBN (Creflo Dollar, Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, Jessie Duplantis, Joyce Meyer, Paul and Jan Crouch et al.)…as well as others closer to home (Brian Tamaki).

Dominic Bnonn Tennant

That’s a tricky one because it’s such a nasty half-truth. I think Christians should be seeking positions of power and influence, just as I think Christians should seek to earn to their best potential. Basically, I think Christians should take their role in building God’s kingdom a lot more seriously than they usually do, and seek to maximize their resources for doing this. But of course, God’s kingdom is his people—when we talk of building the kingdom, we are talking about making, teaching, and caring for disciples. I don’t see that the health and wealth crowd are remotely interested in that.


Very nuanced trap, agree. As ambassadors of the Most High it’s totally consistent, responsible even, to strive for excellence. I think the trap is sprung when we forget to be humble stewards and begin to covet privilege.


Great discussion Bnonn. You write & argue quite well and I appreciate your work!

Where I’m not persuaded: your view that Satan is in view in both Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28. My reasons:

Neither text actually mentions Satan directly. And yet both texts do specifically address the kings of Babylon and Tyre respectively.

Second & fundamentally, both texts evidence common OT prophetic poetic imagery that go to hyperbolic levels. This leaves me less inclined to make too much about “anointed cherub” talk. For instance, OT prophets are also in the habit of:
–Declaring “none like him” (i.e. greatest ever!) (2 Kgs. 18:5 & 23:25) of both Hezekiah & Josiah.
–Crying out “forever” or “everlasting” and almost never meaning it literally (compare Jer. 29:9 & 25:11 as well as the eternal-sounding doom & “forever” “smoke” of Edom in Isa. 34).
–Describing mere humans in god-like fashion (e.g., Moses as a “god” to Aaron & Pharaoh (Ex. 4:16 & 7:1)).
–Proclaiming that God “rides on swift cloud and comes to (earth)” (e.g. Isa. 19:1-2)
–Announcing the “end of all things” / “cosmic calamity in the heavens” upon evil nations & rulers (e.g Isa. 13:9-10 & Eze. 32:7-8).

Third, while Ezekiel 28 does describe the king of Tyre in terms (if literal) well-beyond that of a mere man (as I grant you’ve pointed out quite well), the king is also described in very human terms in the same passage—and in ways that do not fit an angelic/elohim being (i,e., he’s a “mere mortal and not a god,” skilled in human “trading” and destined to “die a violent death…at the hands of [human] foreigners”). So we’re left concluding that we have either a spiritual being who is also described in very human terms or, a man described in glowing & hyperbolic angelic terms. In light of my second point, the latter seems more likely to me.

Fourth, regarding being “in Eden,” we see “Assyria” also described contemporaneously with “all the trees of Eden” (Eze. 31:9) and that “all great nations lived under its shade.” While “Assyria” is not explicitly said to be “in Eden,” its “shade” is since Eden would be included in “all…nations.” In other words, we again see poetic & hyperbolic language that makes it very difficult to argue with any degree of certitude.

Finally, regarding Isaiah 14, while tradition identifies the “morning star” as “Lucifer,” if we’re consistent, shouldn’t we refer to Jesus as “Lucifer” as well since He is also called “morning star” at Revelation 22:16? This (Isa. 14) being is also said to be thrust down to “Sheol,” similar to “Capernaum” in Matthew 11:23. What’s clear in both Isaiah & Matthew are contexts of judgment. But beyond that?

In the end, could both OT texts be types of Satan? I suppose so as tradition and you have concluded. But since it’s not at all clear, my argument is that we’re on a tenuous foundation if we think we’re clearly seeing Satan in either text.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant

Hi Paul, you and I seem to have different hermeneutical approaches.

I am looking for patterns in Scripture. When I read Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14, there’s an obvious pattern these are referring back to: the fall of Satan. That doesn’t mean they’re about the fall of Satan. It means they’re using that pattern to say something about the kings in question—which can in turn teach us something about the fall of Satan itself.

Btw, Ezekiel 31:9 is about the divine council; the trees are representative of divine beings. It’s worth checking out Heiser’s commentary:

In terms of biblical theology, of course Jesus is the morning star after the resurrection. He has replaced Satan. Keep reading this series; I get there soon…


Hello Bnonn,

Thanks for the reply.

I picked up Heiser’s book and have begun to work through it….

You write: “When I read Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14, there’s an obvious pattern these are referring back to: the fall of Satan.”

A few thoughts (I’ll endeavor to be more succinct in the future😁)

1. I’m not sure what your hermeneutical principles are. As for Satan, my approach is to simply view him as he’s revealed in Scripture (& I assume you do the same). Perhaps I lack the certitude you appear to have based on the (little IMHO) data we’re given.

2. I surely don’t see this “obvious pattern” you’re talking about. Please elaborate.

3. What is obvious regarding Satan in the Bible:
-He is a created being.
-He is an enemy of righteousness & a murderer & liar (Jn 8:44), an accuser (Rev. 12:10) and is our adversary (1 Pt. 5:8).

-He is a limited creature. He is limited by God (Job.1:12, if this “satan” and the Satan of the the NT are the same being–I think Heiser doesn’t view them as the same individual).
-He is not God’s equal (1 Jn. 4:4).
-He is not omniscient, omnipotent or infinite in any way.
-With God’s help believers can resist him (Jam. 4:7).
-His apparent end is the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:10).

4. What is not obvious / explicit regarding Satan in the Bible:
-Has Satan always been evil “from the beginning”? (Jn. 8:44) or did he, as most believe, “fall” (turn evil)? We are not told with any degree of clarity.
-Most view the Isa. 14 & Eze. 28 passages as support for the majority view. But since Satan is not mentioned in either passage, we cannot be certain (I think my “hyperbolic OT language about a mere human king as opposed to a spirit being (also) described in human terms” still stands).
-However, the notion that Satan didn’t “fall” but that God may have created him as a “tester” of mankind (from the start) for the sake of our growth may equate to God directly authoring evil (?), and such a notion is rejected by tradition and is admittedly problematic.
-Satan was seen by Christ falling “like lightening from heaven” (Lk.10:18). But Jesus did not provide a timeframe for what He saw, and He may well have been seeing prophetically the future downfall of Satan which He later mentions at Jn. 12:31 and which John depicts in Rev. 12:9—both of which apparently were fulfilled at the cross (Col. 2:15; Heb. 2:14).
-While Satan “masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14) this does not mean he is an angel by nature (so an “elohim” class?). Perhaps related, the Bible does indicate that (some) angels have fallen (2 Pet. 2:4 & Jude 6)—but nowhere does the Word state that Satan is or was himself an angel by nature even if he “masquerades” as one; that Satan is by nature an angel (or a la Heiser an elohim) is simply our best working hypothesis, but it is not certain.