I’m going to make some brief observations in response to Steve Hays’ recent post, ‘Angels from the realms of glory’.
Steve is basically assessing the question of when angels were created. It’s a good post in its own right, and worth reading. And he explicitly says he has addressed the question from other angles; so possibly he’s elsewhere canvassed what I’m about to say:
I think it is a given that the angels—which I’m using as a broad term for spiritual or divine beings—were created before the physical world. Now, Steve rightly points out that “before” is a problematic term here, so let me clarify: angels were present at the creation of the physical world. Job 38:7, at least, says as much. Contextually, stars in the ancient Near East were commonly worshiped as divine beings, or at least physical representations thereof. The Bible repudiates such nonsense, but it still employs ANE metaphors, such that divine beings are described poetically as stars. By the same token, “sons of God” is stock lingo for God’s divine family or council—and Job certainly has a well-developed theology in that regard (cf Job 1-2). So the parallelism in Job 38:7 seems to leave no serious doubt that angels are in view.
With that in mind, there seems to be a subplot running between the lines of Genesis 1-3. Why does Satan tempt Adam and Eve? Presumably because he wants them dead; he knows God has made execution the penalty of disobedience. Why does he want them dead? Well, the chief point of Genesis is that Adam and Eve get dominion over the physical world. Yet that’s odd given the existence of superior beings like Satan. It’s an inversion that parallels a classic element of Christianity, especially in the gospels: the first will be last; the last will be first. Satan naturally expected to get dominion of the world himself. He’s 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?
You don’t need to read too far between the lines to see a plot to eliminate Adam, so God will restore dominion to its “proper” order by placing Satan in charge.
And in a way it works. Satan is indeed the god of this world—for now. But God was on to Satan. He gave him what he wanted for a while, as punishment on man. But he also promised an ironic reversal which puts Satan under the seed of the woman; under even the animals—not in terms of dominion, but in terms of ultimate importance. Because Satan tried to usurp power, he will be brought to nothing. There’s a definite thematic link to Jesus’ parables about the bad stewards in the latter half of Luke, for instance. Those parables aren’t about Satan, per se, but the same principle is in play. Satan’s plot ultimately backfires. Everything he wanted is taken away.
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