Idolatry, Oppression and the Development of Demons: Part 1, The Angels of the Nations

In my book Reviving Old Scratch I make the claim that spirituality and politics have to be looked at together.

It seems hard for us to do that. When it comes to evil conservatives tend to spiritualize the issue, looking for demons behind every door and under every rock. Liberals, by contrast, tend to politicize evil, reducing spiritual warfare to the political fight for social justice.

And yet, throughout the Bible the spiritual and the political are interconnected and woven together. The political and the spiritual form a gestalt, a bigger picture greater than the sum of the individual parts. And as I argue in Reviving Old Scratch, when we miss the bigger picture we compromise our ability to become agents of light in a dark world.

One way to see the interconnection between the spiritual and the political is to examine the way demons develop in the Bible. In Chapter 11 of Reviving Old Scratch I tell a bit of this story, but I wanted to devote a series to this topic to bring in other material that I didn't include in the book.

Specifically, I want to show how idolatry and oppression are woven together in how we see demons develop across the pages of the Old and New Testaments.

In this post we start with an observation I've made before on this blog as well as in the book. Specifically, in various parts of the Old Testament we get the notion that when God created the world and set up the nations God assigned a "son of God" to rule over and watch over each nation. In some ancient texts these regional deities are described as the "angels of the nations."

Here is a text where this notion shows up:
Deuteronomy 32.8-9
When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance,
when he divided all mankind,
he set up boundaries for the peoples
according to the number of the sons of God.

For the LORD's portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted inheritance.
In establishing the nations God assigns a "son of God" to rule over each nation with God, importantly, taking Israel as His own.

These angelic rulers form the Heavenly Court over which God presides. We see this court show up in a few places, like in the early scenes of Job:
Job 1.6
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. 
In this scene the national deities are making an appearance in the Court of Heaven and, suggestively, Satan is found among this group. We also see this Divine Council convened, in a text we'll return to in a later post, in Psalm 82:
Psalm 82.1
God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment.
If you are a regular reader of this blog I've walked you through these texts before, but if we want to follow the demonic trail through the Bible, noting how idolatry and oppression are interconnected, this is the place where we have to begin, with the angels of the nations, the regional "sons of God," the national deities.

Why? Because as the demonic story develops in the Bible these national deities become objects of idolatrous worship, the gods, angels, or spirits luring Israel away from the worship of God. If the word "demon" names anything, it names idolatry, the worship of a deity, generally a national deity, over the worship of God.

And so, right here at the beginning, we see the connection between spirituality and politics, between worship and justice, between idolatry and oppression.

This entry was posted by Richard Beck. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply