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God and the "Sons of God"

The following article was excerpted from the Origins of Christianity website

El, the God of Israel

According to Canaanite literature, the god El begot seventy sons through the goddess Asherah: "{El} summons Asherah's seventy children." He summoned his sons to his council (known as "the council of El") over which he presided.

Similarly, the Hebrew god presided over "the council of El": "God has taken his place in the divine council {עדה אל  aydaw El = the council of El}; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment." (Psalm 82:1 NRSV) The phrase "in the midst of the gods he holds judgment" indicates that the Hebrew god was surrounded by secondary gods.

Likewise, in this verse: "Before {in front of} the gods will I sing praise to you {God}." (Psalm 138:1 KJV) These secondary gods are called in Hebrew the "sons of El": "Ascribe to Jehovah, you sons of the mighty {בן אל  bene Elim = sons of El}, Ascribe to Jehovah honor and strength." (Psalm 29:1 YLT) Here is another instance where the Hebrew God is called "El" and presides over his council: "God {אל El} is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them {referring to his sons} that are about him." (Psalm 89:7 KJV)

One has to by-pass the English translations to discover that the God was the Canaanite god EL. (Further on we will compare God with the Canaanite El with parallel quotations from ancient texts.)

A Ugaritic poem reads, "Now the gods were seating to eat, the holy ones to dine, Baal attending upon El. ...The gods drop their heads down upon their knees ..." The Canaanite god El and his sons had the same image: the image of man.

The Hebrew God and his secondary gods, had the same image: "And God said {to his secondary gods}, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." (Genesis 1:26 KJV) Their image was that of a man: they looked like Adam.

In the beginning Adam did not know the difference between good and evil. But God and his secondary gods knew. The serpent told Eve, "... in the day you eat thereof {the fruit of the tree of knowledge}, ... you will be as gods {Heb. elohim}, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:5 KJV)

The phrase, "you will be as gods" indicates the existence of other gods, beside God. Had the writer of Genesis believed that there was only one god, he would have written "you will be as God."

When Genesis was written the Hebrews believed there were other gods beside God. Who were those gods the serpent was referring to? The gods to whom God said, "Let us make man in our image." After Adam and Eve ate the fruit, God said, "Behold, the man has become as one of us, to know good and evil." (Genesis 3:22 KJV)

The expression "one of us" indicates that God was talking to his peers: the secondary gods, his sons, the ones mentioned in the following verse: "... when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD ..." (Job 1:6 RSV) As mentioned above, God presided over them: "God has taken his place in the divine council {Heb. the council of El}; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment." (Psalm 82:1 NRSV) "I {God} said You are gods, and all of you are sons of the Most High {Heb. Elyon }." (Psalm 82:6 NASB)

The Akkadians had a pantheon similar to that of the Hebrews and the Canaanites. The Akkadian god Marduk corresponded to the Canaanite-Hebrew god El. In the Akkadian Creation Epic the god Marduk was king of the secondary gods called Anunnaki: "Marduk, the king of the gods divided all the Anunnaki above and below ... three hundred in the heavens he stationed them as guard."

The Anunnaki correspond to the "host of heaven" or "sons of God" of the Hebrews. Marduk allotted portions to the Anunnaki: "To the Anunnaki of heaven and earth {Marduk} had allotted their portions." Likewise, the Canaanite-Hebrew god El Elyon allotted portions to his sons: "When the Most High {Heb. Elyon} gave {allotted} to the nations their {portion of} inheritance, when he separated the sons of men, he fixed the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God." (Deuteronomy 32:8 RSV)

In the following verse these "sons of God" are called the "host of heaven," whom God allotted to all the nations: "... all the host of heaven ... whom the LORD your God has divided to all nations ..." (Deuteronomy 4:19 KJV)