Monday, March 16, 2020

Social Justice in the heavenly realm

One of the clearest and most interesting is Psalm 82, highly mythological in character. Its setting is the divine council with the gods seated all about. In some obvious ways the psalm looks as if it could have come straight out of Canaanite mythology—the heavenly assembly, the technical language, the casual acknowledgment of the gods, the theme of conflict in the cosmic realm. But in significant ways it departs from that typical mythological context. There are no other named deities here, no battle between Baal and Yamm, Marduk and Tiamat. The gods are nameless, colorless, silent. They have no autonomy and independence apart from Yahweh. In the midst of this assembly, according to the psalm, Yahweh rises and in explicit and, to my knowledge, unprecedented fashion condemns all the other deities to death for their failure to carry out justice in the social realm. Justice in the human realm is a concern of all Near Eastern religions, but here it is claimed that the cosmic realm also depends upon justice in the social order. This psalm is therefore a story of the death of the gods. The immortals are condemned to mortality. Only Yahweh has any power in the divine realm. —Patrick D. Miller in Divine Doppelgängers: YHWH’s Ancient Look-Alikes, pp. 24–25

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