Explaining the ancient origin of paganism
by Robert Randle 11/13/2010 / Bible Studies
Although it is true that most of the primitive theistic religions had their mythological and historical beginnings much earlier than Judaism, and certainly predated Christianity, yet, the TANACH (Jewish Bible) contains a passage in the book of DEUTERONOMY that may be an explanation for the origin of worshipping a deity or deities other than the True and Living God. This article is taken from an earlier work written many years ago by the late Dr. Ernest L. Martin, entitled: Idolatry of the Sons of God.
Deuteronomy 32: 7a, 8
Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations [ago] when the Most High (Ha Elyon) divided their inheritance to the nations [Gentiles??], when He (1) separated the sons of Adam (mankind); He (2) set the boundaries of the people according to the number of the children of Israel (??). For the LORD'S (3) portion is His people; Jacob [Israel] is the place of His inheritance.
NOTE: In order to better understand the passage it is critical to correctly translate the phrase "children of Israel." The Massoretic Text has it to mean 'angels of God,' but the Symmachus Text Latin version seems to render it more correctly as, "sons of God." Now, these enigmatic divine beings are mentioned in just a few places, as in the following below:
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 [with??] them (Cp. 1: 7; 2: 1-2; 38: 4-7).
Psalms 82: 1, 6
God arises in the divine assembly; He judges in the midst of the gods (Elohim). I said, "You are gods [elim/Elohim??], all of you are sons of the Most High [bnei Ha Elyon]." NAB
The heavens declare your wonders, O LORD, and your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones. For who in the skies can rank with the LORD? Who is like the LORD among the sons of God [bnei elim/Elohim]? NAB
Now, leaving that point for the moment it is time to return to Deuteronomy for further study. The text mentions about God separating (scattering) mankind and determining or fixing their boundaries, so when or under what circumstances did this happen?
Genesis 11: 1
Now [at this period in prehistory] the whole Earth had one language and one speech.
Genesis 11: 6a, 8a, 9
And the LORD said, "Indeed, the people are one and they all have one language. So the LORD scattered them from there over the face of the entire earth and they ceased from building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel ['bâlall' not Babylon], because there the LORD confused the speech [language] of the entire earth; and from there the LORD scattered them over the face of the entire earth.
Genesis 10: 5
From these [sons of Japheth-Cp. 10: 2] the coastlands peoples of the Gentiles were separated into their lands, everyone according to his language, according to their families, into their nations.
Genesis 10: 18b
Afterward the families of the Canaanites were dispersed.
Genesis 10: 20
These were the sons of Ham, according to their families, according to their languages, in their lands, and in their nations.
Genesis 10: 31-32
These were the sons of Shem according to their families, according to their languages, into their lands, according to their nations. These were the families of the sons of Noah, according to their generations, in their nations, and from these the nations were divided on the earth after the flood.
Genesis 11: 10-19
This is the genealogy of Shem: Shem was one hundred years old, and begot Arphaxad two years after the flood. After he begot Arphaxad, Shem lived five hundred years, and begot sons and daughters. Arphaxad lived thirty-five years, and begot Salah. After he begot Salah, Arphaxad lived four hundred and three years, and begot sons and daughters. Salah lived thirty years, and begot Eber. After he begot Eber, Salah lived four hundred and three years, and begot sons and daughters. Eber lived thirty-four years, and begot Peleg. After he begot Peleg, Eber lived four hundred and thirty years, and begot sons and daughters. Peleg lived thirty years, and he begot Reu. After he begot Reu, Peleg lived two hundred and nine years, and begot sons and daughters.
NOTE: Somewhere between 137 and 346 years after the "Flood," in the time of Peleg, the Earth became divided [the separating and establishing of national boundaries and languages, etc.], due to the LORD confounding the speech of mankind and scattering them over the face of the Earth (??).
CONCLUSION: In studying the genealogies of the Noahic ancestry there are 70 nations descended from his sons [Cp. Genesis chapter 10]. So, tying this back into Deuteronomy 32: 8-9, it would seem to be not so much of a coincidence or stretch of the imagination to conclude that the number (70) of the "sons of God" were assigned or apportioned to those nations of antiquity; and in a later period, the LORD YHVH had predestined Jacob [Israel] as His chosen people. Also, it must be remembered that seven or seventy is the sacred number of completion and perhaps the Elohim mentioned in Genesis 1: 1, and usually translated as God, could be these same 'sons of God' with the LORD as the chief El (God) of the narrative. For whatever reasons, maybe these Elohim ("sons of God") did not teach or maintain the truth about the nature of God and allowed the primitive people to descend into a worship of these beings themselves, animals, heavenly luminaries, or whatever vain imaginations they could conjure up instead of honoring the Creator.