My rating: 3 of 5 stars
If you read one book by Michael Heiser, I recommend The Unseen Realm. You can find my review of that book here.
Bottom line: I highly recommend The Unseen Realm to anyone who wants to understand Scripture. Reversing Hermon, on the other hand, I would mainly recommend to those who are curious about the book of 1 Enoch and would like to know more about it.
Heiser is known for his work on what he calls the divine council—a group of exalted spiritual beings, higher than angels, who rule with God. These are the beings Scripture is referring to when it speaks of the sons of God, the powers of the heavens, or the watchers. At the tower of Babel, when mankind rebelled against God, he punished them by allotting the nations to various sons of God. These beings were given authority over the nations, but where never to be worshipped. Some of them fell and enticed the nations to worship them anyway. Part of Jesus’ work on the cross was to defeat these powers and reclaim the nations for God.
The most famous passage in the Bible about the sons of God is Genesis 6, which is a very brief account of how the sons of God cohabited with the daughters of men at the time of the Nephilim resulting in judgment by God. Interpreters have offered several suggestions on how to interpret that chapter. Heiser argues that the interpretation endorsed by other Bible writers is the one described in the book of 1 Enoch, since 1 Enoch is quoted favorably in Jude 14-15 and alluded to in other passages. And 1 Enoch suggests that the sons of God were evil spirits who cohabited with women resulting in a race of giants (the Nephilim).
This is all described in The Unseen Realm. Reversing Hermon goes further into explaining 1 Enoch.
1 Enoch is part of what scholars call the pseudepigrapha (books named after famous Bible characters but that were not written by those characters). 1 Enoch was not written by the real Enoch. It was written between the Old and New Testaments—probably a couple hundred years before Jesus’ time. The fact that it is called “Enoch” does not necessarily mean the author was attempting to deceive people into thinking it was written by Enoch. That name may have become attached to the book later.
Heiser does not suggest that 1 Enoch is part of Scripture. But he does regard it as important since it was highly regarded in Jesus’ time and quoted by Jude. If a Bible writer uses language from 1 Enoch in contexts that match the material in 1 Enoch, it stands to reason that the assumptions and perspectives of 1 Enoch would come to the 1st Century readers’ minds.
Heiser shows how many puzzling passages in the Bible make perfect sense if seen from the point of view this interpretation of the sons of God. I found his arguments, for the most part, to be very strong. In a few cases I remain unconvinced. For example, in chapter 4 he describes how God might have revealed the exact date of Jesus’ birth through the stars. It is a fascinating discussion, however he doesn’t address the difficulties in the view. If the star that the magi followed was a constellation, how did it stop over a specific house in Bethlehem?
In chapter 5 he suggests that the women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus would have called to mind the Genesis 6 story because they each were involved in either sexual immorality or an effort to make themselves beautiful (which 1 Enoch says is one of the skills the watchers taught mankind). It seems to me all people want to look good, especially women. It seems a stretch to say that a reference to wanting to enhance one’s beauty would necessarily make readers think of the watchers in Genesis 6.
Chapter 6, on the other hand, I found extremely helpful. It explains how Mount Hermon/Bashan/Caesarea Philippi/Gog represent the realm of the sons of God, so when Jesus went there and spoke of the gates of hell not being able to withstand the onslaught of his church, it would have been seen as a clear reference to the defeat of the fallen sons of God.
The book also discusses the content of 1 Enoch and the history of the church’s attitudes toward 1 Enoch. He also provides a list of NT passages that may be allusions to 1 Enoch. Some are more convincing than others.
The book is organized into four parts:
• PART I – Genesis 6:1-4 in its Original Ancient Contexts
• Chapter 1 – The Sons of God and Nephilim
• Chapter 2 – The Sin of the Watchers in 1 Enoch and Other Enochian Tests
• Chapter 3 – The Mesopotamian Apkallu, the Watchers, and the Nephilim
• PART II – Reversing Hermon in the Gospels
• Chapter 4 – The Sin of the Watchers and the Birth of Jesus
• Chapter 5 – The Sin of the Watchers and the Genealogy of Jesus
• Chapter 6 – The Sin of the Watchers and the Ministry of Jesus
• PART III – Reversing Hermon in the Epistles
• Chapter 7 – The Sin of the Watchers and Human Depravity
• Chapter 8 – The Sin of the Watchers and the Head Covering of 1 Corinthians 11
• Chapter 9 – The Sin of the Watchers and Baptism
• PART IV – Reversing Hermon in the Book of Revelation
• Chapter 10 – The Sin of the Watchers, the Nephilim, and the Antichrist
• Chapter 11 – The Sin of the Watchers and the Apocalypse