BY CLAIMING THAT HE HAD KILLED A LION and a bear, the shepherd boy David was making an astonishing connection. The giant Goliath, he told King Saul, might as well have been a wolf, a bear, a lion, a desert jackal, tiger, a Congolese ape, or an east African hyena—because Israel had a shepherd. The boy who had arisen from the quiet sheep-cotes of Bethlehem knew what it was to lie his father’s sheep down in green pastures, to lead them beside still water, and to guide them on the right path, for his names sake. He knew the value of his father’s sheep, and what it was to forsake his very life in order to defend them rather than run. Likewise, Israel’s shepherd was no hireling. His sheep knew His voice. If they huddled around Him when the wolves arrived, even clung to Him as if their very lives depended upon it, He would not abandon them. It would be His life before theirs. And yet here is another hungry beast emerging from the malevolent shadow—a foreign invader. The uncircumcised Philistine had come, not only to round up the sheep of their shepherd’s providence and scatter them, but to spit upon the shepherd. Why should they fear?
Then again, David was one of the few who truly understood what it was, as a matter of life or death, to cling to Israel’s shepherd. Of his twenty successors, nineteen of which were kings of the southern kingdom, only a select handful followed Yahweh in a likewise manner. The same cannot be said for the northern kingdom of Israel. They desired the providence of any shepherd other than their own. In fact, they welcomed them into the paddocks. And so Yahweh delivered them into their hands.
There is an interesting account in Enoch’s “Animal Apocalypse” (1 Enoch chapters 85-90) that sheds further light on the Hebrews understanding of Psalm 82—which, I remind you, was David’s worldview. Enoch’s vision involves a dazzling display of various colored bulls and heifers, elephants, camels and donkeys, lions, tigers and eagles, rams and sheep, bears and the sort—an animal parade, if you will. It begins with Eden and ends with Eden. But in chapter 89, somewhere about three quarters of the way through humanities redemption narrative, Enoch tells of the many sheep whom Yahweh sent to His flock in order that they might testify of Him and lament over their incessant lostness. He writes:
And many other sheep He sent to those sheep He sent to those sheep to testify to them and lament over them (Enoch 89:51).
In turn, his flock turned on those sheep and slayed them. Enoch is no doubt speaking of the prophets—a familiar Hebrew narrative. Only one sheep among all of them was saved. We will immediately recognize him as the prophet Elijah. Enoch writes:
They sought to slay it, but the Lord of the sheep saved it from the sheep, and brought it up to me, and caused it to live there (Enoch 89:50).
We will also recall that four more prophets followed in his steps—Elisha, Jonah, Amos, and Hosea. Regardless, the northern kingdom of Israel forsook the house of Yahweh, and to the point, Enoch assures us, that they invited slaughter. And so, “He gave them over into the hands of the lions and tigers, and wolves and hyenas, and into the hand of the foxes, and to all the wild beasts, and those wild beasts began to tear in pieces those sheep (Enoch 89:53).”
Enoch mourned the butchery.
It is here where the narrative takes a familiar turn for those of us who are acquainted with Psalm 82 and Yahweh’s divine council. Yahweh calls upon the angelic princes of the Gentile nations—they tally seventy in number—to let them in on His plans. We must also recall that Yahweh disinherited humanity after the tower of Babel, further entrusting them to the care of the elohim. Yahweh essentially tells them, I am now disinheriting the ten tribes of Israel, further commanding that they commit themselves to the moral responsibilities and obligations required of their regal calling. It should be further noted that those seventy shepherds had companions with them. We can therefore surmise that this is indeed a diverse pantheon of divine beings. The children of divided Israel desired the inheritance which the divine shepherds offered, and their variety of angelic companions, not Yahweh’s. It was as if Yahweh said: You seduced them, and so you can have them. Now take them into your care and uphold your campaign promises. We are given no knowledge of their initial reaction.
57 And He called seventy shepherds, and gave those sheep to them that they might pasture them, and He spoke to the shepherds and their companions: “Let each individual of you pasture the sheep from now on, and everything that I shall command you that do you.
58 And I will deliver them over to you duly numbered, and tell you which of them are to be destroyed-and them you will destroy.” And He gave over to them those sheep.
We can now assume that the council meeting is adjourned, its members dispersed, because Yahweh calls upon another divine being, perhaps he is the court stenographer, and asks that he follow them out the door. In fact, Yahweh knows they will disobey His ordinances and do as they please. For this reason, He asks that His servant take a tally of their wrongdoings. Yahweh has no interest in tapping his divine princes on the shoulder whenever they willfully transgress against the Law. They are well aware of the eternal Law, and would clearly not have justifiable reason to dispute the Psalmist David when writing of God’s Law being pure, eternal, and just—mainly:
10 The statutes of the Lord are true,
all of them just;
11 More desirable than gold,
than a hoard of purest gold,
Sweeter also than honey
or drippings from the comb.
For this reason, the court reporter is not to inform the seventy shepherds regarding his findings, not to mention the mere fact that an investigation is underway. Perhaps they are not taking their sin seriously, or the fact that they will be brought into judgement. Their full measure of their breezy attitude is of course all speculation, but this we do know, Yahweh’s detective is only to report back to Him. In time, they will be held into account. This is Psalm 82 all over again.
59 And He called another and spoke to him: “Observe and mark everything that the shepherds will do to those sheep; for they will destroy more of them than I have commanded them.
60 And every excess and the destruction which will be done through the shepherds, record how many they destroy according to my command, and how many according to their own caprice; record against every individual shepherd all the destruction he effects.
61 And read out before me by numbers how many they destroy, and how many they deliver over for destruction, that I may have this as a testimony against them, and know every deed of the shepherds, that I may comprehend and see what they do, whether or not they abide by my command which I have commanded them.
62 But they shall not know it, and you shall not declare it to them, now admonish them, but only record against each individual all the destruction which the shepherds effect each in his time and lay it all before me.”
The seventy shepherds, we read, immediately began to slay and destroy, gleefully delivering the former sheep of Yahweh’s flock into the jaws of ravenous animals. Enoch began to weep and lament on account of those sheep, for each shepherd “slew and destroyed many more than was prescribed.” But that is not to say that Yahweh did not have his detective on the case. Heaven’s commissioned officer kept careful record of every perished soul.
66 And the shepherds and their associates delivered over those sheep to all the wild beasts, to devour them, and each one of them received in his time a definite number, it was written by the other in a book how many each one of them destroyed of them.
We further read that, after the investigation came to a close, the book which contained his findings (and tallied their transgressions) was read before the Lord of the sheep, “and He took the book from his hand and read it and sealed it and laid it down (Enoch 89:69).” Yahweh has a habit of sealing books.
Early on in 1 Enoch, we learn that it is the angels Michael, Uriel, Raphael, and Gabriel who look down from heaven and witness the unprecedented bloodshed upon the earth, and all the lawless deeds stemming from men and the giants and the fallen Watchers who had begat them. After initially authorizing that the cries from the destruction of the earth below reach the very gates of heaven, they then approached the throne of Yahweh and said: “You know all things before they come to pass, and you see these things and you have permitted them, and say nothing to us about these things. What are we to do with them about these things? (Enoch 9:11)”
This is stunning insight into the life of a divine being. They were rigorous in their work. They paid attention to detail. The angels despised injustices. They were certainly aware regarding the activities of men in the earth below them, and could keep a tally on each lawless dead. Furthermore, they not only understood that Yahweh knew all things before they came to pass, they also concluded that nothing could transpire unless He permitted it. Yet they were left clueless. It appears as though, for this very reason, they were frustrated. Evil had been wrought upon the earth—and in such a manner that their former colleagues had committed themselves to the task. They had only now become aware of its extent as to open up the gates and let all of heaven in on the news. Yahweh knew this calamity would happen, but he didn’t let anyone in on it. This prompted the question on their end, “What are we to do…?”
The seventy shepherds who received the northern ten tribes of Israel knew full well that Yahweh could not legally re-inherit what He had disinherited, once they were dispersed. He was through with them—so to speak. And so they treated them as playthings. But that is not to say that Yahweh was finished with them, or that He hadn’t thought this through. He had plans. In fact, He had big plans. Israel’s story was far from over. Then again, the Gentiles whom He had disbanded at Babel, He had a set arrangement in mind for them as well. Sshhh, it’s a secret. We are dealing with a divine program so clandestine that members of Yahweh’s council were left unaware. His prophets could only receive them as jigsaw pieces, and even when assembled—if properly assembled—they might be best read as illegible codes. Only after the fact, when the perfect works of Jesus Christ was through, could anyone make sense of them. Once revealed, it was undoubtedly the most brilliant maneuver in all of human history. But by then it would be too late.
The elohim never saw it coming.
I’ll continue the discourse in The LONG Divorce part 3.