Wars of the Fallen

The history of the ancient world suggests a series of conflicts not just between the fallen angels who rebelled against the Creator and declared themselves gods, but between one another. In their minds, this war is not Satan vs. God; it’s a supernatural game of thrones.

The evidence is in the rise and fall of various city-states and nations that followed different gods. For a time, “the” god, known throughout history as Enlil, El, Kumarbi, Dagan/Dagon, Kronos, Saturn, and Baal-Hammon, was supreme. Even after he was replaced by Marduk or the storm-god, known as Hadad/Baal, Teshub, Zeus, and Jupiter, “the” god still influenced societies from Mesopotamia to north Africa to Europe, where we find evidence of child sacrifice as late as the Christian era.

If our theory is correct, and the entity behind the myths and faces of “the” god is the leader of the Watchers who descended to the summit of Mount Hermon, then we can add one more name to his rap sheet: Shemihazah, who convinced his coconspirators to swear a mutual oath to sin against the Creator by sharing forbidden knowledge that humanity was not meant to know.

Even though the storm-god was king of the pantheon for most of the civilizations in the Mediterranean world by the time of the Exodus, the moon-god, who’d been worshiped for at least fifteen hundred years by that point, was still a leader among the gods. Some of the Israelites’ earliest confrontations with the spirit realm were clearly directed at Sîn, like God’s gift of manna when Israel entered the Wilderness of Sin, the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai, and the destruction of Jericho, which carried the Amorite name of the moon-god, Yarikh.

The sun-god, whose cult goes back to the earliest days of ancient Sumer (and probably earlier), was a junior partner in the Sumerian and Amorite divine assemblies. He rose to the top of the heap in Egypt, first as Ra, and then later as the merged solar deity Amun-Ra. Throne names of the pharaohs during the Israelite sojourn in Egypt, even those of the Baal-worshiping Hyksos kings, included Ra as a theophoric element (the “god-name”). So, the Exodus, as a whole, was Yahweh’s smackdown of the fallen angel who chose to be worshiped as the deified sun.

But the sun-god wasn’t alone. We noted earlier that the crossing of the Red Sea was orchestrated by God to demonstrate His power over the sea, which was supposed to be the domain of Baal. The warrior-god of plagues, who held down a second job as gatekeeper of the netherworld, was also a target of God’s judgment during the Exodus; the evidence identifies the hard-hearted pharaoh who contended with Moses as Amenhotep II, who believed that the plague-god Resheph, a protector of horses and chariots, was his personal guardian. So, God used a series of plagues and then destroyed Amenhotep’s chariot corps of as the coup de grâce.

After Joshua’s Long Day, Baal became the main supernatural threat to Israel. The influence of the storm-god on ancient Israel was so profound that the name of Baal’s holy mountain, Zaphon, became the Hebrew word for the compass point “north.” Baal is the pagan deity mentioned most often in the Bible, and with good reason. Isaiah 14 identifies the mount of assembly of the divine rebel from Eden as Mount Zaphon; Ezekiel 38–39 names Mount Zaphon as the rally point for the army of Gog, who is the Antichrist of the Book of Revelation; and in the New Testament, Jesus twice specifically linked the storm-god to Satan.[1]

Bad Moon Rising

In the background, throughout the history of the ancient Near East, the worship of the goddess of sex and violence, variously called Inanna, Ishtar, Astarte, Aphrodite, and Venus, among others, was always drawing the faithful away from the Most High. From ancient Sumer to the present day, her gender-fluid cult of carnality has lured millions to destruction. She even influenced the bloodline of the Messiah (see the Genesis 38 account of Judah and Tamar; what a reversal!). Ishtar’s mindless rage when challenged has been on full display here in the US recently, but in a broader sense—the “battlefield is her playground” sense—her irrational violence and sacralization of carnality has been with us for centuries.

We can only speculate, because most of us don’t see into the spirit realm, but Paul’s reminder that our daily struggle is against these unseen entities rather than other humans supports our theory that geopolitics is really theopolitics, the visible consequences of what happens in the spirit realm. Similarly, the prophecy of Daniel describing a future war between the princes of Greece and Persia, which foretold the coming of Alexander the Great about two hundred years later, clearly referred to spirits. The prince of Persia delayed the angelic messenger from reaching Daniel for three weeks. It was only when “Michael, one of the chief princes” arrived that the messenger was able to reach Daniel, “for I was left there with the kings of Persia.”[2]

Based on how easily the angelic messengers to Abraham’s nephew, Lot, dealt with the mob in Sodom, it’s not possible that the prince or kings of Persia were human.

Interestingly, we often skip over the messenger’s comment at the beginning of the eleventh chapter of Daniel:

And as for me, in the first year of Darius the Mede, I stood up to confirm and strengthen him.

Daniel 11:1 (ESV)

The angel talking to Daniel “stood up” to support, encourage, and protect Darius the Mede. Against whom, or what? In this context, it appears that the enemies of Darius were supernatural, possibly the prince and kings of Persia mentioned a few verses earlier—beings powerful enough that the archangel Michael, the special protector of Israel,[3] had to intervene.

Who were the supernatural princes of Persia and Greece? We don’t have any way to know. The chief deity of the Medes and Persians who conquered Babylon in 539 BC was Ahura Mazda. Some scholars believe that Ahura Mazda was a Persian manifestation of Marduk, the city-god of Babylon,[4] which could explain why that city was taken so easily by Cyrus. The priesthood of Marduk couldn’t have been happy that the last king of Babylon, Nabonidus, wanted to replace Marduk at the top of the pantheon with Sîn, the moon-god. So, just as modern-day Shia Muslims in Iraq are willing to work with their Iranian neighbors despite their cultural and ethnic differences (Arab vs. Persian), it’s possible that the priests of Marduk were willing to cut a deal with a foreign king if it meant their god remained number one in the official state religion. But then the pesky storm-god worshipers from Greece came along two centuries later and established a Greco-Roman foundation for Western civilization.

It seems clear. The pagan gods of the ancient world struggled with one another even as they rebelled against their Maker. That is, until it became clear that the gospel of Jesus Christ was not going away.

Earlier, we mentioned Paul’s observation that if the supernatural rulers of the age had realized what God was doing, “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”[5] But they didn’t get it. As we noted earlier, if they understood that Jesus was talking about them in the Parable of the Tenants, they still couldn’t resist sending him to the cross.

They were caught off guard. They didn’t grasp that Jesus’ death in the physical realm wasn’t a tragedy, it was His victory. It was a terrible price, yes, but God was willing to pay it for you, me, and countless billions who have been saved by His immeasurable love—followed by His glorious Resurrection on the morning of the third day.

But the principalities and powers didn’t just give up. If they had, the world today would be a far happier place.

[1] Matthew 12:24–28, Mark 3:22–26, and Luke 11:14–18 (Beelzebul = “Baal the prince”); and Revelation 2:12-13 (“Satan’s throne” in Pergamum was the Great Altar of Zeus, who, like Baal, was a storm-god.)

[2] Daniel 10:13 (ESV).

[3] Daniel 12:1.

[4] Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones. King and Court in Ancient Persia 559 to 331 BCE (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press Ltd., 2013), 24.

[5] 1 Corinthians 2:6 (ESV).

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