Hamblin & Peterson: Old Testament divine council called a 'sod'

Published: Sunday, Jan. 27 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

An intriguing feature of the Old Testament, or Hebrew Bible, is the divine council, a body of celestial beings who meet with God in divine deliberations.

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An intriguing feature of the Old Testament, or Hebrew Bible, is the divine council, a body of celestial beings who meet with God in divine deliberations.

This idea is connected to the Hebrew term "sod," which means "a confidential discussion, a secret or plan, a circle of confidants, or council."

Nearly all scholars now agree that, when used in relationship to God, "sod" refers to the heavenly divine council, which human prophets may sometimes visit to learn divine secrets. The celestial members of this council are variously called the "host of heaven" (1 Kings 22:19), "gods" or "sons of God" (Psalm 82:1, 6), or "Holy Ones."

"Sod" can refer either to the divine council itself, or to the secret results of its deliberations — its secret plans — which a prophet is sometimes permitted to learn and reveal to mankind. Only those who participate in the divine "sod"/council know the "sod"/secret plan, and only those who are given explicit permission may reveal that "sod" to mankind. This concept is illustrated in several biblical passages.

In 1 Kings 22:19-23, Michaiah describes his vision of God's "sod" as follows: "I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him … and the Lord said, 'Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?' And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, 'I will entice him.' And the Lord said to him, 'By what means?' And he said, 'I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' And he said, 'You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.' "

Notice here that Michaiah stood in the "sod" of the Lord and therefore learned God's secret plan, allowing him to accurately prophesy.

In Isaiah 6, Isaiah enters the presence of the Lord, who is seated on his throne in the temple (6:1). There he meets with the divine council (6:2-3) and is invested with a mission to reveal the deliberations of the council to mankind (6:8-9).

In response to false prophets who prophesied victory for Judah against Babylon, Jeremiah says: "Thus says the Lord of hosts: "Do not listen to the words of the (false) prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, 'It shall be well with you' … But who among them has stood in the 'sod' of the Lord to see and to hear his word?" (Jeremiah 23:16-18).

Jeremiah 23:21-22 continues this theme, where the Lord says: "I did not send the (false) prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my 'sod,' then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds."

Here the distinction between a true prophet and a false one is simply that the true prophet has "stood in the 'sod' of the Lord," while the false prophet hasn't.

Psalm 82 offers a fascinating description of this "council of God": "God has taken his place in the council of God; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment. … I (God) said, 'You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you.' " In this meeting of the "council of God," God addresses the members of his "sod" as "gods" and "sons of the Most High."

Amos 3:7 — a passage often quoted by Mormons — describes the Lord's "sod" as follows: "For my Lord doesn't do any thing/word without revealing his 'sod' to his servants the prophets."

Finally, Job provides a description of God's "sod," composed of the "sons of God," meeting in council (Job 1:6, 2:1), and in Job 15:8, Eliphaz insists that Job has not sat in the "sod" and therefore cannot understand God's will regarding Job.

All of this is familiar to many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, since these passages parallel texts in LDS scripture that also describe the "sod" of God (1 Nephi 1:8-18; Abraham 3:22-23). (A fuller study of the idea of the "sod" will eventually appear in "Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture": www.mormoninterpreter.com.)

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