Deuteronomy 32:8-9, Sons of Israel or Sons of God?

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Ordinary Guy (TM)
When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. ESV

versus KJV:

When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.

Should Deut. 32 reads "Sons of Israel" or "Sons of God"? What does this verse mean?

There are also two other views (maybe from foolish Jewish fables) that (1) God gave over each nation into the hands of guardian angels. Many deny this. The Pulpit Commentary says:

The LXX. has "according to the number of the angels of God," an arbitrary departure from the original text, in accommodation, probably, to the later Jewish notion of each nation having its guardian angel.

And there is a second view (2) that God gave each fallen nation over to a demon. Thus, their gods were actually demons over them. God will conquer each one by the gospel and vanquish each of these spirits as the gospel goes forth throughout the world.

Does Psalm 82 shed any light on the correct view?

PSALM 82:1 {A Psalm of Asaph.} God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: 2 "How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked." 5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6 I say, "You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; 7 nevertheless, you shall die like men, and fall like any prince." 8 Arise, O God, judge the earth; for to thee belong all the nations! (RSV)

Here is what one commentator says about psalm 82:

Psalm 82 speaks of the angelic council which was given rulership over the 70 nations of the earth:

...In this psalm, God chastises the angelic rulers ("the gods") for their injustice and iniquity in carrying out the responsibilities that He has assigned to them. God tells them that their fate for disobedience will be to "die like men." Asaph ends the psalm by exhorting God to judge the earth and its angelic rulers, because all the nations actually belong to Him.

Finally, here is an article about the verse in question:


Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Jesus refutes that interpretation of Ps.82, Jn.10:34-35. A proper exegesis of the Gospel passage should show that Jesus (and his hearers) understood Ps.82 to refer to human dignities. Men were addressed as "gods" in Ps.82 according to the association of the office of rule below with Ultimate Rule above. Jesus does not put himself in their category, but asserts that he is beyond all that even to association with Ultimate Rule. The word of God came to them; the Son of God IS the Word of God. If the others, so much more the Son.

I don't know why the ESV has gone with the LXX (and perhaps other traditions of text/translation) in Dt.32:8. The MT seems clear, "bene Ysrael," sons of Israel.

Bill The Baptist

Puritan Board Graduate
The ESV is not properly a translation, but rather a revision of a translation. If we consider the theology of those who translated the RSV, we can better understand why the ESV reads this way.
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