We all have secrets. For example, most people don’t know what you really think about your boss. Some people who are close to you know something about what you think because you’ve told them. But there are some things you haven’t told anyone because you want to keep your job!
The same hierarchical access to knowledge held true for ancient Near Eastern deities.
According to ancient Near Eastern texts, including the Bible, the gods revealed their thinking on various topics (for example, how to please the gods or what the future held) to select people. But they didn’t reveal everything; rather, they withheld some information because it was deemed incomprehensible (see
In the ancient Near Eastern world, divine sovereignty and the inaccessibility of the heavens provided the conceptual background for the existence of divine secrets. Like superhuman kings, deities had absolute authority over the affairs of humans. Moreover, although the gods lived in temples in human cities, their ultimate dwelling was in the heavens. Thus, as one psalmist wrote, “our god is in the heavens; he does whatever he wants” (
Since divine secrets were none of humanity’s business, ancient Near Eastern texts generally commend human submission to the prerogatives of the gods. People should live in light of the revelation that had been granted them and not pry into divine secrets. “The secret things,” Deuteronomy states, “belong to Yahweh, our god, but the revealed things belong to us and our children in perpetuity in order to keep all the words of this Torah” (
There was more to divine secrets than the gods’ prerogatives and knowledge of the future. Comprehensive understanding of the created order was also considered the exclusive possession of divinity. This is why the series of questions about creation in
What was once a divine secret could be revealed, of course (see
Though the biblical deity had secrets, he seems to have prided himself in open-access revelation (see