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Saturday, February 12, 2022

YHWH (Yahweh) is God (hā’elōhîm) - But there are other elohim.

It's about definitions of terms:  אֱלֹהִים ʾelōhîm

For reference: "Demons" are the disembodied Nephilim and a completely different class from the fallen elohhim in view here. But that is a tale for another day. For more on that, see:

  • Heiser, Michael S. Demons: What the Bible Really Says about the Powers of Darkness. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2020.

For now, let's chat about the Elohim. 

When the average modern western American English speaker uses the term spelled g.o.d. we automatically import into that term certain "attributes" such as omnipresent, omnipotent, etc. We import into that term an idea of "ultimate" and maybe even "creator". 

Thus, importing all those ideas into our three letters g.o.d. we think if there are multiple "gods" does that mean they're all equal like the Greek/Roman style pantheon? These are ideas we eisegete into the word "god" when we use it. 

For the ancient Israelite, none of those attributes are in view when they use their Hebrew term: "elohim" which we moderns translate into God/gods depending on the verse. 

As Dr. Michael Heiser demonstrates in his text "Unseen Realm", pretty conclusively, the Hebrew term elohhim is used to talk about THE Elohhim (Yahweh himself), other elohim (like Ba'al), Divine Council members, "Angels" (which is another misnomer for another day) and in at least one context the word is used to refer to the disembodied Samuel coming back to rebuke Saul.

  • Heiser, Michael. The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible. First edition. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015.
  • Heiser, Michael S. Angels: What the Bible Really Says about God’s Heavenly Host, 2018.

Thus, the attributes we tie into the word "god" are NOT in view when Israelites use the term elohhim. 

A better translation into English (because of all that baggage we import) might be "Spirit Beings". Elohhim simply refers to any entity of "that realm" as opposed to "this realm". 

So, Yahweh is an elohim. There are MANY elohhim. But Yahweh is species unique among the elohim. ONLY Yahweh is self-existent, creator of all that is (including the lesser elohhim). Only Yahweh is omnipresent, omnipotent etc. So, do other ELOHIM exist? Absolutely! The Bible constantly affirms this. Paul himself refers to them as principalities and powers and rulers of the darkness of this world. They are also good ones too. Gabriel and Michael would be of the elohhim class. 

Are they gods? By Ancient standards, yes. By our modern sensibilities of the word, no. But that is how other texts, Greek, Latin, etc understood them. Zues, Ba'al, Moleck, all lesser elohhim. 

What English word you want to use for that? Up to you. But that's their worldview, and if we're to be loyal to the biblical authors, it is ours. Other, lesser, elohhim are still ruling this present darkness (to borrow Frank Perretti). Pick your favorite English word to describe that. I use Spirit Beings when I translate those texts where the Hebrew term elohhim is used (and where it's in view in the Greek speaking but Hebrew minded authors of the Second Writings (aka New Testament). 

These fallen elohhim we're the Divine Council members. They're in view in Psalms 82 and 89 and Deuteronomy 32, among other places. They're in view in Paul's writings about these "powers". 


*I leave you with another interesting text to explore, quotes below: 

2. Monotheism as a misleading category

"A major contribution to our topic has been made by Nathan MacDonald in his recent book, Deuteronomy and the Meaning of ‘Monotheism.’[3] MacDonald argues that the idea of ‘monotheism’ (like ‘polytheism’) is an invention of the Enlightenment that is inappropriate for understanding the Old Testament and that the use of this category has seriously distorted Old Testament scholarship’s account of Israel’s faith in YHWH. Tracing the invention of the word ‘monotheism’ and its early use by the seventeenth-century Cambridge Platonists, he associates it with the intellectualization of religion in seventeenth-century English thought, which tended to identify religion with a body of theoretical knowledge and to judge the truth or falsity of a religion by the truth or falsity, rationally assessed, of the propositions that constituted it. ‘Monotheism’ was an organizing principle in the categorization of religions according to their intellectual claims and, as such a principle, made the question of the number of gods a priority in the classification and evaluation of religions. The term ‘monotheism’, especially as subsequently taken over by the Deists, became associated with the Enlightenment’s philosophical construction of a rational, ethical and universally evident religion. The identification of emergent ‘monotheism’ in ancient Israel was thus in danger of being a mere projection of Enlightenment beliefs and values and of being understood within a developmental understanding of the necessary progress of humanity through various stages towards ethical monotheism, which, being rationally compelling, is bound to prevail everywhere." Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel: God Crucified and Other Essays on the New Testament’s Christology of Divine Identity (Paternoster, 2008), 62.

 "(1) Deuteronomy does not deny the existence of other gods. MacDonald observes, with many others, that the Shema‛and the first commandment of the Decalogue require monolatry, the exclusive devotion of Israel to YHWH, but do not deny the existence of other gods. They may even be said to presuppose it in treating them as real competitors for Israel’s devotion.[9] Less usual, though not unprecedented,[10] is MacDonald’s denial that Deuteronomy itself teaches that YHWH is the only god. (MacDonald, in line with his thesis, translates ’elōhîm as ‘god’, except on the few occasions when it has the article, for which he uses ‘God’.) The two key statements in chapter 4—‘so that you would acknowledge that YHWH is God (hā’elōhîm); there is no other besides him’ (4:35) and ‘acknowledge … that YHWH is God (hā’elōhîm) in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other’ (4:39)—he takes to mean that YHWH is unique (the only god who is God) and is the only god for Israel.[11]"  Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel: God Crucified and Other Essays on the New Testament’s Christology of Divine Identity (Paternoster, 2008), 63–64.

"What I find disappointing in MacDonald’s work is his failure to deal systematically with the issue of YHWH’s uniqueness vis-à-vis the other gods. Given that Deuteronomy affirms the uniqueness of YHWH (as alone God [4:35, 39; 7:9] and as alone ‘god of gods’ [10:17]) without denying the existence of other gods, in what does that uniqueness consist?"   Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel: God Crucified and Other Essays on the New Testament’s Christology of Divine Identity (Paternoster, 2008), 65.

"Deuteronomy seems to me to require an account of YHWH’s uniqueness that takes full account of such passages as these: ‘YHWH is God (hā’elōhîm) in heaven above and on the earth below’ (4:39); ‘heaven and the heaven of heavens belong to YHWH your god, the earth with all that is in it’ (10:14); ‘YHWH your god is god of gods and lord of lords, the great god’ (10:17); and the divine self-declaration of 32:39 in relation to what is said about the gods in the Song of Moses. But, in order to establish my point, I want particularly to engage with MacDonald’s exegesis of the crucially important passage Deuteronomy 4:32–40. Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel: God Crucified and Other Essays on the New Testament’s Christology of Divine Identity (Paternoster, 2008), 68.

"What Israel is able to recognize about YHWH, from his acts for Israel, that distinguishes YHWH from the gods of the nations is that he is ‘the God’ or ‘the god of gods’. This means primarily that he has unrivalled power throughout the cosmos. The earth, the heavens and the heaven of heavens belong to him (10:14). By contrast, the gods of the nations are impotent nonentities, who cannot protect and deliver even their own peoples. This is the message of the Song of Moses (see especially 32:37–39). The need to distinguish among ‘the gods’ between the one who is supreme (YHWH) and the others, who are not just subordinate but powerless, creates, on the one hand, the usages ‘the God’ and ‘the god of gods’ and, on the other hand, the contemptuous ‘non-god’ (32:17: lō’’elōâh; 32:21: lō’’ēl) and ‘their mere puffs of air’ (32:21: habelēhem). Though called gods, the other gods do not really deserve the term, because they are not effective divinities, acting with power in the world.[26] YHWH alone is the God with supreme power." Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel: God Crucified and Other Essays on the New Testament’s Christology of Divine Identity (Paternoster, 2008), 70.


Shalom: Live Long and Prosper!
Darrell Wolfe (DG Wolfe)
Storyteller | Writer | Thinker | Consultant @

Clifton StrengthsFinder: Intellection, Learner, Ideation, Achiever, Input
16Personalities (Myers-Briggs Type): INFJ


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