Updated: Nov 20, 2021
Video from The Bible Project
We have learned that there are two realms that we exist in: The Heavenly Ream and the Earthly Realm. These two realms overlap. You and I and these other creatures (Angels, Demons) live and operate within this overlap.
The word used in the Bible; “Elohim” is a category title which could include many different jobs.
God told Moses’ that he was to be called “I AM THAT I AM” or Yahweh. Yahweh then is referred to as the chief Elohim whereas there is also lower ranking created being called elohim as well. Or there is no Elohim besides Yahweh as he is the only ruler and creator.
Help me, O Yahweh my Elohim. Save me because of your mercy. - Psalm 109:26 (Hebrew Bible)
Elohim (e-lo-HEEM) is the plural form of El or Eloah, one of the oldest designations for divinity in the world. The Hebrews borrowed the word El from the Canaanites which can refer to the true God or to pagan gods. El is used over 200 times in the Hebrew Bible whereas Elohim is used more than 2,500 times.
He is the God of gods, the highest of all. What does that mean? Are there other Gods?
We can see a reference to this in Psalm 82: God [elohim] stands in the divine assembly.
he administers judgment in the midst of the gods [elohim].
But isn’t there only one God?
1 Timothy 2:5-6 says, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind; the man Christ Jesus who gave Himself as a ransom for all people?” Paul says clearly in this scripture “There is one God”. God said through the prophet Isaiah “understand that I am he. Before me, no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.” (Isaiah 43:10 b, NIV) and “Thus says the LORD, the King and Redeemer of Israel, the LORD of Hosts: “I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God but Me.” (Isaiah 44:6 ESV) and “I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God.” (Isaiah 45:5b). Deuteronomy 4:35 says “You were shown these things so that you might know that The Lord is God; besides Him there is no other.”
So the only deity that exists is Yahweh. Logic dictates if Yahweh is the only real God than any other gods must be imaginary. The problem with this interpretation is that there are verses in the previous scriptures that compares Yahweh to other deities. This would be illogical and blasphemous if these other deities weren’t real.
So if the comparison passage Psalm 86:9
9 All the nations you have made shall come
and worship before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.
and the denial passages are both taken literally,
35 To you it was shown that you might know that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him. Then there is a problem with scripture.
So is there a contradiction in The Bible? The entirety of The Bible comes from an inerrant God (Proverbs 30:5 and 2 Timothy 3:16), so The Bible cannot contradict itself. Perhaps an error on our part today as interpreters/ translators must have occurred, if so, then where?
As Biblical Scholar Michael Heiser has pointed out these are actually not denial “passages. Looking closely at “I am God and there is no god besides me”, “There is no god but Me and there will be none after Me”, and The Lord is God. Besides Him is no other”, we discover that Yahweh and his prophets are saying that Yahweh is the greatest God there is and that He is the most supreme entity in the universe! Yahweh is the Creator, God with a capital G. The other so called gods are entities created by Yahweh and under his control.
Keeping in mind the bible was written for us and not to us it must be interpreted in the time in which it was written. The biblical authors had a different worldview which was more accurate and pragmatic than our current worldview. One in which we
Professor John Walton in his book Ancient Near Eastern Thought and The Old Testament explains “The image of an idol needed to be approved by the god whose image was being made. So the gods were responsible for initiating the manufacturing process. At the end of the process rituals were performed to transfer the deity from the spiritual world to the physical world by a process that one may refer to as ‘actualizing the presence of the god in the temple’. Consequently, the production of the image was view not in human terms, but as a miraculous process through which the deity worked, not unlike the traditional Christian concept of the inspiration of Scripture. The most significant was the mouth-washing ritual. The procedure was carried out to enable the image to eat bread, drink water, and smell incense — that is, to receive worship on behalf of the deity.”
Scripture says that idols were nothing as in stone idols etc. but scripture never denies there were not evil entities working through the idols. Demons were a living dynamic behind the idols themselves.
In Michael Heiser’s book “The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of The Bible.
He writes “I know how difficult it was for me to understand that some cherished notions about the word G-O-D were actually misconceptions. One was an idea dealt with in the last chapter, that the false gods of the Bible were only idols. Another notion that didn’t conform to the reality of the text was that the word G-O-D is only a name, not just an “ordinary” noun. Because I thought G-O-D was exclusively the name of a personal being, and a unique being at that, I tended to assign the attributes of that being, Yahweh of Israel, to the three letters G-O-D. When I came to realize that there were other G-O-D-S in a heavenly council, it seemed (and that’s an important word) as though Yahweh was just one among equals. That bothered me. In the last chapter I explained why this concern was imaginary. Yahweh is inherently distinct and superior to all other gods. Yahweh is an elohim (a god), but no other elohim (gods) are Yahweh. I’m not assuming that the last chapter answered all your questions about the divine council, though. I’m betting that many of you are like I was after first discovering what the inspired text really says—what the ancient worldview of Israel really assumed. You still may be stuck on the idea that there can only be one elohim since Yahweh is called elohim in so many places in the Bible. And if that’s not true, you might be asking, then what is an elohim?”
Looking closely we can see this does not threaten monotheism. The Hebrew word ruach is "breath," or "wind," or "spirit" is used in the first few lines of Genesis. In Scripture, the word rauch is applied both to human beings and to God. When connected with one of the names of God, ruach refers to the Holy Spirit. For example, Ruach Elohim is mentioned in the first few verses of Genesis to describe the Spirit of God hovering over the waters (Genesis 1:2). So then Elohim is connected to the word spirit in English.
A spirit then is understood to be a disembodied mind like evil spirits, good spirits and God is a spirit. There are many spirits, but God is the creator, the supreme spirt. Elohim is used in the same way.
Yahweh, angels, demons, and deceased humans would fall under the modern western understanding of “Spirit”. These spirits then fall under the Ancient Hebrew definition of “elohim” of which there is only one Ultimate Supreme Elohim. That is Yahweh (The Father, Son, and The Holy Spirit). All others are lesser elohim/gods/spirits under his rule and control.
Gregory Boyd expresses the same view in his book God at War
Boyd also states that the Old Testament describes the existence of a number of superhuman beings, referred to as (the "gods") that have God given authority over human beings, particularly over individual nations, and cities. For most modern Christians, these passages are an embarrassment, if for no other reason we have been ignorant of this information for so long, or more likely we choose to ignore it. Many consider this view as primitive or erroneous, and some conservative scholars are reluctant to admit that any of the canonical writers believed it. Boyd does not argue--as many Christians do--that if real these "gods" are "demons" who are enemies of God and have no legitimate authority. In a similar understanding to Heiser Boyd refers to Jewish and early Christian references. Boyd goes on to argue that the "gods" (be they demons, fallen angels or some other entity) were given legitimate authority over creation by God, which they then misused.
Next time we will look at The Divine Council.
Books to read: The Unseen Realm by Michael S. Heiser, available at Amazon (linked)
Website: Michael S. Heiser
Gregory A. Boyd, God at War: The Bible and Spiritual Conflict, available Amazon (linked)