“You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).
The second commandment declares that in Israel no other god should be worshiped in addition to Yahweh. While the intent of the commandment may have included the idea of monotheism, the words of the commandment do not deny the existence of other gods. The truth of monotheism, that there was no other God besides Yahweh, came into existence late in the faith of Israel.
Henotheism is a word used to describe the worship of one god without denying the existence of other gods. The people of Israel believed in and worshiped Yahweh as their God, but they also acknowledged the existence of other gods.
Many people in the Ancient Near East were polytheists. Polytheism is a system of belief in which people worshiped many gods. In general, most polytheistic religions are associated with the various aspects of nature worship. Since primitive civilizations did not have a scientific understanding of the world in which they lived, most people in primitive societies associated natural phenomena with the realm of the gods.
Several gods are mentioned in the Old Testament. These gods were associated with people who lived in the various nations that composed the world of the Bible. Some of these gods were worshiped by the people of Israel. According to the biblical writers, the apostasy of Israel was the reason the people went into exile.
Below is a list of some of the gods mentioned in the Old Testament:
1. Adrammelech (2 Kings 17:31)
The name of one of the gods the people of Sepharvaim worshiped. The Sepharvaim were a group of people the Assyrians settled in Samaria after the fall of the Northern Kingdom.
2. Anammelech (2 Kings 17:31)
Another god of the people of Sepharvaim. The people of Sepharvaim worshiped their gods by sacrificing their children by burning them.
3. Ashima (2 Kings 17:30)
A god worshiped by the people of Hamath who settled in Samaria after the fall of the Northern Kingdom.
4. Ashtoreth (1 Kings 11:5)
Ashtoreth was the goddess of the Sidonians. Ashtoreth is the name by which the Canaanite goddess Astarte is called in the Old Testament. She was the consort of Baal, the Canaanite storm god.
5. Baal (Numbers 25:3)
Baal was the Canaanite storm god. Baal was also associated with the fertility of the land. The word “Baal” means “lord,” “husband.” Many people in Israel worshiped Baal in his different manifestations. The earliest mention of Baal in the Old Testament is in Number 25:3 when the people of Israel yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor.
6. Bel (Jeremiah 51:44)
The name by which Marduk, the god of the Babylonians, is called in the Old Testament. Bel appears in the Apocrypha, in the addition to the book of Daniel.
7. Chemosh (1 Kings 11:7)
The national god of the Moabites to whom Solomon built a temple in the mountains east of Jerusalem. The writer of Kings calls this god “the abomination of Moab.” The Moabites were called “The people of Chemosh” (Numbers 21:29).
8. Dagon (Judges 16:23)
Dagon appears in the Old Testament as the god of the Philistines. The nature and characteristics of Dagon are not very clear. Some scholars have identified Dagon as a “grain” god while others have identified him as a “fish” god. It seems that the Philistines adopted the cult of Dagon after they settled in the land of Canaan.
9. Kaiwan (NRSV) or Kiyyun (ESV; Amos 5:26)
Amos calls Kaiwan “your star-god.” Kaiwan was an astral god worshiped by some people of the Northern Kingdom after they became vassals of the Assyrians. This god is associated with the planet Saturn.
10. Milcom (1 Kings 11:5)
Milcom is known as “the abomination of the Ammonites.” He is also known as Molech. Jeremiah says that the Israelites offered their sons and daughters as a sacrifice to Molech by burning them. The meaning of the name is not clear. Probably, the meaning of the name is derived from the word “melek,” the Hebrew word for king.
11. Molech (Jeremiah 32:35)
Molech is the same god as Milcom above. The name Molech comes from the consonants of the word “melek,” “king” and the vowels of the Hebrew word “bosheth,” a word that means “shame.”
12. Nebo (Isaiah 46:1)
The name of a Babylonian god that appears only in Isaiah. The name of this god appears in the name of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.
13. Nehushtan (2 Kings 18:4)
This was the bronze serpent worshiped by some people in Judah in the days of Hezekiah. This deity was associated with the serpent Moses made in the wilderness (Numbers 21:8-9).
14. Nibhaz (2 Kings 17:31)
The name of a god worshiped by the Avvites, a people brought to Samaria by the Assyrians.
15. Nisroch (2 Kings 19:37)
The Assyrian god worshiped by Sennacherib, king of Assyria. According to the biblical text Sennacherib was worshiping his god when he was killed by his sons.
16. Rimmon (2 Kings 5:18)
A Syrian god. After Naaman was cured from his leprosy and proclaimed his faith in the God of Israel, he recognized that he would still have to bow down to Rimmon because he served the king of Syria.
17. Sakkuth (NRSV) or Sikkuth (ESV; Amos 5:26)
A Babylonian deity associated with astral worship. In the book of Amos, Sakkuth appears together with Kaiwan.
18. Succoth-benoth (2 Kings 17:30)
The name of a god worshiped by the people of Babylon who lived in Samaria after the Assyrians conquered the city of Samaria in 722 B.C.
19. Tammuz (Ezekiel 8:14).
A Mesopotamian god whose cult has been associated with the cycle of the harvest. The weeping for Tammuz is a reference to the death of the god, which in turn was associated with the agricultural calendar
20. Tartak (2 Kings 17:31)
The god worshiped by the Avvites, a group of people brought to Samaria by the Assyrians after they conquered the Northern Kingdom.
21. The Queen of Heaven (Jeremiah 7:18).
The name of an unidentified goddess worshiped by the people of Judah in the days of the prophet Jeremiah (7th and 6th centuries B.C.). The Queen of Heaven appears only in the book of Jeremiah (7:18; 44:17, 18, 19, 25). This goddess has been identified with the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar and with the Canaanite goddess Ashtoreth, also known as Astarte.
In a future post I will discuss in more detail the raise of monotheism in Israel.
NOTE: For other studies on syncretism in Israel and Judah, read my post Syncretism in the Old Testament.
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
VISIT MY AMAZON AUTHOR’S PAGE
BUY MY BOOKS ON AMAZON (Click here).
NOTE: Did you like this post? Do you think other people would like to read this post? Be sure to share this post on Facebook and share a link on Twitter or Tumblr so that others may enjoy reading it too!
I would love to hear from you! Let me know what you thought of this post by leaving a comment below. Be sure to like my page on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, follow me on Tumblr, Facebook, and subscribe to my blog to receive each post by email.
If you are looking for other series of studies on the Old Testament, visit the Archive section and you will find many studies that deal with a variety of Old Testament topics.
>Dr. Mariottini,Do you see this henotheistic concept in the phrase “the LORD your God” repeated throughout the first six books? Or is this simply a reference to the personal relationship/covenant of Yahweh to the Israelites? On occassion he is “the LORD the God of Israel,” “the LORD the God of your fathers,” and “the LORD my God.” I agree, a reading of the early OT suggests that the people perceived Yahweh as battling on their behalf against real gods, those in Egypt and those among the Canaanites.
>Claude, regarding #21, I suspect, but cannot prove, that the Judeans who revered “the Queen of Heaven” thought of her as Yahweh’s wife or consort. I get this idea by “reading between the lines” in Jeremiah in light of the “Yahweh and his Asherah” graffiti.
>Chris,We know that the idea that Yahweh had a consort is very clearly seen in the Kuntillet Ajrud writings. However, some people question whether the Queen of Heaven should be identified with Asherah. For instance, Philip Schmitz, writing in the Anchor Bible Dictionary (5:587) wrote that “The view that the queen of heaven is to be identified with the Canaanite goddess Ashtoreth, also known by the Greek name Astarte, is relatively recent (du Mesnil du Buisson 1970: 126–27; 1973: 56, 271) but widely accepted (Delcor 1982; Olyan 1987). Most recently it has been argued that the queen of heaven is “a syncretistic deity whose character incorporates aspects of West Semitic Astarte and East Semitic Ištar” (Ackerman 1989: 116–17).I believe that additional work must be done on this issue.Claude Mariottini
>Joe,Thank you for your comment. The phrase “the LORD your God” is associated with the relationship that existed between Yahweh and Israel. It is covenant language. This language appears throughout the Old Testament. The concept of monotheism does not appear until after the exile even though there is biblical evidence that some people believed in Yahweh alone.Thank you for visiting my blog.Claude Mariottini
>Dr. Mariottini,Thanks for the post. I have always (wrongly) thought the concept of “monotheism” has always been part of the Israelites’ belief. Thanks for the clarification. I look forward to your next post on “monotheism”What do you think about Daniel I. Bock’s book “The Gods of the Nations” on the subject.Blessings,Celucien
>Dr. Mariottini,I am Theology student in Canada writting a paper on the gods of Canaan. Thanks for your post, the information was valuable and a helpful resource.Perhaps, I’ll forward you a copy of the paper for your own reading.blessings.jeffrey.
>Celucien,Thank you for your comment about my post. I apologize for the delay in responding to your comment. Monotheism was a late development in the religion of Israel. In December, I will write on monotheism in more detail. I have not read The Gods of the Nations but I will look at the book before I write my article on monotheism,Thank you for visiting my blog.Claude Mariottini
>Dear Jeffrey,Thank you for your comment. I am happy the post was helpful to you. Please, send me a copy of your paper. I would like to read it.Claude Mariottini
>Yahweh was nothing more that a ‘tribal’ god just like all the others mentioned. The bible clearly says that he chose only the Hebrews and them only. All the other gentile nations had their own gods, but since history was written by the winners, the lying hands that wrote the bible, we have inherited this god-awful bloodthirsty ghoul as our ‘father god’. This hateful deity commanded the butchering, enslavement and rape of millions. I wouldn’t serve this devil for all the gold on earth.
>Dear Anonymous,That the Bible was written by the winners demonstrates that the pagan gods of the other nations were powerless before the God of the Bible because in reality, they were no Gods after all.Since you call the God of the Bible an awful bloodthirsty God, it shows that you really do not know the true nature of this wonderful God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ. Maybe you should reread the Bible again and meditate on the true nature of this God, his love and his grace.Thank you for visiting my blog.Claude Mariottini
>Dr. Mariottini,In a less incendiary tone than the last anonymous poster, I wanted to ask you view of the theological and moral implications of the fact that the ancient israelites were not originally monotheistic, and that their religon (the forbearer of christianity) evolved from polytheistic and henotheistic precursors.As a skeptic (on the fence), my logic is:There is archaelogical evidence of many polytheistic belief systems throughout the world that existed before early judaism made the leap to monotheism.To reconcile this with the notion of a one true God, are we simply to say “all previous religions in all previous cultures were simply wrong?”Can we only further say “Even Judaism was wrong…ours (Christianity) is the one, true faith”And, if this is the only way to reconcile doctrinal and theological differences between other religons and inherent truth in Christianity, our all the “sucessor religons” like Islam an Mormanism(?) that claim to be “the last, final revalation”, equally wrong.Maybe my approach is wrong, because maybe the doctrine and legal stuff isnt whats important in religon in the first place. But I was hoping you can understand my thinking and point out the flaws in my logic.tone than the last
>Dear friend,It is true that the people of Israel believed in many gods but the fact is that Israel digressed into polytheism. In Joshua 24:2, the Bible says that when God called Abraham, he and his family served other gods. Once Abraham met the true God, he never again worshiped other gods. The same thing happened with Isaac and probably with Jacob.Polytheism is a falling away from monotheism and not the other way around. So, if Abraham worshiped other gods and he was able to see the light and become a monotheist, then God probably has revealed himself to many people in other nations and some, like Abraham, responded to him while others did not.Christianity is the greatest revelation of God. In Christ we understand the true nature of God. This is the reason Christianity claims to be the culmination of God’s revelation. As for Islam, Islam is an amalgamation of Judaism and Christianity. Islam was born about six centuries after Christianity. Mormonism has no basis in history. All the archaeological and historical claims of Mormonism have not one scintilla of evident to prove that Mormonism is true.If you are on the fence, I encourage you to talk to someone who can help you. There is nothing greater than a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He brings joy, peace, and purpose to life. Do not leave him.Thank you for visiting my blog.Claude Mariottini
>Its fascinating that gods come and go however the true God is to time indefinate.”That people may know that you, whose name is Jehovah, You alone are the Most High over all the earth”. Psalm 83:18
>Dear friend,The fact that gods have come and gone and that the God of Israel remains with us proves what God said in Isaiah 45:22: “I am God, and there is no other.”Thank you for visiting my blog.Claude Mariottini
>What a refreshing blog! Thank-you Dr. Mariottini.
>Norm,Thank you for visiting my blog. The purpose of my blog is to make Old Testament studies relevant for pastors, seminary students, and lay people. I am happy to know that you enjoyed the article.Claude Mariottini
>Hi! I'm a Christian but I'm confused and my faith has gone lower. :(I've done some research and found that kabbalah can find these Bible codes in Genesis e.g. the tree of Life and 666. There are also claims of Jesus and prophets in the Bible to being freemasons and Jesus being the devil (morning star & the 33rd degree Mason compared to Jesus dying at 33)? Lastly, the claim that the Old Testament was copied from paganism? Please help me find the truth! :)Please reply ASAP because my faith's running low. 😦 Thank You & God Bless!
>Dear Friend,The problem with the issues that you raise is that all these things come out of fertile human imagination. When you talk about Bible codes, the numbers can be arranged in such way that you can prove almost anything. The Tree of Life is mentioned in Genesis 2:9. The number 666 is symbolic and in some manuscripts that number is 606.Jesus could not be a freemason since the masons did not come in existence until many years after Christ. The morning star is a title given to Jesus in Revelation but the morning star in Isaiah is not a reference to Christ. The idea that the Old Testament was copied from paganism is only a myth put out by people who want to discredit the Bible.As a Christian, you should put your faith in Christ and not in the teachings of man. Human teaching can deceive as lead people astray.Let me give you three texts from the Bible that will help you:1. “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” (2 Timothy 1:12). Paul said: “I know whom I have believed,” not what I have believed. Our faith and trust are in Christ not in doctrines nor in prophecies.2. “Avoid foolish controversies for they are unprofitable and worthless” (Titus 3:9).3. “Do not to occupy with myths and endless genealogies that promote speculations rather than the divine training1 that is known by faith” (1 Timothy 1:4). Texts 2 and 3 above can be applied to the issues that you raised.Let Jesus Christ strengthen your faith. God loves you and you are part of a wonderful family of believers who are on your side. Forget those who try to destroy your faith. Seek the fellowship of Bible believers and let them help you in your life of faith.Let me know how you are doing.Claude Mariottini
>Hi! I'm that Christian that asked you those questions and you've cleared up many problems for me! :)Just one more problem though… there are supposed Allah miracles (his name in arabic seen on animals and in space)for Muslims. These miracles are real and really surprising because they appear in space and on animals, your input would help. 🙂 Thank You & God Bless!
>Hi! It's me again.. your really the only source I can come to. I'm hearing that EL is a saturn God? Do you know Jordan Maxwell? He debunks the Bible as a book of the stars.. I know you've cleared it up before but it seems different to me. The merge of Yahweh and EL in ancient Israel? Please explain, your the expert here.Thank You & God Bless!
>My friend,You have a lot of questions that cannot be answered with one paragraph. What you need is to join a Bible believing church with a Bible believing pastor who can spend time answering your question.If you are going to allow any of these things to affect your faith, your relationship with Christ, or your Christian faith, then you need more help than I can offer you through my blog.These questions you have are important but they are not basic to whether or not you believe in Christ. Study your Bible and apply faith principles to your life and these questions will never bother you again.Good bless you.Claude Mariottini
>Hi!http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTqnZa3uguIThis video claims that ham wan’t the father of Egypt and that King Solomon never existed. The man also claims that Khufu’s pyramids match up with Orion’s Belt and it fulfills Matthew 6:9-10. Then he claims that prophets Moses to Jesus were initiates in the Egyptian Mysteries… from STOLEN LEGACY. What is this Mystery school?Thanks!
>My friend,The video is a bunch of nonsense. Stop worrying about these thing and read the Bible. As long you keep paying attention to every nonsense around you will be confused.Remember of what Paul said: “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).You need spiritual help. Visit a good church this Sunday and meet with the pastor and tell him of your spiritual needs.Claude Mariottini
>Hello! Since you are an OT expert can you clear this point similar to the persons comment above:- That Ham couldn’t be the founder of Egypt because Khufu already had built the Great pyramids long before Ham entered Egypt.