ancient near east

Did the Hebrews Believe in Other Gods?


Did the Hebrews believe in one god or many gods?

For a great read on the topic see this brief article: 


The Hebrews were not likely monotheists, but henotheists

Alan T

Biblical and historical scholars think the evidence shows that the Hebrews were not monotheistic, but henotheistic, meaning they believed other gods existed, but theirs was the only one worthy of worship.

Alan T. Levenson, a professor of Hebrew history states that: “In the opinion of most Bible scholars, the ancient Israelites were monolaters or henotheists, who affirmed their allegiance to one God (YHVH), but acknowledged the presence of other gods for other nations. Not until a much later period… did Israel accept that God was one and omnipresent.”

“Archaeologists have turned up numerous statuettes of YHVS’s divine consort [wife] Asherah centuries after the prophet Amos had proclaimed Gods universal sovereignty. Synagogue services feature the verse from Exodus, “Who is like you among the gods, YHVH?” a question that makes more rhetorical sense if there are other gods, albeit false ones, with whom to compare the God of Israel.”

William Dever, a leading archeologist argues the Hebrew Bible is overlaid with legendary material that can’t be history

william dever 1

The consensus of biblical archaeologists is that the Hebrew Bible contains much history but its “overlaid with legendary and even fantastic materials that the modern reader may enjoy as ‘story’ but which can scarcely be taken seriously as history.”

William G. Dever, commonly referred to as “America’s leading archaeologist of Israelite history” writes: “While the Hebrew Bible in its present, heavily edited form cannot be taken at face value as history in the modern sense, it nevertheless contains much history.

Let me begin by clarifying which books of the Hebrew Bible I think can be utilized by the would-be historian, whether textual scholar or archaeologist. With most scholars, I would exclude much of the Pentateuch, specifically the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. These materials obviously constitute a sort of “pre-history” that has been attached to the main epic of ancient Israel by late editors… As for Leviticus and Numbers, these are clearly additions to the “pre-history” by very late Priestly editorial hands, preoccupied with notions of ritual purity, themes of the “promised land,” and other literary motifs…

All this may be distilled from long oral traditions, and I suspect that some of the stories – such as parts of the Patriarchal narratives – may once have had a real historical setting. These traditions, however, are overlaid with legendary and even fantastic materials that the modern reader may enjoy as “story” but which can scarcely be taken seriously as history.”

(William G. Dever “What Did the Biblical Writers Know & When Did They Know It? – What Archaeology Can Tell Us About the Reality of Ancient Israel” 2001 – William B. Eerdmans Publishing )

Leading Israeli archaeologists argue that the Hebrew bible contains very little accurate history

Many Israeli archaeologists, who have a vested political reason to attest to the historicity of the Old Testament, do the exact opposite:

“This is what archaeologists have learned from their excavations in the Land of Israel: the Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land in a military campaign and did not pass it on to the 12 tribes of Israel. Perhaps even harder to swallow is that the united monarchy of David and Solomon, which is described by the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small tribal kingdom. And it will come as an unpleasant shock to many that the God of Israel, YHWH, had a female consort and that the early Israelite religion adopted monotheism only in the waning period of the monarchy and not at Mount Sinai.” (1)

(Dr. Ze’ev Herzog, Professor Emeritus/Director of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University, and archaeological adviser to the Israeli Ministry of Nature Reserves)

Whats interesting is that Dr. Herzog is not a fringe scholar:

“Herzog represents a large group of Israeli scholars, and he stands squarely within the consensus. Twenty years ago even I wrote of the same matters and I was not an innovator. Archaeologists simply do not take the trouble of bringing their discoveries to public attention. Even the extreme leftists, avowedly secular, find it hard to accept the notion that the stories they grew up with are not true, that the greatness of David and Solomon is a matter of epic, not of history. I tried all this out on my friends, but they simply are not ready to hear it.” (2)

(Dr. Magen Broshi, world-renowned Israeli archeologist, a former Curator at the Israel Museum, and Chairman of the Museum Association of Israel)

Bastards are not very well liked in the Hebrew Bible

If you are a child born outside of marriage, there are commands in the Bible forbid you to go to church. (Or perhaps to join the assembly of the people, or the leaders, depending on who is writing the commentary, and how much they are trying to soften this passage for the modern reader.)

“No one of illegitimate birth shall enter the assembly of the LORD; none of his descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall enter the assembly of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 23:2)

This sounds even nicer in the good ‘ol King James:

“A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 23:2)

Giza pyramids were built over two hundred years before the biblical flood purportedly happened

According to a biblical chronology by AiG, the largest and most prominent biblical creationist ministry, the global flood happened in 2348 BC. (1)

Yet, according to historians and archaeologists, Egypt has an unbroken historical lineage from two thousand years before this date of the flood. The evidence of this includes everything from excavated buildings to pottery and paintings to written records. (2)

In fact, archaeologists say the Giza pyramids were built between 2589 and 2504 BC, or two hundred years before the date of the purported global flood. (3)