Was the earliest Jews polytheistic until they elevated the Canaanite god Yahweh post exile?

Henotheism is the word that also applies here, where one god is the strongest among many.

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There is only one God, the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob, the Father of Jesus. All other gods are man made idols or demons.

[Deu 32:15-21 KJV](bDeu 32:15-21) 15 But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness ; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation. 16 They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods , with abominations provoked they him to anger. 17 They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not. 18 Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee. 19 And when the LORD saw it , he abhorred them , because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters. 20 And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be : for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith. 21 They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.

[Psa 106:36-39 KJV](bPsa 106:36-39) 36 And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them. 37 Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils, 38 And shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood. 39 Thus were they defiled with their own works, and went a whoring with their own inventions.

All other so called gods are demons or idols.
In their unbelief, lusts and wickedness they gave honor to those things that were not God. The gods of the other nations allowed them to follow their lusts. Just like the idols people set up for themselves today. People idolize themselves, pleasures of the flesh, people, governments and anything else that promises them so called security or pleasure. Anything except the true God that delivers from sin, He requires too much from them. He alone is to be trusted, loved, worshiped and obeyed.

Yeah - that sounds interesting, and like something they might muse about. But I can’t recall where it would be either.

Back then, they “used” their gods probably more like we would use team mascots now. Our bluebirds are gonna slaughter your panthers on the basketball court tomorrow … and such. Only they meant it more literally. To win battles was to show your own god the superior one. God, it would seem, deigned to enter into that world as “one of the contestants”! So the button “My god can beat up your god” may be a humorous thought for us now [until you’re talking sports teams anyway - in which case … best get out of the way from between two rival teams!] - but it was literally a deadly serious contest for them back then.

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It’s the plural of majesty.

I have researched this topic a little and offer the following opinions:
Even Judaism has a controversial origin. Hebrews were not monotheistic until the slopes of Mount Sinai during the exodus. That begins the nation of the Israelites as well as the single God Yahweh, directly from Moses, between 1300 and 1000 BC. Around the 8th century BC, after years of crises, they pushed ahead with the 1st monarch, Saul, despite warnings from Samuel. They soon reformed the monarchy to one of prophets / nivea. The most important to the Hebrews were Amos, Hosea, Isaiah (3 of them) and Micah. These 4 are as important as Moses. Their view of the God Yahweh before, was that he was subject to anger, capriciousness and outright injustice. But after the prophets He became nothing but good, right, and with justice, a God of Righteousness. The Persian religion, Zoroastrianism, creeped into the Hebrew religion ~700 BC as a dualistic, eschatological and apocalyptic religion. It imposed a light and good form, ruled by a deity that was good, and a dark and evil one, ruled by a deity who is bad.

Of course, this is just my summary of what I read, not in any way to be described as a “strong opinion” nor do I think that my thoughts are better than anyone else’s.

That was the Syrians fighting them in I Kings 20, I believe.

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I was thinking it was most likely this part because that’s where I begin to backtrace Yahweh as potentially a god of the mountain and that’s why so many stories reveled around them. But that he was more than that and the others were not aware of it and so Yahweh showed them he was god of the valleys as well. As if to say god of everything from high to low.

Good answer. We can see that even at the exodus Jews didnt trust God at all even after what he did for them. As soon as Moses left low and behold they create a Golden Calf worshiping it,as if their memory is that of a golden fish forgeting what He did for them

Archaeologically or Biblically? Biblically one may see development from YHWH as the God (Elohim) of Israel to YHWH as the Most High God (elohim) which assumes there are lower gods (elohim). An objective Bible student must recognize their own modern presuppositions, such as monotheism. Monotheism might not be the assumption of some of the biblical texts. The English word “monotheism” was used first by Henry Moore (1614-1687).

Are there many gods?
Job 38 sets the scene for the divine council paradigm present throughout scripture, which is central to the work of Jesus Christ. " ‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?’ "

“Morning stars” and “sons of God” were ancient Hebrew and Ancient Near East motifs for angels, or the divine council referred to herein Psalm 82. Genesis 6:1-4 has “sons of God” who illicitly sire the Nephilim. Isaiah 14:12 has “Day star” and v13 “the stars of God”. Both of which are polemics against the deceiver (Satan in the NT), the chief rebel of the sons of God. Hence one interpretation of Psalm 82, is that God is holding court in the divine council of the elohim (gods), and sentencing them for their malpractice after assigning the postdiluvian nations to their liege, after the Tower of Babel apostasy, in Deuteronomy 32:8. (see the English versions CEB, ESV, GNT, NRSV, RSV, or WYC for the English rendering that does not follow the altered the post Christian Masoretic Jewish texts).

In John 10:34, Jesus alludes directly to Psalm 82, where the elohim (gods) receive the word of God in the form of judgment and condemnation. Against his accusers Jesus was appealing to the precedent already established in their Torah, which referred to God’s holy ones, or his divine council, as “gods” (elohim)

It is interesting to note that pre-Christian Judaism speculated on the meaning of certain passages of our OT texts. Some scholars thought that the texts described a plurality within YHWH; that is two YHWHs. This idea was rejected with the advent of the Christian era because Christians claimed the divinity of Jesus and YHWH.

The Apostle Paul alludes to the evil class of elohim in Ephesians 6:12 ESV
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

The objective Bible student will discern scriptures that assumes other elohim or spiritual beings. An elohim is any being without a physical body. YHWH is an elohim. The “ghost” of Samuel is an elohim (1 Samuel 28). There are many elohim it the Bible. The word elohim is often translated into English as gods. Idols are not elohim because idols are not beings.

One of the Ten Commandment (Exodus 20:3) assumes other gods (elohim).
“You shall have no other gods (elohim) before me."
For this not to be a meaningless commandment there must be the possibility of worshipping other gods (elohim).

Theologically, monotheism as defined by the Doctrine of the Trinity has been confirmed by early Church Councils. Believers find the Doctrine of the Trinity a necessity in understanding what the Bible reveals about the deity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. However, monotheism does not eliminate the revelation that there are other elohim (gods).

Archaeologically, some of the other comments are supported by interpretations from archaeological finds.

All ideas about the composition of ancient Hebrew texts are speculative hypothesis. Most are made in an effort to understand the process by which the texts arrived at there current composition. For scholars such endeavors can aid in a better understanding of the texts. Example is the assigning of elements of the Pentateuch to either JEPD = YHWH (Jehovah), Elohim, Priestly, or Deuteronomy. This actually aids in Bible study similarly to sorting out Romans into passages addressed to the Jews from those addressed to gentiles.

Believers who believe that it is necessary for every word of the Bible must be “inspired by God” for any of the bible to be authoritative have great difficulty with the biblical texts undergoing compilation, revision, or editing as if these actions by scribes would not have been also “inspired by God.” Whatever divine inspiration means, historically, it has been a process covering generations. It should be obvious to every objective Bible student, free from presuppositions, that not everything in the Bible requires “divine inspiration” or is difficult to even say that some passages are “divinely inspired.” Many of the texts are a historical narrative. The Gospel of According to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles are clearly introduced as research.

Correctly discerning what are and are not the passages that contain the inspired content starts with understanding the Bible from its broadest impression. Then asking two questions which have the same answer. Why did God create? Why did God send Jesus?
Biblical Answer: So that God would reveal His glory and nature (love being one) through the redemption of mankind. It is condensed no better than stated in John 3:16.

All ideas about the composition of ancient Hebrew texts are speculative hypothesis. Most are made in an effort to understand the process by which the texts arrived at their current composition. For scholars such endeavors can aid in a better understanding of the texts. Example is the assigning of elements of the Pentateuch to either JEPD = YHWH (Jehovah), Elohim, Priestly, or Deuteronomy. This actually aids in Bible study similarly to sorting out Romans into passages addressed to the Jews from those addressed to gentiles.

Believers who believe that it is necessary for every word of the Bible must be “inspired by God” for any of the bible to be authoritative have great difficulty with the biblical texts undergoing compilation, revision, or editing as if these actions by scribes would not have been also “inspired by God.” Whatever divine inspiration means, historically, it has been a process covering generations. It should be obvious to every objective Bible student, free from presuppositions, that not everything in the Bible requires “divine inspiration” or is difficult to even say that some passages are “divinely inspired.” Many of the texts are a historical narrative. The Gospel of According to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles are clearly introduced as research.

Correctly discerning what are and are not the passages that contain the inspired content starts with understanding the Bible from its broadest impression. Then asking two questions which have the same answer. Why did God create? Why did God send Jesus?
Biblical Answer: So that God would reveal His glory and nature (love being one) through the redemption of mankind. It is condensed no better than stated in John 3:16.

That early on the Israelite where polytheistic is pretty clear in the bible. The only moment when they arguably weren’t was at the very beginning when they were under Moses and maybe Joshua. But very quickly in judges and in particular kings the righteous kings and judges (their where definitely a couple of non righteous Judges) are constantly knocking down the idols of Baal and the Asherah polls and even then most of the time it was only limited to Jerusalem or even just the temple.

Where do you get your dates from? Saul was an C11th BCE monarch, if at all. In 700 BCE Palestine was under Babylonian influence and would be for nearly another two centuries.

That is the story that the Bible tells.

Is this because Yahweh was the most blood thirsty and the least tolerant – encouraging his followers to slaughter those worshipping any other gods?

There is a big difference between seeing the story one way or the other. What I see is that Abraham was called out of Paganism. He begin to worship just one God. Throughout various times the Jews fall into sin while under control of other nations or wondering and afraid and turn back to idol worship. That while they were worshipping other gods there was some there who stood against it, such as prophets. That makes them worshipping other gods a sin.

As opposed to saying the Jews were polytheists who worshipped many gods. Over time one God rose to the top and that is the only one they worshipped.

Two very different mindsets over something that looks the same.

It seems like what Yahweh did was guide the people tons promised land and those that stood against that promise was destroyed in wars. It does not seem like they had a central powerhouse and they routinely left it and went to other nations to destroy them and then come back to their powerhouse until they head out for spoils once more.

Really??? Is it perhaps like the difference between the mindset of someone raised Christian and someone who was not?

No it seems like they routinely cleansed their society of people with different religious beliefs, you know, just like Christians did for most of their history. I particularly remember 1 Kings 18 telling of one of these times they did that.

Which nation was Israel at war at in 1 kings 18?

My comment was clearly about how Israel handled other nations.

Within their nation yeah they killed evil people. Ahab and his infamous wife were enemies of God. They lived under a theocracy where sin was synonymous with crime.

How is that supposed to help your stance that they were polytheistic who worshipped many gods equally as a nation versus a nation that broke away from their god snd worshipped other idols and was punished for it?

Seems like from scripture teaches from the start that Yahweh was their one God and anyone who committed idol worship was stopped versus Yahweh being ok with all the other gods being worshipped.

I don’t see a scriptural reason for the Jews ever being a polytheistic nation. I see repeated times of various amounts of them temporarily falling into worshipping other gods snd being punished. Never see it being held in a positive light.

Some will say to you - myth just pure myth

During the the 19th century a view such as JEDP was taken - where Genesis 1-11 and most of Exodus was created as propaganda for Israel either around Ezra’s time. The argument is Gen 10 has late names that should not be there. They argue there was no exodus, no Moses, no Red Sea. Abram left the Sun-god worship of Ur and the Canaanites from which emerged these shepherd people. These arguments are based on lack of Egyptian evidence of occupation etc, and Exodus. These question are raised based on what one expects regarding evidence.

I mean in the US you would have some problems finding some evidence from your civil war, putting it in a frame / a genuine story of what happened - that was 200 years ago > let alone thousands of years ago.

The reading below may help:

The vehicle in and through which this word of God is addressed is a story about Israel’s past. Yet no historiographical purposes or methods are evident, and the text makes no such claims for itself. The concern is not to reconstruct a history of this earlier period but to tell the story of a people in which God has been actively engaged. Nevertheless, the concern for “what really happened” has often occupied the attention of modern scholars. This task has been made difficult not only by the nature of the material but also by the fact that no extrabiblical sources document what the book narrates. It is a matter of reconstructing the history from dues of various sorts, both within and without the text.
Much remains uncertain in this reconstructive effort. There is some consensus that some of later Israel’s ancestors lived in Egypt for a time, as did other Semitic foreigners during the second millennium. Some linguistic influence is evident, seen, for example, in Moses’ Egyptian name. Construction activity by certain pharaohs in which slave labor was employed, particularly in the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries B.C., lends a certain plausibility to the Egyptian oppression of Israel (see 1:11). This suggests an early thirteenth century B.C. date for the exodus. Yet the times and places associated with the exodus or the wilderness wanderings or the Sinai event are all quite uncertain, occasioning much ongoing scholarly debate, but on the basis of little evidence (see at 14:1–18; 17:1–7; 19:1–8). It is probable that stories of a number of movements by various tribal groups have been integrated to form a single narrative (for a helpful survey of the issues, see Ramsey).
The end result, without going into detail, is that Exodus contains a very mixed set of materials from a historiographical perspective. While a nucleus is probably rooted in events of the period represented, the narratives also reflect what thoughtful Israelites over the course of nearly a millennium considered their meaning(s) to be. In such an ongoing reflective process, the writers no doubt used their imaginations freely (e.g., when they put forward the actual words of a conversation); in so doing, they believed they were doing justice to what they had inherited. It is also likely that the celebration of these events in Israel’s worship generated materials for these stories; liturgy has shaped literature (see at 12:1–28). Such a community valuing of these materials means that they have a continuing value quite apart from the question of “happenedness.” Even where the historiographer’s judgment may be quite negative, the material does not lose its potential value to speak a word of God across the centuries, in Israel’s time or ours.
A question often raised in this regard is, How important for faith is the happenedness of the reported events? To paraphrase the apostle Paul: If the exodus did not occur, was Israel’s faith in vain? A few interpreters would make no distinctions among biblical events; the happenedness of every event is crucial for faith. But most would say that certain biblical texts give us an innerbiblical warrant to make distinctions among events. So-called historical recitals are found throughout the Old Testament (e.g., Deut. 26:5–9; Josh. 24:2–13). Certain key events—for example, the exodus itself (in a general way, not in detail)—are isolated in these confessions. It would appear that such events are so specified because they are considered constitutive of the community and hence important for faith, while other events are not given such significance. As a constitutive event, the exodus is recognized as an event of such import that the community would not be what it is without its having occurred. Generally, the pervasiveness of the references to the exodus in the Old Testament would seem to constitute a warrant for such an understanding. The event so captured the imagination of Israel that it not only served to illuminate Israel’s most basic identity but also functioned as a prism for interpreting all of Israel’s subsequent history (e.g., Isa. 43:14–21; 51:9–11).

Fretheim, T. E. (1991). Exodus (pp. 8–10). Louisville, KY: John Knox Press.

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Thanks for the info. It will take me a bit but I’ll definitely go through it and looks at the verses and sources.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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