Yahweh vs. the “gods” {TKO}

“And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

Colossians 2:15 — Berean Study Bible

The supernatural battle between Yahweh and the gods of the nations lasted for over 1,000 years before Messiah would come into the world in the fullness of time. The children of Israel historically were prone to wander away from Yahweh and whore after rival gods, spiritually prostituting themselves in the worst forms of immorality and idolatry. The overall record of the kings in both Israel and Judah proved to be one of perpetual rebellion, forcing God to judge His own people.

In response to their spiritual apostasy, the LORD withdrew His blessing and protection from the northern Kingdom of Israel and eventually gave them over to the Assyrians in 722 B.C. The fall of Samaria and exile of Israel was a disastrous blow to God’s people and a significant counter-punch by the pagan gods. But it wouldn’t be the last.

“In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes. And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods … And they abandoned all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made for themselves metal images of two calves; and they made an Asherah and worshiped all the host of heaven and served Baal. And they burned their sons and their daughters as offerings and used divination and omens and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger. Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight. None was left but the tribe of Judah only.”

2 Kings 17:6-7, 16-18

Although the southern Kingdom of Judah would last another 135 years, it too would eventually be given over to the king of Babylon in 586 B.C. for serving rival gods. This time, the gods of Babylon delivered what seemed to be the final blow to God’s people by laying siege to Jerusalem and destroying the Temple of Yahweh.

“Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the LORD … therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, and in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your fathers, as I did to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of my sight, as I cast out all your kinsmen, all the offspring of Ephraim.”

Jeremiah 7:8-11, 14-15

The people and land of Israel would never be the same. Although Cyrus, King of Persia, allowed a remnant to return to the land and rebuild under Ezra and Nehemiah, rival nations (and their “gods”) retained control over Jerusalem and the Promised Land. Israel had broken faith with Yahweh and ultimately had failed to be a light to the Gentiles. Instead, God’s people had plunged into spiritual darkness for serving the gods of the Gentiles.

But none of this would take God by surprise. His eternal plan of redemption was well in motion. Yahweh knew that the only way He could defeat the gods of the nations was to do it Himself. The only way to redeem a people for His own possession from every nation would be to step into spacetime and shine His light to overcome the darkness. Enter Yeshua — Yahweh in human form.

The Triumph of Jesus — the Son of God

Jesus Christ was born of the tribe of Judah in the land of Israel just as predicted by the prophets. The Son of God entered the world at ground zero — Israel — the spiritual epicenter on earth. His mission included bearing witness to the good news salvation, shining light into the spiritual darkness, confronting the supernatural forces of evil, demonstrating miraculous power, and setting captives free from bondage.

And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?”

Matthew 8:28-29

Make no mistake. The gods of this age — the rulers, principalities and powers of darkness in the heavenly places — were on heightened alert. The Unique Son of God had done the unthinkable. The Immortal God had taken on mortality by becoming a man. The devil and his angels finally had their chance to kill the Son of God once and for all and put an end to Yahweh’s reign on earth.

As the evil plan transpired, it seemed too good to be true. Satan and his demonic forces initiated a conspiracy among Israel’s leaders, seduced Judas to betray Jesus, manipulated Pilate to give in to political pressure, and convinced the crowds to cry for blood. Their sinister plan was actually working. The Son of God would be nailed to the cross and die like any man.

The gods of this world had won. The Son of God was dead. It was over … or so they thought.

Instead of putting an end to God’s eternal plan of redemption and claiming victory over the Son of God, the gods of this world were actually fulfilling God’s predetermined will and contributing to their own demise and defeat! Even the rulers of this age never could have imagined a scenario where they would be defeated by death itself.

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 

But, as it is written,“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”

2 Corinthians 2:6-9

The cross wasn’t the tragedy of God’s Son. It was His triumph! Jesus disarmed the rulers through his death, burial and resurrection [Colossians 2:13-15]. He made a public spectacle of them!

Then Jesus went and proclaimed victory over the “spirits” in prison — the angels who had sinned in rebellion during the days of Noah [see 1 Peter 3:18-22, Genesis 6:1-5].

Then the right hook of the resurrection caught the gods of this world squarely in the mouth, proving that Jesus was indeed the Great Conquering King who was given authority over the nations to rule them with a rod of iron.

After showing Himself to many witnesses and commissioning His disciples to go in His unparalleled authority and power, He ascended into heaven to take His place at the right hand of God — the most preeminent and powerful place in the universe. Consider how Paul speaks of this triumph.

“That he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

Ephesians 1:20-23

And He commanded His followers — the church — to walk and work and witness in His authority and make disciples of all nations until He returns! In other words, the Lord Jesus has enlisted us in the supernatural battle of the ages to go and reclaim the nations through the power of the gospel for the glory of God.

The Day of the LORD — The Final Knockout Punch

Jesus called this age the “times of the Gentiles” [Luke 21:24], and the Apostle Paul says that the Day of the LORD will not come until the fullness of the Gentiles is complete [Romans 11:25-26]. The Great Commission of the Lord Jesus is the redemptive reclamation of the Gentile nations into the covenant community of faith. In His mercy, God is delivering millions upon millions of Gentiles out of the death grip of the gods and rulers of this world.

Once the full number of Gentiles has come into the kingdom of God, then the LORD will return from heaven to deliver the final knockout punch to the gods of the nations. The prophets all speak of the Day when the nations will invade the Beautiful Land and converge around Jerusalem in one last futile attempt to destroy God’s people.

The Day of the LORD will be the battle of the ages and the deathblow to the kingdom of darkness.

At this moment, King Yeshua will come down from heaven and strike the nations with the sword of His mouth and tread the winepress of the wrath of God. But the Day of the LORD will not only include the judgment of the wicked human kings and armies in alliance with Antichrist, but also will involve the final judgment of the supernatural gods of the nations who are at work behind them.

Isaiah makes this clear.

“On that day the LORD will punish
the host of heaven, in heaven,
and the kings of the earth, on the earth.
They will be gathered together
as prisoners in a pit;
they will be shut up in a prison,
and after many days they will be punished.”

Isaiah 24:21-22

At the same time that the LORD returns to kill the Antichrist and the False Prophet [Revelation 19], He will kill the gods so that they die like men.

 I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”

Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for you shall inherit all the nations!

Psalm 82:6-8

Even so … Lord Jesus. Come Quickly.

Yahweh vs. the “gods” {Round 3}

“The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. And they forsook the LORD and did not serve him.”

Judges 10:6

In rounds one and two of this series, I established the true nature of the gods of the Old Testament, including their origin, rebellion, and operation as the spiritual principalities and powers behind pagan idolatry in all the nations of the world.

One of the primary themes and theological threads running through the Old Testament involves the real spiritual battle between Yahweh — the LORD God of Israel — and the gods of the nations. We discovered that the Most High divided up the nations for their rebellion at Babel and effectively disinherited them by giving them over to the authority of the sons of God [Deuteronomy 32:8-9].

Instead of ruling the nations justly according to the will of God, however, these rebellious sons of God desired glory for themselves and led the nations away from the One True God into spiritual darkness and idolatry. Psalm 82 provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at God’s disapproval of His divine sons — the gods of the nations.

God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
2“How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
3Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
4Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

5They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

6I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;
7nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.

8Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for you shall inherit all the nations!

Psalm 82

Shortly after Yahweh disinherited the nations at Babel, He decided to create a nation for Himself — a people for His own possession — so He called one man out of ancient Mesopotamia and entered into a covenant relationship with him and his descendants. The man’s name … Abraham.

Interestingly enough, Abraham was born into a family of idolaters who worshipped and served the gods of ancient Babylon in Ur of the Chaldeans.

And Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Long ago your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the Euphrates and worshiped other gods. But I took your father Abraham from beyond the Euphrates and led him through all the land of Canaan, and I multiplied his descendants. I gave him Isaac.”

Joshua 24:2-3

When the LORD showed Abraham the land of Canaan — the coveted Promised Land — He gave it to him and his descendants after him as a possession [Genesis 15]. Yet even Abraham believed God’s promise from afar. Receiving no inheritance in the land himself, Abraham — the man of faith — died believing the LORD would make good on His word [Acts 7:5]. Over 400 years would pass before Abraham’s descendants — the children of Israel — would receive their homeland from God.

Generations later, when the LORD appeared to Moses out of the burning bush at Horeb, He promised to redeem the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt, fulfilling the covenant He had made with Abraham.

“I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.”

Exodus 6:7-8

When the LORD resolved to redeem His people from Egypt with signs and mighty wonders, He delivered a crushing defeat — not just to Pharaoh — but more specifically to the gods of Egypt. The Exodus was the first strategic blow in the supernatural fight between Yahweh and the gods of the nations.

The gods of Egypt

“Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?”

Exodus 15:11

After the children of Israel passed safely through the sea and witnessed the drowning of Pharaoh’s army at the hand of the LORD, they broke out into song, praising the LORD God of Israel. The Israelites understood the significance of the supernatural victory over the gods of Egypt. Consider what Yahweh said that very first Passover night.

“For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD.”

Exodus 12:12

The Hebrews hardly could be considered a warrior tribe and were by no means equipped to do battle without the LORD’s intervention and supernatural protection. Moses had to remind the people that Yahweh would do the fighting for them. He was the Warrior in their midst.

And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

Exodus 14:13-14

When one examines the 10 plagues sent upon Egypt, he will discover that each plague was designed to demonstrate Yahweh’s superiority over the primary Egyptian deities. Even Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, recognized the supernatural component of God’s victory over Egypt.

“Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods, because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people.”

Exodus 18:11

Tragically, the first generation of Israelites who entered into covenant with the LORD at Sinai committed the worst kind of spiritual adultery in the face of God by bowing down to the golden calf — the image of one of Egypt’s primary gods. Hence, the pattern of idolatry was established, and despite God’s warning, it would epitomize Israel for generations to come.

“Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the LORD our God to go and serve the gods of those nations … all the nations will say, ‘Why has the LORDdone thus to this land? What caused the heat of this great anger?’ Then people will say, ‘It is because they abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt, and went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods whom they had not known and whom he had not allotted to them.”

Deuteronomy 29:18, 24-26

The gods of Canaan

Once the children of Israel finally were given the permission by the LORD to take possession of the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua, the supernatural war with the gods intensified. The LORD again fought for Israel during the conquest of Canaan, delivering one defeat after another to the pagan nations dwelling in the land. These nations [i.e. Canaanites, Amorites etc…] were steeped in idolatry, characterized by the worst forms of ritual worship, such as cult prostitution and child sacrifice.

But in just one generation after Joshua, Israel turned away from the LORD to worship these gods. As the historical narrative of Israel unfolds, several Canaanite gods begin to emerge as arch rivals to Yahweh.

  • Baal — meaning “lord,” was the chief god of the Canaanites and became a snare in the side of Israel for generations.
  • Asherah — the primary cult goddess in Canaan and the consort of Baal.
  • Molech — chief god of the Ammonites and Moabites, who demanded child sacrifice.

For a more comprehensive list of the “gods” of Canaan, feel free to check out this short article here, but for sake of time, I will only highlight a few memorable encounters.

Most of us are familiar with Elijah’s showdown on Mount Carmel with the 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah. This was a classic battle between Yahweh and the gods, where the God of Israel once again proved His supremacy.

And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Yahweh, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37Answer me, O Yahweh, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Yahweh, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38Then the fire of Yahweh fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “Yahweh, he is God; Yahweh, he is God.” 40And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.

1 Kings 18:36-40

The LORD again showed His power over the gods of Assyria during the invasion of King Sennacherib in the days of Hezekiah, king of Judah. The Assyrian generals arrogantly taunted the God of Israel, not knowing He would respond.

And do not listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you by saying, “The LORD will deliver us.” Has any of the gods of the nations ever delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?’

2 Kings 18:32-35

That night, the LORD proved once again He alone was the One True God.

“And that night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh. And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword and escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place.”

2 Kings 19:35-37

Next time, I will show how the LORD delivered the first blow of a 1-2 knockout punch against the gods and how He will deliver the final blow on the Day of the LORD.

Yahweh vs. the “gods” — {Round 2}

“They provoked His jealousy with foreign gods; they enraged Him with abominations. They sacrificed to demons, not to God, to gods they had not known, to newly arrived gods, which your fathers did not fear.”

Deuteronomy 32:16-17

In my last post, I laid down groundwork concerning the real nature of the “gods” of the Old Testament. When the LORD forbade the children of Israel to worship other gods, He was not protecting them from imaginary beings or man-made idols. The One True God [Elohim] — Yahweh — was reminding Israel of His exclusive and unique status as King and Creator of the universe, while at the same time warning His people of the dangers of turning away from Him to worship and serve the lesser gods [elohim] of the nations. Nothing is more grievous to the LORD than when His people commit spiritual apostasy.

But if these “gods” are real, spiritual entities who have declared war against Yahweh and desire to be worshiped above Yahweh, then who are they and from where did they come?

The Origin of the gods

“When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God.”

Deuteronomy 32:8

There exists only One True God and Creator of the universe — the Most High — who has no beginning and no end. He is the LORD — Yahweh — and He has revealed Himself to mankind in the Person of Jesus Christ — God the Son — who created all things in heaven and on earth, both visible or invisible, whether “thrones, dominions, rulers or authorities” [Colossians 1:16].

These ancient, cosmic “rulers,” or divine princes, were created by Yahweh as part of what the Bible calls the heavenly host. In their original state, these were the spiritual “sons of God” who were created to worship and serve Yahweh and tasked with executing His will in heaven [see Job 2:1, 38:4-7, Psalm 29:1, 89:5-8].

The origin of the “gods,” therefore, is the God of gods — Yahweh — the Creator. For He created the heavenly host.

“You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.”

Nehemiah 9:6

Although there are myriads of these spiritual sons of God who have remained loyal to Yahweh and continue to serve Him, the Bible reveals that a considerable number of the “heavenly host” made a willing choice to rebel, committing high treason in heaven, and declaring themselves enemies of the Most High. Without going into detail, I am of the persuasion that at least three divine rebellions can be accounted for in Scriptures, including the Serpent in Genesis 3, the sons of God in Genesis 6, and a subsequent defection at the tower of Babel [Genesis 10-11, Deuteronomy 32:8-9].

For this post, I will focus on the Babel incident as being the primary point of origin for the “gods” of the nations.

The Host of Heaven

God’s judgment of the nations at Babel is often overlooked, but it is critical to understanding the Old Testament theme of Yahweh verses the gods. What we discover in Deuteronomy 32:8-9 is that when the LORD confused the languages of mankind and created the boundaries of the nations on earth, He also gave the nations their “inheritance.”

What was their inheritance? The nations were divided up according to the number of the sons of God and handed over to their power and authority. In other words, the nations got what they had sought after and asked for at Babel — other gods. In judgment, the Most High disinherited the nations and gave them over to these gods.

These divine princes were seditious and proved to be disloyal to Yahweh — traitors to the throne, and therefore they assumed the role as territorial spirits — the evil principalities and powers behind the deception and oppression of the nations [Ephesians 6:12].

The tower of Babel was never an attempt to build a skyscraper into outer space, but rather it was an ancient temple complex that was astronomically aligned to summon the “gods” to come down from heaven and inhabit and energize that dedicated space. This is why Babel was the epitome of idolatry and pure blasphemy. It was man’s attempt to worship and serve other gods and create a counter kingdom on earth.

Along with human sacrifice, astrology was one of the universal characteristics of every single pagan nation that emerged after the tower of Babel. There has always been a connection with pagan idolatry and astrology — which included the worship of the celestial gods represented by the sun, moon, and stars and also the practice of divination through interpreting the signs in the heavens.

All ancient cultures — from Egypt, Babylon, India, Scandinavia, to the native tribes of the Americas — were steeped in astrology and the worship of the heavenly host. This is why the LORD strictly forbade His people to participate in astrology and divination. God doesn’t prohibit these practices because they are harmless but because they are so real and dangerous.

“And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the nations under the whole heaven.”

Deuteronomy 4:19

“If there is found among you, within any of your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, in transgressing his covenant, and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden, and it is told you and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently, and if it is true and certain that such an abomination has been done in Israel, then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones.”

Deuteronomy 17:2-5

What about Idols?

One of the most common objections to the existence of other gods is the argument that the Bible regards them as mere idols — graven images of wood, stone, or metal crafted by men. The prophets of Israel would often ridicule the nations for bowing down to such idols made with human hands and at the same time condemn the children of Israel for doing the same. Consider Isaiah’s words.

Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”

Isaiah 44:15-17

Moses also drew some correlation between idols and the “gods” of the nations.

“And the LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known.”

Deuteronomy 28:64

So do these passages prove that the “gods” of the Old Testament were merely idols?

The short answer is a resounding NO, but to shed some perspective it is imperative that we have an accurate understanding about how the ancients themselves would have associated graven images and the spirits that were believed to inhabit them.

As we have seen, the Scriptures draw a clear distinction between the physical idols and the gods that they represented. This doesn’t mean that some ancient pagans still could have ignorantly assigned some divine status to the idols and identified the graven images with the “gods” themselves. Much like Catholic relics during the Dark Ages were given divine status to some degree by ignorant Christians who wished to “see and touch” an object that had some supernatural power, pagan ritual worship was often reduced to the graven image available at the time.

Hebrew scholar and author Michael Heiser speaks to this ancient phenomenon in his book, The Unseen Realm.

“Ancient people did not believe that their gods were actually images stone or wood … What ancient idol worshippers believed was that the objects they made were inhabited by their gods. This is why they performed ceremonies to ‘open the mouth’ of the statue. The mouth (and nostrils) had to be ritually opened for the spirit of the deity to move in and occupy, a notion inspired by the idea that one needs to breathe to live. The idol had to be animated with the very real spiritual presence of the deity. Once that was done, the entity was localized for worship and bargaining.”

Michael Heiser, Unseen Realm, p. 35-36.

The Apostle Paul reinforces this ancient understanding of idolatry in his letter to the church in Corinth, which was immersed in the Greek culture of pagan idolatry. Although the idols in and of themselves were mere inanimate objects, the demonic powers behind them were all too real.

Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

1 Corinthians 8:4-6

What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

1 Corinthians 10:19-22

Clearly Paul regarded pagan idolatry as communion with real. spiritual entities, he called demons. These same demons are the heathen gods of the nations and are a real threat to mankind.

Next time I will begin identifying many of the specific gods of the Old Testament and suggest that they are still at work today, misleading millions of unsuspecting people down the wide path of death and destruction.

Yahweh vs. the “gods” — {Round 1}

“You shall have no other gods before me.”

Exodus 20:3

I studied the Bible intently for many years, completed a seminary degree, sat under excellent teaching, planted a church, and preached hundreds of sermons before I ever learned the true identity of the “gods” of the Old Testament. Looking back, especially knowing now what I didn’t know then, it baffles me that the church overwhelmingly has misinterpreted and ignored one of the most significant themes in all of Scripture.

Yahweh vs. the “gods” of the nations

Like me, the majority of Christians reading through the Old Testament almost certainly have never been taught how to interpret the real nature of the “gods” through Biblical lenses. Unfortunately, whenever the term “gods” — Hebrew elohim — is mentioned in Scripture, our minds have been preconditioned to automatically categorize them one of two ways.

  1. The false gods of the nations aren’t real, spiritual beings, but rather figments of the human imagination.
  2. The gods of the Old Testament are just man-made idols of wood, stone, or metal, and therefore no real threat to God and His people.

If this is what you have always believed about these “gods,” then I only ask you to keep an open mind and consider what the Bible really says on this critical topic.

The LORD is One

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”

Deuteronomy 6:4

Monotheism — or the worship of One God — is foundational to the Judeo-Christian worldview. Belief in the One True God is essential to our faith and is one of the core doctrines that must never be compromised.

The unique nature of Yahweh — the LORD GOD — becomes even more clearly expressed when compared and contrasted against the backdrop of pagan idolatry and historical polytheism — or the belief and worship of many gods. Whereas the pagan nations traditionally have worshiped a pantheon of other gods, the God of the Bible has distinguished Himself as both Creator and Lord over all in heaven and earth. As the One True God, Yahweh expects total allegiance and exclusive worship.

How should we understand monotheism in light of this reality, however?

When we affirm that there is only One God and Creator of the universe, does that mean that we must automatically eliminate the possibility of the existence of other “gods,” or can we interpret monotheism in a different way? In other words, is the existence of Yahweh — the Most High God – mutually exclusive with other gods?

“To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him … know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.”

Deuteronomy 4:35, 39

For example, when the Bible speaks of Yahweh in terms of being the “only” God, or that there is “no other” god besides Him, are we supposed to interpret such terms in a strict sense, meaning that Yahweh is all by Himself in the heavens? Or should we understand such phrases through the lenses of comparative language?

Strict monotheism doesn’t allow for the existence of other gods because doing so might in some way degrade or trivialize the unique and exclusive nature of the God of the Bible. What I have discovered, however, is that Biblical monotheism is not strict in that sense. Not only does the Bible allow for the existence of other “gods,” but also the Biblical narrative becomes incoherent unless the gods of the nations are indeed real, spiritual entities.

You Shall Have No Other gods

When it comes to Scripture, it doesn’t get more basic than the 10 Commandments. Interestingly enough, the LORD’s very first commandment to His people was the strict prohibition against serving and worshiping other “gods,” or elohim. By placing this commandment at the top of the list, the God of Israel clearly established precedent and priority in regard to His relationship with His people. He expected believing loyalty and total fidelity from the children of Israel. Nothing less.

Now notice a few critical components about this commandment. First, the LORD refers to “gods,” not idols. Granted, there is a Biblical connection between graven images and the gods of the Old Testament [i.e. the 2nd Commandment], and I will spend considerable time on the relationship between the two later, but for now, I believe it is imperative that we take the commandments one at a time.

Again, the Hebrew word used here is elohim, which is significant because elohim always refers to real, spiritual beings. Even Yahweh Himself is called God — Elohim — well over 2,000 times in the Old Testament. Yahweh is a spirit, an Elohim, and there are many other elohim in the spirit realm. However, no other elohim is Yahweh. He is unique.

Consider the following Scriptures that contrast Yahweh with lesser gods.

“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.”

Deuteronomy 10:17

“For You, O LORD, are Most High over all the earth; You are exalted far above all gods.”

Psalm 97:9

Now I would like to ask a critical question at this time.

If the First Commandment is to be taken seriously, why would the LORD GOD of Israel strictly forbid the worship of other gods if they didn’t exist? Why would other gods even be considered a legitimate alternative to Yahweh if they were merely figments of the imagination? Why would the LORD place such high priority on warning Israel about turning to other gods if they weren’t real?

I think we know the answer. It is absurd to think that the LORD would place so much emphasis on beings that don’t exist!

The truth is that these other “gods” indeed are real and pose a legitimate threat both to the purposes and people of God. These gods are responsible for leading the nations into generational idolatry and spiritual depravity of the worst kind and continue to manipulate millions to this day. This is why the cosmic mission of Jesus is so inextricably bound to His earthy mission. Christ came to redeem for Himself a people for His own possession from every “nation,” which means saving them from grasp of the gods!

As we will see next time, the Biblical story of redemption cannot be told without an accurate view of this epic battle between Yahweh and the gods of the nations, and the deeper we dig into the Scriptures, the more we will discover about the true identity of these hostile gods who continue to wage war against the Most High.