Psalm 97:7; Psalm 138:1 "the gods"

Ben Crick ben.crick at
Mon Oct 2 21:25:28 EDT 2000

On Mon  2 Oct 2000 (19:43:32), tmcos at wrote:
> My question although of a grammatical nature does bend however towards
> a  theological side. In Psalms 97:7 and 138:1 I notice that 'elohim' is
> translated in English in the plural as "gods", although in Hebrew it is a 
> 3rd person masculine plural noun. It is believed that the "gods" here
> is a reference to the angels. In Psalm 8:5, while the MT has 'elohim',
> and it is  translated "...made him [man] a little lower than God."
> (NASB), the LXX of Psalm 8:5 has 'anggelos', "angels". Obviously, the LXX
> compositors took 'elohim' in the MT to be the equivalent of "angels".
> In Psalm 97:7, "Worship Him, all you gods." (NASB) may appear as a 
> reference to the supremacy of YHWH over the "idols" that were worshipped as 
> gods. However, in Psalm 138:1, "I will sing praises  to Thee before the
>  gods."(NASB) is quite different.
>   Can anyone spare some light on this issue? Were the angels regarded as 
> "gods" and if so, would this not constitute polytheism, or at least 
> henotheism, which affirmed belief in one God without the exclusion of
> other gods?  Or does this confusion lie in the ambiguity of the various 
> meanings and translations of 'elohim'? I think Rolf Furili (I apologize if I
> have the name mispelled) commented on this subject a while back. Any comments
> would be appreciated.

 Dear Tony

 The angels are not regarded as gods; rather the gods are called 'angels' to
 deny them any illusion of deity.

 Psalm 8:5 is rendered in Hebrews 1:6 KAI PROSKUNHSATWSAN AUTWi PANTES AGGELOI
 QEOU, possibly from the LXX of Ps 8:5; or from the LXX of Deuteronomy 32:43
 which expands on the MT by adding this clause.

 In Psalm 97:7 Hi$:TaXa:Wu-LoW KoL-'e:LoHiYM is taken is indicative, not
 imperative, by some English versions such as RSV and NRSV. All the gods bow
 down and worship YHWH; compare the statue of Dagon which fell before the ark
 of YHWH (1 Samuel 5). The Psalmist is evidently unwilling to grant any real
 existence to the gods of the Babylonians (and others), which were mere idols
 made of wood or stone or metal and only existed in the minds of their
 mistaken worshippers. Ps 97:7 portrays the idolaters as dumbfounded by the
 impotence of their vaunted gods. There is a delicious pun on 'e:LiYLiYM and
 'e:LoHiYM. These 'e:loHiYM are nothing more than P:SaLiYM ... 'e:LiYLiYM.

 Jerome in the Vulgate uses /angeli/ as a sort of Qere' for 'eLoHiYM in the
 Vulgate, following the LXX. All rivals to YHWH, real or imaginary, must
 worship their Creator. So also in Psalms 95:3 and 96:4-5.

 Psalm 138:1 again sees Jerome substituting /angeli/ for 'e:LoHiYM, /in
 conspectu *angelorum* psallam tibi/, following the example of the LXX. The
 Targum renders /judges/, following the usage in Psalm 82:1, 6. The Syriac
 renders it /kings/, compare Psalm 119:46. Kings and judges in Israel were
 considered as representatives of God, reigning and judging in His Name.

 Revd Ben Crick, BA CF
 <ben.crick at>
 232 Canterbury Road, Birchington, Kent, CT7 9TD (UK)

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list