[b-hebrew] Fwd: Re: YHWH

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Fri Jul 29 00:22:00 EDT 2005

Dear all,

While Yitzhak is undoubtedly correct in saying that the earliest strands of
the Pentateuch seem to admit the existence of other gods, the authors could
have very well have been referring to the conception of the existence of
other gods. In other words, "there is only one God, but we know that a lot
of people believe that there are others - whether 'true' or not, the very
belief is a sin". Certainly, there is a strand (priestly?) that denies their
existence and claims that they are but "wood and stone". The Bible often
seems to claim that those who worship idols are fools, who think that "this
piece of wood created me". But we know, that this was not the case at all;
pagans never believed that the actual idol was a deity - the idol simply
represented the deity and helped the worshipper "focus" - just as ritual
objects do today, in many monotheistic faiths.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Yitzhak Sapir" <yitzhaksapir at gmail.com>
To: "Sujata" <shevaroys at yahoo.com>
Cc: "b-hebrew" <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Friday, July 29, 2005 4:50 AM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Fwd: Re: YHWH

> Sujata wrote:
> > Yigal, Yitzhak and others,
> > Gen 35:4
> > So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and
> > the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under
> > the oak at Shechem.
> >
> > ----It is obvious these gods were physical things that
> > can be given - i.e., idols
> Looking at each group of verses separately, I will point
> out that these verses do refer to something that can be
> given and buried, but do not necessarily assume that
> because they are physical, they are any less divine.
> Rather, the idea of "burial" is generally a religous rite
> that is applied to things that are very real.  Also, it does
> not say oak [ )allon ] but terebinth [ )elah ].  Note that
> terebinth (and perhaps also oak) appears to be related to
> the root )-L-H, ie, divine.  The root used for burial here is
> +mn as opposed to qbr.  This is used in Exodus 2:12 to
> refer to a human being buried (the Egyptian) but there it
> is probably used in the negative sense.  That may simply
> be because +mn is generally used for objects and so,
> when used for a human, it is negative.  In any case, the
> idea that idols were buried under a sacred tree appears to
> be a religious rite more than anything else, and seems to
> suggest the story does view other gods as real and not
> fake entities.  Also, it does not mean that all ")elohei
> nekar" were physical.  The verse said "And they gave
> to Jacob all the foreign gods that they held in their
> hands".  There could very well be other ")elohei nekar"
> that they did not hold because they were not physical.
> > Ex 20:23
> You mean, Exodus 20:2 - 3?
> > Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make
> > for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold.
> >
> > ---these gods are handmade, of metals
> That is a poor translation.  A more accurate translation (of 2-3)
> is: "You shall have no other gods alongside me.  Do not make
> a pesel, or any tmunah, of the heavens above and of the earth
> below and of the waters below the earth, don't bow to them nor
> serve them for I, Yahweh your God, is a Jealous God."
> Note that there is no "make" in the first sentence nor "silver" or
> "gold" in the second.  This would appear to imply that the
> prohibition of having other gods is one thing, and refers to
> personal beliefs, while the prohibition of making idols is
> another and refers to making representations.  One could
> have other gods and not have idols and still transgress.  And no
> matter how the verse is taken, there is no statement here that
> those other gods are any less real.  In fact, the word "jealous"
> appears to suggest that those gods are real entities comparable
> to God, himself.
> > Ex 23:24
> > Do not bow down before their gods or worship them or
> > follow their practices. You must demolish them and
> > break their sacred stones to pieces.
> >
> > ---these gods could be broken to pieces
> First, it is the sacred stones that could be broken into
> pieces.  However, "demolish" is used in reference to
> "their gods" and this is a strong indication that this
> verse (of the three you have cited) that the "foreign
> gods" are physical.  It still does not mean, however,
> that the verse views them as fake being or non-existent
> beings.  Perhaps representations of other gods must
> be demolished to lessen the control those other gods
> had over the land and give the land from the power of
> those gods to the power of Yahweh.  Here, since there
> are no special prior feelings towards those other gods
> they could destroy them and had no need to perform a
> religious rite like burial.
> > It is obvious then that these other gods referred to
> > in Gen and Ex are idols and man-made stuff.
> Like I said, these are mostly explanations of how to
> act upon man-made objects, and in some cases appears
> to allow for "elohei nekar" to include other non-man
> made objects. It takes additional work to argue that
> these objects represent fake beings, and just because,
> say, Psalm 115 says it, does not mean other verses in
> the Bible necessarily were written with the same idea in
> mind.
> Be well,
> Yitzhak Sapir
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