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Olavarria

Ancient Israelite Beliefs: Did God Have A Wife? Were Israelites Polytheistic?

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The answer is No. The presenter makes two basic (and obvious) mistakes. Firstly, her assertion that the Bible presents the ancient Israelites as being for the most part “monotheistic,” apart from “occasional lapses,” is manifestly false. The Bible makes no such claim. On the contrary, the Bible paints a picture of Israelites who were commanded to be monotheistic, but for the most part lapsed into the idolatrous practices of their Canaanite neighbours. For example, when Elijah was fleeing from the Idolatrous Isralites who were trying to kill him, the following exchanges takes place between him and God:

1 Kings 19
:

13 . . . And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?

14 And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

15 And the Lord said unto him, . . .

18 Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

In other words, the vast majority of the Israelites had turned to Idolatry; but there were a small number who hadn’t. And that pattern runs through most of Israelite history. Here are some more typical verses:

Joshua 24
:

14 Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord.

Judges 2
:

12 And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger.

1 Kings 9
:

9 And they shall answer, Because they forsook the Lord their God, who brought forth their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and have taken hold upon other gods, and have worshipped them, and served them: therefore hath the Lord brought upon them all this evil.

So her claim that the Bible portrayes the Israelites as a people who for the most part practiced monotheism is not true.

Secondly, her claim that the El was the name of a Canaanite God, who is also the God of the Israelites mentioned in the Bible, thus proving that the Israelites also worshipped a Canaanite God is also false. El is a generic name for God, in the same way that a Hindu and a Jew may talk about “God,” and understand each other without each compromising their respective beliefs. Her claim that El was also a “personal” name for the Canaanite God is based on a flimsy argument. Her sole proof thext for that is Exodus 6:3, which was corrected by Joseph Smith as follows (italics words added):

Exodus 6
:

3 And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob,
by the name of
God [El] Almighty,
but by my name
JEHOVAH
was I not known to them
.

JST Exodus 6
:

3 And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob.
I am the Lord
God [El] Almighty;
the Lord
JEHOVAH.
And was not my name
known
unto
them?

I am sure she wouldn’t accept the Joseph Smith Translation; but we as Latter-day Saints do (at least I do), and that settles it as far as I am concerned.

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Retroactive scribal assertions by Deuteronomist redactors blaming the sins of non-elites for the exile do not a true doctrine make. Genesis makes no distinction between the religion of Israel and that of her neighbors. The Jewish Study Bible notes: "The universalism that marked Genesis chapters 1-11 having now failed, the Lord begins anew, singling out one Mesopotamian - in no way distinguished from his peers as yet - and promising to make of him a great nation, not numbered in the seventy nations of chapter 10."

Note that according to the Adamic tradition (which is itself fallible and probably late), all the earth, before this time, had the same "religion". It wasn't a set of abstract philosophical-doctrinal beliefs about the nature of God, it was a common story of origin, which included multiple deities. The Lord is acting on behalf of the Divine Council from Genesis, the "Us" which are like "male and female" humans on earth except in that they are more knowledgeable because they know good from evil, whereas humans have yet to be tested. Lady Wisdom was coeval with God, watching Her children since before the foundation of the world. (Proverbs 8, etc.)

Abram's religion is therefore not "separate" from Canaanite or Akkadian or Egyptian or any other land's religion, all of whom have "holy men ye know not of" (D&C 49:8); he is not "the first monotheist" as the late extrabiblical interpretation never tires of telling us - he simply does not conform to Hellenized philosophical ideals of who the Unmoved Mover is. Presumably, all human cultures since "before the foundation of the world" (Ephesians 1:4) have (at least) bits and pieces of the exact same story, in various states of disrepair according to how well they preserved the cultural memory as their civilizations diffused outward, which makes the similarities between religious cultures and forms and symbolism completely unsurprising. Indeed, we are told that the testimony of two nations will run together to persuade people of the truth; this is not mere syncretism, this is the recovery of lost truths.

Of course God has a wife. :)

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