According to most English translations of Genesis, the serpent tells Eve that when she and Adam eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they will become “like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:5; cf. ASV, CEB, ESV, NASB, NIV). Yet there is contextual evidence to suggest that the snake’s statement does not to refer to a single “God,” but to multiple “gods”—an indication of a foundational point of ancient Israelite theology: the existence of many deities in the heavenly realm. While the Eden narrative reflects a multiplicity of gods, it also affirms that the one God of Israel is the sole Creator whose status far exceeds that of any other divine being.
In Hebrew, the word for Israel’s “God” is אלהים (Elohim). However, the term is a dual construction that can also be read as plural “gods.” Often, the only determining factor as to the correct rendering is the biblical context. In most translations, the serpent tells Eve, “For God (אלהים) knows that on the day you eat from [the fruit] your eyes will be opened, and you will become like God (אלהים), knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:5). It would be understandable for English readers to conclude that since the first use of אלהים refers to the one God, the second use should be read in the same way (as most translations have it).
However, there are two contextual clues to suggest that the primordial pair will become like “gods.” The first is only visible in the original Hebrew: when the snake says, “you eat” (אכלכם), “your eyes will be opened” (ונפקחו עיניכם), and “you will become” (והייתם), the serpent speaks in the plural, addressing both Adam and Eve. Therefore, the meaning of the statement should be that the two people will become like two “gods” rather than the one God. Second, after the couple eat the fruit, God declares, “Behold, the human has become like one of us (כאחד ממנו; k’echad mimmenu), knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:22). The divine statement about humans becoming like “us” once after "knowing good and evil" echoes the snake’s statement about Adam and Eve “knowing good and evil” after they eat the fruit (Gen 3:5). Therefore, the serpent must be referring to multiple “gods.”
This is not the first time that Genesis speaks of several gods. When God resolves to create humanity, the text says, “Let us make humanity in our image, according to our likeness” (Gen 1:26). Already in Genesis 1, Scripture affirms the existence of multiple deities. Yet these other heavenly beings do not engage in the creation of human beings (or any other creative act in Genesis 1); instead, the Bible states that "God (אלהים) created humanity in his image” (Gen 1:27). The Hebrew for “created” (ברא; bara) is singular, which means that only one God is the Creator of humanity. This shift in number is one of many ways that Scripture shows the superiority of Israel’s God as the only deity worthy of worship.