On the cusp of Canaan, Moses reminds the Israelites that they “know that the Lord is God; besides him there is no other” (Deut 4:35). Yet just a few verses beforehand, Moses asks, “Which other nation is so great as to have its gods (אלהים; elohim) so close to it, as the Lord our God is whenever we call upon him?” (4:7). This question not only seems to affirm the existence of other national deities besides Israel’s God, but it also aligns with many other biblical texts that also reflect a multiplicity of gods [for specific verses, click on each of the blue links]. But if these other gods exist, how can it also be true that besides the Lord “there is no other”? The answer lies in the precise meaning of the Hebrew phrase אין עוד (ein ‘od): “There is no other.” Rather than meaning “there is no other in existence,” the Hebrew means that “there is no other as great.”

Isaiah reuses Deuteronomy’s dictum several times. For instance, God declares through the prophet, “I am the Lord, and there is no other (אין עוד; ein ‘od)…. There is none besides me (אפס בלעדי; ephes biladi). I am (אני; ani) the Lord, and there is no other (אין עוד)” (Isa 45:5-6; cf. 45:14, 21; cf. Mk 12:32). At first glance, such declarations appear to assert that no other gods exist except for the one God of Israel. However, Isaiah’s language does not preclude others’ existence; rather, it highlights one’s superiority over other contenders. Speaking of Babylon, Isaiah states, “You said, ‘No one sees me.’ Your wisdom and knowledge led you astray; you said in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no other (אני ואפסי עוד; ani v’aphsi ‘od)” (47:10). Isaiah is not suggesting that Babylon was the only nation in existence, but rather that Babylon thought of itself as superior to the other nations. Similarly, when Isaiah uses the same terminology of God, the text exalts the Lord above all other gods.

Zephaniah echoes Isaiah with reference to Nineveh: “This is the exultant city that lived securely, that said in her heart, ‘I am, and there is no other’ (אני ואפסי עוד; ani v’aphsi ‘od)” (Zeph 2:15a). The prophet does not mean that no other cities exist apart from Nineveh, but rather that the Ninevites saw themselves as superior to all others. Indeed, the latter half of this same verse confirms that other people exist apart from the Ninevites: “What a desolation [Nineveh] has become, a den for wild beasts. Everyone who passes by her hisses and shakes their fists” (2:15b). Zephaniah explicates that other cities exist apart from Nineveh, and that the inhabitants of those cities will mock the Assyrian capital after its demise.

Therefore, in the original Hebrew context, “there is no other” does not mean that nothing else exists; instead, the phrase denotes the superiority of one entity over the others. More simply, it’s a matter of quality, not quantity. When Moses or Isaiah or Zephaniah assert of their God that “there is no other,” they underscore the fact that the God of Israel is the best of all gods, and the only one worthy of worship.

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  1. Gal 4:8 Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. Prior to conversion the Galatians, in their ignorance of the one true God, were in bondage to false gods/devils (not deities) such as Zeus and Hermes (cf. Acts 14:11-13).

  2. As for ““Who is like You among the gods, O LORD?” (NASB, Ex. 15:11)”, a Hebrew just leaving the land in which polytheism attained its highest development, the ‘gods’ of the Egyptians are evil angels represented by gigantic statues + temples of incomparable grandeur = objects of the Egyptians’ idolatry.

    • Could be the case for Exod 15:11, though the above article doesn’t mention the verse. Please try to limit comments to text(s) addressed in the articles. More, these discussion boards are not forums for readers to write lengthy treatises — hence the purposeful word limits. If you wish to have a fuller dialogue, please feel free to email me (contact info is on the IBC website). However, please discontinue appending “cont…” to several successive comments; our tech team will delete them so that our site does not get slowed down.

    • See my comment above. If all commenters posted 20 successive comments each time they posted, our site would cease to run with any level of rapidity. Thanks for your understanding.

      • It was around 12 or less. Too bad my other replies of disagreement w/ your position were removed, for i truly ensured to do quality Acts 17 Berean exegesis showing why the verses you cite have more to do w/ civil magistrates and evil angels which neither are lesser deities.

        • Lazzaro, at IBC we strive to serve our students, first and foremost. Many people come here because they are merely curious; others want to learn and make a commitment to study with us. I have observed a number of your comments and it seems to me that you come to argue, to dispute and to repudiate the perspectives we offer. Please, by all means, create your own platform for advancing your own ideas and teachings, for proving us (and everyone else) wrong. Rigorous and honest debate is healthy, but article comments were not designed for such activity. We are academics, so we are glad to interact with those who wish to question our ideas, but there is a reasonable limit to how much effort we are willing to devote to this. You can post dozens of comments per hour, but we will not allow anyone to highjack this website for their own agenda.

  3. I am wondering if the whole statement really means: “There are no other gods except those that are created by man?” That really seems more logical and in context with the Bible has been telling us all along.

    • Thanks for your comment, Steve. Isaiah certainly has negative things to say about idols of other gods being created by people, and the prophet mocks idol makers in light of God’s transcendence. At the same time, the “lesser gods” in the divine entourage exist before humanity is created (cf. Gen 1:26; Job 38:7); according to biblical theology, a multiplicity of deities exists apart from the human proclivity to create objects of worship.

  4. Thank you so much for posting this. This question is something I have been grappling with. Whether the gods were demonic manifestations or not it seems to me that the Hebrews had the mindset of the ANE that other gods existed but Yahweh was greater.

    • I’m glad you found the article helpful, Andre. I affirm your assessment of Hebrew theology in the context of other ANE theology. It’s something called “henotheism” — the belief that many gods exist, but that (in the case of the Israelites) the God of Israel is greater than all others.

  5. Most Americans would not agree with you as they do not comprehend/recognize a spiritual dimension and that is why the churches are as defeated as they are because they do not know how to use the weapons of spiritual warfare that God has given them. Ephesians 6:12 should be memorized by all believers so they comprehend where everyday struggles originate. Good teaching my brother

    • Thanks for reading, Jay. Certainly, the notions of spiritual warfare and a diversity of actors in the heavenly realm are prominent throughout Ephesians. I also agree that, for a variety of reasons, modern western teaching has downplayed these dynamics.

  6. The Apostle Paul uses the same approach when dealing with Athenians who had many Gods including one unknown one to them.

  7. Lazzaro. Perhaps you should reconsider your thinking on these issues, not just go with the standard fundamentalist position re demons and angels. Look up the idea of the Divine Council, Michael S. Heiser is a good starting point.

  8. When I read this, my interpretation of the scripture is this: Man, has made gods, of wood, stone, & clay. People worship their work, money, power, and much more. But, God created everything. He is truly God.
    How can the created be worshipped, by the creator? That dawg don’t hunt.

  9. I don’t understand how your citings of Gen 1:26 and Job 38:7 support the existence of multiple deities. The first is often used to support the idea of the Trinity, and the second seems to refer to angels, not other gods.

    • Thanks for this comment, Steven. Yes, in Christian thought (both ancient and modern) it’s common to understand Gen 1:26 as a reference to the Trinity. However, while there are other texts that express a complex unity to God, Gen 1:26 is not a good place to go. In Job, “sons of God” more likely denotes lesser deities, since if the text had wanted to refer to “angels” (מלאכים; malakhim) it would have done so.

  10. Speculation versus Yahweh’s own statement.

    Is. 43:10 -11 ………………………“ I am he. Before me “no god” was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am Yahweh , and apart from me there is “no savior.”

    • Johann, Isa 43:10-11 doesn’t contradict the thesis of the article. Certainly, no god was formed before the God of Israel, and there *will be* (יהיה) none after. God addresses Isaiah in the prophetic present to affirm that there will be no new god to return Israel from exile. The immediately following verses (43:12-13) confirm this point: no “strange god” (v. 12) is going to save the people from exile; “also from today [onwards]” (גם מיום; v. 13) the Lord will display superiority by saving Israel.

      • Verse 11 confirms YAHWEH (by name) to be the “only” “Saviour/messiah” to save and re-gather the entire “12 tribes of Israel” (and all their descending nations) wherever they were scattered by Him. (Amos 9:9) (Ezek 37:21-22 awaiting fulfilment i.r.o. “all” 12 tribes of Israel)

  11. Dr Schaser- the following info ties in with what you have written. Can you kindly explain further, thanks.
    Gen 1:26 begins with:Then Elohim ( plural) said, “Let US ( note:plural) make man in OUR ( note: plural) image, in OUR ( note: plural) likeness…”

    • Thanks, Col. Yes, Gen 1:26 is an instance of the supreme God of Israel addressing the divine council (lesser gods) before creating humanity. While God makes this collective address (“let us”), it is only the one Lord who actually creates humanity (1:27).

      • Thanks Dr Schaser for that explanation. Please explain if Yeshua was created as God or existed from eternity with the Father, Yehovah, as per John 1:1. If Yeshua was not created then both Yeshua and the Father existed from eternity as two God beings thus Elohim is a family.

        • Thanks for your question, Col. With reference to John 1, the Word was not “created” or “made” by God; rather, the Word is coexistent and eternal “with God” and, indeed *is* God (Jn 1:1) — that is, the Word is both apart from God and God at the same time. [I can write an article on the dynamics of Jewish Word theology for clarification]. John’s Prologue calls the Word “monogenes” in Greek, which means “unique” or literally, the “one-of-a-kind” Son, who becomes incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth (Jn 1:18; cf. 3:16-18). Thus, while many “sons of God” exist (i.e., other lesser gods; cf. 1 Cor 8:5), the Word of the Lord is the “one-of-a-kind” Son insofar as the Word was not “created” like the lesser elohim in the divine family.

  12. THIS SAYS ENOUGH Isaiah 43:10 Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.

    • Jan, Isa 43:10-11 doesn’t contradict the thesis of the article. Certainly, no god was formed before the God of Israel, and there *will be* (יהיה) none after. God addresses Isaiah in the prophetic present to affirm that there will be no new god to return Israel from exile. The immediately following verses (43:12-13) confirm this point: no “strange god” (v. 12) is going to save the people from exile; “also from today [onwards]” (גם מיום; v. 13) the Lord will display superiority by saving Israel.

  13. What about Isaiah 45:11 Thus saith the Lord, the Holy of Israel, and his Maker,.. What about “His Maker” how does one interpret that additional phrase??

    • Good question, MJ. The confusion comes in the translation into English. The term that the KJV (cf. ESV, NASB, NKJV) translates “his Maker” (יצרו; yitsro) constitutes a third-person form of the verb, but Hebrew has no “neuter” case (hence the translational choice of *his* Maker). However, in this case, the verb is not referring to God (“his”) but rather to the nation of Israel (“its”). A better English rendering would be “The Holy One of Israel, and its Maker”: God is the Holy One of *Israel* and the Maker of the nation of Israel (cf. CEB, NIV, NRSV).

  14. I understand that other gods exist. I also understand that only one God is our creator. Therefore, are these other gods created beings or what?

  15. Various people, even cultures, use the word “god” to explain causality. While there may be other entities lesser than YHWH, is not the ultimate concept of “god”, a force able to control something not easily explained (e.g. rain, crops, etc.)? If this is accepted, many interests can even become “gods”.

  16. If you read books by a very prestigious scholar “Michael Heiser” he explains the accuracy of this, & very thoroughly with tons of Scripture. We are so adjusted to the things we have been taught that we never allow for scriptural knowledge outside of our own little box.

  17. Thanks, Dr. Schaser for interpreting Isaiah 45:11 from a grammatic Hebraic translation which seeingly refers the pronoun back to the noun. Is that the same case for Isaiah 44:6. “Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel, and his redeemer, the Lord of hosts…” “and his redeemer”

    • You got it, MJ. Same is true for 44:6. I think the CEB translation gets the sense most accurately with the following translation: “The Lord, Israel’s king and redeemer…” (Isa 44:6).

  18. Thank you Dr. Nicholas J.Schaser, I enjoy learning about ancient Hebrew and its different types of grammar as compared to what we so often assume is a direct word for word -thought for thought translation as compared to what most westerners are used to based and derived from our root languages such as Greek, Latin, and Romantic languages to which we have become mentally adapted.

  19. You and your associates are doing a great deed in clarifying and elucidating Judaic thought with Christian thinking. Thanks for doing the Lord’s work in educating the modern truth-seeking Christian minds, as we are one brotherhood.

    • I’m glad you’re enjoying our articles, Mark John. We appreciate your kind words and your contributions to our discussion. Thanks for reading!

  20. Great I am creator Father God Jesus Lord and Saviour God/Son of God Holy Spirit God/The Father’s Spirit Three in ONE. Very simple and through discernment Not philosophies, intelligence, or eloquence. No clarification needed or response. Thank you

  21. If אין עוד means “there is no other in existence, then I cannot understand Zachariah 14.9 ”And the Lord WILL BE king over all the earth; in that day the Lord WILL BE the only one, and His name the only one. (Future tense)Now are plenty true Gods and names?

    • Good point, Giorgos. This verse shows that there are other gods in existence. Zechariah looks to the eschatological defeat of these other gods, and the victory of the one true God.

  22. For anyone interested in pursuing this topic further and/or who might be struggling with the concept of a divine council or lesser gods, I recommend the book by Michael S. Heiser, “Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible.” It blew me away. If I had read Dr. Schaser’s wonderful article before I read Michael S. Heiser’s book, I would have been very unsettled about the claims of lesser gods and the divine council of the Creator God, YHVH. Thank you, Dr. Schaser for this article.


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