Sunday, November 17, 2013

Word Study: Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me

It's time again to do another short word study to gain a deeper insight into the message of the Bible.

What is "God?"

The word "God" in the first of the Ten Commandments is the Hebrew word Elohim, defined here at, together with a list of the instances where it is used in the Old Testament. There is also a word study on that site here. Elohim is a plural word (-im is the plural ending to words in Hebrew), and always refers to the Trinity when used of God in the Bible. The plural always takes a singular noun when referring to God, also, driving home the point of the existence of the Trinity by grammatical evidence. Likewise, the singular word El is used of the individual persons of the Trinity, the Father, Spirit and Son, as shown in the BLB word study linked.

I briefly touched on the meaning of Elohim in a previous blog post. The word connotes strength and when referring to humans can be understood to mean "mighty ones," powerful people whom even in Modern English could be symbolically spoken of as "gods among men," without anything being lost in translation. The word is translated in various places as 'judges' or 'rulers'

Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods

What does this mean?

Let's look at it grammatically. 'other gods' implies a comparison rather than a contrast with God. The 'other gods' are clearly presented as false gods, in context of the Ten Commandments, but the word Baalim (a catch-all term for false gods), the plural form of Baal, which means "lord" and was the primary [implied false] deity of the Canaanites, as defined here, was not used, since that would imply that God was a false god, grammatically speaking, because of the usage of "other." 

Why is this significant?

I think it's because if God had inspired Exodus 20:3 to read "thou shalt have no false gods before me," then there would undoubtedly have been those who would have claimed, "God, we don't believe in any false gods [baalim], we simply worship 'true' gods [elohim] in addition to you; is that so wrong?" By not merely forbidding "false gods," but forbidding the worship of any conceivable deity of any kind God closes all loopholes and makes no excuses possible.


Yet, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox today put church "saints" [elohim*] before God and worship them.

Others put charismatic figures such as politicians, celebrities, etc as their [elohim] in their life, which they worship in the sense that worship consists of respecting and obeying your god, desiring to please your god, and looking to your god for guidance and hope in accomplishing a solution to whatever problem you're praying to them for their aid in fixing.

And most of the rest think so highly of themselves because of persistent self-esteem campaigns and the Gospel of The Inherent Goodness of Man that they are their own elohim, the highest ruler and authority in their life to which they give deference above all other earthly and heavenly authorities.

God says that no matter what sort of "mighty one" you can conjure up, whether you recognize it as a "false god" or not, it is wrong of you. Whatever your alternate object of worship, it is not worthy and you should cast it aside and worship only God, Elohim-Elyon, the Most High God. 

The Call of the Individual

What is your idol today? We all have temptations. Even if you have no person or earth system that you put your faith in for deliverance, perhaps your tendency is like mine, the most simple kind: that subtle pull of your inclination to worship self, to consider your own wants first and to be the final arbiter of what course of action you will take. No matter how often you've mentally handed the reins over to God and repented of trying to be your own God, there are always improvements to be made. For the Christian believer, this is part of sanctification. And if you are not Christian--if you have never yet stopped serving "other gods [elohim]"--or if you are not sure where you stand, may I encourage you to seek to be saved? The same website I've been utilizing for this post has a concise and clear explanation of what it is your soul needs, even though it's our natural tendency to do just the opposite. I encourage you to give it a read: How to Know God.

~ Rak Chazak

* in context of this blog post. Not to be confused with the actual old testament word for saint, Qaddiysh

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