Biblical Archaeology Review 37:5, September/October 2011

Strata: How Many?

How many foreign gods are named in the Hebrew Bible?

Answer: At least 23

The first commandment given to Moses on Mt. Sinai was that Israel have no other gods before Yahweh (Exodus 20:3). Indeed, only two verses later, Yahweh describes himself as a “jealous God” who demands unwavering love and commitment from his chosen people (20:5).

Given that nearly two dozen different foreign deities are named in the Hebrew Bible, it is easy to see why the Biblical writers portrayed Yahweh as a jealous God: A host of other Near Eastern gods and goddesses of other peoples were around to compete with Yahweh. Among his most immediate rivals were the Aramean god Rimmon, the Canaanite deities Baal, Ashteroth and Asherah, the Philistine gods Dagon and Baal-Zebub, and Milcom and Chemosh, the respective gods of the Ammonites and Moabites of Transjordan.

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