Please post your comments and suggestions for this article.

Comment by susan Paz on May 27th, 2009 at 7:04 am

If I understand correctly, you state at the end of this article that Israel developed from polytheism in Caanan to monotheism. It is my understanding that their monotheism dates back to the Garden of Eden. In their geneologies, they first give the “ungodly line” and then trace the remnant that remains faithful to God (who later gives his name to Moses as Yahweh). Their various patriarchs, from Adam, Abel, Seth, Noah, and Shem, to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his twelve sons were all monotheistic. They came into the Promised Land with the Ten Commandments, the first of which states,”I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before me.” I think you should correct this or explain it more clearly. Thank you.

Comment by Dan Fefferman on May 27th, 2009 at 9:13 am

Susan… Thanks for your feedback. Please note that the section you are responding to is labeled “critical views” and thus is meant to represent the attitude of biblical scholarship that does not necessarily take the account of Genesis, for example, literally. Beyond that, even according to the biblical account, the people known as Israelites did not come into existence until the time of Jacob, as they are his descendants. Critical scholars often take the view that monotheism developed among the Israelites only gradually, and that many of the Israelites were originally Canaanites who only gradually became part of the Israelite “federation” of tribes. The Bible tends to confirm the fact that many Israelites did not practice monotheism even though they were supposed (by the priests and prophets of Yahweh) to worship only the One God. Indeed, much of the Bible is a record of the struggle between Israelite monotheism and Israelite polytheism. As I’m sure you are aware, several kings of Israel and Judah were said to worship gods other than Yahweh, and the practice of Baal worship, etc. appears to have been widespread among the Israelites. The Bible, of course, portrays any other god than Yahweh as non-Israelite, but in fact many Israelites worshiped other gods as their own. Complicating this is the fact that “El,” a name used for the Israelite God, was also the name of the chief god of the Canaanites. A major problem for scholars is whether biblical claims about the history of this process can be taken as factual, or whether the monotheistic tradition you refer to was written back into history by later biblical writers, most of whom would have been priests of Yahweh and not “objective” according to modern standards. –Dan Fefferman

Comment by Roane on April 19th, 2012 at 10:13 am

At the end of your article on Chemosh, you claim that human sacrifices were occasionally made to YHWH, the Hebrew God. Apart from Jesus’ crucifixion for redemption of the world’s sins, there is NOWHERE in the Bible where this claim (of human sacrifice) can be substantiated. The only time that a human sacrifice was even attempted was in Genesis 22:2, when YHWH had asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, as a test to see whether Abraham would trust & obey Him. Upon ascertaining that Abraham was willing to trust & obey Him implicitly (Genesis 22:16), YHWH provided a ram in the thickets to be offered up as a sacrifice (Genesis 22:13). Your claim is misleading & a total misrepresentation of the nature of YHWH. Anyone who stumbles upon this article (does not have a personal relationship with Him) will assume that He is of the calibre of the contrived gods like Ashtar, Baal, Dagon & Zeus who have eyes but cannot see & require blood in order to work on behalf of their worshipers (as was evidenced by the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:28)

Secondly, the view of the critical scholars whom you cite, vis-a-vis the origin of the Israelites, is flawed. Jacob was renamed Israel as part of a covenant with YHWH. His 12 sons (& their descendants) were thence called Israelites & they from birth, were worshipers of YHWH and therefore monotheists. Before taking possession of the promised land, God had given them a strict directive when they entered therein, that they were to drive out the Canaanites & make no covenant with them (no inter-marrying etc) & or with their idols. Despite having the best intentions, the flesh is and has always been weak, they didn’t drive out the other nations from the land & they instead tried to assimilate them as is evidenced by the succumbing of the Israelite warriors to the Moabite girls who were sent to seduce them, King Solomon building idols & high places for his exotic wives, Samson’s destruction because of his attraction to Delilah, the New Testament Hebrews being influenced by the liberated culture of Rome & Greece orgies, feast days, etc. Even wanting an earthly king instead of YHWH (1 Samuel 8) was an attempt on the part of the Israelites to be like the nations among whom they dwelt. They wanted their cake & to eat it too. Some of the Kings of Israel whom you cited as promoters of idol worship would have acted on advice from others. Manassah for example who was the most despicable, was only 12 yrs old when he began to rule. He would have been influenced by older advisors, or just inclined to follow the perversion within his childish heart. Some others, had mothers who were not Israelites. Their offspring would have been of mixed stock & would have been influenced by and adopted the customs associated with the worship of the gods of their mothers’ cultures.

Weakness of the flesh, is not limited to giving in to fleshly desires as it pertains to sex. The Bible is rife with cases where followers have succumbed to temptation & weakness: (
* in 1 Samuel, we see greed among temple priests; Hophni & Phineas stealing the sacrificed meat,
* in the 4 gospels, we see Judas betraying Jesus for 30 pieces of silver,
* in Acts we see Ananias & Saphira lying to the apostles about the monies collected for the sale of land,

Inasmuch as there was the continual struggle throughout the pages of the bible where they disobeyed YHWH by not forsaking the ways of the world & keeping themselves separate, they were essentially a peculiar people who were caught between living the seemingly stringent lives set out by YHWH dabbling in the more exhilarating things of the world. In short, they were human. Even Peter succumbed to temptation & denied Jesus Christ 3 times, however he had the opportunity at redemption.

By the way, what exactly is “biblical scholarship”? If all scripture is inspired by YHWH (2 Tim 3:16) & the foolishness of YWHH is wiser than the wisdom of man (1 Corinthians 1:25) then what exactly is the merit of “biblical scholarship” & why would they not want to take the inspired words of YHWH (in Genesis or anywhere else for that matter) literally & have them live up to “modern standards” which are questionable at best? To my mind, it essentially appears to be a bunch of men (& women), who are attempting to dissect & disprove the principles of God’s instruction manual (which exists to teach us how to live amicably with our fellow man & Our Divine Creator), in an effort to justify why they should live their lives by following their own rules.

1 Corinthians 10:11 states that the accounts in the Bible are recorded as an example to us & for our instruction that we don’t repeat the sins of the Israelites, who despite having seen YHWH’s wonders for themselves still grumbled, & disbelieved. Isaiah was right when in chapter 53:6 he wrote, “For we all like sheep, have gone astray.” I’m so happy that I’m not a stray sheep any longer. Because like it or not Dan, whether we choose to acknowledge YHWH or not, when we are dead and buried (or cremated) & become worm food (or fish food), YHWH & His Word, will still remain. Using “modern standards” as my yardstick,(which are extolled today & discarded 6 months later when something more novel comes along), I find that a comforting thought! Have a blessed day!! …

Comment by Jennifer Tanabe on July 18th, 2012 at 10:16 am

Thank you, Roane, for your thoughtful and thought provoking comment. We appreciate feedback from our readers as a way to improve our articles and to make NWE a valuable informational resource.

With regard to your comment about human sacrifice, there are a few examples of human sacrifice in the Bible beyond that of Abraham and Isaac. For instance, the Judge Jephthah offered his daughter to God as a burnt offering to fulfill a vow he made on condition of being granted victory over the Ammonites (see Judges 11); Achan and his family were stoned and burned after making God angry, after the burning God “turned from his fierce anger” (Joshua 7:1-26); at the time of Jeremiah Israelites were sacrificing their children at “the high places of Topheth” which angered God – “something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind” (Jeremiah 7:30-31). Thus, it is reasonable to say that human sacrifices were occasionally made, but, as our article concludes, “How frequent and widespread such occurrences were is difficult to judge.”

With regard to the critical scholarship and the move from polytheism through henotheism to monotheism, this is not an unreasonable interpretation. Of course, all critical scholarship is an interpretation, some better than others. In any case, the point made in this article is that the precursors to the Israelites were polytheistic. Their worship of Yahweh was not necessarily exclusive initially; and scripture points to so many instances where the gods of other nations were still recognized although Yahweh was have been regarded as the supreme deity and the only one to be worshiped in Israel – a henotheistic position – and Chemosh was one of these other deities. Monotheism is the position that there exists only one deity, all others being false and non-existent or demonic. It is reasonable to understand that it took time for Judaism to become truly monotheistic, and this view is supported by the Bible. Indeed, the Israelites often displeased God, as do people today. We can only strive to do better! Thank you again for your comment.

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