Who are these other elohim-gods to which YHVH juxtaposes himself and asserts himself to be the one true Elohim who is the first and chief? Ezekiel gives us a clue.
Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, Thus says the Adonai YHVH: “Because your heart is lifted up, and you say,” ‘I am a god/El, I sit in the seat of gods/elohim, in the midst of the seas,’ yet you are a man, and not a god/El, though you set your heart as the heart of a god/elohim’”… (Ezek 28:2)
Here the prophet names an earthly king and connects him in a spiritual metaphorical way to Lucifer who after his fall became Satan the Adversary (vv. 11–19). It seems that Ezekiel is indicating to us that behind earthly kings is to be found false gods/elohim or demonic entities the chief of which is Satan the devil himself. This is the kingdom of Satan to which Yeshua and Paul make reference (Matt 12:26; Eph 6:12). This is the same satanic spirit that will possess the leadership of the end times beast, antichrist system, which the Scriptures prophetically refer to as Mystery Babylon the Great (Rev 13:1–4, chapters 17, 18).
Down through the ages and even into the end times just prior to the return of the Messiah, YHVH Elohim has expressed jealousy over his people and has been continually vying against these other demonic gods for his saints’ loyalty and affection. In defense of himself, he categorically declares that he is the only original eternal Elohim as we see in Isa 43.
“You are My witnesses,” says YHVH, “And My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God/El formed, nor shall there be after Me. I, even I, am YHVH, And besides Me there is no savior. I have declared and saved, I have proclaimed, And there was no foreign god among you; Therefore you are My witnesses,” Says YHVH, “that I am God/El. Indeed before the day was, I am He; and there is no one who can deliver out of My hand; I work, and who will reverse it?” (Isa 43:10–13)
Here YHVH states that he is the one and only Elohim, the El of Israel and that no other elohim have existed before him. At the same time, YHVH elsewhere confronts the idolatrous elohim of the nations to which Israel continually felt drawn and challenges these elohim to support their claims and produce their credentials as being who they purport to be and what they purport to be able to do compared to him.
“Present your case,” says YHVH. “Bring forth your strong reasons,” says the King of Jacob. “Let them bring forth and show us what will happen; let them show the former things, what they were, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare to us things to come. Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods/elohim; yes, do good or do evil, that we may be dismayed and see it together. Indeed you are nothing, and your work is nothing; he who chooses you is an abomination.” (Isa 41:21–24)
Here YHVH Elohim is calling out the false elohim, idol-gods of the nations to a show of force, if you will, in front of his people to prove to them that he alone is the one true Elohim who only has the power to back up his claims. A similar contest had occurred earlier in the power encounter between YHVH Elohim (as represented by the prophet Elijah) and the demon-god Baal (as represented by the prophets of Baal) on Mount Carmel (1 Kgs 18). There, Elohim was victorious over the Baal and his pantheon of demon-gods.
Indeed, one of the characteristics of Elohim is jealousy. He doesn’t want his people serving other gods or elohim.
You shall have no other gods/elohim before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, YHVH your God/Elohim, am a jealous God/El visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (Exod 20:3–4)
The Hebrew word for jealous (qana) is a verb denoting “envy and zeal.” It is the expression of “a very strong emotion whereby some quality or possession of the object is desired by the subject” (The TWOT). The Bible depicts Elohim as a possessive husband over Israel (Ezek 16), who he took for himself, and who he lovingly delivered out of slavery in Egypt and brought to himself (Exod 19:4) to become is “special treasure [or people]” or treasured possession (Heb. am segulah; qv. Deut 7:6; 14:2; 26:18; Ps 135:4; 1 Pet 23:9) “above all people” (v. 5). The whole process of YHVH redeeming the nation of Israel out of the nations, then espousing himself to her, and then marrying her is outlined by the seven “I will” statements of Exod 6:6–8. Perhaps the strongest marital language of this passage that expresses YHVH jealousy over his people is found in the fourth and fifth “I will” statements: “I will take you as my people, and I will be you Elohim” (v. 7). As part of his loving jealousy over his people, he brought severe judgments against the competing idol gods/elohim of Egypt (Exod 12:12; Num 33:4).
YHVH Elohim choosing his Israel as his spiritual marital partner above and instead of all the other nations was no mere capricious act on his part; it had a legal basis. His choice was based on the covenant he had made several hundred years earlier with Abraham (Exod 6:2–4). His jealousy for his people was predicated directly upon his relationship with their patriarchs—a relationship he promised would continue on down to their descendants forever, even to one thousand generations (Deut 7:9; 1 Chron 16:15; Ps 105:8), which is somewhere between 20 and 40 thousand years! Clearly, the Scriptures chronicle the fact that YHVH Elohim refuses to stand idly by when other demon-gods or elohim come between him and his people.
So when YHVH Elohim demands of the heathens and of their demon gods or elohim in Isa 41:21, “‘Present your case,’ says YHVH, and ‘Bring forth your strong reasons,’ says the King of Jacob,” he is holding the heathens and their demon-gods accountable for their actions against his people who is his treasured possession, and for whom he is protectively jealous. In verse 22, YHVH further demands that these people and their demon-gods “show us what will happen” and show us “the latter end,” and “declare to us things to come,” or, in other words, predict the future (vv. 22–23) “that we may know that you are [the true] gods/elohim” (v. 23). Because the false demon-gods in whom the heathen have placed their trust instead of him have no power and are nothing, YHVH declares that those who follow them are abominable or disgusting to him—it is wickedness (v. 24).
To be continued in Part Three…