Grace Reformed Network Conference

Why the “gods” are real and why it matters (Part 1)

(Note: All scriptures quoted will be ESV unless otherwise stated.)

Traditionally, Christians have three categories of spiritual beings that play a part in the divine story of redemption: God, angels, and demons. We often place lowercase “gods” in the fictional category because our teachings have led us to believe that these are mere graven images, idols, or mythical beings conjured up by pagan nations. This article aims to clarify how the biblical text uses the word “God,” and when it mentions other “gods,” they are not fictional or simply idols. There are both good and evil spiritual beings referred to in the Bible as gods, but there is only one Most High God who created all other gods; he is called the LORD Most High.
Physical vs. Spiritual Realms

As we work through several passages below, we will quickly learn that Elohim, or God, is not a name but a title for a type of being. The word the Bible uses to describe those who live in the physical world is “humans” (Rom 6:19). The spiritual realm also has a category of beings called “elohim.” The way the Bible uses elohim for those in the spirit realm is the same as for humans in the physical realm. Here is an example of the Psalmist using the name of God (Yahweh, translated in all caps, “LORD”), and then what kind of being this name belongs to:
Psa. 95:3 “For the LORD (Yahweh) is a great God (Elohim), and a great King above all gods (elohim).”

We have two titles and one name in this song. The great God and King, above all other gods, is Yahweh. This is why the Israelites, when they spoke of Yahweh, called him “our God.”

Ex. 3:18 And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.’

As we can see, Yahweh is clearly given the title of being Elohim, but is he the only one who receives this title?

Other Elohim or “gods”

Before we jump into the text, we need to provide some clarification on how the Hebrew word elohim functions in the Bible. Elohim works much like the word sheep or deer in English. The only way to know if it is plural or singular is in the context. A good example of the same word used twice, but one is singular, and the second plural is Psalm 136:2, “Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever.” In Hebrew, the same word is used twice. Pointing to the one true God and then stating that he is over the other gods. Who, then, are these other elohim that are under the LORD God?
Below is a selection of verses that demonstrate that elohim is used to describe spiritual beings other than Yahweh that live in the spiritual realm.


Deut. 32:17 “They sacrificed to demons who were not God (elohim), to gods (elohim) whom they have not known, New gods (elohim) who came lately, whom your fathers did not dread.” – NASB

The demons are the gods Israel was condemned for offering up sacrifices. You also have Moses comparing these demons to the God of Israel. Both Yahweh and demons are given the title elohim.

The Dead:

1Sam. 28:13 The king said to her, “Do not be afraid. What do you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I see a god (elohim) coming up out of the earth.”

The story of Saul calling on a witch to bring up the spirit of Samual. She calls him an “elohim” when telling Saul what she saw. That is because he is now part of the spiritual realm and not the physical realm at the time.


1Kings 11:33 “Because they have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess (elohim) of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god (elohim) of Moab, and Milcom the god (elohim) of the Ammonites, and they have not walked in my ways, doing what is right in my sight and keeping my statutes and my rules, as David his father did.”


Psa. 8:5 “For You have made him a little lower than the angels (Elohim), And You have crowned him with glory and honor.” – NKJV

Why is “elohim” translated as angel here? This is how the writer of Hebrews interprets the psalm when they quote it in Hebrews 2:7: “You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor.”

Deut. 32:43 ¶ “Rejoice with him, O heavens; bow down to him, all gods, for he avenges the blood of his children and takes vengeance on his adversaries.

When the writer of Hebrews quoted this verse, they translated elohim as “angel.”
Heb. 1:6 ¶ And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”
Psa 97:7 uses a similar phrase as Deut 32:43, “…worship him, all you gods!”
The writers of the NT didn’t see “gods” or elohim as nonexistent but translated them as angels. The best interpretation of a passage in the Old Testament is that of the inspired writers of the New.


2Cor. 4:4 In their case the god (theos) of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

In Greek, "god" is translated from theos. I included this verse to help demonstrate that even Paul didn't have a problem calling Satan a god who is a fallen angel.

What do all these verses have in common? They are describing the spiritual realm. These are spiritual beings. They can have the same title, describing their nature as spiritual beings, but they are clearly not Yahweh. This is why, when you have Yahweh mentioned in the same sentence as other elohim, he can be referred to as the “Most High.” This phrase would not work if the other gods were fake; that is a false comparison. Here are some examples:
Psa. 97:9 “For you, O LORD (Yahweh), are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods (elohim).”

If the gods do not exist, this would be a very strange comparison—that God is greater than nothing. In the next verse, we read how the Psalmist uses the name Yahweh and then His title, Elohim. This is then followed by a comparison again, showing that he is the true King over all other elohim.

Psa. 95:3 “For the LORD (Yahweh) is a great God (Elohim), and a great King above all gods (elohim).”

In this next verse, the Psalmist calls out the name of Yahweh, then his title of being the Most High of the gods:

Psa. 7:17 ¶ “I will give to the LORD (Yahweh) the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD (Yahweh), the Most High.”

This last verse describes the Psalmist singing praise in front of all the other spiritual beings to the Most High Yahweh:

Psa. 138:1 ¶ I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise;
These are just a few of the 40+ verses that use this title of Yahweh, and it is clear that when it is used, it is used to explain that he is above all other elohim, all other spiritual beings in the heavenly realm.



Isn’t this just another form of polytheism? No, polytheism is to worship more than one God.
Some might even call this henotheism, which is to worship one god but not deny that other gods exist and that they are equal in power.

The Bible rejects both of these positions because it presents monotheism, saying that there is only one God who is unique and cannot be compared to any other. That is why Yahweh is the Most High God, above all other gods. We worship the one and only Most High God, not one god out of many other equal gods.

No other gods:

Is. 45:5 I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me, there is no God;
Is. 37:19 and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed.

These are verses often used to prove that there are no other gods. We have a problem if we translate these verses to mean that no other gods exist except one. A good example is a verse mentioned earlier.

Psa. 8:5 “For You have made him a little lower than the angels (Elohim), And You have crowned him with glory and honor.” – NKJV

How are we made lower than something that doesn’t exist? It would appear that we have a contradiction in our Bibles. I don’t believe so, and here is why: the Bible does speak favorably about other gods, as demonstrated in the verses above. But when Israel worshipped other gods, the prophets used language to demonstrate that there was no other elohim that could compare to Yahweh. Nothing can stand “beside” our God as an equal.


In my next article, I will explain how the Bible describes the war that takes place within the spiritual realm. We often refer to them as fallen angels, but the Bible describes them as rebellious gods who disobeyed Yahweh. There are now two kingdoms within the spiritual realm. Paul says, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:13).

The gods who have rebelled are now part of this list. Paul warns us about what we will be wrestling with:

Eph. 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

More to come in Part 2.

Written by: Jon Moffitt
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