THE UNITY OF THE DIVINE PERSONALITIES
THOUGH there are more personalities than one in the Divine Being, they form a unity of which the Scriptures constantly speak. David, the great king of Israel, in his memorable prayer (II Sam. 7:22) declares the unity of God:
עַל־כֵּן גָּדַלְתָּ יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים כִּי־אֵין כָּמוֹךָ וְאֵין אֱלֹהִים זוּלָתֶךָ בְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר־שָׁמַעְנוּ בְּאָזְנֵינוּ׃
"Wherefore thou art great, 0 Jehovah God: for there is none like thee, neither is there any God besides thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears." Isaiah, who had to contend with insidious idolatry which had crept into the nation, repeatedly affirmed that God is one as is seen in the following passages:
מִי פָעַל וְעָשָׂה קֹרֵא הַדֹּרוֹת מֵרֹאשׁ אֲנִי יְהוָה רִאשׁוֹן וְאֶת־אַחֲרֹנִים אֲנִי־הוּא׃
"Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I, the Lord, the first, and with the last, I am He" (Isa. 41:4).
אַתֶּם עֵדַי נְאֻם־יְהוָה וְעַבְדִּי אֲשֶׁר בָּחָרְתִּי לְמַעַן תֵּדְעוּ וְתַאֲמִינוּ לִי וְתָבִינוּ כִּי־אֲנִי הוּא לְפָנַי לֹא־נוֹצַר אֵל וְאַחֲרַי לֹא־יִהְיֶה׃ אָנֹכִי אָנֹכִי יְהוָה וְאֵין מִבַּלְעָדַי מוֹשִׁיעַ׃
"Ye are my witnesses, saith Jehovah, and my servant whom I have chosen; that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am He: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am Jehovah; and besides me there is no savior" (43:10, 11).
כֹּה־אָמַר יְהוָה מֶלֶךְ־יִשְׂרָאֵל וְגֹאֲלוֹ יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת אֲנִי רִאשׁוֹן וַאֲנִי אַחֲרוֹן וּמִבַּלְעָדַי אֵין אֱלֹהִים׃
"Thus saith Jehovah, the king of Israel, and his redeemer, Jehovah of hosts: I am the first, and I am the last; and besides me there is no God."* (44:6).
I. UNITY SEEN IN THE GREAT CONFESSION
In harmony with the statements just quoted is the Great Confession of Israel found in Deut. 6:4, which is
שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָד׃שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָד׃
"Hear, 0 Israel: Jehovah our Gods is Jehovah a unity."
Before we can begin an analysis of this most important exhortation, we shall do well to see the historical and theological background which made its enunciation imperative at that time. Israel, as we learn from the writings of Moses, had been delivered from Egyptian bondage. At the time of Moses' uttering this Great Confession, the nation was poised on the east side of the Jordan, awaiting the moment to be led across into the Promised Land. By this time Moses had, through the Holy Spirit, been enabled to write the revelation which God had given him and to put it before Israel. The Book of Deuteronomy, as all Bible students know, constitutes his final orations, which he delivered just before his decease. Having spoken these messages orally, he committed them to writing and deposited them with the other portions of the Word which he had already written. The Oracles of God which give the account of the creation of the universe and of beasts, birds, and finally of man, together with the history of the human race up to his day--particularly that of the Hebrews--were put in the language of the Hebrews. (See Messiah: His First Coming Scheduled for a full discussion of this point.) When Moses delivered "this law," which probably indicates the Book of Deuteronomy, to the priests and to the elders of Israel, he commanded them saying, "At the end of every seven years, in the set time of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles, when all Israel is come to appear before Jehovah thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing" (Deut. 31:10,11). After the conquest of Jericho and Ai, the Israelites advanced into the central section of the mountainous region of the country--to Shechem, the modern Nablus. In obedience to the command of Moses, Joshua had an altar built upon which burnt offerings and peace offerings were made to Jehovah. This altar was covered with plaster (Deut. 27:1-8) and upon it Joshua wrote the law of Moses. Then he read all the words of the law to the people.
It is most highly probable that Israel, for the first time, as a people had an authentic record of the past. It is true that in Abraham's day there were commandments, statutes, and laws which Abraham had and which God had given (Gen. 26:5). Nevertheless, it is highly improbable that Israel, when she was in Egypt, had a definite, clear knowledge of God. In fact, we learn from Ezekiel 20:7 that Israel worshiped idols in Egypt. During her wilderness wanderings, as it appears from Amos 5:25-27, she engaged in certain types of idolatrous worship--notwithstanding the presence of Moses and Aaron. This interpretation of these verses, however has been questioned by some. But from all the data which we have, it is evident that Israel was strongly inclined toward idolatry even when Moses delivered his final orations to her.
Moses knew, furthermore, that, when Israel read or heard the law read every seven years as commanded, she might misinterpret the evidence found in the Scriptures as justification for idolatry-polytheism. He therefore, under these conditions, enunciated her Great Confession and emphasized it in such a way as to make it stand out above all utterances in the law שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָד׃ Shema‘, Israel, Yahweh ’elohenu Yahweh ’echad.
It is now fitting that we should look at those passages which Israel might misunderstand and interpret as justification for polytheism. In the first place, let us note the use of Elohim, which as we have already seen is in the plural number. An undiscerning, carnal man could easily misinterpret the spirituality of God and His unity and see justification for idolatry in this word, especially so since Elohim, as we have already seen, was the regular term that was also applied to idols. Hence the uninformed man in Israel could say that the nation of the Hebrews should in fact worship different gods and at the same time think that he had scriptural justification for so doing. Moses, therefore, in his giving this Great Confession to Israel, doubtless had this possibility in mind and was attempting to warn against such a misconception regarding the Almighty.
There was another fact that might have been misinterpreted and have caused Israel to engage in idolatry. That was the theophany mentioned in Genesis, chapter 3. In this passage we are informed that, when Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, Jehovah was in the habit of appearing on the scene and holding sweet communion and fellowship with them. From the record we learn that after they had disobeyed the one prohibition laid upon them, they heard Him walking as He was coming to them in the cool of the day. Their eyes then were opened and they realized their condition, both spiritual and physical. They therefore hid themselves from His presence. Nevertheless, He came and conversed with them.
We read of another of His appearances. In the record of this visit (Gen.16:1-14), He is called מַלְאַךְ יְהוָה "the angel of Jehovah" (vss. 7,9,10,11). According to verse 13 Hagar, to whom this angel appeared, "called the name of Jehovah that spake unto her, Thou art אֵל, ’el, a God that seeth: for she said, Have I even here looked after him that seeth me?" This one who is called the angel of Jehovah is also designated as Jehovah himself and as a God who sees. It is therefore clear from this passage that Jehovah did appear to Hagar--doubtless in a manner similar to the way in which He had appeared to Adam and Eve.
We see still another theophany in Genesis, chapters 18 and 19. To Abraham as he sat in his tent door under the oaks of Mamre, there appeared three men. Two of these, according to 19:1, were angels; but the other was Jehovah himself, who talked most intimately with Abraham concerning the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah on account of their wickedness. We are told that, after the flight of Lot with his wife and daughters from Sodom, "Then Jehovah, יְהוָה, rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from Jehovah out of heaven; 25 and he overthrew those cities, and all the Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground" (Gen. 19:24,25). Let us notice that there are two divine personalities appearing in this record. One was upon earth, conversing with Abraham; the other, in heaven. The one upon earth rained down fire from the one in heaven upon the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. According to this record there are two personalities who are called by the name Jehovah.
We see yet another theophany in Genesis, chapter 22. According to verse 11, the angel of Jehovah called to Abraham out of heaven. The latter responded. Then the angel of Jehovah commanded him to withhold his hand from offering his son Isaac upon the altar as he was attempting to do in obedience to the command of the Lord. A second time did the angel of Jehovah call to Abraham out of heaven and added, "By myself have I sworn, saith יְהוָה, Jehovah, because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, 17 that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 18 and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice" (Gen. 22:15-18). The angel of Jehovah upon this occasion did not come to the earth but spoke from the heavens to Abraham. He declared that he had sworn by Himself, and at that time he called himself Jehovah. In this incident we see a most marvelous manifestation of Jehovah and His conversation with Abraham.
We observe another unusual occurrence of like nature in Genesis 32:22-32. When Jacob was returning from Syria with his family and his goods to the Land of Promise, he wrestled with a stranger who appeared to him before he crossed the river Jabbok. As the sequel to the story indicates, this one was none other than אֱלֹהִים, God, who appeared to him as a man and wrestled with him during the night. Jacob realized that this one was the Lord; for he declared, "I have seen אֱלֹהִים, God, face to face, and my life is preserved" (vs. 30).
Not only do we have these remarkable approaches of the Deity to man mentioned in the Books of Moses, but we have references to the Spirit of God. In Genesis 1:2, we read that רוּח אֱלֹהִים "the Spirit of God," was brooding upon the face of the waters. In Exodus 31:3 we likewise learn of the Spirit of God and of His endowing Bezalel with skill and cunning in order to do the work assigned him in the construction of the Tabernacle. Again we read of the same Spirit in Numbers, chapter 11.
From these records, at which we have just looked, we see Jehovah in heaven and Jehovah upon the earth, and likewise the Spirit of God. When the ancient Hebrews heard these oracles of God read, there was always a possibility that the less spiritually discerning ones among them, as stated above, might see in these records justification for idolatry and might attempt to worship each of these under the forms of idols. Moses, knowing the tendency on the part of his brethren to paganism, warned them against it, declaring that, at the time Jehovah delivered the law at Horeb, they did not see any form whatsoever (Deut. 4:15-19). He therefore followed this exhortation with the Great Confession of Israel.
Israel's past history demanded a clear, strong statement concerning this fundamental of fundamentals of her faith. Moses' knowledge by inspiration of what she would do in the future likewise made it imperative that he emblazon it, figuratively speaking, upon the skies before her eyes.
וְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכָל לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל־נַפְשְׁךָ וּבְכָל־מְאֹדֶךָ׃
"Hear, 0 Israel, Jehovah our Gods is Jehovah a unity; and thou shalt love Jehovah thy Gods with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength" (Deut. 6:4,5; lit. trans.).
In beginning an analysis of this confession notice אֱלֹהֵינו ’elohenu. According to all Hebrew grammarians this word is the construct form of אֱלֹהִים (gods) to which the personal possessive נוּ-ֵ, "our" in the plural number is added. To show that this form is in the plural and means "our Gods," only a few illustrations will be necessary. First, dear reader, examine Josh. 24:23: וְעַתָּה הָסִירוּ אֶת־אֱלֹהֵי הַנֵּכָר אֲשֶׁר בְּקִרְבְּכֶם וְהַטּוּ אֶת־לְבַבְכֶם אֶל־יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל׃ "Now therefore put away, said he, the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto Jehovah, the God of Israel."
Note the similarity of these expressions: אֶת־אֱלֹהֵי הַנֵּכָר and אֶל־יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. The former אֱלֹהֵי נֵּכָר is correctly translated "foreign gods," but the latter is translated "Jehovah, The God of Israel," though to be faithful to the text one must translate אֱלֹהֵי of both expressions in the same way, namely, "Gods of," the former being the gods of the foreigners, whereas the latter is the Gods of Israel. A perfect illustration of אֱלֹהֵינוּ, "our Gods," which is, as stated above, the construct form of a plural masculine noun with the plural suffix "our," is found in Deut. 5:3 in the word אֲבֹתֵינוּ, "our fathers." The singular of this word is אָב, 'ab, and the plural construct is אֲבֹתֵי, 'avothē, which form with suffix is אֲבֹתֵינו 'avothēnu. Obviously this word like אֱלֹהֵינוּ is a plural noun with the suffix "our."
In Isa. 53 appear several examples of this same grammatical construction in verses 4 and 5. אָכֵן חֳלָיֵנוּ הוּא נָשָׂא וּמַכְאֹבֵינוּ סְבָלָם וַאֲנַחְנוּ חֲשַׁבְנֻהוּ נָגוּעַ מֻכֵּה אֱלֹהִים וּמְעֻנֶּה׃ וְהוּא מְחֹלָל מִפְּשָׁעֵנוּ מְדֻכָּא מֵעֲוֹנֹתֵינוּ מוּסַר שְׁלוֹמֵנוּ עָלָיו וּבַחֲבֻרָתוֹ נִרְפָּא־לָנוּ׃ "But our diseases did He bear Himself, and our pains He carried while we indeed esteemed Him, stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. Yet He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him and through His bruises was healing granted to us (Author's Tr.).
The words עֲוֹנֹתֵינוּ פְּשָׁעֵנוּ מַכְאֹבֵינוּ חֳלָיֵנוּ are translated "our iniquities," "our transgressions," "our pains," and "our diseases." When one reads the entire chapter he can see clearly that the servant of the Lord, namely, "my righteous servant" צַדִּיק עַבְדִּי, is suffering and is smitten of God because of the "diseases, pains, transgressions, and iniquities" of those to whom Isaiah refers as "us" i.e., the Hebrew nation. From these examples and hundreds of others which might be given, it is very clear that אֱלֹהֵינוּ is in the plural construct form and means "our Gods."¹
The next point in this confession to note is אֶחָד. 'echad. This word is a numeral adjective meaning "one" and is derived from the verb הִתְאַחֲדִי which verb occurs only once in the Tenach (Ezek. 21:21). From this context one sees that God predicted the coming of a foreign invasion against Jerusalem, and Ezekiel was commanded to smite his hands together and to prophesy. In verse 21 it occurs in the hithpa'el form, as seen above, and means "to unite self, to gather one's strength or forces (of the sword)." From these facts he sees that it primarily means, not one in the absolute sense of the term, but one in the sense of a unity.
While the fundamental idea is that of a compound unity or the oneness of different elements or integral parts, it came to be used to express one in the absolute sense as the numeral one, which fact is seen by numerous examples throughout the Tenach. This fact being true, it becomes necessary to study the context wherever it occurs in order to ascertain which idea is conveyed in each particular case. To fail to observe this precaution and to read the idea of oneness in the absolute sense of the word into every example where it occurs is to ignore logic, to smash grammar, and to outlaw ordinary intelligence and common sense.
As an illustration in which the inherent fundamental idea of a compound unity stands forth in bold relief, let the reader note the language of Gen. 1:5, 8, 13, etc. In verse 5 Moses said וַיְהִי־עֶרֶב וַיְהִי־בֹקֶר יוֹם אֶחָד׃ "And there was evening and there was morning, day one." This statement brings together two contrasting ideas--light and darkness--into a compound unity, which idea is normally expressed by אֶחָד. In verse 8 the same language occurs except the day was "day two"; the same thing is true with reference to verse 13 with the exception that the work just enumerated was done on the third day. In each instance עֶרֶב בֹקֶר "evening" and "morning" together made a unity, אֶחָד.
The union of evening and morning, in the first instance, constituted the first unit of time--day one; the union of evening and morning, in the second instance, constituted the second unit of time--day two. The same facts are true of each succeeding day. Next, note Gen. 2:24: Here God said עַל־כֵּן יַעֲזָב־אִישׁ אֶת־אָבִיו וְאֶת־אִמּוֹ וְדָבַק בְּאִשְׁתּוֹ וְהָיוּ לְבָשָׂר אֶחָד׃ "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." In this passage one sees two individuals, man and woman, and yet God said that they constitute a unity--a unity made by joining two opposites into a real oneness.
That אֶחָד fundamentally carries the idea of a compound unity is seen in "Gen. 27:44, וְיָשַׁבְתָּ עִמּוֹ יָמִים אֲחָדִים עַד אֲשֶׁר־תָּשׁוּב חֲמַת אָחִיךָ "And tarry with him a few days, until thy brother's fury turn away." The word translated "few" is אֲחָדִים which is the plural form of אֶחָד, 'echad. Here the period of time elapsing until Esau's wrath subsided is considered as a unity consisting of integral parts, the idea of unity being expressed by the fundamental inherent idea of אֲחָדִים. It is put in the plural form to agree grammatically with the word יָמִים "days." The same usage appears again in 29:20 where seven years of time are thought of as a very short period, the unity of the period being expressed by the inherent idea of the same word, whereas it, like the illustration just mentioned, is in the plural number agreeing with "days" which is in the plural. Therefore these two examples show clearly that אֶחָד 'echad, primarily means a compound unity.
Another illustration of this usage is found in Ezra 2:64. כָּל־הַקָּהָל כְּאֶחָד "And the whole assembly was as one" (Author's Tr.). Here forty-two thousand, three hundred and sixty people, each an individual and integral part of the gathering, were כְּאֶחָד "as one"--a unity. Another example where the fundamental idea of the word stands forth clearly is found in Gen. 11:1. וַיְהִי כָל־הָאָרֶץ שָׂפָה אֶחָת וּדְבָרִים אֲחָדִים׃ "And the whole earth was of one language and of one kind of words"; (literally translated) "one lip and oneness of words." Here the idea is that each person in the world spoke the same language and used the same words. There were many different people, and at the same time numerous words used by these various individuals, and yet all taken together constituted a unity אֶחָת, (feminine form of word) of language. Hence in this passage the original inherent idea shines forth vividly.
Another striking example of this primitive idea is found in Ezek. 37:17. וְקָרַב אֹתָם אֶחָד אֶל־אֶחָד לְךָ לְעֵץ אֶחָד וְהָיוּ לַאֲחָדִים בְּיָדֶךָ׃ "And joining them one to the other unto thee as one stick; and they shall become one in thy hand" (Isaac Leeser Tr.). From the context one sees that Ezekiel performed a symbolic act, namely, he took two separate sticks, one representing Judah, and the other representing Israel, and was commanded to join them into one bundle. Thus the two separate sticks being joined together are spoken of as a unity אֶחָד of sticks, that is, a union of the two separate sticks. This symbolic act symbolizes the fact that at some future time the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah will be joined and will constitute a single united kingdom.
Another most forceful illustration of this unity is found in Jer. 32:39 וְנָתַתִּי לָהֶם לֵב אֶחָד וְדֶרֶךְ אֶחָד לְיִרְאָה אוֹתִי כָּל־הַיָּמִים לְטוֹב לָהֶם וְלִבְנֵיהֶם אַחֲרֵיהֶם׃ "And I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them." Under the new covenant all Israel are promised "one heart" לֵב אֶחָד, that is, all will see, think, and feel alike: hence לֵב אֶחָד "unity of heart."
Since אֱלֹהֵינוּ 'elohēnu, can mean nothing but "our Gods," and since אֶחָד has as its primary meaning that of "unity," one is forced to the irresistible conclusion that the real meaning of Israel's Great Confession is that the Divine Personalities, who are referred to by the plural noun אֱלֹהֵינוּ, as has been shown above, constitute a real unity אֶחָד, just as man and woman form a unity אֶחָד. These Divine Personalities are one in essence, being, and nature, unity and co-operation in the highest degree existing between them. Such, fundamentally, is the real meaning of this fundamental dogma of Israel.
Proof which corroborates this interpretation of Israel's Great Confession is found in the fact that when the nation lapsed into idolatry and her inspired prophets endeavored to win her back to God, they emphasized the truth that there is but one God. In all of their utterances concerning the proposition that there is but one God, they never did use their great confession. If it means what it is usually understood to mean, namely, that God is one in the absolute sense of the term, then it is unthinkable that the prophets never did use it in their fight against Idolatry. Therefore, they understood it to refer to God's unity and not to His being One in the absolute sense.
At the time that Moses gave this great confession he forewarned Israel concerning other gods as is seen in Deut. 4:35, אַתָּה הָרְאֵתָ לָדַעַת כִּי יְהוָה הוּא הָאֱלֹהִים אֵין עוֹד מִלְּבַדּוֹ׃ "Thou hast been shown in order that thou mayest know that יְהוָה is the Gods; there is not any beside Him" (Author's Tr. here and in following one). Again, in Deut. 4:39, וְיָדַעְתָּ הַיּוֹם וַהֲשֵׁבֹתָ אֶל־לְבָבֶךָ כִּי יְהוָה הוּא הָאֱלֹהִים בַּשָּׁמַיִם מִמַּעַל וְעַל־הָאָרֶץ מִתָּחַת אֵין עוֹד "And thou shalt know this day and shalt lay it to thine heart that יְהוָה is the Gods in the Heavens from above and upon the earth from beneath; there is none other."
The flood tide of idolatry seemed to reach its height in Israel in the days of Isaiah, the prophet, who was a contemporary of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. In his combating this error he constantly used the arguments based upon the Scriptures quoted in the last paragraph. Thus in Isa. 44:6 כֹּה־אָמַר יְהוָה מֶלֶךְ־יִשְׂרָאֵל וְגֹאֲלוֹ יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת אֲנִי רִאשׁוֹן וַאֲנִי אַחֲרוֹן וּמִבַּלְעָדַי אֵין אֱלֹהִים׃ "Thus saith Jehovah, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, Jehovah of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and besides me there are no gods" (Author's Tr.). Verse 7, וּמִי־כָמוֹנִי יִקְרָא וְיַגִּידֶהָ וְיַעְרְכֶהָ לִי מִשּׂוּמִי עַם־עוֹלָם וְאֹתִיּוֹת וַאֲשֶׁר תָּבֹאנָה יַגִּידוּ לָמוֹ׃ "And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I established the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and that shall come to pass, let them declare." Verse 8 וְאַתֶּם עֵדָי הֲיֵשׁ אֱלוֹהַּ מִבַּלְעָדַי וְאֵין צוּר בַּל־יָדָעְתִּי ׃ "And ye are my witnesses. Is there a God besides me? yea, there is no Rock; I know not any." Again, one sees Isaiah using a similar statement (Isa. 45:5) which, likewise, is based upon Deut. 4:35,39, namely, אֲנִי יְהוָה וְאֵין עוֹד זוּלָתִי אֵין אֱלֹהִים "I am יְהוָה and there is none else; besides me there are no gods." Isa. 45:6,7, לְמַעַן יֵדְעוּ מִמִּזְרַח־שֶׁמֶשׁ וּמִמַּעֲרָבָה כִּי־אֶפֶס בִּלְעָדָי אֲנִי יְהוָה וְאֵין עוֹד׃ יוֹצֵר אוֹר וּבוֹרֵא חֹשֶׁךְ עֹשֶׂה שָׁלוֹם וּבוֹרֵא רָע אֲנִי יְהוָה עֹשֶׂה כָל־אֵלֶּה׃ "In order that they may know from the rising of the sun and from the West, that there is none beside me; I am יְהוָה and there is none else; forming the light and creating darknes; making peace and creating evil; I am יְהוָה who doeth all these things." Again, in vs. 21, 22 one reads as follows: הַגִּידוּ וְהַגִּישׁוּ אַף יִוָּעֲצוּ יַחְדָּו מִי הִשְׁמִיעַ זֹאת מִקֶּדֶם מֵאָז הִגִּידָהּ הֲלוֹא אֲנִי יְהוָה וְאֵין־עוֹד אֱלֹהִים מִבַּלְעָדַי אֵל־צַדִּיק וּמוֹשִׁיעַ אַיִן זוּלָתִי׃ פְּנוּ־אֵלַי וְהִוָּשְׁעוּ כָּל־אַפְסֵי־אָרֶץ כִּי אֲנִי אֵל וְאֵין עוֹד׃ "Declare and bring forth, yet let them take counsel together; who hath shown this from ancient times? Who hath declared it from old? Is it not I, and there are still no gods beside me: a God righteous and one who delivers; there is not any beside me. Turn unto me and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth; for I am God and there is none else" (Author's Tr., 45: 21, 22). Once more, note the argument in Isa. 64:4 (3). מֵעוֹלָם לֹא־שָׁמְעוּ לֹא הֶאֱזִינוּ עַיִן לֹא־רָאָתָה אֱלֹהִים זוּלָתְךָ יַעֲשֶׂה לִמְחַכֵּה־לוֹ׃ "And from of old, men have not heard nor have they perceived with their ears, and eye hath not seen Gods beside thee, who work for the one waiting for him." As a last quotation from Isaiah note Chapter 26:13. יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ בְּעָלוּנוּ אֲדֹנִים זוּלָתֶךָ לְבַד־בְּךָ נַזְכִּיר שְׁמֶךָ׃ "Oh Lord, our Gods, other lords besides thee have had dominion over us, but by thee only will we make mention of thy name" (Author's Tr.).
Hosea, whose ministry preceded that of Isaiah by some thirty-odd years, combated idolatry as did his successors. In Hos. 13:4 one reads וְאָנֹכִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם וֵאלֹהִים זוּלָתִי לֹא תֵדָע וּמוֹשִׁיעַ אַיִן בִּלְתִּי׃ "And I am the Lord thy Gods from the land of Egypt; and you shall not know gods besides me, there is no savior besides me" (Author's Tr.).
From the above quotations it is clear how the prophets met the problem of idolatry and what statements of the Torah they used to teach the lesson that there is but one true and living God. Since they nowhere used the language of the Great Confession in their hard fight for monotheism (the teaching that there is but one God), it is quite evident that they, who were guided and aided by the Lord, and to whom the Word of the Lord came, understood that it had no bearing on the issue. The prophets knew how to use the Word of God, as one sees from many illustrations which appear in their writings. Hence one must conclude that a forced meaning has been placed upon it, and that evidently the plain and obvious meaning of the words conveys the correct teaching, which is, as stated above, that the divine personalities revealed to Israel at Sinai constitute a unity though a plurality.
* The same teaching concerning God i.e., that there is none beside Him, is set forth in numerous passages a few of which are as follows: Num. 15:41; Isa. 43:3, 11; 45:5; 44:6; Deut. 4:35, 39; 32:39; Ex. 20:23; Hosea 13: 4; 2 Sam. 7: 22; I Kings 8: 23.
¹ In connection with this study it is well to call attention to the fact that the word אלהיכם, "your gods" appears in Josh. 3:3; 23:3; I Sam. 6:5; I Kgs. 18:25. (King James Tr.). In the first two passages it is translated "your God" because it applies to the God of Israel, but in the two latter passages the same identical word is translated "your gods" because it applies to heathen deities. A faithful translation of these words demands that they be translated the same in each instance.
In Deut. 6:5 appears the expression אלהיך, "thy God" but in Gen. 31:32 the same expression is used by Jacob in his conversation with Laban in the former's speaking to the latter concerning the teraphim which Rachel had stolen and is translated "thy gods." The fact is that the word is plural with a singular suffix added and should be translated as the plural in both instances.
In Judg. 3:7 appears the expression אלהיהם and is translated "their God" because it refers to the God of Israel, but in the preceding verse the same word which applies to heathen gods is translated "their gods." The word is plural in both instances and should be thus translated.