The first commandment says: “You shalt have no other gods before me.” The Hebrew text says literally, “You shall not have any other Elohim before my face.” Elohim is the generic word for God in the Hebrew Bible. When Genesis 1:1 says, “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” the word for God is Elohim. There is perhaps a play on words here. We know God is essentially one. The most fundamental confession in the Hebrew Scriptures is Deut 6:4, “Hear O Israel, the Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one.” The irony here is that the intent of the word in Exodus is clearly plural. The nations around the Israelites were idolaters and polytheists. Yahweh, the God who is, who said to Moses, “I am what I am” is completely intolerant of any other gods. He calls them all idols, i.e., gods we’ve made in our own image. That’s the reverse of reality. We were made in God’s image but we like to turn reality on its head and pretend that we’re God and that we get to say what’s what.
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