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    Exodus 15, Elim, and the existence of other gods

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    The solution is about the theological implication of Elim אֵלִים "gods" that we find in Ex 15:11. The term has its importance because as it evokes the idea of the other gods it highlights the excellence of YHWH. The hymn does not simply praise God but compares him with those gods who have failed their servants.
    The morphological plural אֵלִים "gods" as we find it in Ex 15:11 is rare in the Old Testament. However, whenever it appears it is always opposed to God while it depicts the incomparability of YHWH with respect to the other gods. After comparing Ps 29:1 with its parallels, we assumed that the authors of Psalm 9:7 and 1 Chron 16:28 deliberately made their choice in order to avoid the idea of polytheism. The word אֵלִים in Ex 15:11 is intentionally chosen to recall what is said of אֵלִי in verse 2. YHWH is the true God, no other creature considered deity can equate him. He is the only saviour.

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    DO OTHER GODS EXIST?
    THEOLOGICAL IMPLICATION OF אֵלִים IN Ex 15,11a
    In Ex 15:11 we find: מִי־כָמֹכָה בָּאֵלִם יְהוָה. The verse begins with an interrogative rhetorical form: מִי־כָמֹכָה which refers to the incomparability of God and of his perfections. It is the centre of attention (see Fokkelman J.P., Major Poems of the Hebrew Bible, I, Assen 1998, 45-46) and gives to the following word: בָּאֵלִם its centrality in the verse. Moreover, it is the culmination of the hymn that acts as a bridge between the verses that precede it and those that follow it. The marvellous works of God that the hymn celebrates are eloquent and they are the nucleus of his divine nature, therefore verse 11 exclaims that no one is like him among the gods because no other god possesses such qualities. The language is macrocosmic and anthropomorphic. In its early stages, the Israelite religion admitted the existence of the gods of other nations, but, the practical monotheism, insisted on YHWH as the creator of heaven and earth, the Supreme among others (see Ashby G., Go out and meet God. A Commentary on the Book of Exodus, Grand Rapids 1998, 68-69).
    Concerning the meaning of אֵלִים in Ex 15:11a there are several explanations: the pagan divinities especially the Egyptian ones who are unable to liberate their worshipers (U. Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Exodus, Jerusalem 1967, 176), the angels who are at the service of God (see Sarna N.M., Exodus, New York 1991, 8), the council of the gods. Among other things, the idea of the council of the gods is found elsewhere, for example in Gen 1:26; Deut 32:8-9; Ps 82; 89:5-7 (see Ashby G., Go out and meet God. A Commentary on the Book of Exodus, Grand Rapids 1998, 69). It was also explained as "those who are powerful, dominations, lordship". In fact, the Greek version of Symmachus reports "ἐν δυναστείαις" translating בָּאֵלִם as "among the powerful", i.e. based on the root of the word that can signify "being strong" (see Wevers J.W., Notes on the Greek Text of Exodus, Georgia 1990, 231). However, there is a somewhat hazardous translation. אֵלִים was translated as אִלְּמִים which would give a meaning of "who is like you among the dumb". In the sense that he sees his Temple in ruins and remains silent (see Hartman G.H. - Budick S. (ed.), Midrash and Literature, London 1986, 45). The idea would not be wrong if we think that being silent/dumb or the inability to speak, is one of the attributes of pagan gods (see Ps ...

    Solution Summary

    The term Elim אֵלִים "gods" that we find in Ex 15:11 has its importance because as it evokes the idea of the other gods it highlights the excellence of YHWH. Consequently, the solution is about the theological implication of Elim in Ex 15:11a. The hymn (Ex 15) does not simply praise God but compares him with those gods who have failed their servants.
    The morphological plural אֵלִים "gods" as we find it in Ex 15:11 is rare in the Old Testament and when it appears it is always opposed to God and it depicts the incomparability of YHWH. The word אֵלִים in Ex 15:11 is intentionally chosen to recall what is said of אֵלִי in verse 2. YHWH is the true God, no other creature considered deity can equate him. He is the only saviour.

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