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They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+32&version=ESV#fen-ESV-5767a

This demons that are not gods are strange. I thought there is simply no other gods. That means, if some people believe in other gods, those other gods are just figment of their imagination. Those other gods are not demons or anything. They're nothing. That's it. That's fundamental faith of judeo christian and islamic tradition.

I thought one of the most fundamental faith of monotheism is that the doctrine is pretty atheistic when it comes to other gods.

Yet, it seems that YHWH is complaining that israelites are worshiping gods that are actually demons.

In fact, I thought judaism don't believe in demons at all.

Yet here we have a bunch of beings

  1. demons that were no gods
  2. gods they had never known
  3. new gods that had come recently

    2 and 3 could be gods in atheistic sense. It's real on someone's head and that's it. God calls them gods nevertheless, perhaps in atheistic sense.

But what about the demons?

Explanation for #2 and #3 would be great too.

If 2 and 3 means gods in atheistic sense. That is, they're not really gods, but they are gods in the beliefs of the israelites. This fits standard judeo christian theology. There is simply no other gods. Those other gods exist only on the believers' mind.

The demons, however do not fit the pattern.

It seems that case 1 suggest that God knows that Israelites think that those beings are gods but they are actually demons. But that means, in atheistic sense, those beings are gods. The israelites think they are gods. So why God call it demon?

It should be just another nonsense gods that exist only on believers' mind. YHWH is supposedly pretty atheistic when it comes to other gods.

Another way to interpret this is to see that 1, 2, and 3 are describing real beings. So, 1 are demons that israelites think are gods. Number 2 and 3 are gods that israelites think are gods. YHWH think the israelites are stupid not for worshiping a non existence gods but for worshipping gods that they had never known and that had come recently

So we do have other gods. Namely demons and those that "they had never known and that had come recently"

Another explanation is when people believe in other gods, those other gods are actually demons. That means demons exist.

That doesn't fit common theology either. Common theology says when people believe on other gods those other gods are just figment of their imagination. Not actually demonic beings.

In any case I am very confused. So what are those demons anyway?

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why is #1 any different from your provisional understanding of 2 and 3? As they are not gods, they are inventions of the individual. Is it that the text uses a different word to label them as invalid? Are you wondering whether the use of the word indicates that they exist? –  Danno Nov 27 '13 at 11:50
    
#1 doesn't fit the pattern of common theology that no other gods exist at all. They're not demons. They just don't exist. –  Jim Thio Nov 27 '13 at 12:05
    
The text in other places refers to gods which don't exist and mentions objects of worship which aren't real (such as names of idols). Why is this any different? Are you asking about whether there is an idea of sheidim in Judaism or if their mention here makes them something different? –  Danno Nov 27 '13 at 13:29
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1 Answer 1

up vote 6 down vote accepted

See Rashi there, which renders it as Onkelos does: "They sacrificed to demons, which have no power." The name for god there has to do with power/rulership.

On the essential question of their existence, see here. Theologically, demons are no more problematic than angels or Satan the Adversary vis-a-vis monotheism. And someone worshiping them is no different that someone worshiping a rock. It doesn't ascribe any power to the rock to observe that it is worshiped.

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Hmmm... the translation is a little bit different again. So there is no god but YHWH. However, there are indeed other beings (like us). And then there are no other beings with power? Actually I am quite confused with what monotheism means. We are quite powerful our self don't we? And we're not YHWH. –  Jim Thio Nov 28 '13 at 2:05
    
Of course there can be at most one almighty beings. Two almighty beings are philosophically impossible because one would beat up the other one. That being said, what about other not so mighty beings, like angels, demons, or Hulk Hogan? They do exist but not deities? –  Jim Thio Nov 28 '13 at 2:13
    
@JimThio, it is a topic well beyond a 600 character comment. For futher reading, try here, but it is really a drop in the bucket: chabad.org/parshah/article_cdo/aid/45637/jewish/… –  Yishai Nov 28 '13 at 14:48
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