Psalm 97:9

9 For You, O Lord, are Most High above all the earth; You are very much exalted above all gods.

There are many similar indications, that the Jews (at least in the time of the king David) thought, that other gods do exist, but Hashem is the greatest one.

Is it true?

marked as duplicate by Isaac Moses, rosends, Community Mar 4 '16 at 11:54

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  • perhaps. The idols that are considered as G_ds from others. There is comments in traditional litterature about "others" – kouty Mar 4 '16 at 11:24
  • It is not duplicate but here the point is the explanation of the expressions that spoke on concurrence of different divinities. The degree of metaphor and metonymy is important – kouty Mar 6 '16 at 5:10

The commentators explain "other deities" in different ways

We will begin with the verse you cited
כִּי אַתָּה יְהֹוָה עֶלְיוֹן עַל כָּל הָאָרֶץ מְאֹד נַעֲלֵיתָ עַל כָּל אֱלֹהִים:

For You, O Lord, are Most High above all the earth; You are very much exalted above all gods

Malbim (Psalms 97, 9)

שכל כחם מאתך, ולא כפועל בהכרח רק כפועל ברצון ובמשפט וצדק, שבזה נעלית על כולם, כמשיהם מוכרחים ובלתי יודעים ובוחרים במעשיהם
It speaks of the stars, of "forces" of nature, which give an impression of independent power, but which are only executes (Lieutenant) in the hands of G_d. {They are real objects that are false gods}

but we find more comments in the ten Commandments

    (exodus 20, 3)
    You shall not have the gods of others (litterally other gots) in My presence.. לֹא-יִהְיֶה לְךָ אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים, עַל-פָּנָי
  1. Onkelos
    other than me לָא יְהֵי לָךְ אֱלָהּ אָחֳרָן בַּר מִנִי

    ("על פניי" "in my presence". like another word from the perspective of logical elimination. "If I exist, they do not exist" & "And I've already manifest my presence" => "They do not exist". {Other deyties do not exist at all} )

  2. Rashi: 2 explanations

    1. שאינן אלהות, אלא אחרים עשאום אלהים עליהם (מכילתא שם).
      Other are other people. they confere by mistake, to objects (which are in reality crees), divine virtues .
      He apparently rejects the explanation of Onkelos The next line is the rejection of Onkelos comment (I confess I do not understand Rashi. Take the Pizmun Mi kelokeynu, Ein kelokeynu, Ata hu Elokeynu. It highlights that the comparison leads negation. The conclusion is that deity status is denied to any other. And that is the message.). .
      ולא יתכן לפרש אלהים אחרים זולתי, שגנאי הוא כלפי מעלה לקרותם אלהות אצלו
      Others make these statues deities, It is an insult to talk to other existing in his presence, so it is impossible (for someone who believes in G_d) to explain the text in this way.
    2. דבר אחר אלהים אחרים, שהם אחרים לעובדיהם, צועקים אליהם ואינן עונים אותם, ודומה כאילו הוא אחר שאינו מכירו מעולם
      Who are "others" that is to say that are foreign to those who serve them.Some real objects, to whom were conferred by mistake divine virtues continue to be themselves and are foreign to the prayers addressed to them..

  3. The Ramban

    ודע כי בכל המקום שאמר הכתוב ''אלהים אחרים'' הכוונה בו אחרים זולתי השם הנכבד, ויתפוס זה הלשון בקבלת האלהות או בעבודה לו, כי יאמר לא תקבלו עליכם אלוה בלתי ה' לבדו, אבל כשידבר בעשייה לא יאמר בכתוב אחרים חלילה [1], אבל יאמר ואלהי מסכה לא תעשו לכם (ויקרא יט ד), אלהי מסכה לא תעשה לך (להלן לד יז), ויקראם כן בעבור שיעשה בכוונה להיות אלהיו. אבל בהם אמר הכתוב (ישעיה לז יט) כי לא אלהים המה כי אם מעשה ידי אדם ואבן ויאבדום:
    Ramban Says that this expression is a reference to the faith in heart, someone can believe other things, that says that the faith in G_d is superior to other such different faiths. {other gods that exist as such only in the imagination of people}

We saw four definitions to the term.

[1] A very interesting issue of this opinion of Ramban is in Sefer Hamitsvot, see here near the (ב). A very good lecture.

But if you search in Psalms, an other verse attracts even more curiosity (135, 5):

כִּי אֲנִי יָדַעְתִּי, כִּי-גָדוֹל ה' וַאֲדֹנֵינוּ, מִכָּל-אֱלֹהִים For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.

See Metsudoth and Malbim on the spot. the explanation is the same than this of the Malbim in the verse you cited, but enhanced and enlarged.


If in one comparison of concepts, there is several theoretical concepts: Concept number 1, concept number 2, etc. (before you know the Truth, the world of possibilities is defined as containing all the concepts). When you get a conclusion, you may conclude that the concept number 1 is

  • better than the others,
  • or more likely than...
  • or Great then,
  • or the one true, because I am convinced that it is true and other are false
  • I am not a philosopher and not an English speaker, but the direction of the idea is clear.

    • Yeah, I agree you don't have to be entirely sure, wheter other gods exist to believe to specific one. Thank you. – Probably Mar 4 '16 at 11:55

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