The “Most High” allocated Yahweh to Jacob

by Doug Mason 13 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Doug Mason
    Doug Mason

    Deuteronomy 32:8-9 describes the Most High (God) apportioning the nations to the gods according to “the number of the sons of Israel/Gods”. One can argue over the niceties of the meaning of that expression. Of interest is that the “Most High” allocated Jacob to Yahweh (“Jehovah”). The “Most High” told Yahweh that his share was Jacob.

    When the Most High gave the
    nations an inheritance,
    When he parted the sons of
    Adam from one another,
    He proceeded to fix the
    boundary of the peoples
    With regard for the number
    of the sons of Israel.
    For Jehovah’s share is his people;
    Jacob is the allotment that he inherits.

    When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance,
    when he divided all mankind,
    he set up boundaries for the peoples
    according to the number of the sons of Israel.
    For the LORD'S portion is his people,
    Jacob his allotted inheritance.

    When the Most High apportioned the nations,
    when he divided humankind,
    he fixed the boundaries of the peoples
    according to the number of the gods;
    the LORD's own portion was his people,
    Jacob his allotted share.

  • Phizzy

    Well spotted Doug, The Most High sends the subservient, lesser god, Yahweh to look after Jacob.

    I find it fascinating to get these hints that there was an evolution from pan-theism through henotheism to an eventual monotheism.(with sort of sub-stages I guess).

    Of course the Priests and Scribes in their redacting and editing of the Texts try to hide this slow development.

    I have often wondered how late in history it was before monotheism was accepted by all the Jewish people, it seems amongst the am-haarets, the country dwelling folk, that the old gods persisted quite late.

  • Doug Mason
    Doug Mason

    Hi Phizzy,

    The Judaism that we consider as typical came out of the minority elite following their experience with the Neo-Babylonian Captivity and Exile.

    Some scholars say that the Israelites (pre-Neo-Babylonian period) were polytheists. Some scholars say they were monolatrists. There are early traces of monotheism, but they were in the minority.

    Some scholars say that "Asherah" was the name of the goddess. Some say that it was the symbol of a goddess. Some say that Asherah was given Yahweh as his wife. Some say that this did not happen.

    Some scholars give priority to archaeology, others look only through the text of the Bible. But as you say, difficulties arise because the written history (Israelite Bible -- it's all Jewish) is distorted "history".

    If you do not mind reading a technical book that could address your thoughts on monotheism, then this could possibly help: "Gods, Goddesses, and Images of God in Ancient Israel" by Othmar Keel and Christoph Uehlinger.

    It's heavy on facts with hundreds of images, but with application it is possible to extract relevant information.


  • Phizzy

    Thanks Doug,

    Your post above was illuminating, I never thought before about how there is little collaboration between Archaeologists and textual Scholars, though I can see why, for Archaeology to keep its good name, you don't really want to go digging up Sites with too many preconceived ideas !

    I will get hold of a copy of the book, I like to have a heavy academic book to read several times a year.

  • Diogenesister

    Doug what are monolatrists please?

    I know what heinotheism is, is it a similar meaning?

    Also, there is quite a dramatic difference between the NRSV's "according to the number of the God's" and translations giving it as " according to the number of the sons of Israel" etc. I know this is one of the famous OT scriptures that hints at polytheism - have you had a look at Strongs or anything else that may indicate the true meaning? Why such a discrepancy? Is it that some texts were redacted and some not? Sorry to bombard you! I just find it fascinating!

    There's no doubt that Judaism as we understand it ( the old type not Rabbinical) began after they returned from their Babylonian " education", I believe Israel Finklestein found much physical evidence for polytheism in his digs ( chap from " The Bible unearthed", I'm sure you know about it). So that evidence certainly fits in with the poly or heinotheist camp. In this case, then, El and Yahweh are two different God's.

    What do you think about the idea that Baal and Yahweh are one and the same God? Is there much evidence for that? I am unclear?( I believe Mikey of Kim and Mike has been causing a storm among the Christians by claiming they are the same and that therefore - gasp! - Yahweh is Satan!! I swear that guy is just steps away from discovering that it's all fantasy).😁

  • Doug Mason
    Doug Mason


    El and his cohort of gods - the Elohim - came to the Israelites from the north. The Israelites took a few of 70 or so gods on offer. Initially EL was also made their chief god while Asherah was his wife and Baal was one of their sons. Yahweh came from the south, in the region of Moses' father-in-law. Yahweh was not part of the Elohim

    There were similarities with Ba'al and Yahweh: both were angry, warrior weather-gods, but they were not the same god.

    Yahweh became the Israelite's main god, and in time characteristics of other gods and goddesses were applied to him. El was an old god with a beard - the original "Ancient of Days". In time Yahweh became identified with El. The writers criticised Ba'al but never El.

    Monolatry means to worship one god but to recognise that there are other real gods, but they are lesser gods. Henotheism says that not only are there other gods but there is recognition that other people may worship their god with equal validity.

    I am aware of Finkelstein. I suggest reading a range of scholars to see a wider range of views.

    I do not know why the NRSV rendering is different. It might relate to their source. Maybe someone can help here. Look at the marginal readings. My NIV writes: "Jeshurun" in the margin. Conduct a wide ranging online search for the full background of that word.

    Regarding "satan", note that the Biblical concept is very different to that which was developed during the European Middle Ages. In Job, Satan had direct access to God in his court. Satan was simply an accuser.


  • Crazyguy

    The NRsv is definitely the most accurate translation in my opinion. They god their translation from a script that was found that stated this. The others don’t make any sense but we’re changed because the religion was moving to monotheism. How can god give the lands to the sons of Israel when they couldn’t even hold on to their little patch?

    Its also interesting that several of the characters in the Bible seem to take on some of the elements of god or one of the gods they worshipped. For example Gideon had 70 sons. El the supreme god of the Canaanites also had 70 sons. In my opinion El was recognized as the supreme god by the Bible writers and Yahweh was either a newer god that took on the attributes of El or the same diety with just a different name. Yahweh also took on the attributes of Baal Hadad and also Anat and others in my opinion.

  • Crazyguy

    I should also mention the idea of newer gods absorbing the older gods or at least their attributes was very common back then. Osiris became the supreme god of Egypt taking the attributes of RA , Thoth and Anubis. Marduk took over and became the most supreme god of Babylon and Enlil took over for his father Anu.

  • Doug Mason
    Doug Mason


    What you say makes sense. The Israelites said there were 70 nations and there were 70 gods. The rendering of "number of sons of Israel" likely references his 12 sons. Don't things get complicated when Jewish mysticism and gematra come into play?

    The bottom line is that I do not know what the original text said nor do I know what changes it experienced since it was initially written.

    "The problem with biblical texts is that they were recopied, adapted, and purged over the centuries." (Gods, Goddesses, and Images in Ancient Israel, page 396)

  • Bobcat

    Hey Doug,

    Check out the NET's footnote 14 here for some interesting discussion of differences between the MT and the LXX at Deut 32:8.

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