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Most people have argued that Moses was the first monotheist. However, it could also be possible that monotheism was practiced in Egypt before the coming of Moses, to deliver the Israelites. The first commandment states that, “you shall have no other gods before me”. This does not necessarily change the fact that polytheism was way far practiced before Moses. The existence of other gods other than Yahweh is overtly seen in Deuteronomy, where Yahweh sets the boundaries of nations as per the “the number of the sons of God.” The objective of this paper is to discuss the development of Israelite religion from polytheism and image worship through the worship of either Yahweh alone or Yahweh with other gods to the claim that Yahweh is the only god. In the days of Moses, the Israelites were migratory people. After leaving Egypt and entering Canaan, the natives of the land had their own culture and religious beliefs, which was considered “pagan fertility cult”. In this religious system, there was a chief deity who by then was Baal. Baal was a creation of an ancient Semitic storm god and his superior was god El. In the system, there were also a couple of female deities such as Asherah, Anat and Astarte. The female deities were depicted mainly in the fertility cult as pregnant mothers or rather as courtesans of the gods. Though a minority, the Yahweh Israelites felt like it was their obligation to forbid particular practices that did not take seriously the need to increase legitimate population. It is true to mention that only Baal and Yahweh appear in Genesis and Exodus. Yahweh was the God that delivered the Israelites from captivity to the Promised Land. There, they did not formally adopt Baal; however, they substituted Yahweh at Baal’s sanctuary. This is because the native worship was a representation of fertility, something that was the most imperative issue within an agricultural society. II The Israelite religion was conceived in the desert at Sinai with Moses as he led the Israelites to bring it into Canaan. Therefore, the worship of Yahweh can be traced back to their migration from Egypt to Canaan. In Shechem, there existed a blend of Jewish communities and the desert nomads. Despite this, they swore to worship non other than Yahweh alone. Therefore, this is the point where the monotheistic religion was introduced. In the ancient world, this was quite a rare concept. The fundamental concept behind monotheism was the covenant struck, under which God promised to deliver the Israelites from captivity to the Promised Land. In exchange, he was supposed to offer them undivided protection for their total worship. In the worship of Yahweh, the key cultic ritual that was quite popular amongst the Israelites was live animal sacrifice, offerings of vegetables and incense. The worship of Yahweh under the concept of monotheism did not fully rule out the existence of other gods during that time. Even though they were present and recognized, they were completely distinguished from Yahweh. The Israelite’s religion generally prohibited the recognition and worship of any other god apart from Yahweh. However, a section of the Israelites persistently involved themselves in Canaanite rituals. It was evident that, during this time, strict monotheism was most likely unattainable. Therefore, for a while Yahweh was worshiped together with other gods. The worship of Yahweh together with other gods was persistently practiced until after the return from exile. It was during this time that austere devotion and loyalty to the law was codified. The worship of symbols was a
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(“The Development of Israelite Religion Admission/Application Essay”, n.d.)
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(The Development of Israelite Religion Admission/Application Essay)
“The Development of Israelite Religion Admission/Application Essay”, n.d. https://studentshare.org/history/1451403-the-new-jerusalem-bible.
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