Deuteronomy 32:43, Was Israel Polytheistic?

“Praise his people, O you nations; for he avenges the blood of his servants, and takes vengeance on his adversaries, and makes expiation for the land of his people.”

//There’s a rather heated argument between conservative and liberal Christians as to whether Judaism was monotheistic from their very beginning, or whether the scriptures hint that Israel’s earliest traditions were polytheistic. A number of archaeological finds suggest worship (or at least recognition) of multiple gods in Israel, and a number of verses in the Bible speak of “gods” or “sons of God” or “the council of gods.” Not the least among these is God’s own jealous directive in the ten commandments that his people worship no other gods besides him. It seems Yahweh (Jehovah) was not considered the only god, he was merely the patron god of Israel, considered by them to be the High God.

Enter today’s quote. It’s a verse of praise for the Hebrew god, as quoted from the RSV (Revised Standard Version), and it matches pretty closely to what you may be familiar with in the Kings James Version. But the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 20th century has shaken our world. Before this discovery, the oldest Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible wereMasoretic texts dating to 10th century CE. The biblical manuscripts found among the Dead Sea Scrolls push that date back over 1,000 years to the 2nd century BCE! That’s 1,000 years closer to the original words of the Hebrew Bible.

Consequently, when the NRSV (New Revised Standard Version) was published in 1989, this verse was corrected to reflect its more original wording, and now it reads very differently:

Praise, O heavens, his people,
   worship him, all you gods!
For he will avenge the blood of his children,
   and take vengeance on his adversaries;
he will repay those who hate him,
   and cleanse the land for his people.

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