Prospectus: The Sruggle of Developing Monotheistical Worship from a Polytheistical Culture

What makes the worship of one god so difficult?  Why are the pages of scriptural text littered with the failure of Israel to maintain a monogamous relationship with their God?  Hebrew, Israelite, and Jew are all terms used to refer to the chosen people of the One God.  Abraham is credited with being the father of the Hebrews.  But did all Hebrews spring from Abrahams loins?  In chapter 17 of Genesis all the male members of Abraham’s household take part in the covenant of circumcision, and at the time Abraham has only one son.  Where do the other men play a role in the covenant?  God only reveals himself to Abraham. 

A few generations later God also reveals himself to Abraham’s grandson Jacob.  God renews the promise he made to Abraham and changes Jacob’s name to Israel.  It will be Israel’s son’s who sir the tribes that become a nation.  But the beloved wife of Israel, mother of two tribes, Rachel, is unable to leave her father’s house without the company of her idols (Gen 31:34). 

Toward the end of Israel’s life he took his family into Egypt.  Egypt was a culture rich in religious worship.  Egyptians have a god for everything…

The descendents of Israel spend 430 years in Egypt (Ex 12:41).  Most of their time is spent in slavery.  God then reveals himself to all the Israelites allowing their escape from bondage.  But right after God commands no images to be made and worshipped like a god the Israelites make a golden calf in chapter 32 of Exodus.  This angers God and the idol is destroyed by him.  Then in Numbers chapter 21 God sends venomous snakes that kill many Israelites.  When the Israelites complain God gives instructions to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole, so when the people look at it they will live (vs 8-9). 

There are many warnings given against following other gods.  The first four commands given in the decalog concern worshipping only the One God.  Why would so much attention be given to a single issue?  I will show in my paper that the Hebrew people were not only made up of the descendents of Abraham, but also many others.  Each person bringing with him or her customs that were incorporated into the worship and some that were done away with over time.  I will also show how the surrounding polytheistic cultures continue to influence and draw the Israelites to their shrines.

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3 Responses to Prospectus: The Sruggle of Developing Monotheistical Worship from a Polytheistical Culture

  1. cmweid2 says:

    You have a very well thought out topic. What are some things resources you intend to use? I think another thing you could consider is other cultures the Hebrew people could have come in contact to throughout their whole journey to the promised land. That would probably require a lot of historical research (looking at the bible for places they passed through/conquered, plus looking at research of those specific countries at the time). Ancient Mesopotamia may be a good culture to reference, seeing as they were a polytheistic culture. And of course you have the obvious research of the Ancient Egyptians considering they owned the lives of the Hebrews, and must have had at least some kind of influence.

    Maybe another question to consider is ‘why would the Israelites keep reverting back to polytheism, especially when it was that one god (THE god) who led them out from Egypt.

    Overall, great topic and I’m excited for the outcome.

    PS, a possible good resource to use could be art history books, concerning polytheistic cultures tended to create idols and wall paintings that had to do with the gods

  2. Ashley Lee says:

    This is a good topic. Very interesting points that could even offer insight into world religions today. Not only does this show the difficulty that Jews had turning from their polytheistic lifestyle, but I think it’s a common battle for anyone who either chooses or is forced to suddenly change their entire lifestyle.

    I was thinking of polytheism as an addiction; let’s say alcoholism. We you decided to turn away from that lifestyle, you go to meetings where there is reminder after reminder after reminder and encouragements alike to not fall back into your old ways. The Israeliets had to learn to live a new way, which knowing what we do about humans, could not be expected to change overnight.

    I’m excited to see what you do with this paper. Sounds good.

  3. kevinrooney says:

    I think this topic is pretty interesting. According to the Bible, God basically spelled it out in every way imaginable for the Israelites. You wonder why then, it was so difficult for them to only worship God. These people supposedly saw signs and miracles regularly, but still they fall into idol worship. It just doesn’t seem like the God of Abraham was ever personal with the Israelites.

    I wonder if there is anyway to determine how much was just being creatures of habit. And I wonder if there is evidence of people maybe rejecting the God of Israel? Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes.

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