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.