Are there other gods mentioned in the Bible? Please explain.
The difference between God and gods
The first thing to clarify is the definition of another “god.” The position for both Judaism and Christianity is that there is only one true God and any others are false gods. So if you’re asking whether the Bible talks of any other actual, for-real gods, the answer would be no. The things that others worship as gods, the Bible claims are not gods at all.
But if you’re asking whether any of the gods that the surrounding pagan cultures believed in are mentioned in the Bible, the short answer is yes. There are other gods mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments and they are mentioned both directly and indirectly.
The most famous mention would be in the first of the Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” That wouldn’t be mentioned if there weren’t people out there—including some in Israel—who were worshipping other gods. But even before that appears in Exodus, we have mention of other gods in the family of the early Patriarchs. For example, when Jacob takes his family and flees from his uncle, Laban, (Genesis 31) we read that Rachel stole her father’s household gods (Genesis 31:19). When Laban catches up to Jacob he mentions stealing the gods (v. 30) and Jacob responds by saying they have done no such thing. Laban goes searching for them but Rachel has hidden them in her saddle, sat on the saddle while Laban searched, and told her father she couldn’t get up because she was having her period!
All the surrounding cultures throughout the biblical period had pagan religions with many gods, and Jews and early Christians alike are always bumping into them. Sometimes the Israelites hedged their bets and worshiped both the God of Israel and some of the pagan gods; and the Bible records a number of purges—especially in the books of Samuel and Kings—where people are told to give them up. King Solomon himself is famously tripped up because he allows his foreign wives to bring the gods from their native lands into the marriage and even builds shrines for them. God is not pleased.
A frequent way that other gods are referenced in the Old Testament is by calling them “The Baals.” The word Baal was a title that meant “lord” in the languages of the region and is used in the Bible frequently as a general reference to other gods of the area. Sometimes it was referencing a specific god, and sometimes not. The Wikipedia article about it can give you more depth. You can find it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baal. The most famous biblical reference would be the great story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel in 1 Kings 18.
The friction between the God of Israel and the many gods of the surrounding cultures is a key theme throughout the Old Testament, but it doesn’t appear only there. In the New Testament, we meet other gods chiefly through Paul as he travels throughout the Roman empire, where a pantheon of other gods was worshiped. The most notable story here is when Paul visits Ephesus as described in Acts 19:23-41. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World was the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus. Artemis was the goddess of the hunt, and her temple in Ephesus was a huge attraction for those who worshiped her and for tourists in general. Craftsmen in Ephesus made a lot of money selling statues of Artemis to pilgrims and tourists, and the whole city was dependent on the income that came from those visiting her temple.
So you can imagine that when Paul marched into town and started proclaiming that there was only one God and Artemis was not it, people got pretty upset. He was challenging both the goddess of the city as well as the real idol in the city, which was the money to be made from the prominence of Artemis and her temple. Thus we see the riot in Acts 19 and Paul barely escapes with his life.
Paul also visits Athens (Acts 17:16-33) and goes to a statue of an unnamed god, declaring that he knows the identity of that God and it’s not anything like who they think! The Romans also believed that Caesar was a god and many of the early martyrs, both Jewish and Christian, met their fate because they refused to give an offering to Caesar and recognize that he was a god.
There are many, many other examples in the Bible as Jews and Christians alike meet up with other cultures with different religions. But the response is always the same from the Bible’s perspective. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; which is also the god of Jesus; is the only one there is. The others are false and fake and whether you claim Judaism of Christianity, the one God who made the heavens and the earth comes before all else.
-- Rev. Anne Robertson - Executive Director - Massachusetts Bible Society