Yes, there were other gods, and yes, they were real beings. This should be widely known, but it has become the work of a great many pulpits to obscure this fact. Along with it is obscured the fact that the climax of the Bible story includes the judgment of these evil beings—their removal from the Planet Earth, and the establishment of a new order of things under which humans are no longer subject to angels. Here’s the theme:
Hebrews 2:5 For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking.
The world before that time had definitely been subjected to angels, many of whom had rebelled, and had rendered terrible service. Consider the following psalm:
Psalm 82:1 God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
2 “How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
4 Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
6 I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;
7 nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”
8 Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for you shall inherit all the nations!
These gods—these lesser elohim—were subordinate to Yahweh, yet had rejected that subordination. The righteous kept it ever in mind, however, that Yahweh was the king of all these “kings”:
Psalm 95:3 For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
Psalm 97:9 For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.
Psalm 135:5 For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.
Psalm 86:8 There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours.
Yes, the lesser elohim could do works, but none as mighty as Yahweh’s works. See also Jeremiah 14:22 “Are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain? ” There were limits to their abilities.
The rest of this post consists of excerpts with similar language about Yahweh’s judgment/punishment of gods. As you read, ask yourself whether this is really the language one would use to speak of hand-carved idols that caught on just people people are superstitious, and had come to believe that they represented real gods (though those gods never really existed).
Exodus 12:12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord.
Exodus 15:11 “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
12 You stretched out your right hand;
the earth swallowed them.
This is likely a reference to the 200 who descended on Hermon under the leadership of Azazel.
Exodus 18:10 Jethro said, “Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh and has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. 11 Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people.”
This would be a stupid narrative if carved idols were all that were meant by “all gods”. Rather, these gods were observed to be dealing arrogantly with people. These are real beings.
Exodus 23:24 you shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces.
How would it even be possible for a human to “serve” an inanimate object?
Numbers 33:4 while the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn, whom the Lord had struck down among them. On their gods also the Lord executed judgments.
Jeremiah 10:11 But the Lord is the true God;
he is the living God and the everlasting King.
At his wrath the earth quakes,
and the nations cannot endure his indignation.
11 Thus shall you say to them: “The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens.”
Jeremiah 46:25 The Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, said: “Behold, I am bringing punishment upon Amon of Thebes, and Pharaoh and Egypt and her gods and her kings, upon Pharaoh and those who trust in him.
Zephaniah 2:11 The Lord will be awesome against them;
for he will famish all the gods of the earth,
and to him shall bow down,
each in its place,
all the lands of the nations.
These gods, this wicked lot who despised Yahweh’s authority and despised mankind because Yahweh had created them—their reign of tyranny and their prophesied destruction is as central a theme to the Bible as any other. Many a church will wish to make a central theme out of, say, God’s grace, or of Jesus “starting the church”—and they will completely miss this massive “backstory” of the heavenly rebellion.
Not surprisingly, therefore, when they start getting near the end of the Revelation, those who have missed the central role of the evil angels in the plot will miss their role in the end of the story. Instead, they will take the judgment accounts as if of all humans globally, rather than as being primarily about Satan, his evil angels, the evil spirits, and whatever contingent of humans may have voluntarily aligned themselves to Satan for special service.
1 Enoch 57:3 3. For I saw all the angels of punishment abiding (there) and preparing all the instruments of Satan. 4. And I asked the angel of peace who went with me: ‘For whom are they preparing these instruments?’ 5. And he said unto me: ‘They prepare these for the kings and the mighty of this earth, that they may thereby be destroyed. 6. And after this the Righteous and Elect One shall cause the house of his congregation to appear: henceforth they shall be no more hindered in the name of the Lord of Spirits.
1 Enoch 56:1. And I saw there the hosts of the angels of punishment going, and they held scourges and chains of iron and bronze. 2. And I asked the angel of peace who went with me, saying: ‘To whom are these who hold the scourges going?’ 3. And he said unto me: ‘To their elect and beloved ones, that they may be cast into the chasm of the abyss of the valley.
4. And then that valley shall be filled with their elect and beloved,
And the days of their lives shall be at an end,
And the days of their leading astray shall not thenceforward be reckoned.
Revelation 20:1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.
These “hosts of the angels of punishment” (1 Enoch 56:1) appear to have been those who generally worked for Satan and the other kings of the Earth. Now, by whatever arrangement we do not know, they are on their way to get those very beings (presumably under duress by Yahweh?) Here we see that they did not only have chains, but scourges as well.
The following passage is the entirety of 1 Enoch 63. It shows the earlier incarceration of 200 angels who had intermarried with human women in Genesis 6 (also told in much greater detail 1 Enoch 6)
1 Enoch 63:1. In those days shall the mighty and the kings who possess the earth implore (Him) to grant them a little respite from His angels of punishment to whom they were delivered, that they might fall down and worship before the Lord of Spirits, and confess their sins before Him. 2. And they shall bless and glorify the Lord of Spirits, and say:
‘Blessed is the Lord of Spirits and the Lord of kings,
And the Lord of the mighty and the Lord of the rich,
And the Lord of glory and the Lord of wisdom,
3. And splendid in every secret thing is Thy power from generation to generation,
And Thy glory for ever and ever:
Deep are all Thy secrets and innumerable,
And Thy righteousness is beyond reckoning.
4. We have now learnt that we should glorify
And bless the Lord of kings and Him who is king over all kings.’
5. And they shall say:
‘Would that we had rest to glorify and give thanks
And confess our faith before His glory!
6. And now we long for a little rest but find it not:
We follow hard upon and obtain (it) not:
And light has vanished from before us,
And darkness is our dwelling-place for ever and ever:
7. For we have not believed before Him
Nor glorified the name of the Lord of Spirits, [nor glorified our Lord]
But our hope was in the sceptre of our kingdom,
Yes, they had a kingdom of their own.
And in our glory.
8. And in the day of our suffering and tribulation He saves us not,
And we find no respite for confession
That our Lord is true in all His works, and in His judgments and His justice,
And His judgments have no respect of persons.
9. And we pass away from before His face on account of our works,
And all our sins are reckoned up in righteousness.’
10. Now they shall say unto themselves: ‘Our souls are full of unrighteous gain, but it does not prevent us from descending from the midst thereof into the †burden† of Sheol.’
11. And after that their faces shall be filled with darkness
And shame before that Son of Man,
And they shall be driven from his presence,
And the sword shall abide before his face in their midst.
12. Thus spake the Lord of Spirits: ‘This is the ordinance and judgment with respect to the mighty and the kings and the exalted and those who possess the earth before the Lord of Spirits.’
64:1 And other forms I saw hidden in that place. 2. I heard the voice of the angel saying: ‘These are the angels who descended to the earth, and revealed what was hidden to the children of men and seduced the children of men into committing sin.‘