It is written in Scripture that we are not to mention the names of other deities. Is it correct to understand this to mean that we are not to, even say these names when referring to another god? In this study, we shall see what we can learn from scripture in this regard. We shall also look into the roots of words. There are teachings that state that we cannot use certain English words like mercy, grace, faith and wisdom because the roots of these words are of heathen or pagan origin. We shall show you from Scripture how both these teachings are in contradiction with Scripture.
We look to YHVH for instruction and teaching in this. He has given us His word and His Ruach ha Qodesh to guide us in our way.
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go. I will advise you with my eye upon you.
We shall commence at Exodus 20, where YHVH gave the instruction that we are to worship Him only.
We are commanded to worship YHVH only
The ten words, these were the commandments that YHVH gave to Israel when the Sinai covenant was made. The first commandment pertains to YHVH being our only Elohim. We are commanded to worship and serve Him only. We are not to have any other gods before Him.
2 “I am YHVH your Elohim, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before Me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5 “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, YHVH your Elohim, am a jealous Elohim, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
The following scriptures all confirm the meaning of this: Deut 6:14; 2 Kin 17:35; Jer 25:6; Jer 35:15. In 2 kings 17:35-38 is another explanation of how we are to worship YHVH.
2 Kings 17:35–38
35 with whom YHVH made a covenant and commanded them, saying, “You shall not fear other gods, nor bow down yourselves to them nor serve them nor sacrifice to them. 36 “But YHVH, who brought you up from the land of Egypt with great power and with an outstretched arm, Him you shall fear, and to Him you shall bow yourselves down, and to Him you shall sacrifice. 37 “The statutes and the ordinances and the law and the commandment which He wrote for you, you shall observe to do forever; and you shall not fear other gods. 38 “The covenant that I have made with you, you shall not forget, nor shall you fear other gods.
From these passages, we gain understanding as to what it means to worship YHVH.We are to fear Him, bow down to Him, serve Him and sacrifice to Him; and His statutes, ordinances, law and commandments we shall observe.
Do not mention the name of other gods
In Exodus, the following is commanded:
13 “Now concerning everything which I have said to you, be on your guard; and do not mention the name of other gods, nor let them be heard from your mouth.
Does this mean we are commanded not to even say the name of any god that ever existed? Let us look at this in more detail. Let’s first look at the meaning of the word translated as “mention”
The Hebrew word “zakar” was translated as “mention”
2349 I. זָכַר (zā·ḵǎr): v.; ≡ Str 2142; TWOT 551—1. LN 29.6–29.12 (qal) remember, i.e., to recall information or events (2Ki 9:25); (nif) remembered (Eze 33:13); 2. LN 29.16–29.18 (qal) remember, i.e., to recall information or events, with a focus on responding in an appropriate manner (Ex 6:5); (qal pass.) be remembered (Ps 103:14), see also 2345; (nif) remembered, invoked (Hos 2:17); (hif) mention, remind, cause to remember (Ge 40:14); 3. LN 33.218–33.223 (hif) proclaim, tell, i.e., assert truths about one, as one speaks publicly, implying that this information has been known before (Jer 4:16); 4. LN 65.1–65.16 unit: (nif) לֹא זָכַר (lō(ʾ) zā·ḵǎr)1 worth forgetting, formally, not remember, i.e., have a low value, with a focus that the item is not unforgettable (Job 28:18); note: further study may yield more domains2
The word “zakar” means to remember, to invoke or to proclaim
In Isaiah 48:1, the word “zakar” was translated as “invoke”
1 “Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are named Israel And who came forth from the loins of Judah, Who swear by the name of YHVH And invoke the Elohim of Israel, But not in truth nor in righteousness.
Invoke means to call on the name of a deity
call on (a deity or spirit) in prayer, as a witness, or for inspiration.
|synonyms:||pray to, call on, appeal to, plead with, supplicate, entreat, solicit,beseech, beg, implore, importune, petition; More4|
This same word “zakar” is used in Hosea 2:17
17 “For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, So that they will be mentioned by their names no more.
Here is some further commentary on this verse in Hosea from the Bible Knowledge Commentary:
Israel’s guilt was established as the basis for her punishment. She had failed to acknowledge YHVH as the Source of her produce and wealth. Instead she used silver and gold to manufacture Baal idols (cf. 8:4; 13:2), for it was this Canaanite deity to whom she attributed her agricultural (grain … new wine and oil) and economic prosperity (2:5, 12–13).
Baal was the Canaanite god who supposedly controlled storms and was responsible for both agricultural and human fertility. The Canaanite “Legend of Keret” associated Baal’s rain with agricultural blessing in the form of grain, bread, wine, and oil (cf. J.C.L. Gibson, Canaanite Myths and Legends. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1978, p. 98). By looking to Baal for these things Israel broke the first of the Ten Commandments (cf. Ex. 20:3; Deut. 5:7), rejecting one of the main principles of the Mosaic legislation. Moses taught that the Lord provided grain, wine, and oil (Deut. 7:13; 11:14). Each Israelite, when presenting his firstfruits in the harvest festival, was to recite the following words in the presence of the priest, “I bring the firstfruits of the soil that You, O LORD, have given me” (Deut. 26:10).5
Israel was guilty of transgression, they attributed their prosperity to other gods, in this case to Baal, the Canaanite god. They forgot YHVH (Hos 2:13), but remembered the other gods.
The final statement in this section (2:2–13) summarizes Israel’s basic sin and the reason for the coming judgment: she had forgotten (šāḵaḥ) the LORD. The verb here does not refer to a mental lapse or loss of knowledge; it describes a refusal to acknowledge the Lord’s goodness and authority (cf. 8:14; 13:6). Moses had repeatedly urged the nation not to forget the Lord’s gracious deeds (Deut. 4:9; 8:11) and His demand for exclusive worship (Deut. 4:23; 6:12; 8:19; cf. 2 Kings 17:38). However, in fulfillment of Moses’ prediction (cf. Deut. 31:27–29 with Deut. 32:18) Israel throughout her history forgot the Lord and worshiped false gods (cf. Jud. 3:7; 1 Sam. 12:9–10; Ps. 78:9–11; Jer. 23:27).5
It is not about mentioning a name. YHVH wants His name to be remembered (zakar) not that of other gods. He wants us to acknowledge His power and authority. He wants and deserves our worship, praise, sacrifices and obedience. We are to proclaim His name and ascribe our prosperity to Him and Him alone.
We are not to do it unto other gods.
In Exodus 20:24 remembering YHVH’s name is equated to bringing sacrifices.
24 ‘You shall make an altar of earth for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you.
We are instructed to remember (zakar) the Sabbath day. That means we are to proclaim it and observe it.
8 “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
The tzit-tzit is a reminder (zakar) to us to keep YHVH’s commandments
39 “It shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of YHVH, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot, 40 so that you may remember to do all My commandments and be holy to your Elohim.
In Deuteronomy, we are commanded to remember (zakar) YHVH, not forget Him and serve other gods.
18 “But you shall remember YHVH your Elohim, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. 19 “It shall come about if you ever forget YHVH your Elohim and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today that you will surely perish.
Also, if we use scripture to interpret scripture, this commandment not to mention the names of other gods is repeated in Joshua, within the context of worship.
7 so that you will not associate with these nations, these which remain among you, or mention the name of their gods, or make anyone swear by them, or serve them, or bow down to them. 8 “But you are to cling to YHVH your Elohim, as you have done to this day.
The word “mention” was again translated from “zakar.” Joshua stated that we are not to do unto the gods of the nations what we are commanded to do unto YHVH, as stated in Deuteronomy 10:20-21:
20 “You shall fear YHVH your Elohim; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name. 21 “He is your praise and He is your Elohim, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen.
In Psalms, we read what David said about this:
4 The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied; I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood, Nor will I take their names upon my lips.
The primary meaning of the word “take” here is to “lift up”
5951 נָשָׂא (nā·śā(ʾ)): v.; ≡ Str 4984, 5375, 5379, 7721; TWOT 1421—1. LN 15.101–15.106 (qal) lift up, i.e., cause to move up or lift up an object to a higher elevation of any amount (Ge 7:7; Jer 4:6); (qal pass.) be lifted up; (nif) be lifted up, raised, lofty (Ps 24:7; Isa 2:2; Isa 2:13, 14; 30:25; 40:4; 57:7, 15; Isa Jer 51:9; Eze 1:19, 19, 20, 21, 21; 8:3; Mic 4:1; Zec 5:7+)2
David described how the sorrows of those who run after other gods will be multiplied and how he would not pour out drink offerings of blood, nor take their names upon his lips. Once again the context is the worship of other gods. The word “zakar” has a much broader meaning than just to“mention“and we are to understand it in the context it was written.
We are not trying to encourage you to pronounce the names of other gods. We are trying to show you that it is an extremist view to teach that we are not to even mention the name of another god. We are to fear YHVH and that will imply that we don’t talk about other gods, but a situation sometimes necessitates the saying of the name of another god, for the sake of teaching or just to function in this world. So many things are named after other gods, the days of the week, the months of the year, brand names, the names of towns and many others.
When we say today is Monday, we are not worshipping the moon god. We are using a term that is common and understood by society to point to a specific day. It may have been intended as a day to the moon, but it is now used in a completely different context. The ideal would be not to use these names, and rather refer to day two when we speak of Monday. This is possible to do when we speak to other believers and we would like to encourage you to do so, but if you speak to a colleague and want to make an appointment with him, he won’t understand you when you say you would like to make an appointment on day two.
The extremist view is always easy, as there is comfort in extremism, but the ideal is to be balanced without compromising.
Saying the names of other deities
We have now established that the word “zakar” means more than just to mention or say the names of other gods. We shall now confirm this with examples from scripture.
In the verse we quoted from Hosea, YHVH uses the word Baal when referring to Baal, the deity. This is not the only reference found in Scripture where either YHVH or one of His prophets mention the name of another god. This seems contradictory, but it isn’t. YHVH won’t and doesn’t contradict Himself and His prophets are not exempt from His commandments, so if we think it is contradictory, our understanding must be wrong. Scripture should be understood in its context. If we remove it from context, it can contradict itself.
Here are a few examples where the name of another deity was used in scripture.
25 Now on the same night YHVH said to him, “Take your father’s bull and a second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal which belongs to your father, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it;
31 But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal, or will you deliver him? Whoever will plead for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because someone has torn down his altar.”
Baal is not the only god mentioned in scripture
2 Kings 5:18
18 “In this matter may YHVH pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, YHVH pardon your servant in this matter.”
21 ‘You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your Elohim; I am YHVH.
The name of Molech is found 8 times in scripture. The queen of heaven is another one.
18 “The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead dough to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods in order to spite Me.
and the Babylonian god Tammuz
14 Then He brought me to the entrance of the gate of YHVH’s house which was toward the north; and behold, women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz.
The Egyptian god Amon is mentioned and the Pharoah considered himself a god.
25 YHVH of hosts, the Elohim of Israel, says, “Behold, I am going to punish Amon of Thebes, and Pharaoh, and Egypt along with her gods and her kings, even Pharaoh and those who trust in him.
The goddess Artemis is named five times in the book of Acts.
35 After quieting the crowd, the town clerk said, “Men of Ephesus, what man is there after all who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of the image which fell down from heaven?
This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a few examples from scripture. The name Baal is mentioned 50 times in scripture as a reference to a deity and other times meaning owner, husband or master.
The word ba˓al occurs 84 times in the Hebrew Old Testament, 15 times with the meaning of “husband” and 50 times as a reference to a deity.3
From these examples, we see that the names of other gods were mentioned in scripture. This confirms that when reference was made to another god his/her name was used.
Not only, were the other gods referred to by name, but the names of these gods sometimes had other meanings. You would expect that this would not occur as it would be mentioning the name of another god.
Using words that are names of other gods
The word “baal” is a good example. The fact that the word “baal” referred to a deity did not deter people from using this same word when referring to husband 15 times in Scripture. Here is an example:
3 “If he comes alone, he shall go out alone; if he is the husband of a wife, then his wife shall go out with him.
When you look at the source text the word for “husband” is “baal.”
It was also used to refer to “leaders” or “owners”.
1 Samuel 23:12
12 Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?” And YHVH said, “They will surrender you.”
Here David is praying to YHVH and he used the word “baal” to refer to the leaders of Keilah.
23 Then the man, the owner of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my fellows, please do not act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, do not commit this act of folly.
Here is a screen clipping of 2 Pet 3:15 from the Interlinear Bible.
Here the Greek word “sophia” is found in the source text and was translated as wisdom. Sophia was the name of a deity, the goddess of wisdom about 400 years before Y’shua.6 From this word “sophia” the word philosophy”originated. “philo sophia” in Latin meaning a friend of, or the love of wisdom.
Peter was not invoking the name of a deity, he was discussing an abstract concept. Y’shua and Paul also used this word when referring to wisdom and so did the translators of the Septuagint when translating the Hebrew word “hokma”
Here is an example where Y’shua used the word “sophia”
19 “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
1 Corinthians 1:20
20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not Elohim made foolish the wisdom of the world?
As we said before, not Y’shua, Peter or Paul was invoking a deity here, they were referring to an abstract concept. The concept of wisdom.
wis•dom \ˈwiz-dəm\ noun[Middle English, from Old English wīsdōm, from wīs wise] before 12th century
1 a: accumulated philosophic or scientific learning: KNOWLEDGE
b: ability to discern inner qualities and relationships: INSIGHT
c: good sense: JUDGMENT
d: generally accepted belief 〈challenges what has become accepted wisdom among many historians—Robert Darnton〉
2: a wise attitude, belief, or course of action
3: the teachings of the ancient wise men synonym see SENSE7
We can find many more examples, but we hope this has convinced you. If we say we cannot use words like wisdom or mercy or grace or faith because the origin of these words are from the names of other gods, we make YHVH, His prophets, Y’shua and His followers guilty of transgression against Torah. This can never be!
We cannot hold on to an interpretation or teaching which contradict scripture as a whole. The context in which these words are used is important. If we use the name of another deity in the context of worship, we transgress the first commandment, but if we use a word similar or even the same as the name of a deity, but in another context, we do not transgress. So, if we want to use the word mercy, grace or faith in the English language, we are not referring to or worshipping another god by that name in another language. These are abstract concepts, not names and we determine that by context and intention.
Those of you who ascribe to this teaching of not using certain English words due to their pagan or heathen origin, please consider this. There are teachers who teach this, but it is an error.
You can also read https://www.setapartpeople.com/the-not-so-pagan-roots-of-word, an earlier article on the topic.
We are to stick to one language when we communicate, we otherwise confuse people, and these kind of teachings surface. Let me give you an example: when we speak Dutch, we use words that are considered swear words in Afrikaans. We speak both languages, so do we now ban these words from our Dutch vocabulary because they mean something else in Afrikaans? Or should we ask the Dutch people to stop using these words because they are swear words in Afrikaans? It is not reasonable to expect this.
From this study, we have learned how YHVH wants us to worship Him. We have also learned that the word “mention” as it was translated in Exodus 23:13, means much more than just to say a word or a name. It is about context and intent. It is wrong to mention the names of other gods if we lift them up in worship or proclaim their goodness. That is what we are commanded not to do. We are to worship YHVH only and proclaim His goodness and His name. We are to worship, serve and obey Him only.
In Scripture, the names of other gods are used to refer to them, not in worship. YHVH referred to them by name and so did His prophets. This was not a transgression of YHVH’s commandments.
These names were also used to refer to other things. The word Baal did not only refer to the god, but also to leader, husband or owner. These words were used in Scripture.
Words describing abstract concepts like wisdom, mercy or faith were also used in the source text, even though these words were also used to name gods and goddesses who represented these characteristics.
We cannot teach that this is idolatry, for then we make YHVH, His prophets, Y’shua and His followers all guilty of transgression.
The use of these words is about intent and context. If we use it in the context of worship and with the intent to worship, we are in serious error. We cannot, however, teach people to avoid certain English words because these may have originated from or have been used to name a god or goddess. This is very poor scholarship. This kind of scholarship gives the Messianic movement a very bad name.
YHVH’s word is truth. We are to follow Him not people.
17 “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.
- All quoted passages are from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995. We have substituted YHVH for LORD, and Y’shua for Jesus
- Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
- Vine, W. E., Unger, M. F., & White, W., Jr. (1996). Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Vol. 1, p. 199). Nashville, TN: T. Nelson.
- Chisholm, R. B., Jr. (1985). Hosea. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, pp. 1383–1384). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
- Mish, F. C. (2003). Preface. Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. (Eleventh ed.). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc.
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