And in all that I have said to you, be circumspect and make no mention of the name of other gods, nor let it be heard from your mouth. (Exodus 23:13)
What was meant by this command? Elijah mentioned Ba’al by name on several occasions during his confrontation with the prophets of Ba’al on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18). Then there is the fact that, in a couple of instances, the God of Israel is referred to as Ba’al as in Isaiah: “For your Maker is your husband [Heb. בעל ba’al], the LORD of hosts is His name” (Isaiah 54:5). To make it even more interesting, in the verse above the other gods are not called ba’alim but elohim — a title typically ascribed to the Almighty. Obviously, when trying to understand God’s point, we must place everything in context.
First of all, the word ba’al is not really the name of a god, necessarily, but means “control, authority” and thus it is also the word for “husband” as indicated in the scripture we quoted from Isaiah. So when considering the problem with other gods, it isn’t so much what they are called by name as much as it is how they are regarded by those who call on them. The Almighty is husband to His people and for them to regard another god in that way incites His jealousy.
It is also important to know that the Hebrew word שם shem, translated as “name,” also means “reputation, authority.” For example, when Yeshua said, “I have come in My Father’s name,” He was referring to the fact that He had come in the authority of the Father and that is why He said and did the things the Father would have Him speak and do. So how do we reconcile the issue where mentioning other gods is concerned?
We must understand the significance of “name” as meaning “authority.” In other words, God’s people are never to speak of other gods as having any authority over our lives and we are never to speak on behalf of other gods in any respect. Therefore, we are admonished to “heed” everything God tells us because He is our authority, and in that authority, we proclaim His Name to the nations.
Blessings and Shalom,