How were these gods or goddesses were “removed” from history? If their existence is in conflict with the First Commandment, how are they in the bible at all?

This is something we’re going to talk about a lot. For now I’ll just respond with two points:

  1. The first commandment  seems not to say that only Yahweh -El ( translated “The Lord your God”)  should be worshipped. It says “you will have no other gods before the face” (meaning “ahead of me” or “above me” because Yahweh is jealous, not because the other gods don’t exist.  In the polytheistic world that Deuteronomy tried to regulate, God would have regular contests with other deities. For example, Moses, who would not have been raised as a monotheist, is God’s instrument in a contest or “god-off” with Pharoah. God’s challenge is to Pharoah: Free your followers so they may be my followers. More on this here: The point I’m making here is that polytheism was the rule after the exile but probably not before then. We see Deuteronomists like Jeremiah and Ezekiel arguing for it, but many followers refused to give up goddess worship. 
  2. The theory of authorship our book will advance tells us that these commandments did not come first. The commandments were not written in the order they appear in biblically. Instead, they were collected from a variety of sources and ages and communities. The first that we know of come from Deuteronomy, which formed the core of the Torah, and others may have been collected in temple documents or followed by different ethnic communities that were eventually united as one people after the exile. The Hebrew bible tells us two origin stories for the Hebrew people, one in Genesis and one in Exodus, and these stories are eventually fused together to form a narrative of a united people with a common origin. What actually happened, and where all these stories and laws come from, is more complicated, but we can assume they were collected and gradually integrated into the narrative that becomes the Torah. Some attribute them to prophets like Amos and Hosea.
    1. In other words, the ten commandments that Christians prioritize were not the original or most important commandments for the Jewish people. In Mark and Matthew, we see Jesus telling us that the most important laws are the Shema (Deut 6) and a law from Leviticus 19: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew further says that all 613 laws are of equal value for his followers, who were Jewish followers of Jesus. Neither of these authors prioritize the ten commandments. 
    2. The ten commandments only assume their current importance for Christians in the 13th century CE with the rise of Protestant churches. Some believe the number 10 was easy to remember so these commandments became part of catechism (remember that before the Protestant reformation, most Christians did not read the bible at all).

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