Mark Smith’s view of Psalm 82 can stand for the consensus of modern scholarship. Smith thinks the author of Psalm 82 is trying to replace an older view, and that the older view represents Isreal’s original polytheism.
When verse one says: “God stands in the assembly of El. He judges among the gods” it picks up the mythology that we have found in the tablets discovered at Ugarit. There El presides over a council of all the gods. The psalmist has one of those other gods, Yahweh, stand up and address the assembly. In verses 2-5 Yahweh condemns the other gods. And in verses 6 and 7 he renders judgment. .“I said, ‘You are gods, All of you are sons of the Most High. Nevertheless you shall die like men, And fall like one of the princes‘.”
In other word, our psalmist pictures the God of Israel condemning all the other gods to death.
Then in verse 8, the voice of a prophet sounds out calling upon the Israel’s God, who had previously just been one of the gods of the nations, to assume the role of supreme God and judge. Smith thinks the psalmist graphically replaces an older theology with a newer theology. But the new theology is not monotheism. In fact, since El’s wife was Asherah, Smith thinks that Yahweh would have been understood now to be mated to Asherah, thus the inscriptions we have found in the Sinai desert that refer to Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah.. The other gods don’t really die. They get demoted to the “host of heaven” (1 Kings 22:19) or the Seraphim (Isaiah 6).
So before the 8th century BCE Israel’s religion was a polytheism like this: “Other gods in their nations represented no threat to Israel and its patron god as long as they were not imported into Israel. As long as other gods did not affect worship of Yahweh in Israel, they could be tolerated as the gods of other peoples and nations. (Smith p 49).