Here I reproduce a portion of Heiser’s “Introduction to the Divine Council”. This section comments on the nature of monotheistic statements in the bible:
Analysis of the Hebrew text demonstrates that several of the most common phrases in the Hebrew Bible allegedly used for denying the existence of other gods (e.g., Deut 4:35,39; 32:12,39) appear in passages that affirm the existence of other gods (Deut 4, 32). The result is that these phrases express the incomparability of Yahweh among the other elohim, not that the biblical writer contradicts himself, or that he is in the process of discovering monotheism. The situation is the same in Isaiah 40-66. Isaiah 40:1-8 is familiar to scholars (via the plural imperatives in 40:1-2) as a divine council text (Cross, Seitz). Isaiah 40:22-26 affirms the ancient Israelite worldview that described heavenly beings with heavenly host terminology (Heiser, “Divine Council,” 114-118). That Isaiah’s “denial statements” should be understood as statements of incomparability, not as rejections of the existence of other gods, is made clear in Isaiah 47:8, 10, where Babylon boldly claims, “I am, and there is none else beside me.” The claim is not that Babylon is the only city in the world, but that she has no rival.
Some would argue that the descriptions of a divine council are merely metaphoric. Metaphoric language, however, is not based on what a writer’s view of reality excludes. Rather, the metaphor is a means of framing and categorizing something that is part of the writer’s worldview. When the biblical writer asserts, “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods (‘elohim, ‘elim; Deut 10:17; Ex 15:11)?” these statements reflect a sincere belief and are neither dishonest nor hollow. Comparing Yahweh to the ancient equivalent of an imaginary or fictional character cheapens the praise. The Psalms contain many exclamations of the incomparability of Yahweh to the other gods (Ps 86:8, 95:3, 96:4, 135:5, 136:2). David (Ps 138:1) proclaims that he will sing the praise of the God of Israel “before the gods” (neged’elohim), a declaration that makes little sense if lesser ‘elohim did not exist.
I have links to two great articles by Heiser, both taken from www.thedivinecouncil.com. The first is titled “Introduction to the Divine Council“, and the second is entitled “God and the gods of the Old Testament“. The former is a draft of Heiser’s 2008 IVP Dictionary article, and the latter is a section from Heiser’s forthcoming book.
EDIT: Here is a link to a third, and excellent, article by Heiser. “Monotheism, Polytheism, Monolatry, or Henotheism? Toward an Assessment of Divine Plurality in the Hebrew Bible”