Most informed readers of the Bible are familiar with the witch of Endor’s reference to the deceased Samuel as an אלהים, or “deity.” She uses the plural participle עלים (“ones rising up”) with אלהים, but Saul asks מה תארו “what is his (singular) form,” in response. The participle may then be morphologically assimilating to the plural form of אלהים. Another text that may provide a few more clues regarding Israel’s view of its deceased is found in Ezekiel 32:21, which reads as follows:
ידברו־לו אלי גבורים מתוך שׁאול את־עזריו
ירדו שׁכבו הערלים חללי־חרב
The mighty gods shall speak to him out of the midst of Sheol with those that help him
They descend. The uncircumcised lay down, slain by the sword.
Most translations render אלי גבורים with “mighty chiefs,” or “the strong and the mighty” or something similar, but I don’t believe this reading is warranted. I’m not convinced אל ever means anything other than “divinity,” although it is often presupposed by exegetes. The phrase is the plural of אל גבור, which is found in reference to Hezekiah in Isa 9:6 and in reference to God in Isa 10:21.
The context is a prophecy about the destruction of Egypt, who will descend to Sheol and find the uncircumcised nations of the earth there. I suggest the אלי גבורים are the deceased kings. This would align with Assyro-Babylonian and Syro-Palestinian ideologies concerning kings as deities both in life and death.