As pointed out in the original question, the verb or adjective actually tells the reader if a noun should be understood as singular or plural, regardless of what form the word actually takes.
So even though 'elohim is technically the plural form of the noun, because the verbs or adjectives attached to that noun are consistently in the singular, the noun must be understood as referring to a singular subject/object: usually, God.
On the occasions when 'elohim is attached to verbs that are in the plural form, we must understand that as referring to a group: gods.
Using plural-form nouns for singular subjects and objects is not uncommon in Hebrew grammar. Several other nouns are found in the plural form even though they refer to a single subject/object. For example:
- Shamayim: literally 'heavens', but can refer to 'heaven', e.g. Genesis 1.8
- Chayim: literally 'lives', but can refer to a single 'life', e.g. Genesis 27.46
- Panim: literally 'faces', but can refer to a single 'face', e.g. Genesis 43.31
- Behemoth: plural of behemah, but can refer to an individual animal, e.g. Job 40.15ff
This is comparable to the English word 'news'. The word 'news' is the plural form of 'new', but it is often used with a singular verb. In English, we don't say 'What are the news', we say 'What is the news'.
In his commentary on Genesis, Kissling writes:
The word for "God" here and throughout Genesis 1:1-2:4 is the Hebrew word אֱלֹהִים (ʾĕlōhîm). This is not a personal name like Yahweh, but the generic Hebrew word for God. Although the form appears to be plural (masculine nouns in Hebrew normally form their plurals by adding im) it is usually used with a singular verb or adjective (as throughout this chapter). The plural is probably a plural of majesty or intensification. ... Often in the history of Christian interpretation of the noun ʾĕlōhîm there has been an attempt by those not thoroughly conversant with Hebrew to argue that the plural form of this word implies a plurality in the godhead. ... Unfortunately the grammatical form of a word in Hebrew does not necessarily tell us anything about whether the word should be understood in English as a singular or a plural.1
Accurate, faithful, literal translation goes beyond just translating each individual word by its contextless definition in the dictionary. Accurate, faithful, literal translation takes into account grammar, context, and meaning.
The absolute majority of the time, 'God' is the most accurate, faithful, and literal translation of
(singular verb) + 'elohim, because the grammar, context, and meaning of the full sentence requires it.
Before wrapping up, I want to briefly address one comment from the original question, because it is a question of translation philosophy:
Why not translate the bible as faithfully as possible and let the readers decide themselves what it really mean.
Most readers are completely ignorant of Hebrew. They don't know the vocabulary, or the grammar, or even the alphabet. Accurate translation is a scientific process, not a personal decision. If an individual has no knowledge of how biblical Hebrew functions as a language, they have no authority to decide what a word 'really means' against the consensus of the scholarly community.
1 Paul J. Kissling, Genesis, Volume 1, p. 83.