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Idols in the Bible: Big danger no one talks about

Idols in the Bible: Big danger no one talks about
God hates idols and forbids His people from making them and worshipping them. From Moses to St. John, the Bible thunders against them.

God is pretty clear about this: in the Ten Commandments: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:- Exodus 20:4

The Bible has this to say:

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Idols in the Bible: Big danger no one talks about

Idols in the Bible: Big danger no one talks about

What agreement hath the temple of God with idols?St. Paul*(5-67) in 2 Corinthians 6:16

* indicates that person is in Spiritual Lives.

Definition of idol


an image or other material object representing a deity to which religious worship is addressed.


an image of a deity other than God.

the deity itself.

any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion:

Madame Curie had been her childhood idol.

a mere image or semblance of something, visible but without substance, as a phantom.

a figment of the mind; fantasy.

a false conception or notion; fallacy.

Idols are mentioned 101 times in the KJV in the plural, and another 16 singular.

Moses*(1571-1452 BC) uses “idols” the first time in the Bible:

Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I am the LORD your God.Leviticus 19:4

The Pulpit commentary explains:

The word used for idols, elilim, meaning nothings, is contrasted with Elohim, God. Psalm 115:1-18 exhibits this contrast in several of its particulars. Cf. St. Paul’s statement,

“We know that an idol is nothing in the world and that there is none other God but one.” 1 Corinthians 8:4.

Where did idols come from?

The Bible is silent on this. There were none in the Garden of Eden. God spoke audibly to Adam*(4004-3074 BC) and Eve* and their children, and everyone knew God was there. Idols cannot stand in His presence, as we will see in 1 Samuel 5:3-5.

The Bible’s story of idols begins with Abraham*(1996-1821 BC)

We back into the story from an account given by Joshua*(1553-1443 BC) after he had conquered the children of Israel’s enemies in the land of Canaan:

Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.

And I took your father Abraham* from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac*(1896-1716 BC).

And I gave unto Isaac*, Jacob*(1836-1689 BC) and Esau*(1836-1689 BC): and I gave unto Esau mount Seir, to possess it; but Jacob and his children went down into Egypt. – Joshua 24:2-4

The “other side of the flood” was the land of Ur on the Euphrates River.

Ur was the city of the priests and mathematicians, who from their art, were called by the name of Chaldeans… These taught Terah and his sons idolatry.Annals of the World, Bishop Ussher

God appeared to Abraham and delivered him from this culture of idolatry. This is the first time God called someone out of a culture of Idolatry, but not the last.

The Bible shows Him calling His people out of idolatry from Genesis through Revelation, and He so calls us today:

“Called unto HOLINESS,” church of our God,

Purchase of Jesus, redeemed by His blood;

Called from the world and its idols to flee,

Called from the bondage of sin to be free.

Leila N. Morris, 1900

Abraham came out of idolatry, but idolatry had come into his family:

And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father’s. Genesis 31:19

These “household gods” plagued the children of Israel throughout their history. The Hebrew word for them is “teraphim.” They were:

images of angels consulted on occasion and placed in the house for the protection of it, and to increase the substance thereof: ….. that at certain times were made to speak, and show things to come:

…and were consulted as oracles, and in high esteem with the Chaldeans and Syrians, a people given to astrology, and by which they made their divinations; —John Gill (1697-1771)

These “household gods” were not worshipped but held onto as good luck charms, like horseshoes, rabbit’s feet, and 4-leaf clovers in our time.

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and his children moved among the Canaanites who did worship idols, but the Hebrews kept away from them and remained faithful to the LORD.

It was in Egypt that they encountered serious idolatry and idols, among them the golden calf.

This was a gold sculpture of a calf that the idolatrous Israelites formed at Sinai. This symbol was apparently copied from the pagan religion of the Egyptians. It was destroyed at the command of Moses.

God HATES idols

God called Abraham out from a culture of idolatry, and then, 430 years later, called the children of Israel out of Egypt after destroying the idols the Egyptians worshipped. His people are to be different. Here is what He said in the Ten Commandments:

I am the LORD thy God, which has brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; -Exodus 20:2-5

But they did just that a few weeks after their deliverance from slavery in Egypt!

It is amazing to us how the children of Israel could turn to idolatry after the LORD had just delivered them from the power of those who worshiped the golden calf. He did this with 10 plagues and then mightily opened the Red Sea for them and destroyed the Egyptian Pharaoh and his army! Why?

They were afraid and Moses was up on Mt. Sinai with the LORD for 6 weeks. Although God had given them His Word, they wanted something for their eyes to see. John Gill (1697-1771) puts it like this:

not that they were so very stupid to think, that anything that could be made with hands was really God, … but that something should be made as a symbol and representation of the divine Being, carried before them.

for as for the cloud which had hitherto gone before them, from their coming out of Egypt, that had not moved from its place for forty days or more, and seemed to them to be fixed on the mount, and would not depart from it; and therefore they wanted something in the room of it as a token of the divine Presence with them.

Another aspect that we see here is that God’s minister helped them! Aaron*(1574-1452 BC) , Moses’ brother, the man called by the LORD to be His high priest, made the golden calf!

We will see this again. Over and over.

They paid a heavy price for this.

Moses describes it:

At Horeb you aroused the Lord’s wrath so that he was angry enough to destroy you. Deuteronomy 9:8

Nothing incurs the wrath of the LORD more than His people’s idolatry. Again and again, we see it throughout all of Israel’s history, and each time it was averted because a deliverer sent from God brought them out from it.

So powerfully did this inject the fear of the LORD into the children of Israel, that they did not succumb to the lure of idolatry for many years, although the prophet Balaam enticed them to it through sexual sin.

Sex was at the heart of idolatry.

The Canaanites believed in fertility gods Baal and Asherah who drove the practice of religious prostitution (1 Kings 14:23-24).

The priest or a male member of the community represented Baal. The priestess or a female member of the community represented Asherah. In this way, God’s incredible gift of sexuality was perverted to the most obscene public prostitution. No wonder God’s anger burned against his people and their leaders.

Enticed by this and desire to be like other nations, the Israelites,

And they forsook the LORD and served Baal and Ashtaroth. -Judges 2:13

During the time of the Judges, (1405-1055 BC) the people followed the LORD for a while and then the idols, depending on who had power, a godly judge, or the idolatrous Canaanites.

In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes. Judges 21-25

Israel never became a nation because they were sidetracked and oppressed by idolatry.

Kings of Israel destroy idolatry

Saul*(1115-1055 BC) and David*(1085-1015 BC) stamped idolatry out of their kingdom so thoroughly that the children of Israel were established as a nation, and David’s son Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem, where the LORD came to dwell and filled it with His glory.

But Solomon*(1034-975 BC) did not remain faithful to the LORD:

But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites;

Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love. – 1 Kings 11:1-2

Not only did he love them, but he re-introduced idolatry to Israel:

Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. 1 Kings 11:7

The worship of these idols demanded child sacrifice,

and Solomon promoted them all.

As a result, God stripped 10 tribes away from David’s line and gave them to Jeroboam. One would think he would be thankful to the LORD for giving him this kingdom, but immediately he set up golden calves as Aaron had done.

Despite the ministry of Elijah*(938? -839 BC), Elisha*(925? -839 BC), and others, all 20 kings of Israel continued to worship these golden calves until the LORD destroyed them in 721 BC. The conquering idolatrous Assyrians absorbed the 10 tribes into their empire.

In Judah idolatry was reintroduced, often via the heathen mothers of the kings. About half the 19 kings of Judah were idolaters, but there were revivals during the ministry of Isaiah and the reign of King Josiah.

These 400 years were much like the 400 years of the Judges, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of the Jews. The LORD gives this reason:

Surely at the commandment of the LORD came this upon Judah, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he did;

And also for the innocent blood that he shed: for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the LORD would not pardon. – 2 Kings 24:3-4

This was the end of idolatry among the Jews, but for the rest of their existence, they would be ruled by heathen powers, beginning with the Babylonians, and their idols and ending with the Romans, worshippers of Jupiter and Diana of the Ephesians.

Idols in the New Testament

The Old Testament gods were gone by the time of Jesus, but the worship of others had taken their place. The devil was so bold in his desire to be worshipped that he approached Jesus Himself:

Then the Devil took him up and showed him in a second all the kingdoms of the world.

“I will give you all this power and all this wealth,” the Devil told him. “It has all been handed over to me, and I can give it to anyone I choose.

All this will be yours, then, if you worship me.”

Jesus answered, “The scripture says, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him!’ “ -Luke 4:5-8

Two of the idols we do find in the New Testament are Jupiter and Diana of the Ephesians.

The leader of the gods, Zeus (Jupiter to the Romans), took on the role of Baal, the god of weather or storms. Artemis, the goddess of childbirth and fertility, and Aphrodite, the goddess of love, continued the Asherah cults under a new name (Acts 19:35), but with worship practices that were as immoral as ever.

It is said that in Corinth alone, there were more than 1,000 prostitutes in Aphrodite’s temple.

Life in such a pagan culture was an issue St. Paul addressed in Corinthians. Where the meat was slaughtered in a pagan ritual, Christians had to decide whether to eat it or not. Paul taught:

Do I imply, then, that an idol or the food offered to it really amounts to anything?

No! What I am saying is that what is sacrificed on pagan altars is offered to demons, not to God. And I do not want you to be partners with demons.

You cannot drink from the Lord’s cup and also from the cup of demons; you cannot eat at the Lord’s table and also at the table of demons. – 1 Corinthians 10:19-20

From this issue, the Apostle draws a broader doctrine, one that still guides today:

And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,

And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. 2 Corinthians 6:16-18

A final word: Idols in Revelation

The doctrine of separation St. Paul gave the Corinthians is reinforced by Jesus Himself in Revelation as He gives this warning to the churches at Pergamum and Thyatira:

But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. Revelation 2:14

Idols have been a stumbling block from the days that the LORD called Abram out from the idolatrous culture of Ur through the days of the churches at Corinth, Pergamum, and Thyatira. Looking into the future days before the Second Coming:

The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk,

nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts. Revelation 9:20-21

The temptation of idols has been powerful and lured millions into sin and death. But Jesus came to save us from our sins and gave His blood that we might inherit the great salvation He brings. Near the end of his long life, John the Apostle, the disciple Jesus loved wrote these words to his churches and to us:

And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.

Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. – 1 John 5:21

In Christ alone, my hope is found

He is my light, my strength, my song

This Cornerstone, this solid ground

Firm through the fiercest drought and storm

What heights of love, what depths of peace

When fears are stilled when strivings cease

My Comforter, my All in All

Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone, who took on flesh

Fullness of God in helpless Babe

This gift of love and righteousness

Scorned by the ones He came to save

‘Til on that cross as Jesus died

The wrath of God was satisfied

For every sin on Him was laid

Here in the death of Christ, I live, I live

There in the ground, His body lay

Light of the world by darkness slain

Then bursting forth in glorious Day

Up from the grave He rose again

And as He stands in victory

Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me

For I am His and He is mine

Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death

This is the power of Christ in me

From a life’s first cry to final breath

Jesus commands my destiny

No power of hell, no scheme of man

Could ever pluck me from His hand

‘Til He returns or calls me home

Here in the power of Christ, I stand

I will stand, I will stand.

All other ground is sinking sand

All other ground, all other ground

Is sinking sand, is sinking sand

So I’ll stand

Songwriters: Keith Getty, Stuart Townend. For non-commercial use only.

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