Idolatries – An Evil Abomination – Part 2

We will look at the various idols and gods that were worshipped during the Old and New Testaments with extensive quotes from Easton’s Bible Dictionary and some references to the idolaters. The idols of today find many of their beginnings from the idol worship referred to in the Bible.

Asherah

Plural Asherim in Revised Version, instead of “grove” and “groves” of the Authorized Version. This was the name of a sensual Canaanitish goddess Astarte, the feminine of the Assyrian Ishtar. Its symbol was the stem of a tree deprived of its boughs, and rudely shaped into an image, and planted in the ground. Such religious symbols (“groves”) are frequently alluded to in Scripture (Exodus 34:13; Judges 6:25; 2 Kings 23:6; 1 Kings 16:33, etc.). These images were also sometimes made of silver or of carved stone (2 Kings 21:7; “the graven image of Asherah,” R.V.). (See GROVE [1].).

Ashtoreth

The moon goddess of the Phoenicians, representing the passive principle in nature, their principal female deity; frequently associated with the name of Baal, the sun-god, their chief male deity (Judges 10:6; 1 Samuel 7:4; 1 Samuel 12:10). These names often occur in the plural (Ashtaroth, Baalim), probably as indicating either different statues or different modifications of the deities. This deity is spoken of as Ashtoreth of the Zidonians. She was the Ishtar of the Accadians and the Astarte of the Greeks (Jeremiah 44:17; 1 Kings 11:5, 1 Kings 11:33; 2 Kings 23:13). There was a temple of this goddess among the Philistines in the time of Saul (1 Samuel 31:10). Under the name of Ishtar, she was one of the great deities of the Assyrians. The Phoenicians called her Astarte. Solomon introduced the worship of this idol (1 Kings 11:33). Jezebel’s 400 priests were probably employed in its service (1 Kings 18:19). It was called the “queen of heaven” (Jeremiah 44:25).

Baal

Lord. The name appropriated to the principal male god of the Phoenicians. It is found in several places in the plural BAALIM (Judges 2:11; Judges 10:10; 1 Kings 18:18; Jeremiah 2:23; Hosea 2:17). Baal is identified with Molech (Jeremiah 19:5). It was known to the Israelites as Baal-peor (Numbers 25:3; Deuteronomy 4:3), was worshipped till the time of Samuel (1 Samuel 7:4), and was afterwards the religion of the ten tribes in the time of Ahab (1 Kings 16:31-33; 1 Kings 18:19, 22). It prevailed also for a time in the kingdom of Judah (2 Kings 8:27; compare 2 Kings 11:18; 2 Kings 16:3; 2 Chronicles 28:2). Till finally put an end to by the severe discipline of the Captivity (Zephaniah 1:4-6). The priests of Baal were in great numbers (1 Kings 18:19), and of various classes (2 Kings 10:19). Their mode of offering sacrifices is described in 1 Kings 18:25-29. The sun-god, under the general title of Baal, or “lord,” was the chief object of worship of the Canaanites. Each locality had its special Baal, and the various local Baals were summed up under the name of Baalim, or “lords.” Each Baal had a wife, who was a colourless reflection of himself.

Baalim

Plural of Baal; images of the god Baal (Judges 2:11; 1 Samuel 7:4).

Baal-peor

Lord of the opening, a god of the Moabites (Numbers 25:3; Numbers 31:16; Joshua 22:17), worshipped by obscene rites. So called from Mount Peor, where this worship was celebrated, the Baal of Peor. The Israelites fell into the worship of this idol (Numbers 25:3, 5, 18; Deuteronomy 4:3; Psalm 106:28; Hosea 9:10).

Baal-zebub

Fly-lord, the god of the Philistines at Ekron (2 Kings 1:2, 3, 16. This name was given to the god because he was supposed to be able to avert the plague of flies which in that region was to be feared. He was consulted by Ahaziah as to his recovery.

Beelzebub

(Gr. form Beelzebul), the name given to Satan, and found only in the New Testament (Matthew 10:25; Matthew 12:24, 27; Mark 3:22). It is probably the same as Baalzebub (q.v.), the god of Ekron, meaning “the lord of flies,” or, as others think, “the lord of dung,” or “the dung-god.”

Bel

The Aramaic form of Baal, the national god of the Babylonians (Isaiah 46:1; Jeremiah 50:2; Jeremiah 51:44). It signifies “lord.” (See BAAL.)

Chemarim

Black (Zephaniah 1:4; rendered “idolatrous priests” in 2 Kings 23:5, and “priests” in Hosea 10:5). Some derive this word from the Assyrian Kamaru, meaning “to throw down,” and interpret it as describing the idolatrous priests who prostrate themselves before the idols. Others regard it as meaning “those who go about in black” or “ascetics.”

Chemosh

The destroyer, subduer, or fishgod, the god of the Moabites (Numbers 21:29; Jeremiah 48:7, 13, 46). The worship of this god, “the abomination of Moab,” was introduced at Jerusalem by Solomon (1 Kings 11:7), but was abolished by Josiah (2 Kings 23:13). On the “Moabite Stone” (q.v.), Mesha (2 Kings 3:5) ascribes his victories over the king of Israel to this god, “And Chemosh drove him before my sight.”

Daemon

The Greek form, rendered “devil” in the Authorized Version of the New Testament. Daemons are spoken of as spiritual beings (Matthew 8:16; Matthew 10:1; Matthew 12:43-45) at enmity with God, and as having a certain power over man (James 2:19; Revelation 16:14). They recognize our Lord as the Son of God (Matthew 8:20; Luke 4:41). They belong to the number of those angels that “kept not their first estate, “unclean spirits,” “fallen angels,” the angels of the devil (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:7-9). They are the “principalities and powers” against which we must “wrestle” (Ephesians 6:12).

Dagon

Little fish; diminutive from dag = a fish, the fish-god; the national god of the Philistines (Judges 16:23). This idol had the body of a fish with the head and hands of a man. It was an Assyrio-Babylonian deity, the worship of which was introduced among the Philistines through Chaldea.

The most famous of the temples of Dagon were at Gaza (Judges 16:23-30) and Ashdod (1 Samuel 5:1-7).

Devil

(Gr. diabolos), a slanderer, the arch-enemy of man’s spiritual interest (Job 1:6; Revelation 2:10; Zechariah 3:1). He is called also “the accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10).

In Leviticus 17:7 the word “devil” is the translation of the Hebrew sair, meaning a “goat” or “satyr” (Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 34:14), alluding to the wood-daemons, the objects of idolatrous worship among the heathen.

In Deuteronomy 32:17 and Psalm 106:37 it is the translation of Hebrew shed, meaning lord, and idol, regarded by the Jews as a “demon,” as the word is rendered in the Revised Version.

In the narratives of the Gospels regarding the “casting out of devils” a different Greek word (daimon) is used. In the time of our Lord there were frequent cases of demoniacal possession (Matthew 12:25-30; Mark 5:1-20; Luke 4:35; Luke 10:18, etc.).

Diana

So called by the Romans; called Artemis by the Greeks, the “great” goddess worshipped among heathen nations under various modifications. Her most noted temple was that at Ephesus. It was built outside the city walls, and was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. “First and last it was the work of 220 years; built of shining marble; 342 feet long by 164 feet broad; supported by a forest of columns, each 56 feet high; a sacred museum of masterpieces of sculpture and painting. At the centre, hidden by curtains, within a gorgeous shrine, stood the very ancient image of the goddess, on wood or ebony reputed to have fallen from the sky. Behind the shrine was a treasury, where, as in ‘the safest bank in Asia,’ nations and kings stored their most precious things. The temple as St. Paul saw it subsisted till A.D. 262, when it was ruined by the Goths” (Acts 19:23-41). Moule on Ephesians: Introduction.

Easter

Originally a Saxon word (Eostre), denoting a goddess of the Saxons, in honour of whom sacrifices were offered about the time of the Passover. Hence the name came to be given to the festival of the Resurrection of Christ, which occurred at the time of the Passover. In the early English versions this word was frequently used as the translation of the Greek pascha (the Passover). When the Authorized Version (1611) was formed, the word “passover” was used in all passages in which this word pascha occurred, except in Acts 12:4.

Epicureans

Followers of Epicurus (who died at Athens 270 B.C.), or adherents of the Epicurean philosophy (Acts 17:18). This philosophy was a system of atheism, and taught men to seek as their highest aim a pleasant and smooth life. They have been called the “Sadducees” of Greek paganism. They, with the Stoics, ridiculed the teaching of Paul (Acts 17:18). They appear to have been greatly esteemed at Athens.

Eth-baal

With Baal, a king of Sidon (940-908 B.C.), father of Jezebel, who was the wife of Ahab (1 Kings 16:31). He is said to have been also a priest of Astarte, whose worship was closely allied to that of Baal, and this may account for his daughter’] zeal in promoting idolatry in Israel. This marriage of Ahab was most fatal to both Israel and Judah. Dido, the founder of Carthage, was his granddaughter.

Familiar Spirit

Sorcerers or necromancers, who professed to call up the dead to answer questions, were said to have a “familiar spirit” (Deuteronomy 18:11; 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6; Isaiah 8:19; Isaiah 29:4). Such a person was called by the Hebrews an ‘ob, which properly means a leather bottle; for sorcerers were regarded as vessels containing the inspiring demon. This Hebrew word was equivalent to the pytho of the Greeks, and was used to denote both the person and the spirit which possessed him (Leviticus 20:27; 1 Samuel 28:8; compare Acts 16:16). The word “familiar” is from the Latin familiaris, meaning a “household servant,” and was intended to express the idea that sorcerers had spirits as their servants ready to obey their commands.

Graven Image

Deuteronomy 27:15; Psalm 97:7 (Heb. pesel), refers to the household gods of idolaters. “Every nation and city had its own gods. Yet every family had its separate household or tutelary god.”

Grove

(1.) Heb. ‘asherah, properly a wooden image, or a pillar representing Ashtoreth, a sensual Canaanitish goddess, probably usually set up in a grove (2 Kings 21:7; 2 Kings 23:4). In the Revised Version the word “Asherah” (q.v.) is introduced as a proper noun, the name of the wooden symbol of a goddess, with the plurals Asherim (Exodus 34:13) and Asheroth (Judges 3:13).

The LXX. have rendered asherah in 2 Chronicles 15:16 by “Astarte.” The Vulgate has done this also in Judges 3:7.

(2.) Heb. ‘eshel (Genesis 21:33). In 1 Samuel 22:6 and 1 Samuel 31:13 the Authorized Version renders this word by “tree.” In all these passages the Revised Version renders by “tamarisk tree.” It has been identified with the Tamariscus orientalis, five species of which are found in Palestine.

(3.) The Heb. word ‘elon, uniformly rendered in the Authorized Version by “plain,” properly signifies a grove or plantation. In the Revised Version it is rendered, pl., “oaks” (Genesis 13:18; Genesis 14:13; Genesis 18:1; Genesis 12:6; Deuteronomy 11:30; Joshua 19:33). In the earliest times groves are mentioned in connection with religious worship. The heathen consecrated groves to particular gods, and for this reason they were forbidden to the Jews (Jeremiah 17:3; Ezekiel 20:28).

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