527. Stone Worship

Isaiah 57:6; Deuteronomy 7:5; Deuteronomy 12:3; Deuteronomy 32:31; Deuteronomy 32:37; Acts 19:35
Isaiah 57:66Among the smooth stones of the stream is thy portion; they, they are thy lot: even to them hast thou poured a drink offering, thou hast offered a meat offering. Should I receive comfort in these? (Isaiah 57:6). Among the smooth stones of the stream is thy portion; they, they are thy lot: even to them hast thou poured a drink offering, thou hast offered a meat offering.
The worship of stone pillars is a practice of very great antiquity, and one to which many nations were formerly devoted. Some have strangely confounded the anointing of the stone at Bethel by Jacob with this superstitious practice; but we think the patriarch can be freed from the charge of idolatry on that occasion. See note on Genesis 28:1818And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. (Genesis 28:18) (#99). The worship of stones is referred to in Deuteronomy 7:5; 12:35But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire. (Deuteronomy 7:5)
3And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place. (Deuteronomy 12:3)
, and in many passages where the word “images” is used. It is very probable also that the allusion to the “rock” of the heathen in Deuteronomy 32:31,3731For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges. (Deuteronomy 32:31)
37And he shall say, Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted, (Deuteronomy 32:37)
is a reference to the same species of idolatry. “The image which fell down from Jupiter,” and which was worshiped by the Ephesians, may furnish another illustration. See note on Acts 19:3535And when the townclerk had appeased the people, he said, Ye men of Ephesus, what man is there that knoweth not how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Jupiter? (Acts 19:35) (#850).
The old custom was to anoint the stones which were worshiped, and to present offerings to them. Clemens Alexandrinus speaks of a superstitious man as “a worshiper of every shining stone.” Arnobius, who lived in the fifth century, said, after his conversion to Christianity, that when he was a heathen he never saw an oiled stone without addressing it and praying to it.
There are many monuments of this ancient idolatry still in existence; they are especially abundant on the western extremity of Europe, in Cornwall, and in the islands and promontories from the Land’s End to Caithness and the Orkneys. In fact, evidences of this worship have come down to such recent times that it may well be doubted whether this species of idolatry has even yet ceased to exist in Europe. In the latter part of the seventeenth century it was practiced in Lapland, one of the deities of Scandinavian mythology being represented by a stone. In the early part of the following century there were pillar-stones held in great veneration among the inhabitants of the Western Islands of Scotland. One of these stones was swathed in flannel. Another, about eight feet high and two broad, was called “the bowing stone,” because the people bowed before it in reverence and said the Lord’s prayer. Within twenty years of the present time the same superstition has been known to exist in Ireland, and very probably is to be found there still. The Earl of Roden, in his Progress of the Reformation in Ireland, states that in the Island of Inniskea, off the coast of Mayo, the people worship a stone which is wrapped in flannel. Its power is believed to be immense. The people pray to it in time of sickness, and invoke it to raise a storm and send some hapless vessel a wreck on their barren coast that they may profit by the disaster. See an article in Hates and Queries for February 7, 1852, from the pen of Sir J. Emerson Tennent.