Idolatry

Boyd’s Bible Dictionary:

(apparent). An object of worship, other than God (Gen. 31:1919And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father's. (Genesis 31:19)); idolatry forbidden (Ex. 20:3-4; 34:133Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 4Thou 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 20:3‑4)
13But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: (Exodus 34:13)
; Deut. 4:16-19; 7:25-2616Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female, 17The likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air, 18The likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth: 19And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the Lord thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven. (Deuteronomy 4:16‑19)
25The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire: thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein: for it is an abomination to the Lord thy God. 26Neither shalt thou bring an abomination into thine house, lest thou be a cursed thing like it: but thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed thing. (Deuteronomy 7:25‑26)
); yet existed largely, especially under the judges and later kings (Ex. 32; Judg. 2:10-2310And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. 11And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim: 12And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger. 13And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth. 14And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies. 15Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil, as the Lord had said, and as the Lord had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed. 16Nevertheless the Lord raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them. 17And yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the Lord; but they did not so. 18And when the Lord raised them up judges, then the Lord was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the Lord because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them. 19And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way. 20And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel; and he said, Because that this people hath transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, and have not hearkened unto my voice; 21I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died: 22That through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the Lord to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not. 23Therefore the Lord left those nations, without driving them out hastily; neither delivered he them into the hand of Joshua. (Judges 2:10‑23); 1 Kings 11:33; 12:27-33; 14:22-2433Because that they have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Milcom the god of the children of Ammon, and have not walked in my ways, to do that which is right in mine eyes, and to keep my statutes and my judgments, as did David his father. (1 Kings 11:33)
27If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah. 28Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. 29And he set the one in Beth-el, and the other put he in Dan. 30And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan. 31And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi. 32And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Beth-el, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Beth-el the priests of the high places which he had made. 33So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Beth-el the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense. (1 Kings 12:27‑33)
22And Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins which they had committed, above all that their fathers had done. 23For they also built them high places, and images, and groves, on every high hill, and under every green tree. 24And there were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord cast out before the children of Israel. (1 Kings 14:22‑24)
; Isa. 57:5-85Enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree, slaying the children in the valleys under the clifts of the rocks? 6Among 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? 7Upon a lofty and high mountain hast thou set thy bed: even thither wentest thou up to offer sacrifice. 8Behind the doors also and the posts hast thou set up thy remembrance: for thou hast discovered thyself to another than me, and art gone up; thou hast enlarged thy bed, and made thee a covenant with them; thou lovedst their bed where thou sawest it. (Isaiah 57:5‑8)).

Concise Bible Dictionary:

The worship of idols—a sin which is mentioned as committed after the flood. There seems to have been a universal giving up of the knowledge of the true God. Paul, speaking of men, says that when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, notwithstanding that what may be known of God in nature, His eternal power and Godhead, was manifested to them. They degraded the worship of the true God everywhere, and idolatry became universal. In this, man had no excuse. Images were made like corruptible man, and birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things (Rom. 1:20-2320For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. (Romans 1:20‑23)). From this state Abram was rescued by the God of glory appearing to him. Scripture shows the folly of a man cutting down a tree, and burning part of it to cook his food and to warm himself, and yet making a god of the rest, and worshipping it (Isa. 44:14-1714He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest: he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it. 15Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto. 16He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire: 17And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god. (Isaiah 44:14‑17)); and yet Israel, to whom God had revealed Himself, not only as Creator but in redemption, adopted these wicked follies. There were also molten images and images of stone.
Imaginary creatures were regarded as gods, and these were feared and propitiated. Some believed in a fetish of good and a fetish of evil. Others had an elaborate system of mythology, as the Greeks, with husbands and wives and sons and daughters of the gods and goddesses. Man himself was exalted by some into a god, as with the Greeks and the Romans.
In Israel at first there might have been the thought that the idol was only a representative of God, just as the Egyptians professed to have representations of their unseen gods. When the golden calf was made Aaron built an altar before it, and said, “Tomorrow is a feast to Jehovah”; but the people said, “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (Ex. 32:4-54And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. 5And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the Lord. (Exodus 32:4‑5)). Yet they had been commanded to make no graven image, because they saw no similitude when God spake to them at Horeb. This species of idolatry is seen further developed in the case of Micah, who had a house of gods. See MICAH.
As to the sacrificing being to demons, the same thing is said of the idolatry at Corinth, with its Grecian mythology (1 Cor. 10:2020But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. (1 Corinthians 10:20)). Satan being the real promoter of it all, he knows how to lead a poor unintelligent heathen to be satisfied with an imaginary fetish; the Greeks and Romans to be pleased with their stately statues; and the Brahmins and Hindus to pride themselves in their superior and refined mysticism. Satan has also succeeded in introducing into the professing church the worship of the Virgin Mary and of the saints. To this must be added another species of idolatry to which Christians are sometimes enticed, namely, that of letting anything but Christ have the first place in the heart; for in Him God is revealed, He “is the image of the invisible God”—“He is the true God.” “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:2121Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. (1 John 5:21)). The word εἴδωλον is from εῖδος, “that which is seen,” and covetousness is specially characterized as idolatry (Col. 3:55Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: (Colossians 3:5)).

From Anstey’s Doctrinal Definitions:

The work of the carpenter was to take the rude log and fashion it into an image ready to receive the metallic plates. This is aptly described in the thirteenth verse of this chapter: “The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house.” The figure was first marked on the log with a chalk line, and then cut and carved with the proper tools until it assumed the shape and size required. Denon, in his Travels in Egypt, (cited by Burder, Oriental Customs, No. 720,) speaks of an idol which he found “on one of the columns of the portico of Tentyra; it was covered with stucco and painted. The stucco being partly scaled off; gave me the opportunity of discovering lines traced as if with red chalk. Curiosity prompted me to take away the whole of the stucco, and I found the form of the figure sketched, with corrections of the outline; a division into twenty-two parts: the separation of the thighs being in the middle of the whole height of the figure, and the head comprising rather less than a seventh part.”
It was after some such plan, probably, that idols were made in the time of Isaiah. The wooden image, once made, could be worshiped as it was, or it could be covered with plaster or with metal. On the other hand, the metallic outside might not always have had an interior of wood, but may sometimes have been filled with clay, as idols in India are at tins day.

“194. Idol Groves” From Manners and Customs of the Bible:

Idol temples and altars were surrounded by thick groves and trees, which became the resort of the abandoned of both sexes, and in which, under plea of idolatrous worship, excesses of the vilest kind were perpetrated. For this reason God forbade the planting of trees near his altars, lest his people should become, or seem to be, like the heathen. See also Isaiah 57:5; 65:3; 66:175Enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree, slaying the children in the valleys under the clifts of the rocks? (Isaiah 57:5)
3A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face; that sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick; (Isaiah 65:3)
17They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens behind one tree in the midst, eating swine's flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the Lord. (Isaiah 66:17)
; Jeremiah 2:20; 3:620For of old time I have broken thy yoke, and burst thy bands; and thou saidst, I will not transgress; when upon every high hill and under every green tree thou wanderest, playing the harlot. (Jeremiah 2:20)
6The Lord said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot. (Jeremiah 3:6)
; Ezekiel 6:13; 20:2813Then shall ye know that I am the Lord, when their slain men shall be among their idols round about their altars, upon every high hill, in all the tops of the mountains, and under every green tree, and under every thick oak, the place where they did offer sweet savor to all their idols. (Ezekiel 6:13)
28For when I had brought them into the land, for the which I lifted up mine hand to give it to them, then they saw every high hill, and all the thick trees, and they offered there their sacrifices, and there they presented the provocation of their offering: there also they made their sweet savor, and poured out there their drink offerings. (Ezekiel 20:28)
; Hosea 4:1313They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and burn incense upon the hills, under oaks and poplars and elms, because the shadow thereof is good: therefore your daughters shall commit whoredom, and your spouses shall commit adultery. (Hosea 4:13). Some suppose the word “grove” here to mean a high wooden pillar, planted in the ground. See note on Judges 3:77And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and forgat the Lord their God, and served Baalim and the groves. (Judges 3:7) (#222).

“212. Idolatrous Spots” From Manners and Customs of the Bible:

The spot or blot here spoken of is said to be something that does not belong to the children of God. “Their spot is not of his children.” Allusion is supposed to be made here to the marks which idolaters put upon their persons, particularly on their foreheads, in honor of their deities. It is a very ancient practice, and probably existed before Mosestime. Forbes, in his Oriental Memoirs, says that in India different idolatrous sects have different marks. These are specially common among the two principal sects, the worshipers of Siva and the worshipers of Vishnoo. The marks are horizontal and perpendicular lines; crescents or circles; or representations of leaves, eyes, and other objects. They are impressed on the forehead by the officiating Brahmin with a composition of sandal-wood dust and oil, or the ashes of cow-dung and turmeric. The colors are red, black, white, and yellow. In many cases these marks are renewed daily.
Zophar may have referred to a similar custom when he spoke to Job about lifting up his face without spot (Job 11:1515For then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot; yea, thou shalt be stedfast, and shalt not fear: (Job 11:15)). Eliphaz also spoke of lifting up the face to God (Job 22:2626For then shalt thou have thy delight in the Almighty, and shalt lift up thy face unto God. (Job 22:26)). Job himself subsequently denied that any blot was on his hands. Job 31:77If my step hath turned out of the way, and mine heart walked after mine eyes, and if any blot hath cleaved to mine hands; (Job 31:7). In the Revelation of John there are several references to idolatrous marks on the forehead and hands. See Revelation 13:16; 14:9; 19:20; 20:416And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: (Revelation 13:16)
9And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, (Revelation 14:9)
20And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. (Revelation 19:20)
4And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4)
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“306. A Monstrous Idol” From Manners and Customs of the Bible:

Miphletseth, here, and in the parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 15:1616And also concerning Maachah the mother of Asa the king, he removed her from being queen, because she had made an idol in a grove: and Asa cut down her idol, and stamped it, and burnt it at the brook Kidron. (2 Chronicles 15:16), rendered “idol,” is defined by Fuerst, “horror, terror, monstrosity.” From the mode of its destruction here noticed this image was evidently of wood. It is supposed to have been an obscene figure, the worship of which shows the demoralizing influence of idolatry. Such figures were often worshiped among the ancient idolaters, and are still worshiped in India.

“310. Lacerations in Idol Worship” From Manners and Customs of the Bible:

1 Kings 18:2828And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. (1 Kings 18:28). They cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.
It was customary among the heathen to make lacerations in their flesh, not only as a mark of mourning for the dead, as shown in the note on Leviticus 19:2828Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:28) (#166), but also as an act of idolatrous worship. This custom was not, however, of Egyptian origin, as were many of the customs practiced in Canaan. Wilkinson says that the Egyptians beat themselves at the close of their sacrifices, as is shown by paintings in the tombs. He also says that the custom of cutting was from Syria. The same practice is followed at the present day among idolaters of different nations. They cut their flesh in various ways until they are streaming with blood. They consider that this voluntary blood-shedding is meritorious, and will help to wash away their sins.

“516. How Idols Were Made” From Manners and Customs of the Bible:

The work of the carpenter was to take the rude log and fashion it into an image ready to receive the metallic plates. This is aptly described in the thirteenth verse of this chapter: “The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house.” The figure was first marked on the log with a chalk line, and then cut and carved with the proper tools until it assumed the shape and size required. Denon, in his Travels in Egypt, (cited by Burder, Oriental Customs, No. 720,) speaks of an idol which he found “on one of the columns of the portico of Tentyra; it was covered with stucco and painted. The stucco being partly scaled off; gave me the opportunity of discovering lines traced as if with red chalk. Curiosity prompted me to take away the whole of the stucco, and I found the form of the figure sketched, with corrections of the outline; a division into twenty-two parts: the separation of the thighs being in the middle of the whole height of the figure, and the head comprising rather less than a seventh part.”
It was after some such plan, probably, that idols were made in the time of Isaiah. The wooden image, once made, could be worshiped as it was, or it could be covered with plaster or with metal. On the other hand, the metallic outside might not always have had an interior of wood, but may sometimes have been filled with clay, as idols in India are at tins day.

“535. Idolatrous Feasts” From Manners and Customs of the Bible:

Isaiah 65:1111But ye are they that forsake the Lord, that forget my holy mountain, that prepare a table for that troop, and that furnish the drink offering unto that number. (Isaiah 65:11). But ye are they that forsake the Lord, that forget my holy mountain, that prepare a table for that troop, and that furnish the drink offering unto that number.
For “troop” and “that number” the margin substitutes the original words pad and meni. The precise meaning of these two terms is a matter of diversified opinion. Gesenius defines gad to be the god Fortune, the same as Baal or Bel, that is, the planet Jupiter, which was regarded throughout the East as the giver of good fortune. There was a city called Baal-Gad in the valley of Lebanon under Mount Hermon. Gesenius gives to meni the definition of fate, fortune, destiny, and thinks the planet Venus was intended. Venus was identical with Astarte, and was regarded by the ancient Semitic nations as the source of good fortune, and as such was coupled with the planet Jupiter; Jupiter being the “Greater Good Fortune,” and Venus the “Lesser Good Fortune.” Füerst is undecided whether gad refers to Jupiter or Venus; he supposes meni to refer to the moon, and that both were deities who were supposed to control fate.
Many interpreters have refused to render the two words as names of idols, and have “referred the whole clause either to convivial assemblies, perhaps connected with idolatrous worship, or to the troop of planets and the multitude of stars, as objects of such worship” (Alexander, Commentary in loco.
All, however, are agreed on one point, that the whole passage has reference to idolatrous worship of some sort; the “table” and the “drink offering” give evidence of that. The kind of offering referred to is supposed to be identical with the lectisternia of the Romans. These were feasts spread for the consumption of the gods on occasions of extraordinary solemnities. Images of the gods reclined on conches, while before them were placed tables filled with viands, as if the gods were really partaking of the things offered in sacrifice. The custom is thought to have been of Egyptian origin, and from the Egyptians the Hebrews probably learned it. Jerome states that in every city in Egypt, and especially in Alexandria, they were in the habit, on the last day of each year, of covering a table with dishes of various kinds, and with a cup filled with a liquor made of water, wine, and honey, either in acknowledgment of the fertility of the past year, or to implore fruitfulness for the year to come.

“602. Idolatrous Customs” From Manners and Customs of the Bible:

Henderson’s translation gives the sense of the passage more clearly than the authorized version. He renders it: “They stretch themselves upon pledged garments close to every altar, and drink the wine of the amerced in the house of their gods.” The text refers to the unjust habits and to the idolatrous practices of the backslidden Israelites, especially of those in authority. They took money which they had exacted by the imposition of fines, which were in all probability fixed at an amount higher than justice demanded, and with it purchased wine, which is therefore called “the wine of the amerced.” This wine they drank in heathen temples. In addition to this they took from the poor as a pledge for debts their outer garments, which were their covering through the night as well as during the day. Instead of returning these at sundown, as the law required (Deut. 24:1212And if the man be poor, thou shalt not sleep with his pledge: (Deuteronomy 24:12); see also the note on that text, #205) they kept them all night, and stretched themselves upon them in the heathen temples. This stretching may refer either to the reclining at the idolatrous feasts, or to the custom, sometimes practiced among the heathen, of sleeping near the altars of their gods, that they might obtain communications in dreams.
Keil translates the verse: “And they stretch themselves upon pawned clothes by every altar, and they drink the wine of the punished in the house of their God.” He does not believe that the prophet refers to feasts in idolatrous temples, but in drinking carousals which were held in the house of God. He says that “Amos had in his mind the sacred places in Bethel and Dan, in which the Israelites worshiped Jehovah as their God under the symbol of an ox, (calf)” (Commentary in loco).