Why is Idolatry Forbidden in the Bible

Sep 1, 2020 Idolatry, India Blog

The Warnings Against Idol Worship

The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk;  (Revelation 9:20 NASB)

The condemnation of idolatry, usually defined as worship of any cult image, idea, or object, is found throughout the Bible. For example, the first two commandments state…
Then God spoke all these words, saying, 
“I am the  Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 
(1) “You shall have no other gods before Me.
(2)  “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 
(3) “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the  Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing loving kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (Exodus 20:1-6 NASB)

Note: “Jealous” does not mean He is suspicious or distrustful, but that He demands exclusive devotion. 

And many, many other verses endorse the commandment that prohibits idolatry. Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves molten gods; I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:4 NASB)

You shall not make for yourselves idols, nor shall you set up for yourselves an image or a sacred pillar, nor shall you place a figured stone in your land to bow down to it; for I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 26:1 NASB)

I said to them, ‘Cast away, each of you, the detestable things of his eyes, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the  Lord your God.’ (Ezekiel 20:7 NASB)

I said to their children in the wilderness, ‘Do not walk in the statutes of your fathers or keep their ordinances or defile yourselves with their idols. ‘I am the  Lord your God; walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and observe them. (Ezekiel 20:18-19 NASB)

Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Repent and turn away from your idols and turn your faces away from all your abominations. (Ezekiel 14:6 NASB)

Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘you shall worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'”  (Matthew 4:10 NASB) but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood.  (Acts 15:20 NASB)

Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.

For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. (Romans 1:22-25 NASB)

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:14 NASB)

In fact idolatry is singled out in the Bible as the most abominable of sins

Thus Zimri destroyed all the household of Baasha, according to the word of the Lord, which He spoke against Baasha through Jehu the prophet, for all the sins of Baasha and the sins of Elah his son, which they sinned and which they made Israel sin, provoking the  Lord God of Israel to anger with their idols. (1 Kings 16:12-13 NASB)”

Then He said, ‘I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end shall be; For they are a perverse generation, Sons in whom is no faithfulness. ‘They have made Me jealous with what is not God; They have provoked Me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation, (Deuteronomy 32:20-21 NASB) 

Behold, listen! The cry of the daughter of my people from a distant land: “Is the Lord not in Zion? Is her King not within her?” “Why have they provoked Me with their graven images, with foreign idols?” (Jeremiah 8:19 NASB)”I will first doubly repay their iniquity and their sin, because they have polluted My land; they have filled My inheritance with the carcasses of their detestable idols and with their abominations.”  (Jeremiah 16:18 NASB)

All mankind is stupid, devoid of knowledge; Every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols, For his molten images are deceitful, And there is no breath in them. They are worthless, a work of mockery; In the time of their punishment they will perish. (Jeremiah 51:17-18 NASB)

The Consequences of Idol Worship

In the Old Testament Isaiah and Ezekiel  were very clear as to the fate of those who indulged in idolatry,The pride of man will be humbled And the loftiness of men will be abased; And the  Lord alone will be exalted in that day, But the idols will completely vanish.

Men will go into caves of the rocks And into holes of the ground Before the terror of the  Lord And the splendor of His majesty, When He arises to make the earth tremble. In that day men will cast away to the moles and the bats Their idols of silver and their idols of gold, Which they made for themselves to worship, In order to go into the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs Before the terror of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty, When He arises to make the earth tremble. (Isaiah 2:17-21 NASB)

They will be turned back and be utterly put to shame, Who trust in idols, Who say to molten images, “You are our gods.”  (Isaiah NASB)They will be put to shame and even humiliated, all of them; The manufacturers of idols will go away together in humiliation. (Isaiah 45:16. 42:17 NASB)’So as I live,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘surely, because you have defiled My sanctuary with all your detestable idols and with all your abominations, therefore I will also withdraw, and My eye will have no pity and I will not spare. (Ezekiel 5:11 NASB)

“So your altars will become desolate and your incense altars will be smashed; and I will make your slain fall in front of your idols. “I will also lay the dead bodies of the sons of Israel in front of their idols; and I will scatter your bones around your altars. “In all your dwellings, cities will become waste and the high places will be desolate, that your altars may become waste and desolate, your idols may be broken and brought to an end, your incense altars may be cut down, and your works may be blotted out. (Ezekiel 6:4-6 NASB)

So were Paul and John in the New. Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, (1 Corinthians 6:9 NASB)

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21 NASB)

For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. (Ephesians 5:5-6 NASB)

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience,  (Colossians 3:5-6 NASB)

The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; (Revelation 9:20 NASB)

“But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8 NASB)

All of which brings us to the question of why? Why was idolatry so strongly condemned in the Scriptures – so strictly forbidden with such severe consequences for disobeying very express commands to stay away from idol worship.

Idols.. Images of gods or Demons in Disguise?
Elijah And The Priests Of Baal:

It is interesting that when Elijah challenged the priests of Baal atop of Mount Carmel to persuade their god to perform a miracle, the pagan priests beseeched their god without the use of an idol, which certainly indicates that Baal was not just an idol, but rather one of the polytheistic gods that could be worshipped through an idol.While the ancients believed that Baal was a god, the Bible is very clear that false gods are nothing more than demons which accounts for the strongly worded commandments against their worship.

Note how the Bible does not differentiate between sacrifices made to idols and sacrifices made to demons and that wine poured out as a libation, or drank by the worshipers was the “cup of demons””They sacrificed to demons who were not God, To gods whom they have not known, New gods who came lately, Whom your fathers did not dread. (Deuteronomy 32:17 NASB)

They (the Israelites) did not destroy the peoples, As the  Lord commanded them, But they mingled with the nations And learned their practices, And served their idols, Which became a snare to them. They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons, And shed innocent blood, The blood of their sons and their daughters, Whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; And the land was polluted with the blood. (Psalms 106:34-38 NASB)

What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols (Gk. eido?lon) is anything, or that an idol (Gk. eido?lon) is anything? No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons (Gk. daimonion) and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons (Gk. daimonion). You cannot drink the cup of the  Lord and the cup of demons  (Gk. daimonion); you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons (Gk. daimonion). (1 Corinthians 10:19-21 NASB)

In other words the pagan images, the lifeless statues of ancient gods and goddesses were simply the face of the daimonia (demons) which may also be one explanation for the hideous faces given many of these images (Ex. the eight-armed, demonic looking, goddess Kali depicted as holding a skull in one of her hands) are far more than man made images.

It is fair to conclude the characterization of such deities as “Zeus,” “Amun-Ra,” “Demeter,” and “Isis,” were simply the classical names attributed to specific fallen spirits. The images (falcon headed statues, animal forms, etc) provided a point of focus. It is interesting to note that each of these deities has specific characteristics such as nature, gender and authority which would probably not be the case if they were nothing but inert man made statues. See The New Age and Devil Worship

In other words, Apollo was a real personality; Osiris was a genuine underworld fiend; Hecate actually lived, and still does! Ishtar, the goddess of love and war who played a major role among the Canaanites as Astarte (the Israelites knew her as Ashtoreth) was a real live demon. Isis, one of the most important deities of ancient Egypt is still revered by pagans today.

The Hindu gods Shiva and the eight-armed demonic looking goddess Kali depicted as holding a skull in one of her hands are far more than man made images. It is no wonder the apostle John warned believers to beware of them.Little children, guard yourselves from idols.  (1 John 5:21 NASB)
Idolatry and Other Religions

Hinduism: In Hinduism, “an idol or an image is not a lifeless form but a living embodiment of God thus “a superior form of divine worship” [01]. Even the most philosophically sophisticated and ethically advanced Hindus usually worship before idols. To add to which, occult practices such as those condemned in Deuteronomy 18:9-14 [divination, telling fortunes, interpreting omens, consulting a medium etc. are common in Hinduism.

Buddhism: Although there does not seem to be any evidence of the promoting of idol worship by Buddha, statues of him flood the world of present day Buddhism. The official position is that “The images are erected as a mark of respect and appreciation for the highest achievement of enlightenment and perfection by an extraordinary religious teacher”. Symbols which helps the Buddhist “recall or to remember the Buddha”. The reality is probably a little different, with very little “pure” Buddhism being practiced in the world today. The ultimate aim of Buddhism is “Nirvana”, a perfect peace of mind that is free from suffering, desire, anger and the cycle of rebirth. The individual becomes one with the universe. See The Message of the Bible

Islam itself condemns idolatry, but has fundamentally unbiblical views of God and Salvation (See Section on Islam)

The Final End of Idolatry

One of Isaiah’s prophecies concerning the end times says thisThe pride of man will be humbled And the loftiness of men will be abased; And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day, But the idols will completely vanish. (Isaiah 2:17-18 NASB)

As did Micah and Zechariah”I will also cut off the cities of your land And tear down all your fortifications. “I will cut off sorceries from your hand, And you will have fortune-tellers no more. “I will cut off your carved images And your sacred pillars from among you, So that you will no longer bow down To the work of your hands. “I will root out your Asherim from among you And destroy your cities. (Micah 5:11-14 NASB)

“It will come about in that day,” declares the Lord of hosts, “that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they will no longer be remembered; and I will also remove the prophets and the unclean spirit from the land. (Zechariah 13:2 NASB)As Isaiah said “the Lord alone will be exalted in that day”End Notes[01]

Reasons For Idol
Worship in Hinduism. http://www.hinduwebsite.com/idols.asp

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