Bible Articles on the Topic of Idols

The following articles have been compiled and indexed by inWORD Bible software.

Asherah

In the Old Testament the Heb. word is used to denote both the name of the Canaanite goddess, well-known from the Ugaritic texts, and also a wooden cult-object that was her symbol.

The Religion of Egypt: Gods Many, and Lords Many

No country in the world has had a greater fascination, especially for people of western lands, than ancient Egypt. Its pyramids, sphinxes and mummies appeal to the imagination more than the relics of any other people, and their almost unique character has led to endless speculation. In Bible times there was much contact between the Egyptians and the Hebrews, and Scripture students have always been interested by discoveries in the land of the Pharaohs, where climatic conditions have been so favourable for the preservation of old time remains. It is hoped in a short series of articles to discuss the place of the finds within the framework of Egyptian religion and to give some account of their main features. In this endeavour the subject of the godhead naturally claims first place.

Baalim

When Israel, newly released from Egyptian bondage, found themselves without a visible master, they immediately returned to the bondage of calf-worship which they had known in Egypt.¹ It is possible that in their waywardness, it was the method of worship rather than the object of adoration which they tended to change. “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” There was at all events some recognition that they had been guided by a mighty Deity, and perhaps they were attempting to serve Him according to the ritual which most attracted them and with which they had become familiar in their past life.

Demons and Demoniacs Among the Jews in the Time of Christ: Whence the Doctrine was Derived

In regard to the doctrine of Demons, their origin, character, actions, and their power to possess and torment the bodies of the living, and the method of their expulsion, we find the Jews, in the time of the Savior, in perfect agreement with the Orientals, the Greeks, and the Romans. Of course this acknowledged fact provokes the question, Whence did they obtain these notions respecting demonology? We have no accounts of persons possessed with devils or demons, no allusions to casting out unclean spirits from the bodies of the living, in any of the historical, prophetic or poetic books of the Mosaic or the Law dispensation.

Demons Refer to Idols

In 1 Corinthians Paul explains why Christians should have nothing to do with idol worship or believing in such things. In Bible times people believed demons to be lesser gods who could be worshipped to stop problems coming into their lives. They therefore made models of demons, which were the same as idols, and worshipped them. This explains why Paul uses the words “demon” and “idol” almost interchangeably in his letter: “The things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons…if anyone says to you, ‘This was offered to idols,’ do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you…” (1 Corinthians 10:20,28). So idols and demons are effectively the same. Notice how Paul says they sacrificed “to demons (idols) and not to God”—the demons were not God, and as there is only one God, it follows that demons have no real power at all, they are not gods. The point is really driven home in 1 Corinthians 8:4: “Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol (equivalent to a demon) is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one”. An idol, or a demon, has no existence at all. There is only one true God, or power, in the world. Paul goes on (vv. 5,6): “For even if there are so-called gods… (as there are many gods and many lords, [just as people believe in many types of demons today—one demon causing you to lose your job, another causing your wife to leave you, etc.]) yet for us [the true believers] there is only one God, the Father, of whom are all things [both good and bad, as we have seen from the earlier references]”. Galatians 4:8,9 says the same thing when translated properly. Paul challenges the Galatians: “You who were enslaved to those who were not really gods… How can you turn back again to those weak and beggarly spirits (stoicheia), whose slaves you want to be once more?” (Galatians 4:8,9). Here he parallels demonic spirits with “gods who are not really gods”. But note how Paul argues [under Divine inspiration]—“even if there are” such demons/idols… for us there is to be only one God whom we fear and worship. This in fact is a continuation of the Psalmists’ attitude. Time and again the gods/idols of the pagan nations are addressed as if they exist, but are ordered to bow down in shame before Yahweh of Israel (Psalms 29:1,2,10; 97:7). Whether they exist or not becomes irrelevant before the fact that they are powerless before the one true God—and therefore it is He whom we should fear, trusting that He alone engages with our lives for our eternal good in the end. “Yahweh is a great King above all gods” (Psalms 95:3) shows the Divine style—rather than overly stressing that the gods/idols/demons don’t exist, the one true God isn’t so primitive. Neither were the authors and singers of Psalms 95. The greatness of His Kingship is what’s focused upon—not the demerits and non-existence of other gods. To do so would be altogether too primitive for the one true God. And likewise with the Lord’s miracles—God’s gracious power to save was demonstrated, this was where the focus was; and its very magnitude shows the relative non-existence of “demons”.

Demons

The synoptic gospels recount a considerable number of occasions when Jesus cast out demons or unclean spirits. In addition there are further references in John’s gospel, Acts and the Epistles. As a class these incidents constitute one of the biggest problems of interpretation in the New Testament. It can hardly be said that the answers usually supplied are completely satisfying.

Dr. Larry Hurtado’s “Destroyer of the Gods"

Why did Roman rulers and polemicists find early Christianity so alarming, rather than just another religion, like those of Rome’s many conquered peoples? In his new book Destroyer of the Gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World (Baylor University Press, 2016), Dr. Larry Hurtado explores several ways in which this new Jesus-movement was different than its competitors in the religious marketplace of what we now call the first few Christian centuries. In this interview Dr. Hurtado answer questions such as:

God(s), Strange

strānj: The word “strange,” as used in this connection in the Old Testament, refers to the fact that the god or gods do not belong to Israel, but are the gods which are worshipped by other families or nations. In several cases a more exact translation would give us the “gods of the stranger” or foreigner. So in Genesis 35:2, 35:4; Joshua 24:2; Judges 10:16; Deuteronomy 31:16; 32:12, etc. In a few passages like Deuteronomy 32:16; Psalms 44:20; 81:9; Isaiah 43:12, the word is an adjective, but the idea is the same: the gods are those which are worshipped by other peoples and hence are forbidden to Israel, which is under obligation to worship Yahweh alone (compare 2 Esdras 1:6).

Ba’al And Ba’al-Worship

The wide-spread and primitive Semitic root (“ba'al”) may be most nearly rendered in English by “possess.” The term “Ba'al,” therefore, which is usually explained as meaning “lord,” is properly “possessor” or “owner,” and is so used in a great variety of applications in common Hebrew speech. Thus we read of the “ba'al” of a house, of land, of goods, of a woman (that is, as a husband). It is also generalized so far as to be a mere noun of relation. Thus a “ba'al of dreams” is a dreamer; a “ba'al of anger” is an angry man; a “ba'al of wings” is a bird; a “ba'al of edges” is two-edged; “ba'alim of a covenant” are allies; “ba'als of an oath” are conspirators. Further, a “ba'al” may be the owner of animals (Isaiah 1:3; Exodus 21:28 et seq.), but not of men as slaves or subjects, for the phrase in Isaiah 16:8, the “ba'alim” of the nations, implies dominion over regions rather than over people. “Ba'al” in Hebrew is therefore essentially different from “adon,” which implies personal sway and control. When any divinity is called “ba'al” or “a ba'al,” the designation must be understood to imply not a ruler of men, but a possessor or controller of certain things. On the other hand, the Assyrian (Babylonian) “bēl,” originally the same word, implies especially lordship over men, though it is also, as in all north-Semitic languages, used as a mere noun of relation. In Arabic “ba'al,” as applied to persons, is confined to the meaning of “husband.”

Teraphim

Ter’aphim, (Heb. teraphim, תּרָפַים; only thus in the masc. plur. in the Bible, but in the fem. plur. תּרָפוֹת, teraphoth, in Rabbinical writers) seems to denote tutelar household images, by whom families expected, for reverence bestowed, to be rewarded with domestic prosperity, such as plenty of food, health, and various necessaries of domestic life. This word is in the A. V. always rendered either by “teraphim,” or by “images” with “teraphim” in the margin, except in 1 Samuel 15:23; Zechariah 10:2, where it is represented by “idolatry,” “idols.” The singular of the word does not occur, though in 1 Samuel 19:13,16 it appears that only one image is referred to. Possibly; as in the case of the Roman Penates (which word, also, has no singular), these representative images were always two or three in number. Strange to say, in the Sept. they are represented by a different rendering in nearly every book where the word occurs: in Genesis 31 by εἴδωλα; in Judges 17:13 by θεραφίν or τὸ θεραφείν; in 1 Samuel 19 by κενοτάφια; in Ezekiel 21:21 by γλυπτά; in Hosea 3:4 by δῆλοι; and in Zechariah 10:2 by ἀποφθεγγόμενοι. In the Vulg. we find nearly the same variations between theraphim, statua, idola, simulacra, figurae idolorum, idololatria. For other translations, which we find to be equally vague aid various, see below.

Air God Shu with Ram-headed Deities Supporting Sky Goddess Nut

idols

Ancient Egyptian Goddess Isis (Wife of Osiris)

idols

Anhur or Shu, Egyptian gods

idols

Anubis As a Jackal Perched Atop a Tomb

idols

Anubis, the Jackal Headed God of Ancient Egypt

idols

Destruction of the Golden Bull

idols

Egyptian God Shu

idols

Frieze from the Tomb of Pharaoh Horemheb showing Osiris, Anubis and Horus

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Hathor, Ancient Egyptian Goddess

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Horus - God of the Sky

idols

Idol Destruction

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Osiris - Lord of the Dead

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Paul in Athens

Idols

People of Israel Served the Baals

Idols

Ra-Horakhty

idols

The Seducer

Idols

Tell Me More About This God

Idols

You Must Completely Overthrow Their Idols

idols

You Shall Tear Down Their Altars

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Ancient Canaanite religion

Canaanite religion refers to the group of Ancient Semitic religions practiced by the Canaanites living in the ancient Levant from at least the early Bronze Age through the first centuries of the Common Era.

Ancient Egyptian deities

Ancient Egyptian deities are the gods and goddesses worshipped in ancient Egypt. The beliefs and rituals surrounding these gods formed the core of ancient Egyptian religion, which emerged sometime in prehistory. Deities represented natural forces and phenomena, and the Egyptians supported and appeased them through offerings and rituals so that these forces would continue to function according to maat, or divine order. After the founding of the Egyptian state around 3100 BC, the authority to perform these tasks was controlled by the pharaoh, who claimed to be the gods’ representative and managed the temples where the rituals were carried out.

Anubis

Anubis (/əˈnuːbᵻs/ or /əˈnjuːbᵻs/; Ancient Greek: Ἄνουβις) or Anpu is the Greek name of a god associated with mummification and the afterlife in ancient Egyptian religion, usually depicted as a canine or a man with a canine head. Archeologists identified the sacred animal of Anubis as an Egyptian canid, that at the time was called the golden jackal, but recent genetic testing has caused the Egyptian animal to be reclassified as the African golden wolf.

Horus

Horus is one of the most significant ancient Egyptian deities. He was worshipped from at least the late prehistoric Egypt until the Ptolemaic Kingdom and Roman Egypt. Different forms of Horus are recorded in history and these are treated as distinct gods by Egyptologists. These various forms may possibly be different perceptions of the same multi-layered deity in which certain attributes or syncretic relationships are emphasized, not necessarily in opposition but complementary to one another, consistent with how the Ancient Egyptians viewed the multiple facets of reality. He was most often depicted as a falcon, most likely a lanner falcon or peregrine falcon, or as a man with a falcon head.

Isis

Isis (/ˈaɪsɪs/; Ancient Greek: Ἶσις IPA: [îː.sis]; original Egyptian pronunciation more likely “Aset” or “Iset”) is a goddess from the polytheistic pantheon of Egypt. She was first worshiped in ancient Egyptian religion, and later her worship spread throughout the Roman Empire and the greater Greco-Roman world. Isis is still widely worshiped by many pagans today in diverse religious contexts; including a number of distinct pagan religions, the modern Goddess movement, and interfaith organizations such as the Fellowship of Isis.

Osiris

Osiris (/oʊˈsaɪrᵻs/, from Egyptian wsjr or jsjrt) was an Egyptian god, usually identified as the god of the afterlife, the underworld, and the dead, but more appropriately as the god of transition, resurrection, and regeneration. He was classically depicted as a green-skinned man with a pharaoh’s beard, partially mummy-wrapped at the legs, wearing a distinctive crown with two large ostrich feathers at either side, and holding a symbolic crook and flail. Osiris was at times considered the oldest son of the earth god Geb, though other sources state his father is the sun-god Ra, and the sky goddess Nut, as well as being brother and husband of Isis, with Horus being considered his posthumously begotten son. He was also associated with the epithet Khenti-Amentiu, meaning “Foremost of the Westerners,” a reference to his kingship in the land of the dead. As ruler of the dead, Osiris was also sometimes called “king of the living”: ancient Egyptians considered the blessed dead “the living ones”.

Ra

Ra (/rɑː/; Egyptian: Rꜥ, Rˤ) or Re (/reɪ/; Rē) is the ancient Egyptian sun god. By the Fifth Dynasty in the 25th and 24th centuries BC, he had become a major god in ancient Egyptian religion, identified primarily with the noon sun.

Shu (Egyptian god)

Shu (Egyptian for “emptiness” and “he who rises up”) was one of the primordial Egyptian gods, a personification of air, one of the Ennead of Heliopolis.