Idolatry is divine honor paid to any created object. It is thus a wider term than image-worship (q.v.). For many old monographs on the various forms of ancient idolatry, see Volbeding, Index Programmatum, p. 108 sq. SEE GODS, FALSE; SEE BEAST-WORSHIP.
We find the idea of idolatry expressed in the O.T. by כָּזָב (a lie, Ps 45:5; Am 2:4), or שָׁוא (nullity), and still oftener by תּוֹעֵבָה (abomination). In after times the Jews designated it as עָבוּדָה רָעָה (foreign worship). Thus we see that it had no name indicative of its nature, for the Biblical expressions are more a monotheistic qualification of divine worship than a definition of it; the last Hebrew expression, however, shows idolatry as not being of Jewish origin. The word εἰδωλολατρείαin the N.T. is entirely due to the Septuagint, which, wherever any of the heathen deities are mentioned, even though designated in the sacred text only as אֵַלילַים (nothings), translates by εἴδωλον, an idol; a practice generally followed by later versions. A special sort of idolatry, namely, the actual adoration of images (Idololatria) thus gave name to the whole species (1Co 10:14; Ga 5:20; 1Pe 4:3). Subsequently the more comprehensive word εἰδολατρεία (idolatria, instead of idololatria) was adopted, which included the adoration and worship of other visible symbols of the deity (ε‹δος) besides those due to the statuary art. Herzog.
I. Origin of Idolatry. — In the primeval period man appears to have had not alone a revelation, but also an implanted natural law. Adam and some of his descendants, as late as the time of the Flood, certainly lived under a revealed system, now usually spoken of as the patriarchal dispensation, and Paul tells us that the nations were under a natural law (Ro 2:14-15). "Man in his natural state must always have had a knowledge of God sufficient for the condition in which he had been placed. Although God 'in times past suffered all nations [or, rather, 'all the Gentiles, πάντα τὰ ἔθνη] to walk in their own ways, nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness' (Ac 14:17). 'For 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' (Ro 1:20). But the people of whom we are speaking' changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things,' and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever' (Ro 1:21-25). Thus arose that strange superstition which is known by the term Fetishism [or low nature- worship], consisting in the worship of animals, trees, rivers, hills, and stones" (Poole, Genesis of the Earth and of Man, 2nd ed. p. 160, 161). Paul speaks of those who invented this idolatry as therefore forsaken of God and suffered to sink into the deepest moral corruption (Ro 1:28). It is remarkable that among highly-civilized nations the converse obtains; moral corruption being very frequently the cause of the abandoning of true religion for infidelity. — Kitto. That theory of human progress which supposes man to have gradually worked his way up from barbaric ignorance of God to a so-called natural religion is contradicted by the facts of Biblical history.
Nothing is distinctly stated in the Bible as to any antediluvian idolatry. It is, however, a reasonable sup-position that in the general corruption before the Flood idolatry was practiced. There is no undoubted trace of heathen divinities in the names of the antediluvians; but there are dim indications of ancestral worship in the postdiluvian worship of some of the antediluvian patriarchs. It has been supposed that the SET or SUTEKH of the Egyptian Pantheon is the Hebrew Seth. The Cainite Enoch was possibly commemorated as Annacus or Nannacus at Iconium, though, this name being identified with Enoch, the reference may be to Enoch of the line of Seth. It is reasonable to suppose that the worship of these antediluvians originated before the Flood, for it is unlikely that it would have been instituted after it. 'Some Jewish writers, grounding their theory on a forced interpretation of Ge 4:26, assign to Enos, the son of Seth, the unenviable notoriety of having been the first to pay divine honors to the host of heaven, and to lead others into the like error (Maimon. De Idol. i, 1). R. Solomon Jarchi, on the other hand, while admitting the same verse to contain the first account of the origin of idolatry, understands it as implying the deification of men and plants. Arabic tradition, according to Sir W. Jones, connects the people of Yemen with the same apostasy. The third in descent from Joktan, and therefore a contemporary of Nahor, took the surname of Abdu Shams, or "servant of the sun," whom he and his family worshipped, while other tribes honored the planets and fixed stars (Hales, Chronol. 2, 59, 4to ed.). Nimrod, again, to whom is ascribed the introduction of Zabianism, was after his death transferred to the constellation Orion, and on the slender foundation of the expression "Ur of the Chaldees" (Ge 11:31) is built the fabulous history of Abraham and Nimrod, narrated in the legends of the Jews and Mussulmans (Jellinek, Bet ha-Midrash, 1. 23; Weil, Bibl. Leg. p. 47-74; Hyde, Rel. Pers. c. 2).
II. Classification of Idolatry. — All unmixed systems of idolatry may be classified under the following heads; all mixed systems may be resolved into two or more of them. We give in this connection general illustrations of these species of false worship as evinced by the nations associated with the Jewish people, reserving for the next head a more complete survey of the idolatrous systems of the most important of these nations separately.
1. Low nature-worship, or fetishism, the worship of animals, trees, rivers, hills, and stones. The fetishism of the Negroes is thought to admit of a belief in a supreme intelligence: if this be true, such a belief is either a relic of a higher religion, or else is derived from the Muslim tribes of Africa. Fetishism is closely connected with magic, and the Nigritian priests are universally magicians.
Beast-worship was exemplified in the calves of Jeroboam and the dark hints, which seem to point to the goat of Mendes. There is no actual proof that the Israelites ever joined in the service of Dagon, the fish-god of the Philistines, though Ahaziah sent stealthily to Baalzebub, the fly-god of Ekron (2 Kings 1). Some have explained the allusion in Zep 1:9 as referring to a practice connected with the worship of Dagon; comp. 1Sa 5; 1Sa 5. The Syrians are stated by Xenophon (Anab. 1, 4, § 9) to have paid divine honors to fish. In later times the brazen serpent became the object of idolatrous homage (2Ki 18:4). But whether the latter was regarded with superstitious reverence as a memorial of their early history, or whether incense was offered to it as a symbol of some power of nature, cannot now be exactly determined. The threatening in Le 26:30, "I will put your carcasses upon the carcasses of your idols," may fairly be considered as directed against the tendency to regard animals, as in Egypt, as the symbols of deity. Tradition says that Nergal, the god of the men of Cuth, the idol of fire according to Leusden (Philippians Hebr. Mixt. diss. 43), was worshipped under the form of a cock; Ashima as a he-goat, the emblem of generative power; Nibhaz as a dog; Adrammelech as a mule or peacock; and Anammelech as a horse or pheasant.
The singular reverence with which trees have in all ages been honored is not without example in the history of the Hebrews. The terebinth at Mamre, beneath which Abraham built an altar (Ge 12:7; Ge 13:18), and the memorial grove planted by him at Beersheba (Ge 21:33), were intimately connected with patriarchal worship though in after ages his descendants were forbidden to do that which he did with impunity, in order to avoid the contamination of idolatry. Jerome (Onomasticon, s.v. Drys) mentions an oak near Hebron which existed in his infancy, and was the traditional tree beneath which Abraham dwelt. It was regarded with great reverence, and was made an object of worship by the heathen. Modern Palestine abounds with sacred trees. They are found "all over the land covered with bits of rags from the garments of passing villagers, hung up as acknowledgments, or as deprecatory signals and charms; and we find beautiful clumps of oak-trees sacred to a kind of beings called Jacob's daughters" (Thomson, The Land and the Book, 2, 151). SEE GROVE.. As a symptom of the rapidly degenerating spirit, the oak of Shechem, which stood in the sanctuary of Jehovah (Jos 24:26), and beneath which Joshua set up the stone of witness, perhaps appears in Judges (Jg 9:37) as "the oak (not 'plain,' as in the A.V.) of soothsayers" or "augurs." This, indeed, may be a relic of the ancient Canaanitish worship; an older name associated with idolatry, which the conquering Hebrews were commanded and endeavored to obliterate (De 12:3).
2. Shamanism, or the magical side of fetishism, the religion of the Mongolian tribes, and apparently the primitive religion of China.
3. High nature-worship, the worship of the sun, moon, and stars, and of the supposed powers of nature. The old religion of the Shemitic races consisted, in the opinion of Movers (Plin. 1, c. 5), in the deification of the powers and laws of nature; these powers being considered either as distinct and independent, or as manifestations of one supreme and all-ruling being. In most instances the two ideas were co-existent. The deity, following human analogy, was conceived as male and female: the one representing the active, the other the passive principle of nature; the former the source of spiritual. the latter of physical life. The transference of the attributes of the one to the other resulted either in their mystical conjunction in the hermaphrodite, as the Persian Mithra and Phoenician Baal, or the two combined to form a third, which symbolized the essential unity of both. (This will explain the occurrence of the name of Baal with the masculine and feminine articles in the Sept.; comp. Ho 11:2; Jer 19:5;
Ro 11:4. Philochorus, quoted by Macrobius [Sat. 3, 8], says that men and women sacrificed to Venus or the Moon, with the garments of the sexes interchanged, because she was regarded both as masculine and feminine [see Selden, De Dis Syr. 2, 2]. Hence Lunus and Luna.) With these two supreme beings all other beings are identical; so that in different nations the same nature-worship appears under different forms, representing the various aspects under which the idea of the power of nature is presented. The sun and moon were early selected as outward symbols of this all-pervading power, and the worship of the heavenly bodies was not only the most ancient, but the most prevalent system of idolatry. Taking its rise, according to a probable hypothesis, in the plains of Chaldsea. it spread through Egypt, Greece, Scythia, and even Mexico and Ceylon; and it is worthy of notice that even the religion of remote India presupposes a grand symbolic representation of the divine by the worship of these great physical powers (compare Lassen, Ind. Alterth. 1, 756 sq.; Roth, Geschichte der Religionen). SEE HINDUISM. It was regarded as an offence amenable to the civil authorities in the days of Job (Job 31:26-28), and one of the statutes of the Mosaic law was directed against its observance (De 4:19; De 17:3); the former referring to the star worship of Arabia, the latter to the concrete form in which it appeared among the Syrians and Phoenicians. It is probable that the Israelites learned their first lessons in sun worship from the Egyptians, in whose religious system that luminary, as Osiris, held a prominent place. The city of On (Bethshemesh or Heliopolis) took its name from his temple (Jer 43:13), and the wife of Joseph was the daughter of his priest (Ge 41:45). The Phoenicians worshipped him under the title of "Lord of heaven," בִּעִל שָׁמִיַם, Baal-shamayim (βεελσάμην, acc. to Sanchoniatho in Philo Byblius), and Adon, the Greek Adonis, and the Tammuz of Ezekiel (8:14). SEE TAMMUZ. As Molech or Milcom, the sun was worshipped by the Ammonites, and as Chemosh by the Moabites. The Hadad of the Syrians is the same deity, whose name is traceable in Benhadad, Hadadezer, and Hadad or Adad, the Edomite. The Assyrian Bel or Belus is another form of Baal. According to Philo (De Vit. Cont. § 3), the Essenes were wont to pray to the sun at morning and evening (Joseph. War, 2, 8, 5). By the later kings of Judah, sacred horses and chariots were dedicated to the sun-god, as by the Persians (2Ki 23:11; Bochart, Hieroz. pt. 1, bk. 2, c. 11; Selden, De Dis Syr. 2, 8), to march in procession and greet his rising (R. Solomon Jarchi on 2Ki 23:11). The Massagetae offered horses in sacrifice to him (Strabo, 11, p. 513), on the principle enunciated by Macrobius (Sat. 7, 7), "like rejoiceth in like" ("similibus similia gaudent;" compare Herod. 1, 216), and the custom was common to many nations.
The moon, worshipped by the Phoenicians under the name of Astarte (Lucian, de Dea Syra, c. 4), or Baaltis, the passive power of nature, as Baal was the active (Movers, 1, 149), and known to the Hebrews as Ashtaroth or Ashtoreth, the tutelary goddess of the Zidonians, appears early among the objects of Israelitish idolatry. But this Syro-Phoenician worship of the sun and moon was of a grosser character than the pure star worship of the Magi, which Movers distinguishes as Upper Asiatic or Assyro-Persian, and was equally removed from the Chaldean astrology and Zabianism of later times. The former of these systems tolerated no images or altars, and the contemplation of the heavenly bodies from elevated spots constituted the greater part of its ritual.
But, though we have no positive historical account of star-worship before the Assyrian period, we may infer that it was early practiced in a concrete form among the Israelites from the allusions in Am 5:26 and Ac 7:42-43. Even in the desert they are said to have been given up to worship the host of heaven, while Chiun and Remphan, or Rephan, have on various grounds been identified with the planet Saturn. It was to counteract idolatry of this nature that the stringent law of De 17:3 was enacted, and with a view to withdrawing the Israelites from undue contemplation of the material universe, Jehovah, the God of Israel, is constantly placed before them as Jehovah Sabaoth, Jehovah of Hosts, the king of heaven (Da 4:35,37), to whom the heaven and heaven of heavens belong (De 10:14). However this may be, Movers (Phon. 1, 65, 66) contends that the later star-worship, introduced by Ahaz and followed by Manasseh, was purer and more spiritual in its nature than the Israelito-Phoenician worship of the heavenly bodies under symbolical forms, as Baal and Asherah; and that it was not idolatry in the same sense that the latter was, but of a simply contemplative character; He is supported, to some extent, by the fact that we find no mention of any images of the sun or moon or the host of heaven, but merely of vessels devoted to their service (2Ki 23:4). But there is no reason to believe that the divine honors paid to the "Queen of Heaven" (Jer 7:18; Jer 49:19; or, as others render, "the frame" or "structure of the heavens") were equally dissociated from image-worship. Mr. Layard (Nin. 2, 451) discovered a bas-relief at Nimrod which represented four idols carried in procession by Assyrian warriors. One of these figures he identifies with Hera, the Assyrian Astarte, represented with a star on her head (Amos 5, 26), and with the "queen of heaven," who appears on the rocktablets of Pterium "standing erect on a lion, and crowned with a tower, or mural coronet," as in the Syrian temple of Hierapolis (ib. p. 456; Lucian, de Dea Syra, 81, 32). But, in his remarks upon a figure which resembles the Rhea of Diodorus, Layard adds, "The representation in a human form of the celestial bodies, themselves originally but a type, was a corruption which appears to have crept at a later period into the mythology of Assyria; for, in the more ancient bas-reliefs, figures with caps surmounted by stars do not occur, and the sun, moon, and planets stand alone" (ib. p. 457,458). The allusions in Job 38:31-32 are too obscure to allow any inference to be drawn as to the mysterious influences which were held by the old astrologers to be exercised by the stars over human destiny, nor is there sufficient evidence to connect them with anything more recondite than the astronomical knowledge of the period. The same may be said of the poetical figure in Deborah's chant of triumph, "the stars from their highways warred with Sisera" (Jg 5:20). In the later times of the monarchy, Mazzaloth, the planets, or the zodiacal signs, received, next to the sun and moon, their share of popular adoration (2Ki 23:5); and the history of idolatry among the Hebrews shows at all times an intimate connection between the deification of the heavenly bodies and the superstition which watched the clouds for signs, and used divination and enchantments. It was but a step from such culture of the sidereal powers to the worship of Gad and Meni, Babylonian divinities, symbols of Venus or the moon, as the goddess of luck or fortune. Under the latter aspect the moon was reverenced by the Egyptians (Macrob. Sat. 1, 19),; and the name Baal-Gad is possibly an example of the manner in which the worship of the planet Jupiter, as the bringer of luck, was grafted on the old faith of the Phoenicians. The false gods of the colonists of Samaria were probably connected with Eastern astrology Adrammelech Movers regards as the sun-fire-the solar Mars, and Anammelech the solar Saturn (Pho. 1, 410, 411). The Vulg. rendering of Pr 26:8, "Sicut qui mittit lapidem in acervum Mercurii," follows the Midrash on the passage quoted by Jarchi, and requires merely a passing notice (see Selden, de Dis Syrzs, 2, 15; Maim. de Idol. 3, 2; Buxtorf, Lex. Talm. s.v. מרקולים).
4. Hero-worship, the worship of deceased ancestors or leaders of a nation. Of pure hero-worship among the Shemitic races we find no trace. Moses, indeed, seems to have entertained some dim apprehension that his countrymen might, after his death, pay him more honors than were due to man, and the anticipation of this led him to review his own conduct in terms of strong reprobation (De 4:21-22). The expression in Ps 106:28, "The sacrifices of the dead," is in all probability metaphorical, and Wisd. 14:15 refers to a later practice due to Greek influence. The Rabbinical commentators discover in Ge 48:16 an allusion to the worshipping of angels (Col 2:18), while they defend their ancestors from the charge of regarding them in any other light than mediators, or intercessors with God (Lewis, Orig. Hebr. 5, 3). It is needless to add that their inference and apology are equally groundless. With like probability has been advanced the theory of the daemon-worship of the Hebrews, the only foundation for it being two highly poetical passages (De 32:17; Ps 106:37). It is possible that the Persian dualism is hinted at in Isa 45:7.
5. Idealism, the worship of abstractions or mental qualities, such as justice, a system never found unmixed. This constituted the mythology of the Greeks and Romans, as also of the Scandinavians. SEE MYTHOLOGY.
III. Idolatry of certain ancient Heathen Nations in Detail. — All idolatry is in its nature heathenish, and it has in all ages been a characteristic mark of heathendom, so that to the present day the vivid description of Romans 1 remains the most striking portraiture of heathen peoples. We have space in this article for a systematic view only of those early nations whose contact with the Hebrew race was the means of the importation of idolatry among the chosen people. SEE POLYTHEISM.
1. Mesopotamian Mythology.-The original idolatrous condition of the kindred of Abraham (q.v.) himself in the great plain of Aram is distinctly alluded to in Judges 24:2. According to Rawlinson (Essay in his Herod.), the Pantheons of Babylon and Nineveh, though originally dissimilar in the names of the divinities, cannot as yet be treated separately. The principal god of the Assyrians was Asshur, replaced in Babylonia by a god whose name is read II or Ra. The special attributes of Asshur were sovereignty and power, and he was regarded as the especial patron of the Assyrians and their kings. It is the Shemitic equivalent of the Hamitic or Scythic Ra, which suggests a connection with Egypt, although it is to be noticed that the same root may perhaps be traced in the probably Canaanitish Heres. Next to Asshur or Il was a triad, consisting of Anu, who appears to have corresponded to Pluto, a divinity whose name is doubtful, corresponding to Jupiter, and Hea or Hoa, corresponding in position and partly in character to Neptune. The supreme goddess Mulita or Bilta (Mylitta cr Beltis) was the wife of the Babylonian Jupiter. This triad was followed by another, consisting of Ether (Il-a?), the sun, and the moon. Next in order are "the five minor gods, who, if not of astronomical origin, were at any rate identified with the five planets of the Chaldaean system." In addition, Sir H. Rawlinson enumerates several other divinities of less importance, and mentions that there are "a vast number of other names," adding this remarkable observation: "Every town and village, indeed, throughout Babylonia and Assyria appears to have had its own particular deity, many of these no doubt being the great gods of the Pantheon disguised under rustic names, but others being distinct local divinities." Sir H. Rawlinson contents himself with stating the facts discoverable from the inscriptions, and does not theorize upon the subject further than to point out the strong resemblances between this Oriental system and that of Greece and Rome, not indeed in the Aryan ground-work of the latter, but in its general superstructure. If we analyze the Babylonian and Assyrian system, we discover that in its present form it is mainly cosmic, or a system of high nature-worship. The supreme divinity appears to have been regarded as the ruler of the universe, the first triad was of powers of nature; the second triad and the remaining chief divinities were distinctly cosmic. But beneath this system were two others, evidently distinct in origin, and too deep- seated to be obliterated, the worship of ancestors and low nature-worship. Asshur, at the very head of the Pantheon, is the deified ancestor of the Assyrian race; and, notwithstanding a system of great gods, each city had its own special idolatry, either openly reverencing its primitive idol, or concealing a deviation from the fixed belief by making that idol another form of one of the national divinities. In this separation into its first elements of this ancient religion. we discover the superstitions of those races which, mixed, but never completely fused, formed the population of Babylonia and Assyria, three races whose three languages were yet distinct in the inscribed records as late as the time of Darius Hystaspis. These races were the primitive Chaldaeans, called Hamites by Sir H. Rawlinson, who undoubtedly had strong affinities with the ancient Egyptians, the Shemitic Assyrians, and the Aryan Persians. It is not difficult to assign to these races their respective shares in the composition of the mythology of the countries in which they successively ruled. The ancestral worship is here distinctly Shemitic: the name of Asshur proves this. It may be objected that such worship never characterized any other Shemitic stock; that we find it among Turanians and Aryans: but we reply that the Shemites borrowed their idolatry, and a Turanian or Aryan influence may have given it this peculiar form. The low nature-worship must be due to the Turanians. It is never discerned except where there is a strong Turanian or Nigritian element, and when once established it seems always to have been very hard to remove. The high nature worship, as the last element, remains for the Aryan race. The primitive Aryan belief in its different forms was a reverence for the sun, moon, and stars, and the powers of nature, combined with a belief in one supreme being, a religion which, though varying at different times, and deeply influenced by ethnic causes, was never deprived of its essentially cosmic characteristics. SEE ASSYRIA.
2. Egyptian. — The strongest and most remarkable peculiarity of the Egyptian religion is the worship of animals (see Zickler, De religione bestiarum ab Agyptiis consecratarum, Lips. 1745; Schumacker, De culiu animalium inter Egyptios et Judceos, Wolfenb. 1773), trees, and like objects, which was universal in the country, and was even connected with the belief in the future state. No theory of the usefulness of certain animals can explain the worship of others that were utterly useless, nor can a theory of some strange anomaly find even as wide an application. The explanation is to be discovered in every town, every village, every hut of the Negroes, whose fetishism corresponds perfectly with this low nature- worship of the ancient Egyptians.
Connected with fetishism was the local character of the religion. Each home, city, town, and probably village, had its divinities, and the position of many gods in the Pantheon was due rather to the importance of their cities than any powers or qualities they were supposed to have. For a detailed account of the Egyptian deities, with illustrative cuts, see Kitto's Pictorial Bible, note on De 4:16; compare also EGYPT SEE EGYPT .
The Egyptian Pantheon shows three distinct elements. Certain of the gods are only personifications connected with low nature-worship. Others, the great gods, are of Shemitic origin, and are connected with high nature- worship, though showing traces of the worship of ancestors. In addition, there are certain personifications of abstract ideas. The first of these classes is evidently the result of an attempt to connect the old low nature-worship with some higher system. The second is no doubt the religion of the Shemitic settlers. It is essentially the same in character as the Babylonian and Assyrian religion, and, as the belief of a dominant race, took the most important place in the intricate system of which it ultimately formed a part. The last class appears to be of later invention, and to have had its origin in an endeavor to construct a philosophical system.
In addition to these particulars of the Egyptian religion, it is important to notice that it comprised very remarkable doctrines. Man was held to be a responsible being, whose future after death depended upon his actions done while on earth. He was to be judged by Osiris, ruler of the West, or unseen world, and either rewarded with felicity or punished with torment. Whether these future states of happiness and misery were held to be of eternal duration is not certain, but there is little doubt that the Egyptians believed in the immortality of the soul.
The religion of the Shepherds, or Hyksos, is not so distinctly known to us. It is, however, clear from the monuments that their chief god was SET, or SUTEKH, and we learn from a papyrus that one of the Shepherd-kings, APEPI, probably Manetho's "Apophis," established the worship of SET in his dominions, and reverenced' no other god, raising a great temple to him in Zoan, or Avaris. SET continued to be worshipped by the Egyptians until the time of the 22nd dynasty, when we lose all trace of him on the monuments. At this period, or afterwards, his figure was effaced in the inscriptions. The change took place long after the expulsion of the Shepherds, and was effected by the 22nd dynasty, which was probably of Assyrian or Babylonian origin; it is, therefore, rather to be considered as a result of the influence of the Median doctrine of Ormud and Ahriman than as due to the Egyptian hatred of the foreigners and all that concerned them. Besides SET, other foreign divinities were worshipped in Egypt-the god RENPU, the goddesses KEN, or KETESH, ANTA, and ASTARTA. All these divinities, except ASTARTA, as to whom we have no particular information, are treated by the Egyptians as powers of destruction and war, as SET was considered the personification of physical evil. SET was always identified by the Egyptians with Baal; we do not know whether he was worshipped in Egypt before the Shepherd-period, but it is probable that he was.
This foreign worship in Egypt was probably never reduced to a system. What we know of it shows no regularity, and it is not unlike the imitations of the Egyptian idols made by Phoenician artists, probably as representations of Phoenician divinities. The gods of the Hyksos are foreign objects of worship in an Egyptian dress. SEE HYKSOS.
3. Idolatry of Canaan and the adjoining Countries. The center of the idolatry of the Palestinian races is to be sought for in the religion of the Rephaites and the Canaanites. We can distinctly connect the worship of Baal and Ashtoreth with the earliest kind of idolatry; and, having thus established a center, we can understand how, for instance, the same infernal rites were celebrated to the Ammonitish Molech and the Carthaginian Baal. The most important document for the idolatry of the Hittites is the treaty concluded between the branch of that people seated on the Orontes and Rameses II. From this we learn that SUTEKH (or SET) and ASTERAT were the chief divinities of these Hittites, and that they also worshipped the mountains and rivers and the winds. The SUTERKHS of several forts are also specified. SEE HITTITES. SET is known from the Egyptian inscriptions to have corresponded to Baal, so that in the two chief divinities we discover Baal and Ashtoreth, the only Canaanitish divinities known to be mentioned in Scripture. The local worship of different forms of Baal well agrees with the low nature-worship with which it is found to have prevailed. Both are equally mentioned in the Bible history. Thus the people of Shechem worshipped Baal-berith, and Mount Hermon itself seems to have been worshipped as Baal-Hermon, while the low nature- worship may be traced in the reverence for groves, and the connection of the Canaanitish religion with hills and trees. The worst feature of this system was the sacrifice of children by their parents-a feature that shows the origin of at least two of its offshoots.
The Bible does not give a very clear description of Canaanitish idolatry. As an abominable thing, to be rooted out and cast into oblivion, nothing is needlessly said of it. The appellation Baal, ruler, or possessor, implies supremacy, and connects the chief Canaanitish divinity with the Syrian Adonis. He was the god of the Canaanitish city Zidon, or Sidon, where "Ashtoreth, the abomination of the Zidonians," was also specially worshipped. In the Judge-period we read of Baalim and Ashteroth in the plural, probably indicating various local forms of these divinities, but perhaps merely the worship of many images. The worship of Baal was connected with that of the groves, which we take to have been representations of trees or other vegetable products. SEE HIGH PLACE. In Ahab's time a temple was built for Baal, where there was an image. His worshippers sacrificed in garments provided by the priests; and his prophets, seeking to propitiate him, were wont to cry and cut themselves with swords and lances. Respecting Ashtoreth we know less from Scripture. Her name is not derivable from any Shemitic root. It is equivalent to the Ishtar of the cuneiform inscriptions, the name of the Assyrian or Babylonian Venus, the goddess of the planet. The identity of the Canaanitish and the Assyrian or Babylonian goddess is further shown by the connection of the former with star-worship. In the Iranian languages we find a close radical resemblance to Ashtoreth and Ishtar in the Persian, Zend stara, Sansk. stra, ἀστήρ, stern, all equivalent to our "star." This derivation confirms our opinion that the high nature-worship of the Babylonians and Assyrians was of Aryan origin. As no other Canaanitish divinities are noticed in Scripture, it seems probable that Baal and Ashtoreth were alone worshipped by the nations of Canaan. Among the neighboring tribes we find, besides these, other names of idols, and we have to inquire whether they apply to different idols or are merely different appellations.
Beginning with the Abrahamitic tribes, we find Molech, Malcham, or Milcom (מֹלֶך, מִלכָּם, מַלכֹּם) spoken of as the idol of the Ammonites. This name, in the first form, always has the article, and undoubtedly signifies the king (הִמֹּלֶך, equivalent to הִמֶּלֶך), for it is indifferently used as a proper name and as an appellative with a suffix (comp. Jer 49:1,3, with Am 1:15). Milcom is from Molech or its root, with ֹם formative, and Malcham is probably a dialectic variation, if the points are to be relied upon. Molech was regarded by the Ammonites as their king. When David captured Rabbah, we are told that "he took Malcham's crown from off his head, the weight whereof [was] a talent of gold with the precious stones: and it was [set] on David's head" (2Sa 12:30; comp. 1Ch 20:2). The prophets speak of this idol as ruler of the children of Ammon, and doomed to go into captivity with his priests and princes (Jer 49:1,3; Am 1:15). The worship of Molech was performed at high places, and children were sacrificed to him by their parents, being cast into fires. This horrible practice prevailed at Carthage, where children were sacrificed to their chief divinity, Baal, called at Tyre "Melcarth, lord (Baal) of Tyre" מלקרת בעל צר (Inscr. Melit. Biling. ap. Gesen. Lex. s.v. בצל), the first of which words signifies king of the city, for מֶלֶך קֶרֶת. There can therefore be no doubt that Molech was a local form of the chief idol of Canaan, and it is by no means certain that this name was limited to the Ammonitish worship, as we shall see in speaking of the idolatry of the Israelites in the Desert.
We know for certain of but one Moabitish divinity, as of but one Ammonitish. Chemosh appears to have held the same place as Molech, although our information respecting him is less full. Moab was the "people of Chemosh" (Nu 21:29; Jer 48:46), and Chemosh was doomed to captivity with his priests and princes (Jer 48:7). In one place Chemosh is spoken of as the god of the king of the children of Ammon, whom Jephthah conquered (Jg 11:24); but it is to be remarked that the cities held by this king, which Jephthah took, were not originally Ammonitish, and were apparently claimed as once held by the Moabites (2126; comp. Nu 21:23-30); so that at this time Moab and Ammon were probably united, or the Ammonites ruled by a Moabitish chief. The etymology of Chemosh is doubtful, but it is clear that he was distinct from Molech. There is no positive trace of the cruel rites of the idol of the Ammonites, and it is unlikely that the settled Moabites should have had the same savage disposition as their wild brethren on the north. There is, however, a general resemblance in the regal character assigned to both idols and their solitary position. Chemosh, therefore, like Molech, was probably a form of Baal. Both tribes appear, to have had other idols, for we read of the worship, by the Israelites, of "the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon" (Jg 10:6); but, as there are other plurals in the passage, it is possible that this maybe a general expression. Yet, in saying this, we do not mean to suggest that there was any monotheistic form of Canaanitish idolatry. There is some difficulty in ascertaining whether Baal-Peor, or Peor, was a Moabitish idol. The Israelites, while encamped at Shittim, were seduced by the women of Moab and Midian, and joined them in the worship of Baal-Peor. There is no notice of any later instance of this idolatry. It seems, therefore, not to have been national to Moab, and, if so, it may have been borrowed, and Midianitish, or else local, and Canaanitish. The former idea is supported by the apparent connection of prostitution, even of women of rank, with the worship of Baal-Peor, which would not have been repugnant to the pagan Arabs; the latter finds some support in the name Shittim, the acacias, as though the place had its name from some acacias sacred to Baal, and, moreover, we have no certain instance of the application of the name of Baal to any non-Canaanitish divinity. Had such vile worship as was probably that of Baal-Peor been national in Moab, it is most unlikely that David would have been on very friendly terms with a Moabitish king.
The Philistine idolatry is connected with that of Canaan, although it has peculiarities of its own, which are indeed so strong that it may be questioned whether it is entirely or even mainly derived from the Canaanitish source. At Ekron, Baal-zebub was worshipped, and had a temple, to which Ahaziah, the wicked son of Ahab, sent to inquire. This name means either the lord of the fly, or Baal the fly. It is generally held that he was worshipped as a driver-away of flies, but we think it more probable that some venomous fly was sacred to him. The use of the term Baal is indicative of a connection with the Canaanitish system. The national divinity of the Philistines seems, however, to have been Dagon, to whom there were temples at Gaza and at Ashdod, and the general character of whose worship is evident in such traces as we observe in the names Caphar-Dagon, near Jamnia, and Beth-Dagon, the latter applied to two places, one in Judah and the other in Asher. The derivation of the name Dagon, דָּגוֹן, as that of a fish-god, is from דָּג, a fish. Gesenius considers it a diminutive," little fish," used by way of endearment and honor (Thes. s.v.), but this is surely hazardous. Dagon was represented as a man with the tail of a fish. There can be no doubt that he was connected with the Canaanitish system, as Derceto or Atargatis, the same as Ashtoreth, was worshipped under a like mixed shape at Ashkelon (αὔτη δὲ τὸμὲν πρόσωπον ἔχει γυναικός, τὸδ᾿ ἄλλο σῶμα πᾶν ἰχθύος, Diod. Sic. ii, 4). In form he is the same as the Assyrian god supposed to correspond to the planet Saturn. The house of Dagon at Gaza, which Samson overthrew, must have been very large, for about 3000 men and women then assembled on its roof. It had two principal, if not only, pillars in the midst, between which Samson was placed and was seen by the people on the roof. The inner portion of some of the ancient Egyptian temples consisted of a hypsethral hall, supported by two or more pillars, and inner chambers. The overthrow of these pillars would bring down the stone roof of the hall, and destroy all persons beneath or upon it, without necessarily overthrowing the sidewalls.
The idolatry of the Phoenicians is not spoken of in the Bible. From their inscriptions and the statements of profane authors we learn that this nation worshipped Baal and Ashtoreth. The details of their worship will be spoken of in the article PHOENICIA.
Syrian idols are mentioned in a few places in Scripture. Tammuz, whom the women of Israel lamented, is no doubt Adonis, whose worship implies that of Astarte or Ashtoreth. Rimmon, who appears to have been the chief divinity of the Syrian kings ruling at Damascus, may, if his name signifies high (from רָמִם), be a local form of Baal, who, as the sun-god, had a temple at the great Syrian city Heliopolis, now called Baalbek.
The book of Job, which, whatever its date, represents a primitive state of society, speaks of cosmic worship as though it was practiced in his country, Idumaea or northern Arabia. "If I beheld a sun when it shined, or a splendid moon progressing, and my heart were secretly enticed, and my hand touched my mouth, surely this [were] a depravity of judgment, for I should have denied God above" (31:26-28). See Poole, Genesis of the Earth and of Man, 2nd ed. p. 184. This evidence is important in connection with that of the ancient prevalence of cosmic worship in Arabia, and that of its practice by some of the later kings of Judah.-Kitto.
4. Much indirect evidence on this subject might be supplied by an investigation of proper names. Mr. Layard has remarked, "According to a custom existing from time immemorial in the East, the name of the supreme deity was introduced into the names of men. This custom prevailed from the banks of the Tigris to the Phoenician colonies beyond the Pillars of Hercules; and we recognize in the Sardanapalus of the Assyrians, and the Hannibal of the Carthaginians, the identity of the religious system of the two nations, as widely distinct in the time of their existence as in their geographical position" (Nineveh, 2, 450). The hint which he has given can be but briefly followed out here. Traces of the sun worship of the ancient Canaanites remain in the nomenclature of their country. Beth-Shemesh, "house of the sun;" En-Shemesh, "spring of the sun," and Ir-Shemesh, "city of the son," whether they be the original Canaanitish names or their Hebrew renderings, attest the reverence paid to the source of light and heat, the symbol of the fertilizing power of nature. Samson. the Hebrew national hero, took his name from the same luminary, and was born in a mountain village above the modern 'Ain Shems (En- Shemesh: Thomson, The Land and the Book, 2, 361). The name of Baal, the sun-god, is one of the most common occurrence in compound words, and is often associated with places consecrated to his worship, and of which, perhaps, he was the tutelary deity. Bamoth-Baal, "the high places of Baal;" Baal-Hermon, Beth-Baal-Meon, Baal-Gad, Baal-Hamon, in which the compound names of the sun god of Phoenicia and Egypt are associated, Baal-Tamar, and many others, are instances of this. [That temples in Syria, dedicated to the several divinities, did transfer their names to the places where they stood, is evident from the testimony of Lucian, an Assyrian himself. His derivation of Hiera from the temple of the Assyrian Hera shows that he was familiar with the circumstance (De Dea Syr. c. 1). Baisampsa (=Bethshemesh), a town of Arabia, derived its name from the sun-worship (Vossius, De Theol. Gent. 2, c. 8), like Kir-Heres (Jer 48:31) of Moab.] Nor was the practice confined to the names of places: proper names are found with the same element. Esh-baal, Ish- baal, etc., are examples. The Amorites, whom Joshua did not drive cut. dwelt on Mount Heres, in Aijalon, "the mountain of the sun." SEE TIAINATH-HERES. Here and there we find traces of the attempt made by the Hebrews, on their conquest of the country, to extirpate idolatry. Thus Baalah or Kirjath-Baal, "the town of Baal," became Kirjath-Jearim, "the town of forests" (Jos 15:60). The Moon. Astarte or Ashtaroth, gave her name to a city of Bashan (Jos 13:12,31), and it is not improbable that the name Jericho may have been derived from being associated with the worship of this goddess. SEE JERICHO. Nebo, whether it be the name under which the Chaldaeans worshipped the Moon or the planet Mercury, enters into many compounds: Nebu-zaradan, Samgarnebo, and the like. Bel is found in Belshazzar, Belteshazzar, and others. Were Baladan of Shemitic origin, it would probably be derived from Baal-Adon, or Adonis, the Phoenician deity to whose worship Jer 22:18 seems to refer; but it has more properly been traced to an Indo-Germanic root. Hadad, Hadadezer, Benhadad are derived from the tutelar deity of the Syrians, and in Nergalsharezer we recognize the god of the Cushites. Chemosh, the fire-god of Moab, appears in Carchemish, and Peor in Beth-Peor. Malcom, a name which occurs but once, and then of a Moabite by birth, may have been connected with Molech and Milcom, the abomination of the Ammonites. A glimpse of star-worship may be seen in the name of the city Chesil, the Shemitic Orion, and the month Chisleu, without recognizing in Rahab "the glittering fragments of the sea-snake trailing across the northern sky." It would, perhaps, be going too far to trace in Engedi, "spring of the kid," any connection with the goat-worship of Mendes, or any relics of the wars of the giants in Rapha and Rephaim. Furst, indeed, recognises in Gedi,Venus or Astarte, the goddess of fortune, and identical with Gad (Handw. s. t.). But there are fragments of ancient idolatry in other names in which it is not so palpable. Ishbosheth is identical with Eshbaal, and Jerubbesheth with Jerubbaal, and Mephibosheth and Meribbaal are but two names for one person (comp. Jer 11:13). The worship of the Syrian Rimmon appears in the names HadadRimmon, and Tabrimmon; and if, as some suppose, it be derived from רַמּוֹן, Rimmon, "a pomegranate-tree," we may connect it with the towns of the same name in Judah and Benjamin, with En-Rimmon and the prevailing tree-worship. It is impossible to pursue this investigation to any length: the hints which have been thrown out may prove suggestive. See each of these names in its place.
5. Idolatrous Usages. — Mountains and high places were chosen spots for offering sacrifice and incense to idols (1Ki 11:7; 1Ki 14:23), and the retirement of gardens and the thick shade of woods offered great attractions to their worshippers (2Ki 16:4; Isa 1:29; Ho 4:13). It was the ridge of Carmel which Elijah selected as the scene of his contest with the priests of Baal, fighting with them the battle of Jehovah as it were on their own ground. SEE CARMEL. Carmel was regarded by the Roman historians as a sacred mountain of the Jews (Tacit. Hist. 2, 78; Sueton. Vesp. 7). The host of heaven was worshipped on the housetop (2Ki 23:12; Jer 19:3; Jer 32:29; Zep 1:5). In describing the sun worship of the Nabataei, Strabo (16, 784) mentions two characteristics which strikingly illustrate the worship of Baal. They built their altars on the roofs of houses, and offered on them incense and libations daily. On the wall of his city, in the sight of the besieging armies of Israel and Edom, the king of Moab offered his eldest son as a burnt offering. The Persians, who worshipped the sun under the name of Mithra (Strabo, 15:732), sacrificed on an elevated spot, but built no altars or images. SEE MOUNT.
The priests of the false worship are sometimes designated Chemarim, a word of Syriac origin, to which different meanings have been assigned. It is applied to the non-Levitical priests who burnt incense on the high places (2Ki 23:5) as well as to the priests of the calves (Ho 10:5); and the corresponding word is used in the Peshito (Jg 18:30) of Jonathan and his descendants, priests to the tribe of Dan, and in the Targum of Onkelos (Ge 47:22) of the priests of Egypt. The Rabbis, followed by Gesenius, have derived it from a root signifying "to be black," and without any authority assert that the name was given to idolatrous priests from the black vestments which they wore. But white was the distinctive color in the priestly garments of all nations from India to Gaul, and black was only worn when they sacrificed to the subterranean gods (Bahr, Symb. 2, 87, etc.). That a special dress was adopted by the Baal-worshippers, as well as by the false prophets '(Zec 13:4), is evident from 2Ki 10:22 (where the rendering should be "the apparel"): the vestments were kept in an apartment of the idol temple, under the charge probably of one of the inferior priests. Micah's Levite was provided with appropriate robes (Jg 17:11). The "foreign apparel" mentioned in Zep 1:8, doubtless refers to a similar dress, adopted by the Israelites in defiance of the sumptuary law in Nu 15:37-40. SEE CHEMIARIM.
In addition to the priests, there were other persons intimately connected with idolatrous rites, and the impurities from which they were inseparable. Both men and women consecrated themselves to the service of idols: the former as קדֵשַׁים, kedeshim, for which there is reason to believe the A.V. (De 23:17, etc.) has not given too harsh an equivalent; the latter as קדֵשׁוֹת kedeshoth, who wove shrines for Astarte (2Ki 23:7), and resembled the ἑταίραι of Corinth, of whom Strabo (8, 378) says there were more than a thousand attached to the temple of Aphrodite. Egyptian prostitutes consecrated themselves to Isis (Juvenal, 6:489; 9:22- 24). The same class of women existed among the Phoenicians, Armenians, Lydians, and Babylonians (Herod. 1, 93, 199; Strabo, 11:p. 532; Epist. of Jerem. ver. 43). They are distinguished from the public prostitutes (Ho 4:14), and associated with the performances of sacred rites, just as in Strabo (12, p. 559) we find the two classes co-existing at Comana, the Corinth of Pontus, much frequented by pilgrims to the shrine of Aphrodite. The wealth thus obtained flowed into the treasury of the idol temple, and against such a practice the injunction in De 23:18 is directed. Dr. Maitland, anxious to defend the moral character of Jewish women, has with much ingenuity attempted to show that a meaning foreign to their true sense has been attached to the words above mentioned; and that, though closely associated with idolatrous services, they do not indicate such foul corruption (Essay on False Worship). But if, as Movers, with great appearance of probability, has conjectured (Phon. 1, 679), the class of persons alluded to was composed of foreigners, the Jewish women in this respect need no such advocacy. That such customs existed among' foreign nations there is abundant evidence to prove (Lucian, De Syra Dea, c. 5); and from the juxtaposition of prostitution and the idolatrous rites against which the laws in Leviticus 19 are aimed, it is probable that, next to its immorality, one main reason why it was visited with such stringency was its connection with idolatry (compare 1Co 6:9). SEE HARLOT.
But besides these accessories there were the ordinary rites of worship which idolatrous systems had in common with the religion of the Hebrews. Offering burnt sacrifices to the idol gods (2Ki 5:17), burning incense in their honor (1Ki 11:8), and bowing down in worship before their images (1Ki 19:18) were the chief parts of their ritual, and, from their very analogy with the ceremonies of true worship, were more seductive than the grosser forms. Nothing can be stronger or more positive than the language in which these ceremonies were denounced by Hebrew law. Every detail of idol-worship was made the subject of a separate enactment, and many of the laws, which in themselves seem trivial and almost absurd, receive from this point of view their true significance. We are told by Maimonides (Mror. Veb. c. 12) that the prohibitions against sowing a field with mingled seed, and wearing garments of mixed material, were directed against the practices of idolaters, who attributed a kind of magical influence to the mixture (Le 19:19; Spencer, De Leg. Hebr. 2, 18). Such, too, were the precepts which forbade that the garments of the sexes should be interchanged (De 23:5; Maimonides, De Idol. 12, 9). According to Macrobius (Sat. 3. 8), other Asiatics, when they sacrificed to their Venus, changed the dress of the sexes. The priests of Cybele appeared in women's clothes, and used to mutilate themselves (Creuzer, Symbo 2, 34,42): the same custom was observed "by the Ithyphalli in the rites of Bacchus, and by the Athenians in their Ascophoria" (Young, Idol. Corinthians in Rel. 1, 105; comp. Lucian, De Dea Syra, c. 15). To preserve the Israelites from contamination, they were prohibited for three years after their conquest of Canaan from eating of the fruit-trees of the land, whose cultivation had been attended with magical rites (Le 19:23). They were forbidden to "round the corner of the head," and to "mar the corner of the beard" (Le 19:27), as the Arabians did in honor of their gods (Herod. 3:8; 4:175). Hence the phrase קצוּצֵי פֵאָה (literally), "shorn of the corner," is especially applied to idolaters (Jer 9:26; Jer 25:23). Spencer (De Leg. Hebr. 2, 9, § 2) explains the law forbidding the offering of honey (Le 2; Le 11) as intended to oppose an idolatrous practice. Strabo describes the Magi as offering in all their sacrifices libations of oil mixed with honey and milk (15, p. 733) Offerings in which honey was an ingredient were made to the inferior deities and the dead (Homer, Od. 10, 519; Porph. De Antr. Nymph.
c. 17). So also the practice of eating the flesh of sacrifices "over the blood" (Le 19:26; Eze 33:25-26) was, according to Maimonides, common among the Zabii. Spencer gives a double reason for the prohibition: that it was a rite of divination, and divination of the worst kind, a species of necromancy by which they attempted to raise the spirits of the dead (comp. Horace, Sat. 1, 8). There are supposed to be allusions to the practice of necromancy in Isa 65:4, or, at any rate, to superstitious rites in connection with the dead. The grafting of one tree upon another was forbidden, because among idolaters the process was accompanied by gross obscenity (Maimon. Mor. Neb. c. 12). Cutting the flesh for the dead (Le 19:28; 1Ki 18:28), and making a baldness between the eyes (De 14:1), were associated with idolatrous rites, the latter being a custom among the Syrians (Sir G. Wilkinson in Rawlinson's Herod. 2, 158 note). The thrice repeated and much vexed passage, "Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk" (Ex 23:19; Ex 34:26; De 14:21), interpreted by some as a precept of humanity, is explained by Cudworth in a very different manner. He quotes from a Karaite commentary which he had seen in MS.: "It was a custom of the ancient heathens, when they had gathered in all their fruit, to take a kid and boil it in the dam's mill, and then in a magical way go about and besprinkle with it all the trees, and fields, and gardens, and orchards; thinking by this means they should make them fructify, and bring forth again more abundantly the following year" (On the Lord's Supper, c. 2). Dr. Thomson mentions a favorite dish among the Arabs called lebn immrs, to which he conceives allusion is made (The Land and the Book, 1, 135). The law which regulated clean and unclean meats (Le 20:23-26) may be considered both as a sanitary regulation and also as having a tendency to separate the Israelites from the surrounding idolatrous nations. It was with the same object, in the opinion of Michaelis, that while in the wilderness they were prohibited from killing any animal for food without first offering it to Jehovah (Laws of Moses, art. 203). The mouse, one of the unclean animals of Leviticus (11, 29), was sacrificed by the ancient Magi (Isa 66:17; Movers, Phon. 1, 219). It may have been some such reason as that assigned by Lewis (Orig. Hebr. 5, 1), that the dog was the symbol of an Egyptian deity, which gave rise to the prohibition in De 23:18. Movers says (1, 404) the dog was offered in sacrifice to Moloch, as swine to the moon and Dionysus by the Egyptians, who afterwards ate of the flesh (Herod. 3:47; Isa 65:4). Eating of the things offered was a necessary appendage to the sacrifice (compare Ex 18:12; Ex 32:6; Ex 34:15; Nu 25:2, etc.). Among the Persians the victim was eaten by the worshippers, and the soul alone left for the god (Strabo, 15:732). "Hence it is that the idolatry of the Jews in worshipping other gods is so often described synecdochically under the notion of feasting. Isa 57:7, 'Upon a high and lofty mountain thou hast set thy bed, and thither wentest thou up to offer sacrifice;' for in those ancient times they were not wont to sit at feasts, but lie down on beds or couches. Eze 23:41; Am 2; Am 8, They laid themselves down upon clothes laid to pledge by every altar,' i.e. laid themselves down to eat of the sacrifice that was offered on the altar; compare Eze 8:11 (Cudworth, ut supra, c. 1; comp. 1Co 8:10). The Israelites were forbidden "to print any mark upon them" (Le 19:28), because it was a custom of idolaters to brand upon their flesh some symbol of the deity they worshipped, as the ivy-leaf of Bacchus (3 Macc. 2:29). According to Lucian (De Dea Syra, 59), all the Assyrians wore marks of this kind on their necks and wrists (comp. Isa 44:5; Ga 6:17; Re 14:1,11). Many other practices of false worship are alluded to, and made the subjects of rigorous prohibition, but none are more frequently or more severely denounced than those which peculiarly distinguished the worship, of Molech. It has been attempted to deny that the worship of this idol was polluted by the foul stain of human sacrifice, but the allusions are too plain and too pointed to admit of reasonable doubt (De 12:31; 2Ki 3:27; Jer 7:31; Ps 106:37; Eze 23:39). Nor was this practice confined to the rites of Molech; it extended to those of Baal (Jer 19:5), and the king of Moab (2Ki 3:27) offered his son as a burnt-offering to his god Chemosh. The Phoenicians, we are told by Porphyry (De Abstin. 2, c. 56), on occasions of great national calamity sacrificed to Kronos one of their dearest friends. Some allusions to this custom may be seen in Mic 6:7. Kissing the images of the gods (1Ki 19:18; Ho 13:2), hanging votive offerings in their temples (1Sa 31:10), and carrying them to battle (2Sa 5:21), as the Jews of Maccabseus's army did with the things consecrated to the idols of the Jamnites (2 Macc. 12:40), are usages connected with idolatry which are casually mentioned, though not made the objects of express legislation. But soothsaying, interpretation of dreams, necromancy, witchcraft, magic, and other forms of divination, are alike forbidden (De 18:9; 2Ki 1:2; Isa 65:4; Eze 21:21). The history of other nations-and, indeed, the too common practice of the lower class of the population of Syria at the present day-shows us that such a statute as that against bestiality (Le 18:23) was not unnecessary (comp. Herod. 2, 46; Ro 1:26). Purificatory rites in connection with idol-worship, and eating of forbidden food, were visited with severe retribution (Isa 66:17). It is evident, from the context of Eze 8:17, that the rotaries of the sun, who worshipped with their faces to the east (ver. 16), and "put the branch to their nose," did so in observance of some idolatrous rite. Movers (Phoen. 1, 66) unhesitatingly affirms that the allusion is to the branch Barsom, the holy branch of the Magi (Strabo, 15:p. 733), while Havernick (Comm. zu Ezech. p. 117), with equal confidence, denies that the passage supports such an inference, and renders, having in view the lament of the women for Tammuz, "Sie entsenden den Trauergesang zu ihren Zorn." The waving of a myrtle branch, says Maimonides (De Idol. 6:2), accompanied the repetition of a magical formula in incantations. An illustration of the use of boughs in worship will be found in the Greek ikrTropia (Esch. Eun. 43; Suppl. 192; Schol. on Aristoph. Plut. 383; Porphyr. De Ant. Nymph. c. 33). For detailed accounts of idolatrous ceremonies, reference must be made to the articles upon the several idols. SEE SACRIFICE.
IV. History of Idolatry among the Jews.-
1. The first undoubted allusion to idolatry or idolatrous customs in the Bible is in the account of Rachel's stealing her father's teraphim (Ge 31:19), a relic of the worship of other gods, whom the ancestors of the Israelites served "on the other side of the river, in old time" (Jos 24:2). By these household deities Laban was guided, and these he consulted as oracles (נַחִשׁתַּי, Ge 30:27, A.V. "learned by experience"), though without entirely losing sight of the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, to whom he appealed when occasion offered (Ge 31:53), while he was ready, in the presence of Jacob, to acknowledge the benefits conferred upon him by Jehovah (Ge 30:27). Such, indeed, was the character of most of the idolatrous worship of the Israelites. Like the Cuthsan colonists in Samaria, who "feared Jehovah and served their own gods" (2Ki 17:33), they blended in a strange manner a theoretical belief in the true God with the external reverence which, in different stages of their history, they were led to pay to the idols of the nations by whom they were surrounded. For this species of false worship they seem, at all events, to have had an incredible propension. On their journey from Shechem to Bethel, the family of Jacob put away from among them "the gods of the foreigner:" not the teraphim of Laban, but the gods of the Canaanites through whose land they passed and the amulets and charms which were worn as the appendages of their worship (Ge 35:2,4). SEE JACOB.
During their long residence in Egypt, the country of symbolism, they defiled themselves with the idols of the land, and it was long before the taint was removed (Jos 24:14; Eze 20:7). To these gods Moses, as the herald of Jehovah, flung down the gauntlet of defiance (Kurtz, Gesch. d. Alt. B. 2, 39), and the plagues of Egypt smote their symbols (Nu 33:4). Yet, with the memory of their deliverance fresh in their minds, their leader absent, the Israelites clamored for some visible shape in which they might worship the God who had brought them up out of Egypt (Exodus 32). The Israelites, as dwellers in the most outlying and separate tract of the Shemitic part of Lower Egypt, are more likely to lave followed the corruptions of the Shepherd strangers than those of the Egyptians, more especially as, saving Joseph, Moses, and not improbably Aaron and Miriam, they seem to have almost universally preserved the manners of their former wandering life. There is scarcely a trace of Egyptian influence beyond that seen in the names of Moses and Miriam, and perhaps of Aaron also, for the only other name besides the former two that is certainly Egyptian, and may be reasonably referred to this period, that of Harnepher, evidently the Egyptian HAR-NEFRU, "Horus the good," in the genealogies of Asher (1Ch 7:36), probably marks an Egyptian taken by marriage into the tribe of Asher, whether a proselyte or not we cannot attempt to decide. There has been a difference of opinion as to the golden calf, some holding that it was made to represent God himself, others maintaining that it was only an imitation of an Egyptian idol. We first observe that this and Jeroboam's golden calves are shown to have been identical in the intention with which they were made, by the circumstance that the Israelites addressed the former as the God who had brought them out of Egypt (Ex 32:4,8), and that Jeroboam proclaimed the same of his idols (1Ki 12:28). We next remark that Aaron called the calf not only god, but the LORD (Ex 32:5); that in the Psalms it is said "they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth hay" (Ps 106:20); that no one of the calf-worshipping kings and princes of Israel bears any name connected with idolatry, while many have names compounded with the most sacred name of God; and that in no place is any foreign divinity connected with calf- worship in the slightest degree. The adoption of such an image as the golden calf, however, shows the strength of Egyptian associations, else how would Aaron have fixed upon so ignoble a form as that of the God who had brought Israel out of Egypt? Only a mind thoroughly accustomed to the profound respect paid in Egypt to the sacred bulls, and especially to Apis and Minevis, could have hit upon so strange a representation; nor could any people who had not witnessed the Egyptian practices have found, as readily as did the Israelites, the fulfillment of their wishes in such an image. The feast that Aaron celebrated, when, after eating and drinking, the people arose, sang, and danced naked before the idol, is strikingly like the festival of the finding of Apis, which was celebrated with feasting and dancing, and also, apparently, though this custom does not seem to have been part of the public festivity, with indecent gestures. SEE GOLDEN CALF. The golden calf was not the only idol which the Israelites worshipped in the Desert. The prophet Amos speaks of others. In the Masoretic text the passage is as follows: "But ye bare the tent [or tabernacle] of your king and Chiun your images, the star of your gods [or YOUR God], which ye made for yourselves" (5, 26). The Sept. has Μολόχ for "your king," as though their original Heb. had been מִלכָּםinstead of מִלכּכֶם, and ῾Ραιφάν for Chiun, besides a transposition.' 'In the Acts the reading is almost the same as that of the Sept., "Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them" 107:43). We cannot here discuss the probable causes of these differences except of the more important ones, the substitution of Moloch for "your king," and Raiphan or Remphan for Chiun. It should be observed, that if the passage related to Ammonitish worship, nothing would be more likely than that Molech should have been spoken of by an appellative, in which case a strict rendering of the Masoretic text would read as does the A.V.; a freer could follow the Sept. and Acts; but, as there is no reference to the Ammonites or even Canaanites, it is more reasonable to suppose that the Sept. followed a text in which, as above suggested, the reading was מִלכָּם, Malcham, or "your king." The likelihood of this being the true reading must depend upon the rest of the passage. Remphan and Chiun are at once recognized as two foreign divinities worshipped together in Egypt, RENPU, probably pronounced REIPU, and KEN the former a god represented as of the type of the Shemites, and apparently connected with war, the latter a goddess represented naked standing upon a lion. They were worshipped with KHEM, the Egyptian god of productiveness, and the foreign war-goddess ANATA. Excluding KHEMI, who is probably associated with KEN from her being connected, as we shall see, with productiveness, these names, RENPU, KEN, and ANATA, are clearly not, except in orthography, Egyptian. We can suggest no origin for the name of RENPU The goddess KEN, as naked, would be connected with the Babylonian Mylitta, and as standing on a lion, with a goddess so represented in rock-sculptures at Maltheivyeh, near Nineveh. The former similarity connects her with generation; the latter, perhaps, does so likewise. If we adopt this supposition, the name KEN may be traced to a root connected with generation found in many varieties in the Iranian family, and not out of that family. It may be sufficient to cite the Greek γίν-ομαι, γυν-ή: she would thus be the goddess of productiveness. ANATA is the Persian Anaitis. We have shown earlier that the Babylonian high nature-worship seems to have been of Aryan origin. In the present case we trace an Aryan idolatry connected, from the mention of a star, with high nature-worship. If we accept this explanation, it becomes doubtful that Molech is mentioned in the passage, and we may rather suppose that some other idol, to whom a kingly character was attributed, is intended. Here we must leave this difficult point of OUT inquiry, only summing up that this false worship was evidently derived from the shepherds in Egypt, and may possibly indicate the Aryan origin of at least one of these tribes, almost certainly its own origin, directly or indirectly, from an Aryan source.
The next was a temporary apostasy. The charms of the daughters of Moab, as Balaam's bad genius foresaw, were potent for evil: the Israelites were "yoked to BaalPeor" in the trammels of his fair worshippers, and the character of their devotions is not obscurely hinted at (Numbers 25). The great and terrible retribution which followed left so deep an impress upon the hearts of the people that, after the conquest of the promised land, they looked with an eye of terror upon any indication of defection from the worship of Jehovah, and denounced as idolatrous a memorial so slight as the altar of the Reubenites at the passage of Jordan (Jos 22:16).
2. It is probable that during the wanderings, and under the strong rule of Joshua, the idolatry learnt in Egypt was so destroyed as to be afterwards utterly forgotten by the people. But in entering Palestine they found themselves among the monuments and associations of another false religion, less attractive indeed to the reason than that of Egypt, which still taught, notwithstanding the wretched fetishism that it supported, some great truths of man's present and future, but of a religion which, in its deification of nature, had a strong hold on the imagination. The genial sun, the refreshing moon, the stars, at whose risings or settings fell the longed- for rains, were naturally reverenced in that land of green hills and valleys, which were fed by the water of heaven. A nation thrown in the scene of such a religion and mixed with those who professed it, at that period of national life when impressions are most readily made, such a nation, albeit living while the recollection of the deliverance from Egypt and the wonders with which the Law was given was yet fresh, soon fell away into the practices that it was strictly enjoined to root out. In the first and second laws of the Decalogue, the Israelites were commanded to worship but one God, and not to make any image whatever to worship it, lest they and their children should fall under God's heavy displeasure. The commands were explicit enough. But not alone was idolatry thus clearly condemned: the Israelites were charged to destroy all objects connected with the religion of the inhabitants of Canaan. They were to destroy utterly all the heathen places of worship, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree." They were to "overthrow" the "altars" of the heathen, "break their pillars," "burn their groves, hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place" (De 12:2-3), a passage we cite on account of the fullness of the enumeration. Had the conquered nations been utterly extirpated, their idolatry might have been annihilated at once. But soon after the lands had been apportioned, that separate life of the tribes began which was never interrupted, as far as history tells us, until the time of the kings. Divided, the tribes were unable to cope with the remnant of the Canaanites, and either dwelt with them on equal terms, reduced them to tribute, or became tributaries themselves. The Israelites were thus surrounded by the idolatry of Canaan; and since they were for the most part confined to the mountain and hilly districts, where its associations were strongest, they had but to learn from their neighbors how they had worshipped upon the high hills and under every green tree. From the use of plural forms, it is probable that the Baals and Ashtoreths of several towns or tribes were worshipped by the Israelites, as Baal-Peor had been, and Baalberith afterwards was. It does not seem, however that the people at once fell into heathen worship: the first step appears to have been adopting a corruption of the true religion.
During the lives of Joshua and the elders who outlived him, indeed, they kept true to their allegiance; but the generation following, who knew not Jehovah, nor the works he had done for Israel, swerved from the plain path of their fathers, and were caught in the toils of the foreigner (Judges 2). From this time forth their history becomes little more than a chronicle of the inevitable sequence of offence and punishment. "They provoked Jehovah to anger and the anger of Jehovah was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them" (Jg 2:12,14). The narratives of the book of Judges, contemporaneous or successive, tell of the fierce struggle maintained against their hated foes, and how women forgot their tenderness and forsook their retirement to sing the song of victory over the oppressor. By turns, each conquering nation strove to establish the worship of its national god. During the rule of Midian, Joash, the father of Gideon, had an altar to Baal, and an Asherah (Jg 6:25), though he proved but a lukewarm worshipper (ver. 31). Even Gideon himself gave occasion to idolatrous worship; yet the ephod which he made from the spoils of the Midianites was perhaps but a voice offering to the true God (Jg 8:27). It is not improbable that the gold ornaments of which it was composed were in some way connected with idolatry (comp. Isa 3:18-24), and that, from their having been worn as amulets, some superstitious virtue was conceived to cling to them even in their new form. But, though in Gideon's lifetime no overt act of idolatry was practiced, he was no sooner dead than the Israelites again returned to the service of the Baalim, and, as if in solemn mockery of the covenant made with Jehovah. chose from among them Baal-Berith, "Baal of the Covenant" (comp. Ζεὺς ὅρκιος), as the object of their special adoration (Jg 8:33). Of this god we know only that his temple, probably of wood (Jg 9:49), was a stronghold in time of need, and that his treasury was filled with the silver of the worshippers (9, 4). Nor were the calamities of foreign oppression confined to the land of Canaan. The tribes on the east of Jordan event astray after the idols of the land, and were delivered into the hands of the children of Ammon (Jg 10:8). But they put away from among them "the gods of the foreigner," and with the baseborn Jephthah for their leader gained a signal victory over their oppressors. The exploits of Samson against the Philistines, though achieved within a narrower space and with less important results than those of his predecessors, fill a brilliant page in his country's history. But the tale of his marvelous deeds is prefaced by that ever-recurring phrase, so mournfully familiar, "the children of Israel did evil again in the eyes of Jehovah, and Jehovah gave them into the hand of the Philistines." Thus far idolatry is a national sin. The episode of Micah, in Jg 17; Jg 18 sheds a lurid light on the secret practices of individuals, who, without formally renouncing Jehovah, though ceasing to recognize him as the theocratic king (Jg 17:6) linked with his worship the symbols of ancient idolatry. The house of God, or sanctuary, which Micah made in imitation of that at Shiloh, was decorated with an ephod and teraphim dedicated to God, and with a graven and molten image consecrated to some inferior deities (Selden, De Dis Syris, synt. 1, 2). It is a significant fact, showing how deeply rooted in the people was the tendency to idolatry, that a Levite, who, of all others, should have been most sedulous to maintain Jehovah's worship in its purity, was found to assume the office of priest to the images of Micah; and that this Levite, priest afterwards to the idols of Dan, was no other than Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Moses. Tradition says that these idols were destroyed when the Philistines defeated the army of Israel and took from them the ark of the covenant of Jehovah (1 Samuel 4). The Danites are supposed to have carried them into the field, as the other tribes bore the ark, and the Philistines the images of their gods, when they went forth to battle (2Sa 5; 2Sa 21; Lewis, (Orig. Bebr. 5, 9). But the Seder Olnm Rabba (c. 24) interprets "the captivity of the land" (Jg 18:30), of the captivity of Manasseh; and Benjamin of Tudela mistook the remains of later Gentile worship for traces of the altar or statue which Micah had dedicated, and which was worshipped by the tribe of Dan (Selden, P, Dis Syr. synt. 1, 2; Stanley, S. and Pal. p. 398). In later times the practice of secret idolatry was carried to greater lengths. Images were set up on the corn-floors, in the wine-vats, and behind the doors of private houses (Isa 57:8; Ho 9:1-2); and to check this tendency the statute in De 27:15 was originally promulgated. It is noticeable that they do not seem during this period to have generally adopted the religions of any but the Canaanites, although in one remarkable passage they are said, between the time of Jair and that of Jephthah, to have forsaken the Lord, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria, Zidon, Moab, the children of Ammon, and the Philistines (Jg 10:6), as though there had then been an utter and profligate apostasy. The cause, no doubt, was that the Canaanitish worship was borrowed in a time of amity, and that but one Canaanitish oppressor is spoken of whereas the Abrahamites of the east of Palestine, and the Philistines, were almost always enemies of the Israelites. Each time of idolatry was punished by a servitude, each reformation followed by a deliverance. Speedily as the nation returned to idolatry, its heart was fresher than that of the ten tribes which followed Jeroloam, and never seem to have had one thorough national repentance.
3. The notices of their great wars show that the enmity between the Philistines and the Israelites was toe great for any idolatry to be then borrowed from the former by the latter, though at an earlier time this was not the case. Under Samuel's administration a fast was held, and purificatory rites performed, to mark the public renunciation of idolatry (1Sa 7:3-6). Saul's family were, however, tainted, as it seems, with idolatry, for the names of Ishbosheth or Esh-baal, and Mephibosheth or Merib-baal, can scarcely have been given but in honor of Baal. From the circumstances of Michal's stratagem to save David, it seems not only that Saul's family kept teraphim, but, apparently, that they used them for purposes of divination, the Sept. having "liver" for 'pillow," as if the Hebr. had been כָּבֵד instead of the present כּבַיר. SEE PILLOW. The circumstance of having teraphim, more especially if they were used for divination, lends especial force to Samuel's reproof of Saul (1Sa 15:23). During the reign of David idolatry in public is unmentioned, and no doubt was almost unknown. SEE DAVID.
The earlier days of Solomon were the happiest of the kingdom of Israel. The Temple worship was fully established, with the highest magnificence, and there was no excuse for that worship of God at high places which seems to have been before permitted on account of the constant distractions of the country. But the close of that reign was marked by an apostasy of which we read with wonder. Hitherto the people had been the sinners, their leaders reformers; this time the king, led astray by his many strange wives, perverted the people, and raised high places on the Mount of Corruption, opposite God's temple. He worshipped Ashtoreth, goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh, the god of the Moabites, and Milcom, the abomination of the Ammonites, building high places for the latter two, as well as for all the gods of his strange wives. Solomon, no doubt, was very tolerant, and would not prevent these women from following their native superstitions, even if they felt it a duty to burn their and his children before Molech. Foreign idolatry was openly imitated. Three of the summits of Olivet were crowned with the high places of Ashtoreth, Chemosh, and Molech (1Ki 11:7; 2Ki 23:13), and the fourth, in memory of his great apostasy, was branded with the opprobrious title of the "Mount of Corruption." Calamity speedily followed this great apostasy: the latter years of Solomon were troubled by continual premonitions of those political reverses which were the inevitable penalty of this high treason against the theocracy. This is clearly brought out by the marked and frequent denunciations of the later prophets. SEE SOLOMON.
Rehoboam, the son of an Ammonitish mother, perpetuated the worst features of Solomon's idolatry (1Ki 14:22-24); and in his reign was made the great schism in the national religion-when Jeroboam, fresh from his recollections of the Apis worship of Egypt, erected golden calves at Bethel and at Dan, and by this crafty state policy severed forever the kingdoms of Judah and Israel (1Ki 12:26-33). To their use were temples consecrated and the service in their honor was studiously copied from the Mosaic ritual. High-priest himself, Jeroboam ordained priests from the lowest ranks (2Ch 11:15); incense and sacrifices were offered, and a solemn festival appointed, closely resembling the feast of tabernacles (1Ki 12:23,33; comp. Am 4:4-5). SEE JEROBOAM. The worship of the calves, "the sin of Israel" (Ho 10:8), which was apparently associated' with the goat-worship of Mendes (2Ch 11:15; Herod. 2, 46) or of the ancient Zabii (Lewis, Orig. Hebr. 5, 3), and the Asherim (1Ki 14:15; A.V. "groves"), ultimately spread to the kingdom of Judah, and centered in Beersheba (Am 5:5; Am 7:9). At what precise period it was introduced into the latter kingdom is not certain. The Chronicles tell us how Abijab taunted Jeroboam with his apostasy, while the less partial narrative in 1 Kings represents his own conduct as far from exemplary (1Ki 15:3). Asa's sweeping reform spared not even the idol of his grandmother Maachah, and, with the exception of the high places, he removed all relics of idolatrous worship (1Ki 15:12-14), with its accompanying impurities. His reformation wag completed by Jehoshaphat (2Ch 17:6). See each king in alphabetical order. The successors of Jeroboam followed in his steps, till Ahab, who married a Zidonian princess, at her instigation (1Ki 21:25) built a temple and altar to Baal, and revived all the abominations of the Amorites (1Ki 21:26). For this he attained the bad pre-eminence of having done "more to provoke Jehovah, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him" (1Ki 16:33). Compared with the worship of Baal, the worship of the calves was a venial offence, probably because it was morally less detestable, and also less anti-national (1Ki 12:28; 2Ki 10:28-31). SEE ELIJAH. Henceforth Baal- worship became so completely identified with the northern kingdom that it is described as walking in the way or statutes of the kings of Israel (2Ki 16:3; 2Ki 17:8), as distinguished from the sin of Jeroboam, which ceased not till the Captivity (2Ki 17:23), and the corruption of the ancient inhabitants of the land. The idolatrous priests became a numerous and important caste (1Ki 18:19), living under the patronage of royalty, and fed at the royal table. The extirpation of Baal's priests by Elijah, and of his followers by Jehu (2 Kings 10), in which the royal family of Judah shared (2Ch 22:7), was a death-blow to this form of idolatry in Israel, though other systems still remained (2Ki 13:6). But, while Israel thus sinned and was punished, Judah was morally more guilty (Eze 16:51). The alliance of Jehoshaphat with the family of Ahab transferred to the southern kingdom, during the reigns of his son and grandson, all the appurtenances of Baal-worship (2Ki 8:18,27). In less than ten years after the death of that king, in whose praise it is recorded that he "sought not the Baalim," nor walked "after the deed of Israel" (2Ch 17:3-4), a temple had been built for the idol, statues and altars erected, and priests appointed to minister in his service (2 Kings' 11:18). Jehoiada's vigorous measures checked the evil for a time, but his reform was incomplete, and the high places still remained, as in the days of Asa, a nucleus for any fresh system of idolatry (2Ki 12:3). Much of this might be due to the influence of the king's mother, Zibiah of Beersheba, a place intimately connected with the idolatrous defection of Judah (Am 8:14). After the death of Jehoiada, the princes prevailed upon Joash to restore at least some portion of his father's idolatry (2Ch 24:18). The conquest of the Edomites by Amaziah introduced the worship of their gods, which had disappeared since the days of Solomon (2Ch 25:14,20). After this period, even the kings who did not lend themselves to the encouragement of false worship had to contend with the corruption which still lingered in the hearts of the people (2Ki 15:35; 2Ch 27:2). Hitherto the temple had been kept pure. The statues of Baal and the other gods were worshipped in their own shrines; but Ahaz, who "sacrificed unto the gods of Damascus, which smote him" (2Ch 28:23), and built altars to them at every corner of Jerusalem, and high places in every city of Judah, replaced the brazen altar of burnt-offering by one made after the model of "the altar" of Damascus and desecrated it to his own uses (2Ki 16:10-15).
The conquest of the ten tribes by Shalmaneser was for them the last scene of the drama of abominations which had been enacted uninterruptedly for upwards of 250 years. In the northern kingdom no reformer arose to vary the long line of royal apostates; whatever was effected in the way of reformation was done by the hands of the people (2Ch 31:1). But even in their captivity they helped to perpetuate the corruption. The colonists, whom the Assyrian conquerors placed in their stead in the cities of Samaria, brought with them their own gods, and were taught at Bethel, by a priest of the captive nation "the manner of the rod of the land, the lessons thus learnt resulting in a strange admixture of the calf-worship of Jeroboam with the homage paid to their national deities (2Ki 17:24-41). Their descendants were ill consequence regarded with suspicion by the elders who returned from the captivity with Ezra, and their offers of assistance rejected (Ezr 4:3). SEE SAMARITANS.
The first act of Hezekiah on ascending the throne was the restoration and purification of the Temple, which had been dismantled and closed during the latter part of his father's life (2Ch 28:24; 2Ch 29:3). The multitudes who flocked to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, so long in abeyance, removed the idolatrous altars of burnt-offering and incense erected by Ahaz (2Ch 30:14). The iconoclastic spirit was not confined to Judah and Benjamin, but spread throughout Ephraim and Manasseh (2Ch 31:1), and to all external appearance idolatry was extirpated. But the reform extended little below the surface (Isa 29:13). Among the leaders of the people there were many in high position who conformed to the necessities of the time (Isa 28:14), and under Manasseh's patronage the false worship, which had been merely driven into obscurity, broke out with tenfold virulence. Idolatry of every form, and with all the accessories of enchantments, divination, and witchcraft, was again rife; no place was too sacred, no associations too hallowed, to be spared the contamination. If the conduct of Ahaz in erecting an altar in the temple court is open to a charitable construction, Manasseh's was of no doubtful character. The two courts of the Temple were profaned by altars dedicated to the host of heaven, and the image of the Asherah polluted the holy place (2Ki 21:7; 2Ch 33:7,15; comp. Jer 32:34). Even in his late repentance he did not entirely destroy all traces of his former wrong. Tradition states that the remonstrances of the aged Isaiah (q.v.) only served to secure his own martyrdom (Gemara on Yebamoth, 4). The people still burned incense on the high places; but Jehovah was the ostensible object of their worship. The king's son sacrificed to his father's idols but was not associated with him in his repentance, and in his short reign of two years restored all the altars of the Baalim and the images of the Asherah. With the death of Josiah ended the last effort to revive among the people a purer ritual, if not a purer faith. The lamp of David, which had long shed but a struggling ray, flickered for a while, and then went out in the darkness of Babylonian captivity. SEE JUDAH, KINGDOM OF.
It will be useful here to recapitulate the main varieties of the idolatry, which so greatly marred the religious character of this monarchical period of the Jewish state. It has been a question much debated whether the Israelites were ever so far given up to idolatry as to lose all knowledge of the true God. It would be hard to assert this of any nation, and still more difficult to prove. That there always remained among them a faithful few, who in the face of every danger adhered to the worship of Jehovah, may readily be believed, for even at a time when Baal-worship was most prevalent there were found seven thousand in Israel who had not bowed before his image (1Ki 19:18). But there is still room for grave suspicion that among the masses of the people, though the idea of a supreme Being-of whom the images they worshipped were but the distorted representatives---was not entirely lost, it was so obscured as to be but dimly apprehended. And not only were the ignorant multitude thus led astray, but the priests, scribes, and prophets became leaders of the apostasy (Jeremiah 2-8). Warburton, indeed, maintained that they never formally renounced Jehovah, and that their defection consisted "in joining foreign worship and idolatrous ceremonies to the ritual of the true God" (Die. Leg. b. 5, § 3). But one passage in their history, though confessedly obscure, seems to point to a time when, under the rule of the judges, 'Israel for many days had no true God, and no teaching priest, and no law" (2Ch 15:3). The correlative argument of Cudworth, who contends from the teaching of the Hebrew doctors and rabbis "that the pagan nations anciently, at least the intelligent amongst them, acknowledged one supreme God of the whole world, and that all other gods were but creatures and inferior ministers," is controverted by Mosheim (Intell. Syst. 1, 4, § 30, and notes). There can be no doubt that much of the idolatry of the Hebrews consisted in worshipping the true God under an image, such as the calves at Bethel and Dan (Josephus, Ant. 8, 8, 5; δαμάλεις ἐπωνύμους τῷ θεῷ), and by associating his worship with idolatrous rites (Jer 41:5) and places consecrated to idols (2Ki 18:22). From the peculiarity of their position they were never distinguished as the inventors of a new pantheon, nor did they adopt any one system of idolatry so exclusively as ever to become identified with it (so the Moabites with the worship of Chemosh (Nu 21:29); but they no sooner came in contact with other nations than they readily adapted themselves to their practices, the old spirit of antagonism died rapidly away, and intermarriage was one step to idolatry.
a. Sun-worship, though mentioned with other kinds of high nature- worship, as in the enumeration of those suppressed by Josiah, seems to have been practiced alone as well as with the adoration of other heavenly bodies. In Ezekiel's remarkable vision of the idolatries of Jerusalem, he saw about four-and-twenty men between the porch and the altar of the Temple, with their backs to the Temple and their faces to the east, worshipping the sun (Eze 8:16). Josiah had before this taken away 'the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entering in of the house of the Lord," and had "burned the chariots of the sun with fire" (2Ki 23:11). The same part of the temple is perhaps here meant. There is nothing to show whether these were images or living horses. The horse was sacred to the sun among the Carthaginians, but the worship of the visible sun instead of an image looks rather like a Persian or an Arab custom. SEE SUN.
b. In the account of Josiah's reform we read of the abolition of the worship of Baal, the sun, the moon, Mazzaloth, also called Mazzaroth (Job 38:32), which we hold to be the mansions of the moon, SEE ASTRONOMY, and all the host of heaven (2Ki 23:5). Manasseh is related to have served "all the host of heaven" (21:3). Jeremiah speaks of "the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses of the kings of Judah," as to be defiled, "because of all the houses upon whose roofs they have burned incense unto all the host of heaven, and have poured out drink-offerings unto other gods" (Jer 19:13). In this prophet's time the people of Judah and Jerusalem, among other abominations, made cakes for "the queen of heaven," or "the worship of heaven:" a different form justifying the latter reading. The usual reading is Api, מלֶכֶת, which the Sept. once follows, the Vulg. always; some copies give מלֶאכֶת, worship, that is, "a deity or goddess." The former reading seems preferable, and the context in two passages in Jeremiah shows that an abstract sense is not admissible (Jer 44:17-19,25). In Egypt, the remnant that fled after the murder of Gedaliah were warned by the prophet to abandon those idolatrous practices for which their country and cities had been desolated. The men, conscious that their wives had burned incense to false gods in Egypt, declared that they would certainly burn incense and pour out drink- offerings to the queen of heaven, as they, their fathers, their kings, and their princes had done in a time of plenty, asserting that since they had left off these practices they had been consumed by the sword and by famine: for this a fresh doom was pronounced upon them (ch. 44). It is very difficult to conjecture what goddess can be here meant: Ashtoreth: would suit, but is never mentioned interchangeably; the moon must be rejected for the same reason. Here we certainly so a strong resemblance to Arab idolatry, which was wholly composed of cosmic worship and of fetishism, and in which the mansions of the moon were reverenced on account of their connection with seasons of rain. This system of cosmic worship may have been introduced from the Nabathaeans or Edomites of Petra, from the Sabians, or from other Arabs or Chaldmeans. SEE QUEEN OF HEAVEN.
c. Two idols, Gad,גָּד, or Fortune, and Meni,מנַי, or Fate, from מָנָה, he or it divided, assigned, numbered, are spoken of in a single passage in the later part of Isaiah (Isa 65:1). Gesenius, depending upon the theory of the post-Isaiah authorship of the later chapters of the prophet, makes these to be idols worshipped by the Jews in Babylonia, but it must be remarked that their names are not traceable in Babylonian and Assyrian mythology. Gesenius has, however, following Pococke (Spec. Hist. Arabum, p. 93), compared Meni with Manah, a goddess of the pagan Arabs, worshipped in the form of a stone between Mekkeh and El-Medineh by the tribes of Hudheyl and Khuzaah. But EI-Beydawi, though deriving the name of this idol from the root mana, "he cut," supposes it was thus called because victims were slain upon it (Comment. in Coran. ed. Fleischer, p. 293). This meaning certainly seems to disturb the idea that the two idols were identical, but the mention of the sword and slaughter as punishments of the idolaters who worshipped Gad and Meni is not to be forgotten. Gad may have been a Canaanitish form of Baal, if we are to judge from the geographical name Baal-gad of a place at the foot of Mount Hermon (Jos 11:17; Jos 12:7; Jos 13:5). Perhaps the grammatical form of Meni may throw some light upon the origin of this idolatry. The worship of both idols resembles that of the cosmic divinities of the later kings of Judah. SEE MEN.
d. In Ezekiel's vision of the idolatries of Jerusalem he beheld a chamber of imagery in the Temple itself having "every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and [or even] all the idols of the house of Israel, portrayed upon the wall round about," and seventy Israelitish elders offering incense (Eze 8:7-12). This is so exact a description of an Egyptian sanctuary, with the idols depicted upon its walls, dimly lighted, and filled with incense-offering priests, that we cannot for a moment doubt that these Jews derived from Egypt their fetishism, for such this special worship appears mainly, if not wholly to have been. SEE IMAGERY, CHAMBER OF.
e. In the same vision the prophet saw women weeping for Tammuz (ver. 13, 14), known to be the same as Adonis, from whom the fourth month of the Syrian year was named. This worship was probably introduced by Ahaz from Syria. SEE TAMMUZ.
f. The image of jealousy, סֵמֶל הִקַּנאָה, spoken of in the same passage, which was placed in the Temple, has not been satisfactorily explained. The meaning may only that it was an image of-a false god, or there may be a play in the second part of the appellation upon the proper name. We cannot, however, suggest any name that might be thus intended. SEE JEALOUSY, IMAGE OF.
g. The brazen serpent, having become an object of idolatrous worship, was destroyed by Hezekiah (2Ki 18:4). SEE BRAZEN SERPENT.
h. Moloch-worship was not only celebrated at the high place Solomon had made, but at Topheth, in the valley of the sons of Hinnom, where children were made to pass through the fire to the Ammonitish abomination.. This place, as well as Solomon's altars, Josiah defiled, and we read of no later worship of Moloch, Chemosh, and Ashtoroth. SEE MOLOCH.
i. For the supposed divinity אחד of Isa 66:17 (compare Meier, De uno deo Assyriorum, Helmst. 1734), SEE ACHR).
The new population placed by the king of Assyria in the cities of Samaria adopted a strange mixture of religions. Terrified at the destruction by lions of some of their number, they petitioned the king of Assyria, and an Israelitish priest was sent to them. They then adopted the old worship at high places, and still served their own idols. The people of Babylon made Succothbenoth; the Cuthites, Nergal; the Hamathites, Ashima; the Avites, Nibhaz and Tartak; and the people of Sepharvaim burned their children to their native gods, Adrammelech and Anammelech. Nergal is a well known Babylonian idol, and the occurrence of the element Melech (king) in the names of the Molechs of Sepharvaim is very remarkable (2Ki 17:411).
4. The Babylonian Exile was an effectual rebuke or the national sin. It is true that even during the captivity the devotees of false worship plied their craft as prophets and diviners (Jer 29:8; Eze 13), and the Jews who fled to Egypt carried with them recollections of the material prosperity which attended their idolatrous sacrifices in Judah, and to the neglect of which they attributed their exiled condition. (Jer 44:17-18). One of the first difficulties, indeed, with which Ezra had to contend, and which brought him well-nigh to despair, was the haste with which his countrymen took them foreign wives of the people of the land, and followed them in all their abominations (Ezra 9). The priests and rulers, to whom he looked for assistance in his great enterprise, were among the first to fall away (Ezr 9:2; Ezr 10:18; Ne 6:17-18; Ne 13:23). Still, the post-exilian prophets speak of idolatry as an evil of the past, Zechariah before telling the time when the very names of the false gods would be forgotten (Zec 13:2). In. Malachi we see that a cold formalism was already the national sin, and such was ever after the case with the Jewish people. The Babylonian Exile, therefore, may be said to have purified the Jews from their idolatrous tendencies. How this great change was wrought does. not appear. Partly no doubt, it was due to the pious examples of Ezra and Nehemiah; partly, perhaps, to the Persian contempt for the lower 'kinds of idolatry, which insured a respect for the Hebrew religion on the part of the government; partly to the sight of the fulfillment of God's predicted judgments upon the idolatrous nations which the Jews had either sought as allies or feared as enemies. SEE EXILE.
5. Years passed by, and the names of the idols of Canaan had been forgotten, when the Hebrews were assailed by a new danger. Greek idolatry under Alexander and his successors was practiced throughout the civilized world. The conquests of Alexander in Asia caused Greek influence to be extensively felt, and Greek idolatry to be first tolerated, and then practiced by the, Jews (1 Macc. 1:43-50, 54). Some place-hunting Jews were base enough to adopt it. At first the Greek: princes who ruled Palestine wisely forbore to interfere with the Hebrew religion. The politic earlier Ptolemies even encouraged it; but when the country had fallen into the hands of the Seleucidae, Antiochus Epiphancs, reversing his father's policy of toleration, seized. Jerusalem, set up an idol-altar to Jupiter in the Temple itself, and forbade the observance of the law. Weakly supported by a miserable faction, he had to depend wholly upon his military power. The attempt of Artiochus to establish this form of worship was vigorously resisted by Mattathias (1 Macc. 2:23-26), who was joined in his rebellion by the Assideans (ver. 42), and destroyed the altars at which the king commanded them to sacrifice (1 Macc. 2:25, 45). The erection of. synagogues has been assigned as a reason for the comparative purity of the Jewish worship after the Captivity (Prideaux, Conn. 1, 374), while another cause has been discovered in the hatred for images acquired by the Jews in their intercourse with the Persians. The Maccabaean revolt, small in its beginning, had the national heart on its side, and, after a long and varied struggle, achieved more than the nation had ever before effected since the days of the Judges. Thenceforward idolatry was to the Jew the religion of his enemies, naturally made no perverts.
6. The early Christians were brought into contact with idolaters when the Gospel was preached among the Gentiles, and it became necessary to enact regulations for preventing scandal by their being involved in pagan practices, when joining in the private meals and festivities of the heathen (1 Corinthians 8). But the Gentile converts do not seem to have been in any danger of reverting to idolatry, and the cruel persecutions they underwent did not tend to lead them back to a religion which its more refined votaries despised. It is, however, not impossible that many who had been originally educated as idolaters did not, on professing Christianity, really abandon all their former superstitions, and that we may thus explain the very early outbreak of many customs and opinions not sanctioned in the N.T.
V. Ethical Views respecting Idolatry. — That this is a cardinal sin, and, indeed, the highest form, if not essential principle of all sin, as aiming a direct blow at the throne of God itself, is evident from its prohibition in the very fore-front of the Decalogue. Hence the tenacity with which the professors of all true religion in every age have opposed it under every disguise and at whatever cost. It has always and naturally been the associate of polytheism, and those corrupt forms of Christianity, such as the Roman and Greek Churches, which have endeavored to apologize for the adoration of pictures, images, etc., on the flimsy pretext that it is not the inanimate objects themselves which arc revered, but only the beings thus represented, arc but imitators in this of the sophistry of certain refined speculators among the grosser heathen e.g. of Egypt, Greece, etc., who put forth similar claims. SEE IMAGE-WORSHIP.
Three things are condemned in Scripture as idolatry:
1. The worshipping of a false God;
2. the worshipping of the true God through an image;
3. the indulgence of those passions which draw the soul away from God, e.g. covetousness, lust, etc. The Israelites were guilty of the first when they bowed the knee to Baal; of the second when they set up the golden calves; and both Israelites and Christians are often guilty of the third.
1. Light in which Idolatry was regarded in the Mosaic Code, and the penalties with which it was visited of one main object of the Hebrew polity was to teach the unity of God, the extermination of idolatry was but a subordinate end. Jehovah, the God of the Israelites, was the civil head of the state. He was the theocratic king of the people, who had delivered them from bondage, and to whom they had taken a willing oath of allegiance. They had entered into a solemn league and covenant with him as their chosen king (comp. 1Sa 8:7), by whom obedience was requited with temporal blessings, and rebellion with temporal punishment. This original contract of the Hebrew government, as it has been termed, is contained in Ex 19:3-8; Ex 20:2-5; Deuteronomy 39, 10-30; the blessings promised to obedience are enumerated in De 28:1-14, and the withering curses on disobedience in verses 15-68. That this covenant was strictly insisted on it needs but slight acquaintance with Hebrew history to perceive. Often broken and often renewed on the part of the people (Jg 10:10; 2Ch 15:12-13; Ne 9:38), it was kept with unwavering constancy on the part of Jehovah. To their kings he stood in the relation, so to speak, of a feudal superior: they were his representatives upon earth, and with them, as with the people before, his covenant was made (1Ki 3:14; 1Ki 11:11). Idolatry, therefore, to an Israelite was a state offence (1Sa 15:23), a political crime of the gravest character, high treason against the majesty of his king. It was a transgression of the covenant (De 17:2), "the evil" pre- eminently in the eyes of Jehovah (1Ki 21:25, opp. to. הִיָּשָׁר, 'the right," 2Ch 27:2). But it was much more than all this. While the idolatry of foreign nations is stigmatized merely as an abomination in the sight of God, which called for his vengeance, the sin of the Israelites is regarded as of more glaring enormity, and greater moral guilt. In the figurative language of the prophets, the relation between Jehovah and his people is represented as a marriage bond (Isa 54:5; Jer 3:14), and the worship of false gods, with all its accompaniments (Le 20:27), becomes then the greatest of social wrongs (Ho 2; Jer 3, etc.). This is beautifully brought out in Ho 2:16, where the heathen name Baali, my master, which the apostate Israel has been accustomed to apply to her foreign possessor, is contrasted with Ishi, my man, my husband, the native word which she is to use when restored to her rightful husband, Jehovah. Much of the significance of this figure was unquestionably due to the impurities of idolaters, with whom such corruption was of no merely spiritual character (Ex 34:16; Nu 25:1-2, etc.), but manifested itself in the grossest and most revolting forms (Ro 1:26-32).
Regarded in a moral aspect, false gods are called "stumbling-blocks" (Eze 14:3), "lies" (Am 2:4; Ro 1:25), "horrors" or "frights" (1Ki 15:13; Jer 50:38), "abominations" (De 29:17; De 32:16; 1Ki 11:5; 2Ki 23:13), "guilt" (abstract for concrete, Am 8:14, אִשׁמָה, ashmadh; comp.2Ch 29:18, perhaps with a play on Ashima, 2Ki 17:30); and with a profound sense of the degradation consequent upon their worship, they are characterized by the prophets, whose mission it was to warn the people against them (Jer 44:4), as "shame" (Jer 11:13; Ho 9:10). As considered with reference to Jehovah, they are "other gods" (Jos 24:2,16), "strange gods" (De 32:16), "new gods" (Jg 5:8), "devils-not God" (De 32:17- 1Co 10:20-21); and, as denoting their foreign origin, "gods of the foreigner" (Jos 24:14-15). Their powerlessness is indicated by describing them as "gods that cannot save" (Isa 45:20)," that made not the heavens" (Jer 10:11), "nothing" (Isa 41:24; 1Co 8:4), "wind and emptiness" (Isa 41:29), "vanities of the heathen" (Jer 14:22; Ac 14:15); and yet, while their deity is denied, their personal existence seems to have been acknowledged (Kurtz, Gesch. d. A.B. ii, 86, etc.), though not in the same manner in which the pretensions of local deities were reciprocally recognized by the heathen (1Ki 20:23,28; 2Ki 17:26). Other terms of contempt are employed with reference to idols, אֵַלילַים, elilim (Le 19:4), and גַּלּוּלַים, gilluliem (De 29:17), to which different meanings have been assigned, and many which indicate ceremonial uncleanness. SEE IDOL.
Idolatry, therefore, being from one point of view a political offence, could be punished without infringement of civil rights. No penalties were attached to mere opinions. For aught we know, theological speculation may have been as rife among the Hebrews as in modern times, though such was not the tendency of the Shemitic mind. It was not, however, such speculations, heterodox though they might be, but overt acts of idolatry, which were made the subjects of legislation (Michaelis, Laws of Moses, § 245, 246). The first and second commandments are directed against idolatry of every form. Individuals and communities were equally amenable to the rigorous code. The individual offender was devoted to destruction (Ex 22:20); his nearest relatives were not only bound to denounce him and deliver him up to punishment (De 13:2-10), but their hands were to strike the first blow when, on the evidence of two witnesses at least, he was stoned (De 17:2-5). To attempt to seduce others to false worship was a crime of equal enormity (De 13:6-10). An idolatrous nation shared a similar fate. No facts are more strongly declared in the Old Test. than that the extermination of the Canaanites was the punishment of their idolatry (Ex 34:15-16; De 7; De 12:29-31; De 20:17), and that the calamities of the Israelites were due to the same cause (Jer 2:17). A city guilty of idolatry was looked upon as a cancer of the state; it was considered to be in rebellion, and treated according to the laws of war. Its inhabitants and all their cattle were put to death. No spoil was taken, but everything it contained was burnt with itself; nor was it allowed to be rebuilt (De 13:13-18; Jos 6:26). Saul lost his kingdom, Achan his life, and Hiel his family for transgressing this law (1Sa 15; Jos 7; 1Ki 16:34). The silver and gold with which the idols were covered were accursed (De 7:25-26). Not only were the Israelites forbidden to serve the gods of Canaan (Ex 23:24), but even to mention their names, that is, to call upon them in prayer or any form of worship (Ex 23:13; Jos 23:7). On taking possession of the land they were to obliterate all traces of the existing idolatry; statues, altars, pillars, idol temples, every person and every thing connected with it, were to be swept away (Ex 23:24,32; Ex 34:13; De 7:5,25; De 12:1-3; De 20:17), and the name and worship of the idols blotted out. Such were the precautions taken by the framer of the Mosaic code to preserve the worship of Jehovah the true God, in its purity. Of the manner in which his descendants have "put a fence" about "the law" with reference to idolatry, many instances will be found in Maimonides (De Idol.). They were prohibited from using vessels, scarlet garments, bracelets, or rings, marked with the sign of the sun, moon, or dragon (ib. Deuteronomy 7:10); trees planted or stones erected for idol-worship were forbidden (De 8:5,10); and, to guard against the possibility of contamination, if the image of an idol were found among other images intended for ornament, they were all to be cast into the Dead Sea (De 7:11). — Smith. SEE ANATHENIA.
2. New-Test. Definitions on the Subject.-
(1.) The name "idolater" is given not only to persons who worship heathen gods, but also such as worship idols of their own. Ac 17:16: "Now, while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred within him when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry." 1Co 5:10-11: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner: with such a one no not to eat." l Corinthians 6:9: "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters." 1Co 10:7: "Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them." Re 21:8: "But the fearful ... and idolaters shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone."
(2.) The term idolatry is figuratively used to designate covetousness, which takes 'Mammon' for its god (Mt 6:24; Lu 16:13). Col 3:5: "Mortify, therefore, your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry." Hence it is said (Eph 5:5), "For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." St. Paul further designates all evil concupiscence in general by the name of idolatry; e.g. Php 3:19: "Whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things;" comp. Ro 16:18, "For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple." The same is said (2Ti 3:4) of those who are "lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God." According to Ro 1:21, idolatry takes its source in the impurity of the will, or in the heart, not in the mind; it is consequently a result of the abuse of human free agency. It is said, in the above-mentioned passage, "Because 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." The not glorifying and the not praising' manifest the badness of the will or heart. In the Book of Wisdom (14:14) it is said that idolatry came into the world through the "idle vanity of man." Idolatry and sin have consequently the same origin, namely, the misuse of moral freedom. They therefore assist each other, yet, at the same time, present separately a difficult problem for reason to understand. To some extent idolatry may be considered as the theoretical, and sin as the practical effect of evil, which, in its complete manifestation, embraces both the mind and the heart, but takes its source exclusively in the latter; for all evil results from the will, by its own free action, separating itself from the divine will. — Krehl, Handworterbuch des N.T. p. 12.
3. In the later Christian Church. — The fathers generally define idolatry, from Ro 1:23, as a "taking away from God the glory which belongs to him" (Tertull. De Idololatria, c. 11), or "divine honor given to another" (Cyprian; Hilar. Diac.); sometimes, also, as a transferring of prayer from the Creator to the creature (Gregor. Naz.). Christian writers in general had no doubt on the subject (see Finnicus Maternus, De errore proianarum religionum, ed. Münter, c. 1-5). When Clement of Alexandria regards astonishment at the light emitted by the heavenly bodies, thankfulness towards the inventor of agriculture, consciousness of sin, a personification of effects, etc., as the origin of myths, he does not mean to consider them as the original source of idolatry, but only of its contemporary forms. From the primitive worship of the heavens as the abode of the invisible God, according to the oldest traditions, the worship of the different nations, as they became disseminated over the globe, and divided geographically and otherwise, turned to other symbols. Again, nations preserving the remembrance, and, so to speak, living under the influence of their founders and heroes, as 'soon as they forgot the true God, made these the objects of their veneration and worship. Thus they came to worship their progenitors (as in China) and their heroes, which latter worship is by some (Boss, for instance) considered as the only source of mythology. How from thence they passed to the worship of symbolic animals, thence to anthropomorphism, and finally to the adoration of statues as images of the deity, has been best explained by Creuzer in his Symbolik u. Hythologie d. alten Volker (3rd edit. 1, 5 sq.). The fathers did not fail to perceive the influence which the original tradition of the true God had on the development of the symbolism and myths of the heathen religious systems. Lactantius (Defalsa relig. 1, 11) considers the consensus gentium in the belief in gods as a proof that they are touched by them. The early Protestant theologians had especially to contend against naturalism, which asserted that "the recognition of one supreme God is innate in man," and denied our knowledge of the unity of God being due either to revelation or to tradition, since it is found at the foundation of the learned polytheistic systems. They considered all further developments in these systems as resulting from intentional additions made in support of their hierarchy by an interested priesthood, or by rulers from motives of policy (see Herbert of Cherbury, De relig. gentilium, p. 6,168 sq.). These views were ably opposed by Gerhard Jo. Vossius (De theologia gentili et physiologia Christiana, 1, 3 sq.), Van Dale (De origine et progressu idololatrice, 1, 2, 3), Selden (De diis Syris [Lips. 1662], p. 25 sq.). They however meant, as did also Farmer (The general Prevalence of the Worship of Human Spirits in the Ancient Heathen Nations [Lond. 1783]), that the daemons, whether evil spirits or departed human souls, had very early become the objects of veneration on the part of the heathen. The Jews came gradually to the idea that the heathen deities were not nonentities, as the prophets had stated them to be, but really existing evil spirits, a view which was continued by the fathers, especially in relation to the so-called oracles. The earliest German theologians also admitted this doctrine of a worship of daemons. This, however, was gradually discarded after the researches of S. J. Baumgarten (Gesch. d. Religionsparteien, p. 176 sq.), and idolatry is now generally considered as the result of a' sophisticated tradition. Rationalism, based on Pelagian principles, either embraced the views of the naturalists, or else those of Heyne, J. H. Boss, etc., who maintain, the former that the myths and idolatry were either the natural consequences of historical events or the peculiar garb of philosophical ideas (historical and philosophical mythicism), while the latter derives idolatry partly from the universal wisdom whose higher thoughts assumed that form in order to be the more readily appreciated by the people, and partly from the interests of the priesthood; he considers, also, the tradition of real heroes as an abundant source. Others (like Lobeck, etc.) see in the mythology of the heathen but a childish play of the imagination. But the opinion which most generally obtained is that behind the outward form of mythology is hidden a real philosophical or religious idea, and that personalities and historical facts are only erroneously introduced into it (Buttmann; G. Hermann). Finally, others considered idolatry in its full development as the result of the intentional maneuvers of the priesthood (so Fr. Creuzer, in the first editions of his Symbolik), or of a hierarchical system of nature, which amounts nearly to the same (K.O. Muller, Prolegonz. zu einer wissenschaftlichen Mythologie, p. 316-344). The latter considers the very origin and nature of the gods and consequently of idolatry, as the result of an unconscious popular necessity, which from the first was connected or identified with illusion, instead of remaining a true and special idea. From this view-whose only defect is its too great disregard of the original religion-it is easy to come to those which govern the newer systems of religious philosophy, such as are upheld by Hegel (Vorlesungen 2. Religions philosophie), according to which religion has received a steady development from an earthly basis, so that idolatry was but one of its first forms, and not at all an estrangement from God, but a necessary part of the progress towards him. This view of it completely makes away with idolatry by the presumed connection of all religions arriving by successive developments at absolute religion. This view is supported by Hinrichs (D. Religion im innern Verhaltnisse z. Wissenschaft [Heidelb. 1821], p. 141 sq.) and Kraft (D. Religionen aller Valker in philosophischer Darstellung [Stuttg. 1848]). Feuerbach and other extreme Rationalists even consider religion itself as a sickly ideal phenomenon in human life.
We must rank under idolatry all adoration not addressed to the one invisible God of the Bible, or such adoration of him as is rendered in any manner not conforming to the revelations of the Bible. It results partly from additions and the influence of the world, partly from the original traditional command to seek God, which seeking, when unaided by him (in revelation), ends in error, so that, unconsciously, it is worldly existence that is apprehended instead and in the place of God. The mode of this apprehension varies in different nations, according to their geographical, historical, and intellectual circumstances, and may degenerate into the adoration of the most vain and arbitrary objects (fetishes), which priests or sorcerers may set up. Between the original symbolic and the most abject idolatry there are various-stages. While the majority of the heathen are either on the brink or in the midst of fetishism, the more enlightened part look upon the idols only as symbols, sometimes of several deities, and sometimes of one God.
Idolatry was formerly considered as divided into two distinct classes, real and comparative; the former was absolute polytheism-the belief in the real divinity of the images-while the latter was either (Baumgarten) the worship of the several deities as subordinate to one, or (G.H. Vossius) the considering of the images worshipped as mere symbols of the invisible God. In Col 3:5 we find a metaphorical use made of the word idolatry to express undue attachment to earthly possessions and advantages. The same name has also been given, with good reason, to the use made of images in the Roman and Greek Churches. — Herzog, Real- Encyklop. s.v. Abgotterei. On this last point, SEE MARIOLATRY; SEE SAINT-WORSHIP, etc.