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What Is Idolatry?

The First and Second Commandments (see also The Ten Commandments and The Ten Commandments Now?) prohibit idolatry:

"I am The Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me."

"You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I The Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love Me and keep My Commandments." (Exodus 20:2-6 RSV)

Idol What Is Idolatry?

Idolatry can be defined as "worship or reverence given to any created object or person." It actually takes many forms, not just the "praying to statues" that many people think of when they hear the word "idolatry."

Fetishism (fetish is derived from the Latin word factitius, meaning to make - ironically the word fact originated from the same Latin word) is when "any living or inanimate object is regarded with awe and devotion." While thousands of everyday things and habits can be included in this category, especially if they get in the way of one's obedience to, and worship of, the True God, statues and religious images are the most common and obvious examples:

"Therefore take good heed to yourselves. Since you saw no form on the day that The Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act corruptly by making a graven image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth." (Deuteronomy 4:15-18 RSV)

"for the customs of the peoples are false. A tree from the forest is cut down, and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman. Men deck it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it cannot move. Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk. Be not afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither is it in them to do good." (Jeremiah 10:3-5 RSV)

Nature Worship is reverence for the forces or objects of nature. Sun Worship is the most obvious of this category. Ironically, some scientists, that is, those of them who deny the existence of God, may also be included here since they have merely replaced the True God with a "god of science" (revering the creation while being in a state of denial toward its Creator), whereby the most famous and prominent scientists are the "high priests" of their "religion":

"And beware lest you lift up your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and worship them and serve them, things which The Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven." (Deuteronomy 4:19 RSV)

"Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the Truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator" (Romans 1:24-25 RSV)

Hero Worship is when rightful respect and admiration for a leader or an accomplished person degenerates into a form of divine reverence. The world is going to know this form of idolatry to a great extreme in the years prior to The Return Of Jesus Christ:

"Men worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?" And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months; it opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and tongue and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, every one whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain" (Revelation 13:4-8 RSV) (see also Revelation 13)

Fact Finder: Is idolatry caused by an earthly nature, rather than a Godly nature?
Colossians 3:5-10


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This Week's Bible Quiz

What's the missing word? (Revised Standard Version)

1. "And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and _______"

2. "Noah was _______ hundred years old when the flood of waters came upon the earth."

3. "and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest upon the mountains of _______."

4. "At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made, and sent forth a _______; and it went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth."

5. "and the dove came back to him in the evening, and lo, in her mouth a freshly plucked _______ leaf"

6. "Then Noah built an altar to The Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered _______ offerings on the altar."

7. "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in His own _______"

8. "Ham was the father of _______."

9. "Noah was the first tiller of the soil. He planted a _______"

10. "All the days of Noah were _______ hundred and fifty years; and he died"

For the answers to this November 6 2001 quiz, see the Bible Quiz Answers Page


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