According to Christianity, Idolatry is the worship of anything else other than God, giving it or them the admiration that you would accord God. Being brought up in a Christian family instilled a lot of Christian beliefs, one of which was that Idolatry was a sin before the eyes of God. There are many instances that Idolatry has been mentioned in the Bible as well as clear punishment for those who commit Idolatry. Which got me thinking, how many times is Idolatry mentioned in the Bible?
Idolatry is mentioned around 50 times in the Bible. Idolatry in the Bible was a major form of worship before the introduction of Christianity. Many communities created images of gods that they would make offerings to as well as pray to. Some other communities also worshipped heavenly bodies, such as the sun and moon, which is also considered a form of Idolatry.
In this article, I will give you a deeper understanding of Idolatry, drawing examples from the Bible. I will look at the meaning of Idolatry according to the Bible as well as how many times it has been mentioned in the Bible. I will also look at the punishment that the Bible suggests will be given to those who commit Idolatry. Read on to find out more about Idolatry.
What is Idolatry according to the Bible?
The Bible describes Idolatry as the worship of objects made by human beings or heavenly bodies. In the book of Romans 1:21-25, Apostle Paul gives a description of when Idolatry started in the Bible. Paul suggests that people grew obsessed with their own wisdom and immorality. So, they decided to create their own physical representation of God. The representations they made would normally take the form of human figures or animals. Idolatry mainly took three forms; nature worship which was the worship of heavenly bodies such as the moon and sun, fetishism which was the worship of natural features such as mountains, and trees and hero worship, which is the worship of dead people or heroes and heroines of the past.
What does the Bible say about Idolatry?
The Bible greatly discourages Idolatry in any form. This can clearly be seen in the Ten Commandments, where the Bible mentions that man shall not create any idols and worship them instead of God (Deuteronomy 5:7). The Bible also suggests that anyone who commits Idolatry will be punished, and the punishment will be extended for three generations after him of her (Exodus 20:2-5).
Idolatry is also well portrayed in the journey of the Israelites. From the beginning, the Israelites had a covenant with God to worship Him alone. The Israelites were even barred from mentioning the name of other gods other than the true God of Abraham (Exodus 23:13). The Bible implies that by doing so, we are acknowledging and giving credence to their influence and power over us. Israel was also not supposed to marry from any culture that embraced the worship of false gods. Therefore, from the story of Israel, it is clear that the Scripture condemned Idolatry in every form.
The Bible also suggests that Idolatry is a futile and meaningless endeavor. This is because all the idols or any other false gods are not powerful as the God of Israel. The only power that the idols had was in the head of the people who worshiped them. This has been shown in many instances throughout Scripture, as seen in the book of 1 Kings 18:19-40 where Prophet Elisha challenged the prophets of Baal on top of Mount Carmel. Where the prophets of Baal lost the challenge, and God was victorious.
Examples of Idolatry in the Bible
This verse talks about the golden calf idol worshiped by the Israelites in the wilderness. Though God’s chosen people, the Israelites fell a couple of times and went against their covenant with God which required them to worship no other gods.
This verse mentions the idol worshiped by King Jeroboam I, which led the Israelites astray. This happened after the Israelites had turned against the house of David and recognized Jeroboam as their king.
This verse talks about the idols worshiped by the Canaanites: In this verse, the Israelites are being instructed to smash and break down the altars of the idols, including the Asherah poles.
This verse is part of a larger chapter that talks about the god of Baal, who was worshiped by the adversaries of Prophet Elijah. In this particular verse, those who worshiped Baal called upon him to set a bull sacrifice that had been prepared on fire, but nothing happened. However, the God of Israel answered Prophet Elijah and consumed his sacrifice. This shows that gods do not have power.
This passage discusses the idol worshiped by the Babylonians, the golden image of King Nebuchadnezzar. The entire account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refusing to worship the idol can be found in this chapter.
This verse talks about the idols the Moabites were worshipping in Shittim. The Moabites indulged in sexual immorality and even invited Israel to worship the idols with them.
This verse describes how the Israelites forsook their one true God, who had brought them out of Egypt and worshipped their gods.
This verse talks about Dagon, the idol worshiped by the Philistines. The Philistines mocked God by taking his ark to the temple of Dagon. When they woke up, they found Dagon had fallen on the ground on his face. This can serve as a reminder not to compare God to any other gods.
This verse mentions Ashtoreth and Molek, gods worshipped by Sidonians and Ammonites.
This verse also accounts for the Idolatry of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. It explains how the Israelites forsook their God and worshipped other gods like Baal and the Asherah pole that they had been instructed to destroy.
Is Idolatry mentioned in the New Testament?
Idolatry is mentioned in the New Testament in several passages, particularly in the context of warning believers against worshiping false gods or placing anything or anyone above God. One notable mention of Idolatry in the New Testament is in the book 1 John 5:21. The author of this book warns us to keep away from idols. Furthermore, Apostle Paul also addresses the issue of Idolatry in his letters. In his first letter to the Corinthians, he emphasizes the importance of avoiding the worship of idols and the spiritual dangers associated with them (1 Corinthians 10:14).
Paul further explains that idols are nothing and that believers should not engage in idolatrous practices (1 Corinthians 8:4). Additionally, in his letter to the Galatians, Paul lists Idolatry as one of the acts of the flesh, along with other sinful behaviors, warning believers about the consequences of such actions (Galatians 5:19-21). Ephesians 5:5: Paul admonishes the Ephesian believers to be aware that no immoral or idolatrous person will inherit God’s kingdom. Here, he equates Idolatry with immorality and greed (Ephesians 5:5).
What was the first idol in the Bible?
Though the idols quite a lot, the first instance of an idol in the Bible were household gods that were first owned by Laban (Genesis 31:19). Laban was the father to the wives and Jacob. When he had gone to take care of his flock and sheep, his daughter Rachel stole his household gods, hence the first mention of idols in the Bible.
Where in the Bible does it talk about idols?
The Bible addresses the topic of idols in several passages. In Exodus 20:4-6, the Bible warns us against worshipping other gods, for our God, the Lord of Israel, is a jealous God. This passage is part of the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. It emphasizes the exclusivity of worshiping the true God and prohibits the creation and worship of idols.
The Scripture also talks about idols in the book of Deuteronomy 4:15-19. In this passage, Moses cautions the Israelites against crafting and worshiping idols. He reminds them that when God appeared to them at Mount Sinai, they saw no form and, therefore, should not make any image to represent God or any other deity.
Idols are also mentioned in the book of Psalm 115:4-8. The psalmist contrasts the impotence of idols with the living God. He notes that idols are made by humans, and they cannot see like our heavenly further. It is key to note that Scripture, whenever it talks about Idolatry, it condemns this act.
Who was the first idol Worshipper in the Bible?
The people of Babel were the first instance of idol worshipping in the Bible. In Genesis 11, the people of Babel built a tower to reach the heavens and make a name for themselves rather than worshiping and obeying God. Other than the people of Babel, the father of Abraham, Terah, and Nahor are said to have worshiped idols (Joshua 24:2).
What does the Bible say about punishment for Idolatry?
As stated above, the Scripture is highly against Idolatry and provides guidance on the punishment for such practices in various passages. In the Old Testament, particularly in the book of Exodus and Deuteronomy, there are explicit commands against idol worship and instructions on the consequences of engaging in it. For example, Exodus 22:20 says that whoever offers sacrifices to any gods other than the God of Israel is up for destruction. This implies a severe penalty, including potential death, for those who engage in idol worship.
In Deuteronomy 17:2-5, there are instructions regarding the punishment for Idolatry within the community. It says that if an individual or a group of people is found worshiping other gods, they should be brought to the gates of the city and stoned to death. This was to serve as a deterrent and to uphold the exclusive worship of God.
However, these punishments were before the coming of Christ in the New Testament. After Christ came, the Scripture put more emphasis on repentance and forgiveness rather than punishment. However, in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Paul warns us and assures us that idolaters will not inherit the kingdom of God.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.