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Discovery Magazine 2/1/2001

Idolatry in the Old Testament

by  Jim Estabrook

We all have our favorite things to do. Some of us may enjoy watching football or playing video games. Others enjoy playing baseball or going fishing. We learn to enjoy certain things because our friends, parents, and teachers share their thoughts and ideas with us. These people are the major influences in our lives and teach us a great deal about what is right and wrong.

Heathen people of Old Testament times often tried to convince the Israelites that worshipping pagan deities was the right thing to do. There were several pagan gods and goddesses of the Old Testament—Baal, Molech, Nehustan, and Ashtoreth to name just a few. Baal, who was believed to be the god of justice, was one of the most popular gods. People who worshipped Baal believed that they had nothing to fear from thieves or murderers, since Baal would see that justice was served.

To worship Molech, another popular god, people would offer their own children as burnt sacrifices. Ashtoreth was another well-known deity to whom pagan peoples offered sacrifices. Also, Dagon appears several times in the Old Testament as the god of the Philistines. Yet all of these deities have one thing in common: they had no real power. The life of Solomon is a tragic story about a man who ignored this fact.

When Solomon was a young king, he asked the true God for wisdom (1 Kings 3:5-14). He wanted wisdom to that he could rule the people of God fairly. Because Solomon asked for wisdom, and not riches and honor, God blessed him with more wisdom (and riches) than anyone else in the world. Solomon was rewarded for making a good, sound decision. But, along with riches and honor, other influences began to creep into his life.

Solomon was warned that his companions could turn his heart away from the Lord (1 Kings 11:2). Yet he ignored this warning and made friends with idol worshippers who convinced him to build a temple to Molech. He knew worshipping idols was wrong, but as he grew older, his poor decisions caused his heart to turn away from the Lord.

Sadly, on several different occasions throughout biblical history, the people of God turned from Him to worship pagan gods, even when they knew it was wrong. Just because a person knows the difference between right and wrong does not mean he or she will make the right decision every time. There are occasions when we are tempted by others to do things we know are wrong. Never let it be said that you did something you knew was wrong just because someone else wanted you to do it. It could be very costly. Look what happened to Solomon!

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