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Bible verses about Israel's Idolatry
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Exodus 32:2-10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Israelites' lack of faith while Moses was on Mt. Sinai made them feel insecure. Moses was gone less than 40 days when the Israelites fashioned a calf of molded gold to substitute for the invisible Creator God. In their own minds, they had reduced God to something they could control and call upon when convenient. Those who repented were ashamed at what they had done.

Martin G. Collins
The Second Commandment


 

Deuteronomy 32:15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jeshurun, meaning "the upright," is a poetical name for Israel carried over from her earlier uprightness, before she took for granted the physical and spiritual blessings that God provided. The metaphor Moses uses derives from a pampered animal that, instead of being tame and gentle, becomes mischievous and vicious as a result of good living and spoiled treatment. Israel did this in various acts of rebellion, murmuring, and idolatrous apostasy.

Martin G. Collins
Gluttony: A Lack of Self-Control (Part Two)


 

Joshua 2:11   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Symbolically, adultery is used to express unfaithfulness to God, and we can easily see this in Israel's idolatry. God is represented as the husband of His people. Ezekiel 16:15-59 gives a graphic description of Israel's spiritual adultery, and Hosea 1:1-2 shows the same symbolism in Hosea's marriage. We can fall into spiritual adultery by relying on the world and its false teaching rather than God.

Martin G. Collins
The Seventh Commandment


 

Joshua 23:14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In the intervening years, from the time that Levi came into Egypt with his father Jacob, the Israelites had forgotten about God. They had given up their monotheism, their worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Instead, they had copied the people of the land and began worshipping the gods of Egypt (their progenitors had also done so in other lands). Regarding this same period of time, Ezekiel says:

Say to them, "Thus says the Lord GOD: 'On the day when I chose Israel and raised My hand in an oath to the descendants of the house of Jacob, and made Myself known to them. . . .'" (Ezekiel 20:5)

Remember this phrase, "made Myself known to them." Had they forgotten Him in Egypt? Yes, they had. They did not know God any longer. Just a few did, like Amram and Jochebed, who retained the religion, the worship of God.

"'...and made Myself known to them in the land of Egypt, I raised [lifted] My hand in an oath to them, saying, "I am the LORD your God." On that day I raised [lifted] My hand in an oath to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, "flowing with milk and honey," the glory of all lands. Then I said to them, "Each of you, throw away the abominations which are before his eyes, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt. I am the LORD your God." But they rebelled against Me and would not obey Me. They did not all cast away the abominations which were before their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I said, "I will pour out My fury on them and fulfill My anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt."'" (Ezekiel 20:5-8)

The Sabbath was forgotten. We know that circumcision was also forgotten because of what happened in the wilderness and when Joshua took them into the land. In the wilderness, they had to circumcise the men. Why were not they already circumcised? Because they had forgotten the covenant that God had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Instead, they adopted the religions of Egypt and were worshipping false gods and participating in heathen festivals.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Conviction and Moses


 

2 Kings 17:5-17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

II Kings 17:7-17 catalogs the sins of Israel:

» Widespread idolatry. Israel "feared other gods" (verse 7). "They built for themselves high places in all their cities . . . . They set up for themselves sacred pillars and wooden images on every high hill and under every green tree; and there they burned incense on all the high places, as the nations had done whom the LORD had carried away before them." (verses 9-11). Further, they "followed idols, became idolaters, and . . . made for themselves a molded image and two calves, made a wooden image and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal" (verses 15-16).

» Pagan Religious Practices. The Israelites "caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and soothsaying, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger" (verse 17).

» Rejection of God's Law. Israel "walked in the statutes of the nations whom the LORD had cast out from before the children of Israel." (verse 8). Verse 15 points out that the people "rejected [God's] statutes and His covenant that He had made with their fathers, and His testimonies which He had testified against them." The prophet Amos particularizes the epidemic of social injustice in the Kingdom of Israel. As an example, notice Amos 2:6-7, where Amos chides the Israelites: ". . . because they sell the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals. They pant after the dust of the earth which is on the head of the poor, and pervert the way of the humble." The Israelites displayed a pandemic failure to love their fellow man.

II Kings 17:5-6 relates the ultimate consequence.

Now the king of Assyria went throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria and besieged it for three years. . . . The king of Assyria took Samaria and carried Israel away to Assyria, and placed them in Halah and by the Habor, the River of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.

Assyria, a kingdom known as much for its innovative weapons as for their brutal implementation, conquered the Kingdom of Israel in 718 BC. So it was that, about 250 years after it was established, the ten-tribed northern kingdom became extinct as a sovereign nation. The Assyrians deported the population en masse from its homeland in Canaan, transplanting it virtually in toto to the southern shores of the Caspian Sea. The Kingdom of Israel fell below the historian's radar.

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Six): Israel Is Fallen, Is Fallen


 

2 Kings 17:5-8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God was thorough. He just wiped them all out of the land of Canaan and sent them into the cities of the Medes and into Assyria—exiled. And in a way, they are still in exile. God has led them to the lands that He was holding for them.

The descendants of Israel who went into exile do not know that their homeland is back in Canaan. They have never gone back. That is a detail of how thorough God's exile of Israel was—they forgot everything. Just as He prophesied in Deuteronomy 28, the Israelites went into other lands and took gods of wood and stone and completely forgot their past.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
How to Survive Exile


 

Psalm 78:1-58   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Psalm 78 gives a clear and concise history of Israel's relationship with God. The psalmist illustrates four steps that led to their rebellion:

1. They forgot God's goodness (verse 11).

2. They tested God by insisting that He satisfy their lusts (verses 18-19).

3. They played moral hide-and-seek with God, which is hypocrisy; they served Him only when they discovered for the moment they could not escape Him (verses 35-37).

4. Finally, they substituted idols for God at the center of their lives (verses 57-58).

Israel never got the true picture. Because they were walking by sight, and not by faith, they were so impressed with what they saw that they limited God's ability to create His heart and mind in them (verse 41).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing for the Feast


 

Jeremiah 3:7-11   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Because the Kingdom of Judah had seen the results of Israel's idolatry—had witnessed the catastrophe of her fall and mass deportation, but had refused to repent—God judges that "backsliding Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah" (verse 11).

God, through a number of prophets, warns Judah not to follow Israel's course. For example, Hosea, using harlotry as an analogy for idolatry, pleads, "Though you, Israel, play the harlot, let not Judah offend" (Hosea 4:15).

With a few exceptions, notably Hezekiah and Josiah, the kings of Judah were more corrupt than their counterparts in the north. Israel set the pace into idolatry, and Judah enthusiastically followed. "Israel and Ephraim stumble in their iniquity; Judah also stumbles with them" (Hosea 5:5).

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Six): Israel Is Fallen, Is Fallen


 

Jeremiah 3:8-10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God is speaking about the two nations, Israel and Judah. Israel had gone into captivity over a hundred years before Jeremiah came along. God is relating what Judah did after it saw that Israel had gone into captivity for its sins.

He uses marriage as an analogy of His relationship with His people—first with Israel and Judah and later with the church—in order to help us see clearly what is required of us. He calls Israel His wife, but Israel was not faithful in that the people committed idolatry. God considers this spiritual idolatry as being the same as, or similar to, the committing of adultery in a human marriage.

This is why He calls idolatry "adultery." It is unfaithfulness to a vow, a contract, a covenant, or an agreement. The two partners in the agreement, God and Israel, said, "I do" to be Husband and wife. God was faithful, upholding His part of that relationship, but Israel was unfaithful to those vows, committing adultery through idolatry, by worshiping other gods.

Notice how strong God's language is: He uses the word "treacherous." He calls Judah's unfaithfulness, her idolatry, her spiritual adultery "treachery." It is a word that is reserved for the most despicable breaches of trust. We do not like to use it even when speaking of adultery, so we soften it, using a euphemism like saying he or she "had an affair." God calls it what it is—treachery, an egregious violation of allegiance, of trust.

Whether a person is treacherous, that is, unfaithful, or whether he is faithful to his vows, both results have to be worked at, but the former comes easier than the latter because treachery follows the natural course of human nature. We have all done what Israel and Judea did through sin, alienating ourselves from Him.

God does with us individually as He was willing to do with Israel and Judea as nations. He says, "Yes, you've committed these unfaithful sins, but if you'll just return to Me, I'll still accept you as my wife." He is willing to forgive. The condition, however, is repentance—real change in attitude and behavior.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Love and Works


 

Ezekiel 6:9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

There is a lot of emotion in the word "broken." The marginal reference for it gives "crushed." God says, "I am crushed." This is how He felt in the rejection He received from Israel within this marriage.

The idols represent what she greatly desired, and as the context clearly shows, what she greatly desired, God (her Husband) prohibited.

This "whoring" is their fickle drive. They were always curious about how others did things. They were always ready for excitement in some new thing and ever willing to experience a variety of things. Almost always what she chased after was outside the guidelines that God gave in His commands, but to her His commands always appeared to be denying her pleasure.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 7)


 

Ezekiel 6:9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"Idols" represent what she greatly desired and expended her efforts to possess. As the context shows, what she greatly desired God, her Husband, prohibited. These fickle lusts led Israel into relationships with ways of life other than God's. Her drive for the "excitement" of experiencing some new thing led her to make those other ways her ways. God labels this as adultery because she abandoned Him for them.

Usually what Israel chased after was outside the guidelines God gave in His commands. However, to her His commands always appeared to be denying her pleasure. Hosea, though the earliest of the prophets to connect spiritual idolatry to the sexual sin of adultery, was far from the last, as this verse in Ezekiel suggests.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Seven): How Can Israel Be the Great Whore?


 

Ezekiel 20:15-16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Ezekiel 20:15-16 refers to a historical situation that shows idolatry's deceptive nature. These verses summarize that Israel went into captivity and were scattered primarily as the result of idolatry and Sabbath-breaking. As they were breaking those commands, did they believe that doing so would take them into captivity? Probably not, but we can believe it because God records it for our admonition! It is interesting that idolatry and Sabbath-breaking are linked, because the breaking of either leads directly to the breaking of the other.

We can see Ezekiel's general accusation against Israel's idolatry in the specific example of Judah in the writings of his contemporary, Jeremiah. This occurred just before Judah completely collapsed and the Jews were led into Babylonian captivity. At that time, God flooded the nation with godly prophets to give the people a final warning:

From the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, even to this day, this is the twenty-third year in which the word of the LORD has come to me; and I have spoken to you, rising early and speaking, but you have not listened. And the LORD has sent to you all His servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, but you have not listened nor inclined your ear to hear. They said, "Repent now everyone of his evil way and his evil doing, and dwell in the land that the LORD has given to you and your fathers forever and ever. Do not go after other gods to serve them and worship them, and do not provoke Me to anger with the works of your hand; and I will not harm you." "Yet you have not listened to Me," says the LORD, "that you might provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt." (Jeremiah 25:3-7)

Many prophets witnessed against the Jews, but no lasting repentance occurred. A key to understanding why nothing changed is found in verses 6-7 in the phrase, "provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands." "Works of your hands" indicates concepts, ideas, and notions developed from their own minds, not from the Creator's. He refers, of course, to their idolatry. The deceptive nature of idolatry and Sabbath-breaking is such that their damaging effects are more subtle than other sins' effects. The pains of the penalties usually come so much later that most are unable to connect the true spiritual cause with the individual's or culture's moral and spiritual degeneracy.

If one lies, steals, or commits murder, the effects are almost always immediately evident, but this is not so with idolatry and Sabbath-breaking. With those who do not know God, breaking the first commandment leads to breaking the fourth. However, with the converted—those who know the truth—breaking the fourth can just as easily lead to breaking the first.

The Bible reveals that the effect of breaking the first commandment is to break the second, and eventually all the other commandments (James 2:10). In practical experience, this happens because, once a person is no longer responding to the Creator God's values, someone or something else has to be put in His place. Man will worship—that is, give his devotion to—something, and that something is more often than not himself and his own creations!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Second Commandment


 

Ezekiel 20:24   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God specifically draws attention to idolatry and Sabbath-breaking as powerful irritants to His relationship with Israel. The Israelites began breaking these commandments right from the get-go in the wilderness, and they apparently never really understood what He wanted from them regarding them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 1)


 

Hosea 1:2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The book of Hosea's dominant theme is Israel's faithlessness. Hosea is especially creative in his use of metaphors to describe the relationship between Israel and God, but the two dominant ones are suggested in this verse. The primary one is Israel as a faithless wife, and the secondary one is Israel as a rebellious child (rebelling against God's law). Harlotry indicates sexual wantonness. If the person committing harlotry were married, it would suggest extreme faithlessness to his or her vows of marriage. In a spiritual covenant relationship with God, however, it indicates idolatry.

In tandem with the metaphors regarding Israel, the prophet uses two main family-relationship themes. In the first, God is shown as a faithful Husband, and in the second, as a loving and longsuffering Parent. In each case, Israel is faithless in carrying out responsibilities within the relationship, which God calls adultery and harlotry. God's judgment was occasioned by Israel departing from duties agreed to in a contract, the Covenant.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Seventh Commandment


 

1 Corinthians 10:12-14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This passage appears in the midst of an epistle detailing the problems of a tumultuous congregation. Paul draws on the experiences of Israel in the wilderness as examples to us. He concludes by telling them, despite what manner of sin each individual was involved in, to turn their attention to overcoming idolatry. In others words, idolatry sat at the foundation and was ultimately the cause of whatever their sin happened to be.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment


 

 




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