The Commandments of the Noahide – Part 2

Do Not Worship Idols

Looking at the Sea of Galilee

Idol worship is forbidden in all three of the monotheistic religions. A good question may be, “”is it practiced the same in all three of these religions? Judaism and Islam are “monotheistic”, in the truest sense of the term. They both worship the G-d of Abraham and no other. Christianity sees itself as monotheistic, and they also worship the G-d of Abraham, but Christians also believe in the trinity (god in three persons) which adds some doubt when viewed from other religions.

There is not a Scripture verse in Genesis that directly forbids idol worship. To find those Scriptures we must go to the Sinai experience and later. But when we look at the Genesis Scriptures prior to the flood, we lean that there is only one G-d and He created the heavens and earth. To worship any other god than the G-d of creation would be idolatrous. Noah’s genealogy is given in Genesis, and if a person studies his genealogy, you will see that Adam didn’t die until after Noah was alive. So Noah could have learned the story of creation directly from Adam.

The word “idol” comes from the Latin and Greek word “eidolomtria”. Both the Latin and Greek used the same word for idol. The Greek words “eidos” translates: appearance, fashion, shape, sight; “eido” translates: look (on), perceive, see, be sure; “eidoleion” translates: idols temple; “eidolon” translates: a heathen god or the worship of such, an idol. Our modern word “idol” as it comes from “eidolon”, describes worshiping something other than the G-d of Israel, such as an object, or another being, (substituting someone or something in place of Hasham).

Looking at Idol worship from the Hebrew approach is very interesting. In looking at the Hebrew words that are translated to “idol” in the King James Bible I compiled a list for you review below. The list has the Strongs number in the first column, and then the Hebrew word in the second followed with its meaning according to BDB definition in the Strong’s lexicon.

  1. 457; eliyl; of naught, good for nothing, worthless
  2. 1544; gillul; idols
  3. 8655; teraphiym; idolatry, idols, images, teraphim, family idolatry
  4. 6091; atsab; idol, image
  5. 4656; miphletseth; horrid thing, horrible thing
  6. 3649; kamar; priest, idolatrous priest
  7. 8251; shiqquts; detestable thing or idol, abominable thing, abomination, idol, detested thing
  8. 5566; semel; image, statue, idol
  9. 2553; chamman; incense alter, sun-pillar, idol, image
  10. 6736; tsiyr; image, idol
  11. 205; aven; trouble, wickedness, sorrow
  12. 367; eymah; terror, dread

This is a list of 12 different Hebrew words that were all translated as idol by the King James Bible translators. In some of the cases perhaps we can understand why the Hebrew word was translated as it was, but in other cases a more descriptive translation may have helped to understand the context better.

An example: Jerimah 50:38

  • A drought is upon her waters and they shall be dried up for it is the land of graven images (pesiyl) and they are mad upon their idols (eymah).

Note that the translator translates the Hebrew word “pesiyl” (image, idol, graven image) as graven images. But the translator translates the Hebrew word “eymah” (terror, dread) as idols. The Hebrew word “eymah” comes from the root word “ayom” meaning terrible, or dreadful. The Soncino translation from the Hebrew translates this verse as follows:

  • A drought is upon her waters, and they shall be dried up; for it is a land of graven images, and they are mad upon things of horror.

What were the things of horror? According to Rabbi Dr. H. Freedman, B.A., PH.D., states in his commentary that the “things of horror”, were idols, so-called because of their terrifying grotesqueness. The translator needs not to decide this for you and make changes to the text, thus actually doing a commentary along with translating. The translators job is to translate. The person providing a commentary provides there view with comments pertaining to the verse in question, so you as the reader can decide. A good Bible translation will usually have several commentators in its margin.

The G-d of Israel is not visible, to worship something that is visible and refer to it as god would be absurd. The G-d of Israel has no visible shape so we must worship the invisible G-d alone. This presents a question, “if our G-d is not visible, and has no form, what did people see when they said that they saw G-d?”, “ How did they see an invisible G-d?” Scripture eludes to, Abraham, Jacob, and Moses all saw G-d. Abraham had an encounter with G-d to save Lot and his family. Jacob physically wrestled with G-d. Moses talked with G-d, and saw Him from behind on Mt. Sinai. If no one has seen G-d ……. what did they see?

In Genesis 17:1 Scripture says, “the Lord appeared to him”, and then in Genesis 18:1 again Scripture says “the Lord appeared to Abram” so what was it that Abram saw? According to Rabbi Sforno the phrase, “the Lord appeared to” always denotes a lower degree of a vision. In both cases Abram had a vision of the Lord.

When reading Genesis 28:12 about Jacob it is clearly stated in the verse, “and he dreamed”. So for Jacob this becomes obvious that G-d appeared to him in a dream. In his dream he apparently wrestled but when his hip was touched in his dream, it had a physical effect on his body. We may say it was more than “just a dream”.

In Exodus 19:20 when Moses is on Mt. Siani Scripture says, “the Lord came down”. Rabbi Rashi states that, “the Lord came down”, indicates that G-d lowered the heavens to Mt. Sinai. And then in Exodus 33:20, Scripture states, “Thou shall not see my face, for man shall not see me and live”. If Moses had actually seen G-d he would not have lived. Perhaps what Moses saw was G-d’s presence, or His Glory.

I believe that we can safely say that we do not believe in, or worship, a visible god. Anyone who does worship a visible god would be worshiping an idol.

Tractate Nezikin in the Talmud refers to “Avodah Zarah”, meaning “strange worship”. (Zarah – to rise up or break out; Avodah – work, worship, service) Avodah Zarah can be interpreted as foreign worship, strange worship, or idolatry. I believe that any worship outside what the G-d of Israel requests from us could be seen as Avodah Zarah, or strange worship making it idolatrous. Going back and looking at the book of Genesis before the Siani commandments were given, we can see a variety of strange worship, or worship not requested by G-d. An example may be the difference between what Cane and Able offered. Both offerings have the appearance to be acceptable, but they weren’t. Able’s was from the first and best of his flock, and Cane’s was just from his harvest. Ables was acceptable, but Canes wasn’t. Later we find in Leviticus 10:1 – 7 the story of Nadab and Abihu offering “strange” fire in their worship in the Temple. They did not follow the directions and instructions that were acceptable to G-d. Various religions would offer up worship that G-d was not requesting nor desiring, thus making these offerings strange, foreign or idolatrous. They were offering this worship to what they believed to be lower gods, some mythical, and some physical. Noah was not involved in this, and found favor in G-ds eyes. Later Abraham demonstrated this same righteousness, by not worshiping strangely. We are only to worship G-d in the way that He requests us to, and not enter into any strange or foreign worship.

I believe we can see idol worship as not only worshiping a physical object, or a being and believing that it is a god, but also the method of worshiping can be idolatrous. Even if a person feels that they believe in the G-d of Israel and does not worship Him the way He has instructed us they may be involved in idolatrous worship.

by, Jim Behnke

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