Speaking generally, it is the veneration, excessive love, worship or adoration of any made image, idol, representation or symbol of anything, whether the idol is material or fancied in the mind. According to the Scriptures idolatry is a snare of the devil and its practice is demonism. It is considered an abomination in God's sight. Idolatry is generally practiced toward a real or supposed higher power, whether it is believed to have animate existence (as a human or animal god or "saint") or whether it is inanimate (as a force or object of nature or a government or any other organization). It usually involves some form, ceremony or ritual. It exacts devotion. However, idolatry can be self-worship, worship of one's family or ancestry, or any other human or even an animal without any made representation. It is sometimes claimed that what is worshiped is not the image itself, but what is represented by the image. This is relative worship. All idolatry, whether relative or actual, is false worship.
Snare of Satan and Abomination (Detestable) to God
Deuteronomy 7:16, 25 "And you shall consume all the peoples that Jehovah your God shall deliver unto you; your eye shall not pity them: neither shall you serve their gods; for that will be a snare unto you. The graven images of their gods you shall burn with fire: you shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them, nor take it unto you, lest you be snared therein; for it is an abomination to Jehovah your God."
Psalm 106:36 "And served their idols, which became a snare unto them."
Deuteronomy 32:17 "They sacrificed unto demons, which were no God, to gods that they knew not."
1 Corinthians 10:20, 21 "The things which the nations sacrifice they sacrifice to demons, and not to God, and I do not want you to become sharers with the demons. You cannot be drinking the cup of Jehovah and the cup of demons."
Exodus 32:7, 8, 10 "And Jehovah spoke unto Moses, Go, get down; for your people, that you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: they have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed unto it,. . . now therefore let Me alone, that My wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them."
Images Have No Life or Power to Help in Themselves
Jeremiah 10:3-5 "For the customs of the peoples are vanity; for one cuts a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. They are like a palm-tree, of turned work, and speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go."
Habakkuk 2:18, 19 "What profits the graven image, that the maker thereof has graven it; the molten image, even the teacher of lies, that he that fashions its form trusts in it, to make dumb idols? Woe unto him that says to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise! Shall this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in the midst of it."
Jehovah God Forbade Nation of Israel to Practice Idolatry
Exodus 20:4, 5 "You shall not make unto you a graven image, nor any likeness of any thing 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 yourself unto them, nor serve them."
2 Kings 17:35 "With whom Jehovah had made a covenant, and charged them, saying, You shall not fear other gods, nor bow yourselves to them, nor serve them, nor sacrifice to them."
No Image of God Possible
Deuteronomy 4:15-19 "Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for you saw no manner of form on the day that Jehovah spoke unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire; lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image 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 heavens, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth; and lest you lift up your eyes unto heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, even all the host of heaven, thou be drawn away and worship them, and serve them."
Law Served as a Safeguard Against Idolatry of Surrounding Nations
Deuteronomy 29:14-18 "Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath, but with him that stands here with us this day before Jehovah our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day (for you know how we dwelt in the land of Egypt, and how we came through the midst of the nations through which you passed; and you have seen their abominations, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were among them); lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turns away this day from Jehovah our God, to go to serve the gods of those nations."
Stubbornness and Rebellion Against God Is Self-Worship and Idolatry
1 Samuel 15:22-24, 30 "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft [Heb., "divination"; footnote], and stubbornness is as idolatry and teraphim. . . . And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned; ... yet honor me now, I pray you, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship Jehovah your God."
Practice of Idolatry Brought Punishment from God
Leviticus 26:1, 27, 28, 30 "You shall make you no idols, neither shall you rear you up a graven image, or a pillar, neither shall you place any figured stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am Jehovah your God. And if you will not for all this hearken unto Me, but walk contrary unto Me; then I will walk contrary unto you in wrath; and I also will chastise you seven times for your sins. And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your sun-images, and cast your dead bodies upon the bodies of your idols; and My soul shall abhor you."
Judges 2:11-15 "And the children of Israel did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, and served the Baalim; . . . and followed other gods, of the gods of the peoples that were round about them, and bowed themselves down unto them: ... And the anger of Jehovah was kindled against Israel, and He delivered them into the hands of spoilers that despoiled them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies. Whithersoever they went out, the hand of Jehovah was against them for evil, as Jehovah had spoken, and as Jehovah had sworn unto them."
Finally Brought Complete Rejection of Nation of Israel
Deuteronomy 4:25-27 "When you shall beget children, and children's children, and you shall have been long in the land, and shall corrupt yourselves, and make a graven image in the form of anything, and shall do that which is evil in the sight of Jehovah your God, to provoke Him to anger; I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that you shall soon utterly perish from off the land ,.. And Jehovah will scatter you among the peoples, and you shall be left few in number among the nations."
Jeremiah 22:8, 9 "And many nations shall pass by this city, and they shall say every man to his neighbor, Wherefore hath Jehovah done thus unto this great city? Then they shall answer, Because they forsook the covenant of Jehovah their God, and worshipped other gods, and served them."
Willful Rebellion and Stubbornness of Religious Leaders in Jesus' Day Was Idolatry That Brought Such Desolation
Matthew 15:1-3, 7-9 "Then there came to Jesus from Jerusalem Pharisees and scribes, saying: 'Why is it Your disciples overstep the tradition of the men of former times?'... In reply He said to them: 'Why is it you also overstep the commandment of God because of your tradition? You hypocrites, Isaiah aptly prophesied about you, when he said: "This people honors Me with their lips, yet their hearts are far removed from Me. It is in vain that they keep paying respect to Me, because they teach commands of men as doctrines." ' "
Matthew 23:37, 38 "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the killer of the prophets and stoner of those sent forth to her,—how often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks together under her wings! But you people did not want it. Look! your house is abandoned to you."
Idolatry Specifically Forbidden to Christians
1 Corinthians 10:7, 14 "Neither become idolaters, as some of them did; just as it is written: 'The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to revel boisterously.' Therefore, my beloved ones, flee from idolatry."
Acts 17:29 "Seeing, therefore, that we are the progeny of God, we ought not to imagine that the Divine
Being is like gold or silver or stone, like something sculptured by the art and contrivance of man."
1 John 5:21 "Little children, guard yourselves from idols."
Those Practicing Are a Reproach to God and Make Liars of Themselves
Romans 1:22, 23, 25 "Although asserting they were wise, they became foolish and turned the glory of the incorruptible God into something like the image of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed creatures and creeping things. Even those who exchanged the truth of God for the lie and venerated and rendered sacred service to the creation rather than the One who created, who is blessed forever."
Meat Sacrificed to Idols Could Be Eaten, After Its Dedicated Purpose Had Been Fulfilled; but This Authority Must Not Be Abused
1 Corinthians 8:4, 7-10, 13 "Now concerning the eating of foods offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world and that there is no God but one. Nevertheless, there is not this knowledge in all persons; but some, being accustomed until now to the idol, eat food as something sacrificed to an idol, and their conscience, as it is weak, becomes vile. But food will not commend us to God; if we do not eat, we do not fall short, and, if we eat, we have no credit to ourselves. But keep watching that this authority of yours does not somehow become a stumbling-block to those who are weak. For if anyone should see you with your knowledge reclining at a meal in an idol temple, will not the conscience of that one who is weak be emboldened to the point of eating foods offered to idols? Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat flesh at all, that I may not make my brother stumble."
1 Corinthians 10:25-29, 31, 32 "Everything that is sold in a meat market keep eating, making no inquiry on account of your conscience, for 'the earth belongs to Jehovah, and so does its fullness'. If anyone of the unbelievers invites you and you wish to go, proceed to eat everything that is set before you, making no inquiry on account of your conscience. But if anyone should say to you: 'This is something offered to a god,' do not eat on account of the one that disclosed it and on account of conscience. 'Conscience,' I say, not yours, but that of the other person... . Therefore, whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God's glory. Keep from becoming causes for stumbling."
1 Timothy 4:4, 5 "The reason for this is that every creation of God is right and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is sanctified through God's word and prayer over it."
Example Taken from David's Eating of Showbread on the Sabbath After Its Use in Sacrifice to Jehovah Was Completed, Considered Common
Leviticus 24:5-8 "And you shall take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof: ... And you shall set them in two rows, six on a row, upon the pure table before Jehovah... . Every sabbath day he shall set it in order before Jehovah continually."
1 Samuel 21:2-6 (footnote) "And David said unto Ahimelech the priest,. . . Now therefore what is under your hand? give me five loaves of bread in my hand, or whatsoever there is present. And the priest answered David, and said, There is no common bread under my hand, but there is holy bread; if only the young men have kept themselves from women. And David answered the priest, and said unto him, Of a truth women have been kept from us about these three days; when I came out, the vessels of the young men were holy, [and it may be used as common bread; and especially since today it will be holy in respect of their vessels]. So the priest gave him holy bread; for there was no bread there but the showbread, that was taken from before Jehovah, to put hot bread in the day when it was taken away."
Worship of State Powers a Definite Form of Idolatry
Revelation 13:14, 15 "It tells those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the wild beast that had the sword-stroke and yet revived. And there was granted it to give breath to the image of the wild beast, so that the image of the wild beast should both speak and cause to be killed all those who would not in any way worship the image of the wild beast."
Revelation 14:9, 10 "If anyone worships the wild beast and its image, and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand, he will also drink of the wine of the anger of God that is poured out undiluted into the cup of His wrath."
Revelation 17:11 "And the wild beast that was but is not, it is also itself an eighth king, but owes its existence to the seven, and it goes off into destruction."
Saluting Flags (Which Often Bear Likenesses) Also Condemned
Acts 7:43 "But it was the tent of Moloch and the star of the god Rephan that you took up, the figures which you made to worship them. Consequently, I will deport you beyond Babylon."
Amos 5:26 "Yea, you have borne the tabernacle of your king and the shrine of your images, the star of your god, which you made to yourselves."
Job 31:26-28 "If I have beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness, and my heart has been secretly enticed, and my mouth has kissed my hand: this also were an iniquity to be punished by the judges; for I should have denied the God that is above."
1 Kings 19:18 "Yet will I leave Me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which has not kissed him."
Hosea 13:2 "And now they sin more and more, and have made them molten images of their silver, even idols according to their own understanding, all of them the work of the craftsmen: they say of them, Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves."
Refusal of Faithful Jews to Worship State Symbol Was Approved by God
Daniel 3:1, 4-6, 8, 9, 12, 19, 20, 26-28 "Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold,... Then the herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that at what time you hear the sound of .. . all kinds of music, you fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up; and whoso falls not down and worships shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. Wherefore at that time, certain Chaldeans came near, and brought accusation against the Jews. They answered and said to Nebuchadnezzar the king,... There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego; these men, O king, have not regarded you: they serve not your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up. Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury,... And he commanded certain mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed- Nego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace: he spoke and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, you servants of the Most High God, come forth, and come here. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego came forth out of the midst of the fire. .. . the fire had no power upon their bodies, nor was the hair of their head singed, neither were their hosen changed, nor had the smell of fire passed on them. Nebuchadnezzar spoke and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who has sent His angel, and delivered His servants that trusted in Him, and have changed the king's word."
Salvation Comes Only from Jehovah Through Christ
Acts 4:12 "Furthermore, there is no salvation in anyone else, for there is not another Name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved."
"Relative" Worship Not Allowed
Isaiah 42:8 "I am Jehovah, that is My Name; and My glory will I not give to another, neither My praise unto graven images."
2 Corinthians 4:18 "While we keep our eyes, not on the things seen, but on the things unseen. For the things seen are temporary, but the things unseen are everlasting."
Is contrary to Christian principle of worship
2 Corinthians 5:7 "For we are walking by faith, not by sight."
Romans 8:24, 25 "For we were saved in this hope; but hope that is seen is not hope, for when a man sees a thing, does he hope for it? But if we hope for what we do not see, we keep on waiting for it with endurance."
Prayers to "saints" (as to Mary) not authorized
Jeremiah 7:18 "The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead the dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke Me to anger."
Direct prayer only is allowed; images not needed
John 14:13 "Also, whatever it is you ask in My Name, I will do this, in order that the Father may be glorified in connection with the Son."
John 15:16 "No matter what you ask the Father in My Name He might give it to you."
Matthew 6:6, 9 "You, however, when you pray, go into your private room and, after shutting your door, pray to your Father who is in secret; then your Father who looks on in secret will repay you. You must pray, then, this way: 'Our Father in the heavens.' "
Bowing before men or even angels as "relative" worship forbidden
Acts 10:25, 26 "As Peter entered, Cornelius met him, fell down at his feet and did obeisance to him. But Peter lifted him up, saying: 'Rise; I myself am also a man.' "
Acts 14:11-15 "And the crowds, seeing what Paul had done, raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian tongue: 'The gods have become like men and have come down to us!' And they went to calling Barnabas 'Zeus', but Paul 'Hermes', since he was the one taking the lead in speaking. And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was before the city, brought bulls and garlands to the gates and was desiring to offer sacrifices with the crowds. However, when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they ripped their outer garments and leaped out into the crowd, crying out and saying: 'Men, why are you doing these things? We also are human creatures.' "
Revelation 19:10 "At that I fell down before his feet to worship him. But he tells me: 'Be careful! Do not do that! All I am is a fellow slave of you and of your brothers who have the work of witnessing to Jesus. Worship God.' "
Images Unable to Help in Time of Judgment
Deuteronomy 32:37, 38 "And He will say, Where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge; which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink-offering? Let them rise up and help you. Let them be your protection."
Psalm 115:4-8 "Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not; they have ears, but they hear not; noses have they, but they smell not; they have hands, but they handle not; feet have they, but they walk not; neither speak they through their throat. They that make them shall be like unto them; yea, every one that trusts in them."
Jeremiah 10:14, 15 "Every man is become brutish and is without knowledge; every goldsmith is put to shame by his graven image; for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them. They are vanity, a work of delusion: in the time of their visitation they shall perish."
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