(This article is a continuation of supernatural enemies, Old Testament Demons, part 9a)
The Idols or So-called Gods of the Old Testament
These idols were mere pieces of wood, stone or metal, the works of men’s hands, but through them demonic forces were working to enslave their worshipers. This is why the apostle Paul wrote in his warning to the Corinthian believers that “the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God…” He did not want them to “become sharers in demons.” (I Cor. 10:20) Rev. 9:20 also indicates a relationship between the worship of demons and idolatry.
So in light of this sinister relationship, we can assume that gaining knowledge about the idol is not unrelated to gaining knowledge about the demon itself. But when trying to understand demonic forces that operate behind a spiritual veil of religious falsehood, we must be discerning. At the very least we will have to peal away all claims to divinity, and all notions about good or pure motives. These beings are not gods, nor are they good.
Asherah/Ashtoreth/Ashtoroth was a household name among ancient Semitic-speaking peoples. Generally regarded as the wife of Baal, Asherah was also “the mother-goddess of the Canaanite fertility cult,” according to John Gray in I & II Kings.
K.G. Jung, in his article on “Asherah,” in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Rev., writes that Asherah was also known as Ishtar, Astarte, and Venus. The name itself referred both to the goddess, and also to symbols representing the goddess, e.g. the trunk of a tree, or a cone of stone was regarded as a “house of deity.”
The children of Israel worshiped Ashtoreth (Jdgs. 2:13; 10:6; I Sam. 7:3-4), even to the point of royal sanction by Solomon (I Kgs. 11:5; II Kgs. 23:13).
Canaanite worship of Ashtoreth was extremely depraved. In his comments on Asherim in Ex. 34:13, J.C. Connell writes, “Grossly immoral rites were practiced in connection with the pillars and groves, and these were a source of temptation to the Israelites continuously until the exile.” (J.C. Connell, “Exodus,” in the New Bible Commentary, 2nd Ed.)
Baal literally means “lord”. He was worshiped differently in different places. His name was often compounded with another word. He was known as the fertility god of the Canaanites.
Chemosh was god of the Moabites. Worship of Chemosh included the sacrifice of children as burnt offerings. Solomon erected a high place for Chemosh in Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives (I Kgs. 11:7) which was later destroyed by Josiah (I Kgs. 23:13).
Molech/Milcom was also worshiped with the sacrifice of children in the fire (Lev. 18:21). Solomon married an Ammonite princess and went after Milcom “the abomination of the Ammonites” (I Kgs. 11:5).
Dagon was the primary god of the Philistines. He was worshiped, however, throughout Mesopotamia as an agricultural deity, probably a grain god. In Ugaritic texts he is the father of Baal.
It was at the time of great sacrifice and praise to Dagon that the blind Samson brought the house down, killing thousands (Jdg. 16:23-30).
As part of the spoils of victory, the ark of God was brought into Dagon’s temple and set beside the idol Dagon as a dedicatory offering, a new cult emblem. But the next morning Dagon was found on his face on the ground before the ark. He was put back in his place. But the next morning the people of Ashdod found Dagon once again prone before the ark of the Lord, but his time with his head and hands “cut off” and lying on the threshold. Dagon was completely powerless. The supreme deity of the Philistines had been made to fall down in a position of worship before the God of Israel. The annihilation of their idol was followed by a devastating bought with tumors (I Sam. 5:1-7).
After being paraded throughout the land of the Philistines, Saul’s weapons and armor were fastened on the wall of a temple dedicated to Ashtaroth. His body was fastened to a wall in the town of Beth Shan (I Sam. 31:9-10). But it was in a temple of Dagon that the Philistines fastened the head of Saul after the battle of Gilboa (I Chr. 10:10).
(to be continued)