What is Idolatry?

KJV Dictionary Definition: idolatry

IDOL'ATRY, n. L. idololatria. Gr. idol, and to worship or serve.

1. The worship of idols, images, or any thing made by hands, or which is not God.

Idolatry is of two kinds; the worship of images, statues, pictures, &c. made by hands; and the worship of the heavenly bodies,the sun, moon and stars, or of demons, angels, men and animals.

2. Excessive attachment or veneration for any thing, or that which borders on adoration.

I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or 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: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. Ex. 20:2-6 (The 1st and 2nd commandments deal with Idolatry and how to avoid it. God knows the influence of demons on mankind and how important it is to steer clear of those influences.)

You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” John 4:22-24 (Not worshiping God in Spirit and in truth is called idolatry.)

Idolatry is a broad term that is important to define because it is the most talked about and severely punished sin in the entire Bible. Yet at the same time it is so misunderstood as well. There are 2 different types of idolatry.

Different types of Idolatry:
1) External: Idolatry through idols and observing pagan practices
2) Internal: Idolatry of the heart

External: Idolatry Through Idols And Observing Pagan Practices

Today we think we are so much better and smarter than the Israelites were that continuously fell into the idolatry of the surrounding foreign nations. We don't see it as blatant in American as you do in other parts of the world who literally and opening worship carved idols. But it's important to understand what idols are and what the Israelites were doing back then to understand how this relates to us today. People who use idols believe that the power of God or the various gods indwell their man made carved image as a temple. But this is not how the true God works. This is how demons work. This practice is actually the worship of demons and Satan himself regardless of the intent of the user. 

Paganism is the worship of false gods or demons and observing their practices. Idolatry is the worship of idols, which is the worship of false gods or demons. Therefore Paganism is Idolatry. And observing pagan practices is Idolatry. Therefore observing pagan holidays is the practice of Idolatry. That means the observance of modern holidays such as Christmas, Easter, Halloween, New Years, etc., is the modern practice of idolatry that is no different than the ancients observed. The same spirits are being worshiped, and these spirits are that of demons and Satan himself.

Exodus 34:12-24 reiterates the first 2 commandments. God then goes on to show how to keep the first 2 commandments. The way to keep the 1st 2 commandments is by keeping the weekly and annual Sabbaths of God. That is how you keep yourself from idolatry.

They made him jealous with their foreign gods and angered him with their detestable idols. They sacrificed to demons, which are not God—gods they had not known, gods that recently appeared, gods your ancestors did not fear. Deuteronomy 32:16-17 (Foreign gods, idols, and demons are all synonymous.)
They must no longer offer any of their sacrifices to the goat idols(demons) to whom they prostitute themselves. Lev. 17:7 (Again idols and demons are synonymous.) 

Do not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices. You must demolish them and break their sacred stones to pieces. Ex. 23:24 (Following the practices is the same as bowing down or worshiping.)

Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he? 1 Cor. 10:14-22 (Eating the meal is the same as worship, as they are partakers of the alter. And the false sacrifices are to devils, or demons. Do not partake in the meal.)

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. Romans 1:21-32 (Wow, the penalty for idolatry is very harsh.)

He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, following the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. 2 Kings 21:2 (These pagan practices were detestable to God and was considered the same Idolatry along with physically bowing down and worshiping a physical carved idol.)

We see from all the following verses that it was these "detestable practices" that were forbidden by God that the pagan surrounding nations observed. We would be wise to understand what these people were doing and make sure we are not doing as they did.
2 Kings 17:8-17
Micah 6:16
2 Chron. 36:14
2 Chron. 17:4
1 Kings 14:24
Ezek. 16:2
Ezek. 16:22
Ezek. 16:58
Ezek. 23:36
Ezek. 36:31

Idolatry Of The Heart

Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Col. 3:5 (To covet is not just to desire something, or even to desire something that is not yours. To covet is to actively devise a plan of action to possess something that is not yours. This is equated to idolatry of the heart. So now not only is the violation of the 1st and 2nd commandments equated to idolatry, now the violation of the 10th commandment is also equated to idolatry.)

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king. 1 Sam. 15:23 (In context, Saul essentially did not obey God. This was equated to idolatry of the heart. In verse 12, Saul also set up a monument for himself to honor his victory which is also idolatry.)

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.Matthew 6:24-34 (So to worry about food, clothing, and shelter is to not trust God. And to disproportionately seek after wealth in order to control those worries is to be a slave to money and for money to be your master. This is idolatry of money, as it has become your god that you rely on in place of God's providence. Money is obviously important and to seek it is not bad in and of itself. But your priority must have God 1st above all else.)

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30 (By keeping with this commandment, you avoid idolatry of the heart because your mind is centered toward God.)

Therefore speak to them and tell them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: When any of the Israelites set up idols in their hearts and put a wicked stumbling block before their faces and then go to a prophet, I the Lord will answer them myself in keeping with their great idolatry. Ezek. 14:4
(This passage is actually speaking of the leaders of Israel who were literal idolaters who set up literal physical idols and worshiped them. These idols were called wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. "Idols in their hearts" is referencing the fact that in order to have a physical idol before you, you must set aside your reliance and devotion to the true God in your heart 1st before you turn to physical idols. This idolatry in the heart of man takes place 1st before turning to physical idols of worship.)

Idolatry Around The World






















Other Verses About Idolatry

While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.) Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. Acts 17:16-23 (Idol worshipers are very religious people, but they do not understand what they are worshiping. As it is truly the worship of demons.)

“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulnessThrow away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our parents up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. And the Lord drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God.” Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.” But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the Lord.” Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord.” “Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied. “Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God and obey him.” Joshua 24:14-24 (There are 2 choices: Idolatry or worship of the one true God in Spirit and in truth.)

Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy. Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father, and keep my sabbaths: I am the LORD your God. Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I am the LORD your God. Lev. 19:2-4

Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold. Ex. 20:23

“Of what value is an idol carved by a craftsman? Or an image that teaches lies? For the one who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak. Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’ Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’ Can it give guidance? It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath in it.” Hab. 2:18-19

All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame. Who shapes a god and casts an idol, which can profit nothing? People who do that will be put to shame; such craftsmen are only human beings. Let them all come together and take their stand; they will be brought down to terror and shame. The blacksmith takes a tool and works with it in the coals; he shapes an idol with hammers, he forges it with the might of his arm. He gets hungry and loses his strength; he drinks no water and grows faint. The carpenter measures with a line and makes an outline with a marker; he roughs it out with chisels and marks it with compasses. He shapes it in human form, human form in all its glory, that it may dwell in a shrine. He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak. He let it grow among the trees of the forest, or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow. It is used as fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it. Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill. He also warms himself and says, “Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.” From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, “Save me! You are my god!” They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand. No one stops to think, no one has the knowledge or understanding to say, “Half of it I used for fuel; I even baked bread over its coals, I roasted meat and I ate. Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left? Shall I bow down to a block of wood?” Isaiah 44:9-19

“Cursed is anyone who makes an idol—a thing detestable to the Lord, the work of skilled hands—and sets it up in secret.” Deut. 27:15
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