The Gods Of The Nations

It is written:

Psalm 96:5-For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the LORD made the heavens.

The Bible is clear that there is only one true God, Yahweh. Yet it also teaches us that there are many “gods” and “goddesses.” These are identified in Psalm 82 as fallen angels (cf. Psalm 82:1, 6). These beings were created beings (angels) that rebelled against God (cf. Genesis 6:1-4; 2 Peter 2:4-5; Jude 6-7).

In this regard, there is something to interesting to notice about Psalm 96:5. In the Hebrew Old Testament, we read that the gods of the peoples (i.e., nations) are “idols.” Notice how that word is rendered in the Greek Old Testament:

Psalm 96:5 (Brenton)-For all the gods of the heathen are devils (demons, M.T.): but the Lord made the heavens.

There is an interesting connection here between the “demons” and the “idols” that is worthy of consideration. Throughout the Bible, the “idols” were not considered to be lifeless statues. Instead, they were considered to be somehow connected with the demon associated with the idol.

We see this clearly in a later Psalm:

Psalm 106:36-38-They served their idols, Which became a snare to them. 37  They even sacrificed their sons And their daughters to demons, 38  And shed innocent blood, The blood of their sons and daughters, Whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; And the land was polluted with blood.

Please observe how the Hebrew poetry of this passage clearly demonstrates a link between the “demons” and the “idols” to whom their sons and daughters were sacrificed. In sacrificing their children to the idols, they were at the same time sacrificing them to the demons which the idols embody.

Indeed, we see the same thing mentioned in the book of Jasher (a “recommended reading book” from the Bible itself). Ken Johnson has written:

“Teraphim The teraphim were idols used in ancestor worship. They were supposed to allow you to communicate with your ancestors at the proper astrological times. My guess is that the teraphim were not a new invention, but a continuation from the pre-flood world. There are two types of teraphim mentioned in the book of Jasher. The first type was created by taking the first born male of the family and cutting off his head. The victim’s head was supposed to retain contact with the departed spirit. With the proper ritual, the mummified head could serve as a conduit to the spirit world, passing information between a family and their ancestor gods. The second type of teraphim was created by constructing an idol of the deceased and was used in the same way . The rituals had to be done at the proper astrological time. The ceremony used candles and other paraphernalia. Laban’s teraphim were the second type: little gold gods with the astrological tables carved on them, rather than the first type mentioned, the mummified head of a real ancestor. “And this is the manner of the images; in taking a man who is the first born and slaying him and taking the hair off his head, and taking salt and salting the head and anointing it in oil, then taking a small tablet of copper or a tablet of gold and writing the name upon it, and placing the tablet under his tongue, and taking the head with the tablet under the tongue and putting it in the house, and lighting up lights before it and bowing down to it. And at the time when they bow down to it, it speaketh to them in all matters that they ask of it, through the power of the name which is written in it. And some make them in the figures of men, of gold and silver, and go to them in times known to them, and the figures receive the influence of the stars, and tell them future things, and in this manner were the images which Rachel stole from her father, Laban.” Jasher 31:41-43 In ancient Egypt, Canaan, and other places, archeologists have found communities with bones of infants buried in the walls of most homes. We can see this is connected to the teraphim form of ancestor worship. The ancient pagans believed that contacting the nature spirits helped in their evolution. The magic rites included blood rituals, burning candles, astrology, and idols/ teraphim. The Egyptians had burial grounds for regular Egyptians (Jasher 14:13 14 ); but they buried their firstborn children in the walls of their homes. This was the Egyptian form of teraphim. Jasher records that when the death angel killed all the first born in Egypt, the angel also tore the remains of the sacrificed firstborn children out of the walls of the Egyptian houses (Jasher 80:44-46 ). This information indicates the plague of the firstborn was directed against the teraphim , showing that the God of Israel was superior to all the so called gods of Egypt, including all their ancestor gods!” (Ken Johnson, Ancient Paganism, 54-56 (Kindle Edition); Biblefacts Ministries)

Heiser has also pointed out:

“This imaginary line is one that the LXX crosses quite transparently. 29 Recall that our earlier table indicated that the LXX translates benê ʾelōhı̂m (“sons of God”) in Deuteronomy 32:8 as angelōn theou (“angels of God”), but uses plural forms of theos elsewhere when the gods allotted to the nations are mentioned (Deut 17:3; 29:26; Ps 82:1, 6). 30 In Deuteronomy 32:17 these gods ( ʾelōhı̂m ) are described as šēdı̂m , guardian spirits. The LXX chooses to translate šēdı̂m of Deuteronomy 32:17 with daimonion but also refers to these same beings as gods ( theoi ): They sacrificed to demons ( daimoniois ) and not to God, to gods ( theois ) whom they had not known ( LES ). The vocabulary is neither inconsistent nor confused. There is no effort on the part of the translators to deny the reality of the divine beings allotted to the nations, or perhaps make them less than gods by calling them daimonion . LXX Deuteronomy 32:17 shows the flaw in such thinking. The following instances of daimonion are instructive in this regard. The ʾelōhı̂m/šēdı̂m allotted to the nations are daimoniois (“demons”) in Deuteronomy 32:17. The LXX translator made the same translation choice in the only other Old Testament passage where we find šēdı̂m (Ps 106:37; LXX Ps 105:37). LXX Psalm 95:5 (Heb. 96:5) reads, “For all the gods ( theoi ; Heb. ʾelōhı̂m ) of the nations are demons ( daimonia ), but the Lord made the heavens” ( LES ). Here the LXX chose to translate Hebrew ʾelōhı̂m literally, but the ensuing term is not šēdı̂m but ʾĕlı̂lı̂m (“idols”). The Hebrew Bible here draws a close association between the spirit beings and the objects of worship they were believed to inhabit. In ancient Near Eastern thought, the two were not the same, though closely associated. Construing this as meaning that the biblical writers thought the gods of the nations were merely handmade objects does not reflect the reality of ancient beliefs about idols. Michael Dick, whose research focuses on idolatry in the ancient Near East, cites ancient texts that reveal the idol maker using deity language for the idol that he made with his own hands while still maintaining a conceptual distinction between the image he made and the deity it represented. The deity would come to reside in the statue, but it was distinct from the statue. Dick notes one occasion where “the destruction of the statue of Shamash of Sippar was not regarded as the death of Shamash. Indeed, Shamash could still be worshiped.” 31 Gay Robins, another scholar of ancient cult objects and idolatry, explains the conceptual distinction between deity and image maintained in the ancient Near Eastern worldview: When a non-physical being manifested in a statue, this anchored the being in a controlled location where living human beings could interact with it through ritual performance.… In order for human beings to interact with deities and to persuade them to create, renew, and maintain the universe, these beings had to be brought down to earth.… This interaction had to be strictly controlled in order to avoid both the potential dangers of unrestricted divine power and the pollution of the divine by the impurity of the human world. While the ability of deities to act in the visible, human realm was brought about through their manifestation in a physical body, manifestation in one body did not in any sense restrict a deity, for the non-corporeal essence of a deity was unlimited by time and space, and could manifest in all its “bodies,” in all locations, all at one time. 32 The point is that, for ancient people—including Israelites—gods and their idols were closely related but not identical. This is important because Paul cites Deuteronomy 32:17 in 1 Corinthians 10:21–22 to warn the Corinthians about fellowshipping with demons. Paul obviously believed daimonia were real. Paul would not be contradicting the supernatural worldview of his Bible.” (Michael S. Heiser, Demons: What the Bible Really Says About the Powers of Darkness, 1068-1100 (Kindle Edition): Bellingham, WA; Lexham Press)

There is a clear connection in the Bible (and in the context of the Biblical worldview) between demons and idols. This is why idols should be treated seriously, and as a serious matter.

Over the years, we have converted several people in the Hazard area from witchcraft. On a few of those occasions, the ones who surrendered their lives to the Lord Jesus destroyed their idols with fire. We were honored to help them. This was more than a symbolic gesture: it was based on the Biblical teaching that these idols needed to be destroyed because of the demons connected with them.

At the same time, this text of Scripture helps us to understand exactly who the gods of the nations are: fallen angels and demons, pretending to be gods. Jesus Christ has triumphed over all of them, and will continue to do so!

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

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