The Bible

Bible Usage:


  • Included in Eastons: Yes
  • Included in Hitchcocks: No
  • Included in Naves: Yes
  • Included in Smiths: Yes
  • Included in Websters: Yes
  • Included in Strongs: Yes
  • Included in Thayers: Yes
  • Included in BDB: Yes

Strongs Concordance:

Easton's Bible Dictionary

Image-worship or divine honour paid to any created object. Paul describes the origin of idolatry in Romans 1:21-25- men forsook God, and sank into ignorance and moral corruption (1:28).

The forms of idolatry are,

1. Fetishism, or the worship of trees, rivers, hills, stones, etc.

2. Nature worship, the worship of the sun, moon, and stars, as the supposed powers of nature.

3. Hero worship, the worship of deceased ancestors, or of heroes.

In Scripture, idolatry is regarded as of heathen origin, and as being imported among the Hebrews through contact with heathen nations. The first allusion to idolatry is in the account of Rachel stealing her father's teraphim (Genesis 31:19), which were the relics of the worship of other gods by Laban's progenitors "on the other side of the river in old time" (Joshua 24:2). During their long residence in Egypt the Hebrews fell into idolatry, and it was long before they were delivered from it (Joshua 24:14; Ezekiel 20:7). Many a token of God's displeasure fell upon them because of this sin.

The idolatry learned in Egypt was probably rooted out from among the people during the forty years' wanderings; but when the Jews entered Palestine, they came into contact with the monuments and associations of the idolatry of the old Canaanitish races, and showed a constant tendency to depart from the living God and follow the idolatrous practices of those heathen nations. It was their great national sin, which was only effectually rebuked by the Babylonian exile. That exile finally purified the Jews of all idolatrous tendencies.

The first and second commandments are directed against idolatry of every form. Individuals and communities were equally amenable to the rigorous code. The individual offender was devoted to destruction (Exodus 22:20). His nearest relatives were not only bound to denounce him and deliver him up to punishment (Deuteronomy 13:20-10), but their hands were to strike the first blow when, on the evidence of two witnesses at least, he was stoned (Deuteronomy 17:2-7). To attempt to seduce others to false worship was a crime of equal enormity (13:6-10). An idolatrous nation shared the same fate. No facts are more strongly declared in the Old Testament than that the extermination of the Canaanites was the punishment of their idolatry (Exodus 34:15, 16; Deuteronomy 7; 12:29-31; 20:17), and that the calamities of the Israelites were due to the same cause (Jeremiah 2:17). "A city guilty of idolatry was looked upon as a cancer in the state; it was considered to be in rebellion, and treated according to the laws of war. Its inhabitants and all their cattle were put to death." Jehovah was the theocratic King of Israel, the civil Head of the commonwealth, and therefore to an Israelite idolatry was a state offence (1 Samuel 15:23), high treason. On taking possession of the land, the Jews were commanded to destroy all traces of every kind of the existing idolatry of the Canaanites (Exodus 23:24, 32; 34:13; Deuteronomy 7:5, 25; 12:1-3).

In the New Testament the term idolatry is used to designate covetousness (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13; Colossians 3:5; Ephesians 5:5).

Naves Topical Index

Wicked practices of:

Human sacrifices
Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 20:2-5; Deuteronomy 12:31; Deuteronomy 18:10; 2 Kings 3:26-27; 2 Kings 16:3; 2 Kings 17:17-18; 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Kings 23:10; 2 Chronicles 28:3; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Psalms 106:37-38; Isaiah 57:5; Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 19:4-7; Jeremiah 32:35; Ezekiel 16:20-21; Ezekiel 20:26; Ezekiel 20:31; Ezekiel 23:37; Ezekiel 23:39; Micah 6:7

Practices of, relating to the dead
Deuteronomy 14:1

Licentiousness of
Exodus 32:6; Exodus 32:25; Numbers 25:1-3; 1 Kings 14:24; 1 Kings 15:12; 2 Kings 17:30; 2 Kings 23:7; Ezekiel 16:17; Ezekiel 23:1-44; Hosea 4:12-14; Amos 2:8; Micah 1:7; Romans 1:24; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 10:7-8; 1 Peter 4:3-4; Revelation 2:14; Revelation 2:20-22; Revelation 9:20-21; Revelation 14:8; Revelation 17:1-6

Other customs of:

Offered burnt offerings
Exodus 32:6; 1 Kings 18:26; Acts 14:13

Offered libations
Isaiah 57:6; Isaiah 65:11; Jeremiah 7:18; Jeremiah 19:13; Jeremiah 32:29; Jeremiah 44:17; Jeremiah 44:19; Jeremiah 44:25; Ezekiel 20:28

Offerings of wine
Deuteronomy 32:38

Offerings of blood
Psalms 16:4; Zech 9:7

Meat offerings
Isaiah 57:6; Jeremiah 7:18; Jeremiah 44:17; Ezekiel 16:19

Peace offerings
Exodus 32:6

Incense burned on altars
1 Kings 12:33; 2 Chronicles 30:14; 2 Chronicles 34:25; Isaiah 65:3; Jeremiah 1:16; Jeremiah 11:12; Jeremiah 11:17; Jeremiah 44:3; Jeremiah 48:35; Ezekiel 16:18; Ezekiel 23:41; Hosea 11:2

Prayers to idols
Judges 10:14; Isaiah 44:17; Isaiah 45:20; Isaiah 46:7; Jonah 1:5

Judges 16:24; Daniel 5:4

Singing and dancing
Exodus 32:18-19

Daniel 3:5-7

Cutting the flesh
1 Kings 18:28; Jeremiah 41:5

1 Kings 19:18; Hosea 13:2; Job 31:27

1 Kings 19:18; 2 Kings 5:18

Tithes and gifts
2 Kings 23:11; Daniel 11:38; Amos 4:4-5

Annual feasts
1 Kings 12:32; Ezekiel 18:6; Ezekiel 18:11-12; Ezekiel 18:15; Ezekiel 22:9; Daniel 3:2-3

Objects of:

Sun, moon, and stars
Deuteronomy 4:19; 2 Kings 17:16; 2 Kings 21:3; 2 Kings 21:5; 2 Chronicles 33:3; 2 Chronicles 33:5; Job 31:26-28; Jeremiah 7:17-20; Jeremiah 8:2; Ezekiel 8:15-16; Zephaniah 1:4-5; Acts 7:42

Images of angels
Colossians 2:18

Images of animals
Romans 1:23

Gods of Egypt
Exodus 12:12

Golden calf
Exodus 32:4

Brazen serpent
2 Kings 18:4

Net and drag
Habakkuk 1:16

Numbers 33:52; Isaiah 2:16

Pictures on walls
Ezekiel 8:10

Genesis 35:4

Denunciations against

General references
Genesis 35:2; Exodus 20:3-6; Exodus 20:23; Deuteronomy 5:7-9; Exodus 23:13; 1 Corinthians 10:7; Leviticus 19:4; Leviticus 26:1; Leviticus 26:30; Deuteronomy 16:21-22; Deuteronomy 4:15-23; Deuteronomy 4:25-28; Deuteronomy 11:16-17; Deuteronomy 11:28; Deuteronomy 28:15-68; Deuteronomy 30:17-18; Deuteronomy 31:16-21; Deuteronomy 31:29; Deuteronomy 32:15-26; 1 Kings 9:6-9; Deuteronomy 12:31; Deuteronomy 27:15; Exodus 34:17; 1 Samuel 15:23; Job 31:26-28; Psalms 16:4; Psalms 44:20-21; Psalms 59:8; Psalms 79:6; Psalms 81:9; Psalms 97:7; Isaiah 42:17; Isaiah 45:16; Joel 3:12; Jonah 2:8; Micah 5:15; Habakkuk 1:16; Acts 15:29; Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; Acts 17:16; Romans 1:25; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Corinthians 10:14; 1 Corinthians 10:20-22; 1 John 5:21; Revelation 21:8; Revelation 22:15

Warnings against, and punishments of
Deuteronomy 17:2-5; 2 Chronicles 28:23; Nehemiah 9:27-37; Psalms 78:58-64; Psalms 106:34-42; Isaiah 1:29-31; Isaiah 2:6-22; Isaiah 30:22; Isaiah 57:3-13; Isaiah 65:3-4; Jeremiah 1:15-16; Jeremiah 3:1-11; Jeremiah 5:1-17; Jeremiah 24:7; Jeremiah 8:1-2; Jeremiah 8:19; Jeremiah 13:9-27; Jeremiah 24:16; Jeremiah 17:1-6; Jeremiah 18:13-15; Jeremiah 19:1-15; Jeremiah 22:9; Jeremiah 32:35; Jeremiah 24:44; Jeremiah 48:8; Ezekiel 6:1-14; Ezekiel 7:19; Ezekiel 8:5-18; Ezekiel 9:1-11; Ezekiel 14:1-14; Ezekiel 26:16; Ezekiel 26:20; Ezekiel 22:4; Ezekiel 26:23; Ezekiel 44:10-12; Hosea 1:2; Hosea 2:2-5; Hosea 4:12-19; Hosea 5:1-3; Hosea 8:5-14; Hosea 9:10; Hosea 10:1-15; Hosea 11:2; Hosea 12:11-14; Hosea 13:1-4; Hosea 14:8; Amos 3:14; Amos 4:4-5; Amos 5:5; Micah 1:1-9; Micah 5:12-14; Micah 6:16; Micah 36:1; Malachi 2:11-13

Prophecies relating to
Exodus 12:12; Numbers 33:4; Isaiah 2:18; Isaiah 2:20; Isaiah 31:7; Isaiah 17:7-8; Isaiah 19:1; Isaiah 27:9; Jeremiah 10:11; Jeremiah 10:15; Jeremiah 51:44; Jeremiah 51:47; Jeremiah 51:52; Isaiah 21:9; Ezekiel 43:7-9; Hosea 10:2; Micah 5:13; Zephaniah 2:11; Zech 13:2

Folly of
Deuteronomy 4:28; 1 Kings 18:27; Judges 6:31; 1 Samuel 5:3-4; 2 Chronicles 25:15; 1 Samuel 12:21; 2 Kings 3:13; Isaiah 16:12; Isaiah 36:18; 2 Chronicles 28:22-23; Psalms 115:4-5; Psalms 115:8; Psalms 96:5; Psalms 135:15-18; Isaiah 2:8; Isaiah 40:12-26; Isaiah 41:23-24; Isaiah 41:26-29; Isaiah 43:9; Isaiah 44:9-20; Isaiah 45:20; Isaiah 46:1-2; Isaiah 46:6-7; Isaiah 47:12-15; 2 Kings 19:18; Isaiah 37:19; Zech 10:2; Isaiah 57:13; Jeremiah 2:28; Deuteronomy 32:37-38; Judges 10:14; Jeremiah 10:3-16; Jeremiah 48:13; Jeremiah 51:17; Habakkuk 2:18-19; Jeremiah 11:12; Jeremiah 14:22; Jeremiah 16:19-20; Hosea 8:5-6; Exodus 32:20; Psalms 106:20; Acts 14:15; Acts 17:22-23; Acts 17:29; Romans 1:22-23; 1 Corinthians 8:4; 1 Corinthians 12:2; Galatians 4:8; Revelation 9:20; Daniel 5:23

Smith's Bible Dictionary

strictly speaking denotes the worship of deity in a visible form, whether the images to which homage is paid are symbolical representations of the true God or of the false divinities which have been made the objects of worship in his stead. I. History of idolatry among the Jews.

The first undoubted allusion to idolatry or idolatrous customs in the Bible is in the account of Rachel's stealing her father's teraphim. (Genesis 31:19) During their long residence in Egypt the Isr'lites defiled themselves with the idols of the land, and it was long before the taint was removed. (Joshua 24:14; Ezekiel 20:7) In the wilderness they clamored for some visible shape in which they might worship the God who had brought them out of Egypt. (Exodus 32:1) ... until Aaron made the calf, the embodiment of Apis and emblem of the productive power of nature. During the lives of Joshua and the elders who outlived him they kept true to their allegiance; but the generation following who knew not Jehovah nor the works he had done for Isr'l, swerved from the plain path of their fathers and were caught in the toils of the foreigner. (Judges 2:1) ... From this time forth their history becomes little more than a chronicle of the inevitable sequence of offence and punishment. (Judges 2:12,14) By turns each conquering nation strove to establish the worship of its national God. In later times the practice of secret idolatry was carried to greater lengths. Images were set up on the corn-floors, in the wine-vats, and behind the doors of private houses, (Isaiah 57:8; Hosea 9:1,2) and to check this tendency the statute in (27:15) was originally promulgated. Under Samuel's administration idolatry was publicly renounced, (1 Samuel 7:3-6) but in the reign of Solomon all this was forgotten, even Solomon's own heart being turned after other gods. (1 Kings 11:14) Rehoboam perpetuated the worst features of Solomon's idolatry. (1 Kings 14:22-24) erected golden calves at Beth-el and at Dan, and by this crafty state' policy severed forever the kingdoms of Judah and Isr'l. (1 Kings 12:26-33) The successors of Jeroboam followed in his steps, till Ahab. The conquest of the ten tribes by Shalmaneser was for them the last scene Of the drama of abominations which had been enacted uninterruptedly for upwards of 250 years. Under Hezekiah a great reform was inaugurated, that was not confined to Judah and Benjamin, but spread throughout Ephraim and Manasseh. (2 Chronicles 31:1) and to all external appearances idolatry was extirpated. But the reform extended little below the surface. (Isaiah 29:13) With the death of Josiah ended the last effort to revive among the people a purer ritual. If not a purer faith. The lamp of David, which had long shed but a struggling ray, flickered for a while and then went out in the darkness of Babylonian Captivity. Though the conquests of Alexander caused Greek influence to be felt, yet after the captivity better condition of things prevailed, and the Jews never again fell into idolatry. The erection of synagogues had been assigned as a reason for the comparative purity of the Jewish worship after the captivity, while another cause has been discovered in the hatred for images acquired by the Jews in their intercourse with the Persians. II. Objects of idolatry .

The sun and moon were early selected as outward symbols of all-pervading power, and the worship of the heavenly bodies was not only the most ancient but the most prevalent system of idolatry. Taking its rise in the plains of Chaldea, it spread through Egypt, Greece, Scythia, and even Mexico and Ceylon. Comp. (4:19; 17:3; Job 31:20-28) In the later times of the monarchy, the planets or the zodiacal signs received, next to the sun and moon, their share of popular adoration. (2 Kings 23:5) Beast-worship, as exemplified in the calves of Jeroboam, has already been alluded to of pure hero-worship among the Semitic races we find no trace. The singular reverence with which trees have been honored is not without example in the history of the Hebrew. The terebinth (oak) at Mamre, beneath which Abraham built an altar, (Genesis 12:7; 13:18) and the memorial grove planted by him at Beersheba, (Genesis 21:33) were intimately connected with patriarchal worship. Mountains and high places were chosen spots for offering sacrifice and incense to idols, (1 Kings 11:7; 14:23) and the retirement of gardens and the thick shade of woods offered great attractions to their worshippers. (2 Kings 16:4; Isaiah 1:29; Hosea 4:13) The host of heaven was worshipped on the house-top. (2 Kings 23:12; Jeremiah 19:3; 32:29; Zephaniah 1:5) (The modern objects of idolatry are less gross than the ancient, but are none the less idols. Whatever of wealth or honor or pleasure is loved and sought before God and righteousness becomes an object of idolatry.

ED.) III. Punishment of idolatry .

Idolatry to an Isr'lite was a state offence, (1 Samuel 15:23) a political crime of the greatest character, high treason against the majesty of his king. The first and second commandments are directed against idolatry of every form. Individuals and communities were equally amenable to the rigorous code. The individual offender was devoted to destruction, (Exodus 22:20) his nearest relatives were not only bound to denounce him and deliver him up to punishment, (13:2-10) but their hands were to strike the first blow, when, on the evidence of two witnesses at least, he was stoned. (17:2-5) To attempt to seduce others to false worship was a crime of equal enormity. (13:6-10) IV. Attractions of idolatry .

Many have wondered why the Isr'lites were so easily led away from the true God, into the worship of idols. (1) Visible, outward signs, with shows, pageants, parades, have an attraction to the natural heart, which often fail to perceive the unseen spiritual realities. (2) But the greatest attraction seems to have been in licentious revelries and obscene orgies with which the worship of the Oriental idols was observed. This worship, appealing to every sensual passion, joined with the attractions of wealth and fashion and luxury, naturally was a great temptation to a simple, restrained, agricultural people, whose worship and law demands the greatest purity of heart and of life.


Webster's 1828 Dictionary

IDOL'ATRY, noun [Latin 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, etc. 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.