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Idolatry in the Old Testament and its effect on children/Youth

Updated: Aug 7, 2023

In our last Fathering post, Abraham sternly warned his servant against finding a wife for his son Isaac from among the Canaanites - “Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he owned, “Please place your hand under my thigh, and I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live, but you will go to my country and to my relatives, and take a wife for my son Isaac.” (Gen. 24:3,4).

Have you ever wondered why Abraham was so judgmental/un-inclusive, or why God throughout the Old Testament warned His people of the danger of being influenced or poisoned by the idolatrous worship of the peoples around them?

Abraham was the first example of drawing this firm line in the sand.

Here is one of the early commands from God to His people Israel to be ruthless with any vestige of idolatry in the nations they dispossess as He gives them the land He promised. “You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess serve their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. You shall tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and burn their Asherim with fire, and you shall cut down the engraved images of their gods and obliterate their name from that place.” Deuteronomy 12:3

But why is God so intense about this? Well in Deuteronomy 18 we see one of the major reasons: “When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord; and because of these detestable things the Lord your God will drive them out before you.” Deuteronomy 18:9-12 (my emphasis)

I fear that many people who struggle with God’s dealings with the nations surrounding Israel in the Old Testament days do not understand that rampant idolatry practiced by these nations inevitably resulted in child abuse and child murder.

Here is the principle I want us all to see: Whenever adults practice idolatry, children will eventually be the casualty of such. Whenever adults worship idols instead of worshipping and loving the one true God, sooner or later their children (and often other children) will reap the consequences of their idolatry. Let’s look at a few more scriptures.

The Tragedy of King Ahaz’s Sons

II Kings 16:2-4 “Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord his God, as his father David had done. But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and even made his son pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the nationswhom the Lord had driven out from before the sons of Israel. He sacrificed and burned incense on the high places and on the hills and under every green tree.” (my emphasis)

II Chronicles 28:3 “Moreover, he (Ahaz) burned incense in the valley of Ben-hinnom and burned his sons in fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had driven out before the sons of Israel.” (my emphasis)

I want to research this more, but it appears that Ahaz to satisfy the heathen gods and to try to get favor from them caused his sons to be burned at the least to where they were marred for life, or possibly to the point where they were consumed and died. Satan in the book of Revelation is called among other things “the destroyer” (see marginal note in Rev. 9:11). His primary intent in inspiring nations/peoples of the earth to worship idols is to destroy them if possible. Let’s look at some more scripture.

The Tragedy of Israel and Judah Sacrificing their Sons and Daughters to the gods

II Kings 17:16, 17, 29- 31 “They (Israel & Judah) forsook all the commandments of the Lord their God and made for themselves molten images, even two calves, and made an Asherah and worshiped all the host of heaven and served Baal. 17 Then they made their sons and their daughters pass through the fire, and practiced divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking Him.” 29 But every nation still made gods of its own and put them in the houses of the high places which the people of Samaria had made, every nation in their cities in which they lived. 30 The men of Babylon made Succoth-benoth, the men of Cuth made Nergal, the men of Hamath made Ashima, 31 and the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak; and the Sepharvites burned their children in the fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech the gods of Sepharvaim.” (my emphasis) This passage shows when God’s people forsake His commandments (especially the greatest commandment = loving God with our whole heart, soul, strength and mind) we inevitably fall into idolatry. Note the multiplicity of false gods in this passage, all who by demonic power seduce the disobedient.

II Kings 21:2,3,6 “He (Manasseh) did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord dispossessed before the sons of Israel. 3 For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. 6 He made his son pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and used divination, and dealt with mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord provoking Him to anger.” (my emphasis) Please know God’s anger is at least partly because of the destruction that always results from idolatry especially towards children and youth.

Psalm 106:34-39 “They did not destroy the peoples, As the Lord commanded them, 35 But they mingled with the nations And learned their practices, 36 And served their idols Which became a snare to them. 37 They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons, 38 And shed innocent blood, The blood of their sons and their daughters, Whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; And the land was polluted with the blood. 39 Thus they became unclean in their practices And played the harlot in their deeds.” (my emphasis) They didn’t destroy these pagan peoples as God had clearly commanded them to do because they arrogantly and foolishly thought they could peacefully and harmlessly coexist and because they did not understand that demons are behind these idols and false gods, whose intent is to bring about as much destruction of human life as possible (especially children and youth).

These pagan peoples that God commanded His people to destroy were hopelessly enslaved to idolatry and had become almost like animals in their murderous ways. Sacrificing their children/youth to horrible and painful suffering in fire was a way of life for them. The only hope for the lost nations to ever be delivered from this slavery and debauchery was for Israel/Judah to become a holy people among whom God could dwell and manifest His glory.

Jeremiah 7:30, 31 “For the sons of Judah have done that which is evil in My sight,” declares the Lord, “they have set their detestable things in the house which is called by My name, to defile it. 31 They have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, and it did not come into My mind.” (my emphasis) The living God loves all children and youth and would never require them to be harmed in any way to gain favor with Him. To the contrary when we learn to truly love and worship Him, we begin to feel about our children and the children of others as He does. When we worship idols we begin to feel about children and youth the way the demons behind the idols do.

Jeremiah 19:3-6 “and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “Behold I am about to bring a calamity upon this place, at which the ears of everyone that hears of it will tingle. 4 Because they have forsaken Me and have made this an alien place and have burned sacrifices in it to other gods, that neither they nor their forefathers nor the kings of Judah had ever known, and because they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent 5 and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it ever enter My mind; 6 therefore, behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when this place will no longer be called Topheth or the valley of Benhinnom, but rather the valley of Slaughter.” (my emphasis) Idolatry among God’s people always results when they forsake loving Him with their whole hearts, soul, strength and mind.

Ezekiel 16:20, 21 “Moreover, you (Jerusalem) took your sons and daughters whom you had borne to Me and sacrificed them to idols to be devoured. Were your harlotries so small a matter? 21 You slaughtered My children and offered them up to idols by causing them to pass through the fire.” (my emphasis) These children ultimately belonged to God. He is the One who gave His people the privilege of stewarding these children. God opened the wombs of their mothers. God gave them the grace and ability to birth healthy babies. God had great plans for them. Thus His revulsion at Jerusalem’s idolatry and resulting killing of their children.

Ezekiel 20:26, 31 “and I pronounced them (Israel) unclean because of their gifts, in that they caused all their firstborn to pass through the fire so that I might make them desolate, in order that they might know that I am the Lord.” 31 When you offer your gifts, when you cause your sons to pass through the fire, you are defiling yourselves with all your idols to this day. And shall I be inquired of by you, O house of Israel? As I live,” declares the Lord God, “I will not be inquired of by you.” (my emphasis) To satisfy their idols they were causing their firstborn sons to pass through the fire. Only demons can cause a father to do such a thing.

Ezekiel 23:37-39 “For they (Samaria and Jerusalem) have committed adultery, and blood is on their hands. Thus they have committed adultery with their idols and even caused their sons, whom they bore to Me, to pass through the fire to them as food. 38 Again, they have done this to Me: they have defiled My sanctuary on the same day and have profaned My sabbaths. 39 For when they had slaughtered their children for their idols, they entered My sanctuary on the same day to profane it; and lo, thus they did within My house.” (my emphasis) Sounds like they were trying to cover their bases with their idols and with the God of Israel for solely selfish reasons (e.g. prosperity, protection, fertility, etc.).

I hope by now you can see that Israel/Judah’s disobedience in loving God with all their being and worshipping Him alone resulted in widespread idolatry, which resulted in horrible murderous practices towards their own children and youth. And we haven’t even touched on all the horrible sexual practices that resulted from idolatry.

So the question we need to be asking at this point is – is idolatry still an issue today? And my answer is – it absolutely is – even among God’s people/the church. And while we may not burn our children in fires, we harm them in other ways, or by our negligence (which always results from idolatry) we allow them to be harmed by others. By God’s grace I hope to speak to this in the next post. God have mercy on us and return us to our first love and open our eyes to the enemy's schemes towards our children and youth in Jesus's name. Amen.

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