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Dictionary of Bible Themes – 8799 polytheism
8799 polytheism

8799 polytheism

Belief in, and worship of, more than one god. It is forbidden in Scripture because God has revealed himself as the one true God. Israel in the OT and the church in the NT lived amongst polytheistic peoples. The Israelites shared in this worship and so came under God’s judgment.

The uniqueness of God

There is only one true God Isa 45:5-6 See also Dt 6:4; Dt 32:39; Isa 43:10; Isa 44:8

The contrast of the true God with idols 1Th 1:9 See also 1Ch 16:26 pp Ps 96:5; Isa 40:18-19,25-26; Ac 17:29; 1Co 8:4-6; Gal 4:8

Polytheism is expressly forbidden

Warnings against worshipping idols Ex 20:23 See also Ex 20:3-5 pp Dt 5:7-9; Ex 23:13; Lev 17:7

Polytheism compromises relationship with God 2Ki 17:35-38 See also Dt 31:16; Jer 11:10; 1Co 10:18-22

The challenge to Israel to worship God only Jos 24:15 See also Ge 35:2-4; Dt 12:2-4; 1Ki 18:21

Polytheism brings God’s judgment

Ex 22:20; Dt 31:17-18; Jos 23:16; Jer 11:11-13

Polytheism among Israel’s neighbours

Jdg 10:6 See also Jdg 16:23; 1Ki 11:33; 2Ki 1:2; 2Ki 17:29-33; Isa 46:1; Jer 50:2; Eze 8:14

Polytheism among the Israelites

They were called to destroy foreign gods Nu 33:51-52 See also Ex 23:24; Ex 34:12-13; Dt 12:2-3

They were seduced by foreign gods 2Ki 17:15-18; Jer 2:11 See also Ex 34:15-16; Nu 25:2; Dt 12:30; Dt 32:16-17; Jdg 2:11-13; Ps 106:34-36; Hos 2:13; Hos 11:2

Polytheism among Israel’s kings 1Ki 11:5-7 Solomon; 1Ki 12:28-29 Jeroboam, king of Israel; 1Ki 16:30-33 Ahab, king of Israel; 2Ki 16:3-4 Ahaz, king of Judah; 2Ki 21:3-5 Manasseh, king of Judah

Examples of reforming kings 1Ki 15:12-13 Asa, king of Judah; 2Ki 18:4 Hezekiah, king of Judah; 2Ki 23:12-15 Josiah, king of Judah

The character of polytheism in the OT

The physical representation of deities Lev 26:1; 1Ki 14:23; Isa 48:5

Cult prostitution Dt 23:17; 1Ki 14:24

Human sacrifice Lev 18:21 to Molech; Dt 12:31; 2Ki 3:26-27 to Chemosh; Jer 19:5 to Baal; Eze 16:20-21

Self-mutilation 1Ki 18:28-29

Polytheism in the NT

It was widespread Ac 17:23 The Athenians were fearful of offending a god by failing to give him attention. Any omissions were covered in the designation “UNKNOWN GOD”. See also Ac 14:11-13; Ac 19:35; 1Co 8:5-6

The worship of man-made idols 1Co 12:2 See also Ac 17:16; Ac 19:26; Ro 1:20-23; 1Co 10:19-20 Idols in themselves are nothing, but they represent a demonic presence which lies behind polytheistic worship.

See also

1165God, unique
8747false gods
8840unfaithfulness to God

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