The religion of the ancient israelites ? – Religion & Spirituality


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The religion of the ancient Israelites was what is now called

Jews have always worshiped the One God. God wrecked the Egyptian
idols (Exodus 12:12) and warned against idolatry (Exodus 22:19).
Abraham worshiped “the Lord God of Heaven and Earth” (Genesis 14:22
and 24:3) and complained about the Philistines’ lack of fear of God
(Genesis 20:11). Jacob confiscated the idolatrous images taken from
Shechem (Genesis 35:2) and got rid of them (Genesis 35:4); and
refrained from invoking the gods of Nahor (Genesis 31:53). Rachel
pilfered Laban’s statue-images (Genesis 31:19) in order to prevent
him from idolatry (Rashi commentary, ibid.). Joseph placed his hope
in the God of the Forefathers (Genesis 50:24). Moses characterized
the Golden Calf as “a great sin” (Exodus 32:21, 30) and punished
the worshipers (Exodus ch.32). During the rest of his lifetime and
that of Joshua (Judges 2:7), no incidents of Jewish idolatry were

Shortly before he died, Moses warned the people that he suspected
that they would eventually succumb to the lure of the idols
(Deuteronomy 29:17). Joshua gave a similar warning (Joshua ch. 24).

These warnings came true. Many of the Israelites went astray after
the foreign gods (Judges 2:11). However, the Jews
never invented their own idol
. It was always the baneful
influence of other peoples. And there were times when the entire
Jewish nation repented (Judges 2:1-4) and prayed to God (Judges
3:9, 3:15, 6:6, 10:10).

Because of the idol-worship that did happen, images of idols have
been found in Israel too. Images of God aren’t found because it is
forbidden to represent Him through imagery (Deuteronomy 4:15-16).

It should be noted that idolatry

never universal
among the Jews. The tradition of the One God
was handed down in every generation, whether by the few or the
many; and it is those who handed down the tradition whose beliefs
we Jews continue today. Deborah ascribed victory to God (Judges
4:14), Gideon tore down the idolatrous altar (Judges 6:25-27);
Samson prayed to God (Judges 16:28), as did Hannah (1 Samuel 1:11)
and Samuel (ibid. 12:18); Eli blessed in the name of God (1 Samuel
2:20), Saul built an altar to God (1 Samuel 14:35); Jonathan
ascribed victory to God (1 Samuel 14:12), as did David (1 Samuel
17:46); and Solomon built the Temple for God (1 Kings 8:20). A
number of the kings “did what was right in God’s eyes”: Asa (1
Kings 15:11), Yehoshaphat (1 Kings 22:43), Yehoash (2 Kings 12:3),
Amatziah (2 Kings 14:3), Azariah (2 Kings 15:3), Yotam (2 Kings
15:34), Hizkiah (2 Kings 18:3), and Josiah (2 Kings 22:2). Even at
the height of the unfortunate spread of idolatry among the
less-loyal Ten Tribes, there were thousands who remained loyal to
God (1 Kings 19:18).

And, of course, the Prophets, who spoke in the name of God and
warned against idolatry: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea and so

The sages of the Talmud, who ridiculed idolatry (Megillah 25b),
were simply continuing in the tradition of the Prophets whose
verses are quoted in that context (ibid.).

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