Opposition to worship cults (Isa 66:3-66:4)

“Whoever slaughters an ox is

Like one who kills a human being.

Whoever sacrifices a lamb is

Like one who breaks a dog’s neck.

Whoever presents a cereal offering is

Like one who offers swine’s blood.

Whoever makes a memorial offering

Of frankincense is

Like one who blesses an idol.

These have chosen their own ways.

They take delight in their abominations.

I also will choose to mock them.

I will bring upon them

What they fear.

Because,

When I called,

No one answered.

When I spoke

They did not listen.

But they did

What was evil in my sight.

They chose

What did not please me.”

Yahweh seems to rebuke those who sacrifice animals, saying that killing oxen is like killing humans. If they sacrificed lambs, they are sacrificing dogs. A grain offering was compared to unclean pig’s blood. The use of the frankincense was compared to worshiping idols. They have chosen their own ways that are an abomination to Yahweh. He would continue to mock and punish them because no one answered when he called. No one listened when he spoke. They continued to do evil and not please God.

Yahweh is in charge (Isa 42:6-42:9)

“‘I am Yahweh!

I have called you in righteousness!

I have taken you by the hand!

I have kept you!

I have designed you

As a covenant to the people.

I have designed you

As a light to the nations.

You are to open the eyes

That are blind.

You are to bring out the prisoners

From the dungeons.

You are to bring out from the prisons

Those who sit in darkness.

I am Yahweh!

That is my name!

My glory!

I give to no other!

I do not give my praise to idols!

See!

The former things have come to pass.

I now declare the new things.

Before they spring forth

I will tell you of them.’”

In this section of Second Isaiah, Yahweh apparently speaks directly to the people of Israel, rather than to an individual person. He is Yahweh. He has called his people in righteousness. He took them into his hand. He kept them with a covenant. They were to be the light to the nations in order to give sight to the blind as well as bring out prisoners from dungeons and dark prisons. He is Yahweh. That is his name and his glory. He has no other names, nor does he praise any other idols. He has told you about the past, but he will tell you about things to come before they happen.

The punishment for the unrighteous (Wis 14:30-14:31)

“But just penalties

Will overtake them on two counts.

They thought wrongly

About God,

In devoting themselves to idols.

In deceit,

They swore unrighteously

Through contempt for holiness.

It is not the power of the things

By which people swear,

But the just penalty

For those who sin,

That always pursues the transgression

Of the unrighteous.”

These idol worshipers will be penalized for doing two evil things. First, they thought wrongly about God (περὶ Θεοῦ) in devoting themselves to idols (προσχόντες εἰδώλοις). Second, they swore unrighteously (ἀδίκως ὤμοσαν ἐν δόλῳ) in contempt of holy things. They will receive a just penalty for their sins, as these are the transgressions of the unrighteous (ἀδίκων).

Origin of the worship of idols (Wis 14:12-14:14)

“The idea of making idols

Was the beginning of fornication.

The invention of them

Was the corruption of life.

They did not exist from the beginning.

Nor will they last forever.

Through human vanity

They entered the world.

Therefore their speedy end

Has been planned.”

According to this author, fornication or prostitution (πορνείας) began when they started making idols (εἰδώλων). Their invention led to the corruption of life (ζωῆς) since they did not exist at the beginning (ἀρχῆς) of time. However, they will not last forever. They entered the world (εἰς κόσμον) through human vanity so that they will have a speedy end. Clearly sexual activity was tied to these idols, but they had an uncertain future.

Accursed false idol worship (Wis 14:8-14:11)

“But the idol made with hands is accursed.

So too the one who made it. Having made it,

The perishable thing was named a god.

Equally hateful to God

Are the ungodly man

With their ungodliness.

What was done

Will be punished together

With the one who did it.

Therefore there will be a visitation

Also upon the heathen idols.

Because,

Though part of what God created,

They became an abomination.

They became snares for human souls.

They became a trap to the feet of the foolish.”

Now here is a stinging rebuke of idols and their makers. Both the ungodly idol and the ungodly ones (ὁ ἀσεβῶν) who made it were accursed by God. They were making, calling, and naming these idols gods (θεὸς ὠνομάσθη). They and their idols both would be punished together. Although they are a good part of God’s creation (ἐν κτίσματι Θεοῦ), these idols (εἰδώλοις) have become an abomination or a scandal since they set snares and traps for foolish human souls (σκάνδαλα ψυχαῖς ἀνθρώπων).

Impotence of idols (Ps 135:15-135:18)

“The idols of the nations are silver and gold.

They are the work of human hands.

They have mouths,

But they do not speak.

They have eyes,

But they do not see.

They have ears,

But they do not hear.

There is no breath in their mouths.

Those who made them

Shall become like them.

All who trust in them,

Shall become like them.”

Many countries have idols of silver and gold. Obviously, these are the works of human hands. Very famously, the psalmist says that they have mouths but do not speak. They have eyes but do not see. They have ears but do not hear. They have no breath in their mouths. Thus they are impotent idols. The makers and followers of these idols are like them, without any power also.

The futility of other gods (Ps 115:4-115:8)

“Their idols are silver and gold.

They are the work of human hands.

They have mouths,

But do not speak.

They have eyes,

But do not see.

They have ears,

But do not hear.

They have noses,

But do not smell.

They have hands,

But do not feel.

They have feet,

But do not walk.

They make no sound in their throat.

Those who make them are like them.

So are all who trust in them.”

The contrast of Yahweh with these gold and silver idols is stark. These idol gods are the works of human hands. They have mouths, eyes, ears, noses, hands, and feet. However, they cannot speak, hear, see, smell, feel, or walk. Thus these impotent idols could not utter any sound. The idols were like those who had made them. They were trusting in themselves. The implication here was that Yahweh, whose name was in the Temple, had the anthropomorphic ability to speak, hear, see, smell, feel, and walk among his people. Many of the Israelite prayers assume this ability as they often pray that Yahweh might speak, hear, and see them.

The names of God (Ps 91:1-91:2)

“You live in the shelter of the Most High.

You abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

You will say to Yahweh.

‘My refuge and my fortress.

My God,

In whom I trust.’”

Psalm 91 has no title, unlike many of the other psalms. This psalm starts with 4 different names for God, which is unusual since normally only 2 or 3 names are used, God or Yahweh. First we live in the shelter of the Most High God that is El Elyon in Hebrew and gphyistos in Greek, the highest one. Next we abide in the shadow of the Almighty God that is El Shaddai in Hebrew and the more familiar Greek pantokrator, creator of all. Normally when the Israelites speak to God they call him with the more familiar Yahweh that is the proper name for the God of Israel, more commonly the Hebrew epigram YHW. He seems to be an Israelite warrior God who gets angry a lot. He could not be depicted with any statues or idols. Later Jewish prayer life changed the pronunciation of Yahweh with the word Adonai in its place. The common translation of Yahweh into Greek was kurios, or Lord. Thus many bibles use this term “Lord” for Yahweh. So what did he say to Yahweh? Yahweh is his refuge and fortress. However, then we have the 4th term for God, Elohim in Hebrew and Theos in Greek. Using Theos in Greek put God at the same level as other gods, but clearly Adonai or Yahweh was the monotheistic God in the later writings. Obviously this psalmist trusted in God.

God rejects Israel (Ps 78:56-78:59)

“Yet Isreal tested the Most High God.

They rebelled against him.

They did not observe his decrees.

They turned away.

They were faithless,

Like their ancestors.

They twisted like a treacherous bow.

They provoked him to anger,

With their high places.

They moved him to jealousy,

With their idols.

When God heard,

He was full of wrath.

He utterly rejected Israel.”

When the Israelites got to the holy land, they tested God. They rebelled against him. They did not keep his commandments. They were faithless like their ancestors in the desert. They provoked God to anger when they established the high places dedicated to idols in the countryside. When God heard this he was angry. He then utterly rejected Israel.

The dead Jewish soldiers were idolaters (2 Macc 12:39-12:42)

“On the next day, as had now become necessary, Judas Maccabeus and his men went to take up the bodies of the fallen. He wanted to bring them back to lie with their kindred in the sepulchres of their ancestors. Then under the tunic of every one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. It became clear to all that this was the reason that these men had fallen. So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous judge, who reveals the things that are hidden. They turned to supplication, praying that the sin that had been committed might be wholly blotted out. The noble Judas Maccabeus exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin. They had seen with their own eyes what had happened as the result of the sin of those who had fallen.”

This is one of the few passages where there seems to be respect for the fallen soldiers, other than the leaders. They went out to pick up the bodies of the dead Jewish fighters so that they could be put in the tomb of their ancestors. To their surprise, they found that all the dead Jewish fighters were wearing the sacred tokens of the idols from Jamnia. How and why they had these tokens was not clear. Of course, this was forbidden to all Jewish people. They then prayed that the sins of these fallen men might be blotted out. Judas Maccabeus reminded them to keep themselves from sin. They had seen with their own eyes what happened to sinners.