How is Polytheism reflected in the Bible?

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By BibleAsk Team


Polytheism

Polytheism, the belief in and worship of multiple deities, is not aligned with the monotheistic principles found in the Bible. The Scriptures consistently affirm the worship of one true God and denounce the practice of polytheism and worshiping other gods. Let’s explore what the Bible says about polytheism.

The Old Testament

  1. Monotheism in the Bible: Deuteronomy 6:4 (NKJV): “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!” This foundational declaration, known as the Shema, underscores the monotheistic nature of God in the Old Testament.
  2. Exclusivity of God’s Worship: Exodus 20:3 (NKJV): “You shall have no other gods before Me.” The first of the Ten Commandments establishes the exclusivity of worshiping the one true God.
  3. Warning Against Idolatry: Exodus 20:4-5 (NKJV): “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me.” God explicitly warns against creating idols and worshiping them, emphasizing His exclusivity and intolerance for polytheistic practices.
  4. God’s Unique Status: Isaiah 43:10-11 (NKJV): “You are My witnesses,” says the Lord, “And My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the Lord, and besides Me there is no savior.” Isaiah emphasizes the uniqueness of God, declaring that there is no God before or after Him.
  5. Rejecting Other gods: Joshua 24:14 (NKJV): “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord!” Joshua calls for the rejection of other false gods and emphasizes the exclusive service to the Lord.
  6. Consequences of Polytheism: Deuteronomy 8:19-20 (NKJV): “Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the Lord your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish.” The consequences of forgetting the Lord and turning to other gods are clearly stated, highlighting the seriousness of polytheistic practices.
  7. Prohibition of Worshiping heavenly bodies (ex. Sun and Moon): Deuteronomy 17:2-3 (NKJV): “If there is found among you, within any of your gates which the Lord your God gives you, a man or a woman who has been wicked in the sight of the Lord your God, in transgressing His covenant, who has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, either the sun or moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded…” The prohibition of worshiping celestial bodies is outlined in this passage, condemning polytheistic worship.
  8. Idolatry as Spiritual Adultery: Jeremiah 3:8-9 (NKJV): “Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also. So it came to pass, through her casual harlotry, that she defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and trees.”

    The imagery of spiritual adultery is used to describe the unfaithfulness of Israel in following strange beliefs and in turning to other gods.
  9. Rejection of Foreign gods: 1 Samuel 7:3 (NKJV): “Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, ‘If you return to the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths from among you, and prepare your hearts for the Lord, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.'” Samuel urges the people to return to the Lord by putting away foreign gods, reinforcing the call for exclusive worship.
  10. Condemnation of False gods: Jeremiah 10:10 (NKJV): “But the Lord is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth will tremble, and the nations will not be able to endure His indignation.” Jeremiah contrasts the true God with false gods, affirming the Lord’s uniqueness and supremacy.

The New Testament:

  1. Condemnation of Polytheism: 1 Corinthians 8:4 (NKJV): “Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one.” The New Testament reiterates the monotheistic principle, emphasizing that there is no other God but one.
  2. Exclusive Worship of God: Matthew 4:10 (NKJV): “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.” Jesus, in response to Satan’s temptations, affirms the exclusive worship of God.

Conclusion

The Bible consistently teaches the principle of monotheism, emphasizing the worship of the one true God and rejecting the worship of multiple deities. The Scriptures warn against idolatry, the creation of false gods, and the consequences of turning away from the true Creator of all. From the Old Testament to the New Testament, the message remains clear: God is the true God, and His people are called to worship Him alone, denouncing any form of polytheistic practices. The biblical references provided underscore the seriousness with which the Scriptures approach the issue of polytheism and the importance of remaining faithful to the One God.

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