“The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. And they forsook the LORD and did not serve him.”Judges 10:6
In rounds one and two of this series, I established the true nature of the gods of the Old Testament, including their origin, rebellion, and operation as the spiritual principalities and powers behind pagan idolatry in all the nations of the world.
One of the primary themes and theological threads running through the Old Testament involves the real spiritual battle between Yahweh — the LORD God of Israel — and the gods of the nations. We discovered that the Most High divided up the nations for their rebellion at Babel and effectively disinherited them by giving them over to the authority of the sons of God [Deuteronomy 32:8-9].
Instead of ruling the nations justly according to the will of God, however, these rebellious sons of God desired glory for themselves and led the nations away from the One True God into spiritual darkness and idolatry. Psalm 82 provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at God’s disapproval of His divine sons — the gods of the nations.
God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
2“How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
3Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
4Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
5They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
8Arise, O God, judge the earth;Psalm 82
for you shall inherit all the nations!
Shortly after Yahweh disinherited the nations at Babel, He decided to create a nation for Himself — a people for His own possession — so He called one man out of ancient Mesopotamia and entered into a covenant relationship with him and his descendants. The man’s name … Abraham.
Interestingly enough, Abraham was born into a family of idolaters who worshipped and served the gods of ancient Babylon in Ur of the Chaldeans.
And Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Long ago your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the Euphrates and worshiped other gods. But I took your father Abraham from beyond the Euphrates and led him through all the land of Canaan, and I multiplied his descendants. I gave him Isaac.”Joshua 24:2-3
When the LORD showed Abraham the land of Canaan — the coveted Promised Land — He gave it to him and his descendants after him as a possession [Genesis 15]. Yet even Abraham believed God’s promise from afar. Receiving no inheritance in the land himself, Abraham — the man of faith — died believing the LORD would make good on His word [Acts 7:5]. Over 400 years would pass before Abraham’s descendants — the children of Israel — would receive their homeland from God.
Generations later, when the LORD appeared to Moses out of the burning bush at Horeb, He promised to redeem the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt, fulfilling the covenant He had made with Abraham.
“I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.”Exodus 6:7-8
When the LORD resolved to redeem His people from Egypt with signs and mighty wonders, He delivered a crushing defeat — not just to Pharaoh — but more specifically to the gods of Egypt. The Exodus was the first strategic blow in the supernatural fight between Yahweh and the gods of the nations.
The gods of Egypt
“Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?”Exodus 15:11
After the children of Israel passed safely through the sea and witnessed the drowning of Pharaoh’s army at the hand of the LORD, they broke out into song, praising the LORD God of Israel. The Israelites understood the significance of the supernatural victory over the gods of Egypt. Consider what Yahweh said that very first Passover night.
“For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD.”Exodus 12:12
The Hebrews hardly could be considered a warrior tribe and were by no means equipped to do battle without the LORD’s intervention and supernatural protection. Moses had to remind the people that Yahweh would do the fighting for them. He was the Warrior in their midst.
And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”Exodus 14:13-14
When one examines the 10 plagues sent upon Egypt, he will discover that each plague was designed to demonstrate Yahweh’s superiority over the primary Egyptian deities. Even Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, recognized the supernatural component of God’s victory over Egypt.
“Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods, because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people.”Exodus 18:11
Tragically, the first generation of Israelites who entered into covenant with the LORD at Sinai committed the worst kind of spiritual adultery in the face of God by bowing down to the golden calf — the image of one of Egypt’s primary gods. Hence, the pattern of idolatry was established, and despite God’s warning, it would epitomize Israel for generations to come.
“Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the LORD our God to go and serve the gods of those nations … all the nations will say, ‘Why has the LORDdone thus to this land? What caused the heat of this great anger?’ Then people will say, ‘It is because they abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt, and went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods whom they had not known and whom he had not allotted to them.”Deuteronomy 29:18, 24-26
The gods of Canaan
Once the children of Israel finally were given the permission by the LORD to take possession of the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua, the supernatural war with the gods intensified. The LORD again fought for Israel during the conquest of Canaan, delivering one defeat after another to the pagan nations dwelling in the land. These nations [i.e. Canaanites, Amorites etc…] were steeped in idolatry, characterized by the worst forms of ritual worship, such as cult prostitution and child sacrifice.
But in just one generation after Joshua, Israel turned away from the LORD to worship these gods. As the historical narrative of Israel unfolds, several Canaanite gods begin to emerge as arch rivals to Yahweh.
- Baal — meaning “lord,” was the chief god of the Canaanites and became a snare in the side of Israel for generations.
- Asherah — the primary cult goddess in Canaan and the consort of Baal.
- Molech — chief god of the Ammonites and Moabites, who demanded child sacrifice.
For a more comprehensive list of the “gods” of Canaan, feel free to check out this short article here, but for sake of time, I will only highlight a few memorable encounters.
Most of us are familiar with Elijah’s showdown on Mount Carmel with the 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah. This was a classic battle between Yahweh and the gods, where the God of Israel once again proved His supremacy.
And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Yahweh, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37Answer me, O Yahweh, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Yahweh, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38Then the fire of Yahweh fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “Yahweh, he is God; Yahweh, he is God.” 40And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.1 Kings 18:36-40
The LORD again showed His power over the gods of Assyria during the invasion of King Sennacherib in the days of Hezekiah, king of Judah. The Assyrian generals arrogantly taunted the God of Israel, not knowing He would respond.
And do not listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you by saying, “The LORD will deliver us.” Has any of the gods of the nations ever delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?’2 Kings 18:32-35
That night, the LORD proved once again He alone was the One True God.
“And that night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh. And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword and escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place.”2 Kings 19:35-37
Next time, I will show how the LORD delivered the first blow of a 1-2 knockout punch against the gods and how He will deliver the final blow on the Day of the LORD.