2016 · Research · Scripture

Old Testament Idol Worship and Ritual Abuse: How It Affected People

Zeus Yahweh, Wikimedia Commons
Zeus Yahweh, Wikimedia Commons

CONTENT WARNING: this may trigger and distress some readers who have experienced abuse.

The Old Testament is a tough book. It always feels strange to write an article on King David, the hero in the children’s David and Goliath story books, then put an adult content warning on that article. The thing is, it’s a real book about the real world, and in that world, people make horrific choices. This article has such a warning. It isn’t just about David’s time, but it is relevant to anyone getting involved in occult activity today. The same emotional and spiritual damage is done to participants in the occult now, as was done to the worshippers back then, as the spiritual forces behind both the occult and these ancients gods are exactly the same.

One of the aspects of the Old Testament that makes people shy away from it, is the killing. Whole nations such as Moab are wiped out or enslaved; people are burnt in holy fire because of sin, and the justice system is kind of rough. Before grace was granted freely through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, threats to society were killed. It was the only way. There was no other form of judgement and people’s safety had to be protected.

For Isra’el to be safe, the surrounding nations had to be bought under control. This was predominantly due to their polytheistic lifestyles, which continually poisoned the spiritual lives of the people of Isra’el. The references which repeatedly advise, implore and demand that the Israelites resist and get rid of these gods are many including Deuteronomy 7:16: “You must destroy all the nations the LORDyour God hands over to you. Show them no mercy, and do not worship their gods, or they will trap you.”

and Deuteronomy 20:17-18: “You must completely destroy the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, just as the LORD your God has commanded you. This will prevent the people of the land from teaching you to imitate their detestable customs in the worship of their gods, which would cause you to sin deeply against the LORD your God.”

Throughout every culture, if you study standards of morality, there are some practices which are intolerable, regardless of nation, year, race or religious creed. These include murder, prostitution and harming others. Sadly, these neighbouring religions demanded obedience to rituals which involved all those elements.
Here are the worst offenders:

Ba’al: a fertility and war god, who demanded self-mutilation, ecstatic shamanistic like dances, ritual sex (which in cults that exist now, is often abusive and non-consentual, which may have been the case then also,) and child sacrifice.
Asherah: the poles for this goddess are frequently mentioned in the books of Kings. She was considered the consort to Yahweh as Isra’el later dived into a spiritual abyss. Prostitution was a part of her worship.
Ashtoreth or Astarte: she was an agricultural and fertility goddess who had a close association with Ba’el and again, ritual prostitution was involved in obeying and appeasing her.
Molech: he was represented as an ox or calf, and he required the sacrifice of live, young children by burning and ritual sex practices.
Chemosh: he was a war god who delighted in human sacrifice.
Realise that the people conceded to these demands, as they were terrified of the consequences of disobeying their god/goddess and so they put themselves through danger and abuse, to appease any anger and ensure an easy life.

This didn’t work. The gods weren’t real and thus, couldn’t help, plus modern psychology reflects some of the adverse consequences of Isra’el’s more dangerous worship practices.

Warrior god from Moab. Stone stele, Late Bronze Age (ca. 1200 BC) or Iron Age (ca. 800 BC), found in Redjōm el-A'abed in 1851 by Félix de Saulcy and brought back to France in 1865 by the duke of Luynes.
Warrior god from Moab. Stone stele, Late Bronze Age (ca. 1200 BC) or Iron Age (ca. 800 BC), found in Redjōm el-A’abed in 1851 by Félix de Saulcy and brought back to France in 1865 by the duke of Luynes.

Apart from taking the hearts of the people away from the One true God, Yahweh, there were serious consequences to the liberal sexual worship. Sexually transmitted diseases are an obvious one, but there were traumatic consequences of this worship on people’s self-esteem, emotions and peace of mind. Long term psychological problems such as post traumatic stress disorder could be caused by these practices.

In 1989, researchers Tennant-Clark, Fritz and Beauvis studied teenagers who had been involved in occult practices and found these common problems:
– chemical substance abuse (or in Old Testament times, alcohol abuse);
– low self-esteem and poor self-concept;
– low desire to be considered a good person;
– negative feelings about established religions, such as Christianity;
– high tolerance for deviant behaviours;
– negative feelings about their future and
– feelings of blame being directed at them.

In adults, ritual sex in an occult setting can result in mental conditions such as dissociative disorders, post traumatic stress disorder, bizarre self-abuse, unremitting anxiety and eating disorders, depression and suicide.

Once involvement in any occult/idolatrous activity involving demonic gods has begun, it becomes an overwhelming negative force and as with the Israelites, fear of angering the powers, leads to people staying trapped within that poisonous activity. Involuntary participation, coupled with fear and feeling hopeless, as you cannot escape, does the damage, even if taking part was originally a free choice.

Forced service in a temple to a god works the same way. Even if someone had been given a choice to become a temple prostitute, or had once thought it an honour, once they are entrenched in the system,those same dynamics of harm occur. From what I have read, some families held the position of temple prostitute in such high honour, their children were forced into that role. Once in that role, it’s also possible that younger people and adults, were also sexually and physically abused. The same happens in some occult circles today.

Solomon was right, there is nothing new under the sun.

There is another social and psychological issue which makes this more complex. The purpose of a ritual is to invoke a special sense of the spiritual; something that is out of the ordinary and which rises you above the daily routines and worries of life. They are also important social events which reinforce the values and standards of that society and emphasise the world view you are expected to adopt to fit in. If participation is belonging, how could the Israelites have stood apart from these practices? They would have been the odd ones out.

So when next you cringe at the violent nature of the Old Testament, keep this in mind: God says ‘no’ to protect His people from excessive harm. The way He protects them may also seem excessive, but thousands of years ago, it was the best way.

For more information, please read “How Gentle Kings Become Killers


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