Copyright 1994 - 2018 Bill's Bible Basics
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Published On :
April 19, 2000
Last Updated :
April 16, 2011
Star Gods And The Host Of Heaven, Moses Warns The Israelites, Danger Of Worshipping The Creation More Than God The Creator, Apostle Paul's Warning To Roman Brethren, Israelites Ignore The Warnings Of Moses And Joshua And Backslide, King Josiah, Egyptian Osiris And Isis The Cow Goddess, Isis And Solar Disk, Ancestry Of Abraham, Abraham's Pagan Origin, God's Promise To Abraham, Difficulty Of Forsaking Family Religious Tradition, Abraham's Example Of Faith And Obedience, Parental Concerns, Isaac And Rebekah, Jacob's Doubts About The God Of Abraham, Rachel's Stolen Idols, Laban's Wrath And Rachel's Deception
You may have noticed from the previous definitions that I shared with you, that the name "Ashtoreth" -- or "Ishtar" -- actually means "star". In a similar sense, our English words star, aster, asterisk and asteroid are also derived from the Latin and Greek words "aster", "asteriscus" and "asteriskos" which likewise mean star, or star-like. However, what I find most significant about this relationship between Ishtar and the word "star", is the fact that it points us to a glaring truth which is found in various places in the Bible.
As we saw in part one of this series, that truth is that the ancient peoples of the various cultures which we've examined actually worshipped the heavenly bodies. Thus, it should come as no surprise to us that Tammuz/Baal was the Sun god, and Ishtar/Ashtoreth was the Moon goddess who reflected the glory of her husband/consort. Just as the Sun and the Moon are the most prominent companion bodies in the day and night skies, these entities, whether they were real or imagined, or based on distorted accounts of long-forgotten real events, were highly significant to the ancient cultures of the Middle East, and later even in Europe. For a more detailed look at one possible origin of the ancient gods and goddesses, please consider reading the in-depth series "Nephilim: The Giants Of Genesis".
The problem, as we have already seen, is that God strictly forbid -- and still forbids -- His people from worshipping these false "star gods". In the Bible these celestial bodies which roam the heavens on their courses as assigned by God the Creator are referred to as the "host of heaven", and in one verse -- that is, Amos 5:26 -- a distinct connection is made between assigning stars as the physical representations of the false gods, as we see here:
"But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves."
Amos 5:26, KJV
In the opening chapters of the Book of Deuteronomy, where we find Moses exhorting the Israelites to remain faithful to the Lord, among other things, he reminds them that they saw no figure when God spoke to them from Mount Horeb; and he then warns them to not worship the Sun, the Moon, or the planets, and to not make images of them, as we see here:
"Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire: Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female, The likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air, The likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth: And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven."
Deuteronomy 4:15-19, KJV
Thirteen chapters later we learn that the penalty for doing such a thing, is that one must be stoned to death. Such was the seriousness of worshipping the Creation more than God the actual Creator. Consider the following verses:
"If there be found among you, within any of thy gates which the LORD thy God giveth thee, man or woman, that hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the LORD thy God, in transgressing his covenant, And hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded; And it be told thee, and thou hast heard of it, and enquired diligently, and, behold, it be true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought in Israel: Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die."
Deuteronomy 17:2-5, KJV
The Apostle Paul likewise warned the followers of Christ of the danger of worshipping the creature -- or creation -- more than God the Creator when he wrote his Epistle to the Roman brethren, as we see here:
"Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen."
Romans 1:24-25, KJV
Sadly, in spite of these harsh warnings from the Lord through Moses, Joshua and other leaders of that generation, it wasn't before long -- barely had Joshua and Caleb's generation died off -- that this is precisely what the ancient Israelites were doing; and as I have already pointed out, they suffered severely -- and unnecessarily -- for it. Here again are some verses for your consideration:
"Notwithstanding they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like to the neck of their fathers, that did not believe in the LORD their God. And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, concerning whom the LORD had charged them, that they should not do like them. And they left all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal."
2 Kings 17:14-16, KJV
"And he [Manasseh] did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, after the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel. For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them. And he built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD said, In Jerusalem will I put my name. And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD."
2 Kings 21:2-5, KJV
"At that time, saith the LORD, they shall bring out the bones of the kings of Judah, and the bones of his princes, and the bones of the priests, and the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, out of their graves: And they shall spread them before the sun, and the moon, and all the host of heaven, whom they have loved, and whom they have served, and after whom they have walked, and whom they have sought, and whom they have worshipped: they shall not be gathered, nor be buried; they shall be for dung upon the face of the earth. And death shall be chosen rather than life by all the residue of them that remain of this evil family, which remain in all the places whither I have driven them, saith the LORD of hosts."
Jeremiah 8:1-3, KJV
". . . Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Even so will I break this people and this city, as one breaketh a potter's vessel, that cannot be made whole again: and they shall bury them in Tophet, till there be no place to bury. Thus will I do unto this place, saith the LORD, and to the inhabitants thereof, and even make this city as Tophet: And the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses of the kings of Judah, shall be defiled as the place of Tophet, because of all the houses upon whose roofs they have burned incense unto all the host of heaven, and have poured out drink offerings unto other gods."
Jeremiah 19:11-13, KJV
Thankfully, the Scriptures inform us that there were a few Jewish kings who truly feared the Lord, and who thus put an end -- at least temporarily -- to the blatant worship of the heavenly bodies -- or host of heaven -- and the false gods which they represented, as we see here with the example of King Josiah:
"And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Bethel. And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven."
2 Kings 23:4-5, KJV
Thus far we have traced the long trail of the false Easter goddess as far back as the ancient Sumerian, Assyrian, and Babylonian cultures, which all shared some of the very same cultural and religious beliefs and practices, and which were all centered in the area which today constitutes modern-day Iraq, and perhaps small portions of Iran, and Kuwait as well. But is this truly the end of the trail of this devious, deceptive demoness? The answer seems to be a resounding "no".
There is clear evidence that this Sun god/Moon goddess pair which the Shemite cultures worshipped was also known to the Egyptians. Baal and Ashtoreth -- a.k.a. Tammuz and Ishtar -- find their counterparts in the Egyptian pair of Osiris and Isis. Just as Ashtoreth/Astarte was the sister, consort and wife of the Sun god Baal, Isis -- who was likewise a Moon goddess, as well as the goddess of fertility -- was also the sister and wife of Osiris.
Similar to Tammuz, among other things, Osiris was the god of vegetation, and the god of the dead. In fact, just as Ishtar went to the netherworld and rescued Tammuz from the dead and brought him back to life each year, so that vegetation would grow again and people and animals would reproduce, Isis also went to the underworld and rescued Osiris from the dead as well. Likewise, both Ishtar and Isis were referred to, among other names, as the "Queen of Heaven". The Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary states the following regarding this Egyptian pair:
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Egyptian Relig. A goddess of fertility, the sister and wife of Osiris and mother of Horus, and usually represented as a woman with a cow's horns with the solar disk between them: later worshiped in the Greek and Roman empires.
Egyptian Relig. The king and judge of the dead, the husband and brother of Isis, and father (or brother) of Horus, killed by Set but later resurrected (after Horus killed Set): usually depicted as a man, partly wrapped as a mummy, having a beard and wearing the atef-crown.
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The Encyclopedia Mythica also states the following regarding the Egyptian pair Osiris and Isis:
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One of the most popular goddesses in Egypt. Isis belongs to the Ennead of Heliopolis, and according to the Heliopolitan genealogy is a daughter of Seb and Nut, sister and wife of Osiris. Possibly she was originally the personification of the throne (her name is written with the hieroglyph for throne), and as such she was an important source of the pharaoh's power. In the Hellenistic time Isis was the protectress of sailors.
In the Osiris myths she searched for her husband's body, who was killed by her brother Seth. She retrieved and reassembled the body, and in this connection she took on the role of a goddess of the dead and of the funeral rights. Isis impregnated herself from Osiris' body and gave birth to Horus in the swamps of Khemnis in the Nile Delta. Here she raised her son in secret and kept him far away from Seth. Horus later defeated Seth and became the first ruler of a united Egypt. Isis, as mother of Horus, was by extension regarded as the mother and protectress of the pharaohs. She was worshipped as the divine mother-goddess, faithful consort of Osiris, and dedicated mother of Horus.
Isis was depicted as a woman with the solar disk between the cow horns on her head (an analogy with the goddess Hathor) or crowned with a throne, but also with the child Horus sitting on her lap. A vulture was sometimes seen incorporated in her crown. Also she was sometimes depicted as a kite above the mummified body of Osiris. Isis' popularity lasted far into the Roman era. She had her own priests and many temples were erected in her honor. On the island of Philae in the Nile delta her largest temple was situated (it was transferred to the island Agilkia in 1975-1980).
. . . . .
Osiris was the Egyptian god of the underworld, although he was also worshipped as a fertility, resurrection, and vegetation god. He was married to Isis, a sky goddess. He was father to Horus, the god of sky, and protector of the dead.
Osiris was killed by his brother Seth, who shut his body in a chest and threw it into the Nile, where it washed up onto the shore and was trapped in a huge tree. The King Byblos turned it into a pillar in his palace. Isis (who had been searching for her husband) discovered the trunk, and retrieved the trunk and the body. While Isis was away, Seth found the body, and chopped it up into many pieces, and scattered them throughout Egypt. Isis and her sister, Nephthys, found the pieces and made wax models of them to give to priests to be worshipped. When they found all of his pieces, they were so sad they wailed loudly enough for Re, the father god, to have pity on them. He sent Anubis and Thoth to help. They mummified Osiris, and put his body in a lion headed pier. Isis changed into a kite and fanned breath into Osiris.
He was not allowed to stay in the land of the living, and was sent to the underworld to serve as king, and to judge the souls of the dead.
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One important point from the previous quotes which I wish to call to your attention, is the fact that Isis was depicted as a woman upon whose head was a pair of cow horns, between which was situated a solar disk. There is a picture of this ancient Egyptian goddess of sex and fertility in my Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary. Why is this point so important? Because once again there is a direct link to the sad backslidden condition of the ancient Israelites, a long time before the Assyrian and Babylonian invasions would occur.
The Bible informs us that during the hundreds of years that the children of Israel were enslaved in the land of Egypt, they backslid from the faith which they had inherited from their physical and spiritual fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Undoubtedly, due to the very harsh conditions under which they were forced to live, many of the Israelites must have felt as if the God of Abraham had abandoned them. Thus, its seems quite plausible that they may have found comfort in something which seemed vaguely familiar to them: Osiris and Isis, the Sun god and Moon goddess of their Egyptian masters.
Why might Osiris and Isis seem familiar to the Israelites; and why did they seem to have a weakness and a propensity for repeatedly turning to the gods and goddesses of these other cultures? To answer these questions for you, allow me to draw upon some information which I first included in an article which I wrote over thirteen years ago entitled "The Children Of God And Politics".
In a word, Abraham and his family were heathen. They were Babylonian pagans. According to the eleventh chapter of the Book of Genesis, Abraham, his father Terah, and their family, were all natives of the city of Ur, which was located in the land of the Chaldees, or the Chaldeans if you prefer. Who exactly were the Chaldeans? They were the rulers of ancient Babylonia. Even though Abraham and his family were descended from the line of righteous Noah, nevertheless, initially, before Abraham was called by the one true God, he worshipped the pagan gods of his own country. This is clarified for us by the words of Joshua, the son of Nun, in the following verses:
"And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and THEY SERVED OTHER GODS. And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac."
Joshua 24:2-3, KJV
The fact that Abraham's family were pagans from Babylonia is also confirmed for us in various of the apocryphal works as well. In essence, the Lord told Abraham, who was then called Abram, to forsake his own country, to forsake his father's family, and to even forsake his old religion. As a reward, if Abram would do this, God promised him that He would mightily bless him, as we see here:
"Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."
Genesis 12:1-3, KJV
However, as some of you will already know through your own personal experiences, forsaking long-held family religious traditions is not always an easy task, no matter how wrong or distorted those traditions may be.
For example, try convincing a Roman Catholic to forsake the Pope and the so-called "Holy Mother Church". I assure you, it won't be that easy. Or try convincing a Jehovah's Witness to stop being a member of that organization. Just attempting to get one to listen to you is next to impossible, because they always seem to want to do all of the talking. Or see if you can convince a Southern Baptist to abandon what has been a family tradition for perhaps hundreds of years. Even more difficult, try convincing an Orthodox Jew to embrace Yeshua as the Messiah of the Jews. Trying to convince a dedicated Mormon to forsake the doctrines of Joseph Smith will likewise prove to be quite a challenge, as would trying to convince a Muslim to forsake Muhammad and the Qur'an.
As I explain in the article "Are You Just A Baby Huey?", you will encounter a lot of resistance, because most people are not easily persuaded to abandon a set of religious beliefs with which they have been comfortable, and which has been a central part of their family for many years.
Dear Abraham must have met equal, if not greater resistance, from some of his family members; because not only did he ask them to abandon their religion, but he asked them to leave the comfort of Padan-Aram, and to travel to a land which was totally foreign to them, which was inhabited by Canaanites. In fact, we are told that Abram did not leave his father's family in Haran until after his father had died; and there are indications that those who remained in Haran never did adopt the new God of Abraham, as we will see in a moment. In a word, Abraham truly was stepping out by faith; and this is why God honored him, because Abraham was a man of faith and obedience. As the Apostles James and Paul would later write:
"Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works . . . For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."
James 2:18, 26, KJV
"But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him . . . By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:"
Hebrews 11:6, 8-9, KJV
While Abraham made the break with his family, as well as with his old religion, in his wisdom, he must have realized that his son might not share his same religious convictions; and that in a moment of weakness, Isaac might even fall back into the pagan worship of the past.
How typical this is of even Christian parents today. We want so much for our own children to follow in our footsteps. We want them to love and obey the Lord as much as we try to do. Sadly, to our disappointment, things don't always turn out as we expect them to. In fact, this is something which has presented great challenges for me in my personal family in recent months. As Christian parents, we all must recognize that the enticements and false promises of the world are indeed strong; and we must fervently pray for our children, and ask the Lord to give them the strength to resist such things; even at the cost of losing worldly friendships.
In the case of Abraham, his concern was that his promised son, Isaac, might marry a pagan woman of Canaan, the land wherein he and his family now dwelt. Just as King Solomon would backslide from the Lord many years later as a result of marrying pagan women, Isaac might also fall back into worshipping the pagan gods, if he were to marry a Canaanite woman. At the same time, neither did Abraham want Isaac to return to the land of his own nativity -- that is, to the city of Ur in the land of the Chaldees -- because the Lord had promised to give Abraham the country of Canaan, and to multiply his seed there as the stars of the heavens. And again, the temptation to desert the one true God may have been too strong for his son to resist, were he to go to his father's birthplace in Ur, in order to find himself a bride.
Thus, as we read in the Book of Genesis, Abraham sent one of his servants to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor -- which was apparently named after Abraham's brother -- in order to find a wife for Isaac his son. The Bible informs us that it is there in Nahor -- which was situated in Padanaram -- that the Lord does a miracle, and wisely provides Rebekah -- the granddaughter of Nahor -- to be Isaac's wife. According to what we read in the twenty-fifth chapter of Genesis, Rebekah and her brother Laban are both referred to as Syrians. As you may know, Syria was the northwestern-most part of Mesopotamia in those days. In fact, much of that area -- which was known as the Fertile Crescent -- came under Babylonian jurisdiction following the eventual absorption of the Assyrian empire by the Babylonian empire. Consider these verses:
"And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham's son: Abraham begat Isaac: And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padanaram, the sister to Laban the Syrian."
Genesis 25:19-20, KJV
A number of years later, we find Isaac, who is now a father himself, and Rebekah, his wife, sending their son Jacob to Laban, Rebekah's brother, who still lives in Haran. You will recall that this is the place where Terah had first taken Abraham, Sarah and their nephew Lot after leaving Ur in the land of the Chaldees, as we see in Genesis 27:30-45. Just as Abraham did not want his son Isaac to marry a pagan woman of Canaan, so too, Isaac shared the same concerns with Jacob.
As I mentioned a moment ago, changing a family's religious beliefs is not an easy task. This is particularly revealed when we consider Jacob's feelings concerning the God of his father Isaac, as well as of his grandfather, Abraham. In spite of Isaac's concerns regarding his two sons, Jacob and Esau, we know from the Scriptures that Esau displeased his parents by marrying a woman of the Hittites. Considering all of this, as well as Jacob's nature for being somewhat of a "wheeler-dealer", it should come as no surprise to us that Jacob appears to have had doubts about the God of his father and of his grandfather. As we see by the following verses, even before he arrived at Laban's house, Jacob's belief in the God of gods was conditional. He needed to be convinced that this was the one true God whom he should worship:
"And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:"
Genesis 28:20-21, KJV
In other words, these verses appear to be telling us that in essence, Jacob set a test before the Lord. Jacob said that he would accept the God of Abraham and Isaac, if He would prove Himself, by bestowing His blessings upon Jacob. As we know from the Biblical narrative, the Lord did exactly that; and twenty years later, we find Jacob with two wives, quite a few children, huge numbers of flocks, and many servants. God had kept His part of the bargain, and now Jacob was willing to admit that his blessings were in fact due to the God which had been embraced by his father and grandfather. Not only that, but Jacob realized that God had protected him from Laban's evil intentions.
At this point in our story, we come upon yet another clue which reveals how difficult it must have been for Abraham's heirs to forsake the pagan gods of Babylonia.
In Genesis chapter thirty-one, we are told that Jacob makes haste, obeys the Lord, and departs from Laban's house in secret. However, what isn't known to Jacob at the time, is that his wife Rachel has stolen the images of the gods of her father Laban. The "images" which are mentioned in the following verses were pagan idols which were kept in a type of family shrine. When Laban finally catches up with Jacob and his caravan, notice what he says to Jacob:
"And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father's . . . And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou sore longedst after thy father's house, yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods?"
Genesis 31:19, 30, KJV
Why would Rachel intentionally steal her father Laban's false gods? Obviously, while Abraham had placed his faith in the new God who had directed him to travel to the land of Canaan, the rest of Abraham's family, which had stayed behind in the land of Padan-Aram, apparently remained faithful to the false gods which they had worshipped in Ur; and that included both Rachel and Leah, who were Jacob's wives-to-be. Please notice too that it is at a time of stress and danger, that we find Rachel placing her faith in the gods of her fathers. Why? I would venture to suggest that it was probably a matter of
Although Laban searched high and low in Jacob's property, he wasn't able to find the idols because Rachel had hidden them in a chest of sorts and sat upon it, pretending that she was having her menstrual cycle, as we see by these verses:
"With whomsoever thou findest thy gods, let him not live: before our brethren discern thou what is thine with me, and take it to thee. For Jacob knew not that Rachel had stolen them. And Laban went into Jacob's tent, and into Leah's tent, and into the two maidservants' tents; but he found them not. Then went he out of Leah's tent, and entered into Rachel's tent. Now Rachel had taken the images, and put them in the camel's furniture, and sat upon them. And Laban searched all the tent, but found them not. And she said to her father, Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise up before thee; for the custom of women is upon me. And he searched, but found not the images."
Genesis 31:32-35, KJV
Please go to part five for the continuation of this series.
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