Hezekiah Stops the Worship of Other Gods (Week 29, Part 2/6) 2 Kings 17-25 | July 11- July 17 – powered by Happy Scribe
1 Kings Chapter 18 teaches us the importance of worshipping the one true god, and it also gives us unique insight into the ancient worship of other gods.
This chapter describes how Hezekiah enacted a reformation of sorts in Israel by directing all worship to Yahweh or Jehovah and eliminating the worship of other gods. In verse four, it details the specific things he abolished in his ritual cleansing.
He removed the high places and he smashed the stone pillars, and he cut down the poles of Ashraw worship and demolished the bronze serpent that Moses had made for up to these days.
The Israelites were offering incense to it and called it Nehushhtan. Each of these items represent the worship of different gods in Canaan and surrounding regions. They also represent different aspects of nature. By Hezekiah destroying each of these items, he demonstrated Yahweh’s superiority over all of the elements earth, plants, animals and manmade structures. When we talk about the beliefs of ancient Israel, we often talk about it in terms of monotheism.
Monotheism denotes the belief in one mono god, and it’s the opposite of polytheism, which constitutes a belief in many or polygods. Another term to describe ancient Israelites might be monolithry, which describes worshiping one god, even if you acknowledge the existence of others. Ancient Israel was only supposed to worship Jehovah or Yahweh, even if their world was filled with these seemingly powerful gods from the surrounding cultures. When hezekiah saw that Israel was turning to worship other gods, he took measures to focus worship on the one true god, Jehovah. He did this by destroying the symbols of worship of some of the prominent gods in the area.
He destroyed the high places, the stone pillars, the ashra poles, and the Nehushtan. The first item the verse mentions are high places. These were likely some kind of elevated Celtic shrine to a god. Since hezekiah sought to centralize worship at the Jerusalem Temple, unauthorized shrines, even if they were to Jehovah, were eliminated. These shrines were called high places because religious worship often took place on hills, mountains or high places.
Mountains could represent getting closer to a god in heaven, and it could represent that first primordial mound of land that emerged from the waters of chaos and creation. Hezekiah also smashed the stone pillars, which were likely some form of altar or cultic stand for offering incense or sacrifice. Like the high places, worshiping other gods at these sites was forbidden by Hezekiah. Hezekiah cut down the poles of Ashura, which were likely Celtic objects meant to venerate the Canaanite goddess Ashura. There’s evidence that this fertility goddess was worshiped in the land of Israel using tree imagery.
This goddess was often worshiped using either objects like poles that represented trees or among natural groves of trees. The inexpensive a curious object because this is the only place where it’s mentioned. The verse explains that this religious relic was the Brazen serpent that Moses fashioned in the wilderness to heal the Israelites of The Bites Of The Fiery Serpents. The Word Nehushtan Is Likely Related To The Hebrew Word For Brass, nakhoshet, which Is Also Related To The Word For Serpent, Nachos. What Was Originally A Symbol Of Healing And Salvation had Apparently Turned Into An Object Of Worship since The Israelites Were Burning Incense To It.
In Each Of These Items, Hezekiah Showed The Superiority Of The God Of Israel over The Gods Of The Canaanites. Jehovah Is Lowered Over The Mountaintops And The Earth, as Represented By Destroying The High Places. He Is Lord Over The Plants And Trees reflected In The Ashra Poles. He Supreme Over The Animals And The Serpents, as Represented By The Destruction Of The Nehushtan. And He’s Lord Over Stones, human By Man, reflected In The Destruction Of The Stone Pillars.
So Regardless Of What Other Gods May Have Existed or Have Been Worshiped In Ancient Israel, scripture Is Unanimous In The Importance Of Worshiping God The Father, the God Of The Whole Earth and Of All Creation. Elder Rasband Explained the Savior Taught His Disciples, always Pray Unto The Father In My Name. We Follow This Pattern and Direct Our Worship To Our Heavenly Father in The Name Of Jesus Christ. It Can Be Tempting To Turn To Any Belief System, ideal Or Deity into An Idol if We’re Not Careful. We Can Trust That If We Center Our Worship On The Lord, he Ultimately Will Triumph Over All Other Influences.
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