After the death of Joshua "there arose another generation after them which knew not the Lord nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. And the Children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord.... And they forsook the Lord and served Baal and Ashtaroth" (Judges 2:10,11,13).
The most common false god mentioned in the Bible is Baal. Although not as widely mentioned, another very common deity was the goddess Ashtraoth. However, most people have never heard of these gods and even fewer still know anything about them. Therefore, it isn't surprising to learn that even fewer people care to know anything about them. The reason why is because people today think that such gods are ancient myths whom superstitious and uncivilized people worshipped out of their ignorance about the earth, the universe, and nature. But since we are a much more advanced and enlightened society, most people don't think that learning about ancient fables and fairytales has any relevance to our modern way of life.
While it is true that people back before the time of Jesus didn't have an accurate understanding of the forces of nature, the worship of Baal involved much more than just ignorantly praying to an inanimate idol in hopes of bringing rain to make crops grow. In an effort to appease their false gods the rituals they performed were based on giving expression to the baser instincts of human nature.
The Hebrew word "Baal" means "master, lord, owner, or keeper" When used in reference to the name of a god, it meant that Baal was their master who they were required to worship and obey. In this sense he owned them, they belonged to him, and they viewed themselves as his slaves. The name Beelzebub as found in the New Testament comes from the Hebrew word Ba'al Zebub, which means Lord of the High Place or Lord of heaven. (It has also been translated as Lord of the Flies.)
The key to understanding the worship of Baal is to realize that this is the satanic version of worshipping Jesus. For Christians, Jesus is the Lord of heaven whom we must worship and obey. Furthermore, the rituals that Baal required of his followers seeks to imitate the rituals of Christ while, at the same time, encouraging people to perform unholy acts that corrupt, defiles, and debases the teachings of Christ. Thus the worship of Baal was designed to have his followers behave in ways that were the very opposite of godliness.
To his believers, Baal was the god of nature and the god of fertility and, as such, it was he who brought forth rain, who created thunder, and whose breath brought forth the wind. It was Baal who controlled the sun which gives life to all things. It was Baal who was responsible for plants and crops to grow. And, since crops need to multiply by reproducing after their own kind in order to have an abundant harvest, Baal, as nature's god, was responsible for the ground being fertile.
This was the alleged reason why people worshipped Baal but the way they went about pleasing this god catered to human passions. Since the ground and crops needed to be fertile, it was taught that men and women had to come to the temple of Baal and perform a fertility ceremony which involved sexual activities with the priests and priestesses of Baal.
Closely associated with Baal was the goddess Ashtraoth who was the goddess of fertility. Among the Semite people, such as the Caananites, Philistines, and Phoenicians, she was also known by the name of Astarte, Astarat or Astoreth. Among the Egyptians she was known as Hathor, the Greeks called her Aphrodite, and the Romans named her Venus. According to mythology, she had a son whom the Greeks called Eros and whom the Romans called cupid, which comes from the Latin word "cupido" meaning "desire." In ancient Rome, one of the most magnificent buildings was the temple of Venus where it is said they employed over one thousand women who served as prostitutes to satisfy the requirement for worshipping this goddess of fertility.
What we see is that celebrating and giving into the desire for sexual pleasure, even to elevating it as part of the worship of god, has existed from at least the time of Abraham, all the way down through the Roman Empire and beyond. Also notice that, just like the Israelites, these two gods had a building known as a temple with altars that were used for sacred worship, yet the purpose of these rituals were the exact opposite of those which the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob required to be performed.
Even as the Israelites traveled through the wilderness under the leadership of Moses, they became associated with the Moabites and began to worship their gods. In the book of Numbers we read, "And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the women of Moab and they called the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people did eat and bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself to Baalpeor, and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel." (Numbers 25:1-3).
The worship of Baal not only encouraged sexual promiscuity but actually mandated it as part of the worship ceremony. Because the Israelites began worshipping this god of nature in the manner he prescribed, the Lord felt the necessity to command them, "thou shalt not commit adultery."
Yet, throughout their ancient history, the Israelites continued this form of worship to Baal. That is why, in the days of Moses, God accused Israel of having gone "a whoring after their gods and do sacrifice unto their gods" (Exodus 34:15). In the days of the Judges, we read that "as soon as Gideon was dead that the children of Israel turned again and went a whoring after Baalim and made Baal berith their god" (Judges 8:33).
In Hebrew, the word "berith" means "covenant." After the death of Gideon the Israelites made a covenant with the people of Shechem who worshipped Baal. The term Baal-berith as used by the Israelites was meant to signify that they would keep the covenant they had made with Shechem. In other words, that covenant would become their master. What was that covenant? The word "covenant" in Hebrew comes from the word "circumcision" which is the covenant God made with Abraham and the shape of the idol that the worshippers of Baal-berith carried with them to signify their allegiance to this covenant was related to circumcision, which today we would call a sexual symbol.
In the days of King Saul Israel "went a whoring after the gods of the people of the land whom God had destroyed before them" (1 Chronicles 5:25). In the days before Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians, Ezekiel wrote that his people had, "gone a whoring after the heathen… with their idols" (Ezekiel 23:30). The term "whore" is one that God used over and over again in speaking to Israel because it accurately described that nation's immoral behavior with the worship of Baal.
During the time of Jesus, sexual activity outside of marriage was a widespread practice among the Romans, primarily because of their worship of Venus. This created a serious problem for the early Christians as they converted people from the worship of pagan gods to Jesus Christ. We know this because the most talked about sin in the New Testament is fornication.
In the law that God gave to Moses, He condemned the sexual practice of bestiality stating, "Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto" (Leviticus 18:23). Under the Law of Moses, anyone engaging in such deviate sexual practices was to be put to death (see Leviticus 20:15,16). There would have been no reason for God to have issued such a commandment unless the Israelites were performing these kinds of acts.
But this wasn't the only ritual that was required by Baal. In the days of King David, one of the psalms he wrote concerning the wickedness of Israel says, "They joined themselves also unto Baal-peor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead" (Psalm 106:28). The Hebrew word "peor" comes from the stem word "p'r" meaning "opening. Thus, Baal-peor is interpreted as "Lord of the opening." The human body has two prominent "openings" -- the mouth and the rectum - and both were used in the worship of Baal-peor. This consisted of not only of using these openings for sexual purposes but also consisted of depositing one's bodily waste in front of the idol.
In the law of Moses there are numerous references to cleanliness. The Israelites were forbidden to eat meat that was "unclean." In the temple ceremony there was a laver that was filled with water which the priests used to keep themselves clean. Lepers and women who were menstruating were considered to be unclean and were kept apart from the rest of society. Yet despite these injunctions to cleanliness the worshippers of Baal-peor gloried in filth and uncleanliness and the more they worshipped this pagan god, the more filthy they sought to become.
As disgusting as this practice was, there was yet another aspect of worship that was more deplorable. As we just saw, not only did "they joined themselves also unto Baal-peor" but "they ate the sacrifices of the dead."
Under the law of Moses, an animal was to be brought before the priest in the temple where the throat of the animal was then slit with its blood spilling onto the ground to symbolize the Son of God who would be slain for the sins of the world and whose blood would also be spilled on the ground. Next, the priest would then burn the animal on an altar and afterwards they were allowed to eat the meat of the dead animal.
Under the worship of Baal, they too offered up an animal as a burnt sacrifice and then afterward "ate the sacrifices of the dead." However, the animal they offered up to be burned was not some beast of the field but their own children. In the days of the prophet Jeremiah, he lamented, "They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind" (Jeremiah 19:5). Isaiah also makes mention of this practice in his writings.
God required Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, as a test of faith but stopped him before he actually plunged the knife into the young boy. Later, God would sacrifice His only begotten Son. In a perverted parallel, the worshippers of Baal sacrificed their own sons by burning them on an altar and then eating their dead bodies.
Both Jews and Christians consider human life to be sacred and that's because they take seriously God's commandment, "Thou shalt not kill." However, the worshippers of Baal had no such restriction. Whether it was killing one's enemy, one's neighbors, or one's own children, the taking of someone's life meant little to them. The Romans took this concept to extreme as they held gladiatorial fights to the death as entertainment for the masses. When the Christians were labeled as undesirable, they were brought into the arena and tortured in a variety of ways, all for the express purpose of pleasing the crowd's appetite for watching more brutal and gorier scenes of human death.
In the Law of Moses there were also prohibitions against stealing and lying in all of its many forms. In today's modern civilization, we take it for granted that these restrictions on human behavior are normal but that was not the case in the days of Moses. Back then stealing was a normal way of life. The way one tribe grew in wealth was by raiding and plundering another tribe. Giving one's word as a means of deceiving someone was expected. The fact that God had to write these commandments in stone clearly indicates that such concepts were not something the Israelites were used to living by. If that was not the case then there would have been no reason for God to tell the Israelites not to lie and steal if they were already living by that standard of behavior.
Today we use the word "civilized" when referring to a society of people who are cultured, refined, and sophisticated in the way they behave toward one another yet what makes people civil is that they live by the values contained in the Ten Commandments. Any society that does not follow these values as part of their way of life are, by definition, not civilized. In that case they are people who are often crude, rude, undisciplined, vain, arrogant, hateful, and violent and this is an apt description of those who worshipped Baal. For example, in speaking about the Jews of his time, Isaiah used similar words, describing the Jewish women as being haughty and vain (Isaiah 3:16) while Jerusalem was a city of harlots, filled with thieves and murderers (Isaiah 1:21, 23).
But this uncivilized condition is being purposely created by Satan whose avowed goal is to destroy all that God creates. Where God creates peace and harmony, Satan seeks to promote war and discord. Where God creates love, Satan seeks to instill hate. Where God creates goodness and kindness, Satan seeks to inspire selfishness and greed, and where God creates beauty, Satan seeks to create something that is hideous and repulsive. And what better way to do this than to set up a religion in competition with the true Church of Christ that teaches people to do everything that is against what God stands for.
The way Stan does this is by appealing to man's human desires. Sexual activity is pleasurable, stealing is an easy way to get something for nothing, lying gets us out of immediate trouble, and revenge gives us a feeling of satisfaction. Because doing all of these things are very tempting, Satan offers a religion that makes us feel good when we do exactly what God doesn't want us to do.
The Church of Christ, on the other hand, teaches man to deny his baser instincts and requires him to learn how to control his natural desires. Since that takes continual effort, it's no wonder that Satan is able to be so successful in converting people to his religion. This appeal is so strong that even the Israelites were constantly seduced by its allure. Despite all that God had done for them, despite all they had witnessed in their own life and in the history of their nation, and despite the logic of following God's ways, the Israelites kept going back to Baal time and time again and worshipping him as their master.
Many people think that all this knowledge is merely interesting ancient history but has no relevance to us today. However, they couldn't be more wrong. Just like God never changes His ways, so too, Satan keeps using the same techniques that he has successfully employed in the past and it's by studying what he has done in the past that we can spot his "fingerprint" as we look at what is happening today.
When we say that Satan is setting up a religion in competition with the Church of Christ most people naturally think of the Church of Satan or Satan worship. There is such a religion and it is organized and operated much like a Christian church. It has members who join and attend worship services, It has priests who perform certain rituals, and they have icons and symbols that remind the faithful of Satan and their allegiance to him. Just as Christians pray to Jesus and seek His Spirit to guide and inspire them, so too, devil worshippers pray to Satan and seek his guidance and inspiration in following his ways. Just as Christians have certain sacred rites, so devil worshippers also have their own rites that they consider to be sacred.
But the worship of Baal is more than merely following a formal set of prescribed rules written down is some sacred book. Just as a Christian is someone who follows the ways of Christ and makes His teachings part of their daily life, so also, worshippers of Baal are more than card carrying members of some physical organization. Just as Christians are motivated and inspired by God's Holy Spirit, so also those who worship Baal are motive and inspired by Satan's unholy spirit. Thus, whenever we see people living according to the ways of Baal, we can know that they are worshippers of him and look to him as their master, regardless of what name they call him, their beliefs, or their organization.
Sex outside of marriage has always been part of every society. This is why prostitution has been called the world's oldest profession. But starting in the 1960s, there was in America, what has been called, a "sexual revolution" where young people began championing sexual freedom, meaning that they wanted to be allowed to have sex with whomever they wanted, whenever they wanted. Their chant was "free love" and "make love not war." Closely associated with this was the taking of illegal drugs such as marijuana and LSD.
Woodstock was a pivotal point in this movement and, in addition to all the sex and drugs that was part of this event, there was also filth. The amount of trash and excrement they left behind was disgusting. While there was no violence, there was anger at the establishment and vulgarity was the language of choice. However, since then, the level of hate and disregard for the rights of others has steadily increased. Riots are becoming more prevalent as an increasing number of people seek to take out their frustrations in violent ways.
Since Woodstock, the sexual revolution has rapidly grown in intensity as movies, magazines, songs, television, and even advertizing has become increasingly more explicit in its sexual content and has become more common place. Pornography has always been around since the invention of the camera but before the 1960s a person had to go to an adult movie house, usually located in some sleazy part of town, to view it, but today it is readily available through the internet where anyone of any age can see it any time they want in the privacy of their own home.
However, as the sexual revolution has spread, it has also become more perverted. Once it used to be about an intimate relationship between a man and a woman but then it became about the relationship between two people of the same gender. Soon the homosexual revolution began to gather momentum with both men and women demanding equal rights with heterosexuals. But, as this movement has grown, more and more of these individuals are now demanding that their lifestyle be accepted as the norm rather than that of traditional marriage. Yet, this issue isn't about having affection between two men or two women. Without sexual activity between them there would be no such thing as a homosexual relationship. So, in the end, what homosexuality is all about is having sex with no limits.
But the revolution hasn't stop there. Recently the military has removed the ban on bestiality. In addition to this there are many other kinds of perversions where sex is no longer a matter of love between two consenting adults. There is sexual bondage where extreme pain is part of the experience. Rape is another form of sexual exploitation, as is bestiality, and there is even sex associated with human waste.
In ancient times the worship of Baal required the burning of children as a sacrifice. While we do not burn children alive today, we do take their life before they are born. Abortion is not only on the rise but it is being promoted and encourage, even by the United States government. Those who are for life are made to appear as being old fashion and out of step with the modern times. Worse yet, they are increasingly coming under verbal and judicial assault. Thus, more and more mothers are willing to sacrifice their children on the altar of abortion.
While these people are not card-carrying members of the Church of Satan, they are nevertheless being motivated and inspired by the spirit of Satan. While they are not officially worshipping Baal, they are nonetheless performing the same rites of worship that ancient people practiced. Like the Greeks and the Romans who worshipped Baal but gave him a different name, so too the followers of Baal today worship him by the name of human secularism.
But there is a far more sinister and dangerous spirit at work. Since the worship of Baal is a religion, inspired by Satan, and his sole motivation is to destroy the work of God, as the spirit of Baal infects more and more people, and they become more subservient to his rule in their life, so too does the spirit of hate for Christian values increase. This is the reason why we see and hear more and more attacks on Judeo/Christian religions. This is the same reason why we don't see similar restrictions, harassment, or condemnation being made toward any other religion in America. It is only those who believe in the God of the Bible who are being singled out for this kind of antagonistic treatment.
Although other countries throughout history have seen this kind of assault on Christianity, it has never happened before in America. Just as Israel was God's chosen people, so too, America is God's chosen land and, just like the worship of Baal destroyed Israel, so too it will destroy America.
However, this shouldn't be surprising because we are not at war with a mortal person or a government or a lifestyle or even human nature but with the prince of darkness himself. As the apostle Paul put it, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12).
We are engaged in a spiritual war being fought between the forces of darkness and the forces of light. It is the classic struggle of good versus evil and it has been going on ever since Adam and Eve left the garden of Eden. The only way that goodness triumphs over evil is when enough people choose to faithfully and steadfastly follow the path that God has outlined rather than give into the seductive power of doing what feels good at the moment. And one way we can learn that lesson and remain valiant in our struggle against evil is by learning to recognized those practices that lead us to the worship of Baal.