Serious About God’s Words 2 – Detestable To God
Updated: Mar 20, 2020
Chan Gin Kai
After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, “The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighbouring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness.” (Ezra 9:1-2)
When Moses led the people out of Egypt into the desert, they had transformed from slaves into a new nation. Through Moses, God gave His people various laws that would help them function as a society, as a country, and as God's chosen people.
As the Israelites were entering the Promised Land, there was a serious danger that they might adopt the religious practices of the people who lived there, the Canaanites. So God specifically warned them against doing that.
When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord; because of these same detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy 18:9-13)
Mingling with the Canaanites, especially close relationships like intermarriage with them, was thus expressly forbidden. Sadly, throughout their history, that was exactly what the Israelites did under the leadership of various judges and kings. They imitated the Canaanites’ practices.
They also set up for themselves high places, sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. There were even male shrine prostitutes in the land; the people engaged in all the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. (1 Kings 14:23-24)
What was so attractive about the Canaanite’s practices that the Israelites kept falling into it? And why did the Bible repeatedly called it “detestable”?
The Israelites were predominantly shepherds. When they entered the lush and fertile land of the Canaanites (who were mainly farmers), they naturally adapted and started farming too. Like many ancient civilisations, the Canaanites practiced fertility rituals to their gods to seek blessings of abundant harvest. So it became tempting for the Israelites to do the same, thinking that they could likewise be blessed with fertility and prosperity if they worshipped Canaanite gods. Sigh, the things people would believe in their quest for prosperity and blessings.
The Canaanites believed that the creator god El and his wife, the fertility goddess Asherah, gave birth to many gods (about 70), including the powerful Baal. Over time, Baal became the dominant deity and the worship of El faded.
According to Canaanite mythology, Baal defeated the other deities including the god of the storms (also rain) and the god of death. Every year, according to the seasons and cycles, Baal was thought to have defeated death again, returning from the underworld to bring rain and rejuvenate the fertility of the land. Baal was worshipped through animal sacrifices. At time of crisis, worshippers would even sacrifice their firstborn child to gain personal prosperity. If this wasn’t detestable, what is?
Although Asherah was Baal’s mother, she was also his consort... talk about perverse. The Canaanites believed that they could influence the actions of the gods by performing the behaviour they wished their gods to do. Since they believed that the sexual union of Baal and Asherah produced fertility for their land, they engaged in sexual rituals to encourage their gods’ to get into the act, to ensure a good harvest. This public prostitution between the priests and priestesses with the community was of course, grossly detestable.
Blinded by their desire for blessings and prosperity, many willingly follow misguided teachings and get into immoral acts. This was true for the Israelites. Sadly, it is true for many in Christendom too. Many believers become overly engrossed by health and wealth, twisting the promises that God has made to us. They too believe they can influence God, thinking that if they give more in tithes, God will proportionately bless them more. Who are we to think we can manipulate God?
The problem is, we are often so consumed with what we want that we hardly think about what God wants. We are so infatuated with our own worldview that we seldom look at the world from God’s perspective. Is what’s detestable to God also detestable to us?
In our day and age, I’m sure none of us will find child sacrifice and ritual prostitution attractive. But do we consider what we have done that God may find detestable?
Let’s get serious about studying our Bible and reflect on our lives, so that we can learn to lead lives that are pleasing to God.
Read more about ‘Serious About God's Word’:
Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. He serves as a mentor to young professionals in the EDGE Ministry of the Central Christian Church. He describes himself as “just a sinner who wants to get right with God”.