5:20. Following the sexual sins, Paul cited two religious sins. Idolatry involved the worship of pagan gods by bowing to idols, and because of its mention just after the listing of sexual sins it probably includes the male and female prostitution so often a part of heathen religion. Witchcraft is the translation of the Greek word pharmakeia from which the term "pharmacy" comes. In ancient times the worship of evil powers was accompanied by the use of drugs to create trances. This vice will also be prominent in the Tribulation period (cf. Revelation 9:21; 18:23).
Eight societal evils are then listed (the last one in Galatians 5:21). Hatred (echthrai) is in the plural form, denoting primarily a feeling of enmity between groups. Discord (eris) is the natural result of "hatred" and no doubt a problem in the Galatian church. Jealousy (zelos) refers not to the godly form but to the sinful and self-centered type. (These two words, eris and zelos, are also listed in Romans 13:13.) Fits of rage (thymoi) or outbursts of temper, often come as a final eruption of smoldering jealousy. Selfish ambition (eritheiai) is a self-aggrandizing attitude which shows itself in working to get ahead at other's expense (cf. Philippians 2:3). Dissensions (dichostasiai) and factions (haireseis) describe what happens when people quarrel over issues or personalities, causing hurtful divisions.
1:8. Nebuchadnezzar had made abundant provision for the captives. Theirs was a life of luxury, not deprivation, for they were given a portion of food and wine daily from the king's own table. However, this food did not conform to the requirements of the Mosaic Law. The fact that it was prepared by Gentiles rendered it unclean. Also no doubt many things forbidden by the Law were served on the king's table, so to partake of such food would defile the Jewish youths. Further, without doubt this royal food had been sacrificed and offered to pagan gods before it was offered to the king. To partake of such food would be contrary to Exodus 34:15, where the Jews were forbidden to eat flesh sacrificed to pagan gods .
2 Kings 17:29-33
17:29-33. Each national group of Assyrian immigrants set... up... shrines for the worship of their own pagan gods wherever they settled, using the high places the Israelites had frequented. The national groups (cf. v. 24) and their idols are listed (vv. 30-31) along with some of their pagan practices. Nergal was the Babylonian god of the underworld; the exact identity of the other gods is uncertain. As polytheists the foreigners did not hesitate to add Yahweh to their pantheon of gods. They had no priestly caste but appointed all sorts of their own people to serve as priests. For emphasis the writer wrote twice that these people worshiped the LORD and also... their gods. This syncretism was forbidden by the Lord (Exodus 20:3).
Second Kings 17:24-33 shows how the Samaritan people came into being. The Samaritans, racially a mixture of Israelites and various other ancient Near Eastern peoples, were despised by full-blooded Jews (cf. John 4:9). Possibly, however, the Samaritans were the pure descendants of the Israelites who remained in the land.
The defection of Israel (10:6)
10:6. Noteworthy is the numerical correspondence between the seven groups of pagan gods (v. 6) and the seven nations which oppressed Israel (v. 11). The Baals and the Ashtoreths, as noted earlier, were the gods of the Canaanites (cf. 2:13). The gods of Aram included Hadad or Rimmon (2 Kings 5:18), while the gods of Sidon were the Phoenician Baal and Asherah (cf. 1 Kings 16:31-33; 18:19). Moab's chief god was Chemosh (cf. 1 Kings 11:5,33; 2 Kings 23:13), Ammon's was Milcom or Molech (1 Kings 11:33; Zephaniah 1:5), and the Philistines' was Dagon (Judges 16:23). Amazingly the Israelites worshiped these gods of surrounding nations and at the same time forsook the LORD and no longer served Him.
5:6-7. Verse 6 is crucial for understanding not only the first commandment but also the other nine. The Ten Commandments were given to a people already redeemed (brought out... of Egypt), to enable them to express their love for and have fellowship with the holy God. (In Deut., Egypt is frequently called the land of slavery: v. 6,12; 7:8; 8:14; 13:5,10; cf. Exodus 13:3,14; 20:2.) The Decalogue was never given to enable them to achieve justification, for that has always been granted freely through faith (cf. Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:1). The Law was never designed to give people salvation.
Also since the LORD had taken the initiative in Israel's redemption the people were obligated to acknowledge His right of sovereignty over them and to bow to that sovereignty. The first commandment, to have no other gods before Me, called for a submission of every area of one's life to the rule of God. The phrase "other gods" is a technical term for pagan gods which of course existed in the form of idols and in the minds of their worshipers, but were not real.
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