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Nehushtan, literally "bronze serpent-idol," was the contemptuous name given by King Hezekiah to the bronze serpent made by Moses in the wilderness (Numbers 21:8-9), when people began to worship it (2 Kings 18:4).

Numbers 21:8-9

8 And the Lord said to Moses, Make a fiery serpent [of bronze] and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.
9 And Moses made a serpent of bronze and put it on a pole, and if a serpent had bitten any man, when he looked to the serpent of bronze [attentively, expectantly, with a steady and absorbing gaze], he lived. AMP

2 Kings 18:4

4 He removed the pagan shrines, smashed the sacred pillars, and knocked down the Asherah poles. He broke up the bronze serpent that Moses had made, because the people of Israel had begun to worship it by burning incense to it. The bronze serpent was called Nehushtan. NLT

Gad (Isaiah 65:11; Fortune, RSV, NIV, NASB; Fate, NEB) was a heathen deity worshiped along with Meni (Isaiah 65:11; Destiny, RSV, NIV, NASB; Fortune, NEB). Scholars are uncertain about the exact identity of these pagan gods.

Isaiah 65:11

11 But you who forsake the Lord, who forget and ignore My holy Mount [Zion], who prepare a table for Gad [the Babylonian god of fortune] and who furnish mixed drinks for Meni [the god of destiny]

Isaiah 65:11

11 "But because the rest of you have forsaken the LORD and his Temple and worship the gods of Fate and Destiny, NLT

The Pagan Gods of Greece and Rome. Only a few of the ancient Greek and Roman gods are mentioned in the New Testament.

Zeus (Acts 14:12-13; 19:35; Jupiter, KJV) was the supreme god of the ancient Greeks. According to Greek mythology, Zeus was the ruler of heaven and father of other gods and mortal heroes. He was identified by the Romans as Jupiter.

Acts 14:12-13

12 They decided that Barnabas was the Greek god Zeus and that Paul, because he was the chief speaker, was Hermes.
13 The temple of Zeus was located on the outskirts of the city. The priest of the temple and the crowd brought oxen and wreaths of flowers, and they prepared to sacrifice to the apostles at the city gates. NLT

Acts 19:35

35 At last the mayor was able to quiet them down enough to speak. "Citizens of Ephesus," he said. "Everyone knows that Ephesus is the official guardian of the temple of the great Artemis, whose image fell down to us from heaven. NLT

Hermes (Acts 14:12; Mercurius, KJV; Mercury, NEB) was the Greek god of commerce, science, invention, and cunning. He also served as messenger and herald for the other gods. Hermes was identified by the Romans with Mercury, who was generally pictured with winged shoes and hat, carrying a winged staff. He was the protector of roads and boundaries and he guided departed souls to Hades.

Acts 14:12

12 They decided that Barnabas was the Greek god Zeus and that Paul, because he was the chief speaker, was Hermes. NLT

Acts 14:11-12

11 And the crowds, when they saw what Paul had done, lifted up their voices, shouting in the Lycaonian language, The gods have come down to us in human form!
12 They called Barnabas Zeus, and they called Paul, because he led in the discourse, Hermes [god of speech]. AMP

When the apostle Paul and Barnabas were in Lystra, the people of that city declared, "The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!" They called Barnabas Zeus and Paul Hermes, because he was the chief speaker (Acts 14:11-12).

Diana (Acts 19:24,27-28,34-35), in Roman mythology, was the goddess of the moon, hunting, wild animals, and virginity. Diana is the same as the Greek goddess Artemis (RSV, NIV, NASB), virgin goddess of the hunt and the moon. When Paul preached in Ephesus, the Ephesians were in an uproar because the gospel threatened to destroy the profit of the artisans who crafted silver shrines of Diana.

Acts 19:24

24 For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of [the goddess] Artemis[Diana], brought no small income to his craftsmen. AMP

Acts 19:27-28

27 Now there is danger not merely that this trade of ours may be discredited, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may come into disrepute and count for nothing, and that her glorious magnificence may be degraded and fall into contempt she whom all [the province of Asia] and the wide world worship.

28 As they listened to this, they were filled with rage and they continued to shout, Great is Artemis of the Ephesians! AMP

Acts 19:34-35

34 But as soon as they saw him and recognized that he was a Jew, a shout went up from them as the voice of one man, as for about two hours they cried, Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!

35 And when the town clerk had calmed the crowd down, he said, Men of Ephesus, what man is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of the sacred stone [image of her] that fell from the sky? AMP

The Twin Brothers (Acts 28:11; Castor and Pollux, KJV, NIV, NEB) is a translation of a Greek word which means "boys of Zeus." In Greek mythology, Castor and Pollux were the twin sons of Zeus. After Castor and Pollux died, they were transformed by Zeus into the constellation Gemini. They were regarded as the special protectors of distressed sailors. The Alexandrian ship in which Paul sailed from Malta to Puteoli had a carving of the Twin Brothers as its figurehead.

Acts 28:11

11 It was after three months' stay there that we set sail in a ship which had wintered in the island, an Alexandrian ship with the Twin Brothers [Castor and Pollux] as its figurehead. AMP

In both the Old Testament and the New Testament the people of God were surrounded by pagan gods. The apostle Paul declared to the philosophers of Athens, "I perceive that in all things you are very religious" (Acts 17:22). In the city of Athens, idols of pagan gods stood on every street corner. The Athenians, perhaps fearing that they had slighted some deity, had even erected an altar "to the unknown god" (Acts 17:23).

Acts 17:22-23

22 So Paul, standing in the center of the Areopagus [Mars Hill meeting place], said: Men of Athens, I perceive in every way [on every hand and with every turn I make] that you are most religious or very reverent to demons.
23 For as I passed along and carefully observed your objects of worship, I came also upon an altar with this inscription, To the unknown god. Now what you are already worshiping as unknown, this I set forth to you. AMP

"The One whom you worship without knowing," said Paul, "Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands" (Acts 17:23-24).

Only the sovereign Lord God has the power to rule the world; only the Lord Jesus Christ has the power to rise from the dead as the conqueror, establishing once and for all our everlasting life with Him.

Acts 17:23-24

23 For as I passed along and carefully observed your objects of worship, I came also upon an altar with this inscription, To the unknown god. Now what you are already worshiping as unknown, this I set forth to you.
24 The God Who produced and formed the world and all things in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in handmade shrines.

(from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

Psalms 16

Psalm 16 "No God but you!" David expressed his love for God and his people (16:1-3) and vowed not even to mention the names of the pagan gods (16:4). He expressed his appreciation for God's providence in his life (16:5-9) and his confidence that the blessings would continue (16:10-11). Both Peter and Paul saw 16:10 as a prophecy of Christ's resurrection (see Acts 2:27-28; 13:35).

Daniel 1:8-16

1:8-16 The Israelite Fabulous Four. When presented with the king's prescribed diet, Daniel and his friends asked to be excused from eating the rich Babylonian food. Their mentor begged them to reconsider, fearing that their health would suffer and he would be accused of negligence. Daniel proposed that he let them try a meager vegetarian diet for 10 days. They did so, and after the 10 days were healthier than the trainees who had followed the king's diet. Daniel had feared being defiled by the Babylonian food (1:8), which could have involved one or more of the following:

* It may have been offered to pagan gods .

* It may have been unclean according to Jewish dietary laws (see Leviticus 11).

* Eating at the king's table would have implied unconditional loyalty to him and his empire. Table fellowship was a serious matter in Bible times (see Matthew 9:9-13).

Daniel 5:1-4

5:1-4 Drunks drinking from the wrong cups. In 539 B.C., more than 20 years after Nebuchadnezzar's death, King Belshazzar gave a great feast, during which he and his guests mocked the God of Israel by drinking to their pagan gods using cups taken from Israel's Temple (see 1:2; 2 Chronicles 36:7). They would soon regret their mockery!

The fact that Babylon was invaded that very night (5:30-31) means it is quite possible that Belshazzar and his fellow party-goers were aware that the Persian army was at their gates; they may have assumed that their city, with its amazing walls, was immune to invasion.

Concerning the identity of Belshazzar, see The Nabonidus Chronicles, p. 894. Nebuchadnezzar was Belshazzar's "father" only in the broader sense of that word in Hebrew and Aramaic.

(Willmington's Bible Handbook Copyright 1997)

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