FALSE GODS OF BIBLICAL TIMES
There is no question that to understand what "detestable practices" the Word refers to in Ezekiel 16, Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians, it is important to know what was involved in the worship of these false gods of Biblical times. Following is some information from Nelson's Bible Dictionary and the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament:
From Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 1986 and from the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament:
"The pagan civilizations of Bible times worshiped many gods. They had male and female deities, high and low gods, assemblies of gods, priests and priestesses, and temples and sacrifices. All the forces of nature that could not be controlled or understood were considered supernatural powers to be worshiped and feared. Most of the people of the ancient world worshiped more than one god. These gods were worshiped in the form of representative idols. This practice is called idolatry. The pagan nations made statues or images to represent the powers which they worshiped. Most of these idols were in the form of animals or men. Each civilization and culture had its own mythological structure, but these structures were often quite similar. The names of the gods may have been different, but their functions and actions were often the same. The most prominent myth to cross cultural lines was that of the fertility cycle. Many pagan cultures believed that the god of fertility died each year during the winter but was reborn each year in the spring.
"The ancient Babylonian and Assyrian goddess Ishtar symbolized Mother Earth in the natural cycles of fertility on earth. Many myths grew up around this female deity. She was the goddess of love, so the practice of ritual prostitution became widespread in the fertility cult dedicated to her name. Temples to Ishtar had many priests and priestesses, or sacred prostitutes, who symbolically acted out the fertility rites of the cycle of nature. Ishtar has been identified with the Phoenician Astarte, the Semitic Ashtoreth, the Egyptian Isis, the Greek Aphrodite, and the Roman Venus. Ishtar's male fertility counterpart was Tamuz who was closely associated with the Canaanite fertility god, Baal.
"Adremelech was a god worshiped by child sacrifice. Egyptians gods were figures of men with heads of animal or birds. The Canaanite god most often referred to is Baal who was thought to provide productive forces of nature. Baal was worshiped with much sensuality. As with the male shrine prostitutes. Baal and related deities are also portrayed as a mating bull, symbolizing fertility.
"Baal's mistress or lover was Anat. Anat is sometimes identified with the queen of heaven in mentioned in Jeremiah. Anat was the patroness of sex and passion. Lewd figurines of this nude goddess, and various objects with exaggerated sexual features have been discovered at various archaeological sites in Palestine."
I went to a museum in Costa Rica that displayed similar artifacts. These displays made the toys behind the counters of the local "bookstores" look like a picnic.
From Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary
"Molech was the national deity of the Ammonites whose worship was accompanied by the burning of children offered up in sacrifice by their own parents. Chemosh was the national god of the Moabites who was also worshiped with child sacrifices. Ashtoreth was the ancient goddess of the moon, sexuality, sensual love, and fertility and is often associated with the worship of Baal Zeus was the supreme god of the Greeks. According to Greek mythology he was the ruler of heaven and father of the other gods and mortal heroes. Diana also called Artemis was the goddess of the moon, hunting, wild animals, and virginity. Aphrodite was the goddess of sensual love. 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". In the city of Athens, idols of pagan gods stood on every street corner. The Athenians even erected an altar "to the unknown god". Acts 17:22,23."
In worshiping any god, you must sacrifice something that the god gives. To worship the god of fertility the people had temple prostitution and offered child sacrifices. To worship the sun or the river god, they would have festivals and rituals involving the sun or the river. Now, in light of this information let us look at Paul's writings in Romans and in Corinthians.