A Key Hermeneutical Lesson from An Undeniably Evil Aspect of Idolatrous Worship

March 27, 2021 — Leave a comment

Scripture provides revelation about drink offerings in 60 verses, all in the Old Testament. Psalm 16:4 is unique among those verses because it attests to an undeniably evil aspect of idolatry that was never part of any worship that pleased God:

Psalm 16:4 Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god: their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips.

David here attests to his knowledge of idolaters who offered blood as drink offerings to their gods. This aspect of their worship was not just evil because it was offered to the wrong object of worship—it was also evil because God has never authorized the offering of any blood as a drink offering in any worship.

Theological Significance

A right theology of idolatrous worship recognizes that such false worship is not limited to worship directed to the wrong object of worship or to wrong motives or heart state; it can and does also extend to doing things in worship that are wrong regardless of the object to whom they are offered.

Application

When we interpret biblical accounts of idolatrous worship, we must take into account that Psalm 16:4 explicitly reveals the offering of blood as a drink offering in such worship. We are therefore never justified in automatically asserting that what was offered to the idol(s) in a given account was acceptable to God and the only problem in that idolatry was that it was offered to the wrong object.

For example, consider what took place in the Golden Calf Incident(GCI) when the Israelites first engaged in idolatrous worship as a nation:

Exodus 32:5 And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD. 6 And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.

We know from Scripture that God required drink offerings of wine to be offered daily with the burnt offerings that were offered to Him (Exod. 29:40; cf. Num. 15:5; 28:7, 9). He also required drink offerings of wine to be offered with the burnt offerings in the Feasts of the Lord (Lev. 23:12-13;18, 37).

We do not know whether drink offerings were offered as a part of the burnt offerings in the feast to the Lord in the GCI (Exod. 32:5-6). It would seem that the Spirit intends us to infer that they were, but we cannot be certain that they were.

If they did offer drink offerings with their burnt offerings, because they were worshiping an idol, we cannot just assume that they offered drink offerings of wine but just offered it to the idol instead. Based on Psalm 16:4, it may very well be that they offered blood as a drink offering on this occasion in some or all of their burnt offerings.

Conclusion

Psalm 16:4 teaches us that we must keep in mind that idolaters in Scripture offered drink offerings of blood to their idols. Our understanding of the evil character of their worship therefore should not ever automatically be in any given account that they were only worshiping the wrong object but everything else about their worship was acceptable to God.

Rajesh

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