- Christogenea Internet Radio
On the Wisdom of Solomon, Part 21: The Adulation of Men
Ostensibly, the first sin in the Garden of Eden was caused by the admiration of a man. As we read in chapter 2 of the Wisdom of Solomon: “24 Nevertheless through envy of the devil came death into the world: and they that do hold of his side do find it.” Today, most supposed Christians continue to adore or worship men, many of whom are devils, through professional sports, entertainment and other media. They may imagine that they are only being entertained, but they are actually also engaged in adoring and idolizing their entertainers. Then they adapt themselves to the moral, religious and political values of those same entertainers, because they want to be like them. But the result is that they are no better off than the sinners who had submitted themselves to the ancient priests of Baal, and according to Tertullian and other ancient authorities, the people had even worshipped the genitals of the priests. That may be graphic, but that is the truth of antiquity, and it is an underlying truth in the allure of Hollywood.
In a different manner, adherents to Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy have also always worshipped men, by bowing themselves before icons and making prayers to presumed saints. But in reality, if you can worship dead men, what is it to worship men who are living? The churches call it veneration rather than worship, and they call the dead saints intercessors rather than gods. But it is all the same, that to bow or kneel before a dead effigy and beg some favor is to worship something dead, something that cannot even help itself. That is the core of what Solomon describes here as the beginning of idolatry.
Solomon had described a man who set up an image for display and “provided for it that it might not fall, knowing that it was unable to help itself; for it is an image, and hath need of help”. Then we read in the closing verses of Wisdom chapter 13 “18 For health he calleth upon that which is weak: for life prayeth to that which is dead; for aid humbly beseecheth that which hath least means to help: and for a good journey he asketh of that which cannot set a foot forward: 19 And for gaining and getting, and for good success of his hands, asketh ability to do of him, that is most unable to do any thing.” Men, living or dead, also have need of help, and only God can help them. Even if Yahweh God chooses to do so through man, He is the author of all assistance. So in Hebrews chapter 4 Paul of Tarsus beckoned his kinsmen: “14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
A tract on one prominent Roman Catholic website goes to great lengths to justify the superstitious act of praying to dead “saints” and cites a reference to the prayers of the saints in Revelation chapter 5. That citation is based upon another presumption, as the Catholics imagine that the saints mentioned there in that passage are dead and in heaven, and that is certainly not the case. Paul of Tarsus used the word saints consistently throughout his epistles to describe Christians who were living in his own time, common Christians whom he often addressed as saints in his epistles. In 1 Corinthians chapter 6 we see that those saints were men who had problems just as we do, and could not even sort out their own matters. So Paul chastised them by asking “2 Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you [the common Christians of Corinth], are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?” In Ephesians 6:18 Paul advised Christians to pray for the saints, but not to them, and by saints he was once again referring to Christians in general, to those men who had sanctified themselves in Christ by separating themselves from the sins of the world. Then in Revelation chapter 8 we read “4 And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand”, where it is evident that those prayers emanate from living saints, not from the dead saints who are already with God.
Neither should men worship angels. Paul condemned the worshipping of angels in Colossians chapter 2. Later, in Revelation chapter 22, John described himself as having worshipped an angel: “8 And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. 9 Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.” So John fell before an angel, which was considered an act of worship, and the angel told him to get up and worship God.
The word translated as worship in that passage of the Revelation is προσκυνέω, which Liddell & Scott primarily define as to make obeisance to the gods or their images, fall down and worship… especially of the Oriental fashion of prostrating oneself before kings and superiors...” The verb κυνέω means to kiss, but the ultimate root of the word is κύων, which is a dog. So the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says that the word comes from the preposition προς and a “probable derivative” of κύων “meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master's hand”. There is another word for kiss in the New Testament, φίλημα, which describes a brotherly act and does not have the same connotation. To kneel before some object, or some man, and acknowledge it as superior, or to make supplications before it, is an act of worship and if one wants to deny that he is only deceiving himself, and in reality he is doing no better than a dog.
There is only one mediator between God and man, and that is the man, Yahshua Christ, who is also Yahweh God incarnate. The same article, titled Praying to the Saints which is found on that Roman Catholic website, justified prayers to dead saints in spite of Paul’s words where it says “But that role as mediator is not compromised in the least by the fact that others intercede for us. Furthermore, Christ is a unique mediator between God and man because he is the mediator of the New Covenant (Heb. 9:15, 12:24), just as Moses was the mediator (Greek mesitas) of the Old Covenant (Gal. 3:19–20).” But this is dishonest in several ways. First, if other men pray for us, that does not necessarily have anything to do with us, so of course it cannot interfere between us and Christ. Second, Paul did not say that the role of Christ as mediator was limited to the Covenant itself, and the Church is therefore adding their own vain ideas to Paul’s words.
In fact, in 1 Timothy chapter 2 Paul wrote “3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” The apostle John further clarified the role of Christ as mediator, where in agreement with Paul he wrote in chapter 2 of his first epistle “1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2 And he is the propitiation for our sins…” There is no other mediator, and there is no other advocate, and therefore whether we pray for ourselves or for one another we pray to Christ, but we should never pray to one another as that is idolatry. It is a concept which is found nowhere in Scripture, that we should pray to men or to the dead, as if the dead could possibility save the living. That is the adulation of men.
As long as we believe that men can save us, we will forever be oppressed by men, and that is a punishment from God. The sin of the ancient children of Israel which ensured that they would suffer for so long under the rule of tyrants was to reject Yahweh their God as King and to demand an earthly king, as it is described in 1 Samuel chapter 8. But only Christ can save us, as only He has overcome the power of death, so why should we ever pray to men? Then in Revelation chapter 13 Yahshua Christ had described Himself as the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” So evidently, having foreseen that the sons of Adam would take to worshipping men, and that they would want to be ruled over by men, Yahweh gave men a man to worship, which is Yahweh God Himself in the form of a man, Yahshua Christ, and ultimately He alone shall be their King.
On another note, there are fools who would claim that Christ being a man did not want to be worshipped. [Some of those fools were friends of ours until recently, when they became Roman Catholic heretics.] They cite passages such as those found in Matthew where Christ had said “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” But the revelation that Christ is God did not come to men until after the Resurrection, and that revelation was made manifest by the very fact of the Resurrection. So we read later on, in the closing passage of Matthew, where it is speaking of the disciples of Christ: “17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.” Even doubting Thomas proclaimed for Christ to be His Lord and His God once he realized that Christ was resurrected. Others still doubt, so they imagine for God to be as divided as they are, even into three separate persons, which is also idolatry.
For the past several chapters of the Wisdom of Solomon the subject has been idolatry, and while discussing it we have also tried to describe the different sorts of idolatry prevalent among men today. But here Solomon is speaking of the crudest form of idolatry, which is the temptation for man to worship the works of his own hands, therefore making a god in his own image. So as he had described it, such idolatry begins with the carving of a simple piece of otherwise useless wood in one’s spare time, followed by the adoration of the work whereby it is set up as an idol. So where he made an example by describing a man who had done those things, near the end of chapter 13 Solomon wrote that once he had done so, the man “17 Then maketh he prayer for his goods, for his wife and children, and is not ashamed to speak to that which hath no life”, whereupon he begins to request of his idol health, prosperity and success from “him, that is most unable to do any thing.”
Now, commencing in Wisdom chapter 14, Solomon continues to make examples of men and their relationships with their idols, but this time he uses a different man, one who had purchased such an idol:
Wisdom 14:1 Again, one preparing himself to sail, and about to pass through the raging waves, calleth upon a piece of wood more rotten than the vessel that carrieth him. 2 For verily desire of gain devised that, and the workman built it by his skill.
Here the word for workman is τεχνῖτις, which is properly a workwoman since it is actually a feminine form of τεχνίτης, which is the word for craftsman that we may have expected to see in this context. So the last clause of verse 2 would more properly be read “...and the workwoman built it by her skill.” Referring to the workings of Wisdom personified as a woman, τεχνῖτις does appear on two earlier occasions in Wisdom, in chapters 7 and 8.
So a man would purchase an idol fashioned by a craftsman, or perhaps by a craftswoman, which is really nothing but a dead piece of wood, and he prays to it for safety as he plies the waves in a somewhat more useful piece of wood, which is the boat which carries him. While we already mentioned this in relation to Solomon’s earlier warnings against idolatry, in Wisdom chapter 13, here Solomon himself describes a phenomenon which explicitly evokes the account of the experience of Paul of Tarsus in Ephesus, as it is recorded in Acts chapter 19, where Demetrius the silversmith tried to incite a persecution of the followers of Christ out of fear that he would lose his livelihood as a maker of idols if the new creed continued to win converts. So idols are crafted and sold for the benefit of the craftsman or the merchant, and not for the efficacy of the god or demon which the idol represents, but once they are purchased they are worshipped by men.
If you sell statues and icons of supposedly dead saints you are going to find ways to claim their legitimacy and promote their efficacy. If you purchase the same, you are going to find ways to believe in their legitimacy and efficacy. No man wants to be convicted of his own stupidity.
From its inception in the 4th century after Christ, the Roman Catholic Church has been a maker or promoter of idols, however they are manifold in nature. For example, we may read in the pages of Bede, an 8th century Roman Catholic writer in England, how the Romish popes would send relics which were supposedly from the bodies of dead saints to British churches which had submitted to the authority of the pope, as a sort of reward for their obedience to him. So, at least in part, the popes increased their power through the allure of idolatry, and the churches then had relics which it could use to beguile the curious. There is no telling whether Rome ever exhausted its supply of what it claimed were the bones of the apostles and martyrs.
But while the Church encourages the veneration of statues and other objects, it has also created idols out of its priests, popes and whatever dead men or women which it determines for itself to be saints. The Church has even made idols of Yahweh God Himself in its so-called Trinity doctrine, claiming that various aspects of God are different persons, when in fact they are only manifestations of one person, or entity. It is not even fitting to consider God to be a person, as that alone makes the invisible God into the likeness of man, the same thing for which Paul had criticized the Romans. Rather than person in Hebrews chapter 1 where the King James Version reads speaking of Christ “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high”, Paul had used a word that means substance, and Christ is the image of the substance of God, He is not the image of His Own substance. That word for image is actually character, χαρακτήρ, and not a mere reflection. Yahshua Christ the man is the character of the substance of Yahweh God, and Yahweh God has no other character, so if we are fortunate enough to see Christ, we shall be seeing the Father.
As he continues, Solomon professes that only God can keep a man safe in such situations as he describes:
3 But thy providence, O Father, governeth it: for thou hast made a way in the sea, and a safe path in the waves;
The word for providence is πρόνοια, which is literally foreknowledge. Often in certain contexts in English the term is used as a secular synonym for God. The Latin term providentia is foresight or foreknowledge from the verb providere meaning to foresee.
Here Solomon used the term father as a title addressing God Himself, so we may perceive that such use is not novel in the New Testament, and it is also a concept which even Moses understood. While Yahweh God had informed the children of Israel that “Ye are the children of Yahweh your God”, as we read in Deuteronomy chapter 14, in the Song of Moses recorded later in that same book, in chapter 32, we read: “3 Because I will publish the name of Yahweh: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. 4 He is the Rock [the same Rock which Paul later identified as Christ], his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he. 5 They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation. 6 Do ye thus requite Yahweh, O foolish people and unwise? is not he thy father [Yahweh is God the Father] that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee? 7 Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father [one’s earthly father], and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee. 8 When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. 9 For Yahweh's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.” So as early as Deuteronomy chapter 14 Yahweh is considered to be the Father of His people Israel.
That same former friend who has departed from us to chase Roman Catholic trinity idols had also made the plain statement that “Trinitarians do not consider Yahweh and Father interchangeable terms”, and of course they cannot, because they attempt to divide God into three persons, so therefore if the Father is Yahweh then Yahweh cannot be all three persons, and Yahweh cannot be God, but only one of the persons of God can be the Father. Claiming that Yahweh is not the Father allows them to imagine that Yahweh is God, and the Father and Son are different so-called persons of God. The manure gets deeper as they proceed from there. But even this leaves them in a quandary. We have seen Moses explain that Yahweh is the Father in Deuteronomy chapter 32, and later in Scripture we read in Isaiah chapter 64: “8 But now, O Yahweh, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.” The truth is that Yahweh God is not three persons, but One, and anything else is idolatry.
Now Solomon continues to address God as the Father, as we have already explained that from Wisdom chapter 9 this entire discourse is a prayer to God:
4 Shewing that thou canst save from all danger: yea, though a man went to sea without art.
The translation of these first four verses is good, but verse 4 we would render more literally:
Showing that You are able [δεικνὺς ὅτι δύνασαι] to save from all things [ἐκ παντὸς σῴζειν] even when a man may tread without art [ἵνα κἂν ἄνευ τέχνης τις ἐπιβῇ].
So in spite of whether a man travels with or without his idols, if he completes his journey, it is God who preserved him, and certainly not his idols. In that manner Solomon completes the profession and says:
5 Nevertheless thou wouldest not that the works of thy wisdom should be idle, and therefore do men commit their lives to a small piece of wood, and passing the rough sea in a weak vessel are saved.
While this translation is fine I will still offer my own. Perhaps the King James translators rendered σχεδία as a weak vessel only because the word often referred to a crudely-made vessel such as a raft or float, but was generally used to describe a boat, or even a larger vessel, according to Lidell & Scott.
But You desire not that the works of Your wisdom be idle [θέλεις δὲ μὴ ἀργὰ εἶναι τὰ τῆς σοφίας σου ἔργα]. Therefore [διὰ τοῦτο] even in the smallest piece of wood [καὶ ἐλαχίστῳ ξύλῳ] men entrust their lives [πιστεύουσιν ἄνθρωποι ψυχὰς] and passing through the waves [καὶ διελθόντες κλύδωνα] they are brought safely in a boat [σχεδίᾳ διεσώθησαν].
Yahweh God, the Father whom Solomon is addressing, is herein portrayed as having concern to preserve men even if the men themselves had turned to idols, that His Own wisdom not be rendered idle. However the “smallest piece of wood” is not necessarily a reference to an idol, but rather to the vessel in which the men had entrusted their lives. These men so doing, it is God who sees to it when their journey is successful. Now Solomon makes another reference to a “weak vessel”using the same word, σχεδία, however the Scriptures reveal that the ark of Noah was much more than a small raft or float, so evidently the word is used allegorically:
6 For in the old time also, when the proud giants perished, the hope of the world governed by thy hand escaped in a weak vessel [σχεδία], and left to all ages a seed of generation.
So Solomon makes an allegory comparing the preservation of men in more recent and more common voyages to the preservation of man in the ark of Noah. But where it says “when the proud giants perished”, perhaps a two-fold discussion is in order.
First, the Greek word Γίγαντες translated as giants here does not necessarily imply that the Hebrew word Nephilim of Genesis chapter 6 strictly means giants. The Γίγαντες of Greek mythology were not necessarily giants as we use the term giant, to refer to someone or something of extraordinary size. Rather, the word seems to be derived from the words γῆ, for earth, and γενεά, for born, and therefore γίγας, or the plural γίγαντες means earth-born ones. In Greek mythology, originally the Γίγαντες, or giants here, are the earth-born generation of Titans who were imagined to be the mythological children of Heaven and Earth, or Uranus and Gaia. Therefore they correspond precisely to the so-called giants who were born of women in Genesis chapter 6, the children of the Nephilim, or fallen ones, and the daughters of Adam. So a translator of Wisdom would have naturally used such a term. But secondly, it is obvious that not all of the Nephilim themselves had died in the flood, although ostensibly whatever children of the daughters of Adam who were still with their mothers would have died in that manner. Many of the Nephilim, or later they were called Zuzims, Emim, Anakim and Rephaim, had clearly survived the flood.
Now Solomon speaks concerning the ark itself, the vessel which had preserved Noah:
7 For blessed is the wood whereby righteousness cometh.
Notice that in verse 6 Solomon had described Noah and his family as “the hope of the world” which governed by the hand of the Father had “escaped in a weak vessel”, referring to the ark. If Noah and his seed were the “hope of the world” then we must acknowledge the fact that the Nephilim and their offspring, and the descendants Cain, and any other race outside of the sons of Noah which are later counted as the enemies of Israel are certainly not part of the “world” of the Scriptures.
Blessed is the wood through which comes righteousness: Evidently, it took Noah and his sons a hundred and twenty years to build the ark, as we interpret Genesis 6:3 where we read “3 And Yahweh said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.” So even though it was only wood, it took Noah a hundred and twenty years to build it, and the result of the construction was only what is referred to as a σχεδία or “weak vessel”, it was nevertheless a blessing.
With this we may recall in Wisdom chapter 13, where a man had taken a tree and made useful vessels from it. But then, in his idle time, he took a piece of useless refuse from the same tree and carved an idol which he began to worship, so now Solomon also recalls that same thing:
8 But that which is made with hands is cursed, as well it [the wooden idol], as he that made it: he, because he made it; and it, because, being corruptible, it was called god [or a god].
The useless piece of wood, left over from the useful portion which was used to make something good, may have been put to a better use if it were not made into an idol. But because the useless wood was made into an idol, even though the wood itself had no choice in the matter, it was cursed as well as its maker. So for that Solomon says:
9 For the ungodly and his ungodliness are both alike hateful unto God. 10 For that which is made shall be punished together with him that made it.
This is also why Yahweh God will never accept a bastard, as a bastard is the result of the sin of an ungodly man.
Even though Yahweh in his mercy would not have His wisdom remain idle, as Solomon had explained in verse 5, and therefore He may preserve even those men who in their endeavors had turned to idols, it is inevitable that in one way or another they will ultimately suffer punishment for their idolatry, and the idols themselves shall be destroyed. If the idol is to be burned in the fire, its maker may well suffer that same fate, even if by fire he would only suffer in the torments of this world. Now in that same manner Wisdom continues:
11 Therefore even upon the idols of the Gentiles [nations, or perhaps in this context, heathens] shall there be a visitation: because in the creature [or creation] of God they are become an abomination, and stumblingblocks to the souls of men, and a snare to the feet of the unwise.
Of course the Greek word for gentiles here is a plural form of ἔθνος or nation, and perhaps, but not necessarily speaking of the non-Israelite nations it may have been translated as heathens, whether they were Adamic or not. That is because, ostensibly, none of the other nations, Adamic or otherwise, were given the laws or the knowledge of Yahweh God, so they were uncultured in that sense even regardless of the apparent level of civilization to which they had attained. As we read in 1 Chronicles chapter 16: “26 For all the gods of the people are idols: but the LORD made the heavens.” Throughout the narrative of the Old Testament, the idols adopted by the children of Israel usually came from among the other nations, whether they were the golden calves of Egypt or the phallic symbols of the Baal temples of Mesopotamia and Canaan. But Abraham’s own ancestors, who were Hebrews, were also idolaters, as we read in Joshua chapter 24 that “Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.” By flood in that passage, the Euphrates River was meant, and Padanaram was on the other side of the Euphrates from the land of Canaan.
So we see that idolatry was very old, and must have befallen the sons of Noah not long after the flood of Noah. So Paul told the Athenians, as it is recorded in Acts chapter 17 where he is alluding to Deuteronomy 32:8 in that very same portion of the Song of Moses wherein Yahweh God is first identified as Father: “24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; 25 Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; 26 And hath made of one
blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; 27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us.” So instead, all Adamic men except Abraham had gone off after idols, and the call of Abraham took him and his descendants out of that world of idolatry, at least as long as they themselves chose to follow Yahweh.
Now speaking of when those idols were first devised, Solomon says:
12 For the devising of idols was the beginning of spiritual fornication, and the invention of them the corruption of life.
But this is a lie, as the translators have introduced a grievous lie into the text. There is no word for spiritual in the text, and it should be clear that mere “spiritual fornication”, which is an artificial religious construct of the same modern churches which promote the worship of idols, does not change the nature of the Creation of God. To change the nature of the creation in a manner which corrupts it, a greater sin must be perpetrated. The verse should be translated:
For the beginning of fornication [ἀρχὴ γὰρ πορνείας] is the invention of idols [ἐπίνοια εἰδώλων], and the discovery of them [εὕρεσις δὲ αὐτῶν] is the corruption of life [φθορὰ ζωῆς].
So for those who find the idols devised by men, the end result is fornication and the corruption of life. Even if the adulation of men is not direct, it is still the adulation of the works of men, and when men believe that they can make gods in their own image, then in essence the man himself is pretending to be a god and such humanism always leads to corruption. As we had explained in Part 19 of this commentary, which was titled Patterns of Idolatry, all of the ancient pagan religions, and especially Baal worship, were centered around fornication in the form of fertility rituals, which were marriages at the altar, the worship of genitals, temple prostitution of both boys and girls, and other depraved practices. Marriages at the altar originated in pagan temples, and in that context marriage is the act of sexual intercourse, not an exchange of Christian marriage vows. We had spoken about the phallic worship and sexual degeneracy of Baal worship, Bacchus, Aphrodite and other pagan religious cults contemporary to the time of Solomon and the Old Testament Kingdom of Israel.
So what the churches claim was only “spiritual fornication” in the Old Testament was actually literal fornication, which included race-mixing, and in Hosea chapter 5 we see the result, where the Word of Yahweh had spoken in reference to the northern kingdom of Israel and said “7 They have dealt treacherously against Yahweh: for they have begotten strange children: now shall a month devour them with their portions.” So in that manner is fornication the corruption of life, as Esau, being impious, was called a fornicator by Paul of Tarsus in Hebrews chapter 12, since he had taken his wives from among the women of the Canaanites.
Now, since Yahweh did not create either idols or idolatry, Solomon says:
13 For neither were they from the beginning, neither shall they be for ever. 14 For by the vain glory of men they entered into the world, and therefore shall they come shortly to an end.
The last clause, where a verb is poorly translated, would be better rendered “… and for this reason the abrupt end of them is planned.” The word translated as vain glory, κενοδοξία, according to Liddell & Scott means liability to vain imagination, and then more simply vanity or conceit. The same word appears in Philippians 2:3 where in the King James Version Paul wrote “3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” As Solomon himself had explained in Ecclesiastes, without God all of the works of men are vanity.
Now Wisdom describes yet another reason why a man may fashion an idol:
15 For a father afflicted with untimely mourning, when he hath made an image of his child soon taken away, now honoured him as a god, which was then a dead man, and delivered to those that were under him ceremonies and sacrifices.
This sort of idol is hard to locate in Scripture or history, where it is easier to find dead ancestors who are worshipped, or child-gods who grew to adulthood. But Solomon is clearly attributing the origin of at least some idols to bereaved fathers who would lament a lost son. While we have seen parallels to this phenomenon in the modern world, no doubt it also existed in antiquity. The phrase translated as “ceremonies and sacrifices” is in Greek μυστήρια καὶ τελετάς and it literally means “mysteries and rites”. The Greek religious cults kept many of its mysteries secret, and violators of those secrets were punished. For that reason, it is difficult, or impossible, to find how they began or what they believed.
As an example of that assertion, I will cite a passage from the ancient Greek historian Herodotus,where he was giving some background information while describing a feud between the Eginetans and the Athenians, and he wrote in Book 5 of his Histories that: “Anciently, and even down to the time when this took place, the Eginetans were in all things subject to the Epidaurians and had to cross over to Epidaurus for the trial of all suits in which they were engaged one with another. After this, however, the Eginetans built themselves ships, and, growing proud, revolted from the Epidaurians. Having thus come to be at enmity with them, the Eginetans, who were masters of the sea, ravaged Epidaurus, and even carried off these very images of Damia and Auxesia, which they set up in their own country, in the interior, at a place called Oea, about twenty furlongs from their city. This done, they fixed a worship for the images, which consisted in part of sacrifices, in part of female satiric choruses [satyr’s choruses]; while at the same time they appointed certain men to furnish the choruses, ten for each goddess. These choruses did not abuse men [sodomy], but only the women of the country [rape]. Holy orgies of a similar kind were in use also among the Epidaurians, and likewise another sort of holy orgies, whereof it is not lawful to speak.” (Herodotus, The Histories. 5.83, translated by George Rawlinson. Published by Everyman’s Library, 1910 and reprinted by Alfred A. Knopf, 1997.) [I added some comments in brackets. This was a passage of which I have known and had in my notes for quite some time, ever since I first read Herodotus in 1999, but for some reason this is the first time I have cited it in my writing. - WRF]
Epidaurus was a city on the Argolid peninsula in the Peloponnese, while Aegina, or Egina in our edition of Rawlinson’s Herodotus, was on an island off the northern coast of the peninsula. Damia and Auxesia were evidently goddesses of Spring and Growth. Here once again we see not only the literal fornication to which idolatry and the adulation of men inevitably lead, but we also see that certain rites were kept secret, and it is difficult to penetrate the true nature and origin of many sects of ancient paganism. But as Paul of Tarsus had warned in chapter 5 of his epistle to the Ephesians, “11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. 12 For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.”
Now Solomon describes how the adulation of men was perpetuated:
16 Thus in process of time an ungodly custom grown strong was kept as a law, and graven images were worshipped by the commandments of kings.
There is no doubt that the kings of antiquity upheld the worship of idols, such as we see in Babylon where even Daniel the prophet had suffered at the hands of the king for refusing to worship the idols of Babylon. Even earlier, when the kingdom of Israel had divided, Jereoboam I demanded that the people of the ten northern tribes depart from the worship of Yahweh in Jerusalem and worship the golden calves of Dan and Bethel, which he had set up along with an associated priesthood. To ensure control over a people, tyrants must also maintain control of their religion. This is also the adulation of men, as government becomes the god of the people, determining its religion for them.
Often, kings themselves were worshipped, as the Egyptian pharaohs were considered to be both intercessors between the gods and men, and gods on earth. Like the Egyptians, Julius Caesar and later Roman emperors took for themselves the title of Pontifex Maximus, as they esteemed for themselves to be the bridge-builder between the gods and men. From the time of Octavian, or Augutus Caesar, the Roman emperors fancied themselves as the Son of God because the Roman Senate imagined that their dead fathers had become gods, even decreeing them to be gods, and that led to the worship of the living emperors. Various emperor cults in Rome dedicated temples and religious rites to living emperors.
Throughout the early portions of this commentary On the Wisdom of Solomon, we had asserted that Wisdom was certainly written by Solomon, even if it was translated into Greek by a much later hand, while the mainstream academics all assert that Wisdom was written by some Hellenistic writer of the first century before Christ. But to add to the many arguments we have already presented, this explanation of the development of idolatry here in Wisdom is nothing like that of the typical Hellenistic writers, whether they be Judaeans such as Philo of Alexandria or pagan Greeks such as Apollodorus or Callimachus, who was an earlier Alexandrian.
The earliest Greek poets insisted that their images fell from heaven, and neither did the Wisdom of Solomon express that, nor would it accept that. But this is seen in the words ascribed by Luke in Acts chapter 19 to the town clerk of Ephesus where we read “35 And when the townclerk had appeased the people, he said, Ye men of Ephesus, what man is there that knoweth not how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Jupiter? 36 Seeing then that these things cannot be spoken against, ye ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly.” So for this reason, because it is not Hellenistic, we would assert that its perception of the beginnings of idolatry must come from a much earlier time, and certainly seems to have come from Solomon.
So when we continue our commentary on chapter 14 of Wisdom, we will see Solomon himself make the transition from explaining the adulation of men and how it was transformed into the idolatry of Kings. Once man believes he can form god in his own image, the more powerful man can force the people to worship the god of his preference, or even to worship himself as god. Once we believe we should worship men whom we may think are worthy, the inevitable result is that we will be forced to worship men who believe themselves to be more worthy.