Book: Occult Holidays or God’s Holy Days—Which?

We have examined how leaders of Orthodox Christendom and other Christian-professing churches have officially sanctioned and established occult holidays as observances for their followers. As we will now see, Orthodox Christendom has for over sixteen hundred years sanctified Sunday as its “Sabbath.” This is in addition to the “Christian” annual holidays.

Today, millions of the devout and faithful assemble each Sunday either to celebrate Mass and partake of the Eucharist, or to listen to a sermon and, at times, partake of communion. Convinced they are doing the will of God, they sincerely believe that going to church on Sunday is the Christian thing to do. Their priests and ministers have assured them, and they have blindly concurred, that Sunday-keeping is a commandment of God. (See Appendix E, “The Biblical Truth About Sunday-Keeping,” page 295.)

What about Sunday-keeping? Did God ever command the faithful to keep Sunday, or is it a tradition of men? What is the true origin of Sunday worship? When, how, and by whose authority was Sunday instituted as the weekly day of worship? To answer these questions, we will examine the ancient origin of Sunday observance as well as survey the practice of occult sun worship by the children of Israel and Judah as recorded in the Scriptures.

The Ancient Origin of Sunday

Shortly after the flood, Nimrod began to establish his despotic kingdom. He and his wife Semiramis introduced the apostate religious system known as the Babylonian Mysteries, from which all ancient and modern-day pagan religions originated. (See The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop, available online at

Nimrod was a legendary warrior and a champion of the people in their rebellion against God. Yet, it was Satan who inspired the building of Nimrod’s kingdom and the tower of Babel, as well as his occult religion— all in defiance of God. He received man’s worship under the guise of the sun or fire god and the sacred serpent. Hislop comments on this early apostasy and the red dragon of Revelation 12:3: “[T]he word rendered ‘Red’ properly means ‘Fiery’; so that the ‘Red Dragon’ signifies the ‘Fiery Serpent’ or ‘Serpent of Fire.’ Exactly so does it appear to have been the first form of idolatry that under the patronage of Nimrod appeared in the ancient world. The ‘Serpent of Fire’ in the plains of Shinar seems to have been the grand object of worship. There is the strongest evidence that apostasy among the sons of Noah began in fire-worship, and that in connection with the symbol of the serpent” (Hislop, The Two Babylons, p. 226).

The apostasy begun by Nimrod found its zenith in the lavish temples and huge pyramids dedicated to the sun god, where men offered animal and human sacrifices. Hislop writes about the origin of sun worship as follows: “The beginning, then, of sun-worship, and of the worship of the host of heaven [astrology], was a sin against the light [against the true God Himself]—a presumptuous, heaven-daring sin. As the sun in the heavens was the great object of worship, so fire was worshipped as its earthly representative.

“Along with the sun, as the great fire-god, and in due time, identified with him, was the serpent worshipped. ‘In mythology of the primitive world,’ says Owen, ‘the serpent is universally the symbol of the sun.’ In Egypt, one of the [most common] symbols of the sun, or sun god, is a disk with a serpent around it. The original reason was that identification seems just to have been that, as the sun was the great enlightener of the physical world, so the serpent was held to have been the great enlightener of the spiritual, by giving mankind the ‘knowledge of good and evil.’… At all events, we have evidence, both Scriptural and profane, for the fact, that the worship of the serpent began side by side with the worship of fire and the sun” (Ibid., pp. 226-227, bold emphasis and bracketed comments added).

The worship of the sun has a long and daring history, dating from prehistoric times to the close of the fifth century of the Christian era. Together with all of its mystical rituals and sacrifices, it spread from “Mother Babylon” to Egypt, Greece, Rome, Europe, India, China, all of Southeast Asia, Africa, and Central and South America—the entire world. All of these civilizations had highly developed forms of sun worship. The belief in and practice of astrology was predominant in sun worship.

The worship of the six then-known planets was incorporated into the worship of the sun. The Romans named the seven days of the week accordingly— in honor of their pagan deities (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, the sun and the moon). Later, the pagan Germans renamed some of the days in honor of the Germanic gods, whose names and qualities corresponded to those of the Roman gods. Therefore, the day of the Sun became Sunday; the day of the Moon became Monday; the day of Mars (the Roman god of war) became Tuesday (after Tiw, pronounced too, the German god of war—“Tiw’s Day”); the day of Mercury became Wednesday (Woden’s Day, the Germanic version of Mercury); the day of Jupiter became Thursday (Thor’s Day, the Germanic version of Jupiter); the day of Venus became Friday (after the Germanic female god Frigg or Freyja—pronounced fry-ya); and the day of Saturn became Saturday.

These descriptive names of the days of the week demonstrate that Sunday worship was pagan long before it allegedly became a Christian institution. The day of the Sun, dies Solis, or Sunday, was pre-eminent over all other days of the week. Although other so-called gods had days named after them, only dies Solis was proclaimed to be holy.

Bacchiocchi writes: “There is no question that the existence of the planetary week with its ‘Sun-day’—dies Solis—is crucial for determining any influence of Sun-worship on the Christian adoption of Sunday observance, inasmuch as the Sun before the existence of a weekly ‘Sun-day’ was venerated every morning” (From Sabbath to Sunday, p. 237).

“The dies Solis was evidently the most sacred [day] of the week for the faithful of Mithra and like the [professing] Christians, they had to keep Sunday holy and not [the seventh-day] Sabbath…. The gods have arranged the days of the week, whose names the Romans have dedicated to certain stars. The first day [of the week] they called the day of the sun because it is the ruler of all the stars” (Ibid., p. 250, footnote 53, bracketed comments added).

As it was then, so it is today: the day of the Sun, dies Solis, Sunday, was always the most prominent day of worship and stood at the head of all the days of the week. Sunday has always been the predominant pagan occult day of worship to the sun god.

But when did Sunday, which was venerated by pagan sun worshipers, become the holiest day of the week for Christians?

It was the Roman emperor Constantine who first issued an edict concerning Sunday in A.D. 321: “Let all the judges and town people, and the occupation of all trades, rest on the venerable day of the sun; but let those who are situated in the country, freely and at full liberty, attend to the business of agriculture because it often happens that no other day is so fit for sowing corn and planting vines, lest the critical moment being let slip, men should lose the commodities granted them by heaven” (Corpus Juries Civilis Cod. Liv. 3, Tit. 12:30).

This pagan Sunday law was henceforth enforced as a Christian festival. The church historian Eusebius, in his Commentary on the Psalms, indicates that from the time of Constantine’s Sunday edict, the sanctity of the Sabbath was transferred to the first day of the week. “And all things whatsoever that it was duty to do on the Sabbath, these we have transferred to the Lord’s Day, as more appropriately belong to it, because it has a precedence and is first in rank, and more honourable than the Jewish Sabbath” (Cox’s Sabbath Literature, Volume 1, p. 361).

Thus, since this fourth-century edict, much of Orthodox Christendom has accepted Sunday as the “Lord’s Day,” or the so-called “Christian Sabbath.” To this day the Roman Catholic Church pontifically claims that it had the authority to change God’s Fourth Commandment and transfer the solemnity of the seventh-day weekly Sabbath to Sunday, the first day of the week. This flagrant, bold boast of authority is diametrically opposed to the Word of God. God has never relinquished His authority to any man at any time to change His Sabbath commandment! After Jesus’ resurrection and just before He ascended to heaven, He told His disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore, go and make disciples in all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even until the completion of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20).

There is no question that the Roman Catholic Church fully comprehends that the Scriptures absolutely require the observance of the biblical Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, called Saturday today. Cardinal James Gibbons fully admits that Sunday keeping is a Catholic institution based solely on the traditions of the “early church fathers,” the edicts of Emperor Constantine (321 AD) and the ecclesiastical authority of the Catholic Church in the Councils of Laodicea (336, 364 AD). Gibbons also admits that the establishment of Sunday worship is not based on the authority of the Scriptures: “You may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we never sanctify.” (Gibbons, Faith of Our Fathers, 1892, p. 111). Rome’s challenge to Protestants is that if they truly believed the rallying cry of the Reformation—“solo scriptura”—they would reject the Catholic tradition of Sunday keeping and would be ardently keeping the seventh-day Sabbath as God commands. (See Appendix F, “Rome’s Challenge to the Protestants,” page 297.)

As we peel back the layers of historical and scriptural evidence of sun worship/Sunday keeping, it is undeniable that this false teaching is a great sin against God and violates the Fourth Commandment. Yet, Orthodox Christendom continues to channel mankind into the mire of its humanly -devised tradition of Sunday worship—a day originally devised by Nimrod and Semiramis to worship Satan the devil. Sunday keeping is part of the “Mystery of Iniquity,” Satan’s grand counterfeit that looks Christian and proclaims to be Christian, but is, in fact, false, counterfeit—a blatant lie! (II Thess. 2:3-12; Rev. 13:11-14).

A Survey of Occult Sun Worship in the Bible

For most of their history, Israelites and Jews have worshiped the false gods of the nations around them. They dealt in witchcraft and divination, consulted familiar spirits, and used occult practices. While serving false gods instead of the true God, Israel worshiped the sun god on his day, Sunday. The Bible reveals that Israel, at one time or another, observed all the pagan holidays—which later came to be known as Halloween, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and so on. Moreover, they, without shame, committed these abominations in the name of the LORD their God believing they had God’s approval to do so!

Typically, except for brief periods of time in their history, Israel and Judah did not faithfully keep God’s Sabbaths and holy days as He had commanded. A complete biblical record of this fact is found in all the books of the Old Testament—specifically from Exodus to II Chronicles.

In spite of their sins, God faithfully continued to deal with Israel and Judah because of His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and for His own reputation’s sake among the nations. God’s covenant with Israel had guaranteed blessings if they obeyed Him and curses if they disobeyed Him. A summation of these blessings and curses is found in Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26. (For a complete understanding of these blessings and cursings, the reader is encouraged to read these chapters in their entirety.)

Ancient Israel and Sun Worship in Egypt

Approximately nine hundred years after God scattered mankind from the tower of Babel throughout the entire world, the children of Israel were enslaved in Egypt. During this time they were mostly serving the gods of Egypt. The chief god of Egypt was the sun god, whose symbols were the sun disk, the sacred cobra, and the sacred bull with a disk of the sun between its horns. Pharaoh, the king and absolute ruler of Egypt, was worshiped as the incarnation of the sun god. On his crown in the center of his forehead was a protruding hooded cobra, demonstrating that he derived his power and authority—both civil and religious—from Satan the devil.

The book of Exodus gives the account of how God miraculously delivered the twelve tribes of Israel from their harsh slavery with great signs and awesome plagues. To show His supreme power over all the demon gods of Egypt, God judged Pharaoh and the Egyptians by using against them the very things they worshiped. God used serpents, turned water into blood, and sent plagues of frogs, lice, fleas, flies and murrain against their animals. Yet, Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let the children of Israel go. Therefore, God intensified the plagues and afflicted the Egyptians with boils.

Still defiant, Pharaoh resolutely would not let the Israelites go. In answer to Pharaoh’s implacable defiance, God demonstrated His awesome power and authority as the one true God by using the elements and powers of the earth to further afflict the Egyptians. He sent destructive hail, thunder and lightning, swarms of locusts, and finally three days of thick, tangible darkness. The Egyptians could not venture out of their houses because of the darkness. Yet, in Goshen, the children of Israel had light. Still, Pharaoh refused to relent. Therefore, God brought one final, mighty plague upon the Egyptians—the supernatural death of all their firstborn, both man and beast.

In order to spare the firstborn of the children of Israel, God instructed Moses and Aaron to command all the Israelite heads of households to prepare a special domestic sacrifice of a lamb, called the Passover. It is called the Passover because on that night God “passed over” the houses of the children of Israel, sparing their firstborn—while at midnight He killed all the firstborn of the Egyptians, man and beast.

Why did God do this?

God did this not only to release the children of Israel from their Egyptian slavery, but also to execute His judgment against the gods of Egypt. It was a massive display of God’s sovereign, almighty power and authority. Through this act God demonstrated that He alone is the true God. All of the impotent gods of Egypt were proven false—and hence, all of the Satan-inspired, man-made gods throughout all time are nothing! Notice what the Lord God said: “For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast. And I will execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD” (Ex. 12:12). After God’s devastating judgment against the Egyptians and their false gods with the killing of their firstborn, Pharaoh finally let the Israelites go free.

God Gives Israel the Ten Commandments and His Laws at Mount Sinai

With the protection and guidance of God, Moses and Aaron led the Israelites out of Egypt and through the Red Sea on dry ground. After Israel made it safely across the sea, Pharaoh and his pursuing armies attempted to follow. As soon as the Egyptians were in the middle of the dry sea bottom, God commanded the waters to return. All were trapped and destroyed.

On their way to Mount Sinai, God performed additional miracles— providing fresh water to drink, quail to eat, and manna (bread from heaven) to eat. After arriving at Mount Sinai, God displayed His awesome power and glory from the top of the mount while Israel assembled itself at the base. “And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God. And they stood at the base of the mountain. And Mount Sinai was smoking, all of it because the LORD came down upon it in fire. And the smoke of it went up like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. And when the sound of the trumpet sounded long, and became very strong, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice” (Ex. 19:17-19).

God told Moses to warn the people concerning the base of the mountain, not to come past it, to touch it, or to allow an animal to come near it. After manifesting His incredible power, God personally spoke the Ten Commandments to the children of Israel. We will focus on the first four commandments, which pertain to our personal relationship with God.

The First Commandment: “And God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the LORD your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.’ ”

The Second Commandment: “You shall not make for yourselves any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters under the earth. You shall not bow yourself down to them, nor serve them, for I, the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands of those who love Me and keep My commandments .”

The Third Commandment: “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”

The Fourth Commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter; your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your livestock, nor the stranger within your gates; for in six days the LORD made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and sanctified it” (Ex. 20:1-11). (See Appendix G, “The Biblical Truth About Sabbath- Keeping,” p. 318.)

These commandments are the very words of God Himself. They are not complicated or difficult to comprehend; rather, they are clear, and easy to understand and keep. Contrary to what most professing Christians believe, Jesus did not come to abrogate or abolish the Law or the Prophets with the advent of the New Covenant. Jesus Christ, as God manifested in the flesh— Who was the Lord God of the Old Testament and Who spoke the Ten Commandments to Israel—emphatically said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until the heaven and the earth shall pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no way pass from the Law until everything has been fulfilled” (Matt. 5:17-18).

What Jesus declared, as recorded by Matthew, is verified throughout all Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. Isaiah recorded similar words of God: “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath; for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall become old like a garment; and its inhabitants shall die in the same way. But My salvation shall be forever, and My righteousness shall not be abolished” (Isa. 51:6). Again, David said, “The works of His hands are truth and judgment; all His commandments are sure. They stand fast forever and ever; they are done in truth and uprightness” (Psa. 111:7-8).

When the leaders of Orthodox Christendom make false claims about God’s Word, they are taking His name in vain and following in the sinful footsteps of ancient Israel’s religious leaders. The prophet Ezekiel wrote this indictment of such leaders: “And the Word of the LORD came to me, saying, … ‘There is a conspiracy of her prophets [whenever there is a conspiracy, those involved know better] in her midst, like a roaring lion tearing the prey. They have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they made many widows in her midst. Her priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things. They have put no difference between the holy and the profane, and have not taught the difference between the unclean and the clean, and they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, and I am profaned among them…. And her prophets have covered themselves with whitewash, seeing false visions and divining lies unto them, saying, Thus says the Lord GOD,” when the LORD has not spoken’ ” (Ezek. 22:23-28).

As we will see, almost immediately after God spoke the Ten Commandments to Israel at Mount Sinai, certain leaders began speaking lies in God’s name—thus taking His name in vain.

Israel and Sun Worship in the Wilderness

When Moses received the Ten Commandments and other laws from God, he wrote them down in the Book of the Law. Afterwards, Moses read all of God’s words to the people, and the covenant was ratified (Ex. 21-24). They promised in their covenant pledge with God to be obedient to all the words that He had spoken.

“And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments. And all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words which the LORD has said, we will do.’ And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and built an altar at the base of the mountain and twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the children of Israel who offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of bullocks to the LORD. And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins, and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the ears of the people. And they said, All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.’ And Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you concerning all these words’ ” (Ex. 24:3-8).

Then, Moses went up Mount Sinai to commune with God for forty days and forty nights. There he received the Ten Commandments, written by the finger of God on tables of stone. In addition, he received all of God’s instructions for the tabernacle and the altars as well as the ritual laws that the priests and Levites were to perform.

The last words that God spoke to Moses concerned His holy Sabbaths— both His annual Sabbaths and the weekly seventh-day Sabbath: “And the LORD spoke to Moses saying, ‘Speak also to the children of Israel, saying, “Truly you shall keep My Sabbaths, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations to know that I am the LORD Who sanctifies you” ’ ” (Ex. 31:12-13).

God continued: “You shall keep the Sabbath therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone that defiles it shall surely be put to death, for whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done, but on the seventh day is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested, and was refreshed” (verses 14-17).

“And He gave to Moses, when He had made an end of speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God” (verse 18).

What occurred next was, perhaps, one of the greatest ironies in the history of the Israelite nation. The last words that God spoke to Moses concerned Israel’s keeping His Sabbaths—weekly and annual—as a perpetual covenant. However, while God was instructing Moses during the forty days and forty nights, his brother Aaron was causing the people of Israel to greatly sin—virtually in the presence of God at the foot of Mount Sinai as they waited for Moses to return.

Israel Worships the Golden Calf: Aaron was the first priest of Israel to speak lies, to sanction pagan sun worship and to lead the people into committing idolatry, all in the name of the Creator, the Lord God—even though all Israel had previously heard God speak the Ten Commandments.

“And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, then the people gathered themselves to Aaron, and they said to him, Up! Make us gods which shall go before us, for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ And Aaron said to them, ‘Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them to me.’ And all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he took them from their hand, and fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molten calf. And they said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.’ And when Aaron saw the calf, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.’ And they rose up early on the next morning, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play [a sex orgy]. And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go! Get you down, for your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made them a molten calf, and have worshiped it, and have sacrificed to it, and said, These are your gods, O Israel, who have brought you up out of the land of Egypt” ’ ” (Ex. 32:1-8).

The molten calf that Aaron fashioned with his own hands undoubtedly was a replica of the golden Egyptian sacred bull with the sun disk between its horns. After making the calf, Aaron told the people that they could use the idol—the very symbol of the sun god and of Satan—to worship God Himself. This action was a transgression of the First and Second Commandments. He then proclaimed, “Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD,” taking the name of the Lord God in vain and thus transgressing the Third Commandment.

Therefore, in defiance of God, Aaron led the people back into a familiar celebration of the false gods of Egypt and proclaimed this idolatrous abomination as a sanctified “feast unto the Lord” (thereby breaking the Fourth Commandment). Similarly, very early in its history, Orthodox Christendom used this same deceitful “sleight of hand” in taking to itself pagan holidays and sanctioning them as “feasts unto the Lord”—and in taking idolatrous religious rituals and incorporating them into its worship services. And this has all been done “in the name of the Lord,” just as Aaron had claimed.

Israel’s Great Sin of Sun Worship. God first reacted by determining to destroy the children of Israel for their presumptuous, rebellious sin of worshiping the golden calf. Moses, however, interceded for the people, and God had mercy. Moses then came down from the mount, carrying t1he water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.

“And Moses said to Aaron, ‘What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?’ And Aaron said, ‘Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on mischief, For they said to me, Make us gods who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” And I said to them, “Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.” And they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and there came out this calf.’

“And when Moses saw that the people were naked (for Aaron had made them naked to their shame among their enemies), then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, ‘Who is on the LORD’S side? Come to me.’ And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves to him. And he said to them, ‘Thus says the LORD God of Israel, “Each man put his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and kill each one his brother, and each one his companion, and each one his neighbor.” ’ And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And there fell of the people that day about three thousand men…. And it came to pass on the next day, Moses said to the people, You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the LORD. Perhaps I shall make an atonement for your sin’ ” (Ex. 32:19-30).

The children of Israel sinned greatly in this rebellion, and God left no doubt that those who did so were worthy of death. However, because of Moses’ intercession, Aaron and most of the people were spared. Yet, three thousand died by the sword of the sons of Levi—for as the Scriptures teach, “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).

This incident as recorded in the book of Exodus shows that God will judge disobedience. What happened at Mount Sinai was a prophetic prelude to a long history of Israelite rebellion and disobedience toward God—during which they served the false gods of the nations around them while engaging in occult practices and keeping occult holidays.

The book of Numbers records Israel’s repeated apostasy. In chapter 25, just before they entered the Promised Land, we find this account: “And Israel dwelt in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. And they called the people to the sacrifices of their gods. And the people ate and bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself to Baal Peor. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel. And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Take all the heads of the people and impale them before the LORD facing the sun, so that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel.’ And Moses said to the judges of Israel, ‘Every one of you kill his men who were joined to Baal Peor.’… And those that died in the plague were twenty-four thousand” (Num. 25:1-5, 9).

Israel and Occult Worship in the Promised Land

After forty years of vacillating rebellion and wandering in the wilderness of Sinai, God finally brought the children of Israel to the Promised Land as He had sworn to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Moses and Aaron died without entering the land. God appointed Joshua to succeed Moses, and Aaron’s son, Eleazar, to succeed Aaron. God was with them, and they conquered the land of the Canaanites in seven years, after which God gave them rest from their enemies and divided the land among the twelve tribes.

As long as Joshua and the elders—who had come through the forty years of wandering in the wilderness—lived, the children of Israel followed God: “And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD that He did for Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being a hundred and ten years old…. And also all that generation were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD, nor even the works which He had done for Israel” (Judges 2:7-10).

When these godly leaders died, the children of Israel again turned their backs on God and went after the occult gods of the heathen nations around them. “And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim [Hebrew plural for Baal, meaning various versions of the sun god]: and they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, Who brought them out of the land of Egypt. And they followed other gods, even the gods of the people who were around them, and bowed themselves to them, and provoked the LORD to anger.

And they forsook the LORD and served Baal [the sun god] and Ashtaroth [the queen of heaven; often spelled Ashtoreth]. And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and He delivered them into the hand of spoilers who spoiled them. And He sold them into the hand of their enemies all around, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies” (Judges 2:11-14).

In captivity the children of Israel would typically repent, and God would raise up a righteous judge who would deliver them out of their enemies’ hands. The children of Israel would then follow God as long as the godly judge lived. However, as soon as the judge died, they would again reject the true God and begin serving the false gods of the nations—Baal, the sun god, and Ashtoreth, the queen of heaven. Such is the entire story of the book of Judges, covering a period of over 400 years. The last verse of the book of Judges summarizes this entire period: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

Samuel, the Last Judge of Israel: Samuel was the last ruling judge to lead the children of Israel. He was also a priest and a prophet. He taught the children of Israel the true way of God and caused many of the people to serve the Lord instead of the gods of the land—Baalim and Ashtoreth. God restored the Ark of the Covenant that the Philistines had captured because of the sins of the children of Israel and the former priesthood of Eli and his sons. It remained in the house of Abinadab until the time of King David: “And it came to pass from the day the ark began to dwell in Kirjath Jearim, the days became many; yea, they were twenty years. And all the house of Israel yearned after the LORD.

“And Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel saying, ‘If you return to the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts to the LORD, and serve Him only, that He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.’ And the children of Israel put away the Baalim and the Ashtaroth, and served the LORD only” (I Sam. 7:2-4).

This revival of the true worship of the Lord was short lived. When Samuel was old—and because of the corruption of his sons who he had appointed as judges—the leaders of the children of Israel demanded that he appoint a king over the nation. They wanted a king to rule them, rather than the judges that God had appointed.

Samuel warned them that if they had a king like the other nations, there would be consequences. “But the thing was evil in the eyes of Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to judge us.’ And Samuel prayed to the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even until this dayworks with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they do also to you. And now hearken to their voice. Only, you shall surely protest solemnly to them, and show them the kind of king who shall reign over them’ ” (I Sam. 8:6-9).

Although Israel rejected His rulership, God promised that he would still bless them if they followed Him instead of false gods. Thus when Saul was installed as Israel’s first king, Samuel proclaimed, “And now, behold the king whom you have chosen, whom you have desired! And behold, the LORD has set a king over you! If you will fear the LORD, and serve Him, and listen to His voice, and not rebel against the commandments of the LORD, then both you and also the king who reigns over you shall continue following the LORD your God. But if you will not hearken to the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the command of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD shall be against you as it was against your fathers” (I Sam. 12:13-15).

David Succeeds Saul as King of Israel: Saul failed to follow God’s instructions and rebelled against Him. Therefore, he was rejected from being king (I Sam. 15). God then sent Samuel to anoint David, the youngest son of Jesse, as the new king of Israel (I Sam. 16). Although David was not blameless, God said that he was a man after His own heart. David was the most righteous of all the kings of Israel and reigned for forty years. He wrote hundreds of psalms and proverbs that have been preserved in the Scriptures.

Solomon Succeeds David: Before David died, God gave him the plans for the temple of God that David’s son Solomon would build (I Chron. 28-29). As king, young Solomon started out well. His desire for wisdom pleased God so much that God blessed him not only with great wisdom but also with great wealth—making him the wisest and richest man on earth (perhaps in the history of the world). Solomon finished the temple and consecrated it to God. Through the blessings of God, His kingdom prospered. All the kings of the earth sought Solomon’s wisdom—and, in tribute, brought gifts of gold and other valuables to Solomon year by year (I Kings 1-10).

Intermarriage Causes Solomon to Forsake the True God: Solomon had the greatest blessings, wealth and power of all the kings of Israel. He wrote hundreds of proverbs and the book of Ecclesiastes, which are part of the Old Testament, preserved for us to read and study today. But Solomon forsook God because of his many wives who worshiped false gods.

“And King Solomon loved many foreign women, even the daughter of Pharaoh, Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, Hittites; of the nations which the LORD had said to the children of Israel, ‘You shall not go in to them, and they shall not go in to you; surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.’ But Solomon clung to these in love.

“And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines. And his wives turned away his heart, for it came to pass when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods. And his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God as was the heart of David his father, for Solomon went after Ashtoreth [the queen of heaven], the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom, the abomination of the Ammonites; And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD and did not go fully after the LORD like his father David. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill which is before Jerusalem, and for Molech [where children were sacrificed in its flaming arms and belly], the abomination of the children of Ammon. And likewise he did for all his foreign wives, and burned incense and sacrificed to their gods” (I Kings 11:1-8).

This historical account should serve as a profound, continuous lesson and warning to all who read it. Solomon had the privilege of building the Temple of God in Jerusalem. He and all the twelve tribes of Israel had received the blessings of God in great abundance. However, toward the end of his life, he became corrupted through the worship of false gods. Moreover, the people of Israel followed him into apostasy.

What a tragedy! The one who built the Temple of God also became the master builder of temples and incense altars for the false gods of his seven hundred wives. Solomon constructed them on a hill west of the temple, later called the Hill of Abomination. “And the LORD was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; and he did not keep that which the LORD commanded. And the LORD said to Solomon, ‘Since this has been done by you, and since you have not kept My covenant and My statutes which I have commanded you, I will surely tear [take] the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. But I will not do it in your days, for David your father’s sake, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. Only, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son for David My servant’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake which I have chosen’ ” (I Kings 11:9-13).

God Gives the Kingship of the Ten Tribes of Israel to Jeroboam: Jeroboam was Solomon’s servant, a general in Solomon’s army and a ruler over the house of Joseph. After Solomon died, God sent the prophet Ahijah to tell Jeroboam that He had chosen him to be king over the ten tribes of Israel. Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, would rule over Judah in Jerusalem (I Kings 11:28-32).

Ahijah told Jeroboam that God was dividing the kingdom because of the sins of Solomon and the children of Israel. “Because they have forsaken Me, and have worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Milcom the goddess of the children of Ammon, and have not walked in My ways, to do what is right in My eyes, and to keep My statutes and My judgments, as David his father did” (verse 33).

God promised Jeroboam that if he would do that which was right in His sight, He would establish his kingdom just as He had for David, “And if you will hearken to all that I command you and will walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight to keep My statutes and My commandments, as David My servant did, then I will be with you and build you a sure house, as I built for David, and will give Israel to you ” (verse 38).

Thus Jeroboam knew that God had divided the kingdom because Solomon grievously sinned by forsaking Him and exchanging the worship of the one true God for the worship of false gods. However, Jeroboam did not listen to the words of God by Ahijah. Neither did he walk in God’s ways, but transgressed worse than Solomon did.

Jeroboam feared that if the people went to Jerusalem to keep the feasts of God, they would align themselves with Rehoboam. In order to prevent this, he appointed a feast day of his own choosing and made two golden calves for the people to worship.

“Then the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold and said to them, ‘It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Behold your gods, O, Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt [the same sin as Aaron]!’ And he set the one in Bethel, and he put the other in Dan. And this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one, even to Dan” ( I Kings 12:28-30).

“And he made houses of worship on the high places and made priests of the lowest of the people, who were not the sons of Levi. And Jeroboam ordered a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like the feast that is in Judah. And he offered upon the altar. So he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he had made. And he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made. And he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, in the month which he had devised out of his own heart. And he ordained a feast for the children of Israel. And he offered upon the altar and burned incense” (verses 31-33).

Jeroboam also forced the Levites to leave the ten tribes, so he could establish his own priesthood for the golden calf worship: “And the Levites left their open lands and their possession, and came to Judah and Jerusalem, for Jeroboam and his sons had cast them off so that they could not execute the priests’ office unto the LORD. And he ordained priests for himself for the high places, and for the demons, and for the golden calves which he had made” (II Chron. 11:14-15).

God sent another prophet to warn Jeroboam, but he refused to listen and repent. “After this thing Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way, but turned and again made priests of the high places from the lowest of the people; anyone who desired to be made a priest, he consecrated him, and he became one of the priests of the high places. And this thing became the sin of the house of Jeroboam, even to destroy it from the face of the earth” (I Kings 13:33-34).

As a consequence of Jeroboam’s sins, the ten tribes of Israel completely forsook the Lord God. God sent many prophets to warn them to repent and return to the true God. However, none of the kings and only very few of the people ever repented. It is recorded that during the time of Elijah the prophet, there were just seven thousand who had not “bowed the knee to Baal” (I Kings 19:18).

After Elijah, God sent the prophet Elisha. In spite of Elisha’s powerful ministry and miracles—and some reprieve from the wars with the Syrians— Israel would not repent from worshiping false gods, but plunged deeper and deeper into sun worship, witchcraft and occult practices.

The Ten Tribes of Israel Go into Captivity Because of Their Sins: For approximately 300 years after Jeroboam’s reign, the ten tribes of Israel continued to serve false gods and idols. They used witchcraft and other occult practices (Micah 5:12-14). They worshiped Baal, the sun god, and Ashtoreth, the “queen of heaven.”

In spite of the fact that the priests, Levites, and people of Israel had the book of the Law of God—the five books of Moses—to instruct them, they repeatedly failed to obey the Word of God and to keep His commandments and statutes. Finally, God used Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, to punish Israel. The Assyrians besieged Samaria for three years, 721-718 BC, and afterwards took the Israelites into captivity.

The story is recorded in the book of II Kings:

“In the ninth year of Hoshea [king of Israel], the king of Assyria took Samaria and carried Israel away into Assyria. And he placed them in Halah, and in Habor by the river Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes. Now it came to pass because the children of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods, and walked in the statutes of the nations whom the LORD cast out from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel, which the nations had made. Now the children of Israel secretly did things that were not right against the LORD their God. And they built high places in all their cities for themselves from the Watch Tower to the fortified city. And they set up images and groves for themselves in every high hill, and under every green tree. And they burned incense in all the high places, like the nations whom the LORD had removed from before them, and they practiced evil things to provoke the LORD to anger, for they served the idols of which the LORD had said to them, ‘You shall not do this thing.’

“And the LORD testified against Israel and against Judah, by all the prophets, by all the seers, saying, ‘Turn from your evil ways and keep My commandments and My statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by My servants the prophets.’ Nevertheless they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like the neck of their fathers who did not believe in the LORD their God. And they rejected His statutes and His covenant which He made with their fathers, and His warnings that He testified against them. And they went after vanity, and became vain, and went after the nations around them, concerning whom the LORD had charged them not to do like them. And they left all the commandments of the LORD their God and made molten images, two calves for themselves. And they made a grove, and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire. And they used divination and sorceries, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger. So the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them out of His sight; not one was left, only the tribe of Judah by itself

“And the LORD rejected all the seed of Israel, and afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of spoilers until He had cast them out of His sight, for He tore Israel from the house of David and they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king. And Jeroboam drove Israel away from following the LORD, and made them sin a great sin. For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did. They did not depart from them until the LORD removed Israel out of His sight as He had said by all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away out of their own land to Assyria, as it is to this day [apparently an editorial comment added by Ezra the priest around 500 BC]. And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon and from Cuthah and from Ava and from Hamath and from Sepharvaim and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel. And they possessed Samaria and lived in its cities” (II Kings 17:6 -18, 20-24).

While the ten northern tribes of Israel and their kings never repented and returned to God, the southern kingdom of Judah, which retained the area of Judea and the city of Jerusalem, experienced periods of repentance and revival. The books of II Kings and II Chronicles record the history of the kings of Judah. Judah, however, failed to return wholeheartedly to God even after the ten tribes of Israel were taken into Assyria. “Also Judah did not keep the commandments of the LORD their God, but walked in the [apostate] statutes which Israel [had] made [in rebellion]” (II Kings 17:19).

The Kingdom of Judah Also Rebels Against God: Some of the kings of Judah led the Jews to repentance. Others were wicked and followed in the way of Jeroboam, leading the people to sin greatly against God. Of all the kings of Judah, Manasseh, who reigned for fifty-five years, was undoubtedly the most wicked.

Manasseh defied God and rebelled against Him, overturning all the

righteous reforms that his father Hezekiah had instituted during his reign. The kingdom of Judah was transformed into a sun-worshiping occult society under his leadership.

“Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. But he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, like the abominations of the heathen whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel, for he built again the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down, and he reared up altars for Baalim [sun god worship], and made groves [for witchcraft], and worshiped all the host of heaven [the worship of Satan and demons], and served them.

“And he built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, ‘In Jerusalem shall My name be forever.’ And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD” (II Chron. 33:1-5). Manasseh deliberately desecrated the temple of God, converting it into a pagan monument devoted to sun worship—replete with occult rituals and Satan worship.

“And he caused his sons to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom. He also observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD to provoke Him to anger. And he set a carved image, the idol which he had made, in the house of God, of which God had said to David and to Solomon his son, ‘In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen before all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever. Nor will I any more remove the foot of Israel from out of the land which I have set apart for your fathers—if only they will take heed to do all that I have commanded them, according to the whole law and the statutes and the ordinances by the hand of Moses.’ And Manasseh seduced Judah and the people of Jerusalem to go astray, and to do worse than the nations whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel. And the LORD spoke to Manasseh and to His people, but they would not listen” (verses 6-10).

“Furthermore, Manasseh also shed very much innocent blood until he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another; besides his sin with which he made Judah to sin in doing the evil in the sight of the LORD” (II Kings 21:16).

Therefore, God sent Manasseh into captivity before the rest of the Jews: “Wherefore the LORD brought upon them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh among the thorns and bound him with chains and carried him to Babylon” (II Chron. 33:11).

In prison, Manasseh repented of his sins. He humbled himself, and God restored him to his throne. “And when he was in affliction, he sought the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. And he prayed to Him, and He was entreated of him and heard his prayer, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. And Manasseh knew that the LORD is God” (II Chron. 33:12-13).

This account of Manasseh’s repentance shows that God will forgive and restore people who wholeheartedly turn to Him and repent of their sins and transgressions. When Manasseh was returned to his throne in Jerusalem, he destroyed the idols that he had built and restored the true worship of God at the temple. “And he took away the strange gods and the idol out of the house of the LORD, and all the altars that he had built in the mountain of the house of the LORD and in Jerusalem, and threw them out of the city. And he repaired the altar of the LORD and sacrificed upon it peace offerings and thank-offerings. And he commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel. But the people still sacrificed in the high places, but only to the LORD their God. And the rest of the acts of Manasseh, and his prayer to his God, and the words of the seers who spoke to him in the name of the LORD God of Israel, behold, they are written in the book of the kings of Israel” (verses 15-18).

From Judah’s Captivity in Babylon until the Time of Jesus Christ: Over a twenty-year period, from 605 BC to 585 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar’s armies attacked Judah and finally removed the Jews to Babylon. After seventy years of captivity, a few thousand Jews returned to Judea under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah. Then, for a period of about 120 years— during the time of Ezra and the priests of the Great Synagogue (which ended in 305 BC)—the Jews properly kept the Sabbath and holy days.

The Jews were greatly influenced by the Greek civilization imposed on them by Alexander the Great and his successors. During this time, they again apostatized from God and thoroughly adopted the customs and language of the Greeks. By the 170s BC, the Jews had totally polluted the temple of God and were again worshiping pagan gods. God sent the armies of Antiochus Epiphanes to punish them. In 168 BC, Antiochus desecrated God’s temple in Jerusalem by setting up an image of the sun god and slaughtering a swine on the altar of burnt offerings.

There were various revivals during the Maccabean era (from 167 BC to 63 BC). Rome conquered Palestine at the end of that era. The Hellenistic Sadducees retained control of the temple during this period—but only in competition with the Pharisees, another major religious sect of the Jews. From this time on through the ministry of Jesus Christ and the apostles, God’s seventh-day Sabbath and annual holy days were continually observed. New Testament Gentile Christians also observed these weekly and yearly holy days.

In the next chapter we will take a closer look at the seventh-day Sabbath—the day God created holy and commanded His people to observe.