Book: The Christian Passover

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To help us understand the changes that took place in the observance of the Passover, let us survey the history of the children of Israel. The Scriptures record the history of their unbelief and rebellion against God, which began soon after the Exodus. After God spoke the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai, He called Moses up to the mountain to receive the tables of stone on which the commandments were written, and to give him instructions for building a tabernacle where the people could offer sacrifices to Him. While Moses was with God, the children of Israel turned back to worshiping the gods of Egypt, which led Aaron to make a golden calf. In the following year, at the time near the Feast of Tabernacles, God commanded Moses to send twelve spies into the Promised Land in preparation for their invasion and expulsion of the Canaanites. God’s intention was that the children of Israel go into the Promised Land at that time. God, in His gracious mercy and lovingkindness, never intended the people to wander in the wilderness for forty years. But after spying out the land for forty days, the spies came back and gave an evil report, telling the people that they would never be able to rid the land of the inhabitants. Joshua and Caleb, who gave a good report, were the only two who showed faith in God. All the children of Israel rebelled, accused God and refused to trust in His power. Therefore, God did not give them the inheritance at that time. Instead, as punishment for their sin of refusing to go into the Promised Land with His protection and blessing, He condemned them to wander in the wilderness for thirty-eight and one-half years more, until all in that generation who were over twenty years of age had died. The books of Leviticus and Numbers record the details of their wanderings with all their complaints, disbelief and rebellion.

At the end of those forty years, Joshua led the children of Israel into the Promised Land. It took seven years to conquer the land and divide the inheritance to the twelve tribes. In the book of Judges, we find a summary of the days of Joshua and the elders who served with him:

“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 work of the LORD that He did for Israel....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.

“And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim. 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 peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves to them, and provoked the LORD to anger. And they forsook the LORD and served Baal and Ashtaroth. 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. Wherever they went out, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had said, and as the LORD had sworn to them. And they were greatly distressed.

“Nevertheless, the LORD raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who spoiled them. And yet they would not listen to their judges, but they went lusting after other gods, and bowed themselves to them. They turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, for they had obeyed the commandments of the LORD; these however did not do so. And when the LORD raised judges up for them, then the LORD was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge, for the LORD took pity because of their groaning by reason of their oppressors and their crushers.

“And it came to pass when the judge was dead, they returned and made themselves more corrupt than their fathers in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down to them. They did not cease from their own doings nor from their stubborn way. And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel. And He said, ‘Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers, and has not obeyed My voice...’ ” (Judges 2:7-20).

The children of Israel repeated these same sins over and over again. In fact, the entire history of the twelve tribes of Israel fits this description in the book of Judges. Not only is their history a testimony of their sins of idolatry and continuous rebellion against God, but it is also a testimony of God’s love, mercy and grace toward them in not wholly destroying them. In spite of Israel’s repeated backslidings, God remained faithful to the promise that He had given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

The last verse in the book of Judges sums up these years of rebellion against God: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

Israel’s repeated idolatry continued until the time of Samuel the prophet and priest of God. While Samuel judged Israel, the people remained faithful to their covenant with God. However, toward the end of his life, the people rejected Samuel and his sons and demanded a king. Samuel was grieved, but God told Him to do as the people had requested:

“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” (I Sam. 8:7).

God chose Saul to be Israel’s first king (I Sam. 9:15-17). God was with Saul in the beginning of his reign, but when he disobeyed God’s commands, God forsook him. After Saul’s failure, God raised up David, a man after God’s own heart, to be king. During David’s reign, the people were relatively faithful to God.

David’s son Solomon succeeded him as king. Solomon was allowed to build the first temple of God in Jerusalem. This temple replaced the tabernacle as the center for the worship of the true God. God blessed the temple with His presence, and blessed all the people of Israel who came to worship him there.

God twice appeared to Solomon in dreams, promising to give him his heart’s desire. When Solomon asked for wisdom, God blessed him not only with wisdom but with wealth beyond measure. King Solomon’s rule extended from Mount Hermon in the north to the Negev desert in the south. The kingdom of Solomon was the greatest and richest kingdom in the world at that time:

“And King Solomon was greater than all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom. And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom that God had put in his heart. And they each brought a present, vessels of silver and vessels of gold, and clothing, armor, and spices, horses, and mules, at a certain rate year by year....And the king made silver in Jerusalem like stones...” (II Chron. 9:22-27).

The “rate” referred to in these verses was a form of tribute paid to Solomon by other countries. God blessed Solomon and his kingdom above all other nations. At this point in history, Israel had the potential to become the greatest kingdom ever to exist. There was not only prosperity but great peace during Solomon’s forty-year reign. In fact, the name Solomon means “peace.” Many consider Solomon’s kingdom to be a type of the coming kingdom of God, symbolizing the abundance and peace of the millennium during Christ’s reign on earth.

During the first half of his forty-year reign, Solomon remained faithful to God. However, in his later years, Solomon allowed his foreign wives to draw him away from God and into the idolatrous worship of their false gods: “...Solomon loved many foreign women....Solomon clung to these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines. And….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 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 the abomination of the children of Ammon. [That mount is called the “mount of corruption” in II Kings 23:13.] And likewise he did for all his foreign wives, and burned incense and sacrificed to their gods. And the LORD was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel Who had appeared to him twice...” (I Kings 11:1-9).

It is possible that Solomon built temples for nearly every pagan god known to mankind, grievously provoking the anger of the Lord, Who “...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 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” (verses 10-13).

After the death of Solomon, the tribes of Israel divided into two kingdoms. The ten northern tribes followed Jeroboam, a servant of Solomon, and made him king. From that time forward, the Bible refers to these ten tribes as the kingdom of Israel. The son of Solomon, Rehoboam, was left with only one tribe and parts of two other tribes. He ruled the tribe of Judah, and part of the tribe of Benjamin, as well as the Levites who lived in Jerusalem and elsewhere in Judah. After the division of the twelve tribes of Israel, this kingdom was known as the kingdom of Judah. Later, those of the kingdom of Judah were called Jews. Since the Jews were basically a single tribe, with a small percentage from two others, it is neither proper nor accurate to apply the term Jews to all twelve tribes of Israel.

The Evils of Jeroboam and Israel

Solomon’s descent into idolatry set the stage for the decline and fall of both Israel and Judah. When Solomon sinned by turning away from God, he cast the die for the kings of Israel and Judah who would reign after him, most of whom continued his idolatrous practices. Jeroboam, first to reign over the new kingdom of Israel, even exceeded Solomon’s sin. Building on the evil foundation that Solomon had laid, Jeroboam immediately led the ten tribes of Israel headlong into deeper paganism:

“Then the king [Jeroboam, now king of the northern ten tribes of Israel] 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!’ 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. And he made houses of worship on the high places [pagan temples to Baal], 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 [meaning “house of God”], 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 unto 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” (I Kings 12:28-33).

The date that Jeroboam chose for his idolatrous feast is significant because it coincides with the pagan religious customs of other nations of his day. The fact that Jeroboam chose the fifteenth day of the eighth month “of his own heart” does not mean that he was the first king to make it a national observance. In the nations of the ancient Near East, the 15th day of the eighth month was dedicated to the worship of kings. As one author states, “The early Babylonian kings, from the time of Sargon I till the fourth dynasty of Ur or later, claimed to be gods in their lifetime. The monarchs of the fourth dynasty of Ur in particular had temples built in their honour; they set up their statues in various sanctuaries and commanded the people to sacrifice to them; the eighth month was especially dedicated to the kings, and sacrifices were offered to them at the new moon [the first day of the month] and on the fifteenth day of each month [the full moon]” (Frazer, The Golden Bough, p. 120, emphasis added).

Jeroboam was instituting the old, pagan system of king-worship, which originated in Babylon. As we will learn later, the fifteenth day of the first month held even greater significance to these ancient people than the 15th day of the eighth month. The pagan celebration that took place on the 15th day of the first month posed a great temptation to the people of Israel and Judah. This idolatrous influence was a key factor in the changes that were later instituted in the observance of the Passover.

Jeroboam was not simply setting up a rival festival to compete with the feast that God had ordained in the seventh month, which was observed each year in the kingdom of Judah. He was setting up a full-fledged, pagan Babylonian religious and governmental system that would ultimately affect every aspect of the lives of the people. Jeroboam built a new temple with a new altar, and instituted a new priesthood, with himself as both high priest and king. This new temple was dedicated on the very day that the kings of the ancient Near East had designated as a day of homage and sacrifice to their god-kings.

Knowing that Jeroboam’s idolatry would lead the entire nation astray, God sent a direct warning through one of His prophets to confront Jeroboam face to face. This was a witness against Jeroboam personally—a witness against his abominable idolatries involving pagan calf worship and a pagan priesthood, in which he made himself the high priest and led in the offering of sacrifices to the calf idol in Bethel. Now the golden calf, which had brought God’s wrath upon the children of Israel in the wilderness, again brought His judgment:

“And behold, a man of God came out of Judah by the word of the LORD, to Bethel. And Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. And he cried against the altar by the word of the LORD and said, ‘O, altar, altar, thus says the LORD. ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name, and upon you he shall offer the priests of the high places who burn incense upon you, and men’s bones shall be burned upon you.’

“And he gave a sign the same day, saying, ‘This is the sign which the LORD has spoken. “Behold, the altar shall be torn apart [split down the middle], and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out.” ’ Then it came to pass when King Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God who had cried against the altar in Bethel, he put forth his hand from the altar, saying: ‘Lay hold on him!’ And his hand, which he put forth against him withered up so that he could not pull it in again to himself.

“The altar also was split asunder and the ashes poured out from the altar according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the LORD. And the king answered and said to the man of God. ‘Seek now the favor of the LORD your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored me again.’ And the man of God prayed to the LORD, and the king’s hand was restored to him again and became as at the beginning” (I Kings 13:1-6).

In spite of this personal warning from God, Jeroboam refused to repent of his idolatries: “After this thing Jeroboam returned not from his evil way, but made again from among all the people priests of the high places; whosoever would, he consecrated him, that he might be one of the priests of the high places. And by this thing there was sin unto the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it off, and to destroy it from off the face of the earth” (verses 33-34, JPSA).

Again God spoke through a prophet, this time pronouncing His judgment not only on Jeroboam but on the entire kingdom of Israel, which had followed the king in his abominable idolatries: “But you have done evil above all who were before you, and you have gone and made yourself other gods….Therefore, behold, I will...sweep away the rest of the house of Jeroboam....For the LORD shall strike Israel...and He shall root up Israel out of this good land which He gave to their fathers, and shall scatter them beyond the River because they have made their Asherim [Hebrew plural for Asherah], provoking the LORD to anger. And He shall give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam who sinned, and because he made Israel to sin” (I Kings 14:7-10, 15-16).

In spite of the blessings that God had given to Israel, and the covenant they had made with Him, the children of Israel chose to reject God. They turned to the golden calves of Jeroboam, which were idols for the worship of the Baal, and they made idols for the goddess Asherah. The worship of these pagan deities is condemned by God in the Scriptures time and time again.

The False Gods of Apostate Israel and Judah

As the book of Judges shows, the worship of Baal and Asherah began very early to corrupt the people of Israel. The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible points to evidence that idols to the two deities could be found throughout the land: “According to Judg. 3:7 there was an association of worship between Baal and Asherah. The passage states that the Israelites were evil because they abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and Asherahs. The reference to these deities in the plural may indicate that each locality had its Baal and its Asherah, who were consorts worshipped at the same sanctuary” (Vol. I, s.v.”Asherah”).

Who were these false deities that the people of Israel worshiped, bringing upon themselves the judgment of God? Asherah “...was the Hebrew name for an Amorite or Canaanite goddess, who was worshipped in various parts of the Near East” (Ibid.).

This goddess, known to the Canaanites as Anat, was worshiped in other parts of the ancient world as Diana, Artemis, Ishtar, Isis, Athirat and Astarte. The Canaanite god Baal was also worshiped in different lands. In Babylon, he was the sun-god Shamash. In Assyria, he was the god Saturn. In Egypt, he was both Ra the sun-god, and Osiris, god of the underworld. The worship of all these pagan religions originated at the tower of Babel in ancient Babylon.

The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop provides one of the most complete histories of the ancient religion that was founded by Nimrod and Semiramis. As he traces the history of this pagan religion, Hislop shows that its doctrines and practices are being perpetuated in Catholicism and many so-called “Christian” customs of the modern world.

In his book, Hislop reveals that Baal was the Canaanite name for Nimrod, who was worshiped throughout the ancient world. Hislop also shows that Nimrod, whose Egyptian name was Osiris, was represented as a young bull: “The ordinary way in which the favourite Egyptian divinity Osiris [Nimrod] was mystically represented was under the form of a young bull or calf—the calf Apis—from which the golden calf of the Israelites was borrowed” (The Two Babylons, p. 45, emphasis added).

This was the god that the people of Israel worshiped when they forsook their God and went after the golden calf that Jeroboam placed at Bethel. Instead of worshiping the true Lord of heaven and earth, they chose to worship the deified Nimrod, the false lord of the heathen nations around them: “While the Greek name Belus represented both Baal and Bel of the Chaldees, these were nevertheless two entirely distinct titles. These titles were both alike often given to the same god, but they had totally different meanings. Baal, as we have already seen, signified ‘The Lord’...” (Ibid., p. 26, emphasis added).

Asherah, or Semiramis, who was both mother and wife of Nimrod, was the principal goddess of the ancient world. She was worshiped both as a virgin and as the mother of the gods: “Semiramis, then, the first deified queen of that city and tower whose top was intended to reach to heaven, must have been the prototype of the goddess who ‘first made towers in cities.’ When we look at the Ephesian Diana, we find evidence to the very same effect. In general, Diana was depicted as a virgin, and the patroness of virginity; but the Ephesian Diana was quite different. She was represented with all the attributes of the Mother of the gods...and, as the Mother of the gods, she wore a turreted crown, such as no one can contemplate without being forcibly reminded of the tower of Babel. Now this towerbearing Diana is by an ancient scholiast expressly identified with Semiramis” (Ibid., p. 30, emphasis added).

As the mother of Nimrod and of other gods, Semiramis embodied the reproductive powers of all life: “In the religious literature of Babylonia Tammuz [Nimrod reborn] appears as the youthful spouse or lover of Isthar, the great mother goddess, the embodiment of the reproductive energies of nature” (Frazer, The Golden Bough, p. 379, emphasis added).

The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible clearly links the worship of this great mother goddess with the worship of Asherah, the fertility goddess of the Canaanites: “Many details concerning the place of Asherah in the pantheon have been supplied from the Ras Shamra Texts. At ancient Ugarit she was the mother-goddess, consort of El, mother of seventy gods including Baal, who is called bn ‘trt (‘son of Arhirat’). Animal sacrifices were offered to her, as to other deities at Ugarit....As an important fertility deity of the Phoenicians and Canaanites, she would represent a formidable rival to Yahweh under the sponsorship of the Phoenician princess Jezebel” (Vol. I, s.v. “Asherah”).

Semiramis was worshiped in Canaanite religion not only as the mother of Baal but also as his wife: “Until two or three decades ago, Canaanite literature and religion were almost unknown but for the scanty knowledge about them which may have been derived from late sources. But thanks to French excavations, directed by Claude Schaeffer, at Ras Shamra, ancient Ugarit, situated on the coast of N. Syria, very important material has been discovered....The chief deity of the Ugaritic pantheon is ‘Il (El). He is a sky god. He is father of the other gods and is supreme lord over the gods and ruler over the assembly of the gods on the mountain in the N—i.e., Mount Cassius. Baal is another important deity, previously well known from the OT. His wife was Anat [the Asherah of the O.T.]. Roughly these two deities may be compared with the two Mesopotamian deities Tammuz and Isthar. Like the latter, Baal and Anat [Asherah] are vegetation deities” (Ibid., s.v. “Canaanite”).

As Baal and Asherah, Nimrod and Semiramis were attributed with the power to produce bountiful harvests by imparting fertility to the earth. The ancient fertility rites that were held in their honor were lewd orgies in which naked dancing and promiscuous sex were freely indulged in by all. The following description of this orgiastic worship shows why God so vehemently condemned Israel for imitating the heathen: “In groves and fields throughout the land, the presence of Baal was marked by naked pillars or tree stems stuck upright into the ground. Because Baal impregnated the land by copulation, the ceremonies in his honor were often imitative sexual acts....Sometimes the god was shown astride a bull, an animal symbolic of procreative power. Sometimes the sun was a nimbus [halo] which enclosed him; at other times he was a phallus with the head of a god. Images of Astarte depicted her in the nude with her legs apart, holding two white doves in her hands, while at her feet a lion and a coiled serpent lay stretched out submissively [bestiality]...” (Bach, Strange Sects and Curious Cults, p. 14).

In The Two Babylons, Hislop states that the worship of fire and the practice of passing through fire were also part of Baal worship. The Bible reveals that this vile worship included burning children in the fire. The prophet Jeremiah recorded God’s indictment of the Jews and their kings for this practice. God said, “They have also built the high places of Baal [the valley of Hinnom] to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings to Baal, which I never commanded nor spoke, nor did it come into My mind” (Jer. 19:5).

Hislop makes a startling revelation in describing these human sacrifices. He shows that cannibalism was a part of Baal worship when he states, “Hence, the priests of Nimrod or Baal were necessarily required to eat of the human sacrifices; and thus it has come to pass that ‘Cahna-Bal,’ the ‘Priests of Baal,’ is the established word in our own tongue for the devourer of human flesh” (The Two Babylons, p. 232).

These were the abominable practices and the perverse worship that Jeroboam instituted as the official religion of the ten tribes in the kingdom of Israel.

The Significance of Nisan 14 and 15 in the Pagan Religions

Under Baalism, Israel forsook the Passover, the 14th day of the first month, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which begins on the 15th and continues through the 21st. In their place, Israel adopted a pagan festival in honor of Baal and Asherah, which also began on the 15th day of the first month.

In all the debate over whether to observe the Passover on the 14th or the 15th, most people have not been aware that very different meanings were attached to these two days by the pagan religions of the ancient Near East. The 14th day was numbered among the “unlucky” days of the month, as the following reference shows:

“Sacrificial meals were regularly set out for the deities every day. But there were special days which required extra sacrifices and special ceremonies. Every day was sacred to a particular god. Special lists, the so-called hemerologies, enumerate these, and mark the lucky and dangerous (‘evil’) days. The seventh, fourteenth, nineteenth, twenty-first, and twentyeighth of each month were especially unlucky...but it should be noted that while men abstained from certain activities on these days, the cause was not the same as in the case of the Israelite sabbath: these days were evil and dangerous, while the sabbath had a positive value” (Riggren, Religions of the Ancient Near East, p. 82, emphasis added).

The fourteenth and the twenty-first days of the first month were especially UNLUCKY DAYS for the Egyptians, weren’t they? On the fourteenth day, 4,800,000 EGYPTIANS WERE KILLED BY THE LORD. ALL THE FIRSTBORN OF MAN AND BEAST WERE KILLED IN ONE NIGHT! No wonder the fourteenth day was considered unlucky!

What about the twenty-first day of the first month? That day was unlucky for the Egyptians as well. Their armies were destroyed in the Red Sea by the power of God! Yes, indeed, those were horribly unlucky days for the Egyptians. In the Scriptural account of the events leading up to the Exodus, we are not told specifically when some of the more devastating plagues fell on the Egyptians, but it is likely that God sent these plagues on some of the other “unlucky days.” It would be in keeping with God’s purpose to use their own days as powerful witnesses against them.

While the 14th day of the month was regarded as evil and dangerous, the 15th was considered a day of rejoicing and good fortune: “Special feast days in each month were, for instance the day of the new moon (the first [day of the month]), and the day of the full moon (the fifteenth [day of the month]), which was later called Sapattu” (Ibid., p. 83, emphasis added).

It is significant that the two major festivals in pagan religions were observed in the same months that the feasts of God were observed. We are told, “Finally, from Uruk we have a number of ritual texts for the two akitu festivals of Anu, one in Nisan, the other in Tishrit [the seventh month]” (Ibid., p. 88, emphasis added).

God commanded the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days in the month of Nisan (Abib), and the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days in the month of Tishri. Both of these festivals begin on the 15th day of the month, the day of the full moon. Since the pagans also observed their festivals on the 15th day of the month, and in the same months as God’s festivals, it was easy for the children of Israel to slip into apostasy. At the same time that the feasts of God were being observed in Israel, the heathen nations around were keeping seven-day festivals to Baal! These pagan festivals were counterfeits of the feasts of the true God. (Besides the pagan festivals in the first and seventh months, a feast dedicated to the pagan godkings was held on the 15th day of the eighth month. This practice was imitated by Jeroboam.)

The following description of the seven-day spring feast of Baal shows the licentious practices that were indulged in during these pagan festivals: “...Days sacred to Baal, days when the earth sprang to life, the spring equinox, the time of planting, found the populace going to the temples and groves en masse....The spring festivals reached their climaxes in sexual acts performed on housetops where the participants felt they were nearer the sun god’s power, and in the groves where, it was believed, Baal himself would join them in their worship. There were those who spawned their human seed upon the ground, sincerely trusting that this invoked a special heavenly blessing. At the temple feasts, proxies for the invisible god and goddess [human representatives—people dressed in costumes as gods and goddesses] gorged themselves and, in wanton dances, called upon the ‘bull god’ to appear. Women, intoxicated by concoctions of herbs and wine, lay naked upon the newly-planted fields in adulation of Astarte [Asherah]. These were the occasions when the fathers gave their daughters to their own sons for harlotry or took their own daughters to play the role of wife [those who conceived performed the abortion rites of Baal as well]....For seven days and nights [which began on the 15th of Nisan] the demonstrations continued...” (Bach, Strange Sects and Curious Cults, p. 15, emphasis added).

These seven days of orgiastic celebrations coincided exactly with the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Satan had counterfeited God’s feast days in order to lead Israel astray through the lust of the flesh!

The rhythmic chants and lewd dances that accompanied Baal’s feasts bear witness to the wanton behavior of the participants. Similar acts of sexual abandonment and unrestraint are aroused today by the animistic rhythm of rock and roll, heavy metal music, rap music and the satanic songs of music cults. The “free love” that is incited by this cultic music is a twentiethcentury version of Baal worship! Notice the similarities in this description of Baal’s worshipers: “...The demonstrations continued while chanting worshippers ceaselessly wound their way across the land, pausing to kiss the phallic symbols in the fields....At the edges of the field, dancers punctuated their rhythmic choreography by rolling on the ground to imitate the mothering of seeds [rolling in the seed of Baal, who copulated with the earth]...” (Ibid., pp. 15-16, emphasis added).

Self-mutilation was also part of Baal worship. The priests of Baal customarily slashed their bodies to persuade Baal to send rain, just as they did when Elijah challenged them on Mt. Carmel. At that time, Israel was ruled by evil king Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel. Jezebel had been high priestess of Asherah in her native country of Phoenicia. As Ahab’s wife, she used all her power and influence to establish the worship of Baal and Asherah in Israel. When most of the people in the kingdom apostatized, God sent a severe drought to punish them. The drought had lasted three and one-half years when Elijah called the priests of Baal to Mt. Carmel. Notice how Baal’s priests attempted to bring rain: “If the land was dry or if a drought ensued, the priests enacted other mimetic rites, simulating rain by slashing their bodies with knives until the blood gushed out. This was to show Baal how he should pour rain upon the fields. Meanwhile, they chanted, ‘Where is the victor Baal, where is the prince lord of the earth? The virgin earth is awaiting him!’ ” (Ibid., p. 16., emphasis added.)

After many hours of ritualistic bloodletting, Baal’s priests had to acknowledge defeat. Baal had not responded to their pleas. Then Elijah prepared a sacrifice and offered a brief prayer to God. God answered with fire from heaven that consumed both the sacrifice and the altar. This miracle turned the hearts of the Israelites back to God—but only for a time. It was too easy to yield to temptation, when it was all around them.

Since the 15th day of the first month was a pagan feast day as well as a holy day of God, the Israelites were continually being tempted to combine the pagan festivities with their worship of God. Those idolatrous Israelites who succumbed to the temptation undoubtedly felt they were serving God while practicing these pagan customs. Had not God commanded that the 15th of the first month be observed as a feast day? Was it not a day to offer sacrifices and to celebrate with a religious banquet? That is exactly what they were doing! They were sacrificing at the temple of God in Jerusalem—but they were sacrificing to other gods. They justified themselves by claiming that they were the people that God had delivered—God’s chosen people. The prophet Jeremiah condemned them for this hypocrisy:

“Do not trust in lying words, saying, ‘The temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD are these’....Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit. Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know; and then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say. ‘We are delivered to do all these abominations’?” (Jer. 7:4, 8-10).

Yes, the people of Israel justified themselves and their evil practices by claiming that they were the people that God had delivered, and therefore God approved of what they were doing. What was it they were doing? They were walking after other gods and offering sacrifices to Baal in the very house of God! As Jeremiah shows, they were also worshiping the queen of heaven and making cake offerings for her (verse 18). They had forsaken their covenant with the true Lord of heaven and earth and were no longer offering sacrifices to Him. God sent Isaiah to condemn them with this message from His lips: “Nor have you filled Me with the fat of your sacrifices; but you have made Me serve with your sins; you have wearied Me with your iniquities” (Isa. 43:24).

God Punished Israel for Their Pagan Observances

God was angry with the people of Israel for defiling His sabbaths and holy days and then justifying their sins by saying that they had been delivered by God and were free to do these things. The idolatrous Israelites had replaced God’s ordinances with the pagan customs of the nations around them. Satan had inspired these heathen nations to celebrate their pagan days in honor of false gods on the same days that the true God had commanded for the observance of His festivals! To the Israelites who observed these days God proclaimed, “Your new moons and your appointed feast MY SOUL HATES; they are a trouble to Me; I am weary to bear them” (Isa. 1:14).

Note: This same condemnation applies today to holidays that are called Christian but are in reality of pagan origin—Christmas, Easter, and other holidays and saints’ days of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches. It applies as well to the days that are observed by the Moslems, Hindus, and Buddhists, and all other religious observances that are not sanctified by God in the Scriptures.

Although the ten tribes of Israel had grievously provoked God with their idolatries, He gave them many years in which to repent before He executed His judgments. The division of the twelve tribes into the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah occurred in approximately 970 BC. For the next 252 years, with some minor revivals, the people in the northern kingdom of Israel reduced themselves morally and religiously into abject corruption. As punishment for their sins, God sent the Assyrians, who conquered them and took them captive. The Assyrians removed them from the land of Israel and made them dwell in the area known today as the Caucasus, east of the Black Sea. The descendants of the ten tribes of Israel never returned to their former homeland. Centuries later, many of these Israelites migrated westward into Europe and the British Isles and became known as the Anglo- Saxons.

The second book of Kings gives the last Old Testament record of the ten-tribed kingdom of Israel: “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 [to worship other gods] in all their cities for themselves from the Watch Tower to the fortified city. And they set up images and groves for themselves [phallic symbols representing Nimrod] and Asherim [representing Semiramis] 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 warning 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, 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; no one was left, only the tribe of Judah.

Also Judah did not keep the commandments of the LORD their God, but walked in the statutes which Israel made. 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 [separated] 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...” (II Kings 17:7-23).

This summary of the idolatrous sins of the people of Israel shows the abominable practices that they adopted in place of God’s commandments and ordinances for His feast days. Their descent into the depraved worship of the heathen around them was aided by the fact that the chief pagan festivals were observed on exactly the same calendar days as God’s holy days.

The books of Kings and Chronicles contain many accounts of the horrible paganism and abject debauchery into which the children of Israel degenerated, in giving themselves over to Baal and Asherah worship. It would be very instructive to read the entire account of the history of Israel and Judah as recorded in the Old Testament.

As evil as were the idolatries of the ten tribes of Israel, they were surpassed by the sins of the people of Judah, ancestors of the Jews. In Chapter Twelve, we will learn how rampant paganism in the kingdom of Judah led to the changes that were instituted in the Passover observance. The Scriptural evidence will show that the idolatrous practices of the ancient Jews were directly responsible for the institution of the temple-centered Passover.