Deuteronomy 32:16–17 states, “They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominations they provoked him to anger. They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded” (ESV). This passage associates pagan gods with “demons” and warns God’s people not to be involved with idolatry.
The Hebrew text here uses what is called synonymous parallelism, in which two or more lines communicate the same idea using different words. In this case, the parallels include “strange gods” and “demons that were no gods.” Grammatically, the demons and the foreign gods are the same. The text clearly connects pagan worship with evil spirits. The false gods are in contrast with the true God, the “Rock” in verses 15 and 17.
Leviticus 17:7 adds another important connection: “They shall no more offer their sacrifices to demons, after whom they have played the harlot” (NKJV). Here, these demons (the ESV has “goat demons”) are other gods worshiped by the surrounding cultures. Again, demons are equated with pagan gods in this passage.
It is no coincidence that demonic activity is associated with religions that embrace a multitude of gods and goddesses. A desire to have supernatural contact with the “spirit world” often focuses people on supernatural power apart from the power God offers through a relationship with Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit. The devil desires to be worshiped (Matthew 4:9), and demons teach false doctrine in order to deceive (1 Timothy 4:1). Those who worship false gods are, wittingly or unwittingly, pledging their allegiance to evil spirits who desire to usurp God’s rightful place in our hearts.
To the Christian, an idol is “nothing” (1 Corinthians 8:4). That is, demons and their deceit have no true power over us. Any power they wield pales in comparison with the power of Christ (see Mark 5:7–8).