What was a sacred stone in Leviticus?Question: "What was a sacred stone in Leviticus?"
Answer: In Leviticus 26:1 we read of a sacred stone: “Do not make idols or set up an image or a sacred stone for yourselves, and do not place a carved stone in your land to bow down before it. I am the LORD your God.” We can visualize an “idol” and an “image,” but a “sacred stone” is a little harder to picture. What is it that makes a stone “sacred”?
Since the sacred stone is mentioned alongside the idol and the image, it’s most likely that this sacred stone was a rock with carvings on it for use in idol worship. The same Hebrew word is also translated “sacred pillar” or “sacred memorial.” One commentary refers to this sacred stone as “an obelisk, inscribed with hieroglyphical and superstitious characters; the former denoting the common and smaller pillars of the Syrians or Canaanites; the latter, pointing to the large and elaborate obelisks which the Egyptians worshipped as guardian divinities, or used as stones of adoration to stimulate religious worship” (Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, The Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, 1871, public domain).
In Deuteronomy 28:64 the Lord predicted there would be a day when Israel’s disobedience would lead to them worshiping stone idols: “The LORD will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods—gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your ancestors have known” (see also Deuteronomy 4:28).
The prophets condemned the Israelites of their day for following idols of stone. Their words sometimes mocked the practice: “They say to wood, ‘You are my father,’ and to stone, ‘You gave me birth.’ They have turned their backs to me and not their faces; yet when they are in trouble, they say, ‘Come and save us!’ Where then are the gods you made for yourselves? Let them come if they can save you when you are in trouble! For you, Judah, have as many gods as you have towns” (Jeremiah 2:27–28; see also Isaiah 44:9–20).
In Daniel, the gods of stone are mentioned in a list of idols worshiped by King Belshazzar (Daniel 5:4). Daniel condemned the king, saying, “You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways” (Daniel 5:23).
Idol worship, including giving reverence to decorated stones, has always been forbidden by the Lord. Leviticus 26 affirms the command made earlier in the Ten Commandments: “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:4–5).
Recommended Resource: Leviticus, New International Commentary on the Old Testament by Gordon Wenham
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Questions about Leviticus
What was a sacred stone in Leviticus?