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What does it mean to worship the starry host or the host of the heavens (Zephaniah 1:5)?

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Question: "What does it mean to worship the starry host or the host of the heavens (Zephaniah 1:5)?"

Zephaniah’s opening verses include a strong judgment on Judah because of “those who bow down on the roofs to worship the starry host, those who bow down and swear by the LORD and who also swear by Molech” (Zephaniah 1:5).

To “worship the starry host” is a clear violation of God’s law in Deuteronomy 4:19. There we read, “When you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars – all the heavenly array – do not be enticed into bowing down to them.” The “starry host” includes the sun, moon, planets, and stars. These celestial bodies were worshiped by the pagan cultures of the day, but God had commanded His people to worship Him and not bow down to other gods (Exodus 20:3-4).

The Ten Commandments specifically says, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above. . . . You shall not bow down to them or serve them” (Exodus 20:4-5). The violation of this command became a perennial problem in Judah. Zephaniah prophesied against it during the reign of King Josiah. Later, during Manasseh’s reign, we are told that the king “worshiped all the host of heaven and served them” (2 Kings 21:3).The prophet Jeremiah condemned the same practice: “The houses of Jerusalem and the houses of the kings of Judah—all the houses on whose roofs offerings have been offered to all the host of heaven” (Jeremiah 19:13). God’s people were frequently tempted to worship heavenly bodies, and their rulers often led the way.

The apostle Paul speaks of those who worship created things rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25). These created things include the stars, planets, and other heavenly objects. Today, many people seek wisdom from the stars instead of from God. Astrology, including the use of horoscopes, is simply another form of worshiping the “starry host” and should have no place in a Christian’s life. The heavens point to the majesty and glory of their Creator (Psalm 19:1-6); they are not to be the focus of worship.

Recommended Resource: Nahum, Habakkuk, & Zephaniah, New International Commentary on the Old Testament by O. Palmer Robertson

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What does it mean to worship the starry host or the host of the heavens (Zephaniah 1:5)?

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