Lev 17:7 and goat idols, part 1

by Rick Brentlinger
(Pace, FL)

Pan with a young acolyte

Pan with a young acolyte

Ancient Israel was a nation plagued by idolatry. Before Israel went into Egypt, idols and temple prostitutes were a growing problem. During Israel's 400+ years in Egypt, she learned to worship the false gods of the Egyptian pantheon. The Greeks referred to one of those gods as Pan while Egyptians called him Min. Romans called him Faunus. The Bible refers to him as a goat idol or a goat demon or a devil, Leviticus 17:7.

Pan was a lusty fertility god, with the horns and hind legs of a goat. Pan's worshipers expected him to reward them with increase in their flocks, fields and families. When the Greek Ptolemies ruled Egypt, around 323 B.C., Pan became associated with Ba-Neb-djed, an Egyptian fertility god portrayed as a ram in ancient mythology. He is often identified with the Ram of Mendes.

Jehovah, the true God, commanded that for certain sins, a goat was the appropriate sacrificial offering, Leviticus 1:10, 3:12, 4:23, 28, 5:6, 7:23. This sacrifice was always to be made on the altar, Lev 1:11, only at the tabernacle, Lev 3:12-13, 17:2-7. The idea is, you may not make any offerings to goat demons and goat idols.

The Bible portrays Satan as a great counterfeiter. It is not surprising then, that when God required a sacrificial goat, Satan counterfeited God's legitimate offering with illegitimate worship and illegitimate offerings on pagan altars to goat demons and goat idols, Leviticus 17:7, Deuteronomy 32:17, Joshua 24:14, Ezekiel 20:7, 2 Chronicles 11:15, Psalm 106:37, 96:4-5, 1 Corinthians 10:19-20.

"They must no longer offer any of their sacrifices to the goat idols to whom they prostitute themselves. This is to be a lasting ordinance for them and for the generations to come." - NIV, Lev 17:7

"So they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices to goat demons, after whom they whore." - ESV, Lev 17:7

Lev 17:7 in 42 translations

Matthew Henry on Lev 17:7
Presbyterian - 1662-1714

"When every man was his own priest, and had an altar of his own, by degrees, as they became vain in their imaginations, they invented gods of their own, and offered their sacrifices unto demons, Leviticus 17:7. The word signifies rough or hairy goats, because it is probable that in that shape the evil spirits often appeared to them...

The Israelites themselves had learned in Egypt to sacrifice to demons. And some of them, it should seem, practised it even since the God of Israel had so gloriously appeared for them, and with them. They are said to go a whoring after these demons; for it was such a breach of their covenant with God as adultery is of the marriage covenant: and they were as strongly addicted to their idolatrous worships, and as hard to be reclaimed from them, as those that have given themselves over to fornication, to work all uncleanness with greediness; and therefore it is with reference to this that God calls himself a jealous God."

John Gill on Lev 17:7
Baptist - 1697-1771

And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils

"As it seems they had done, which was monstrously shocking, and especially by a people that had the knowledge of the true God...

One can hardly think the Israelites would give into such gross idolatry as this; wherefore by "devils" may be meant idols in general; for if men do not worship God and Christ, let them worship what they will, it is only worshipping devils, 1 Corinthians 10:20, Revelation 9:20; and so the calves of Jeroboam are called devils, 2 Chronicles 11:15; hence the golden calf also, the Israelites worshipped but lately in the wilderness, might go by the same name; to which sense is the Targum of Jonathan,

"and they shall not offer again their sacrifices to idols, which are like to devils.''

The word here used signifies "goats", and these creatures were worshipped by the Egyptians, and so might be by the Israelites, while among them; this is asserted by several writers. Diodorus Siculus says, they deified the goat, as the Grecians did Priapus, and for the same reason; and that the Pans and the Satyrs were had in honour by men on the same account.

Herodotus observes, that the Egyptians paint and engrave Pan as the Greeks do, with the face and thighs of a goat, and therefore do not kill a goat, because the Mendesians reckon Pan among the gods; and of the Mendesians he says, that they worship goats, and the he goats rather than the she goats; wherefore in the Egyptian language both Pan and a goat are called Mendes.

Strabo reports of Mendes, that Pan and the goat are worshipped: if these sort of creatures were worshipped by the Egyptians in the times of Moses, which is to be questioned, the Israelites might be supposed to have followed them in it; but if that be true, which Maimonides says of the Zabii, a set of idolaters among the Chaldeans, and other people, long before the times of Moses, that some of them worshipped devils, whom they supposed to be in the form of goats, the Israelites might have given in to this idolatry from them, and be the occasion of this prohibition.

after whom they have gone a whoring;

Idolatry being a spiritual adultery, a forsaking God, who had taken them into a conjugal relation, and been as an husband to them, and cleaving to idols, which were as paramours; see Jeremiah 31:32, Ezekiel 16:26." from The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible on Leviticus 17:7

Sex Perversion and the Law
P. Davis, 1954

Many paintings and carvings of humans engaging in sexual interactions with animals have been found in various ancient religious temples. In Egypt, women copulated with male goats and men with female goats in the temple at Mendes to worship the goat as the incarnation of the procreative deity. - P. Davis, 1954, Sex Perversion and the Law, Volume One. (5th Ed.). New York: Mental Health Press

Adam Clarke on Lev 17:7
Methodist - 1762-1832

They shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils

"They shall not sacrifice lasseirim, to the hairy ones, to goats. The famous heathen god, Pan, was represented as having the posteriors, horns, and ears of a goat; and the Mendesians, a people of Egypt, had a deity which they worshipped under this form. Herodotus says that all goats were worshipped in Egypt, but the he-goat particularly. It appears also that the different ape and monkey species were objects of superstitious worship; and from these sprang, not only Mendes and Jupiter Ammon, who was worshipped under the figure of a ram, but also Pan and the Sileni, with the innumerable herd of those imaginary beings, satyrs, dryads, hamadryads, woodland gods, and held in veneration among the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans.

After whom they have gone a whoring.

Though this term is frequently used to express idolatry, yet we are not to suppose that it is not to be taken in a literal sense in many places in Scripture, even where it is used in connection with idolatrous acts of worship. It is well known that Baal-Peor and Ashtaroth were worshipped with unclean rites; and that public prostitution formed a grand part of the worship of many deities among the Egyptians, Moabites, Canaanites, Greeks, and Romans.

The great god of the two latter nations, Jupiter, was represented as the general corrupter of women; and of Venus, Flora, Priapus, and others, it is needless to speak. That there was public prostitution in the patriarchal times, See Adam Clarke Commentary on Genesis 38:21. And that there was public prostitution of women to goats in Egypt, see Herodotus, lib. ii., c. 46, p. 108, edit. Gale, who gives a case of this abominable kind that took place in Egypt while he was in that country. See also many examples in Bochart, vol. ii., col. 641; and See Clarke on Leviticus 20:16."

Leviticus 17:7 and goat idols, part 2

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This page revised March 27, 2016

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