Lev 17:7 and goat idols, part 2

by Rick Brentlinger
(Pace, FL, USA)

Pan by Jean François de Troy

Pan by Jean François de Troy

In Lev 17:7 and goat idols, part 1 we learned that 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.

In part 1, we also learned that Pan was an ancient Egyptian fertility god, part goat and part man, worshiped with obscene sexual rites in which men copulated with female goats and women copulated with male goats. This is one reason why God forbad Jews to become shrine prostitutes in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 or to engage in beastiality in Leviticus 18:23.

This truth is not historical revision by gays. As we have demonstrated by quoting well known conservative Christian scholars, this understanding is the common view for 2000 years of church history. The following quotes provide cultural historical and religious context as we examine the truth about clobber passages like Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13.

This demonic worship of Egyptian gods, often under different names given these gods by the Greeks and Romans, continued from 1400 BC to the time of Paul the apostle in the first century AD. Paul decries this false worship in 1 Cor 10:14-21.

"The Greek and Latin poets and philosophers, as they made some very slight acquaintance with Egyptian worship, gave Greek or Latin names to the divinities worshipped... Thus the worship of Isis became fashionable in Rome in the time of Nero and Paul." Thomas Bulfinch, Bulfinch's Mythology, The Age of Fable, 1881, p. 356.

"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, Leviticus 17:7

Jamieson, Fausset, Brown
commentary published in 1871


they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils--literally, "goats."

"The prohibition evidently alludes to the worship of the hirei-footed kind, such as Pan, Faunus, and Saturn, whose recognized symbol was a goat. This was a form of idolatry enthusiastically practised by the Egyptians, particularly in the nome or province of Mendes. Pan was supposed especially to preside over mountainous and desert regions, and it was while they were in the wilderness that the Israelites seem to have been powerfully influenced by a feeling to propitiate this idol. Moreover, the ceremonies observed in this idolatrous worship were extremely licentious and obscene, and the gross impurity of the rites gives great point and significance to the expression of Moses, "they have gone a-whoring.""

Thomas Constable on Lev 17:7
Dallas Theological Seminary


"killing animals was commonly part of a pagan ritual connected with worship of the "goat demon" (v. 7).

The goat demon was a god that the Egyptians and other ancient Near Easterners worshipped. It was supposedly responsible for the fertility of the people, their herds, and their crops. They believed it inhabited the deserts. A goat represented this demon (cf. 1 Cor. 10:20), and part of its abhorrent rituals involved goats copulating with women votaries. The Israelites were at this time committing idolatry with this Egyptian god (v. 7). They continued to worship Egyptian deities for many generations (cf. Josh. 24:14) in spite of commandments like this one that should have ended this practice. Even today the goat is a demonic symbol in Satan worship."

Bob Deffinbaugh on Lev 17:7
Pastor, Community Bible Chapel, Richardson, TX


"the danger of worshipping goat-demons was not hypothetical, but actual. The purpose of this regulation was not prevention, but cure. Pagan sacrifice which involved the worship of “goat-demons” was something which the Israelites had learned in Egypt and were persisting to practice in the wilderness. The commandment contained in verses 3-7 was thus intended to bring a particular false practice to a halt. The more we learn of this people, the more we realize how much idolatry and false worship they had learned in Egypt and brought with them into the wilderness. Thus, Joshua, the successor to Moses, would have to command the next generation of Israelites: “Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.” (Josh. 24:14; cf. also Amos 5:25-26)."

Ray Steadman on Lev 17:7


"This is set against the pagan practice of offering animals to demons, called "satyrs" here. A satyr is a mythological figure, half-goat and half-man. It is really just an objectified form of demon worship. God is teaching his people that they are not to try to placate the spirits."

Keil & Delitzsch on Lev 17:7
1870s German Lutherans


"To root out this idolatrous custom from among the Israelites, they were commanded to slay every animal before the tabernacle, as a sacrificial gift to Jehovah, and to bring the slain-offerings, which they would have slain in the open field, to the priest at the tabernacle, as (shelamim - praise-offerings and thank-offerings), that he might sprinkle the blood upon the altar, and burn the fat as a sweet-smelling savour for Jehovah (see Leviticus 3:2-5).

“The face of the field” (Leviticus 17:5, as in Leviticus 14:7, Leviticus 14:53): the open field, in distinction from the enclosed space of the court of Jehovah's dwelling. “The altar of Jehovah” is spoken of in Leviticus 17:6 instead of “the altar” only (Leviticus 1:5; Leviticus 11:15, etc.), on account of the contrast drawn between it and the altars upon which they offered sacrifice to Seirim. שׂעירים, literally goats, is here used to signify daemones (Vulg.), “field-devils” (Luther), demons, like the שׂדים in Deuteronomy 32:17, who were supposed to inhabit the desert (Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 34:14), and whose pernicious influence they sought to avert by sacrifices.

The Israelites had brought this superstition, and the idolatry to which it gave rise, from Egypt. The Seirim were the gods whom the Israelites worshipped and went a whoring after in Egypt (Joshua 24:14; Ezekiel 20:7; Ezekiel 23:3, Ezekiel 23:8, Ezekiel 23:19, Ezekiel 23:21, Ezekiel 23:27). Both the thing and the name were derived from the Egyptians, who worshipped goats as gods (Josephus c. Ap. 2, 7), particularly Pan, who was represented in the form of a goat, a personification of the male and fertilizing principle in nature, whom they called Mendes and reckoned among the eight leading gods, and to whom they had built a splendid and celebrated temple in Thmuis, the capital of the Mendesian Nomos in Lower Egypt, and erected statues in the temples in all directions (cf. Herod. 2, 42, 46; Strabo, xvii. 802; Diod. Sic. i. 18)."

Lev 17:7 and goat idols, part 1



Why is Cybele vital to understanding Romans?

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How do you interpret Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13,
man should not lay with man?


What are shrine prostitutes?


For additional study:

The Ancient Gods Speak: A Guide to Egyptian Religion, Donald B. Redford, 2002, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-515401-0

The Dictionary of Ancient Egypt, Shaw, Ian; Paul Nicholson, 1995, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, ISBN 0-8109-3225-3

A Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, George Hart, 1986, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-05909-7

Egyptian Religion, Siegfried Morenz, 1973, Cornell University Press, ISBN 0-8014-8029-9

The Gods of the Egyptians - Studies in Egyptian Mythology, E.A. Wallis Budge, 1969, Dover Publications, Inc., ISBN 486-22056-7

Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians, Sir John Gardner Wilkinson, 1878

The Great God Pan: An All-time Story, Leonard Stuart, 1913


These ancient authors also mention Pan: Apollodorus, Cicero, Euripides, Herodotus, Hyginus, Nonnius, Ovid, Pausanias, Pindar, Plato, Statius, and Theocritus.


Painting of Pan and Syrinx by Jean François de Troy, 1679-1752, now in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California


This page revised December 13, 2015

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