If you’re a follower of Christ and a studier of the scriptures, then you know God doesn’t mess around with people serving false Gods. Reading through the Old Testament, you can see how many times the people of Israel turned away from God and served false idols, leading to the Lord punishing them. You would think Israel would learn their lesson. But just like Israel, many people today follow false idols. That’s why I wanted to share with you the meaning of idol in Hebrew and Greek.
All scriptures are taken from NKJV unless otherwise marked.
What Does The Word ‘Idol’ Mean In Hebrew?
aven- trouble, wickedness, vanity.
This word means “iniquity; misfortune.” The first occurrence of this word is found in Numbers 32:21:
“He has not observed iniquity in Jacob,
Nor has He seen wickedness in Israel.
The Lord his God is with him,
And the shout of a King is among them.“
– Numbers 23:21
Aven can be used to mean disaster, such as in Job 18:21.
Also, it’s part of human existence. In this sense, it’s identical to toil (Psalm 90:10).
Yet, in a deeper sense, it characterizes the way of life for those who do not know God.
“For the foolish person will speak foolishness,
And his heart will work iniquity:
To practice ungodliness,
To utter error against the Lord,
To keep the hungry unsatisfied,
And he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail.“
– Isaiah 32:6
Some people enjoy causing difficulties and misfortunes for others by lying, scheming, and acting deceptively (Psalm 7:14; Job 15:35). The Bible calls these people the “workers of iniquity.” They constantly seek the downfall of the just and righteous.
“Keep me from the snares they have laid for me,
And from the traps of the workers of iniquity.“
– Psalm 141:9
eliyl- vain idol.
This word means “idol; gods; nought (nothing); vain. Its first appearance is found in Leviticus 19:4:
“Do not turn to idols, nor make for yourselves molded gods: I am the Lord your God.”
– Leviticus 19:4
In Leviticus 26:1, God tells Israel they are forbidden to make elilim. Please notice how similar that word is to elohim.
Eliyl is translated into the word nought in the following scriptures:
- 1 Chronicles 16:26
- Job 13:4
Out of all 48 occurrences of this word, all but 9 occur in Ezekiel.
This word and the others used for “idol” show the scorn and horror that biblical writers felt about them. For example, these are the other words used and what they mean:
- awen meaning wickedness or uncanny (Isaiah 66:3)
- emim meaning fright or horror (Jeremiah 50:38)
- elil which means nothingness or feeble (Leviticus 19:4)
- mipletset meaning a horrible thing or a cause of trembling (1 Kings 15:13)
miphleseth- terror idol.
cemel- likeness of a false diety.
etseb- earthen vessel; painful toil.
otseb- fashioned idol; pain
What Does The Word ‘Idol’ Mean In Greek?
eidolothuton- idolatrous offering.
This word suggests that something has been sacrificed to idols. It’s made up of two words:
- eidolon – idol
- thuo – to sacrifice
Eidolothuton is used many times in the New Testament. You can find it translated in Acts 15:29, 1 Corinthians 8:1, and Revelation 2:14
“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.“
– Acts 15:28-29
eidolon- idol, or the worship of such.
“And they made a calf in those days, offered sacrifices to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.”
– Acts 7:41
This word is translated into:
- a false god (Acts 7:41; 1 Corinthians 12:2; Revelation 9:20)
- the false god worshipped in an image (Acts 15:20; Romans 2:22; 1 Corinthians 8:4; 2 Corinthians 6:16; 1 Thessalonians 1:9; 1 John 5:21)
You must be careful and sure to protect your heart from serving other gods at all times. For example, many people worship and love their family more than God. However, God should always be number one in our lives. Besides family, people have come to worship music artists, celebrities, political figures, and more.
Please understand that God is a jealous God and made humans in His image. That’s the definition of the word idol in Hebrew and Greek. I pray you found this article helpful. If so, please share this content. Also, feel free to share any thoughts in the comments below. Thanks for reading!
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