Religious compromise in ancient Israel

Any person familiar with the Hebrew Bible would recognize the Israelite propensity towards idolatry is the main plot conflict driving the entire narrative. What many people do not recognize is that it wasn’t that Israel was completely rejecting their God but rather they were comfortably worshipping other gods along side him. This is known as syncretism, where you combine different cultures and religions into one. Old Testament professor Claude Mariottini in the following series gives a summary history of religious syncretism in ancient Israel.

Dr. Claude Mariottini - Professor of Old Testament

Baal - The Canaanite God of Rain

Image: Baal, The Canaanite God of Rain

Syncretism is the merger of different, and at times, contradictory religious practices, faith, and beliefs in order to reconcile different religious traditions found within a community and in order to find unity between competitive views.

Syncretism in the Old Testament involves Israel’s absorption of Canaanite religious practices into the religion of Yahweh. Syncretism arose in Israel because Israel did not practice its religion in insolation, detached from its Canaanite neighbors.

When Israel conquered the land of Canaan, the books of Joshua and Judges say that the Canaanites cities were not destroyed. Rather, many Canaanite cities were left unconquered and, as a result, the Canaanites lived among the people of Israel.

Abraham and his family came from a culture where syncretism was a fact of life: “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Long ago your ancestors—Terah and his sons Abraham and…

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