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I5. Enabling Idolatry.    [Make a Comment]

We are not to enable others to idolatry.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed be He):

Key Scriptures

Exodus 17:8-13 (Maimonides RN59)
Then 'Amalek came and fought with Isra'el at Refidim. Moshe said to Y'hoshua, "Choose men for us, go out, and fight with 'Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with God's staff in my hand." Y'hoshua did as Moshe had told him and fought with 'Amalek. Then Moshe, Aharon and Hur went up to the top of the hill. When Moshe raised his hand, Isra'el prevailed; but when he let it down, 'Amalek prevailed. However, Moshe's hands grew heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. Aharon and Hur held up his hands, the one on the one side and the other on the other; so that his hands stayed steady until sunset. Thus Y'hoshua defeated 'Amalek, putting their people to the sword.

Exodus 20:20 (Maimonides RN4; Meir MN144; Chinuch C39)
You are not to make with me gods of silver, nor are you to make gods of gold for yourselves.

Exodus 23:27-33 (Maimonides RN51; Meir ML26; Chinuch C94)
I will send terror of me ahead of you, throwing into confusion all the people to whom you come; and I will make all your enemies turn their backs on you. I will send hornets ahead of you to drive out the Hivi, Kena'ani and Hitti from before you. I will not drive them out from before you in one year, which would cause the land to become desolate and the wild animals too many for you. I will drive them out from before you gradually, until you have grown in number and can take possession of the land. I will set your boundaries from the Sea of Suf to the sea of the P'lishtim and from the desert to the [Euphrates] River, for I will hand the inhabitants of the land over to you, and you will drive them out from before you. You are not to make a covenant with them or with their gods. They are not to live in your land; otherwise they will make you sin against me by ensnaring you to serve their gods.

Leviticus 19:4 (Maimonides RN3; Meir MN10; Chinuch C214)
Do not turn to idols, and do not cast metal gods for yourselves; I am ADONAI your God.

Deuteronomy 7:1-2 (Maimonides RN50; Meir MN20; Chinuch C426)
ADONAI your God is going to bring you into the land you will enter in order to take possession of it, and he will expel many nations ahead of you - the Hitti, Girgashi, Emori, Kena'ani, P'rizi, Hivi and Y'vusi, seven nations bigger and stronger than you. When he does this, when ADONAI your God hands them over ahead of you, and you defeat them, you are to destroy them completely! Do not make any covenant with them. Show them no mercy.

Deuteronomy 13:7-9(6-8) (Maimonides RN17-21; Meir MN24-26; Chinuch C457-461)
If your brother the son of your mother, or your son, or your daughter, or your wife whom you love, or your friend who means as much to you as yourself, secretly tries to entice you to go and serve other gods, which you haven't known, neither you nor your ancestors - gods of the peoples surrounding you, whether near or far away from you, anywhere in the world - you are not to consent, and you are not to listen to him; and you must not pity him or spare him; and you may not conceal him.

Deuteronomy 13:13-17 (Maimonides RN23; Chinuch C465)
If you hear it told that in one of your cities which ADONAI your God is giving you to live in, certain scoundrels have sprung up among you and have drawn away the inhabitants of their city by saying, 'Let's go and serve other gods, which you haven't known,' then you are to investigate the matter, inquiring and searching diligently. If the rumor is true, if it is confirmed that such detestable things are being done among you, you must put the inhabitants of that city to death with the sword, destroying it completely with the sword, everything in it, including its livestock. Heap all its spoils in an open space, and burn the city with its spoils to the ground for ADONAI your God; it will remain a tel forever and not be built again

Deuteronomy 16:21-22 (Maimonides RN11; Meir MN162; Chinuch C493)
You are not to plant any sort of tree as a sacred pole beside the altar of ADONAI your God that you will make for yourselves. Likewise, do not set up a standing-stone; ADONAI your God hates such things.

Deuteronomy 20:10-11 (Maimonides MN56; Chinuch C562)
When you advance on a town to attack it, first offer it terms for peace. If it accepts the terms for peace and opens its gates to you, then all the people there are to be put to forced labor and work for you.

Deuteronomy 23:4-7(3-6) (Maimonides MN56; Chinuch C562)
No 'Amoni or Mo'avi may enter the assembly of ADONAI, nor may any of his descendants down to the tenth generation ever enter the assembly of ADONAI, because they did not supply you with food and water when you were on the road after leaving Egypt, and because they hired Bil'am the son of B'or from P'tor in Aram-Naharayim to put a curse on you. But ADONAI your God would not listen to Bil'am; rather, ADONAI your God turned the curse into a blessing for you; because ADONAI your God loved you. So you are never to seek their peace or well being, as long as you live.

Deuteronomy 25:17-19 (Maimonides 59; Meir 194; Chinuch 605)
Remember what 'Amalek did to you on the road as you were coming out of Egypt, how he met you by the road, attacked those in the rear, those who were exhausted and straggling behind when you were tired and weary. He did not fear God. Therefore, when ADONAI your God has given you rest from all your surrounding enemies in the land ADONAI your God is giving you as your inheritance to possess, you are to blot out all memory of 'Amalek from under heaven. Don't forget!

1 Corinthians 10:14
Therefore, my dear friends, run from idolatry!

Ephesians 5:11
Have nothing to do with the deeds produced by darkness, but instead expose them ...

Supportive Scriptures

Isaiah 44:9-11
All idol-makers amount to nothing; their precious productions profit no one; and their witnesses, to their own shame, neither see nor understand. Who would fashion a god or cast an image that profits no one anything? All involved will be ashamed, but more than anyone else, the people who made them. Let them all be assembled, let them stand up; let them fear and be shamed together.

Psalm 115:3-8
Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. Their idols are mere silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths, but they can't speak; they have eyes, but they can't see; they have ears, but they can't hear; they have noses, but they can't smell; they have hands, but they can't feel; they have feet, but they can't walk; with their throats they can't make a sound. The people who make them will become like them, along with everyone who trusts in them.

Proverbs 3:27
Don't withhold good from someone entitled to it when you have in hand the power to do it.

Romans 1:32
They know well enough God's righteous decree that people who do such things deserve to die; yet not only do they keep doing them, but they applaud others who do the same.

2 Thessalonians 3:10-15
For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: if someone won't work, he shouldn't eat! We hear that some of you are leading a life of idleness - not busy working, just busybodies! We command such people - and in union with the Lord Yeshua the Messiah we urge them - to settle down, get to work, and earn their own living. And you brothers who are doing what is good, don't slack off! Furthermore, if anyone does not obey what we are saying in this letter, take note of him and have nothing to do with him, so that he will be ashamed. But don't consider him an enemy; on the contrary, confront him as a brother and try to help him change.

1 Timothy 5:22b
... do not share in other people's sins - keep yourself pure.

2 Timothy 2:25
Also he should be gentle as he corrects his opponents. For God may perhaps grant them the opportunity to turn from their sins, acquire full knowledge of the truth ...

2 John 1:9-11
Everyone who goes ahead and does not remain true to what the Messiah has taught does not have God. Those who remain true to his teaching have both the Father and the Son. If someone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, don't welcome him into your home. Don't even say, "Shalom!" to him; for the person who says, "Shalom!" to him shares in his evil deeds.


Matthew 6:24 and Colossians 3:5 make it clear that Idolatry is broader than just worshiping physical idols and foreign gods. An idol is anything (or anyone) that we desire more strongly than we desire God, and idolatry is any giving-in to such a desire, and putting that thing or person ahead of God. Given that definition, what it means to practice idolatry or entice others to idolatry is clear but, what is not as clear is what it means to enable idolatry. That is more subtle and often goes unrecognized. We know that a family member is addicted to alcohol, yet we allow him to store liquor in the house. We have a listless son who will not work, yet we house him, feed him, and lend him our car. Consciously enabling another to commit sin (including idolatrous sin) makes us a participant, and as culpable as the one who actually commits it.

The commandment in Deuteronomy 7:2 to kill the heathen and show no mercy was given in the context of Israel first entering the promised land and God delivering the heathen of the land into their hands for destruction. Even today, we should show limited mercy to the opponents of God if the mercy will further their idolatry. To give a trivial opinion example, if a person drops a stack of pamphlets that teach unbiblical practices, we should not assist him in gathering them up. We cannot apply the Scripture to justify destroying all heathens in these New Covenant times because that would be in violation of Leviticus 19:18 and Matthew 22:39, which require that we love our neighbor, in violation of Matthew 5:44, which commands us to love our enemies, and in violation of 1 Peter 2:13-14, which commands us to submit to human authorities. To destroy all idolaters today would also be contrary to our New Covenant commission to carry God's Word to the sinners of the world (Mark 16:15; Luke 15:10; Romans 5:8; 1 Timothy 1:15).

Now a word about Exodus 23:33 that prohibits us from allowing idolaters to dwell in our land lest their sin be a snare for us. As individuals, we cannot control what is allowed in the Land of Israel, but we do have control over who we allow to live in our houses and congregations. This is not to say that we should not invite idolatrous sinners into our dwelling places as guests for a time, for how else can we minister the Word of God to them? Still, such persons should not be invited for an extended period of time, or allowed to share occupancy with us as co-owners or co-tenants.

Classical Commentators

This Mitzvah consolidates several mitzvot that were codified separately by Maimonides, Meir, and HaChinuch. In his mitzvah to show no mercy to idol-worshippers, Meir takes an exceptionally severe position by saying that if we see an idol-worshipper drowning, we are not to save him, and if we find him ill, we are not to cure him. He does not, however, advocate precipitating a person's death merely because he is an idol-worshipper. Maimonides treats this mitzvah in another way - as a prohibition against extending grace to an idolater. He says, for example, that we must not complement an idolater as being good-looking. A strange example, but it makes the point.

Note: Leviticus 19:16 that is cited by Maimonides' RN19, and Exodus 23:5 that is cited in Maimonides' RN18 and HaChinuch's C458, do not appear to have relevance to the subject of this Mitzvah.


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