Do You See What Eye See? Idolatry’s Progression in Deuteronomy

Do You See What Eye See? Man looking up in adoration and thought

Our eyes can lead us to truth or error. “Things your eyes have seen” (4:9)[1] is an apologetic marker, citing actual events. But lifting one’s eyes to heaven to see creation as a substitute for Yahweh is the start of idolatry (4:19)[2]. The text seems to pivot on this idea: our eyes can honor God’s past work or our present idol worship. Deuteronomy 4:1-20 begins by remembering with our eyes and ends by warning about what our eyes see. We transfer our witness from defending The Faith to deifying The False.

The progression of idolatry is startling in Deuteronomy 4:19. “Lift up your eyes[3] to see” suggests elevation indicative of favor, acceptance, confidence, and desire.[4] The first step toward idolatry is a willful decision to esteem the focus of one’s attention.[5] “Enticed” comes from a word meaning to drive something away, scatter, or disperse.[6] Like sheep straying from the fold, so God’s people are implored not to wander off. Seduction and diversion can be self-directed and hence self-deceiving.[7]

Yet, one can be tempted to follow other voices. Ultimately, a wedge is allowed by people to separate them from Yahweh. To “bow down” equals obeisance. “Worship” is much better understood as “serve.” Often the service was given to a master, king, or God. When it comes to idols, obedience leads to servitude leading to bondage. One can be a slave of righteousness or sin.[8] The question of who to serve began in Exodus.[9]

In application, idols become our:

1. Source by which we receive our knowledge, where we get our information

2. Standard by which we judge or interpret, the lens through which we look at life

3. Self by which we decide for ourselves, what will be our interests, our place in life

4. Significance by which we estimate our worth, value, and dignity

5. Security by which we trust, dependence for our future hope and confidence

Mark believes idolatry is the central problem for all people ever since Genesis 3.  Since 2009, Mark has been teaching Crossroads Bible College students that Deuteronomy is the key book in The First Testament and staying away from idols is God’s key warning in Deuteronomy, on.

[1] “Your eyes have seen” is a repetitious phrase throughout Deuteronomy indicating a witness or testimony of historical events.  1:30; 3:21; 4:3, 34; 6:22; 7:19; etc.

[2] It seems we must see.  Deuteronomy 4:15-19 gives the first warning against idolatry to the second generation.  The ears are more important, deserving more preeminence than the eyes.  “The LORD spoke . . . you heard . . . there was only a voice” (4:12; cf. 4:15).  In the Hebrew, 4:12 says, “voice of words you hearing but image you not seeing only voice.”  Continuous, participial action bookended by “voice” is grammatically dramatic.  The present tense heightens the significance of constant, ongoing remembrance.  Even other nations “hear” about God’s words to His people.

[3] See my page “The Eyes Have It: The Difference Between Genesis 2:9 and 3:6.”

[4] “To lift up the eyes” adds emphasis by being redundant as in Genesis 13:10, 14; 39:7 or Ps 123:1.  This phrase is normal for idol worship as in Ezekiel 18:6, 12, 15.  Walter Kaiser. 1980. nasah. TWOT 2:600.

[5] See my page “Capturing Hearts and Minds”:Battlefor the Christian Mind.”

[6] Leonard J Copps. nadach. TWOT 2:556

[7] Deut 22:1; 30:4; then 13:14; then 13:6, 11. The Niphal root gives a reflexive, self-focused impact.

[8] Deut 30:17; then cf. Deut 19:5; 20:19; then 4:19; 5:9; 8:19; 11:16; 17:3; 26:10; 29:25; 30:17; then 7:16; 2 Kg 10:18-19, 21-23; then cf. Romans 6.

[9] See the scores of references in Exodus to “serve,” “service,” “servant/slave”—the key idea of the book.

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