“Worshipped All the Host of Heaven”

“Worshipped All the Host of Heaven” July 12, 2022

In 2 Kings 17, Assyria carries away captive the northern 10 tribes of Israel. Most of the chapter recounts why and how they forsook Jehovah and removed Him from their midst.

And they left all the commandments of the Lord their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal.

I fixated on “worshipped all the host of heaven.”

I looked up the etymology of the word host. The definitions of host were army, war, warfare.  I actually didn’t expect that definition. I had other preconceptions for the word in mind.

I searched the verse in the Jewish Encyclopedia which opened its definition of the Host of Heaven.

Term occurring several times in the Bible, but not always with a definite meaning. The word “ẓaba” usually designates an army, and thus connotes a vast body of organized and officered men; it conveys, however, also the meaning of a numerous throng actually engaged in warfare. The singular “ẓaba” has a different meaning from the plural as used in the expression “Yhwh of hosts,” a frequent though comparatively late name for the God of Israel. In this expression it is most likely that the reference is to the armies of Israel, at whose head Yhwh is marching to battle. All the more probable is it that the phrase “host of heaven” originally covered the idea of stars arrayed in battle-line (comp. Judges v. 20), with a mythological background, perhaps going back to remote Assyro-Babylonian conceptions (see Zimmern in Schrader, “K. A. T.” 3d ed., p. 421).

The “host of heaven” is mentioned as the recipient of idolatrous veneration (Deut. iv. 19, xvii. 3; II Kings xvii. 16, xxi. 3, 5; xxiii. 4; Jer. viii. 2, xix. 13; Zeph. i. 5). The express mention of sun, moon, and stars as forming the “host of heaven” in this connection leaves no doubt that astral bodies and their cult are referred to. Sidereal worship was practised among the Canaanites, as many old names of cities (e.g., Jericho = “moon city”) indicate, and the astral character of the Assyro-Babylonian religion is well authenticated. The cult of the “host of heaven” was in favor among the Hebrews, but whether in imitation of the customs of their neighbors or as expressing their own original polytheistic religion (as suggested by Hommel) remains a matter for conjecture. Certain kings are mentioned as especially devoted to this form of idolatry (e.g., Manasseh and Ahaz; II Kings xxiii. 3, 5, 12), etc….

nebula host of heaven
Photo by Bryan Goff on Unsplash

I thought of morning stars singing together, of Joseph’s dream that the sun, moon, and stars would bow to him. I thought of one who fell like lightning from heaven and also of war in heaven. I also realized that the scriptures don’t refute that there is a host of heaven, the scriptures just say we shouldn’t worship the hosts of heaven.

If there be found among you, within any of thy gates which the Lord thy God giveth thee, man or woman, that hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the Lord thy God, in transgressing his covenant,

And hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded; …

Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die.

The above verses in Deuteronomy 17 gives application to the Lord’s implicit command:

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

As I thought about it, I realized there are so many examples of fallen hosts seeking to gain worshipful followers.

Moses

And it came to pass that when Moses had said these words, behold, Satan came tempting him, saying: Moses, son of man, worship me.

And it came to pass that Moses looked upon Satan and said: Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should worship thee?

For behold, I could not look upon God, except his glory should come upon me, and I were transfigured before him. But I can look upon thee in the natural man. Is it not so, surely?

Blessed be the name of my God, for his Spirit hath not altogether withdrawn from me, or else where is thy glory, for it is darkness unto me? And I can judge between thee and God; for God said unto me: Worship God, for him only shalt thou serve.

Get thee hence, Satan; deceive me not; for God said unto me: Thou art after the similitude of mine Only Begotten.

And he also gave me commandments when he called unto me out of the burning bush, saying: Call upon God in the name of mine Only Begotten, and worship me.

And again Moses said: I will not cease to call upon God, I have other things to inquire of him: for his glory has been upon me, wherefore I can judge between him and thee. Depart hence, Satan.

And now, when Moses had said these words, Satan cried with a loud voice, and ranted upon the earth, and commanded, saying: I am the Only Begotten, worship me.

Jesus Christ

Satan even attempted to deceive Jesus Christ after His 40-day fast.

And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.

And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.

If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.

And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

Cain

Sometimes, the tempted did worship the false god.

And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters.

And Satan came among them, saying: I am also a son of God; and he commanded them, saying: Believe it not; and they believed it not, and they loved Satan more than God. And men began from that time forth to be carnal, sensual, and devilish.

And it came to pass that Cain took one of his brothers’ daughters to wife, and they loved Satan more than God.

And Satan said unto Cain: Swear unto me by thy throat, and if thou tell it thou shalt die; and swear thy brethren by their heads, and by the living God, that they tell it not; for if they tell it, they shall surely die; and this that thy father may not know it; and this day I will deliver thy brother Abel into thine hands.

And Satan sware unto Cain that he would do according to his commands. And all these things were done in secret.

Joshua

Throughout the scriptures, there are also examples when the righteous hosts of heaven interact with mortals, even the captain of the host of the Lord!

And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?

And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?

And the captain of the Lord’s host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.

It’s clear that this person is the Lord because there is no coercion and also no reticence about being worshipped. He is to be worshipped!

John

Someone from the hosts of heaven stood as a guide and interpreter for John’s vision.  John felt so overcome during his experience that he felt to worship his messenger.

And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things.

Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.

The righteous messengers do not seek to be worshipped, but rather point us to worship the one, true God.

How do these scriptures apply to me?  Am I worshipping the host of heaven rather than God?

Starry host of heaven
Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

One of my favorite voices stands as a righteous messenger of the Lord of Hosts on my path of discipleship.  In “Willing to Submit,” Elder Neal A. Maxwell instructs that not submitting fully to God’s will is to not truly bow our knee to Him at all. If we’re not worshipping God with all our heart, might, mind, and strength, then who are we worshipping?

Sometimes, our holding back occurs because we lack faith or we are too entangled with the cares of the world. Other times, there is in us an understandable tremulousness which slows our yielding, because we sense what further yielding might bring.

Yet we need to break free of our old selves—the provincial, constraining, and complaining selves—and become susceptible to the shaping of the Lord. But the old self goes neither gladly nor quickly. Even so, this subjection to God is really emancipation.

We are truly emancipated because

God’s counsel aligns us and conjoins us with the great realities of the universe; whereas sin empties, isolates, and separates us, confining us to the solitary cell of selfishness. Hence the lonely crowd in hell.

Spiritual submissiveness means, instead, community and communion as the mind and the heart become settled. We then spend much less time deciding, and much more time serving; otherwise, the more hesitation, the less inspiration.

Yielding one’s heart to God signals the last stage in our spiritual development. Only then are we beginning to be fully useful to God! How can we sincerely pray to be an instrument in His hands if the instrument seeks to do the instructing?

As we really begin to keep the first commandment—loving God with “all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength” (D&C 59:5; see also Matt. 22:37)—giving time, talent, and treasure is then accompanied by fully giving of ourselves.

All Their Host Shall Fall Down

The most thought-provoking verse in this chapter (to me) is verse 20.

And the Lord rejected all the seed of Israel … and delivered them into the hand of spoilers, until he had cast them out of his sight.

“Cast them out of his sight” like the rebellious third?

The Hebrew word for cast, according to Strong’s Concordance, is to throw, fling, cast.  This hearkened to the mental image Isaiah 34:4 brings to mind.

And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll; and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree.

The host will fall from the Tree. Disconnection from the Tree brings dissolution and decay until what was once full of life dwindles away and vanishes from sight.

And through that symbolism, I learn that both submission of my will to God or falling from the Tree are ultimately victories for God.  Clearly, He prefers children connected to the fullness of His glory, but the decay of His adversaries also guarantees another kind of victory.

These are they who are cast down to hell and suffer the wrath of Almighty God, until the fulness of times, when Christ shall have subdued all enemies under his feet, and shall have perfected his work;

When he shall deliver up the kingdom, and present it unto the Father, spotless, saying: I have overcome and have trodden the wine-press alone, even the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God.

The first option is my preferred outcome, though I seek it in great weakness:

For thus saith the Lord—I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end.

Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory.

And to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old, and for ages to come, will I make known unto them the good pleasure of my will concerning all things pertaining to my kingdom.

Yea, even the wonders of eternity shall they know, and things to come will I show them, even the things of many generations.

His promises are so glorious!

So much food for thought from one phrase in a simple scripture:

And they left all the commandments of the Lord their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal.


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