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Ancestor Worship
Excerpt from the Lexham Bible Dictionary, the most advanced Bible dictionary.
The adoration or deification of the dead by the living members of the family or community. Cults of the dead surrounded Israel in the pagan religious practices of the Canaanite world and were rejected by the circumscribed religion of Israel (Deut 14:1; 18:10–11; 26:14; Jer 16:5–8).Rituals of ancestor worship included invoking the deceased, offering food, and pouring a libation (Tsumura, Samuel, 39–40). It was common for ancient people to respect the dead and offer sacrifices in an attempt to appease the forefathers, in the hope of receiving a physical or spiritual blessing.While the Israelites may have followed some ancestor-veneration practices, as a whole, they did not worship their ancestors as deities (Miller, Religion of Ancient Israel, 237; de Vaux, Ancient Israel, 60). Nonetheless, priestly texts within the Old Testament suggest that ancestor cults were a legitimate and persistent temptation for Israel (King and Stager, Life in Biblical Israel, 376–77). The Levitical priesthood can be understood as standing in contrast to the practices of other ancient religious contexts, in which the firstborn was expected to venerate and regulate worship of the ancestors (Milgrom, Numbers, xxxvi). The Historical Books describe how good kings (e.g., Josiah) worked to eliminate ancestor cults, while evil kings (e.g., Manasseh) promoted them (Tropper, “Spirit of the Dead,” 808).
Dictionaries
The Lexham Bible Dictionary
Ancestor Worship
Ancestor Worship The adoration or deification of the dead by the living members of the family or community. Cults of the dead surrounded Israel in the pagan religious practices of the Canaanite world and were rejected by the circumscribed religion of Israel (Deut 14:1; 18:10–11; 26:14; Jer 16:5–8).Rituals
The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary
Ancestor Worship
ANCESTOR WORSHIP. Ancestor worship and cults of the dead reflect acts directed toward the deceased, functioning either to placate the dead or to secure favors from them. See DEAD, CULT OF THE. The study of ancestor worship in the Bible was popular at the end of the 19th century among both anthropologists
The New Bible Dictionary, Third Edition
Ancestor Worship
ANCESTOR WORSHIP. Most primitive pagan peoples believe in the existence of spirits, good and evil, and many consider that among these are the spirits of the dead. The desire to provide for the comfort of the benevolent, and to placate the ill-will of the malevolent, among these, often leads to a ‘cult
Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary
Ancestor Worship
ANCESTOR WORSHIP — a form of superstitious religion in which the living seek to deify the spirits of their departed relatives. It is likely that ancestor worship occurred among the Canaanites and other pagan neighbors of Israel, particularly the Syrians. No conclusive evidence exists, however, to indicate
Compton’s Encyclopedia
ancestor worship
ancestor worshipThe veneration and respect shown to the dead in many cultures and societies is called ancestor worship. It is one of human history’s oldest and most basic religious beliefs. It is believed that when family members die, they join the spirit world and are closer to God or the gods than
Ecclesiastical Dictionary: Containing, in Concise Form, Information upon Ecclesiastical, Biblical, Archæological, and Historical Subjects
Worship
Worship (Ancestor).—Ancestor worship is a form of worship of the dead, still existing in uncivilized countries and islands of Africa and Oceanica. Among the Amazulus, for instance, a hierarchy has established itself in the category of their ancestors; they distinguish between those they have seen live
Global Dictionary of Theology: A Resource for the Worldwide Church
1.3. Ancestral Worship
1.3. Ancestral Worship. Confucius was honest enough not to give any instruction on life after death just because he was not sure about it. However, his answer cannot satisfy people’s curiosity. Ancestral worship had been practiced long before Confucius and continued thereafter. In early times, worshiping
Ancestors
ANCESTORSAncestral veneration is part of many religions and cultures, including ancient Roman religion, African tribal religion, as well as the religions of East Asia.1. Chinese Perspective2. African Perspective3. Ancestor Veneration in Asia: Some Theological Issues
Evangelical Dictionary of Theology
Ancestors, Veneration Of
Ancestors, Veneration of. How should Christians understand and relate to their ancestors? This question forms the crux of a significant issue within ongoing debates about gospel and culture worldwide. Controversy is fueled by divergent understandings of vocabulary, beliefs, and practices. Interpretation
The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, Volumes 1–5
ANCESTOR WORSHIP
ANCESTOR WORSHIP. Ancestor worship and cults of the dead indicate acts intended to sustain, placate, or benefit from the dead, normally one’s family members. Precision is difficult and the terms are used loosely, since some acts may have expressed respect or veneration rather than worship, or have involved
Key passages
Dt 14:1

“You are children of Yahweh your God; therefore you must not gash yourself, and you must not make your forehead bald for the dead.

Dt 26:14

I have not eaten during my time of mourning, and I have not removed anything from it while being unclean, and I have not offered any of it to someone who has died. I have listened to the voice of Yahweh my God; I have done all that you commanded me to do.

1 Sa 28:1–25

Now in those days the Philistines gathered their forces for war to fight against Israel. So Achish said to David, “Certainly you realize that you must go out with me in the army, you and your men.” David said to Achish, “Very well, you will know what your servant can do.” Achish said to David, …