I was running through the occurrences of “worship” in the NIV the other day, comparing them to the Greek and Hebrew. I noticed that they consistently translate “fear of the Lord” or “God fearers” as worship or worshipers. I compared that with the RSV and NRSV and found that the RSV translates the phrases literally, but the NRSV follows the NIV.
That is all interesting, but what really struck me is in 2 Kings, about the people brought into the northern kingdom after it fell. In 2 Kings 17, the RSV says “So they feared the LORD but also served their own gods” and the Hebrew is—drat, I can't get the Hebrew to display correctly—but the important thing is the Hebrew verbs, in parentheses, "they were fearing (YR') YHWH, but they were serving (`BD) their gods."
That is a scary thought to me. Is it possible to fear the LORD, but still serve other gods? Apparently it is, at least to the writer of Kings. What would that look like? Here is my reconstruction, and you tell me what you think:
On Sabbath and other important holy days, such as new moon, Passover, etc., the people make a point of appearing at the cult center and making the necessary sacrifice. After fulfilling their obligations, they return home and pour out a libation to the idol that is sitting just inside the door. As they make their meal, they are very careful to make sure the idols get their share. They might even gather around it for the meal. Remember, they probably have only one or two rooms in the house, so the idol sees everything. At night, at least if we can go by the Akkadian and Egyptian rituals, they are careful to put it to bed. In the morning, the first thing they do is take care of it, giving it food and drink, etc.
So, it is the first thing they think about in the morning, and the last thing they think about at night; throughout the day they are conscious of it and make sure to give it food and drink and care for it. They make sure that it is plugged in, and that the sound is loud enough to be heard in every room. It is turned on first thing in the morning, and is on all day. It has the place of honor in the living room, is in a prominent spot in every bedroom. All meals are eaten around it, and conversation is only about things that appear on it. When they go to work, the conversation is about the actions of the people who appeared on its screen the night before, or that morning. Nothing else is nearly as important, and huge sums of money are spent to insure that it is large enough, and that the satellite or cable connection is good enough. Of course, come Sunday, they need to attend church—after all, they are christians! But, as soon as the “service” is done, they rush home to turn the idol back on, especially if a sporting event is going to happen—what, you say that isn’t fair?