Dim-witted Israelites?

Question: Why would the Israelites worship idols they already knew were false?  Christians often argue that people wouldn't die for a lie as proof of their beliefs, but this argument actually goes against the Bible as the Israelites had even more proof of God than the early Christians did. In the Bible, the Israelites supposedly had direct communication with God as well as plenty of spectacular signs like the parting of the red sea to prove who the true God was. Doesn't this suggest that the evidence wasn't as strong as alleged?  Someone might worship false gods out of ignorance if they sincerely believe it will benefit them, but what would they have to gain by knowingly worshipping a false god, especially when the consequence is being executed or being conquered by pagan nations. They might as well worship a chair or a table. It's like knowing that fire burns and then sticking your arm in the fire anyway. Were the Israelites really that dim-witted, or were they masochists who just liked to suffer?

My Reply:
I think one of the main mistakes the Israelites made was when Moses invited them up to the mountain to talk with God, and they insisted that God use a human (Moses) to communicate through instead (talk about a rejection!). So then all throughout history, they kept their distance from the Lord, only keeping to the religious practices because they had to, not because they wanted to.
Another reason is because the generations failed to teach their children about the Lord, His Laws, and awesome events such as the Red Sea.
Then there’s the fact that the Israelites wanted to socialize and network with the surrounding pagan nations instead of be the one, special, chosen people of God.  Egypt is mentioned so often in the Old Testament, partially because the Israelite kings would often go to them for chariots and such.  But I’m assuming they also admired the gold, structures, and different culture to the point of envy.  Plus, the other nations also had something to offer that they didn’t have in their own lands.  For example, some surrounding religious practices included prostitutes, whereas God required purity.  So when you look at the culture of the time where women were treated more like property and treaty-binders, such a practice no doubt looked appealing.
Then finally, there were the kings.  All throughout 1st and 2nd Kings, you’ll read of kings from either Kingdom leading their people to sin.  The people recognized their king as their leader, and so when Jeroboam introduced 2 golden calves, Ahab introduced Baal, and others introduced Ashtoreth and other false gods, the people served who they were told to serve, and who was promoted throughout their land.
I do agree though that they must've been thick-headed, or empty-headed (or as the term goes today, “open-minded”) to continue returning to idols and their former slave drivers in Egypt, but technically speaking, an idol is anything that causes us to take our focus off of God/Jesus, and puts it onto instead. For example, look at some of the idols we have today: fame; money; popularity; cars; "big" stuff; bling; jobs; celebrities; our bodies...even today, we can get just as caught up in these as the Israelites did with their idols back then.
We need to keep constant communication with the Lord, fellowship with the Body, faces in the Word, and friends to keep us accountable in order to keep from slipping away from Him, as they did.  We also need to make sure that the generations after us know of and follow Jesus, too.
For some more on this topic, check out my blog.
---Pastor Andy

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