was wondering just what were the "high places" which caused
so much distress among the writers of Deuteronomy History? How many
were there and where were they located? Why were they characterized as
being "high"? What went on there and who participated? How
were these organized and who organized them? But most importantly, why
were they organized and what went on at them, so inimical to the followers
Bible Answer: The Hebrew word for "high
places" is BAMA. This word refers to a pagan religious worship area.
These "high places" were usually located on natural heights
such as hills and mountains,
And he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places,
on the hills, and under every green tree. (NASB) 2 Chronicles 28:4
Some of the best-known high places are visible today such as those at
Gezer and Petra. It was there that gods who were "no gods" were
worshipped - the gods of stone, trees and metal (Num. 33:52). We do not
know how many high places existed in Palestine, but it is probably safe
to assume there was at least one for each nation. Joshua 12:7-24 lists
thirty-one nations that Israel defeated when they entered the land. Joshua
13:2-6 says that Israel had left five nations in the land (Philistines,
Canaanites, Sidonians, Gebalites and all Lebanon). That makes a total
of thirty-six nations in the land of Palestine. We do not know for sure
how many high places existed or where they were all located.
The high places were places of religious worship. Five religious
activities occurred here: a) animal sacrifices (1 Kings 3:2), b) prostitution
(Jeremiah 3:2), c) the burning of incense (1 Kings 3:3), d) daughters walking
through fire (Jer 32:35), and e) human sacrifices (2 Kings 23:20, Jer. 7:31).
It appears that there were sacred pillars at the high places (2 Kings
17:8-12). These appear to be carved pillars depicting the female goddess
of fertility and male deities. It appears that each high place had priests
(Num. 22:41). The "gods" that were worshipped at the "high
places" included Baal (Num. 22:41), Asherah (2 Kings 21:3), Asherim
(2 Chron. 17:6), Topheth (Jer. 7:31), and the gods of the sun,
the moon, the constellations, and all the host of heaven (2
Kings 23:5, 2 Chr. 33:3). The gods at the "high places" were
depicted as carved and molten images (2 Chr. 34:3).
Conclusion:Why did they use high places for
worship? Were they attempting to get closer to their god? Was there a
psychological appeal to being up high? Was there a spiritual experience?
Sexual experiences were part of worship. Today, people seek spiritual
highs. It is interesting that God's tabernacle in the wilderness was
in the plain and not on a high place. God's concept of worship is
"sexual experiences," burning our children or making our children
walk through fire. God calls us to love Him, seek Him and to know Him.
It is interesting how often Christians go to a seminar or
to camp and then come home with a religious high, but two weeks later
it is gone. We wonder why. The answer is that back at home we are spending
less time focused on God. True fulfillment is an emotional love for God
that captures our whole person (Matthew 22:36-39) and results in "I
love you, God" and obedience (Rom. 12:1-2).