There are some 10 different Hebrew words so translated in the KJV, representing the various kinds of objects of worship among heathen nations. Idolatry generally meant nature worship in one form or another; for example, in Egypt the chief objects of worship were the sun and other heavenly bodies, the Nile, and sacred animals, especially the bull. Ra, the sun god, was the active power in creation and giver of life. Among the nations of Canaan and western Syria, Baal was the sun god or source of life, and Ashtoreth was the corresponding female deity. In addition each nation had its own peculiar god to whom it ascribed its prosperity and misfortunes (see Chemosh; Molech). The idolatry into which the Israelites so often fell consisted either in making images that stood for Jehovah, such as the calves of Jeroboam (1 Kgs. 12:28), or in worshipping, in addition to Jehovah, one of the gods of the heathen nations around them (1 Kgs. 11:7, 33; 2 Kgs. 21:3–6; 23:10; Jer. 7:31; Ezek. 20:26–49), such idolatry being some form of nature worship, which encouraged as a rule immoral practices.
During the Captivity the temptation to idolatrous worship was overcome. After the Return, the besetting sin of the Jews seems to have been covetousness, “which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5; see also Eph. 5:5; Philip. 3:19).