Within Ezekiel 20 there are a few verses that talk about idolatry and refer to Mitzrayim. That made me wonder if the Israelites in Egypt forgot the G-d of their parents or exchanged Him for the gods of Egypt? Because in the parashat of shemot the names of all that came into Egypt (and were raised in a home were HaShem was known) and the way HaShem tells Moshe what to say if the people ask for His name seems so important... like they needed to hear these things in order to turn and follows Moshe. Besides that the people that went with Moshe seem to go back to these idols (like the golden cow incident) every time that they can't see or feel HaShem or are in a troublesome/difficult/harsh situation.

Did the hardness in Mitzrayim cause them to los faith and within time made them turn to idolatry of any kind?

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    sefaria.org/Shemot_Rabbah.21 says they worshiped idols. I don't have time now to write this up as an answer; perhaps someone else will.
    – msh210
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 12:47

3 Answers 3


Ibn Ezra on the Pasuk writes:

וימת מלך מצרים. עתה יוכל משה לשוב אל מצרים. וישראל עשו תשובה. כי יחזקאל הזכיר שהיו ישראל עובדים גלולי מצרים. על כן ענם השם ותחת אשר לא עבדוהו עבדו אכזרים

And the king of Egypt died- Now Moshe could return to Egypt. And Israel had done repentance. For Yechezkel mentioned* that Bnai Yisrael were worshipers of the egyptian idols. Therefore Hashem punished them, and because they hadn't worshiped Him, they worshiped cruel ones (i.e. they served the Egyptians).


Thus, your reading of Yechezkel 20 is supported by the Ibn Ezra, and I can't think of any other way to interpret the pesukim.


Shir HaShirim Rabba (4:7 ) cites an opinion that only the tribes of Reuben, Simeon and Levi avoided idolatry while in Egypt. Apparently, all the rest indulged in it at some point which is why the prophet Ezekiel (chapter 20) notes the requirement to eliminate the idols before redemption could occur. (Yaakov/Jacob does something similar in Gen. 35:2, and in Joshua (chap 24) he does the same.)

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    – mevaqesh
    Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 19:08

Idol worship is not like atheism which is incompatible with believing in God. Idol worship is the idea that by worshipping a specific power you will get the benefits of that power.

The ideology of an idol worshipper is very different from what Hashem wants. We worship Hashem because He told us to, not as a means of gaining something -- although we are aware of reward.

In Beshalach we find that when the Jews asked for water they were checking אם יש ה' בקרבנו אם אין, if God is with us or isn't. The Zohar wonders how those who crossed the sea would still question if God is with them. Therefore, explains the Zohar, they were asking which aspect of God is with them, the revealed presence or a high hidden presence, called אין.

This too was a wrong question to ask. It seems that this kind of pondering is born from the pluralistic ideology in which idol worship abounds. The same can apply to them asking which name revealed itself. Although Hashem has many and many attributes, He is one. This is why, after answering the question with the literal answer of the name א--ה, Moshe was told to open by using the name י-ה, the name of oneness.

The Ramban, and basically all Rishonim, explain the golden calf as also a wrong ideology but not as dropping belief in God, ח"ו.

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