In the days of Enosh, the sons of man erred exceedingly, the advice of the wise man of that generation was nullified, and even Enosh himself was among the victims of that folly. Their mistake was this: Seeing, said they, that God created these stars and planets to rule the world, that He placed them high above to share honors with them, for they are ministers who render service in his presence, it is proper that they be praised and glorified and honored, this is the will of God, to exalt and honor him whom He exalted and honored, even as a king desires to honor those who stand in his presence, for such is the honor of the king. As soon as this matter was rooted in their heart, they commenced to erect temples in honor of the stars, to offer sacrifices to them, to praise and glorify them in words, and bow down to them in order to reach the will of God by this evil idea. This was the groundwork for the worship of stars. Thus was the statement of its adherents who knew the principles thereof; not that they asserted that there was no God save a particular star. This is as Jeremiah says: "Who would not fear Thee, O King of the nations? For it befitted Thee; Forasmuch as among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their royalty, there is none like unto Thee. But they are altogether brutish and foolish; the vanities by which they are instructed are but a stock" (Jer. 10.7–8). As if saying: All know that Thou art Alone; but their mistake and foolishness is in supposing that this vanity is Thy will.1Maimonides bases his contention on Gen. 4.26. G.
In the long process of time, there arose among the sons of man false prophets, who asserted that God commanded them saying: "Worship yon star, or all of the stars, and offer sacrifices to it, and compound for it thus and such, and erect a temple for it, and hew its image so that all of the people, women and children and the rest of the populace included, bow down to it". He, moreover, describes for them a form which he invented and tells them that this was the image of yon star which was pointed out to him in his prophecy. In this manner they commenced to draw images in temples, beneath trees, upon mountain-tops and elevated places, where they congregated to bow down to them and sermonize to the people, saying: "This image has it in its power to do good and evil, and it is proper to worship it, and be in awe of it." Their priests, moreover, say unto them: "By this worship you will increase and succeed; do thus and such, but not that and this". Then still other frauds rose up to assert that the star itself, or the planet, or the angel spoke to them and instructed saying: "Worship me thus and such", and thereat made known to them the way to worship them, instructing them, "Do so but do not do so". In this manner this thing spread throughout the world, and the worship of images with varied ceremonies, to sacrifice to them and to bow down to them was inaugurated. After the lapse of a long time the Glorified and Awful Name was forgotten to be mentioned by the mouth of all substance and blotted out from their consciousness, so that they gave Him no recognition, as a consequence whereof all the people of the earth as well as women and little children knew not save the image of wood and stone, the stony temple wherein they were brought up from their infancy to bow down to it, to worship it and to swear by its name. As for their wise man, for example, their priests and their like, they supposed that there was no God save the stars and planets for whose sake, and in whose likeness, those images were made; but the Rock of Ages not a man was there to recognize Him or know Him, save some individuals in the whole world, for example, Enoch, Methuselah, Noah, Shem, and Eber. And, on this path the world continued its course of circuity until the birth of the firmest pillar of the world, Abraham our father.
As soon as this giant was weaned he commenced to busy his mind, in his infancy he commenced to think by day and by night, and would encounter this enigma: How is it possible that this planet should continuously be in motion and have no leader—and who, indeed, causes it to revolve, it being impossible that it should revolve itself? Moreover, he neither had a teacher nor one to impart aught to him, for he was sunk in Ur of the Chaldeans among the foolish worshipers of stars, and his father, and his mother, like all the people, worshiped stars, and he, although following them in their worship, busies his heart and reflects until he attains the path of truth, and, by his correct thinking, he understood when he finally saw the line of righteousness. He knew that there is One God; He leads the planet; He created everything; and in all that is there is no god save He. He knew that the whole world was in error, and that the thing which caused them to err was, that their worshiping the stars and the images brought about the loss of the truth from their consciousness. And, when Abraham was forty years old he recognized his Creator. After he came to this comprehension and knowledge he started to confute the sons of Ur of the Chaldeans, and to organize disputations with them, cautioning them, saying: "This is not the true path that you are following", and he destroyed the images, and commenced preaching to the people warning them that it is not right to worship any save the God of the universe, and unto Him alone it is right to bow down, to offer sacrifices, and compound offerings, so that the creatures of the future shall recognize Him. Moreover, it is right to destroy and break in pieces all of the images, so that the whole population of the future be not led to an error like unto these who imagine that there is no God save these images. When he had them subdued by his well supported contentions, the king tried to put him to death, but he was saved by a miracle, and went hence to Haran. There he stood up anew and called out in a great voice to the whole world, to let them know that there is One God for the whole universe, and unto Him it is proper to render service. And thus he went onward with his proclamations from city to city, and from government to government, until he attained the land of Canaan amidst his outcry, even as it is said: "And called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God" (Gen. 21.33). When the people who congregated about him asked him concerning his preachments, he replied by imparting knowledge to each and every one according to his mentality, to the end that he was able to turn him to the path of truth, until there congregated about him thousands, even tens of thousands, and they became the people of Abraham's household, in whose heart he implanted this great cause, concerning which he compiled books, and which he imparted to his son Isaac.3Nedarim, 32a. C. Isaac, from his seat of learning, gave instructions and admonitions. And Isaac, in turn, imparted it to Jacob and appointed him head master, who, at his seat of learning, gave instructions and supported all who flocked to him. And Jacob our father instructed all his sons, but separated Levi and appointed him head master, and established him in a seat of learning where to instruct in the path of the Name and in the observance of the charges of Abraham. He, moreover, commanded his sons not to interrupt the succession of the sons of Levi to the presidency of the school so that the learning be not forgotten. So did the movement advance intensely among the sons of Jacob and their followers that the world saw a God-knowing nation called into existence, until Israel spent a long time in Egypt, when they turned to be instructed in their practice and to worship the stars as they did, save only the tribe of Levi, which remained faithful to their ancestorial charge; for the tribe of Levi at no time worshiped stars. Verily, in but a short space of time, the root which Abraham had planted would have been uprooted, and the sons of Jacob would have turned to the universal error and wandering; save because of the Lord's love for us, and because He observes the oath of covenant with Abraham our father, He appointed Moses our Master lord of all prophets, and made him His messenger. After Moses our Master was endowed with prophecy and the Lord chose Israel as an inheritance, He crowned them with commandments, and made known to them the way to serve Him, and what will be the judgment rendered against idolatry and all its erring devotees.3