This was a terrible practice. What makes it more so is that it needed to be said….clearly implying the practice existed, and what’s worse is that it universally existed and most likely continues even to today in some cultures at least in some form of idol worship….
Leviticus 17:7 And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils, after whom they have gone a whoring. This shall be a statute for ever unto them throughout their generations.
Here were the commands they were to follow…
Exo 20:1 And God spake all these words, saying,
Exo 20:2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
Exo 20:3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Exo 20:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
Exo 20:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
Exo 20:6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
Exo 20:7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
Leviticus 17:7 Gill
And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils,…. As it seems they had done, which was monstrously shocking, and especially by a people that had the knowledge of the true God. Such shocking idolatry has been committed, and still is among the Indians, both East and West: when Columbus discovered Hispaniola, and entered it, he found the inhabitants worshippers of images they called Zemes, which were in the likeness of painted devils, which they took to be the mediators and messengers of the great God, the only one, eternal, omnipotent, and invisible (a); and so at Calecut and Pego in the East Indies, and in other parts thereof, they sacrifice to the devil (b): one can hardly think the Israelites would give into such gross idolatry as this; wherefore by “devils” may be meant idols in general; for if men do not worship God and Christ, let them worship what they will, it is only worshipping devils, 1Co 10:20; and so the calves of Jeroboam are called devils, 2Ch 11:15; hence the golden calf also, the Israelites worshipped but lately in the wilderness, might go by the same name; to which sense is the Targum of Jonathan,”and they shall not offer again their sacrifices to idols, which are like to devils.”The word here used signifies “goats”, and these creatures were worshipped by the Egyptians, and so might be by the Israelites, while among them; this is asserted by several writers. Diodorus Siculus says (c), they deified the goat, as the Grecians did Priapus, and for the same reason; and that the Pans and the Satyrs were had in honour by men on the same account; and Herodotus (d) observes, that the Egyptians paint and engrave Pan as the Greeks do, with the face and thighs of a goat, and therefore do not kill a goat, because the Mendesians reckon Pan among the gods; and of the Mendesians he says, that they worship goats, and the he goats rather than the she goats; wherefore in the Egyptian language both Pan and a goat are called Mendes; and Strabo (e) reports of Mendes, that there Pan and the goat are worshipped: if these sort of creatures were worshipped by the Egyptians in the times of Moses, which is to be questioned, the Israelites might be supposed to have followed them in it; but if that be true, which Maimonides (f) says of the Zabii, a set of idolaters among the Chaldeans, and other people, long before the times of Moses, that some of them worshipped devils, whom they supposed to be in the form of goats, the Israelites might have given in to this idolatry from them, and be the occasion of this prohibition:
after whom they have gone a whoring; idolatry being a spiritual adultery, a forsaking God, who had taken them into a conjugal relation, and been as an husband to them, and cleaving to idols, which were as paramours; see Jer 31:32,
this shall be a statute for ever unto them throughout their generations: not only this of not sacrificing to devils, but all before commanded, particularly that they should bring their sacrifices to the priest, at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
(a) P. Martyr. de Angleria, Decad. 1. l. 9. (b) Vartoman. Navigat. l. 5. c. 2. 23. & 1. 6. c. 16. 27. (c) Bibliothec. l. 1. p. 58, 79. (d) Euterpe, sive, l. 2. c. 46. (e) Geograph. l. 17. p. 551. (f) Moreh Nevochim, p. 3. c. 46.