The definition of an idol, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “a representation or symbol of an object of worship; broadly: a false god.” Therefore, anything that takes the place of the one and only true and living God, is an idol. The scriptures make the first allusion to idolatry when “Rachel [Jacob’s wife] stole her father’s household gods” (Genesis 31:19).
An idol can be a variety of “secular” things—even things which appear “harmless.” For example, under the so-called “power of nature,” there are those who worship rivers, lakes, mountains, trees, the sun, moon and stars. Others worship money, possessions, personal effects, and other secular objects. Some religions violate God’s laws by engaging in the worship of statues and images carved out of wood, stone, or metal. These idols are lifeless. They cannot act, talk, or hear, and are in no way a substitute for the true, living and Most High God. God alone is absolutely worthy of our allegiance and worship.
God made it clear to the children of Israel they were not to have any gods before Him. This is stated as the very first of the “Ten Commandments” that begins, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God” (Ex. 20:2-5). God is making it known to His people that there is no other God beside Him and their loyalty must be to Him alone.