But ye have borne - The preceding verse spoke of their fathers; the present verse speaks of the Israelites then existing, who were so grievously addicted to idolatry, that they not only worshipped at stated public places the idols set up by public authority, but they carried their gods about with them everywhere.
The tabernacle of your Moloch - Probably a small portable shrine, with an image of their god in it, such as Moloch; and the star or representative of their god Chiun. For an ample exposition of this verse, see the note on Acts 7:42; to which let me add, that from Picart's Religious Ceremonies, vol. 3 p. 199, we find that there was an idol named Choun worshipped among the Peruvians from the remotest antiquity.
But ye have borne - Literally, “And ye bare the tabernacle of your Moloch” (literally, “your king,” from where the idol Moloch had its name.) He assigns the reason, why he had denied that they sacririced to God in the wilderness. “Did ye offer sacrifices unto Me, and ye bare?” that is, seeing that ye bare. The two were incompatible. Since they did “carry about the tabernacle of their king,” they did not really worship God. He whom they chose as “their king,” was their god. The “tabernacle” or “tent” was probably a little portable shrine, such as Demetrius the silversmith and those of his craft made for the little statues of their goddess Diana Acts 19:24. Such are mentioned in Egyptian idolatry. “They carry forth” we are told, “the image in a small shrine of gilt wood.”
Of your Moloch and Chiun - The two clauses must be read separately, the “tabernacles of Moloch” (strictly, “of your king,”) “and Chiun your images.” The two clauses, “the tabernacle of your king, and Chiun your images,” are altogether distinct. They correspond to one another, but they must not be read as one whole, in the sense, “the tabernacle of your king and of Chiun your images.” The rendering of the last clause is uncertain. God has so “utterly abolished the idols” Isaiah 2:18, through whom Satan contested with Him the allegiance of His people, that we have no certain knowledge, what they were. There may be some connection between the god whom the Israelites in the wilderness worshiped as “their king,” and him whose worship Solomon, in his decay, brought into Jerusalem, the god whom the Ammonites worshiped as “the king, Hammolech,” or, as he is once called, “Molech, and three times “Milchom” 1 Kings 11:5, 1 Kings 11:33; 2 Kings 23:13 (perhaps an abstract, as some used to speak of “the Deity”). He is mostly called “Hammolech,” the Ammonite way of pronouncing what the Hebrews called “Hammelech, the king.”
But since the name designates the god only as “the king,” it may have been given to different gods, whom the pagan worshiped as their chief god. In Jewish idolatry, it became equivalent to Baal Jeremiah 19:5; Jeremiah 32:35, “lord;” and to avert his displeasure, the Hebrews (as did the Carthaginians, a Phoenician people, down to the time of our Lord ), burned their own children, “their sons and their daughters,” alive to him. Yet, even in these dreadful rites, the Carthaginian worship was more cold-blooded and artificial than that of Phoenicia. But whether “the king,” whom the Israelites worshiped in the wilderness, was the same as the Ammonite Molech or no, those dreadful sacrifices were then no part of his worship; else Amos would not have spoken of the idolatry, “as the carrying about his tabernacle” only.
He would have described it by its greatest offensiveness. “The king” was a title also of the Egyptian Deity, Osiris, who was identified with the sun, and whose worship Israel may probably have brought with them, as well as that of the calf, his symbol. Again most of the old translators have retained the Hebrew word Chiyyan, either regarding it as a proper name, or unable to translate it. Some later tradition identities it with tire planet Saturn, which under a different name, the Arabs propitiated as a malevolent being. In Ephrem‘s time, the pagan Syrians worshiped “the child-devouring Chivan”.
Israel however, did not learn the idolatry from the neighboring Arabs, since it is not the Arab name of that planet. In Egyptian, the name of Chunsu, one of the 12 gods who severally were thought to preside over the 12 months, appears in an abridged form Chuns or Chon. He was, in their mythology, held to be “the oldest son of Ammon”; “his name is said to signify, “power, might;” and he to be that ideal of might, worshiped as the Egyptian Hercules.”
Etymology M. See Sir G. Wilk. in Rawlinson, Herodotus, ii. 78. note. “The Egyptians called Hercules Chon.” L. Girald (Opp. ii. 327) from Xenophon. Antioch. Drus. but the authority given is wrong). The name Chun extended into Phoenician and Assyrian proper names. Still Chon is not Chiyyun; and the fact that the name was retained as Chon or Chun in Phoenicia (where the worship was borrowed) as well as in Assyria, is a ground for hesitating to identify with it the word of Chiyyun, which has a certain likeness only to the abridged name. Jerome‘s Hebrew teacher on the other hand knew of no such tradition, and Jerome renders it “image. And certainly it is most natural to render it not as a name, but as a common noun. It may probably mean, “the pedestal,” the “basis of your images.” The prophet had spoken of their images, as covered over with their little “shrines, the shrines of your king.” Here he may, not improbably, speak of them, its fastened to a pedestal. Such were the gods, whom they chose for the One true God, gods, “carried about,” covered over, fixed to their place, lest they should fall.
The worship was certainly some form of star-worship, since there follows, “the star of your god.” It took place after the worship of the calf. For Stephen, after having spoken of that idolatry says, “Then God turned and gave them up to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets” Acts 7:42. Upon their rebellions, God at last gave them up to themselves. Stephen calls the god whom they worshiped, “Rephan,” quoting the then existing Greek translation, “having regard,” Jerome says, “to the meaning rather than the words. This is to be observed in all Holy Scripture, that Apostles and apostolic men, in citing testimonies from the Old Testament, regard, not the words, but the meaning, nor do they follow the words, step by step, provided they do not depart from the meaning.”
Of the special idolatry there is no mention in Moses, in like way as the mention of the worship of the “goat, a second symbol of the Pantheistic worship of Egypt, is contained only incidentally in the prohibition of that worship. After the final rebellion, upon which God rejected that generation, Holy Scripture takes no account of them. They had failed God; they had forfeited the distinction, for which God had created, preserved, taught them, revealed Himself to them, and had, by great miracles, rescued them from Egypt. Thenceforth, that generation was cast aside unnoticed.
Which ye made to yourselves - This was the fundamental fault, that they “made it for themselves.” Instead of the tabernacle, which God, their king, appointed, they “bare about the tabernacle” of him whom they took for their king; and for the service which He gave, they “chose new gods” Judges 5:8 for themselves. Whereas God made them for Himself, they made for themselves gods out of their own mind. All idolatry is self will, first choosing a god, and then enslaved to it.