The ancient Canaanites, and other nations, worshipped the heavenly bodies and their idols upon hills, mountains, and artificial elevations. The Israelites were commanded to destroy these places of idol worship, Deuteronomy 12:2, but instead of this, they imitated the heathen, and at first worshipped Jehovah in high places, 1 Samuel 9:12 1 Kings 3:4, and afterwards idols, 1 Kings 11:7 2 Kings 17:10,11. Here also they built chapels or temples, "houses of the high places," 1 Kings 13:32 2 Kings 17:29, and had regular priests, 1 Kings 12:32 2 Kings 17:32. Different groves were sacred to different gods; and the high places were inseparably linked to idolatry. Hence one reason why Jehovah required the festivals and sacrifices of the Jews to be centered at his temple in Jerusalem; that the people of the living and only true God might be delivered from the temptations of the groves, and witness as one man against idolatry. The prophets reproach the Israelites for worshipping on the high places; the destroying of which was a duty, but the honor of performing it is given to few princes in Scripture, though several of them were zealous for the law. Before the temple was built, the high places were not absolutely contrary to the law, provided God only was adored there. Under the judges, they seem to have been tolerated in some exceptional cases; and Samuel offered sacrifice in several places where the ark was not present. Even in Davidís time, the people sacrificed to the Lord at Shiloh, Jerusalem, and Gibeon. The high places were much frequented in the kingdom of Israel; and on these hills they often adored idols, and committed a thousand abominations. See
These dictionary topics are from American Tract Society Bible Dictionary published in 1859. Public Domain, copy freely.