Words & Images


“You shall not make for yourself an image 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, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

             It might seem as if the Lord was against all art, but we know that in the tabernacle, there were many images that were approved by God. The command does not prohibit arts and crafts that contain images.

There are no images allowed for worship.  We are not to use images of any kind to stand as God for us.

When looked at the word image I found something interesting. The verb form of the word means to carve, hew or shape.  The old form of the command accurately used the expression “graven images.”  An idol or image that is prohibited would be something of wood, stone, metal or any other medium that was to represent God or any so called god for worship.  We are not to hew out any image to represent God to us.

What is interesting about the verb form of the word “idol” is that it is also used for the stone tablets that hold the Ten Commandments.  They were hewn out of the mountain and the words of the command were hewn into them. In fact, God cut out the stones and wrote on them his commands and gave them to Moses. God “engraved” the 10 Commandments one “hewn stones.”   Now the Second commandment says, do not make for yourself any “graved” images

One insight is that God will allow himself to be represented by words.  In Exodus 34, there is a passage where God allows Moses to “see” his glory.  But Moses only has a glimpse, as if from behind, of the glory of God, but the words are clear “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin…

            Engraved words, indeed the Bible whether engraved, written or spoken are the way in which God has chosen to reveal himself to us.  We are not to make graven images, but open our ears and our hearts to receive the engraved words of God.


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