The second commandment of the Ten Commandments gives a stern warning . . . “thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image” (Exodus 20:4). This commandment is probably one of the most misunderstood commandments out of the ten. But before we get into the deeper meaning, this verse does mean exactly what it says; don’t bow down or worship things other than God.
Back when this law, and before it, was first given, Israel was surrounded on every side with people who worshiped images, idols and the such. On more than one occasion did the idols make it into the Israelite’s world (Genesis 31:34) and you can see the damage it caused to them. In the supporting verse, Genesis 31:34, Rachel would have been killed because of the idols, Laban and Jacob almost tore their relationship apart into pieces (Genesis 31:36) and later they had to be put away either way (Genesis 35:4). It didn’t seem worth it to go through all that trouble for some silly idols. However, in those days, in an attitude that still lives on until today, idols were essential to one’s false religion.
Today, we like to translate this verse to mean any thing that takes attention over God. However, although this concept is true (Romans 1:25), nowhere do we find this in the second commandment and, if you read the rest of the verses one will see that the belief in idols had many different degrees of sin that affect the work of Christ much more than imagined.
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them [the idols], 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;
And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me, and keep My commandments.
Here we have God telling them not to bow or serve idols because:
- He is a jealous God
- He visits the iniquity of humans, even future humans not yet born
- He shows mercy to those who follow Him
To be continued . . .