Idolatry and Aniconism

"You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Father, am a jealous Father, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

If we take His commands seriously, and quite literally, shouldn't we be reluctant to assume that our modern interpretation of graven images/worship are adequate.

“Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation, for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God.” (2 Peter 20-21)

The structure of the Command seems to imply three separate elements:

  1. No idols
  2. Nothing of any likeness of what is in heaven, earth, or in the sea
  3. Do not worship any of these things.

Broken down into it's literal application:

1. I don't believe all idols are worshipped, but are still forbidden. For this reason I wouldn't have a golden Buddha in my house despite the fact that I don't worship it.

2. Graven images of the likeness of what is in heaven/earth/sea seems to be forbidden. But the question is, does that only apply to godlike worship? Obviously there are subtle forms of this that are not overtly worship, but still classify as worship in a manner. Photos of sports icons on your wall definitely falls under this classification in my understanding. Political figures, or historical figures would as well.

3. Clearly the worship of these things is forbidden. Worship may not be as obvious as bowing to them as a god. Clearly the world's culture worships sports, celebrity, money, power, politics, religion, it's own culture.

Historically Israelites and early Christians kept a form of aniconism that looks very much like the Amish, Orthodox Jewish, and Islamic understanding of aniconism. Graven images of animals and people are permissible in a book for educational purposes, but not in artwork that would hang on a wall, and never in sculptures. Political, religious, and historical figures are a form of idolatry even if not worshipped as gods. Ancestor worship is alive and well in many cultures/religions. While not all may light candles on alters in front of photos, many (including Israelites - past/present) are lighting little memorials to their ancestors in their hearts.

The Devil's Advocate

It's been stated by some that Moses held up an idol of a serpent in the desert to ward off the fiery serpent's affect on the people of Israel. Likewise it's been stated that His people were commanded to place Cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant.

The bronze serpent, and the Cherubim were both instructed by the Father. They are not "idols" by His design, but they both have a "likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth". This same flawed logic could argue that Moses practiced sorcery with the turning of his staff to a serpent and so sorcery is permissible, but this was "Just as the Father commanded":

"So Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh, and thus they did just as the Father had commanded; and Aaron threw his staff down before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent." Exodus 7:10

Obviously we don't practice turning rods into serpents of our own accord. Shouldn't we conclude that doing things as Commanded (making graven images by His command) is different than doing these things on our own, and for our own purpose. Despite the Father's command to create the brass serpent or the Cherubim, they still created issue. They were not intended to be worshipped, but they still were. Even in the best of circumstances graven images can become a stumbling block.


Nothing solid yet. I think we need to analyze this, and be on guard to what we may be idolizing in our minds and hearts. Israel (Israelite) worship not withstanding. A cross, a menorah, a star, a crucifix... these are not Him. Ancestry worship, patriotism... not Him.