“You are to have no other gods before me.
You are not to make for yourselves a carved image
or any kind of representation of anything in heaven above,
on the earth beneath or in the water below the shoreline.
You are not to bow down to them or serve them
for I, Adonai your God, am a jealous God,
punishing the children for the sins of the parents
to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,
but displaying grace to the thousandth generation
of those who love me and obey my commands.“
Out of all the 10 Words, this 2nd Word of God is probably the one most consistently violated by believers.
It goes to the very heart of the insidious nature of idolatry and how it can sneak up on you in so many different ways.
When examined closely, we find four key points being expressed in this Word.
First, there are to be no other competing gods in your life in front of HASHEM.
Second, making any kind of image or symbol of gods is strictly forbidden.
Third, the worship of any image or symbols are strictly forbidden.
Fourth, if you violate this Word, not only you but your children will reap the consequences.
There’s an awful lot to unpack here and we’re not going to be able to cover everything in this article.
Let’s examine the first point.
When HASHEM tells Israel they are to have no other gods before him, this wasn’t some whimsical little instruction.
As I’ve said many times before, the Israelites definitely believed in the existence of other gods.
They believed each nation had their own set of gods and each god was for a particular purpose like bringing rain or achieving victory in a war etcetera.
However, to the Hebrews at this time, this instruction meant that YHVH was the only God they were permitted to have.
What’s important to understand is that this prohibition against carved images mainly referred to any image created to represent the God of Israel.
Of course, creating the images of the other pagan gods was also prohibited.
But since the worship of gods besides HASHEM was strictly prohibited, the primary temptation for the Hebrew people at this time would have been adopting the heathen practice of creating images and idols to represent their God.
Now why would the Lord be so against god-images of Him?
The answer is pretty simple actually.
It is absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to create an image or representation that could sufficiently capture what YHVH is all about.
The God of Israel is NOT part of this creation.
He is NOT a physical being.
And as the Creator of all things, he is separate and above HIS Creation.
Note that this is totally different than the pantheism of many eastern cultures where pretty much every physical object in nature is considered to be a god.
While we can discern the attributes of God from what is depicted in Scripture, the truth is there aren’t any words anybody could use to properly describe God in His totality, so awesome and unfathomable He is.
He is an entirely different being than any entity or thing you could possibly think of.
Therefore, anything man attempts to make from his mind or hands to represent HASHEM would never even come close to capturing who God really is.
Any man-made image or representation of God would be an insult to HASHEM.
To be continued…