Exodus 20:4

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:

Graven Image of a Snake(seraph).

Numbers 21:8-9.

8>And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.

9>And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.

God commands graven images be placed on top of the Ark of the Covenant – the holiest religious artifact in all of Israel!

Exodus 25:18-19

18 And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat.

19 Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends.


Did God contradict himself/herself?

  • It's similar to having pictures of Jesus. It's not a sin to visually convey divine figures or be aesthetic but to use these drawings as an object of worship (or funnily enough "aid your worship in God") is sinful. May 20 '19 at 6:32

No, God did not contradict Himself, since He never forbade all kinds of images to begin with, that, going on to command images to be made, He could be said to contradict Himself.

Something is always omitted when people use Exodus 20 to claim God forbids all images: the immediately surrounding words/context:

Exodus 20:1-6 (DRB) And the Lord spoke all these words: 2 I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt not have strange gods before me. 4 Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth. 5 Thou shalt not adore them, nor serve them: I am the Lord thy God, mighty, jealous, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me: 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands to them that love me, and keep my commandments.

This doesn't forbid all images, but only those adored and served. This is immensely clear and explicit.

Considered its own commandment by some denominations, by Catholics and Lutherans and others it is considered simply an extension or elaboration of the First Commandment, considered: "I am the Lord thy God: thou shalt not have strange gods before me." This is because there is no given division of the commandments of Exodus, and the numbering is per the reader.

That this is the meaning contextually is also obvious from the fact that if taken to mean this is against all imagery (i.e. not just that which is worshiped, i.e. an idol) then all embroidery containing flowers, or pictures in books, or photos of family members, or statutes of any kind whatever, or museum displays, etc., are all a severe breaking of the express commandment of God. The absurdity of that speaks for itself.

  • Yes, by commanding images to be made which weren't worshiped, as well as the context I just quoted where He says, "don't worship them; I am your God." Sep 2 '18 at 18:51
  • Did God tell you, that he meant "only those adored and served?" What is you definition and interpretation of "any" in that verse? "They believed that the serpent possessed magical healing powers; the serpent, not God, saved the people! It turns out that the snake which Moses used in curing the people created a new ailment, an idolatry which continued for generations! Why would God choose to cure the afflicted in a manner that entailed such great risk of backfiring?" (etzion.org.il/en/snake-heals ) Sep 2 '18 at 18:59
  • 1
    'God says to look to this sign to be saved' versus 'start worshiping some bronze instead of or alongside God' are two very, very different things. Obviously when God commands you to do something, it cannot be sin; sin being something contrary to God's wishes, and not His wishes. But most importantly: they didn't worship it. They looked to it. It doesn't say they worshiped it. Also, the text doesn't say they thought the bronze serpent had magical powers. That's read into the text. God using an instrument, such as saliva (Jn 9:6, Mk 7:33), doesn't mean it has 'magical powers.'It's a sacramental. Sep 2 '18 at 19:08
  • Wisdom 16:5-7 "For when the fierce rage of beasts came upon these, they were destroyed with the bitings of crooked serpents. 6 But thy wrath endured not for ever, but they were troubled for a short time for their correction, having a sign of salvation to put them in remembrance of the commandment of thy law. 7 For he that turned to it, was not healed by that which he saw, but by thee the Saviour of all." Sep 10 '18 at 19:38
  • Good answer, +1. Many thanks
    – Dottard
    Jan 3 '21 at 21:10

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