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. Commented May 20, 2019 at 6:32

5 Answers 5


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." Commented Sep 2, 2018 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 ) Commented Sep 2, 2018 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. Commented Sep 2, 2018 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." Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 19:38
  • Good answer, +1. Many thanks
    – Dottard
    Commented Jan 3, 2021 at 21:10

My husband is making our home a warzone over this.He is a chaplain at our local truckstop. He is condemning of the home decor in our house and wants it gone. I do not worship anything other than the Lord and my husband and his judgement and condemnation are the only distractions from God in my home. Not my few knick knacks. I have researched and even asked people with degrees in theology, They all say it is not idolotry to have home decore. I'm at a loss on how to Biblically counter his conception of the graven image subject.I so need help.

  • Thank you for your response. We can sympathize with your situation. And the answer to the OP's question might be of some help. But that's just it, the Question has to be resolved first. And your dilemma doesn't provide the Answer, it just highlights the need for an answer. So it is suggested that you wait until there is an adequate Answer on this post, and then return to your home discussions. Keep studying the Bible; it will draw you closer to Jesus.
    – ray grant
    Commented Mar 20 at 22:30
  • This does not provide an answer to the question. Once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post; instead, provide answers that don't require clarification from the asker. - From Review
    – RHPclass79
    Commented Mar 21 at 0:35

GOD never contradicts Himself, if you look carefully at all scriptures on images; it clearly states do not make "FOR YOURSELF" any graven or molten images. Instances where GOD instructed images to be made were instruments for His service and to show His power(Cherubim in the ark, brazen serpent). Whenever you create images of yourself or anything in heaven, on earth and in the seas, for yourself, you're violating the commandment.

"Do not worship them" - worship is way deeper than just bowing to a thing. Anything we adore or take pleasure in, is an object of worship. So, when we create an image of this object, whether in our hearts, or we carve it out outside GOD's instruction is called idolatry(worship of images). We don't necessarily have to physically bow to an image before we commit idolatry; worship is of the heart, once the image we adore which could be anything is created in the heart, the deed is done. GOD wants to be the one and only object of our worship and He is a jealous GOD. We cannot see GOD nor His form, hence we cannot create an image of Him, but His word in our hearts represents His image. So, when we take pleasure in, adore, reverence and do His commandments/words, that is true worship, anything contrary is idolatry; we cannot serve two masters. This concept is so deep and broad, even covetousness is idolatry (Col 3: 5). If you look closely at the reason why people create images/pictures, selfies, you'll observe that it has nothing to do with GOD nor for His service. Majorly, it's either for worship of idols or for human's pleasure. Any work of art that is for the praises and pleasure of men or anything is idolatry. The world is full of idolatry. GOD hates idolatry and will punish those who violates His commandments from generation to generation.

  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Jan 21, 2022 at 16:04

I have struggled with this for some time myself. I suggest considering the term "graven image" or "carved image" (Exodus 20:4) in linkage to all other uses of pecel in the scriptures - which all specify to man-made idols (https://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Lexicon.show/ID/H6459/pecel.htm).

Hence, the NASB version translates pecel to "idol" in Exodus 20:4... because, the LORD understands when man creates something out of his own will, it will never be holy and for the LORD, no matter what lies we try to deceive ourselves with. This is why idolatry can extend to creation of "causes," businesses, blogs, and so forth.

But to more your point, there is a distinct difference between a commandment to not make graven images on our own will, and when God commands the authority figures of Israel to make graven images on His will: to bring service to God (and God alone). It is similar in regards to the commandment against murder versus the commandments for capital punishment, or even in likeness to serving the world versus servanthood to Christ.

So, does than mean we are no to make graven images outside the instruction of God? Yes, for it is a written inclusion against idolatry - and it is sensible.

Does that mean we remove ourselves from the world? No. Does that mean our homes may look a little different? Yes. Does that mean we condemn others for having graven images? No.

What do graven images include then? Well, that's a topic for another time, and an evolving one as technology develops. Just know that God never has, and never will contradict His own nature.


Any man can twist the words of God to suit him self and base their beliefs of what scripture means by this twisting of words. Their is as well a difference between a bauble, trinket,, statue or other item which can be found in most any home. The key is making the image for or to ones self for the purpose of worshipping said item other than God.

  • 1
    Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Sep 14, 2023 at 18:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.