NIV Exodus 20:4You shall not make for yourself a graven image or any likeness which is in the heavens above, which is on the earth below, or which is in the water beneath the earth.

The Hebrew word:

le·Cha לְךָ֥֣ for yourself Prep | 2ms

Is he saying "on your own"? Or "for your own purposes"? What is the actual import?

  • 2
    I presume it has a similar function to the 'unto thyself' in the English 'thou shalt not furnish unto thyself,' as in not just a prohibition against creating them for others. A legal specificity perhaps. Commented Sep 5, 2018 at 21:39
  • 2
    מֵאַרְצְךָ֥לְךָ֛לֶךְ־ lech le-Cha me-art-tze-Cha (Get out, of yourself, of your country) are the words God spoke to Abraham in Genesis 12:1. There is similar discussion as to what, exactly, is the bearing of le-Cha in these words, also. An interesting question. (+1).
    – Nigel J
    Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 0:19

1 Answer 1


The next verse adds some important context.

Exodus 20:4-5 (YLT):


'Thou dost not make to thyself a graven image, or any likeness which is in the heavens above, or which is in the earth beneath, or which is in the waters under the earth.

Thou dost not bow thyself to them, nor serve them: for I, Jehovah thy God, am a zealous God, charging iniquity of fathers on sons, on the third generation, and on the fourth, of those hating Me,


This commands prohibits making images to worship. A person does not demonstrate he hates God by carving something. He demonstrates he hates God when he replaces God with what he has made.

Solomon commissioned many graven images for God's House that were not a problem.

1Kings 7:23-25


And he maketh the molten sea, ten by the cubit from its edge unto its edge; it is round all about, and five by the cubit is its height, and a line of thirty by the cubit doth compass it round about;

and knops beneath its brim round about are compassing it, ten by the cubit, going round the sea round about; in two rows are the knops, cast in its being cast.

It is standing on twelve oxen, three facing the north, and three facing the west, and three facing the south, and three facing the east, and the sea is upon them above, and all their hinder parts are inward.


This gigantic water container was used in the middle of God's House. It is hard to believe this broke that commandment in the middle of God's House and no one called it out. Read the rest of 1Kings 7. There are a lot of carvings for God's House commissioned by Solomon.

Solomon's own throne had gold lions built into it and it was not a problem either.

1Kings 10:18


And the king maketh a great throne of ivory, and overlayeth it with refined gold;

six steps hath the throne, and a round top is to the throne behind it, and hands are on this side and on that, unto the place of the sitting, and two lions are standing near the hands,

and twelve lions are standing there on the six steps, on this side and on that; it hath not been made so for any kingdom.


Exodus 20:4-5 prohibits making idols if the purpose is for you (yourself) to bow down and worship them.

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