Note the numbers in square brackets.

4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven [1] above, or that is in the earth [2] beneath, or that is in the water [3] under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down [4] to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:4–6, ESV)

9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow [4], in heaven [1] and on earth [2] and under the earth [3], 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:9–11, ESV)

  • 1
    An astute observation. Well done. +1. I agree.
    – Dottard
    Jan 6, 2022 at 9:11

2 Answers 2


The quintessential Hebraism, "in heaven, on the earth and under the earth" (or a slight variation) occurs often in the Bible as merism of "everything in the world" and usually occurs in the context of worship or creation. Here is a sample:

  • Ex 20:4 - You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in the heavens above, on the earth below, or in the waters beneath.
  • Ex 20:11 - For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that is in them, but on the seventh day He rested. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.
  • Ps 69:34 - Let heaven and earth praise Him, the seas and everything that moves in them.
  • Ps 96:11 - Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice; let the sea resound, and all that fills it.
  • Deut 5:8 - You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in the heavens above, on the earth below, or in the waters beneath.
  • Phil 2:10 - that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in the heavens and on earth and under the earth,
  • Rev 5:3 - And no one in heaven, nor upon the earth, nor under the earth, was able to open the scroll, nor to see it.
  • Rev 5:13 - And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power forever and ever!” [Worship of Jesus and the Father]

Some times this list is abbreviated to simply "in heaven and earth" such as:

  • Eph 1:10 - as a plan for the fullness of time, to bring all things in heaven and on earth together in Christ.
  • Gen 1:1 - In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
  • Jer 10:11 - Thus you are to tell them: “These gods, who have made neither the heavens nor the earth, will perish from this earth and from under these heavens.”
  • Job 28:24 - For He looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens.
  • Deut 30:19 - I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live

In the particular case of Phil 2:10 appears to anticipate what John was to later write (Rev 5:13) about all creation worshiping Jesus in complete contradistinction to the commandment (Ex 20:4) not to worship anything except YHWH/God Almighty.


Yes, it would seem so.

Paul is busily updating everything with Jesus now exalted and operating at God's right side with all authority given to him (under God), even to give life/raise the dead! Everything has been the same since creation, but now nearly everything has changed in Christ Jesus.

Paul has reframed the reasons for creation in Christ in Col 1:15

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, 16because in Him were created all things in the heavens and upon the earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or lordships or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and unto Him. Col 1:15

He has explained the new age of reconciliation in Christ

by him (Jesus) to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace by the blood of his cross through him, whether the things on the earth or the things in the heavens. Col 1:20

to bring together all things in Christ—the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth Eph 1:10

And as Hebrews commends Jesus to be honoured - 'bowed down to' as Phil 2 affirms

when He (God) brings the firstborn into the world, He says: “And let all God’s angels worship him".

There is still only one God, but now there is His son who redefined what it is to be human without sin, without separation from God and who brings in tow all humanity after him back to the Father. The first to gain the life the Father has and enabling that life for all who follow him in faith.

because those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, for him to be firstborn among many brothers. Rom 8:29

No wonder he is called the second (and last) Adam!

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