Chapter Six: Second Commandment Forbids Making Images to Represent God

First Commandment (The Otherness of God)
1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Second Commandment (The Impictureability of God)
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:

3. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

4. And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. (Ex. 20:3-6, KJV)

Identifying the Second Commandment

While the church has long been divided as to which verse or verses should be called the second commandment, there are good reasons for saying Exodus 20:4-6 is it. Granted, there are two popular ways of numbering the Ten Commandments. Why two different ways? The usual debate is whether Exodus 20:3-6 (above) is one commandment or two.

Roman Catholics and Lutherans say this whole passage (Ex. 20:3-6) is only one commandment, the first one. In order to get ten commandments, they divide verse 17 (against coveting) into two commandments, making two commandments against coveting. They call verse seven (the command against taking God’s name in vain) the second commandment.

But most other Protestants, including the Reformed churches, along with the Eastern Orthodox and most Jews, count verse 3 (which is against other gods) as the first commandment, and verses 4-6 (against images) as the second commandment. This gives ten commandments where each commandment deals with a different subject.

In Defense of the Reformed Way of Numbering the Second Commandment
Calvin explained why Reformed churches believe there are two commandments in verses 3-6. The first commandment (Ex. 20:3) teaches who the true God is, who alone is to be worshiped. The second commandment (Ex. 20:4-6) sets the boundaries of his legitimate worship. Who God is, and how he is to be worshiped, are two distinct matters. The point of the second commandment is that the worship of God must be spiritual because it must correspond with the nature of God. The second commandment condemns metamorphosing God into something gross and worldly. It is wrong to seek the presence of God in any image “because he cannot be represented to our eyes.” (Calvin, 702)

Calvin did not invent this understanding of the second commandment. It was a basic principle not only in Reformed theology, but also back in early church theology (this will be shown in the studies of the Early Church) and in Jewish theology. As the modem Jewish writer, Erich Fromm, said: “This God who manifests himself in history cannot be represented by any kind of image.” This command is one of the most fundamental principles of Jewish theology, said Fromm. (Fromm, p. 31.) As for Reformed theology, a separate chapter in this book will be devoted to how the second commandment served as a catalyst for spreading the Reformation.

The Reformed identification of the second commandment will be used in this study: the second commandment refers to verses 4-6. We will treat this law against images as a separate commandment, given to answer a separate question, namely, how can a person lawfully represent God? But however one divides the commandments, this law against images is in the Bible and does stay in a full reading of the Ten Commandments. One of the main reasons people do not know this commandment (whichever way we number it) is because we do not read or memorize the long form of the Ten Commandments. Even those who consider it to be the second commandment abbreviate it to “No graven images,” and remain ignorant of the content of the commandment.

Purpose of the Second Commandment

The Law Gives God’s Picture of Christ

“The words on these (stone) tablets were a kind of spiritual portrait of the God of Israel, who could not be pictured in a bodily form.”—(Wilhelm Lotz, “Ark of the Covenant," International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, I, 1915, p. 246)

Jesus is the only man who has fulfilled the Law.

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy but to fulfil."—Matthew 5:17

When Jesus fulfilled the Law he “filled-full” all the Law’s shadowy outlines.

The Law is the picture that God gave us of Jesus so that we could have a picture by which to know him.

Note the two-pronged attack against false religions made by commandments one and two. The first commandment is against polytheism (the worship of many gods). The second commandment is against pantheism (the idea that everything is God), and so it is against monism (because pantheism is monism). Monism confuses things and “God” into one thing. The second commandment blocks making a monism out of the Creator and the creation because it keeps our concept of God and our concept of the world separate and distinct from each other. The second commandment teaches that God and the universe are separate beings—separate realities. Created images cannot be our concept of God.

The second commandment addresses some of life’s biggest questions, such as: Where do we find the one true God, the God who is a different being than the world? Do we focus our search in the creation? Do we find that the creation is God manifesting his very being to us in various forms? Are the visible images of the world to be seen as God manifesting himself?

The second commandment answers these questions. It teaches that we must not use the things of the created world to serve our minds as images and likenesses of God. Why can’t we use these images and likenesses to represent God? The obvious conclusion to be drawn from the second commandment is that forbidden images are not images and likenesses of God. God uses this command to tell us something basic about himself: God is not to be confused with the world. The created world is not God. (On the other hand we must not make the mistake then of saying the created world is evil, as Gnostics tend to say. Genesis 1 shows that the world as God made it is good—but the world is not God!) We must not substitute any part of the world to be our concept of God. Instead, the second commandment takes us to God’s Word for the revelation of who He is, and what He is like, and how He is to be worshiped.

This commandment should affect and control how we worship God. Forms of worship come under the second commandment heading. True worship of God is the only purpose of the second commandment. (Calvin, The Pentateuch, p. 712, note on Dt. 12:4)

This Commandment Is Against All Monisms That Confuse the Creator With the Creation
The few words of the second commandment distinguish God from the world. See how the commandment applies that distinction between God and the world to such matters as the theology and worship of the church, and to the epistemology and ethics of the church, and to the missionary work and Christian educational endeavors of the church. To learn to make the distinction between God and the world is, to learn a lesson relevant to many areas of life. The second commandment relates to ethics: it teaches us to love God as he really is, instead of hating God by turning Him into the likeness of an image. The second commandment relates to epistemology: it teaches us to know God through his Word, not through images. The second commandment relates to metaphysics: it teaches us that God is a being other than the created world. Each phrase of the commandment is a seed of theological truth that is as relevant today in the modern age as it was when given to Israel through Moses.

Analysis of the Second Commandment Phrase by Phrase

a. “Thou shalt not make unto thee...” (Sovereign God Rules His People)
These are six words in English, but in the original Hebrew they are lo-taesha laech: a hyphenated word (meaning “no-make”—or “don’t make”) and one more word (that means “you” as in “for yourself’). So this phrase says, “No-make you ...,” or “Don’t make (for) yourself ...”

Three things get attention about this first phrase in the commandment: it is negative, it is a command, and it is personal. This same negative command “No” is the first word in nine of the ten commandments: they are nine strong “no-no” warnings, the kind of firm, negative instructions that loving parents give to their children to protect them from deadly danger.

This negative command is to be taken personally: God speaks “unto thee” (whoever belongs to Him and hears his commandment.) God requires each person who worships Him to apply this command to his own concept of God and to his own worship and service of God. This command holds people responsible for it if they accept any false image to be their representation of God.

False images lead to false concepts. False images of God give a false concept of God and thereby deceive people about God. No wonder that the Bible refers to demons using images to deceive people about God: false images accepted as images of God are the perfect instrument for deceiving people. People never think they personally worship the image itself (but many think some other people somewhere out in the pagan world really do worship images: “heathen people worship idols”). People always claim that they themselves worship only that which the image is supposed to represent. People are convinced that they offer unto “God” the worship they perform before the image, but it is precisely this worship through images that is prohibited by this commandment. Images deceive people into having a manmade concept of God, and the second commandment is designed to protect people from this deception. God exposes the deception of images when he declares that people worship wood and stone when they worship in that wood and stone phantoms of their own imagination. All forms which do not accord with the spiritual worship of God are here forbidden. (Calvin, Commentaries, I, 703-704)

b. “a graven image.” (Metaphysics)
What is meant here by a “graven image?” “Graven” translates the Hebrew word pesel which is derived from a verb that means to hew, carve, or engrave. A thing made by an engraving tool is “graven.” (A. Clarke, I, 401)

“Image” translates the Hebrew word tselem. Tselem means to shade, or to be a phantom. Figuratively, it means an illusion or resemblance. It comes to mean a figure that represents. In this way tselem sometimes means an idol.

Calvin warns how insulting such a manmade graven image is to God. To clothe God with a physical image insults Him because it obscures and hides Him. Giving His name to the image insults God because it transfers His name to something that is not God. (Calvin, Commentaries, I, 706)

This commandment gives a basic metaphysical principle for knowing God. The principle is this: do not use created images to represent God, because the image implies something false about the metaphysical nature of God. Images imply that God is metaphysically like the image.

c. “nor any likeness” (Ontology)
“Likeness” is our translation of the Hebrew word temunah. A temunah is something proportioned, or fashioned out, as a shape. It is a phantom or embodiment, a manifestation, an image, a likeness, or a similarity.

When we say God is like some image, we are saying something about the nature or being of God, so this commandment introduces us to the field of ontology which studies the nature of being. This commandment warns us to avoid signs that point to the wrong kind of ontology for God. Images imply that God is ontologically of the same nature as the image. We must avoid this ontology.

Since people in their ignorance make false images from all the materials they see, Moses lifts the people of God above worldly elements to make them aware that a true image of God is not to be found anywhere in the world. From this perspective God’s people can see that such images are false, they are lies about what God is like in His nature. We defile God’s glory whenever we set Him before our eyes in a visible form. (Calvin, 703)

How far does this law go against using likenesses of things that are not God? Does it forbid using a likeness of a created thing to represent that created thing? Does it forbid taking pictures? Does it forbid all visual artwork? Some people have thought so.

People who think the second commandment absolutely forbids all kinds of images, if they want to please God, feel forced to either avoid using all images and likenesses (an almost impossible thing to do), or they persuade themselves that they can dispense with (dispensationalize) this commandment, making it apply only to the Jews in Old Testament times. For instance, they will say that the Jews were so idolatrous that God would not let them make any image of any kind. But now that Christ has come he has set aside the law for us Christians. (Col. 2:14) But this reasoning misses the revelation about God that this commandment eternally gives.

An examination of the second commandment in the light of the entire Old Testament shows that the second commandment does not forbid all images and likeness in worship. Why is it that various images and likenesses brought no disapproval from God? Why is it that these images were made on various occasions? God himself actually commanded that certain images be made. For instance, God commanded Moses to make two images of cherubim. Cherubim are created beings: they are heavenly beings who belong in the very presence of God, but they are not God. God ordered that these images of cherubim must be placed in God’s holy dwelling place, the Holy of Holies, the most sacred spot on earth. God himself commanded Moses to adorn the tabernacle with figures (likenesses) of angels, trees, flowers, pomegranates, bells, and all kinds of skilled workmanship. In fact, images of bulls, lions and eagles decorated certain outer parts of Solomon’s temple. Thus the second commandment did not forbid all images; amazingly enough, it did not even forbid all calf images. (G. D. Boardman, Biblical Illustrator, II, 347)

This command is intended not to forbid the arts of sculpture and painting or even to condemn the religious use of them, but to forbid the worship of God under material forms. Images had their place both in the tabernacle (ch. 25:31-34; ch. 28:33-34) and in the first temple (1 Kings 6:18, 29, 32, etc.) (Pulpit Commentary, III, 131)

The commandment does not forbid culture of the plastic arts, but it does forbid creating symbols to represent deity. Image-making is lawful and painting is lawful, but sculptor and artist are both restricted from attempting to represent God. (W. J. Woods, in Biblical Illustrator, II, 347)

Not all Jews understood the purpose of this law. When Jews condemned all representations of natural objects they departed from the practice of Moses’ times. Moses himself, when he erected the brazen serpent (Num. 21:9) made it clear that images of natural objects were not forbidden by the law. (Pulpit Commentary, III, 131) It is just the making of images and likenesses of created things and using those things to picture God that is prohibited.

d. “of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (The Cosmos, The Created Universe)
“The triple division here and elsewhere made, is intended to embrace the whole material universe.” (Pulpit Commentary, III, 131)

Images are used to confuse God with things in all three realms of the created universe. Worldly metaphysical religions confuse God with these three realms. Idolatry confuses God with these realms.

Calvin once said:

1. This law is directed at an evil which existed everywhere, idolatry. 2. Idolatry is never uniform, but takes many forms because some think God is like the form of fish, some think He is like a bird, others that He is like a man or animal, and others that He is like the sun or some other heavenly body. 3. Wherever men turn their eyes they seize materials which they turn to error, even though the truth of God’s invisible glory shines on every side, and whatever is seen should point us to the Creator. (Calvin, Commentaries, I, 702-703)

e. “Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them:” (Worship forms)
The context shows that these forbidden images are the ones used as symbols of Yahweh. (Keil and Delitszch commentaries, II, 116).

Yahweh did not reveal himself by any visible form, so he cannot be worshiped under some visible image. Such an image would change Yahweh into a different God than he really is, and the glory of the invisible God would be changed. (K & D, II, 116)

This is stated very clearly where God tells Moses to remind the people that He did not reveal Himself to Israel by any form when He came down on Mt. Sinai to give the Ten Commandments and establish His covenant with His people. Why didn’t God reveal Himself by any form? So that they would not make an image of that form. To make an image of that form would corrupt the people. (Deut. 4).

f. “for I Jehovah thy God...” (Biblical theology)
In a previous chapter we have already recognized the deity of Jesus: he is Yahweh. Yahweh is the name of the triune God, and each member of the Trinity owns the name of Yahweh. Thus, Jesus is Yahweh. That Jesus is Yahweh is of great importance for the question about using pictures to represent Jesus. This command against using pictures to represent Yahweh God is unavoidably a command against using pictures to represent Yahweh Jesus.

g. “am a jealous God” (Against worldly theology)
The word “jealous” rules out pantheism, because in pantheism everything is “God,” and God cannot be jealous of himself. Persons do not feel jealous of themselves: jealousy happens when others are seen as rivals. God is jealous of the images and the way people use the images. If God manifested himself in the image He would not be jealous of it. If the image truly represented God, He would not be jealous of it. God sees the images and likenesses as being other than himself; they are rivals put in His place.

Calvin says God shows himself to be the Jealous One, the Rival, the jealous husband who allows no rivals. He asserts His exclusive rights. His rivalry is to retain what is His own, and to exclude all rivals to His honor. (Commentary, 704)

h. “visiting the iniquity of the fathers ...” (Judgment of God)
What iniquity of the fathers is visited? Idolatry is the particular iniquity being considered. “Visiting iniquity” refers especially to bringing judgment upon the person who adopts an image as his idea of God.

Accepting the false image starts the fatal process of idolatry. The person who starts the process is worse than the final image-worshiper, because he starts the degrading process that brings a curse upon his followers. (Lange, 78-79).

This visitation of judgment means that God takes notice and gives attention to the iniquity. To visit the iniquities is to look into them, so that in proportion to the crime, the punishment will be imposed. As long as God suspends judgment and spares men He seems to be paying no attention, as if He did not care. (Calvin, 705) But God does see it when people use images to represent Him: He does “visit” this practice; he visits his judgment upon the iniquity, sometimes sooner, sometimes later.

A visitation of judgment became God’s effective means of delivering Israel from idolatry. See how often God withheld His protection from the idolatrous Israelites, even to the third and fourth generations. The cycle of slipping into idolatry, suffering its consequences, repentance, and restoration happened so many times to Israel. This is illustrated in the book of Judges and elsewhere. Finally, after the Babylonian captivity, the Israelites learned their lesson and never again returned to using visual Deity images. (See A. Clarke, I, 402)

Note, though, how the Pharisees developed erroneous (idolatrous) mental forms of what to expect in the Messiah, and those erroneous forms blinded them so that they could not recognize the Messiah when He did appear to them. To use modern terms, the Pharisees programmed their minds with a different form of Messiah; they imprinted their minds with a manmade form of Messiah, they formatted their minds to misinterpret the Messianic Scriptures. Holding a wrong mental form for the Messiah brought a horrible visitation of judgment upon the Pharisees.

Another way that the visitation of judgment occurs is when God temporarily allows sinners to continue unrestrained in their sin, to sin more and more, and thereby be visited gradually and progressively by the development and consequences of that sin. “The first judgment upon sin is permission to sin more,” as someone has said. For example, Paul, in Romans 1:24, 26, & 28, shows that God visits judgment upon idolatry when He withholds immediate judgment and instead gives idolaters over to practice their idolatry. He lets idolatry produce its own natural consequences upon idolaters. We will examine idolatry’s chain of consequences when we study the consequences visited upon the third and fourth generations.

i. “upon the children ...” (Pedagogy and Christian Education)
The second commandment introduces a basic principle for pedagogy: it gives a basic rule for teaching children the true knowledge of God. It is a principle for biblical Christian education. Anyone working in Christian pedagogy, whether parents or professional teachers, should understand the second commandment. If they do not, they can do enormous damage to the children they teach. No matter how correctly the parents or teachers know the true God, if they give children false images for God, the children will be imprinted (programmed, formatted) by the false image and will suffer the consequences.

Is it fair for God to visit the iniquity of fathers upon their children? This question needs attention.

That the “human race is a living organism” (K & D, II, 117) which transmits its evil and its good from one generation to the next, is recognized not only in the Greek and modern tragedy, but also “is confirmed in all the experience of the race,” as Chadwick says. Before the Greek and Roman tragedies were written, the second commandment said it first: it treated all generations as interrelated.

Sins of the flesh are visited upon the entire body and upon following generations. Sins of the spirit, such as pride, are visited upon present and future society. Sins that directly challenge God bring present and future visitation, too. Consider the starvation and bloodshed that nations have imposed on their own people when they forgot God.

No doctrine hated in Scripture has less possibility of evasion, even if all Bibles were forever destroyed, than this doctrine that God visits the iniquity of the fathers upon their children. If the doctrine were not written in Scripture it would be a surprise. The principle is found written into nature.

Chadwick finds that this is only one side of what is really a benevolent doctrine; this principle is necessary for the progress of society. The principle, the very law, of inheritance is at stake. Schools and universities “visit” the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of former generations upon diligent students. Ignorance is “visited” upon those who do not learn these lessons. This principle in the second commandment cannot be dispensationalized and limited only to the time before Jesus came.

Good minds and bodies, plus health and wealth, are visited upon children by fathers who practice virtue. But poverty and disease are bequeathed by unrighteous fathers. This principle is true in all human history.

If children walk in the sins of their fathers they will be punished. But God does not condemn anyone for a crime he did not do. (A. Clarke, I, 401). The prophet Ezekiel said that the son should not bear the iniquity of the father, but the soul that sins shall die (Ezek 18:20). God never punishes the innocent, but always is righteous when He condemns someone. So when God says He will visit the iniquity of fathers upon their children, He is not saying He will take vengeance on poor victims who never deserved anything of the sort. But God is at liberty to justly punish children who imitate their father’s wicked ways. (Calvin, Commentaries, 705-706)

j. “upon the third and upon the fourth generation ...” (Inter-generational solidarity)
This phrase continues to focus attention on God’s visitation of judgment upon idolatry. Romans 1:18-32 is the New Testament explanation of this part of the second commandment. People who put an image in the place of the Biblical concept of God are given over to work out the consequences upon themselves and future generations. In Romans 1 at least three generations suffer the progressive consequences of putting images in the place of God: “God gave them up...” “God gave them up ...” “God gave them over ...” (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28). The first generation started idolatry by exchanging (putting) an image into the place where the truth of God belonged. God then gave them over to work out the inner-logic of their images. They defiled the true image of God, now they are allowed to defile their own bodies. They turn to heterosexual sin, then to homosexual sin, then to all other kinds of violence against their own image.

How the fathers’ iniquity is visited upon the fourth generation is also illustrated in those classical writings of the Greeks and Romans that we already mentioned. Pride (hubris) started a series of crimes which reached a fatal climax in one or more tragic catastrophes. The crimes of the fathers would not be broken until the third and fourth generation were visited (Lange, 79).

Since the “human race is a living organism” (K & D, II, 117) which transmits its evil and its good from one generation to the next, and since this principle is recognized not only in the Greek and modern tragedy, but also is “ confirmed in all the experience of the race” (Chadwick), it becomes obvious that the sins of the fathers really are visited upon the third and fourth generation.

k. “of them that hate me...” (Image-users “hate” God)


Here we have the paradox that those who feel they are expressing love for God through their images to represent Him, are said by the Lord to “hate” Him.

1. This command forbids using images to represent God.

2. It now explains that they “hate” Him when they use images to represent Him.

3. And this sin causes the fourth generation to suffer consequences.

Modern man’s hatred for the invisible God was demonstrated by the Russian astronaut who said he did not see God in outer space—as if that proved there is no God.

The astronaut did not realize that he was only testifying to the accuracy of Scripture: the Bible says God is invisible. Of course the astronaut implied that if God exists He should be found in the form of a man.

Where did he get this mistaken idea of God? Was it not from the pictures and icons which the church gives the world as the image of God?
The revolutionary concept introduced here is that using images to represent God expresses hate for God, not love for God. This is quite contrary to what people think they are doing.
Lange says that using images in worship is the “germ of the whole succeeding development of sin.” As pride proceeded in the Greek tragedies from disdaining the gods, insolence that could be called hatred, so image usage arises when people disdain the Scriptural doctrine that God is a Spirit. Lange concludes that “the image worshipper is worse than the idolater in that he makes this fatal beginning.” (p. 79)

Image users actually may believe that by using images to represent God they are showing love to God. But God does not call it “love;” God calls it “hate.” Image users thereby express hate for the God who cannot be likened to images.

If a person grows weary of fellowship with the Holy Spirit, and if the likeness of a man satisfies him as a representation of the invisible God, then his heart starts to go after created things, and he satisfies himself with artistic beauty. He lets go his grasp upon God. (Chadwick, Interpreter’s Bible, I, 195)

l. “and showing lovingkindness unto thousands of them ...”
God’s lovingkindness reaches a long way. This phrase can also be translated “to the thousandth generation.” This long duration of God’s love towards the descendants of those who love him contrasts with the comparatively short duration of his wrath upon his adversaries. (Pulpit Commentary, III, 132)

A strictly literal interpretation of the thousandth generation can be calculated by multiplying the length of one generation a thousand times. But how many years is one generation? Surely not less than twenty years average. If the average length of a generation is only twenty years, a thousand generations would last twenty thousand years. Since less than four thousand years have passed since this covenant was given, at least sixteen thousand years remain for God to fulfill his promised lovingkindness upon the recipient of this covenant. But one generation usually requires longer than twenty years. If one generation is thirty years, a thousand generations would last thirty thousand years.

A thousand generations of one family knowing the same God is a very long time, almost longer than a person can imagine. It suggests the eternal.

If the descendants of the faithful are unblessed, they must blame themselves for becoming utterly careless of the special privileges to which they were introduced. (P.C., III, 146)

m. “that love me...” (Ethics)
Love for God introduces the field of ethics: ethics is the field of study concerned with standards of behavior. Love for God involves doing certain things and not doing certain other things.
The second commandment gives both sides of the ethics coin. How to love God (ethics) is a two-sided coin. Love and hate for God are distinguished from each other. The second commandment first showed what it is to hate God, the “tails” side of the coin. Those who use images to represent Him show thereby that they hate God: obviously, they hate His impictureable nature.

But here in the concluding phrase “and keep my commandments” we have the ethical coin’s “heads” side. Those who keep God’s commandments show thereby that they love Him. The New Testament confirms that those who love God are those who obey Him. (See John 14:15-21; 1 John 2:5; and 2 John 6.)

Supreme or perfect love of God is based upon the doctrine that there is only one God and that we commit ourselves fully to Him. The second commandment preserves love for God by directing it toward God instead of letting it be directed toward images. The man who uses an image for God divides his loyalty away from God toward the image. This man directs his love toward something that is not God.

n. “and keep my commandments.” (Epistemology)
How do we know God: by images or by His Word? The second commandment takes us to the field of epistemology, the field which can be defined as the study of “how we know, and how we know that we know!” The dictionary defines epistemology as the study of the “origin, nature, methods, and limits of knowledge”. The second commandment shows that God’s Word (“my commandments”) is that which reveals the knowledge of God.

Epistemology has its two sides, and the second commandment gives both sides of the epistemological coin. The command first showed that God cannot be known by means of images; now it says God is to be known by means of His Word. These are the two sides of the epistemology of knowing God: how He can be known and how He is not known.

The concluding phrase of the second commandment ends on a positive note and provides the positive pole for both ethics and epistemology. This commandment has a remarkable completeness. It provides both poles for ethics: how to hate God and how to love God. It provides both poles for epistemology: God cannot be known by worldly images, but He can be known by His Word.

The Second Commandment Points to Christ
The second commandment has been called a fence guarding an empty shrine. The shrine is reserved for God (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), and only for God. The fence is there to keep false images out of the place that belongs to God alone.

Some people may consider the second commandment to be outdated and irrelevant in the modern world. But it will not be outdated until we reach the thousandth generation—many millennia in the future. This commandment is very relevant in the modem world: it protects people from modem pantheism by not allowing them to think of God monistically: it keeps people from mentally confusing some part of the creation with the Creator God. How relevant for confronting modem idolatry.

In this day when nearly all the non-Christian faiths in the world are based upon pantheism or a portion of some such monism, the second commandment is a very necessary word from God to the church. The church needs to be aware of the commandment and its message that God is a different being than the world. The church would destroy monistic religions in the world by making known that God is not like an image, and that He is known only by the Word of God.

The Word of God (the Law) is what truly pictures Christ. He fulfilled the Law: He “filled full” its shadowy outlines. The second commandment is part of that Law that points to Christ and pictures Him. This is the true “picture of Christ” needed in modern times.

The second commandment is relevant because it is Christological. It is Christological because Jesus is the One who is shown by the commandment to be unpictureable. He is the impictureable God.

There are two kinds of “pictures of Christ:” the true ones (the authorized “pictures” revealed by the Law), and the false ones (the forbidden pictures created by the art and imagination of man). Those who use man’s pictures to represent the Christ of God thereby dispense with the law of God. Those who use the Law as their picture by which to recognize the Christ of God thereby dispense with man-made “pictures of Christ.” The two kinds of pictures are mutually exclusive; they mutually dispense with each other.

When we choose between images and the Word for our knowledge of Christ, we are making ultimate decisions for our lives and for the lives of those who follow us.

Bibliographic References

Note how basic is this concept revealed in the second commandment that we cannot make an image of God.

Calvin, John. The Pentateuch, Vol. I. Calvin’s Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Associated Publishers and Authors, n.d.).

Chadwick, G. A. “The Book of Exodus,” Expositors Bible, ed. W. Robertson Nicoll. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1956).

Clarke, Adam. A Commentary and Critical Notes. Vol. I. (NY: Nelson & Phillips, n.d.).

Fromm, Erich. You Shall Be As Gods (N. Y.: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1966).

Ezell, Joseph S. “Exodus” in Biblical Illustrator, II (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, n.d.). (23 volume set).

Keil, C. F., and F. Delitszch. Biblical Commentary on The Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, n.d.)

Lange, John Peter. A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Vol. II. (NY: Chas. Scribner’s Sons, n.d.).

Morgan, G. Campbell. The Ten Commandments. (NY: Fleming H. Revell, 1901).

Rawlinson, Geo. Exodus, Vol. III of Pulpit Commentary, Jos. S. Ezell, ed. (N.Y.: Funk & Wagnalls, n.d. (52 vol. set).