Summary: 2nd Commandment. (PowerPoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request - email:

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Making God in our image

Reading: Exodus chapter 20 verses 4-6.


• A husband came down to breakfast and was delighted to hear his wife say;

• "Darling you are a model husband'.

• Now he was so flattered by the remark;

• That latter on that day he decided to look up the meaning of the word in his Oxford dictionary.

• He found the page and began reading:

• "Model, a small plastic imitation of the real thing".

The second commandment is a reminder to us:

• That when we allow idolatry into our lives,

• We are swapping the genuine for an inferior artificial imitation of the real thing.


Dad and coins with grandchildren.

• They thought they were getting a bargain,

• But really they were selling themselves short!

• When people allow idolatry into their lives;

• They may feel they are getting a bargain, but ultimately they are selling themselves short!

Strangely enough:

• The 2nd commandment;

• Is probably one of the most violated commandments today!

• That may seem strange to us probably non of us have a replica god in our homes,

• But as we shall see there are many ways to “make an idol”.


• In the second commandment;

• God clearly deplores idolatry:

• No-one who reads this commandment cannot mistake his reaction to it.

• For in it He provides his people with some clear and specific guidelines.

(1). Don't make idols (vs 4).

“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.”


A father took his son to a large city museum;

• Thinking that the visit would entertain the boy.

• But for two hours the lad did nothing but sigh and complain.

• Finally in desperation the boy said to his dad;

• “Dad, let’s go someplace where things are real!”

The Israelites (Hebrew) people again and again:

• Would swap their relationship with the ‘real’ invisible living God,

• For a visible deity made of wood, metal or stone.

• Idolatry in the Old Testament was essentially focused on an image;

• A statue or something that represented a god or goddess.


Some translations actually use the phrase ‘graven image’:

• The Hebrew word used is ‘pesel’ and is used 52 times in the Old Testament;

• And is a word often used by the prophets.

• Originally meant;

• ‘Anything carved from wood or stone’, but later meant metal figures as well.

(b). The Old Testament also uses another word over 50 times for idolatry, ‘g’lul’;

• Which means; ‘something uncarved, shapeless e.g. mountain or a meteorite’.

• Many of these false gods were linked to creation e.g. sun god or the rain god etc.

(c). If you add those two words with other Hebrew words

• That get translated as idolatry in our English Bibles:

• You will have almost two hundred references to this commandment.

Often these Hebrew words are used by God through his prophets inter-changeably.

• They make a simple and important point;

• The Israelites were commanded by God to keep away from idols;

• They were to worship the creator not the creation;

• And reflect him in their standards of living.


(1). God is almighty:

• The second commandment contains a;.

• "Classical three-tier Hebrew cosmology,"

• The Hebrews believed the universe to have three levels:

• The heavens, the earth and the waters beneath the earth.

Others in the know apply this more specifically, saying that:

• When you talk about creatures above the earth,

• It means spiritual forces;

• Creatures on the earth;

• Means material things;

• What is under the earth;

• Means the place of death and the strange life hereafter.

One of the problems with images is:

• An image may be linked to nature, or a nation or an era. But it is always so limiting;

• It fixes the object it is supposed to represent into a limited form.


• An image constructed in the desert wilderness of Sinai;

• Would have been no use in the ghettoes of a sophisticated city like Alexandria.

• An idol fashioned in ancient Babylon would be of little significance;

• For the modern Jewish community of say, New York.

• The idols that would mean so mush to a country peasant;

• Would bear no relevance to an educated city person.

In contrast the God of the Hebrews is Almighty God:

• He is not limited by time;

• He is the God of all history (not just Biblical history).

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