Some argue that God’s commandment to Moses to make two golden images of cherubs on the cover of the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:18-21) and the command to mold a bronze serpent for healing snake bites by faith (Numbers 21:4-9) justifies the actions of people in venerating and worshiping images and statues.
God did command that the cherubs be made but not as objects of veneration or worship. The truth is that the Lord Himself in the Ten Commandments clearly prohibits the making and worshiping of images and statues saying, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—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; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20:4-6 also Deuteronomy 4:15-19).
While this commandment clearly prohibits the veneration and worship of idols, it does not necessarily prohibit the use of sculpture and painting in religion. The artistry and representation employed in the construction of the sanctuary (Ex. 25:17–22), in Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 6:23–26), and in the “brasen serpent” (Numbers 21:8, 9; 2 Kings 18:4) clearly prove that the second commandment does not proscribe religious illustrative material. The cherubs on the Ark of the Covenant, were never objects of worship. Neither Exodus 25:18-21 nor any other Scripture authorize religious iconography.
The cherubs were part of the other objects or furnishings of the tabernacle. Each object in the tabernacle had special meaning, but none was ever an object of worship. The tabernacle and its furnishings were merely patterns of the “greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands,” of which Christ is the High Priest (Hebrews 9:11; 8:5). As for the bronze serpent story, people who were bitten by the poisonous snakes as punishment for their complaining and were given a second chance if they showed faith in God by looking at the bronze serpent for healing, but some were so stubborn that they didn’t even listen to such a simple command, and they died.
What is condemned is the reverence, the worship, or quasi worship, which people in many lands give to religious images and pictures. The excuse that the idols themselves are not worshiped does not lessen the force of this prohibition. Idols are merely the product of human skill, and therefore inferior to man and subject to him (Hosea 8:6).
Check out our Bible Answers page for more information on a variety of topics.
In His service,