Is making religious artwork considered breaking of the second commandment?

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (Exodus 20:4).

The second commandment forbids the veneration of objects representing God “you shall not bow down to them nor serve them” (Exodus 20:5). It is the reverence and worship of these statues and images that is considered sin. The excuse that the idols themselves are not worshiped does not lessen the force of this commandment because worshipers actually believe that these idles are revered somehow by the gods or saints they represent.

God forbade the worship of idols because they are made by humans and therefore are inferior to them (Hosea 8:6), therefore, how can they represent God?  Further, idols direct the adoration of people away from the supreme God. The truth is that nothing in this universe can adequately represent the Creator of the heavens and the earth “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).

However, the second commandment does not condemn the use of religious artwork in the form of sculpture and painting in religion. God instructed the Israelites to have artistic representations in the sanctuary (Ex. 25:17–22).

God ordered Moses to shape a “brasen serpent” as a symbol for Christ’s work on the cross (Num. 21:8, 9; 2 Kings 18:4). But when the Israelites started to worship the “brazen serpent,” the Lord ordered king Hezekiah to destroy it “He … broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan” (2 kings 18:4). Also, the temple of Solomon (1 Kings 6:23–26), included religious illustrative objects such as cherubims.

Check out our Bible Answers page for more information on a variety of topics.

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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