The Second Commandment
"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
"Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Eternal 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;
"And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me, and keep My commandments."
Obviously, the First and Second Commandments directly overlap.
The most blatant method of breaking the First Commandment is by also breaking the second! Pagan races down through history have done precisely that.
From the ancient Egyptian, Babylonian, Greek and Roman monuments comes a "wealth" of pagan idolatry in the form of obelisks, temples, bas-reliefs, icons, statuaries and idols in an amazing number of forms.
Not only did these ancient pagans make representations of everything they could imagine from "the heavens above," "the earth beneath" and the "waters under the earth," but they ascribed enormous human, physical appetites to their "gods." and wallowed in a veritable sea of ignorance, blind superstition and fear as they "served" their imaginary "gods."
Ancient temples and idols depicted the "host of the heavens," which God directly commands is not to be worshipped, as the "gods" of the ancient Babylonians, Assyrians and other nations.
Frequently, the appearance of cherubim was graven by the hand of man on the walls and entrances of palaces of kings.
The famed "winged bulls of Bashan" and the man-headed, eagle-winged, lionlike bodies with oxen's feet that decorated the entrance to Sargon's palace and the palaces of Asshur-bannipal and Asher-nasirpal are cases in point.
The eagle-headed men's bodies, the lion's body with a man's head (the Sphinx) of Egyptian monuments and many of those in Greece and Rome are further evidence of the blatant worship of "graven images" which represented the "host of heaven."
Satan the devil is called "the cherub that covereth." Cherubim are clearly defined in Ezekiel 1 and Ezekiel 10 as having four appearances; that of a man, a lion, an eagle and an ox.
Pagan races have tended to idolize these four, and even to mix them together!
Even today, the national symbols of many nations include eagles (Imperial Germany, the United States, Mexico, etc.) or lions (Great Britain). And even civic clubs, sports teams and other associations call themselves by the names of the principal types of animals and birds.
By applying your mind to it for a few moments, you can see dozens of other areas where nations of the world have flagrantly broken the Second Commandment.
Of course, some who profess to be "Christian," and who nevertheless have little idols about the house, on the dashboard of their automobile, or look to various figurines in their churches and cathedrals, will argue it is not the statue or the figurine to which they look, but what it represents!
This is the flimsiest of all possible excuses, however, for it is the very purpose for which the idol is made!
Even the pagan Babylonians, Egyptians and Greeks had sense enough to know that the idol itself was not the "god" they were worshipping, but that the idol merely represented that "god."
One of the greatest controversies of all history, which split the ancient Roman Catholic Church right down the middle, and formed the Greek Orthodox Church, was the argument over the efficacy of idols, meaning a separate statuary and sculptures of "saints," as opposed to icons, which are partially raised figures in bas-relief.
The famous "iconoclastic controversy" of history is easily researched, and when one is spoken of as breaking with tradition he is called "iconoclastic." ("Clas" means to cleave, to rupture, shatter or to break; thus to break an icon was "an iconoclast.")
The obvious thrust of the Second Commandment is that "images" were not to be made for the purpose of worship!
However, a simple amount of research will prove that Almighty God Himself approved the use of various figures and representations of cherubim as a part of the tabernacle in the wilderness, and the temple of God!
The great difference is that wherein God allowed Moses and the children of Israel to decorate the tabernacle in the wilderness with the figures of cherubim, and ordered Moses to hold a brazen serpent aloft to stop a plague of snakes, it was authorized of God, and done for the purposes of God, and not as a representation of "God" or something to be worshipped.
Some modern cults have even eschewed photographs, and many a pagan tribe believes there is something of "magic" or "witchcraft" in the taking of pictures!
But a picture is not a "graven image" for the purpose of worship, and is certainly not a breaking of the Second Commandment!
All that have said concerning pagan nations of the world in relationship to the First Commandment applies equally to the second. The two are closely intertwined.
If the ancient races of Babylon, Egypt, Greece and Rome had accepted the knowledge of the true God, and had not bowed before their hundreds of variations of "graven images," all of world history would have been dramatically different.
Even today, major oriental religions bow before graven images. Buddhists have their various forms of Buddha, and the religions of Nepal, Thailand, India, Bangladesh, Japan and China, many nations in Africa and the whole Catholic world regularly go through rituals in various forms of church services beneath the statuary of their various prophets, "gods" and saints.
God wants His children to look at our beautiful earth, all of the fabulously lovely things upon it, such as the breathtaking beauty of verdant pastures and forest lands, awesome sunsets, lovely carpets of wild flowers in the spring, inspiring living creatures such as the great whales, the beautiful animals of earth and to see in all of these things the handiwork of God!
To the Eternal Creator, it is the utterest and most abysmal form of gross stupidity for mankind to turn his back on the breathtaking and awesome beauty all around him, chisel out a leering, ugly face from a block of stone and then bow down before it and call it "god."
The Creator God, who gave man the mind, the ability to use his muscles in forming and shaping that stone, and who made the rock itself asks a simple and yet a profound question: "Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? For to thee doth it appertain: for as much as among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like unto thee.
"But they are altogether brutish and foolish: the stock is a doctrine of vanities ['stock' means idol].
"Silver spread into plates is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz, the work of the workman, and of the hands of the founder: blue and purple is their clothing: they are the work of cunning men.
"But the Eternal is the true God, He is the Living God, and an everlasting King: at His wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide His indignation.
"Thus shall ye say unto them, the gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.
"He hath made the earth by His power, He hath established the world by His wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by His discretion.
"When He utters His voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens, and He causeth the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; He maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of His treasures.
"Every man is brutish in his knowledge: every founder [worker in metals] is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood. and there is no breath in them.
"They are vanity, and the work of errors: in the time of their visitation they shall perish.
"The portion of Jacob [God] is not like them: for He is the former of all things; and Israel is the rod of His inheritance: the Eternal of Hosts is His name"! (Jeremiah 10:7-16).
Again, what is wrong with this beautiful Second Commandment? What is so burdensome, so harsh and "legalistic" about the Eternal God who designed our very bodies, gives us every breath and every beat of our hearts, saying we should worship Him and Him alone, instead of forming an ugly image with our own hands, turning around and prostrating ourselves before it and saying "that is god"?
Perhaps most churchgoing professing Christians would say they are not guilty of worshipping "graven images," and, hopefully, this is so. However, remember how the two commandments overlap - and remember that worshipping the things which our hands manufacture, meaning materialism, can come very close to worshipping "graven images."
It is not "difficult," or in any way rigorous or harsh, to KEEP the Second Commandment of God!