Thursday, October 27, 2011

What does the second commandment forbid?


What does the 2nd commandment forbid? On the Puritan view, it forbids manmade images of Yahweh. But that’s not clear from the actual wording of the text, or syntactical relationship between the 1st and 2nd commandments.

What’s the intended referent of idols or images in the 2nd commandment? Which “God” is represented? Whose image is proscribed? Puritans think it refers to Yahweh. That’s what is prohibited.

Maybe so. But if we consider the flow of the passage, coming right on the heels of the 1st commandment, that isn’t obvious. The 1st commandment forbids the worship of deities other than Yahweh. So it would be logical if the 2nd commandment continues that train of thought. The 2nd commandment might be epexegetical, amplifying the 1st commandment, viz.

1st commandment: Don’t worship deities other than Yahweh

2nd commandment: Don’t worship other deities by means of using idols of other deities

Or it might distinguish between mediate and immediate pagan worship. Don’t worship heathen deities directly–or indirectly via physical representations of heathen deities.

This interpretation also makes sense of the divine jealousy motif. Yahweh is “jealous” of worship directed at other “gods.” That’s the nature of “jealousy.” It’s directed at a third-party.

It makes less sense to say Yahweh is jealous of images of himself. For that still takes Yahweh as the object of religious devotion.

Of course, it might be objectionable on other grounds, but the jealousy motif makes less sense on the Puritan view. 

12 comments:

  1. Excellent wisdom. Thanks.

    Seems like the modern world misses the plethora of deities in the earlier ages. We need to dig deep into the OT to understand better and better, and of course those who stand on the 2nd commandment in a way so that they say it is a sin to even have art depicting our Lord, would say the same thing, wouldn't they.
    So lets study the deities in the OT together, as well as history.

    Have a great day in our Lord's grace and love.

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  2. I meant "modern Church" not world so much.

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  3. "At Mount Sinai Israel fell back into Egyptian Idolatry with Music and Lost the Covenant."

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  4. Jacob,

    Unless and until you learn how to present an actual argument, I'll delete your smarmy comments.

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  5. Here's another quote Jacob:

    "The identification of the bull or Golden Calf with Moloch comes from the practice of the Carthaginians and probably all of the Punic world to sacrifice their children to Moloch or Malcom by placing them on the arms of the bronze statue of the beast which had a head of a bull calf (i.e. with horns as a crescent). The children rolled onto the fire in front and were killed. This may be similar to the tradition of the Minotaur on Crete (Frazer, ibid., iv, p. 75). Thus, the tabernacle of Moloch can be identified with the calf of Sin at Sinai."-Chrysostom

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  6. To my simple mind this doesn't read right:

    "...2nd commandment: Don’t worship other deities by means of using idols of other deities..."

    "...by means of..." to me means go ahead and worship other deities just don't do it with idols.

    Whereas, I have not seen God, ever. No man has ever seen God. You can from reading the Scriptures say some men have seen an appearance of God (Genesis 18:1, Exodus 24:9-11) and in fact that whole nation heard God speak what sounded like a human's voice out of a cloud that appeared on the top of the mount and with such an audible voice but the sound was so horrific and terrifying they pleaded with Moses that he should mediate from now on for them and God and be the one go between to hear His Voice. They settled with a man speaking for God to them and they, when necessary, brought their God issues between them to the man who would render God's answer to settle whatever issues were not being settled otherwise between them. That seemed to work well until God showed up just as He prophesied and planned to show up, as that Prophet Man to speak directly to them Man to man.

    Still, whether what you wrote above is God's Wisdom or not, one has to ask, if you know your brother is offended by the use of images of Christ's semblance in an imaginary form depicted by you and you go ahead and publish the imaginary image or depiction as being God, why do you do it knowing it brings offense?

    I note that I don't recall you ever doing that, though, Steve.

    Now it is one thing to be innocent of doing something that is offensive to another. But knowingly to do it knowing it offends seems to me to be doing a bit more than what the Scripture teaches or allows us to do?

    Where is the wisdom of His Grace in that?

    We have a moderation revealed by such verses as these that proscribe doing that, offending thy neighbor knowingly:

    Mat 17:24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, "Does your teacher not pay the tax?"
    Mat 17:25 He said, "Yes." And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?"
    Mat 17:26 And when he said, "From others," Jesus said to him, "Then the sons are free.
    Mat 17:27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself."

    ...

    1Co 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
    1Co 10:32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God,
    1Co 10:33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

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  7. "...why do you do it knowing it brings offense?"

    Most times the person doesn't know. If he does know, and his heart is thinking: "I love to offend people." Then this is sin. If he does it and simply does it for his Lord and for others who are encouraged by it, then it's a shame others are offended, but they simply need to move on. And there are I'm sure other scenarios to this as well. It's never black and white is it.

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  8. Were you planning to answer your question, or was it rhetorical?

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  9. NATAMLLC SAID:

    "'...by means of... to me means go ahead and worship other deities just don't do it with idols."

    That's a blatant misrepresentation of what I wrote, for that contingency is already covered in the 1st commandment–as I explained in my post.

    "Still, whether what you wrote above is God's Wisdom or not, one has to ask, if you know your brother is offended by the use of images of Christ's semblance in an imaginary form depicted by you and you go ahead and publish the imaginary image or depiction as being God, why do you do it knowing it brings offense?"

    I don't think Paul's statement about not offending the weaker brethren was a blank check to bankroll emotional blackmail. After all, there were 1C churchgoers who took offense at Paul himself. But he didn't instantly back down just because some churchgoers took offense at what he said or did.

    And nowadays that's often cited by folks who simply pose as weaker brethren to extort concessions they can't justify on rational or exegetical grounds.

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  10. Steve:

    That's a blatant misrepresentation of what I wrote, for that contingency is already covered in the 1st commandment–as I explained in my post.

    Pardon me, accept my humble apology as I was not trying to be blatant or misrepresent your views.

    I was saying as I said "what seems to my simple mind", to be viz a vie the construct of that that I cited.

    Again, I apologize for any confusion on my part being epexegetical to the citation:

    "...2nd commandment: Don’t worship other deities by means of using idols of other deities...".

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  11. As long as you don't send Tonto to scalp me! :-)

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  12. A compilation of most if not all our posts on the topic of graven images and the second commandment can be found here.

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