Do not make human forms even for decorative purposes

The Literal Commandment

You shall not make other gods besides Me; gods of silver or gods of gold, you shall not make for yourselves. (Exodus 20:23)

 

The literal commandment is that we should not make "other gods" (i.e. idols).

 

Messiah Says

Messiah implicitly affirmed this commandment when He spoke about the Law:

"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19)

 

Pictures of Messiah

Messiah declares "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." (John 14:6)

When we are commanded not to make an idol it is because such a pursuit is fruitless and only turns us away from the G-d who is the Truth.

We know there are no other gods besides G-d because He declares it to be so:

Do not tremble and do not be afraid; Have I not long since announced it to you and declared it? And you are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me, Or is there any other Rock? I know of none. (Isaiah 44:8)

 

I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other, The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these. (Isaiah 45:5-7)

 

These commandments prohibiting idolatry picture Messiah by pointing to idols and telling us He is not like them.

 

How Messiah Fulfilled

Messiah fulfilled this commandment by not making an idol.

 

Traditional Observance

This commandment is traditionally observed by not making any human form for the purpose of worship.

A highly regarded source of Jewish understanding of the commandments, Sefer HaChinnuch offers this insight:

[The commandment is] not to make a human figure out of anything, be it of metals, or wood, or anything else—even for [mere] ornamentation; for it is stated You shall not make 'itti, with Me (Exodus 20:20), and our Sages of blessed memory interpreted it as You shall not make 'othi, Me—meaning that "you are not to make anything resembling that form, i.e. the human figure, about which I wrote in My Torah [Law], Let us make man in our image" (Genesis 1:26).1

 

Other Notes

We are able to fulfill this commandment today by not making idols for ourselves from any substance or in any form. Any object that is deemed to be a "god" or a representation of a "god" (including the One True God) is an idol and, as the apostle Paul exhorts us, we should flee from such things (1 Corinthians 10:14).

Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. (Jonah 2:8 ESV)

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5 ESV)

Little children, guard yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:21)

 

It is interesting that the teaching of the Sages was that we should not make anything resembling "that form" (see the Traditional Observance section above). Perhaps it was "that form" which Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel beheld on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24:9-11).

 

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Footnotes

1. Charles Wengrove, trans., Sefer HaChinuch (Jerusalem:Feldheim Publishers, 1984), vol 5, p103 [back]

Commandment Details

  • Mishneh Torah # 31
  • Mishneh Torah Book # 1
  • Mishneh Torah Book Knowledge
  • Mishneh Torah Category 4- Idolatry and Gentile Customs
  • Reference Exodus 20:23
  • Scripture Book Exodus
  • Chapter 20
  • Verse 23
  • English You shall not make other gods besides Me; gods of silver or gods of gold, you shall not make for yourselves.
  • Hebrew יט לֹא תַעֲשׂוּן, אִתִּי: אֱלֹהֵי כֶסֶף וֵאלֹהֵי זָהָב, לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ לָכֶם.
  • Greek 23 οὐ ποιήσετε ἑαυτοῖς θεοὺς ἀργυροῦς καὶ θεοὺς χρυσοῦς οὐ ποιήσετε ὑμῖν αὐτοῖς.
  • Parashah 17- Yitro
  • Positive/Negative Negative
  • Sefer Hachinuch # 39
  • Sef. Hach. Command To make no sculptured human images, even for ornamentation
  • Category Idolatry
  • We can fullfill today Yes

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