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Answering The Atheist
September 2, 2007 / Volume 7, Issue 35

THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Is it OK to make images? Some texts say NO (Exodus 20:4; Deuteronomy 4:16-18, 23; 5:8; 27:15; 2 Kings 18:3-4), but others say YES (Exodus 25:18, 20; Numbers 21:8). Is there a contradiction?

RESPONSE:
Each of the 'NO' texts is an injunction against idolatry. Exodus 20:4 warns that they should "...not bow down to them nor serve them..." Deuteronomy 4:16-19 speaks against making images lest "...you feel driven to worship them and serve them..." Deuteronomy 5:9 commands, "...you shall not bow down to them nor serve them." Deuteronomy 27:14 speaks against the one who would make a carved image and "...sets it up..." In 2 Kings 18, the king destroyed several thins (including the serpent made by Moses) which the children of Israel had been serving.

For there to be a contradiction, the texts identified as 'YES' texts must command, or at the very least condone idol worship. Exodus 25 speaks of the ark of God, His throne among the people. Upon it, there were two cherubim, heavenly creatures. These adorned the ark, but not as objects of worship. In fact, throughout most of Israel's history, very few Israelites saw the ark, as it was housed in the most holy place, into which the high priest entere once each year for the people.

Moses set up a fiery serpent in Numbers 21:8, according to God's command. It was not created as an object of worship, but to distinguish those who were obeient among the Lord's people from the reest. According to 2 Kings 18, eventually the people used it as an object to worship. This was a corruption of it's intended purpose years before.

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible