THE TEN COMMANDMENTS: You Shall Have No Other Elohim

The First Matter – Devarim 5:6-10
I am Yahuwah your Elohim, who brought you out of the land of Mitzrayim, from the house of slaves. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them and you shall not serve them. For I, Yahuwah your Elohim, am a jealous Elohim, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments.
At the very outset of this Covenant is the description of the one who is making this Agreement with his people. “I am Yahuwah your Elohim.” This is the first and most important piece of information that needs to be understood. The Mighty One who is making this agreement is none other than Yahuwah. There were many so called gods being worshipped and elevated by the pagans around the world and in every culture. But this Elohim is none of them. This One is Yahuwah.

And just in case you are unfamiliar with the name of Elohim, he further describes himself as the one “who brought you out of the land of Mitzrayim, from the house of slaves.” The events which occurred in Egypt were well known by the people of the world at that time. The plagues of Egypt, the rebuke of Pharaoh, the liberation of the family of Yisrael from Egypt, the parting of the Sea of Reeds and the drowning of Pharaoh’s army were all reported and known by the people of that day. The rest of the world was in awe of the Elohim who accomplished all this for his people. This is the Elohim who is making this Agreement with the sons of Yisrael.

The first instruction from the Mighty One of fame and renown is that “You shall have no other gods before me.” The Hebrew word usually translated God in many English Bibles, and which we are transliterating as Elohim is the word ~yhil{a/ (pronounced ĕlōhēm). While the exact root meaning of Elohim is uncertain, it is usually understood as meaning mighty, or mighty one. This word most often is used as a designation of the Creator, but is also used in the Tanach for men (rulers) and angels. (As an interesting side note, the root letters are hla which means “these” or “those.” This pronoun points to something that precedes or follows in the narrative. The letter a is the first letter and may signify beginnings or that which comes first. And the letter l points to what comes after. The word la is the poetic shortened form of the word ~yhil{a. So these two letters in that order may allude to the One who was [came first] and is to come!)

Next, the phrase usually rendered before me in this command is the Hebrew y;n”)©P’-l[; (al panav). This literally means upon my face or in my face. If I may paraphrase, Elohim is saying here, “Don’t bring some other so-called god and put him in my face”! Yahuwah is Elohim and there is no other elohim. All the rest of the elohim of the nations are imaginary deities. They don’t really exist. They only exist in the minds and thoughts of men. The prophet Yeshayahu (Isaiah) makes this point very clear:

I am Yahuwah, and there is no other; apart from me there is no Elohim. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me. I am Yahuwah, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, Yahuwah, do all these things. (Yeshayahu 45:5-7)

and

For this is what Yahuwah says– he who created the heavens, he is Elohim; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited– he says: “I am Yahuwah, and there is no other.” (Yeshayahu 45:18)

Thus, the first stipulation in this Covenant Agreement is to acknowledge that Yahuwah is Elohim and that there is no other. So, don’t bring up any other so-called god in his face.

The second command in this matter of who the true Elohim is, is that “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.” The Hebrew word ls,P, (pronounced pĕsĕl) is translated idol or image. It comes from the root word ls;P’ which means to hew, carve out. It can refer to anything carved, cut, hewn or formed into some particular shape.

The prophet Habakkuk speaks to the utter foolishness of casting an idol:

Of what value is an idol (Hebrew lsP), since a man has carved it? Or an image that teaches lies? For he who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak (literally, dumb worthless things). Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’ Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’ Can it give guidance? It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath in it. (Habakkuk 2:18-19)

Since idols are merely objects crafted by men’s hands, they are nothing more than the material they are made from. They are stone, or brick, or metal, or mud, or whatever.

These idols literally cannot see, hear, talk, think, help or save anyone. As the Psalmist says,

Our Elohim is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. But their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but they cannot smell; they have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but they cannot walk; nor can they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them. (Psalm 115:3-8)

It is utter nonsense to carve an image or hew an idol and then set it up as a god or as representing a god. Elohim is not like any of those things carved by men’s hands. So, Elohim commands his people not to make them.

Not only are we commanded not to carve such an image, but, in case we still don’t understand, he tells us, “You shall not bow down to them. You shall not serve them.” (Devarim 5:9). This means not to lower yourself, stoop down, or bow down to these images and idols. We are not to pay homage to them, or adore them. And it means we are not to be a slave or servant to them. Since they don’t hear or do anything, we are not to make our prayers and requests to them. Whatever superstition requires of us in the presence of these idols, we are not to perform.

Yahuwah alone is to be feared, served, bowed down to and revered and adored. Those objects made by men’s hands have no intrinsic value, except for the value of the material they are made from. Therefore, says the prophet,

Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any Elohim besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.”

All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame. Who shapes a god and casts an idol, which can profit him nothing? He and his kind will be put to shame; craftsmen are nothing but men. Let them all come together and take their stand; they will be brought down to terror and infamy.

The blacksmith takes a tool and works with it in the coals; he shapes an idol with hammers, he forges it with the might of his arm. He gets hungry and loses his strength; he drinks no water and grows faint.

The carpenter measures with a line and makes an outline with a marker; he roughs it out with chisels and marks it with compasses. He shapes it in the form of man, of man in all his glory, that it may dwell in a shrine. He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak. He let it grow among the trees of the forest, or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow. It is man’s fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it. Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill. He also warms himself and says, “Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.” From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, “Save me; you are my god.”

They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand. No one stops to think, no one has the knowledge or understanding to say, “Half of it I used for fuel; I even baked bread over its coals, I roasted meat and I ate. Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left? Shall I bow down to a block of wood?” (Yeshayahu 44:8-19)

For those who still insist on bowing down and fearing these ridiculous idols and images, Yahuwah will pay them their reward:

For I, Yahuwah your Elohim, am a jealous Elohim, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me (Devarim 5:9).

He calls those who bow down to images “those who hate me.” Whoever does not acknowledge the true nature of the real and living Elohim, and instead casts him in the image of something else, surely must hate who Elohim is. For this reason, they are to be punished because they have rejected the revelation of the living Elohim.

There are many religions of the world which depict their mighty ones as objects of stone, metal, wood, or whatever. Their criticism is evident. But I want to focus on those people who claim the Bible as the inspired Word of God, but who still flagrantly transgress this most important of matters of the Covenant between Yahuwah and his people. I’m talking about the Catholic Church and several of the Protestant Churches who use images and idols and pictures in their worship and in their places of worship.

I’ve heard Catholics defend their regular practice of kneeling, bowing and praying in front of statues and images of Jesus, paintings, pictures and statues of Mary, statues and images of the Saints, and the like. They say, “We aren’t worshipping the statues and images. They only serve to remind us of God and of the persons whom the images represent.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (Doubleday, New York, 1994, p.573) defends the practice of veneration of images in the Catholic Church in its explanation of this first of the Ten Matters. Their explanation begins thus:

2130 Nevertheless, already in the Old Testament, God ordained or permitted the making of images that pointed symbolically toward salvation by the incarnate Word: so it was with the bronze serpent, the ark of the covenant, and the cherubim.

Granted, Elohim did ordain these objects. But they were not objects of veneration, adoration or worship. The bronze serpent was setup on a pole so that those who were bitten by the snakes could look at the bronze serpent and live. They were not instructed to bow down to or adore this bronze snake. In fact, later on, this same bronze snake came into misuse by becoming an object of worship and the downfall of many.

The ark of the covenant and the cherubim were not objects of worship either. The ark was a container for the tablets of the Ten Matters written with the finger of Elohim. The cherubim were carved onto the top of the ark. The one who sat between the cherubim on top of the ark of the covenant was the one who was worshipped. So, pointing to these objects as biblical precedents for the manufacture of other idols, statues and symbols of adoration within the Catholic Church is like comparing apples and oranges. The objects ordained by Elohim were not done so to be worshipped or adored, as are the objects in the Catholic Church.

The catechism goes on to say,

2131 Basing itself on the mystery of the incarnate Word, the seventh ecumenical council at Nicaea (787) justified against the iconoclasts the veneration of icons – of Christ, but also of the Mother of God, the angels, and all the saints. By becoming incarnate, the Son of God introduced a new “economy” of images.

This justification for the use and veneration of images is illogical and without foundation. First, the Catholic position is that by its own authority (the conclusions of their own council) the veneration of images is acceptable practice. Never mind what Elohim has said as recorded in the Bible. The Roman Catholic system acknowledges no other authority but their own – not even the authority of the Almighty when he makes a definitive declaration – in the conclusions they have reached. And they are content to stand by this judgment because it is self serving in that it keeps people paying homage to their own religious system and it keeps people paying money into the coffers of the Catholic Church!

Second, where is the evidence from Scripture that the Son of God introduced a new “economy” of images? That’s like saying the rules have changed. They are teaching that Jesus altered the laws of God. But how is that possible? He himself had said that he only speaks what the Father has said. For didn’t the Father say, “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them. You shall not serve them”? How then could Jesus change what the Father has declared? There is no “new economy of images.” This is a concocted line of reasoning which has no scriptural support. But it serves the selfish purposes of a corrupted Catholic Church.

Next, the catechism says,

2132 The Christian veneration of images in not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, “the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype,” and “whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it.” The honor paid to sacred images is a “respectful veneration,” not the adoration due to God alone:

Religious worship is not directed to images in themselves, considered as mere things, but under their distinctive aspect as images leading us on to God incarnate. The movement toward the image does not terminate in it as image, but tends toward that whose image it is.

Note from 2131, the catechism reports that the Council at Nicaea endorses the veneration of icons. What is veneration if not worship? Mirriam-Webster defines veneration as respect or awe inspired by the dignity, wisdom, dedication, or talent of a person. This is precisely what worship is. The Catholic Church promotes the veneration of icons in spite of the plain and simple commandment of God not to hew or carve images and statues. By merely having such images and icons, they have already transgressed the commandment.

Next, Catholics endorse the transgression of the next commandment of the First Matter; namely, that “you shall not bow down to them nor serve them.” In 2132, the catechism boldly announces that veneration of images isn’t contrary to the First Matter of the Covenant! Wow, really? God says “don’t bow down in front of images and idols,” a council of men say “its okay to venerate our images and idols,” and that makes it okay? This is a most audacious defiance of the instruction of God. Then their justification of image veneration is so absurd that they pass it off as believable! They justify bowing down to idols and images (which Elohim has unambiguously forbidden) because, if I may paraphrase, “we’re not really bowing down before the images, we’re bowing down to the people whom the images represent.”

But it doesn’t matter what their justification for veneration of images is. They have already transgressed two of the commandments of the First Matter of the Covenant. They have carved idols and images. And they bow down before them – even if they think they are bowing to the person who is represented by the image. It makes no difference. They are breaking the commandment.

Furthermore, the fact that they believe they are admiring or honoring the person who is represented by the image is another aspect of their transgression of the commandment to worship only Elohim. Many Catholics bow before a statue of Mary or of angels or of other Saints and pray to that one who is represented by the relic. But Scripture indicates that “there is only one Mediator between God and men – the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5, KJV). Thus, in praying to these other persons (whom they contact through the idol) they are denying that Messiah is the only Mediator. They are attributing prerogatives – including honor and esteem – to others which only Elohim possesses.

As to the bowing down before the images as a gesture of bowing to Mary or the Saints, well, that too is wrong, according to the Scriptures. There are several examples in the Bible where someone bowed down before others and this practice was scorned. First, note that when Yochanan (John) dropped down to honor the messenger of Yahuwah who was showing him the visions of the Book of Revelation, the messenger responded to him,

And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship Elohim!” (Revelation 22:8-9)

It’s pretty clear that it is inappropriate to fall down before a messenger of Elohim, because they are servants of Elohim along with all the saints and those who obey Elohim So then it must also be wrong to bow down in front of an image or statue of a good person to honor that person. And therefore it is wrong to bow down and pray to an idol of Mary or of any of the saints.

Another example from Scripture is when Daniel’s three friends were being compelled to bow down before an image of Nebuchadnezzar. The king had made a large statue representing himself and he required all of the subjects of his kingdom to bow down before this enormous image. But Daniel’s three friends refused to bow down, because they knew of the requirement of the First of the Ten Matters, and they refused to prostrate themselves before this image.

They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! You have issued a decree, O king, that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. But there are some Yehudim whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon– Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego– who pay no attention to you, O king. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:9-12)

Since Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow down to this image, they were thrown into the fiery furnace. And the rest is a matter of record. Yahuwah honored their steadfast faithfulness to him in not bowing down to this image of Nebuchadnezzar and he preserved them through the fire.

It is difficult to understand why anyone who genuinely is seeking to know and obey God would be trapped by the catechism of the Roman Catholic Church and commit so flagrant a transgression in making and then in bowing down before images and statues. The Catholics think they are worshipping in a valid way. But it doesn’t matter what you say you think you are doing. Because when you are literally bowing down before these carved images and statues, you are doing that which Elohim very emphatically and specifically commanded his people not to do.

These churches, being led by wolves in sheep’s clothing (deceivers), are telling you to put into practice the very thing that the Creator plainly and explicitly commanded you not to do. Are you going to obey Elohim or are you going to obey men? Stop carving idols and making images and then stop bowing down before these images and idols. Get rid of the objects of worship which are an offence and an abomination to the living Elohim. He does not regard your bowing and praying before images and idols as an acceptable form of worship. He sees this practice as rejection of the revelation he gave of himself. He interprets (rightly, of course) your actions as a defiant rejection of Himself.

Elohim has commanded us not a few times in the Instructions of his Word to have nothing to do with the carved images and idols of the pagan nations who do not know him. In fact, we are to destroy from our midst all vestiges of this kind of false worship, for this is what he instructed his ancient people:

Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you. Break down their altars, smash their set apart stones and cut down their Asherah poles. Do not worship any other god, for Yahuwah, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous Elohim. (Shemot 34:12-14)

And

This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their set apart stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire. (Devarim 7:5)

And again,

Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains and on the hills and under every spreading tree where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. Break down their altars, smash their set apart stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places. You must not worship Yahuwah your Elohim in their way. (Devarim 12:2-4)

These instructions ought to give us a pretty good idea of what Elohim thinks about idols and images. No matter what the reason for crafting those images, Elohim rejects and abhors such practices.

The worship of Elohim in spirit and in truth does not involve the use of images and statues and idols of any kind. Doesn’t matter if the statue is of the so-called Virgin Mary. It is paganism to the core to practice such abomination. Elohim Yahuwah has explicitly forbidden the use of anything that purports to represent Elohim in the practice of your worship or that takes the place of Elohim. Elohim is spirit. And no one has seen Elohim at any time. Therefore, anything that you might use to represent Yahuwah in your worship is rejected and forbidden by him.

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