Is art only condemned in connection with idolatry?



I want to know if art is ok for sure. I like art but want to be more sure it is ok.

I have read this answer before: "Are not pictures of Jesus and angels, or even wedding announcements, sinful because they are graven images?" But what about Deuteronomy 4:16-18,23? Bowing down to them is not mentioned there. Could the examples listed in the answer be exceptions? When the Ten Commandments are listed, why are craved images mentioned after having no other gods if it just prohibited bowing down to idols? Are there other examples of art in the Bible that was not used for religious purposes and not condemned? Do you happen to know the Hebrew word used in the verses?


"Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man -- and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things" (Romans 1:22-23).

When people reject God, they have a habit of replacing God with images of things they see -- i.e. idols. The commandment was: "You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments" (Exodus 20:3-6). The first command is that nothing is to be placed before God. The second is that Israel was not to create idols of any sort to worship.

The section in Deuteronomy is dealing with the same issue. In your reference, you stopped one verse too soon.

"Take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form when the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of any figure: the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth or the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground or the likeness of any fish that is in the water beneath the earth. And take heed, lest you lift your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, you feel driven to worship them and serve them, which the LORD your God has given to all the peoples under the whole heaven as a heritage.

But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be His people, an inheritance, as you are this day. Furthermore the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, and swore that I would not cross over the Jordan, and that I would not enter the good land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance. But I must die in this land, I must not cross over the Jordan; but you shall cross over and possess that good land.

Take heed to yourselves, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of anything which the LORD your God has forbidden you. For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

When you beget children and grandchildren and have grown old in the land, and act corruptly and make a carved image in the form of anything, and do evil in the sight of the LORD your God to provoke Him to anger, I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that you will soon utterly perish from the land which you cross over the Jordan to possess; you will not prolong your days in it, but will be utterly destroyed. And the LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD will drive you. And there you will serve gods, the work of men's hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell" (Deuteronomy 4:15-28).

It is not artwork that is being forbidden, but the creation of idols to replace God. Moses reminded them that they did not see God in any form, so to make an idol and claim that is God (like Aaron did in Exodus 32), or to create different gods will bring God's wrath upon them.

The prior answer showed that artwork was done. Since it was by God's command, these things are not wrong. The serpent that Moses made is particularly interesting because hundreds of years later people did turn it into an idol. "He removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden image and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan" (II Kings 18:4). What was once right became wrong when the people began to treat it as an object for worship.

There are many references to craftsmen, people who made things, which included the making of the artwork in the tabernacle and the temple (Genesis 4:22; Exodus 36:4; II Kings 24:14, 16; I Chronicles 4:14; 28:21; 29:5; II Chronicles 2:13; 4:16; 34:11). Some craftsmen applied their skills to idolatry, for which they were condemned, but it wasn't the craftsmanship that was condemned by the idolatry that they supported. Yet artistry was used in the making of the tabernacle (Exodus 26:1, 31; 28:6, 15; 31:4; 35:32-35; 36:8, 35; 39:3, 8; 39:27). And later it was done for the Temple as well. It is specifically mentioned that God supplied the talent for the artwork: "See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship. And I, indeed I, have appointed with him Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have put wisdom in the hearts of all who are gifted artisans, that they may make all that I have commanded you" (Exodus 31:2-6). God doesn't command one thing and then makes exceptions for Himself. What you should also notice is that these craftsmen or artists were already noted for their skills prior to being selected to work on the Tabernacle and the Temple. So art was prevalent in society.


Thank you for your answer. It makes sense.

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