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  • Writer's pictureRob

The Sixty-Third (Graven Images)

I'm excited to get into todays topic, but first I need to share something I was led to this week that warmed my heart. That description doesn't even come close to describing the feeling I got when the Holy Spirit revealed it to me.

I was looking into something completely different when I came across Revelation 2:17. Now, mind you, I have read this verse before. However, each time I read it I wondered about this white stone it talks about. It's a very heartening verse in and of itself. It talks about being given hidden manna and a new name from Jesus known by only us. But the white stone intrigued me. Why a stone? Why a white one? I mean white is usually purity and cleanness, so that makes sense. But, when I looked at the Greek word for that stone I found something interesting. It's psephon, and the definition according to Strong's Concordance is "a small, smooth stone, a pebble." Still, nothing groundbreaking, right? Well, along with that definition comes the other places this word is used in scripture. It's used twice in Revelation 2:17, and once more in Acts 26:10.

Now, if you read Acts 26:10 in any translation you will likely be thoroughly confused. The word psephon is translated to "voice," in the KJV, and "vote," in pretty much every other translation. But it's not as confusing as you might think. You see, back then people used psephon, or small smooth stones, to vote. And get this, a white stone meant "yes," and a black stone meant "no." So, when you read Revelation 2:17, Jesus is telling us if we overcome He will give His vote of "yes," for us. Amazing, right? It touches me every time I think about it :)

Ok, now on to the topic of graven images! This is another topic that has always stuck in the back of my head. What exactly does "graven image" mean? Does the commandment using this term mean we can't make paintings of things in the world? Does it mean we can't make TV shows or movies because they contain things in the world? Or does it only mean carved things?

Well, when you take a look at Exodus 20:4 you find the Hebrew word pesel is used for "graven image." Strong's Concordance gives the definition "an idol, image," for this word. However, when you look at the next two words, wekal temunah, you get a better idea of what's being referred to here. These two words are translated "or any" and "likeness," respectively, in the KJV. When you look at the NIV, it actually gives a better translation in this case: "...an image in the form of anything..." So, what we're actually being told is not to make a formed image of anything in the universe (heavens, earth, or water under the earth). This is different than a painting or picture.

But why? What reason is given for this restriction? Verse 5 tells us it's so we don't worship them or serve them. But it's more than that. It also tells us that when we do worship or serve them, we are hating Yehovah. This goes back to What is a god? If we put these formed images above God, in that we serve or worship them, we give them power over us rather than Yehovah.

Something else that's interesting is that when you look at the next place where pesel is used it's in a passage essentially reminding the Israelites of the commandments, and the Exodus 20:4 commandment in particular, and telling them what will be given to them if they are followed. And in that verse, Leviticus 26:1, there's actually what seems to be a distinction between a "form" and an "idol." However, again when you look at the original Hebrew you get a slightly different picture.

The word translated to "idol" in pretty much every translation of this verse is elilim. Strong's concordance actually gives it a definition of "insufficiency, worthlessness," despite the fact that this word is consistently translated to "idol." In fact, there's a couple words in Strong's that have the definition of idol: cemel and atsab. It turns out, there's multiple words that translators chose to turn into "idol" despite having a different definition. For instance, in 1 Kings 15:13, mipleset is translated to "idol," even though its definition is "horrid thing, horrible thing."

That's not to say any of these translations miss the point, or provide some drastically different viewpoint, belief, or doctrine based on choosing the word idol over the other definitions. It just shows that you really need to get into the original language to see what the Holy Spirit is showing you it means, not just taking the translator's opinion as is. For example, when you look at Psalm 97:7 you might be confused if you're reading the KJV. What does it mean, "that boast themselves of idols?" Well, the Hebrew, using Strong's Concordance, shows this part of the verse is better translated, "...with worthless praise..." and the overall point of the verse is to say shameful are those that "...serve forms (graven images) with worthless praise..."

In Isaiah 10:11 we find something else very interesting: idol is translated from two different Hebrew words in the same verse. When referring to Samaria it's elil, or worthless, and when referring to Jerusalem it's atsab, which actually means "an idol." Worthless is an adjective, and these get placed after the noun they refer to in Hebrew. So really what the Word is saying is "worthless Samaria," and for Jerusalem He is actually referring to idols they were worshipping.

The key to this is that using the actual Hebrew elilm, or worthlessness, applies a value to something rather than simply referring to an object or idea that someone worships or serves. Leviticus 19:4 actually says, "Do not turn to worthlessness and make molten gods...." So what worthlessness have we turned to rather than Yehovah? What worthlessness has the world turned to? There was a concert recently in which the audience was frenzied into attending. If you look at all the symbolism used in that concert it was very Satanic, and with the eight flames that shot out of the stage eight people died during it. What about TV? Do you think there's a reason they're called "channels" that you "tune" to, and "programming" that you watch? For some, it's ritualistic. They have to make sure they get to their TV at a certain time to receive their programming. They plan their days around it. I was one of those. I had to make sure I got my homework done in time so I could watch Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Be careful what you turn to, and identify those worthless things you serve or worship. Cut them out of your life, or at the very least make sure they are not what controls your life. I was led to an AM radio station this morning as I drove to work and one of my once-favorite hymns was on: The Old Rugged Cross. I listened to the lyrics with this new point of view and I gotta tell you it was hard to hear. When you use phrases like "I love that old cross," and "cling to the old rugged cross," it gives a feeling of placing that cross at a place of focus and importance that it should not be. The focus is Jesus...always. When you put the cross on that level, or on a level similar to Catholics where you're even doing motions to it (genuflecting), you're turning away from Jesus rather than toward Him. Be mindful of this as you go forward. You might come to a realization similar to what I did.

God bless you with a wonderful week! Shabbat shalom!

-Rob and Sara Gene

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