Understanding the Second Commandment


I am currently studying ancient religions and comparing them to what we read in the Torah. The result shows God is far more interactive than I ever imagined. I used to think the second commandment was merely about not making idols, but now I think it is part of one of the most tear-inducing messages of love. However, I need to know if what I think the verse means is what the verse truly means. At that time in Egypt, the concept of people loving their god or a god loving his people was nonexistent. You could feel joy or awe but love was not in the mix. Plus, gods were bound geographically. The farther they got from their city, the weaker they became. Oh… and they also wondered around like yard dogs, got lost and took naps at inconvenient times. So to get a god where you wanted… say, on a battlefield… and doing what you wanted… winning the war… you had to use an idol to act as a sort of leash to drag him along. Then through rituals and the use of his “true name”, you could force him to fight the other side’s god while your soldiers fought their soldiers. Although they had “sabbath” days, these were unlucky day, like Friday the 13th, and so people didn’t work and priests did rituals because bad things happen on these days. While I think I understand the rest of the verses, I need to understand if I understand the second commandment clearly. Not merely, do not make an idol, but rather, “Do not try to manipulate me or any other god you wish to turn to instead of coming to me.” In a world where all gods must be bribed and manipulated, God was building a personal relationship where He wasn’t going to play games. Am I understanding correctly or am a missing something?



  1. While I find your interpretation of the Second Commandment to be quite beautiful, I am not sure that I am familiar with a source that teaches that idea. Interestingly, the First Commandment is possibly more attuned to the concept of God loving us.

    In his seminal work, Kuzari, Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi points out that the description of God in the First Commandment as being the God who took us out of Egypt, seems to be somewhat insignificant compared to the fact that God created the world and sustains the world on a continuous basis.

    However, Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi explains that the Creator of the world or the Sustainer of the world is too big a concept to mean very much personally to each individual Jew. What is a concept that each person can relate to and react to? God took His Chosen nation out of Egypt because of His great love for each individual person within the Jewish nation.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team