Graven Image

GRAVEN IMAGE (פֶּ֫סֶל, H7181, from the root meaning “to carve”). An image carved from wood, stone, or metal. The difference between a graven and a molten image was that the former was carved, and the latter was cast from molten metal.

There has been considerable discussion concerning whether or not all imitative art is forbidden by the second commandment. In deciding this question, it must be kept in mind that certain figures were in fact made by God’s own command. Both the Tabernacle and the Temple contained many objects that required the arts of carving and engraving, e.g. the two cherubim in the holy of holies (Exod 25:18, 20); the floral ornamentation of the golden lampstand (25:34); the embroidered hangings of the sanctuary (ch. 26); and the bronze serpent (Num 21:8, 9). In the Temple, moreover, there were various figures on the walls, and the molten sea rested on twelve bronze oxen.


J. Pedersen, Israel: Its Life and Culture, III, IV (1947); W. Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, I (1961), 115-119.