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Molten Image

MOLTEN IMAGE (מַסֵּכָה, H5011, from נָסַכְ, H5818, to pour). By divine commandment the Israelites were explicitly forbidden to make graven images (Exod 20:4; Deut 5:8). This commandment also pertained to the making of molten images, the words “graven” and “molten” referring to the manner in which the forbidden image was constructed. See Idolatry; Graven Image.

The word פֶּ֫סֶל, H7181, refers, qua terminology, first of all to an image of a god cut from stone, shaped from clay, or carved from wood, but it also includes images cast from metal (Lev 19:4; Deut 27:15). Such an image was made by pouring molten metal, gold, silver, iron, or bronze, over a prepared form or into a mold (Isa 40:18-20).

The golden calf made by Aaron is called an ’egel massekā (Exod 32:4). The same word, but in the pl., is used for the two calves set up at Bethel and Dan by Jeroboam (1 Kings 14:9). The making of such idols, in keeping with the decalogue, was strictly forbidden by the entire Mosaic law (Exod 34:17; Lev 19:4). The prophets also unreservedly condemned it (Isa 30:22; Hos 13:2; Hab 2:18; cf. also Ps 106:19). See Golden Calf.

The command not to make graven or molten images does not forbid practicing the arts of sculpture, painting, and the like. The prohibition refers only to the practice of making images for the purpose of bringing the deity within the reach of man. The art work of a Michelangelo is not condemned.


G. E. Wright, Biblical Archeology (1957), 106-119; A. Kruyswyk, Geen Gesneden Beeld (1962).

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