[b-hebrew] Exodus 20:4-5 on idols

Jack Kilmon jkilmon at historian.net
Sun Feb 24 17:22:06 EST 2013

This is probably kindergarten stuff to the forum but I have wondered about it for 60 years or so.

Exodus 3-5 are one commandment broken into three stanzas.  My interest is with 20:4 and 20:5.

20:4  לֹֽא תַֽעֲשֶׂה־לְךָ פֶסֶל וְכָל־תְּמוּנָה אֲשֶׁר בַּשָּׁמַיִם מִמַּעַל וַֽאֲשֶׁר בָּאָרֶץ מִתַָּחַת וַאֲשֶׁר בַּמַּיִם מִתַּחַת לָאָֽרֶץ   

Should there be conjunction understood between 4 and:

20:5  לֹֽא־תִשְׁתַּחְוֶה לָהֶם וְלֹא תָעָבְדֵם כִּי אָֽנֹכִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֵל קַנָּא פֹּקֵד עֲוֹן אָבֹת עַל־בָּנִים עַל־שִׁלֵּשִׁים וְעַל־רִבֵּעִים לְשֹׂנְאָֽי׃ ........
so the reading/intent would be :

4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth....AND...
5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me,

The intention of this single thought divided in three stanzas makes more sense that “you shall not make any idols AND/OR for the purpose of bowing down to them, etc., not necessarily prohibiting the sculpture of lions and wombats as long as you weren’t worshipping lions and wombats.

Are there any other consecutive verses where a waw may be absent but understood?


Jack Kilmon
Houston, TX

«ἐξ ἱστορίας ἐὰν ἄρῃς τὴν ἀλήθειαν, τὸ καταλειπόμενον αὐτῆς ἀνωφελὲς γίνεται διήγημα»

"if you take truth from history what is left is but an idle tale"

Polybius [XII.12.3]
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