God makes it clear that we are not to make and worship/bow down to an image of anything in heaven or on earth. God is very careful in even revealing himself to Israel, to point out that they heard only a voice, but saw NO image.

12The Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of the words, but saw no image, just a voice.

יבוַיְדַבֵּר יְהֹוָה אֲלֵיכֶם מִתּוֹךְ הָאֵשׁ קוֹל דְּבָרִים אַתֶּם שֹׁמְעִים וּתְמוּנָה אֵינְכֶם רֹאִים זוּלָתִי קוֹל:


15And you shall watch yourselves very well, for you did not see any image on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire.

טווְנִשְׁמַרְתֶּם מְאֹד לְנַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם כִּי לֹא רְאִיתֶם כָּל תְּמוּנָה בְּיוֹם דִּבֶּר יְהֹוָה אֲלֵיכֶם בְּחֹרֵב מִתּוֹךְ הָאֵשׁ:

16 Lest you become corrupt and make for yourselves a graven image, the representation of any form, the likeness of male or female,

טזפֶּן תַּשְׁחִתוּן וַעֲשִׂיתֶם לָכֶם פֶּסֶל תְּמוּנַת כָּל סָמֶל תַּבְנִית זָכָר אוֹ נְקֵבָה:

Rashi: form: Heb. סָמֶל, meaning “form.” סמל: צורה:

17the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the heaven,

יזתַּבְנִית כָּל בְּהֵמָה אֲשֶׁר בָּאָרֶץ תַּבְנִית כָּל צִפּוֹר כָּנָף אֲשֶׁר תָּעוּף בַּשָּׁמָיִם:

18the likeness of anything that crawls on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters, beneath the earth.

יחתַּבְנִית כָּל רֹמֵשׂ בַּאֲדָמָה תַּבְנִית כָּל דָּגָה אֲשֶׁר בַּמַּיִם מִתַּחַת לָאָרֶץ:

19And lest you lift up your eyes to heaven, and see the sun, and the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, which the Lord your God assigned to all peoples under the entire heaven, and be drawn away to prostrate yourselves before them and worship them.

יטוּפֶן תִּשָּׂא עֵינֶיךָ הַשָּׁמַיְמָה וְרָאִיתָ אֶת הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ וְאֶת הַיָּרֵחַ וְאֶת הַכּוֹכָבִים כֹּל צְבָא הַשָּׁמַיִם וְנִדַּחְתָּ וְהִשְׁתַּחֲוִיתָ לָהֶם וַעֲבַדְתָּם אֲשֶׁר חָלַק יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֹתָם לְכֹל הָעַמִּים תַּחַת כָּל הַשָּׁמָיִם:

  1. Does He also somewhere say not to bow down to created beings (angels, mankind, creatures).

2 Answers 2


Partial answer; don't have a source yet. The Ramban's opinion is that idolatry started by people serving the planets as a means of serving Hashem, knowing that Hashem ruled over the planets and intending on serving Him. Ultimately, though, they lost the second step. We see from here, though, that as long as one knows that Hashem is in charge there shouldn't be an issue, until that focus is lost, at which point one violates the prohibition recorded in Devarim 17:2-5: "If you will find in your midst in one of your cities...a man or a woman...who goes and serves foreign gods and bows to them, and to the sun and the moon and to any legion of the heavens...and you should take the man or the woman out...and stone them with stones and they will die." (By the way, "they" in this context is used correctly in the plural.)

  • 1
    Are you sure you don't mean Rambam?
    – mevaqesh
    Aug 4, 2016 at 18:07
  • Maybe. I'm not sure. It's been a long time since I've seen the piece, though I thought t was a Ramban toward the beginning of Sefer Bereishis regarding az huchal likro b'shem Hashem.
    – DonielF
    Aug 4, 2016 at 21:50
  • I was thinking of Rambam at the beginning of hilkhot Avodah Zara; it could be both.
    – mevaqesh
    Aug 5, 2016 at 4:06
  • 1
    The line/boundary then is if something leads you away from God or to worship another God or worship of any thing/anyone above God (contradicting God, opposing God, of a different opinion or different teaching than God).
    – user2411
    Aug 10, 2016 at 12:41

First, concerning forms, it seems that form of man and celest creatures are at the first rank of prohibition regarding fabrication, owning, even if it is not for worship, owning is prohibited from fear or worship.

Gemara AZ 43b

‏ [ע"ז דף מג' עמוד ב'] דתניא טבעת שחותמה בולט אסור להניחה ומותר לחתום בה חותמה שוקע מותר להניחה ואסור לחתום בה ‏

for it has been taught: It is forbidden to put on a signet-ring which is cut in relief but it is allowed to seal with it; and if the signet is in, one may put the ring on but not seal with it.


‏ יח וכן אסור לצור דמות חמה ולבנה כוכבים ומזלות ומלאכים, שנאמר "לא תעשון, איתי" (שמות כ,יט) לא תעשון כדמות שמשין המשמשין לפניי במרום, ואפילו על הלוח. ‏

Similarly, it is forbidden to make an image of the sun, the moon, the stars, the constellations, or the angels, as [implied by Exodus, ibid.]: "Do not make with Me [gods of silver...]" - i.e., do not make images of My servants, those who serve before Me on high. This [prohibition] applies even [to pictures] on tablets.

‏ יט צורות הבהמות ושאר נפש חיה חוץ מן האדם, וצורות אילנות ודשאים וכיוצא בהן מותר לצור אותן, ואפילו הייתה הצורה בולטת. ‏

The images of animals and other living beings - with the exception of men - and similarly, the images of trees, grasses, and the like may be fashioned. This applies even to images which protrude. ‏ [ע"ז דף מג' עמוד ב'] תניא כל הפרצופות מותרין חוץ מפרצוף אדם ‏

Gemara AZ 43b

so how can it have been taught: 'Of all faces are permissible except that of a human face'!

Baer Heytev YD 141, 6:

This is similar to representation of the 4 faces together (Ezekiel 1, 5-6: And out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man. And every one had four faces, and every one of them had four wings.)

See 1

See 2

See 3


  • It seems obvious not make an image of these to worship. It seems odd if it does not also say not to worship the creatures themselves. Is there something inherent in the Hebrew itself that indicates not to worship the creatures or the images of them? I'm thinking it must be in Scripture somewhere or implied.
    – user2411
    Aug 4, 2016 at 23:13
  • 1
    @a difference is about things which are not build by man, I will show you the din about worship a man who says that he is divine
    – kouty
    Aug 5, 2016 at 4:33
  • Right. But does God only prohibit bowing and worshiping the graven images. Or does He somewhere also say not to worship the created beings as well. I can't imagine He would want us worshiping the creatures either. Perhaps that just never was a problem or tendency? maybe only bowing and serving idols that represent false gods was a problem? Yes, I would like to see the din if you have access to it. Thank you.
    – user2411
    Aug 5, 2016 at 16:10

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