Harmony Of The Law Volume 2 by Jean Calvin
Thou shalt utterly overthrow them. I allow indeed that these supplements would partly agree with, and be applicable to, the First Commandment; but since express mention is everywhere made in them of idols, this place seems to be better suited to them. After Moses has taught what was necessary to be observed, he adds a political law about breaking down altars and overthrowing images, in order that the people may take the more diligent heed. These passages, however, differ from the foregoing; for in condemning thus far the superstitions which are vicious in themselves, God prescribed what He would have observed even to the end of the world. He now confirms that instruction by temporary enactments, that He may keep His ancient people up to their duty. For we have now-a-days no scruples in retaining the temples, which have been polluted by idols, and applying them to a better use; since we are not bound by what was added consequently (propter consequentiam), as they say, to the Law. I admit indeed that whatever tends to foster superstition should be removed, provided we are not too rigorously superstitious in insisting peremptorily on what is in itself indifferent. The sum amounts to this, that to shew more clearly how greatly God detests idolatry, He would have the memory of all those things abolished which had once been dedicated to idols. The second passage more fully unfolds what Moses had briefly adverted to in the first; for under the word |image,| he included all those tokens of idolatry which he afterwards enumerates, and of which he commands the whole land to be so cleared that no relics of them should remain. From the words, when ye have come into the land |to possess it,| Augustin sensibly infers, that there is no command for private individuals to destroy the instruments of idolatry; but that the people are armed and furnished with this authority to take the charge of regulating the public interests, when they have obtained possession of the land. The third passage is more brief, only enumerating three kinds; the fourth adds |graven images,| (sculptilia.) The fifth omits the groves, and puts in their place images or representations made of molten materials; and here we must observe what we have before adverted to, that the name of statue (statuoe) is sometimes taken in a good sense; and therefore the Jews think that what was permitted to the fathers before the Law is now forbidden. To us, however, it seems more probable, that the statues now condemned are not such as Jacob erected only as a monument, but such as they pretended to be a likeness of God. Some translate the word |titles,| others |pictures,| with what propriety I leave to the judgment of my readers. He adds |image,| a word which, though not in itself sinful, is still deservedly rejected in connection with the worship of God. Man is the image of God; for Moses uses this same word, when relating the creation of man. But to represent God by any figure, before which He is worshipped, is nothing less than to corrupt His glory, and so to metamorphose Him. By speaking of molten images, he admits neither sculptures nor pictures; but since they are generally cast in the precious metals, the people were expressly to beware of keeping gods of gold or silver for ornament.