The difference between the 1st and 2nd commandments

(Excerpt from Sunday’s message on the Second Commandment.)

The first two commandments are closely related. “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol … You shall not bow down to them or worship them.” (Exodus 20:3-5) They are similar, but there is an important difference (as pointed out by Puritan preacher and writer Thomas Watson).

The first commandment forbids worshiping a false god. The second commandment forbids worshiping the true God in a false manner. The first commandment has to do with whom you will worship. The second commandment has to do with how you worship. The first commandment already prohibited worshiping the false gods and idols of other nations. The second commandment prohibits the use of idols in worshiping the one true God.

Aaron broke the second commandment when he presented the golden calf to the people and said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt,” and then built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD.” (Exodus 32:4-5) Moses later instructed the people, “You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape.” (Deuteronomy 4:15-16)

The first commandment prohibits worshiping a false god or any image of a false god. The second commandment prohibits making or worshiping an image of the true God.


  1. Lenson Mkandawire says:

    Very glad with an explanation. I have been enlightened.

  2. Shaye Hobby says:

    1. Yeah the first Commandment says not to put any gods and I would include the god of this world satan as well. Basically not putting them first before the One and true living God. See we need to see that the first commandment speaks of no worship only the second does.

    2. He says not to make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. He says not to worship them or serve them. There are a lot of so called professing christian’s who think that they can do what they wont to do and live in sin and claim they know God. They are makin’ an idol, image of God. in their mind and of course a likeness of Him who is in Heaven. We know that if your not a doer of His word then you are idolizing Him and therefore fail the 2nd commandment b/c you must obey Him and His word.

  3. Shaye Hobby says:

    Of course we can’t forget that the 2nd commandment also goes for idol worship of any god who is not the God of the bible. But there are so many people who claim to be christian and know God but they don’t b/c there is no evidence of good fruit showing and coming from them and they idolize Him with likeness from heaven justifying themselves sayin’ “well I believe I’m a christian b/c…” When they don’t know Him from the word and not bein’ a doer of His word.

  4. Shaye Hobby says:

    I’ll take that back the 1st one is about worship to and putting a false god first before the one and only true God.

  5. rahma says:

    You say one true God, yet Christians have taken Jesus(pbuh) to be God or as thy justify themselves that Jesus is a part of God… it leaves me wondering which bible do you read.. no where in the bible did Jesus(pbuh) say He is God and He should be worshipped.. Go to the part where Jesus said tht He is a prophet approved by God through wonders and miracles..

  6. Barb says:

    Reply to rahma: obviously you are not a student oh the Bible and know the original languages. Otherwise you would know that Christ claimed to be God many times in Scripture.. For example He said in John 10:30: “I and the Father are One”. So I suggest that you look at the original language to see the Truth that Jesus is God.

  7. Love this content Ray, very well-written!
    “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image,
    or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above,
    or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”
    Exodus 20: 4
    You may also check my blog about The Second Commandment
    Hope this will also help. Thank you.

  8. Daniel Ramirez says:

    Awesome explanation, simple and concise. God bless you and your ministry

  9. Jim says:

    Reply to Rahma: Jesus did claim to be God, he even said the father and I are one John 10:30, in John 1:18 and there are more verses. Please stop spreading your lies when scripture and Jesus clearly state who he is.

  10. Pay attention Rahma!

    When discussing if Jesus said He was God, why does everyone leave out the most obvious scripture verse???

    When Jesus was giving John His revelation He said to him, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8

    These words are in RED in your King James Bible, meaning they are spoken directly by Jesus Christ.

    They are NOT spoken by the Father nor by the Holy Spirit because He clearly said, I am He who is, and was, and is to come, this clearly identifies the Speaker as Jesus Christ.

    If this wasn’t good enough, in Hebrews 1:8 God the Father calls Jesus, God when He said “Thy throne oh God is forever.”

    God the Father is speaking to God the Son and calls Him, “GOD” capital G.O.D.

    So, in Revelation 1:8 Jesus said He was God Almighty and in Hebrews 1:8 The Father confirms that Jesus is God Almighty.

    What more proof do you need???

  11. Elena says:

    The revelation that God gave me today on this subject is this: The fist commandment as God showed me is about internal idols in our hearts because God wants to be our priority, the first on our list. He doesnt want us to have other internal gods only the one true God. And the second deals with our external part, not to make any physical idols. I think that this sort of continues to build on what you said.

  12. Sharon Stoia says:

    When we deny what the Bible says, we have essentially ranked ourself higher than God and that would be worshipping ourself instead of God.

    Self examination for anything we rank higher than God and for any idols we have made or revere is so important.

    These days it seems like too many of us are quick to see the fault in others while we ignore our own shortcomings and sin.

    This post is as much for me as anyone else. That is for sure. It is not unusual for me to ask God to reboot my attitude. I am not perfect but a work in progress. I am just grateful for the progress.

  13. Travis M. says:

    Truthfully, after reading all this I’m still not understanding how the two differ. Because the way I see it is by breaking the second commandment in any way however one wants to word it. They’re thereby also breaking the first commandment am I not right? I just fail to see the difference… and I really almost thought I grasped the concept when I read *(The first commandment prohibits worshiping a false god or any image of a false god. The second commandment prohibits making or worshiping an image of the true God.)* BUT HOWEVER even in that explanation… by this very explanation doesn’t his explanation for what the second verse supposedly says/means, I mean if you make a false idol or worship a false idol then your putting that idol first over God. I just think it’s Redundancy if I’m being perfectly honest… making and worshiping a false idol and putting anybody but God first…. to me are one and the same I don’t see how these two things are different. I just don’t. Cause if you break one or disobey one then your breaking the other one by default right? I don’t see a realistic Real World Explanation of how one could break the second commandment without also breaking the first commandment…. there for to me that’s redundancy… all of the rest of the ten commandments are quite obviously very different rules that we should follow and none of them could be mistaken for one another by any rational person. Except in the case of the first two. Making/worshiping a false idol (something that either incorrectly represents the faith that you have in God, or incorrectly represents the belief that you have that you believe in something that you feel is worth worshiping more then the one true God…enough for you to make an idol of said thing and going threw the motions of worshiping said thing)… I just personally don’t see how that (my example that I just gave regardless of how poorly worded it is, if your able to understand my example as I wrote it then I absolutely welcome anybody that can make heads or takes of my example to please explain to me how possibly somebody could make and worship their false idol without putting it before God. I mean going off my example if somebody did this and made and worshiped a false idol, doesn’t it also break the first commandment of not putting anything before God??? I guess what I’m trying to say is I need somebody to give me a valid explanation/example/scenario where or how somebody could break the second commandment without also breaking the first commandment… if if nobody can do it then I stand by what I say that these two commandment are basically one and the same thing because you can’t break one without breaking the other. That’s not true… you can’t break the second commandment without also breaking the first at the same time. There we go that’s worded much better… cause I understand how somebody can put something before God without necessarily making a physical idol for them to be worshiping or praying to or whatever hypothetical BS that some blasphemer could or would try to claim yadda yadda…. (I am a Christian BTW and don’t believe in false idols or in putting anybody or anything before God I’m just saying I don’t see how somebody could break the second commandment without also at the same time be breaking the first commandment and therefore I just don’t see the reason for the Redundancy… why not just make 9 commandments? Or make a new 10th commandment like oh and don’t cheat on your taxes or something. (Just a hypothetical example to be funny) but basically anything else versus making a commandment that you already stated. Ie. If you break that commandment you also break the first commandment. None of the other commandments overlap like that.? I just need help understanding how they’re different. Cause this short and simple answer… just didn’t do it for me. It was too short and too simple and also contradicted itself within its own explanation…. so yeah any and all reasonable help is most welcome. But if your idea id just really aweful and sucks something terrible. I absolutely will reply and let you know it, just a fore warning.

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