Any representation or likeness of a person or thing.—Matt. 22:20.
Whereas references to images in the Bible frequently relate to idolatry, this is not always the case. God, in creating man, said first, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.” (Gen. 1:26, 27) Since God’s Son stated that his Father is “a Spirit,” this rules out any physical likeness between God and man. (John 4:24) Rather, man had qualities reflecting or mirroring those of his heavenly Maker, qualities that positively distinguished man from the animal creation. (See ADAM.) Though in the image of his Creator, man was not made to be an object of worship or veneration.
Even as Adam’s own son Seth (born to him in his imperfection, however) was in Adam’s “likeness, in his image” (Gen. 5:3), Adam’s likeness to God originally identified him as God’s earthly son. (Luke 3:38) Despite man’s fall to imperfection, the fact of mankind’s originally having been made in God’s image was cited after the Noachian flood as the basis for the divine law authorizing humans to serve as executioners in putting murderers to death. (Gen. 9:5, 6; see AVENGER OF BLOOD.) In Christian instructions concerning feminine head covering, Christian men were told they ought not to wear such a covering, since the man “is God’s image and glory,” while the woman is man’s glory.—1 Cor. 11:7.
God’s firstborn Son, who later became the man Jesus, is in his Father’s image. (2 Cor. 4:4) Inasmuch as that Son was obviously the one to whom God spoke in saying, “Let us make man in our image,” this likeness of the Son to his Father, the Creator, existed from the start of the Son’s creation. (Gen. 1:26; John 1:1-3; Col. 1:15, 16) When on earth as a perfect man, he reflected his Father’s qualities and personality to the fullest extent possible within human limitations, so that he could say that “he that has seen me has seen the Father also.” (John 14:9; 5:17, 19, 30, 36; 8:28, 38, 42) This likeness, however, was certainly heightened at the time of Jesus’ resurrection to spirit life and his being granted “all authority . . . in heaven and on the earth” by his Father, Jehovah God. (1 Pet. 3:18; Matt. 28:18) Since God then exalted Jesus to “a superior position,” God’s Son now reflected his Father’s glory to an even greater degree than he had before leaving the heavens to come to earth. (Phil. 2:9; Heb. 2:9) He is now the “exact representation of [God’s] very being.”—Heb. 1:2-4.
All anointed members of the Christian congregation are foreordained by God to be “patterned after the image of his Son.” (Rom. 8:29) Christ Jesus is their model, not only in their life pattern, as they follow in his footsteps and imitate his course and ways, but also in their death and resurrection. (1 Pet. 2:21-24; 1 Cor. 11:1; Rom. 6:5.) Having borne the earthly “image of the one made of dust [Adam],” as spirit creatures they thereafter bear “the image of the heavenly one [the last Adam, Christ Jesus].” (1 Cor. 15:45, 49) During their earthly life, they are privileged to “reflect like mirrors the glory of Jehovah” that shines to them from God’s Son, being progressively transformed into the image conveyed by that glory-reflecting Son. (2 Cor. 3:18; 4:6) God thereby creates in them a new personality, one that is a reflection or image of His own divine qualities.—Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10.
Certain objects, formed in the image of plants, flowers, animals, and even of cherubs, were made at Jehovah’s command and hence were proper. While serving as symbolic representations in connection with God’s worship, they themselves were given no veneration or worship, as in the matter of prayer or sacrifice. In this regard, see IDOL, IDOLATRY.
IMPROPER USE OF IMAGES
Whereas humans are to imitate and endeavor to mirror the qualities of their heavenly Father and model their lives after his Son, the veneration of physical images in worship is consistently condemned throughout the Scriptures. God’s detestation of such practice was clearly expressed in the Law given to Israel. Not only carved images, but the making of the “form” of anything in heaven, earth or sea as an object of religious worship was prohibited. (Ex. 20:4, 5; Lev. 26:1; Isa. 42:8) Such objects might be made of any substance, in any form—wood, metal, stone; carved, cast, hammered, hewn; in the figure of humans, animals, birds, inanimate objects, or just symbolic forms—but none were approved by God for veneration. The making of them was a ‘ruinous act,’ the committing of evil in Jehovah’s eyes, a detestable and offensive thing bringing his curse upon those doing so. (Deut. 4:16-19, 23-25; 27:15; Num. 33:52; Isa. 40:19, 20; 44:12, 13; Ezek. 7:20) The decking of them with gold and silver would not make them less disgusting in God’s sight nor prevent their being defiled and discarded as “mere dirt!”—Deut. 7:5, 25; Isa. 30:22.
Such use of images is shown to be inexcusable before God, since it goes contrary to all reason and intelligence, betrays foolish, empty-headed reasoning, and a refusal to acknowledge obvious facts. (Isa. 44:14-20; Jer. 10:14; Rom. 1:20-23) The images would prove to be of no benefit, giving no knowledge or guidance or protection, being speechless, helpless and lifeless, an eventual cause for shame. (Isa. 44:9-11; 45:20; 46:5-7; Hab. 2:18-20) Jehovah’s prophetic declarations, accurately foretelling future events, thwarted any efforts of the unfaithful Israelites to attribute the outworking of such events to their idolatrous images.—Isa. 48:3-7.
Despite God’s clear pronouncements, the Israelites and others foolishly attempted to combine the use of religious images with the worship of the true God, Jehovah (Ex. 32:1-8; 1 Ki. 12:26-28; 2 Ki. 17:41; 21:7), a woman in the time of the judges even sanctifying certain silver pieces to Jehovah and then employing them in the making of a religious image. (Judg. 17:3, 4; 18:14-20, 30, 31) Prior to Jerusalem’s destruction by the Babylonians, detestable religious images had been introduced into the Temple area and one such is described as a “symbol of jealousy,” evidently referring to the incitement of God’s jealousy by giving to images the praise rightfully belonging to him.—Ezek. 8:3-12; Ex. 20:5.
IMAGES IN THE BOOK OF DANIEL
In the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s kingship (evidently counting from the time of his conquest of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E.) the Babylonian king had a dream, the effect of which greatly disturbed him, producing insomnia. He apparently did not recall the full contents of the dream, for he demanded of his wise men and priests that they reveal both the dream and its interpretation. Despite their boasted ability as revealers of secret things, the Babylonian wise men were unable to fulfill the royal request. This brought upon them the decree of death, and the lives of Daniel and his companions were likewise endangered. By divine help Daniel was able to reveal not only the dream but also its meaning. Daniel’s expression of praise and thanksgiving upon receiving the revelation draws attention to Jehovah God as the source of wisdom and might and as the one who is “changing times and seasons, removing kings and setting up kings.” (Dan. 2:1-23) The dream was clearly the result of God’s doing and served to illustrate in a prophetic way God’s irresistible dominion over earth’s affairs.
Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was of an immense and dreadful image, in human form. The body parts were of metal, and from the head down were progressively of inferior and harder metals, beginning with gold and terminating with iron, the feet and toes, however, having clay mixed with iron. The entire image was crushed to powder by a stone cut out of a mountain, the stone thereafter filling the entire earth.—Dan. 2:31-35.
The image obviously relates to domination of the earth and Jehovah God’s purpose regarding such domination. This is made clear in Daniel’s inspired interpretation. The golden head represented Nebuchadnezzar, the one who, by divine permission, had gained power as the dominant world ruler and, more importantly, had overthrown the typical kingdom of Judah. However, in saying, “You yourself are the head of gold,” it does not seem that Daniel restricted the head’s significance to Nebuchadnezzar alone. Since the other body parts represented kingdoms, the head evidently represented the dynasty of Babylonian kings from Nebuchadnezzar down till Babylon’s fall in the time of King Nabonidus and his son Belshazzar.
The kingdom represented by the silver breasts and arms would therefore be the Medo-Persian power, which overthrew Babylon in 539 B.C.E. It was “inferior” to the Babylonian dynasty but not in the sense of having a smaller area of dominion or of having less strength militarily or economically. Babylon’s superiority may therefore relate to its having been the overthrower of the typical kingdom of God at Jerusalem, a distinction not held by Medo-Persia. The Medo-Persian dynasty of world rulers ended with Darius III (Codomannus), whose forces were thoroughly defeated by Alexander the Macedonian in 331 B.C.E. Greece is thus the power depicted by the image’s belly and thighs of copper.—Dan. 2:36-39.
The Grecian or Hellenic dominion continued, though in divided form, until finally absorbed by the rising power of Rome. The Roman World Power thus appears in the image symbolized by the baser but harder metal, iron, found in the legs of the great image. Rome’s strength to break and crush opposing kingdoms, indicated in the prophecy, is well known in history. (Dan. 2:40) Yet Rome alone cannot fulfill the require-ments of being represented by the image’s legs and feet, for the rule of the Roman Empire did not see the completion of the prophetic dream, namely, the coming of the symbolic stone cut out of the mountain, its crushing the entire image and thereafter filling the entire earth.
Thus, some Bible commentators express themselves similarly to M. F. Unger (Unger’s Bible Dictionary, p. 516), who says: “Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, as unravelled by Daniel, describes the course and end of ‘the times of the Gentiles’ (Luke 21:24; Rev. 16:19); that is, of the Gentile world power to be destroyed at the Second Coming of Christ. . . . The ten-toed form will be the condition of Gentile world domination at the time of the returning Smiting Stone (Dan. 2:34, 35) . . . . At the first advent of Christ neither the sudden crushing blow took place nor did the ten-toed condition occur.” Daniel himself said to Nebuchadnezzar that the dream had to do with “what is to occur in the final part of the days” (Dan. 2:28), and since the symbolic stone is shown to represent the kingdom of God it may be expected that the domination pictured by the iron legs and feet of the image would extend down to the time of the establishment of that kingdom and till the time it takes action to “crush and put an end to all these kingdoms.”—Dan. 2:44.
History shows that, although the Roman Empire enjoyed an extension of life in the form of the Holy Roman Empire of the Germanic nation, it eventually gave way to the rising power of its onetime imperial subject, Britain. Because of the close affinity and general unity of action, Britain and the United States today are often referred to as the Anglo-American World Power, the present dominant power in world history.
The mixture of iron and clay in the toes of the great image graphically illustrate the condition due to be manifest in the final expression of political world domination. Clay is elsewhere used metaphorically in the Scriptures to stand for fleshly men, made of the dust of the earth. (Job 10:9; Isa. 29:16; Rom. 9:20, 21) Daniel’s interpretation thus appears to equate the clay with “the offspring of mankind,” the mixing in of which produces fragility in that which is symbolized by the image’s ten toes. This points to a weakening and a lack of cohesion in the ironlike strength of the final form of world domination by earthly kingdoms. “Ten” being used consistently in the Bible to express completeness (see NUMBER, NUMERAL), the ten toes apparently stand for the complete number of all the kingdoms associated with the dominant world power at the time when God’s kingdom is established and takes action against the worldly powers.—Compare Revelation 17:12-14.
The golden image later set up by Nebuchadnezzar on the Plain of Dura is not directly related to the immense image of the dream. In view of its dimensions—sixty cubits (c. 88 feet, c. 27 meters) high and only 6 cubits (c. 8.8 feet, c. 2.7 meters) broad (or a ratio of ten to one)—it does not seem likely to have been a statue in human form, unless it had a very high pedestal, one that was higher than the human statue itself. The human form has a ratio of only four to one as to height and breadth. So the image may have been more symbolic in nature, perhaps like the obelisks of ancient Egypt.
THE IMAGE OF THE WILD BEAST
After a vision of a seven-headed wild beast that rises out of the sea, the apostle John saw the vision of a two-horned beast ascend out of the earth, speaking like a dragon and telling those who dwell on the earth “to make an image to the [seven-headed] wild beast.” (Rev. 13:1, 2, 11-14) The significance of both the seven-headed wild beast and the two-horned beast is considered under BEASTS, SYMBOLIC. As shown there, beasts are consistently used in the Bible as symbols of political governments. The image of the seven-headed wild beast must therefore be some agency reflecting the characteristics and will of the globe-dominating political system represented by the seven-headed wild beast. Logically, it should also have seven heads and ten horns like the wild beast out of the sea that it represents. It is of interest to note, then, that another seven-headed beast, distinct from the wild beast out of the sea, is described at Revelation chapter 17. Its significance is also considered under BEASTS, SYMBOLIC.
After its first mention in Revelation chapter 13 the image of the beast is regularly referred to along with the wild beast, particularly in connection with the worship of that wild beast and the receiving of its mark. The image of the beast shares in these things.—Rev. 14:9-11; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4; see MARK, II.