Questions From Readers
● When one goes to Jehovah in prayer, what is one to imagine Jehovah to be like, or what should one think of?
In the visions given to Daniel, Ezekiel and to the apostle John, we have in symbols some idea of the magnificent glory of Jehovah. (Dan. 7:9, 10; Ezek. 1:26-28; Rev. 4:1-3) Yet it is to be remembered that the Israelites did not see any form on the day when Jehovah spoke to them at Mount Horeb. The reason was that it did not please Jehovah to allow them to make any representation of him, “a carved image, the form of any symbol, the representation of male or female, the representation of any beast that is in the earth.”—Deut. 4:15-19.
In the case of Christians, there is nothing for us to imagine in the way of Jehovah’s form, though Biblical visions might pass through our minds when we pray. Remember that “God is a Spirit.” (John 4:24) When praying we should think in terms of Jehovah’s magnificence and of his marvelous qualities, rather than trying to imagine his form. By study of the Bible, we have seen how Jehovah has mightily dealt with his people in times past and we know of his just and loving arrangements for the future. So in faith we do not need pictures or representations when we go to Jehovah in prayer. “We are walking by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7) Think of Jehovah as our heavenly Father who is loving and merciful, who understands our limitations and who hears us when we pray in accord with his will in the right manner and for the right things in the name of Jesus Christ.—John 14:6, 14; 1 John 5:15.
● What is the meaning of Ecclesiastes 10:11? It reads: “If the serpent bites when no charming results, then there is no advantage to the one indulging in the tongue.”
If a snake bites a snake charmer before he can charm it, then there is no advantage to his being a snake charmer. If he knows how to charm a snake and does not do so, he is bound to get bitten and there is no advantage in his being a master of the tongue for charming snakes. Likewise, if we have the power of protecting ourselves by the use of the tongue in the right way, but we do not use the tongue thusly and we get bitten or hurt, then there is no advantage or profit to us in having the ability to use the tongue for self-protection. If we have knowledge and an ability, then for this to be of advantage to us to safeguard us from hurt or loss, we should make use of it and without delay. It is too late to make use of it after the damage has been done. Compare Ecclesiastes 10:8.
● After Jehovah struck the firstborn of Egypt, Pharaoh finally told the Israelites they could leave Egypt, saying: “Go. Also, you must bless me besides.” (Ex. 12:32) What did Pharaoh mean by this?
Pharaoh meant just that—he wanted a blessing. After he had granted permission to the Israelites with all their flocks and herds to go, he did not want them and their leader Moses to go away still cursing him and wishing him ill. He had been plagued enough. Now at last he granted what the God of Israel demanded of him. Since the Israelites wanted their herds and flocks in order to sacrifice to God, Pharaoh, in releasing these animals, wanted the Israelites to have in mind in offering sacrifice to Jehovah their God that they should make entreaty to God for Pharaoh and his people, that they might all be healed of the effects of the terrible plagues visited upon them.
Whether Moses and Aaron and the Israelites heeded his request and prayed to Jehovah in his behalf is another thing. It was one thing for Pharaoh to ask a thing and another for him to be granted that favor. Actually, he proved unworthy of having a blessing pronounced upon him by Moses and the Israelites, for he had a change of heart for the bad. This is shown in that, after he got the report that the Israelites were apparently trapped at the Red Sea, he mustered all his army and went in pursuit of them to destroy them or drive them back to slavery. Pharaoh merited no blessing.—Ex. 14:5-9.
● Did not the making of twelve copper bulls as a base for the molten sea in the courtyard of the temple at Jerusalem, as recorded at 2 Chronicles 4:4, violate the Second Commandment, which forbade the making of images?
Many persons apparently misread the Second Commandment, for that command did not forbid all making of images or representations, but only the making of them as objects of worship, even as the full statement of the commandment shows: “You must not make for yourself a carved image or a form like anything that is in the heavens above or that is on the earth underneath or that is in the waters under the earth. You must not bow down to them nor be induced to serve them, because I Jehovah your God am a God exacting exclusive devotion.” Among those misreading this commandment are the Moslems, who, as a result, use only geometrical designs in their art lest they violate this commandment.—Ex. 20:4, 5.
That Jehovah did not forbid all making of statues or images is apparent from his later commands to make them. Thus Moses was commanded to make two cherubs for the ark of the testimony as well as to have cherubs embroidered on the curtains used in the tabernacle. Later on, Moses was commanded to make a copper serpent to which all Israelites who had been bitten by serpents had to look in order to get healed. In connection with the temple, in addition to the large bulls mentioned, Jehovah also directed the making of two very large cherubs to be placed in the Most Holy. None of these, however, were to be worshiped, and when the copper serpent became an object of worship, faithful King Hezekiah had it crushed to pieces.—Ex. 25:18-22; 26:1; Num. 21:8, 9; 2 Ki. 18:4.
The bulls used to support the molten sea served a very practical purpose and were a most fitting choice in view of the immense size of the “sea.”* The brim had a diameter of thirty feet and the sea must have bulged out considerably in the middle, as it was said to be capable of holding 29,400 gallons of water, or some 117 tons! In fact, the bull in the Scriptures is used as a symbol of strength, for we read of “the power of the bull,” and certainly it was the most powerful of domestic animals that the Israelites had. Fittingly, we find that in Ezekiel’s vision of Jehovah’s throne and its surroundings, and in John’s vision of the same, there appear living creatures having the appearance of bulls. (Ezek. 1:6, 7, 10; Rev. 4:7) The bull in such symbolism is understood to denote Jehovah’s attribute of power. Since, in Bible symbol, water usually stands for the word of truth (Eph. 5:26), we may see in this large copper “molten sea” and its strong base the unlimited power of Jehovah to carry out all his good word. No question about it: “So my word that goes forth from my mouth will prove to be. It will not return to me without results, but it will certainly do that in which I have delighted, and it will have certain success in that for which I have sent it.”—Isa. 55:11.
Thus, in the use of the bulls in connection with the molten sea of Solomon’s temple, we see no violation of Jehovah’s law against making images for worship but, rather, a most fitting and practical architectural design.
In Herod’s temple the sea was supported by twelve lions, for which, however, there was no Scriptural justification.