You shall not make to you any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath…
Some go so far as to say that it forbad the Jew to make any carved work at all. Certainly, judging by national results, it would almost seem as if Israel had so understood it. The Jews are a people famous for many things, for intellectual and administrative ability, and for a marvellous power of sustaining themselves in the midst of the most difficult circumstances. But whilst there have been Jewish warriors and poets, statesmen and financiers, musicians and singers of world-wide reputation, where are their artists and architects? The very temple of Solomon was a Phoenician structure. You may count easily a half-dozen distinguished musical Jewish composers — Mozart, Beethoven, Meyerbeer, Mendelssohn, and Rossini — but where is the distinguished Jewish sculptor or painter? Still, whilst all this is very suggestive as to the formative influence of the commandment, it seems most reasonable to decide that the sentence, "Thou shalt not make," is qualified by the sentence, "Thou shalt not bow down nor worship." The Jews were really only forbidden to make carved images as symbols of Deity, as objects of adoration.
(W. Senior, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: