Recent events surrounding the death of George Floyd, the BLM movement, and the destruction of statues, has encouraged me to make sure my position on these events are aligned with the word of God. This article contains my conclusion and political position on the destruction and defacing of statues and memorials across America.
It is important that terms are defined before we can analyze the current situation, we find ourselves in. The difficulty many of us have when talking to others is, we rarely agree on the definitions of terms and phrases. This leads to major conflicts when discussing the difference between right and wrong. I want to avoid that as much as possible when discussing God’s truth. For this reason, I am providing 3 basic definitions for you to consider below:
Statue – a three dimensional work of art, as a representational or abstract form, carved in stone or wood, molded in a plastic material, cast in bronze or the like.
Monument – something erected in memory of a person, event, etc. as a building, pillar, or statue.
Memorial – something designed to preserve the memory of a person, event, etc. as a monument or holiday.
These terms have an obvious relationship where they share similarities and maintain unique differences. A memorial has the most vague and open definition when compared to the others. A memorial is anything designed to preserve the memory of something else. This means a memorial could be a monument, a holiday, or something different.
A monument is more specific than a memorial. By definition, a monument is something erected. Erect means upright in position or posture. Therefore, a monument goes beyond design and preserves memory through a physical object that is built and placed in an upright position. Thus, a monument can be a building, pillar, or statue.
A statue is more specific that a monument. It is, by definition, something carved in stone or wood which is often cast in metal. Typically, a statue bears the image of a person, an animal, or any other creation the designer can imagine and carry out. Many statues are formed to look like actual historical figures or mythological creatures. We see examples of these all over the world.
At this point, it is important to look at these words from a biblical perspective. Take special note of the following points:
- The word statue does not appear in the KJV.
- The word monument appears one time, but does not apply to the topic at hand. See Isa. 65:1-5.
- The word memorial appears 32 times, three in the New Testament.
There are three different Hebrew words that were translated into the word memorial. The first usage of the word can be found in Ex. 3:15. The Hebrew word here is zeker meaning a memento, abstractly recollection (rare if ever); by implication commemoration according to the Strong’s Concordance. This word was most commonly translated as the word remembrance.
Let’s look at the other verses where zeker was used. Est. 9:28; Ps. 9:6; Ps. 135:13; and Hos. 12:5.
From reading the context around these verses you can easily prove for yourself that the term refers to a memento, remembrance, or both. By the way, a memento means an object or item that serves to remind one of a person, past event, etc. The greatest example is God giving His divine name to Moses in Ex. 3. It is important to recognize that zeker does not have to be something physical.
The second word translated into memorial is the Hebrew work zikrown meaning memento. The difference between zeker and zikrown appears to be that zikrown’s usage is more commonly applied to special events and physical objects. Read Ex. 12:14; Ex. 13:9; Ex. 28:12; Lev. 23:24; Num. 10:10; Num. 31:54; and Josh 4:7.
The third word translated into memorial is the Hebrew word azkarah meaning a reminder, specifically remembrance-offering. This word is primarily found in Leviticus and once in the book of Numbers. Lev. 2:2,9; Lev. 5:12; Lev. 6:15; Lev. 24:7; and Num. 5:26. Be sure to read the context (the surrounding verses) for more understanding.
New Testament Usage
In the New Testament, the word memorial was translated from the Greek word mnemosunon meaning a reminder (memorandum); i.e. record. This word is used three times. Read Matt. 26:13; Mark 14:9; and Acts 10:4.
From reading the previously mentioned verses (and the context), the meaning becomes obvious. Note that the woman’s and Cornelius’ actions were recorded as a reminder of their character.
After reading these verses, I began to recognize that memorials were commissioned by God regardless of which Hebrew word was used. God gave them each memorial to help them remember important dates and events. He even gave them a memento of Him by giving the Israelites His name.
At times, God directed them to establish monuments as seen in Num. 21:1-9 and Josh. 4:1-9. Usually, when something was erected to promote remembrance it was not God who commanded them to do so. Here are a few examples: Gen. 28:10-19; Gen. 35:6-15; and 2 Sam. 18:18.
Obviously, it is not wrong to setup monuments if God authorized some and did not punish Jacob for doing so. What I noticed about the erected stones is that they were not carved. Every time God told them to establish a monument, it was made out of uncarved stone. Even when Jacob did it of his own will, the monument was just a pillar.
I begin to think about the statues, monuments, and memorials in America and other countries deeply. I quickly realized that I needed to look at God’s law again.
Idols and Graven Images
“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.5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.” (Ex. 20:4-6)
It is my belief that many of the statues, monuments, and memorials are in direct violation of the second commandment, especially statues. Before you conclude that I am taking verses out of context, let’s reconsider everything we have read so far.
First, a statue is a very specific type of monument which is carved in the image of a person, animal, or mythological creature. Now, the second commandment says no graven image or likeness of things in heaven, earth, or sea shall be made. And even though mythological creatures are from the imagination of mankind, they usually are fashioned as a composite of real creatures.
Read Jer. 10:1-15. Many of our statues, monuments, and memorials include graven images which are sometimes cast in metal. These are idols when compared to God’s memorials.
You might be thinking, “But we don’t bow to these things.” I agree. We do not physically bow to these things; however, many spend money to intentionally visit places like Mount Rushmore or the Lincoln Memorial in awe of the work of men’s hands. Visiting these places venerates man, not God. Many spend far more money to go idol worshipping than to support godly endeavors. In a sense, that kind of behavior is bowing down to the statues, monuments, and memorials. It appears to me that many of us are engaged in modernized idolatry.
“Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the Lord your God.” (Lev. 26:1)
If you still disagree with this analysis, consider these two points:
- Some are vigorously trying to destroy these images because they recognize their importance. They recognize that these are symbols of people who are venerated. They want the old idols destroyed and replaced with their own idols.
- Some are vehemently advocating for the protection of statues, monuments, and memorials claiming that the destruction of a stone structure destroys our history. They want the images of the heroes they have deified to remain as if statues are the only way to preserve their deeds and events.
“But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” (Rev. 21:8)
“Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.15 For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” (Rev. 22:14-15)