After liberating the Israelites from Egypt, Jehovah God gave them clear direction regarding how he wanted to be worshipped. The second of the so-called Ten Commandments says: “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.”—Exodus 20:4, 5.
At the very time that God was giving these commandments to Moses, the Israelites were making a golden calf, likely in imitation of Egyptian animal worship. They did not call the image by the name of an Egyptian god. Instead, they associated it with the worship of Jehovah. (Exodus 32:5, 6) How did God react? His anger blazed against those who venerated the idol, and Moses destroyed it.—Exodus 32:9, 10, 19, 20.
Later, Jehovah God elaborated on the second commandment. Through Moses, he reminded the Israelites that they must not make for themselves “a carved image, the form of any symbol, the representation of male or female, the representation of any beast that is in the earth, the representation of any winged bird that flies in the heavens, the representation of anything moving on the ground, the representation of any fish that is in the waters under the earth.” (Deuteronomy 4:15-18) Clearly, the Israelites were not to use idols of any shape or form in the worship of God.
Nevertheless, Israel later fell into idolatry. To correct them, Jehovah dispatched prophets who warned of impending punishment because of their idolatrous worship. (Jeremiah 19:3-5; Amos 2:8) As a nation, Israel ignored God’s warnings. Therefore, in 607 B.C.E., Jehovah allowed the Babylonians to destroy Jerusalem and take the nation into captivity.—2 Chronicles 36:20, 21; Jeremiah 25:11, 12.