In the Ancient Near East this mode was called a covenant.
While there is some argument whether the stipulations of Exodus 20 forms a covenant which has it’s origins from the Hittites or Mesopotamia itself, it is sufficient for the moment to know that a covenant was the basis of understanding requirements made of a person or a community, A Hittite covenant in the Ancient Near East had the following components. This was followed by stipulations and a copy deposited in a secure place for referral and for public reading if needed.
A list of witnesses ensued next and was generally the gods they believed in, with the conclusion being and equation of blessings and curses for the adherence and the severance of the covenant.
While covenants changed from community to community and the there are differences even amongst the covenants of the Old Testament, it is sufficient to know that this was Gods commands for his community constituting his law.
“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.” In a culture where images of Gods are rampant and considered as the residing places of these false Gods, out of concern for the people he delivered (Jealous) Yahweh commands them that no image in stone, wood or metal is really god and therefore should not be made or worshipped.
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This would also cover making an image or idol of Yahweh as well, and as such should be considered as a total prohibition.
On the basis of who he is, and what he has already done, God proceeds to give his revelation of the commandments to be followed through Moses to his people.
These two verses are vital to understanding God’s intention and heart.
“The tone for the entire section is set by verse 2: "I am the LORD, your [sing.] God who brought you Out of the land of Egypt from the house of slaves." The LORD can call on His people because he has delivered them; the Israelites have changed masters.
The Israelite was to view the commandments through a heart, which had been touched by the loving action of the LORD.