Laudetur Iesus Christus.
The First Commandment (Exodus 20:4) does not say “basically no images.” Rather it says, “no false gods.”
We can tell this by reading just a little further in the same book. Exodus 25 says:
And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. (Exodus (RSV) 25:18.)
These golden images of heavenly creatures were to be placed on the Ark and to be placed at the very focus of the worship of the people. Clearly a dangerous place, if one were forbidding all images because of a risk of false worship.
Exodus 26 also directs:
"Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen and blue and purple and scarlet stuff; with cherubim skilfully worked shall you make them. (Exodus (RSV) 26:1.)
These images of cherubim are mentioned several more times in the Book of Exodus. Clearly the requirement that Scripture be read as a whole and that the harmony among all of the parts of divine Revelation must be used to guide our reading require that the First Commandment not be read as forbidding images, but as barring false worship and the making of idols as the object of such worship.
In the Book of Numbers, God also commands the making of an image, this time of an earthly creature, which God endows with miraculous powers of healing – another risk of inspiring false worship which the people were expected to resist.
And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a pole; and if a serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. (Numbers (RSV) 21:8-9.)
It was only much later, after the reign of King David, that this image of the serpent itself became the object of worship and for that reason was destroyed:
He smashed the bronze serpent called Nehushtan which Moses had made, because up to that time the Israelites were burning incense to it. (2 Kings (NAB) 18:4.)
There were also other images used in the worship under the Old Covenant, which were not specifically ordered by God. Solomon’s temple contained statues of cherubim and images of cherubim, palm trees, open flowers, oxen, and lions, in addition to those described in the Book of Exodus. God did not condemn these images. They were used to support the proper worship of the true God within the Temple at Jerusalem. (See, I Kings 6:23-36; 7:27-39; and 8:6-67.)
None of these images were condemned as violations of the First Commandment, so long as they were aids to true worship and not themselves treated as idols or false gods.
I hope this is helpful. (Some of the citations above were found on the Scriptur[al] Catholic website, scripturecatholic.com/sacramentals.html, a very useful reference source.)
Pax Christi nobiscum.