SPECIAL TOPIC: Teraphim (BDB 1076)

The Hebrew word for "household idols" is teraphim (BDB 1076).  These household idols could be very large (cf. 1 Sam. 19:13,16), or very small, so as to fit in Rachel's camel saddle (cf. Gen. 31:34).  We understand from the Nuzi Tablets that these household idols were a sign of inheritance rights so Rachel may have stolen them as a symbol of her understanding of Laban's illegal acts in regard to her inheritance or to later assert the right of her son to inherit Jacob's property.  Some say that she stole them so that Laban could not divine their whereabouts (i.e., Rashi, cf. Gen. 30:27).  These teraphim were used for divination (cf. Zech. 10:2).  They often appear in association the "the ephod" (cf. Jdgs. 17:5; 18:14-20; and Hos. 3:4).  They are condemned as being idolatrous in 1 Sam. 15:23.

 From differing parts of the OT a composite description is difficult:

 1. small and portable household idols, Gen. 31:19,34,35

 2. large idol shaped like a human, 1 Sam. 19:13,16

 3. idols used in homes, but also in shrines, Jdgs. 17:5; 18:14,17,18

 4. idols used for knowing the future or will of the gods/god

 a. condemned and paralleled with divination, 1 Sam. 15:23

 b. condemned and paralleled with mediums, spiritists, and idols, 2 Kgs. 23:24

 c. condemned and paralleled with divination, shaking arrows, and inspecting a sheep's liver, Ezek. 21:21

 d. condemned and paralleled with diviners and false prophets, Zech. 10:2

 

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