1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Teraphim

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TERAPHIM (A.V. sometimes transcribes, e.g. Judges xvii. 5; xviii. 14 seq.; Hosea iii. 4; sometimes translates “image,” 1 Sam. xix. 13; “idols,” Zech. x. 2; “idolatry,” 1 Sam. xv. 23: R.V. renders consistently “teraphim”), a Hebrew word, found only in the plural, of uncertain etymology. The name appears to be applied to some form of idol (cf. Gen. xxxi. 19 and 30), but details as to its precise configuration, &c., are lacking. From 1 Sam. xix. 13, 16 it would seem that in the early monarchical period a regular place in every household was still reserved for the teraphim; while in the 8th century Hosea (iii. 4) speaks of “ephod and teraphim” as essential elements in the national worship. Later the teraphim with other adjuncts of heathenish worship were banned by the prophets. The meaning of the Elohistic story in Gen. xxxv. 2–4 clearly is that the employment of teraphim and of other heathen practices of Aramean paganism was given up by Israel in order that they might serve Jehovah alone at Bethel. In Judges and Hosea the teraphim are closely associated with the ephod; both are mentioned in connexion with divination (cf. 2 Kings xxiii. 24; Ezek. xxi. 21 [26]; Zech. x. 2). Whether the teraphim were “consulted” by lot or not is uncertain. In view of Ezek. xxi. 21 and Hosea iii. 4 it is difficult to suppose that the teraphim were purely household idols. The Rabbinical conjectures on the subject can be found in Buxtorf, Lex. Talm. (ed. Fischer), 1315 seq. One of the most curious is that the teraphim consisted of a mummified human head (see also Ephod).  (W. R. S.; G. H. Bo.)