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The Teraphim of Past and Present

Teraphim, from the Hebrew word pronounced ter-aw-feme, meaning an idol or idolatry, is variously rendered in English-language Bibles as either the transliterated (writing it in English according to the way it sounds in Hebrew) "teraphim," or the translated (writing it in English according to its meaning in Hebrew) "idol." In at least one instance (see below), the "idol" in idolatry was actually originally written, in effect, as "teraphim-atry." Teraphim were (and are) idols made in human form, large or small.

"there is in these houses an ephod, and teraphim, and a graven image, and a molten image"

Jacob's uncle Laban (see Jacob and Laban) was an idol worshipper, as were numerous other relatives of God's people (e.g. see On His Own Two Feet). Teraphim is translated in this example as "images."


"And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father's." (Genesis 31:19 KJV)

A common practice of idolatry were priests who ministered before the idols.

"And the man Micah had an house of gods, and made an ephod, and teraphim, and consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest." (Judges 17:5 KJV)

Teraphim were sometimes listed as among the various forms of idols, whether engraved, carved or cast in metal.

"there is in these houses an ephod, and teraphim, and a graven image, and a molten image" (Judges 18:14 KJV)

In this example, the "idol" in idolatry was actually originally written as "teraphim" i.e. their idolatry consisted of the reverence for statues of people, a form of witchcraft.

"For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry." (1 Samuel 15:23 KJV)

As is still common in the present day, teraphim could be large or small. In this example, a large teraphim "dummy" was used as a ruse. As in other examples, teraphim is here translated as "image."

"Saul also sent messengers unto David's house, to watch him, and to slay him in the morning: and Michal David's wife told him, saying, If thou save not thy life to night, to morrow thou shalt be slain. So Michal let David down through a window: and he went, and fled, and escaped. And Michal took an image, and laid it in the bed, and put a pillow of goats' hair for his bolster, and covered it with a cloth.

And when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, He is sick.

And Saul sent the messengers again to see David, saying, Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may slay him. And when the messengers were come in, behold, there was an image in the bed, with a pillow of goats' hair for his bolster." (1 Samuel 19:11-16 KJV)

Those who "turn to The Lord with all their heart" don't use mindless, lifeless dummies to worship the Living, All-Knowing Almighty God (see "Thou shalt not make any graven image").

"Moreover the workers with familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the images, and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, did Josiah put away, that he might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of The Lord.

And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to The Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him." (2 Kings 23:24-25 KJV)

Fact Finder: What would Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, have to say about all of the idolatrous "teraphim" that are made of her?
See What Would Mary Really Say About Idolatry?

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