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Q: #573. Who had "household idols / gods" in the Bible?

     A: “Household idols / gods” are primarily mentioned in the Old Testament, and the Hebrew word used for them is “traphyim.” This word is used 15 times in the Old Testament (KJV), and it is translated as “images” (7 times), “teraphim” (6 times), “idol” (1 time), “idolatry” (1 time). 

     Because “household idols” were meticulously handcrafted, they were fairly expensive to buy, and therefore, primarily owned by the wealthy. However, in Acts in the New Testament, we see that there was a group of “silversmiths” who had a thriving business selling reproductions of the “temple of Diana” for people to buy, and take home to worship (Acts 19:23-28).

     Of course, God condemns the practice of having “graven images” over and over in the Bible i.e. (Ex 20:4-5)(Lev 26:1)(Deut 7:25)(1 Kin 14:9). This includes any “object” we bow down to, offer worship to, or make sacrifices to, including “Christian” symbols like crosses, or images / pictures of Jesus, 

***Note: I believe there is clear distinction between owning a cross or image of Jesus “vs” owning a cross or image of Jesus that you use for “worship.” I speak of this in more depth here.

     So, who are “individuals” who had, or owned “household idols / gods” in the Bible? I did not find many examples. Here are the ones I found:

(Gen 31:19,34,35) The first example is found in 3 verses in (Gen Ch. 31), where Rachel had stolen her father Laban’s “images” (“teraphim”), and later hid them when he came looking for them. 

(Judg 17:5) Micah, an Ephraimite, had silver “teraphim” (“a [personal] house of gods”). He “consecrated one of his sons” to be “his priest,” and later found a “Levite” to be “my priest” (See: Judg Ch. 17).

***Note; In the next chapter (Judg 18), the Danites (from the Israelite tribe of Dan) stole Micah’s “teraphim” (Judg 18:14,17,18,20), and set it up so that they could worship it themselves.

(1 Sam 19:13,16) Michal, one of David’s wives (and daughter of Saul) placed an “image” (“teraphim”) in David’s bed to trick her father, and allow David to escape from her father who was trying to kill him.

     Aside from these three examples, there are two others which indicate that others in Israel had “teraphim” as well.

(2 Kin 23:24) We are told that King Josiah “removed all of the “images” (“teraphim”) that were spied (seen) in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem.”

(Hos 3:4) Hosea mentions that “the children of Israel shall abide many days…… without teraphim.”

     Finally, (Ezek 21:21) indicates that “teraphim” were sometimes used for divination (also see: Zech 10:2).

Copyright: © Steve Shirley

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