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Genesis 31 – The teraphim

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In Genesis 31 is found the use of “teraphim” three times. In all of the Old Testament book, this word is found fifteen times. That means one-fifth of those uses are in this one chapter of Genesis. Little is understood about this word, with “household idols” seen as the more standard translation into English. According to the Wikipedia article on “Teraphim,” the word has some root meaning as “to interpret.” While the 1 Samuel usage associated with Michal implies David kept a life size statue of some kind (a “teraphim”) in his house, which Michal placed in a bed and covered, to mislead Saul’s guards sent to arrest David, one can agree that Rachel did not take life size statues from Laban’s tent and stuff them in a saddlebag for a camel. This means “teraphim” must be seen as tools of divination of some kind.


The key to understanding the meaning of “teraphim” can be seen rooted in the same problem that comes for “elohim” clearly being the plural form for the Hebrew word “el,” meaning “gods.” This word is routinely a scholarly mistranslation, as “God,” in some misguided attempt to sway all Christians and Jews towards a belief that there is only one God; so, any use of “gods” is impossible, as it can only mean “God.” The entire first chapter of Genesis contains thirty-two uses of “אֱלֹהִ֔ים,” transliterated as “’ĕ·lō·hîm,” referenced as “elohim” (Strong’s Hebrew word #430), and absolutely zero uses of “Yah-weh.” However, in Genesis 2 there are fourteen uses of “elohim,” the first three alone [as found in Genesis 1], but the last eleven connected to “יְהוָ֥ה,” transliterated as “Yah-weh,” referenced as “Yhvh” (Strong’s Hebrew word #3068). That says two things.


First, Yahweh’s first step in the Genesis 1 “Creation Story” was unstated, but assumed. In Genesis 1:1a, where it states, “in the beginning created elohim,” that says Yahweh created gods to carry out His plan. Second, it says that after the “six days of Creation” the “elohim” were told to “rest” and Yahweh “blessed” the “elohim.” Every instance, where the eleven combinations that state “Yahweh elohim,” are relative to the specific creation of “man” (“adam”) as an “elohim” of “Yahweh,” which is separate of the “elohim” created of non-material elements.


There seems to be some fear in recognizing “elohim” as “gods.” For any Christian to stand up and swear, “I believe Jesus is the Son of God,” that belief can only come from the tool that is the Holy Bible, in particular the “New Testament” parts. That makes the Holy Bible be a “teraphim,” as it is a tool for divining such beliefs. In that read, which incorporates such beliefs, is a clear statement of an “angel of the Lord” [a “Yahweh elohim” if in Hebrew] appearing Zechariah, the husband of Elizabeth. An angel named Gabriel appeared to Mary the mother of Jesus, the wife-to-be of Joseph. Then, an “angel of the Lord” [“Yahweh elohim”] appearing to shepherds in the field. At that time we read, “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel.” A “heavenly host” is not a statement about stars in the sky, but a vast multitude of other “angels,” making an “army of angels” that appeared and sang. If one believes in angels, then one believes in “elohim,” meaning non-material beings [totally Spiritual] that are eternal, thus “gods” [in the lower case].


Referring again to the Wikipedia article about “Teraphim,” there are references that bemoan those who use those tools of divination, as wicked people. The article quotes Zechariah 10:2, as “For the teraphim utter nonsense, and the diviners see lies; the dreamers tell false dreams, and give empty consolation. Therefore the people wander like sheep; they are afflicted for want of a shepherd.” Because there was no such condemnation mentioned in 1 Samuel, about the life size teraphim in the home of David, the impression given is a “teraphim,” like any tool, is only to be judged by the intent of use by a user.


In the Genesis 31 chapter [55 verses] there are seventeen uses of “eohim,” in one form or another. They are:


1. “elohim – 7 times [“gods,” meaning spiritually possessed humans]

2. “elohe” – 4 times [“the gods”]

3. “welohe” – 3 times [“but gods”]

4. “haelohim” – 1 times [“of gods”]

5. “elohay” – 1 time [“my gods”]

6. “eloheka” – 1 time [“your gods”]


In addition, there is also one use of “adoi,” where the root is “adon,” meaning “lord,” with “adoni” meaning “my lord.” The word in the plural number is “adonay,” where “lords” has to be read [in divine Scripture] as an indication that one is possessed spiritually. In those cases, human beings become extensions of eternal spirits [like angels], with an ability to control others. The same word could easily be applied to rulers of nations and tribes, who demand respect. Whenever “adonay” is associated with Yahweh, the intent is to identify a possessed soul, who become the “lords” of His Spirit on earth.


Once, when Jacob was remembering a dream he had, an “angel of gods” said to him, “I am the god of the house of god [bethel].” In that identification, the “angel of gods” [“malek haelohim”] said, “anoki ha-el” which literally says, “I of god.” That identifies an angel as one of the “elohim,” as one “el.”


Such a preponderance of uses referring to “gods” in the human sense, as human whose souls have become divinely possessed, the use of “teraphim” must be seen as a tool that enhances one’s capabilities to get in touch with the possessing spirit. This is where “elohim” are not all possessed by Yahweh. David was, so his possession of a “teraphim” would have been something possibly used when writing his psalms. However, the warnings and condemnations against “teraphim” says these tools can put one in touch with lesser “gods,” called demons [not angels].


The focus of Rachel stealing the “teraphim’ from Laban and then hiding them in a saddle for a camel, addressing Laban as “adoni,” while lying about her being unable to stand up because it was that time of the month, gives the impression that Rachel was an appropriate wife for Jacob, as he was equally adept at stealing, deceiving, lying, and then running away. However, Jacob not knowing Rachel had snuck back into Laban’s tent to steal his “teraphim” says Rachel had said nothing to Jacob about them being in their possession. That must be seen as a statement that Rachel knew things about her father that Jacob did not know, involving his possession of objects of divination. That says Rachel knew her father used those tools to bring advantages his way, meaning Laban was not led by Yahweh, as much as he was led by demon spirits that made him a wealthy man. It says Rachel feared that her father would use those tools to destroy Jacob and return everything that was what he considered his back to him.


Because verse three of Genesis 31 says, “Then Yahweh [not the Lord] said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your ancestors and to your kindred, and I will be with you,” this becomes his motivation for taking what he believed was rightfully his [albeit without discussing anything with Laban] and leaving while Laban was out shearing sheep. This says that Yahweh spoke with Jacob, although that does not exonerate Jacob from his path of past sins.


Then, when Jacob says he encountered an angel in a dream, who told him he knew how Laban was treating him unfairly, identifying himself as the angel Jacob had seen before [in Bethel], when he saw a stairway to heaven, with “angels elohim” ascending and descending. In that dream, Jacob [who had just left Isaac, Rebecka and Esau for Paddan Aram] saw Yahweh at the top of the stairway. We read, “There above it stood Yahweh, and he said: “I am Yahweh elohim of your father Abraham welohe of Isaac.” Yahweh promised Jacob descendants, like He had told Abraham.


With twenty years having passed, one can see how Jacob was doing the right things, knowing his past record. So, seeing an angel who said he was one of those seen in a prior dream, in Bethel, his telling him it was time to leave, taking sheep and family with him, did not mean Jacob needed to discuss matters with Laban, who was mistreating him. Still, after Laban caught up with Jacob and cannot find his “teraphim,” that lack left Laban in a forgiving mood, so a rock pile was made to be the line each stayed on the other side of, with “Yahweh” being the one between the two.


In Genesis 32, Jacob again met “angels elohim,” telling Jacob his camp was that of “elohim.” That prompted Jacob to make amends with Esau, as he was heading towards his land. Later in the chapter, Jacob wrestled with himself, at which point his hip was permanently injured and he prevailed in the match, earning the Spiritual name “Israel.” In that, we read “Jacob alone ; wrestled man with him.” That does not say Jacob wrestled with anyone other than himself; but it says there were two within Jacob. That defines an “elohim” and we later are told, “you have struggled with elohim and with men and prevailed.” This says Jacob was an “elohim,” but until that battle with himself he had not been committed to Yahweh, keeping his self-ego as his “god.”

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