What’s a teraphim?
Updated: Dec 28, 2021
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[Note: This is one of a series listed under the heading: Wordie Post." It was originally posted on the Word Press blog entitled "Our Daily Bread," found at firstname.lastname@example.org. The changes at Word Press are similar to those on Twitter and Facebook, where I was posting to an empty space. That was because I began and maintained that blog as one of their free offerings. When their force to change to a paid blog website did not move me, they cancelled their "Reader," so posting on Word Press has become like a caged animal at the zoo, where only workers occasionally toss the animals a bite to eat. Word Press [et al] is like what I imagine life was like in the satellite countries of the Soviet Union: meager, bleak, spiritless. So, I am transferring those forty articles here.]
A Google search of the word “teraphim” brings up this definition: “small images or cult objects used as domestic deities or oracles by ancient Semitic peoples.” [Oxford Languages]
The Wikipedia article entitled “Teraphim” says, “a Hebrew word from the Bible, found only in the plural, of uncertain etymology.” That goes on to say, “The word Teraphim is explained in classical rabbinical literature as meaning disgraceful things.” That is continued with this: “many English translations of the Bible it is translated as idols, or household god(s) although its exact meaning is more specific than this, but unknown precisely.”
The Biblical reference most often used (unofficially) refers to Rachel going back to steal Laban’s (her father’s) “teraphim” [translated as “household idols” or “household gods”]. (Genesis 31:19) Jacob did not know Rachel had done this. (Genesis 31:20) Laban was out shearing sheep when Jacob left, taking with him lots of livestock, plus his wives, concubines and children. Laban chased after Jacob, catching up with him; but rather than want his daughters, grandchildren, and livestock back, he was more interested in his missing “teraphim.” So, he searched everyone’s tent, looking for them [it is a plural word]. When Laban entered Rachel’s tent, she had the “teraphim” stuck in her camel’s saddlebag, which she sat on top of. She told Laban, “Excuse my not getting up, but it’s that time of the month.”
Laban can’t find the “teraphim” and Jacob denied knowing anything about them. Jacob told the truth, which says had he known Rachel had the “teraphim,” then he would have told her, “Get those things out of here.” So, Laban and Jacob reached an agreement to set up a pile of rocks that denoted: “Stay on your side of this pile of rocks and I’ll stay on mine!”
Okay, gather around the campfire kiddies and let me explain the whats and whys of this story.
First, a teraphim is any of the many tools of divination that can be used to get in touch with spirits that can tell you interesting things. Some of the fifteen references to “teraphim” in the Old Testament associate “teraphim” with an “ephod,” which generally is a cloth garment, but specifically “an elaborate garment worn by the high priest, and upon which the Hoshen, or breastplate containing Urim and Thummim, rested.” That specific “ephod” was copyrighted for Tabernacle High Priests only, but copyright infringements took place, meaning cheap knockoffs were mass produced in China and then sold to shyster diviners all around the world. That gave “teraphim” and “ephods” a bad name, which still is in effect today.
In regard to this, “teraphim” and “epohds” can be quite accurate, regardless of the user. They can be seen as tools like a Ouija Board or one of those Magic 8 Balls. I see what Rachel took as more like Tarot Cards or Runes that could be cast. It could even be something like astrological birth charts that Laban had cast for every family member, so he could know when each had bad star alignments, so he could take advantage of that information.
Knowing this, “teraphim” needs to be seen as like guns and hammers. Both are deadly weapons when in the hands of fools. But, in the hands of divinely led people, the same tools can build houses and shoot criminals dead (or hunt for food, whichever terrain one lives in, making one or the other more beneficial). Thus, when Saul was having a panic attack and needed some good advice, he broke his own law that banished diviners from Israel and he dressed up like a woman and had a woman diviner bring up dead Samuel. It worked find. Samuel just told Saul, “Don’t call again. Besides, you will die in battle soon; and you won’t be coming near where I am now. See ya.”
So, secondly, Rachel knew Laban knew how to use “teraphim” to his advantage; and, she knew Laban would use the “teraphim” against Jacob. So, she stole them to keep Jacob from being stopped from leaving by Laban. Laban knew he was powerless without the use of “teraphim,” so he agreed to the rock pile settlement.
As far as fear of “teraphim” goes, the heuristic to live by is this: Fear only Yahweh. Everything else will be taken care of, as long as you only fear the One God. Of course, that means marrying one’s soul to Yahweh, so His Spirit protects you always, like Yahweh was protecting Jacob, by using Rachel to steal Laban’s “teraphim.” Ordinarily stealing is bad, but when Yahweh says “Do it,” then it is okay. So, using “teraphim” with Yahweh’s approval is also okay. For that to happen though, one has to have studied one particular “teraph” for about thirty years or so. You can practice on all your school of prophets buddies, before Yahweh will put your talent to good use.
Those guys who came from the East, bearing gifts for baby Jesus, called Magi, they were some like that. They were divinely led by Yahweh; but they were divinely led to use “teraphim” in that service. Moral of the story is this: If you see someone with a sign in the front yard that says, “Psychic Here,” keep on driving.