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TERAPHIM tĕr’ ə fĭm (תְּרָפִים, H9572, meaning unknown, vile things suggested). They were household gods ranging from rather small (Gen 31:34, 35), to nearly life-sized (1 Sam 19:13, 16). Recent archeological discoveries at Nuzi in Iraq have illuminated the function and significance of these idols. Their possession constituted the headship of the household with all of the rights attendant thereto. Rachel’s theft of the teraphim (Gen 31:19) was an attempt to procure such headship for her husband, although it was rightfully her brother’s. Laban’s extreme displeasure is explicable in this light.


C. H. Gordon, “Biblical Customs and the Nuzu Tablets,” BA III (1940), 5f.; The Ancient Near East, 3rd ed. (1965), 128-130; A. E. Draffkorn, “Ilani/Elohim,” JBL LXXVI (1957), 216-224; M. Greenberg, “Another Look at Rachel’s Theft of the Teraphim,” JBL, LXXXI (1962), 239-248; C. LaBuschagne, “Teraphim—A New Proposal for its Etymology,” VT, XVI (1966), 115-117.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


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