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    Idol — Instruction


    Terâphı̂ym (תְּרָפִים, Strong's #8655), “idol; household idol; cultic mask; divine symbol.” This word is a loanword from Hittite-Hurrian (tarpish) which in West Semitic assumes the basic form tarpi. Its basic meaning is “spirit” or “demon.” Biblical Hebrew attests this word 15 times.VED-OT Idol.2

    Terâphı̂ym first appears in Genesis 31:19: “And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the [household gods] that were her father’s.” Hurrian law of this period recognized “household idols” as deeds to the family’s succession and goods. This makes these terâphı̂ym (possibly a plural of majesty as is ’elohim when used of false gods; cf. 1 Kings 11:5, 33) extremely important to Laban in every way.VED-OT Idol.3

    In 1 Samuel 19:13 we read that “Michal took the terâphı̂ym [here a plural of “majesty”] and laid it on the bed, and put a quilt of goat’s hair at its head, and covered it with blankets” (author’s translation). In view of 1 Samuel 19:11, where it is said that they were in David’s private quarters, supposing that this terâphı̂ym was a “household idol” is difficult, although not impossible. Some scholars suggest that this was a “cultic” mask used in worshiping God.VED-OT Idol.4

    Either of the former suggestions is the possible meaning of the word in the Micah incident recorded in Judges 17-18. Notice in Judges 17:5: “… Micah had a house of gods, and made an ephod, and terâphı̂ym and consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest.” In Judges 18:14 terâphı̂ym appears to be distinguished from idols: “… there is in these houses an ephod, and terâphı̂ym, and a graven image, and a molten image?” The verses that follow suggest that the graven image and the molten image may have been the same thing: Judges 18:17 uses all four words in describing what the Danites stole; Judges 18:20 omits “molten image” from the list; and Judges 18:31 reports that only the graven image was set up for worship. We know that the ephod was a special priestly garment. Could it be that terâphı̂ym was a “cultic mask” or some other symbol of the divine presence?VED-OT Idol.5

    Thus terâphı̂ym may signify an “idol,” a “cultic mask,” or perhaps a “symbol of the divine presence.” In any case the item is associated with pagan worship and perhaps with worship of God.VED-OT Idol.6

    'Ĕlı̂yl (אֱלִיל, Strong's #457), “idol; gods; nought; vain.” The 20 occurrences of this noun are primarily in Israel’s legal code and the prophetic writings (especially Isaiah). Cognates of this word appear in Akkadian, Syriac, and Arabic.VED-OT Idol.7

    This disdainful word signifies an “idol” or “false god.” 'Ĕlı̂yl first appears in Leviticus 19:4: “Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods.…” In Leviticus 26:1 the ’elilim are what Israel is forbidden to make: “Ye shall make you no idols.…” The irony of this is biting not only with respect to the usual meaning of this word but also in view of its similarity to the usual word for God (‘elohim; cf. Psalms 96:5): “For all the gods [‘elohim] of the people are idols [‘elohim] …” (1 Chronicles 16:26). Second, this word can mean “nought” or “vain.” 1 Chronicles 16:26 might well be rendered: “For all the gods of the people are nought.” This nuance appears clearly in Job 13:4: “But ye are forgers of lies; ye are all physicians of no value [physicians of vanity].” Jeremiah told Israel that their prophets were “prophesy [ing] unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought …”. Gillûl (גִּלֻּל, Strong's #1544), “idols.” Of the 48 occurrences of this word, all but 9 appear in Ezekiel. This word for “idols” is a disdainful word and may originally have meant “dung pellets”: “And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you” (Leviticus 26:30).VED-OT Idol.8

    This word and others for “idol” exhibit the horror and scorn that biblical writers felt toward them. In passages such as Isaiah 66:3 the word for “idol,” ‘awen, means “uncanny or wickedness.” Jeremiah 50:38 evidences the word ‘emim, which means “fright or horror.” The word ‘elil appears for “idol” in Leviticus 19:4; it means “nothingness or feeble.” 1 Kings 15:13 uses the Hebrew word, mipletset, meaning a “horrible thing, a cause of trembling.” A root signifying to make an image or to shape something, ‘tsb (a homonym of the root meaning “sorrow and grief”) is used in several passages (cf. 1 Samuel 31:9).VED-OT Idol.9


    A. Verb. VED-OT Inherit.2

    Nâchal (נָחַל, Strong's #5157), “to inherit, get possession of, take as a possession.” This term is found in both ancient and modern Hebrew, as well as in ancient Ugaritic. It is found around 60 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. The first time nâchal is used in the Old Testament text is in Exodus 23:30: “inherit the land.” The RSV “possess” translates more appropriately here, since the land of Canaan was not literally an inheritance in the usual sense of the word, but a possession, that which was due her, through God’s direct intervention. In fact, in most cases of the use of nâchal in the Old Testament, the word has the basic sense of “to possess” rather than “to inherit” by means of a last will and testament. One of the few instances of “to inherit” by last will and testament is in Deuteronomy 21:16: “… when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath.…” This clause is more literally translated “in the day he causes his sons to inherit that which is his.”VED-OT Inherit.3

    When Moses prayed: “… O Lord, … take us for thine inheritance” (Exodus 34:9), he did not mean that God should “inherit” through a will, but that He should “take possession of” Israel. The meaning “to get as a possession” is seen in its figurative use. Thus, “the wise shall inherit [possess as their due] glory” (Proverbs 3:35); “the upright shall have good things in possession” (Proverbs 28:10); “our fathers have inherited lies” (Jeremiah 16:19); “he that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind” (Proverbs 11:29).VED-OT Inherit.4

    B. Noun. VED-OT Inherit.5

    Nachălâh (נַחֲלָה, Strong's #5159), “possession; property; inheritance.” This noun is used frequently (220 times), but mainly in the Pentateuch and Joshua. It is rare in the historical books. The first occurrence of the word is in Genesis 31:14: “And Rachel and Leah answered and said unto him, Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father’s house?”VED-OT Inherit.6

    The basic translation of nachălâh is “inheritance”: “And Naboth said to Ahab, The Lord forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee” (1 Kings 21:3). The word more appropriately refers to a “possession” to which one has received the legal claim. The usage of nachălâh in the Pentateuch and Joshua indicates that the word often denotes that “possession” which all of Israel or a tribe or a clan received as their share in the Promised Land. The share was determined by lot (Numbers 26:56) shortly before Moses’ death, and it fell upon Joshua to execute the division of the “possession”: “So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord said unto Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel according to their divisions by their tribes” (Joshua 11:23). After the Conquest the term “inheritance” is no longer used to refer to newly gained territory by warfare. Once “possession” had been taken of the land, the legal process came into operation by which the hereditary property was supposed to stay within the family. For this reason Naboth could not give his rights over to Ahab (1 Kings 21:3-4). One could redeem the property, whenever it had come into other hands, as did Boaz, in order to maintain the name of the deceased: “Moreover Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place” (Ruth 4:10).VED-OT Inherit.7

    Metaphorically, Israel is said to be God’s “possession”: “But the Lord hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance, as ye are this day” (Deuteronomy 4:20).VED-OT Inherit.8

    Within the special covenantal status Israel experienced the blessing that its children were a special gift from the Lord (Psalms 127:3). However, the Lord abandoned Israel as His “possession” to the nations (cf. Isaiah 47:6), and permitted a remnant of the “possession” to return: “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy” (Micah 7:18).VED-OT Inherit.9

    On the other hand, it can even be said that the Lord is the “possession” of His people. The priests and the Levites, whose earthly “possessions” were limited, were assured that their “possession” is the Lord: “Wherefore Levi hath no part nor inheritance with his brethren; the Lord is his inheritance, according as the Lord thy God promised him” (Deuteronomy 10:9; cf. 12:22; Numbers 18:23).VED-OT Inherit.10

    The Septuagint gives the following translations: kleronomia (“inheritance; possession; property”), and kleros (“lot; position; share”). The KJV gives these senses: “inheritance, heritage.”VED-OT Inherit.11


    A. Verb.VED-OT Iniquity.2

    ‛Âvâh (עָוָה, Strong's #5753), “to do iniquity.” This verb appears in the Bible 17 times. In Arabic this verb appears with the meaning “to bend” or “to deviate from the way.” ‛âvâh is often used as a synonym of chata, “to sin,” as in Psalms 106:6: “We have sinned [chata’ with our fathers, we have committed iniquity [‛âvâh], we have done wickedly [rasha’].”VED-OT Iniquity.3

    B. Nouns.VED-OT Iniquity.4

    ‛Âvôn (עָווֹן, Strong's #5771), “iniquity; guilt; punishment.” This noun, which appears 231 times in the Old Testament, is limited to Hebrew and biblical Aramaic. The prophetic and poetic books employ ‛âvôn with frequency. The Pentateuch as a whole employs the word about 50 times. In addition to these, the historical books infrequently use ‛âvôn. The first use of ‛âvôn comes from Cain’s lips, where the word takes the special meaning of “punishment”: “And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear” (Genesis 4:13).VED-OT Iniquity.5

    The most basic meaning of ‛âvôn is “iniquity.” The word signifies an offense, intentional or not, against God’s law. This meaning is also most basic to the word chatta’t, “sin,” in the Old Testament, and for this reason the words chatta’t and ‛âvôn are virtually synonymous; “Lo, this [the live coal] hath touched thy [Isaiah’s] lips; and thine iniquity [‛âvôn] is taken away, and thy sin [chatta’t] purged” (Isaiah 6:7).VED-OT Iniquity.6

    “Iniquity” as an offense to God’s holiness is punishable. The individual is warned that the Lord punishes man’s transgression: “But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge” (Jeremiah 31:30). There is also a collective sense in that the one is responsible for the many: “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me” (Exodus 20:5). No generation, however, was to think that it bore God’s judgment for the “iniquity” of another generation: “Yet say ye, Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live. The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Ezekiel 18:19-20).VED-OT Iniquity.7

    Israel went into captivity for the sin of their fathers and for their own sins: “And the heathen shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity; because they trespassed against me, therefore hid I my face from them, and gave them into the hand of their enemies: so fell they all by the sword” (Ezekiel 39:23).VED-OT Iniquity.8

    Serious as “iniquity” is in the covenantal relationship between the Lord and His people, the people are reminded that He is a living God who willingly forgives “iniquity”: “Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation” (Exodus 34:7). God expects confession of sin: “I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin” (Psalms 32:5), and a trusting, believing heart which expresses the humble prayer: “Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalms 51:2).VED-OT Iniquity.9

    Isaiah 53 teaches that God put upon Jesus Christ our “iniquities” (v. 6), that He having been bruised for our “iniquities” (v. 5) might justify those who believe on Him: “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11).VED-OT Iniquity.10

    The usage of ‛âvôn includes the whole area of sin, judgment, and “punishment” for sin. The Old Testament teaches that God’s forgiveness of “iniquity” extends to the actual sin, the guilt of sin, God’s judgment upon that sin, and God’s punishment of the sin. “Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile” (Psalms 32:2).VED-OT Iniquity.11

    In the Septuagint the word has the following renderings: adikia (“wrongdoing; unrighteousness; wickedness”); hamartia (“sin; error”); and anomia (“lawlessness”). In the English versions the translation “iniquity” is fairly uniform. The RSV and NIV give at a few places the more specialized rendering “guilt” or the more general translation “sin.”VED-OT Iniquity.12

    'Âven (אָוֶן, Strong's #205), “iniquity; misfortune.” This noun is derived from a root meaning “to be strong,” found only in the Northwest Semitic languages. The word occurs about 80 times and almost exclusively in poetic-prophetic language. The usage is particularly frequent in the poetical books. Isaiah’s use stands out among the prophets. The first occurrence is in Numbers 23:21: “He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them.”VED-OT Iniquity.13

    The meaning of “misfortune” comes to expression in the devices of the wicked against the righteous. The psalmist expected “misfortune” to come upon him: “And if he come to see me, he speaketh vanity: his heart gathereth iniquity to itself; when he goeth abroad, he telleth it” (Psalms 41:6). 'Âven in this sense is synonymous with ‘ed, “disaster” (Job 18:12). In a real sense 'âven is part of human existence, and as such the word is identical with ‘amal, “toil,” as in Psalms 90:10: “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”VED-OT Iniquity.14

    'Âven in a deeper sense characterizes the way of life of those who are without God: “For the vile person will speak villany, and his heart will work iniquity, to practice hypocrisy, and to utter error against the Lord, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail” (Isaiah 32:6). The being of man is corrupted by “iniquity.” Though all of mankind is subject to 'âven (“toil”), there are those who delight in causing difficulties and “misfortunes” for others by scheming, lying, and acting deceptively. The psalmist puts internalized wickedness this way: “Behold, he travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood” (Psalms 7:14; cf. Job 15:35).VED-OT Iniquity.15

    Those who are involved in the ways of darkness are the “workers of iniquity,” the doers of evil or the creators of “misfortune” and disaster. Synonyms for 'âven with this sense are ra’, “evil,” and rasha’, “wicked,” opposed to “righteousness” and “justice.” They seek the downfall of the just (Psalms 141:9). Between Psalms 5:5 and 141:9 there are as many as 16 references to the workers of evil (cf. “The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity”—Psalms 5:5). In the context of Psalms 5, the evil spoken of is falsehood, bloodshed, and deceit (v. 6). The qualitative aspect of the word comes to the best expression in the verbs with 'âven. The wicked work, speak, beget, think, devise, gather, reap, and plow 'âven, and it is revealed (“comes forth”) by the misfortune that comes upon the righteous. Ultimately when Israel’s religious festivals (Isaiah 1:13) and legislation (Isaiah 10:1) were affected by their apostate way of life, they had reduced themselves to the Gentile practices and way of life. The prophetic hope lay in the period after the purification of Israel, when the messianic king would introduce a period of justice and righteousness (Isaiah 32) and the evil men would be shown up for their folly and ungodliness.VED-OT Iniquity.16

    The Septuagint has several translations: anomia (“lawlessness”); kopos (“work; labor; toil”); mataios (“empty; fruitless; useless; powerless”); poneria (“wickedness; maliciousness; sinfulness”); and adikia (“unrighteousness; wickedness; injustice”). The KJV has these translations: “iniquity; vanity; wickedness.”VED-OT Iniquity.17


    A. Noun. VED-OT Instruction.2

    Mûsâr (מוּסָר, Strong's #4148), “instruction; chastisement; warning.” This noun occurs 50 times, mainly in Proverbs. The first occurrence is in Deuteronomy 11:2: “… I speak not with your children which have not known, and which have not seen the chastisement of the Lord your God, his greatness, his mighty hand, and his stretched out arm.”VED-OT Instruction.3

    One of the major purposes of the wisdom literature was to teach wisdom and mûsâr (Proverbs 1:2). Mûsâr is discipline, but more. As “discipline” it teaches how to live correctly in the fear of the Lord, so that the wise man learns his lesson before temptation and testing: “Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction” (Proverbs 24:32). This “discipline” is training for life; hence, paying attention to mûsâr is important. Many verbs bear out the need for a correct response: “hear, obey, love, receive, obtain, take hold of, guard, keep.” Moreover, the rejection is borne out by many verbs connected with mûsâr: “reject, hate, ignore, not love, despise, forsake.” When mûsâr as “instruction” has been given, but was not observed, the mûsâr as “chastisement” or “discipline” may be the next step: “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15).VED-OT Instruction.4

    Careful attention to “instruction” brings honor (Proverbs 1:9), life (Proverbs 4:13), and wisdom (Proverbs 8:33), and above all it pleases God: “For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favor of the Lord” (Proverbs 8:35). The lack of observance of “instruction” brings its own results: death (Proverbs 5:23), poverty, and shame (Proverbs 13:18), and is ultimately a sign that one has no regard for one’s own life (Proverbs 15:32).VED-OT Instruction.5

    The receptivity for “instruction” from one’s parents, teacher, the wise, or the king is directly corollary to one’s subjugation to God’s discipline. The prophets charged Israel with not receiving God’s discipline: “O Lord, are not thine eyes upon the truth? thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return” (Jeremiah 5:3). Jeremiah asked the men of Judah and the inhabitants in the besieged Jerusalem to pay attention to what was happening around them, that they still might subject themselves to “instruction” (35:13). Isaiah predicted that God’s chastisement on man was carried by the Suffering Servant, bringing peace to those who believe in Him: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (53:5) The Septuagint has the translation of paideia (“upbringing; training; instruction”). The Greek word is the basis for our English word pedagogy, “training of a child.” The KJV has the translations: “instruction; correction; chastisement; chastening.”VED-OT Instruction.6

    B. Verb.VED-OT Instruction.7

    Yâsar (יָסַר, Strong's #3256), “to discipline.” This verb occurs in Hebrew and Ugaritic with the sense of “to discipline.” Outside of these languages the root is not represented. The verb appears 42 times in the Old Testament; cf. Proverbs 19:18: “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.”VED-OT Instruction.8

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