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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
im´ā̇j - iz ( צלם , celem ; εἰκών , eikō̇n ):
3. Historical Beginnings and Early Developments
4. Bible References and Palestinian Customs
5. Most Important Technical Terms
(1) Matstsebhah ("pillar")
(2) 'Asherah ("grove")
(3) Chamman ("sun-image")
6. Obscure Bible References
(1) Golden Calf and Jeroboam's Calves
(2) Brazen Serpent
(4) Image of Jealousy
(5) Chambers of Imagery
Images, as used here, are visible representations of supposedly supernatural or divine beings or powers. They may be (1) Themselves objects of worship, (2) pictures, embodiments or dwelling-places (temple, ark, pillar, priests) of deities worshipped, (3) empowered instruments (amulets, charms, etc.) of object or objects worshipped, (4) pictures or symbols of deities reverenced though not worshipped. These images may be shapeless blocks, or symmetrically carved figures, or objects of Nature, such as animals, sun, moon, stars, etc. These visible objects may sometimes be considered, especially by the uninstructed, as deities, while by others in the small community they are thought of as instruments or symbolizations of deity. Even when they are thought of as deities, this does not exclude a sense and apprehension of a spiritual godhead, since visible corporeal beings may have invisible souls and spiritual attributes, and even the stars may be thought of as "seats of celestial spirits." An idol is usually considered as either the deity itself or his permanent tenement; a fetish is an object which has been given a magical or divine power, either because of its having been the temporary home of the deity, or because it has been formed or handled or otherwise spiritually influenced by such deity. The idol is generally communal, the fetish private; the idol is protective, the fetish is usually not for the common good. (See Jevons, Idea of Cod in Early Religion s, 1910.) Relics and symbolic figures do not become "images" in the objectionable sense until reverence changes to worship. Until comparatively recent times, the Hebrews seem to have offered no religious objection to "artistic" images, as is proved not only from the description of Solomon's temple, but also from the discoveries of the highly decorated temple of Yahweh at Syene dating from the 6th century bc, and from ruins of synagogues dating from the pre-Christian and early Christian periods ( PEF , January, 1908; The Expositor , December, 1907; Expository Times , January and February, 1908). The Second Commandment was not an attack upon artists and sculptors but upon idolaters. Decoration by means of graven figures was not in ancient times condemned, though, as Josephus shows, by the time of the Seleucids all plastic art was regarded with suspicion. The brazen serpent was probably destroyed in Hezekiah's time because it had ceased to be an ancient artistic relic and had become an object of worship (see below). So the destruction of the ark and altar and temple, which for so long a time had been the means of holy worship, became at last a prophetic hope ( Isaiah 6:7; Jeremiah 3:6; Amos 5:25; Hosea 6:6; compare Zechariah 14:20 ). While the temple is not naturally thought of as an "image," it was as truly so as any Bethel. An idol was the temple in miniature - a dwelling-place of the god. When an image became the object of worship or a means by which a false god was worshipped, it became antagonistic to the First and Second Commandments respectively.
The learned author of the article on "Image Worship" in the Encyclopedia Biblica (11th edition) disposes too easily of this question when he suggests that image-worship is "a continuance by adults of their childish games with dolls.... Idolatrous cults repose largely on make-believe."
Compare the similar statement made from a very different standpoint by the author of Great Is Diana of the Ephesians , or the Original of Idolatry (1695): "All Superstitions are to the People but like several sports to children, which varying in their several seasons yield them pretty entertainment," etc.
No universal institution or custom is founded wholly on superstition. If it does not answer to some real human need, and "if its foundations are not laid broad and deep in the nature of things, it must perish" (J.G. Fraser, Psyche's Task , 1909,103; compare Salomon Reinach, Revue des études grecques , 1906,324). Image-worship is too widespread and too natural to humanity, as is proved in modern centuries as well as in the cruder earlier times, to have its basis and source in any mere external and accidental circumstances. All modern research tends to corroborate our belief that this is psychological rather than ecclesiastical in its origin. It is not imposed externally; it comes from within, and naturally accompanies the organic unfoldment of the human animal in his struggle toward self-expression. This is now generally acknowledged to be true of religious feeling and instinct (see especially Rudolf Eueken, Christianity and the New Idealism , 1909, chapter i; I. King, The Development of Religion , 1910); it ought to be counted equally true of religious expression. Neither can the origin of image-worship or even of magical rites be fully explained, as Fraser thinks, by the ordinary laws of association. These associations only become significant because the devoted worshipper already has a body of beliefs and generalizations which make him attentive to the associations which seem to him religiously or magically important. (Jastrow, Aspects of Rel. Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria ; compare James H. Leuba, Psychological Origin and Nature of Religion , 1909; Study of Religions , 1911). So animism must be regarded as a philosophy rather than as an original religious faith, since it is based on an "explanation of phenomena rather than an attitude of mind toward the cause of these phenomena" ( EB , 11th edition, article "Animism," and compare Höffding, Philosophy of Religion, 1906,138). In whatever ways the various image-worshipping cults arose historically - whether from a primitive demonology or from the apotheosis of natural objects, or from symbolism, or a false connection of cause with effect - in any case it had some human need behind it and human nature beneath it. The presence of the image testifies to faith in the supernatural being represented by the image and to a desire to keep the object of worship near. Prayer is easier when the worshipper can see his god or some sacred thing the god has honored (compare M. L'abbé E. Van Drival, De l'origine et des sources de l'idolatrie , Paris, 1860).
3. Historical Beginnings and Early Development
The first man was not born with a totem-pole in his fist, nor did the earliest historic men possess images. They lacked temples and altars and ephods and idols, as they lacked the fire-stick and potter's wheel. Religion, which showed itself so strong in the next stage of human life, must have had very firm beginnings in the prehistoric period; but what were its external expressions we do not yet certainly know, except in the methods of burying and caring for the dead. It seems probable that primitive historic man saw in everything that moved an active soul, and that he saw in every extraordinary thing in earth or heaven the expression of a supernatural power. Yet reflective thinking began earlier than Tylor and all the older scientific anthropologists supposed. Those earlier investigators were without extended chronological data, and although ingenuity was exercised in systematizing the beliefs and customs of modern savages, it was necessarily impossible always to determine in this way which were the most primitive cults. Excavations in Babylonia, Egypt and elsewhere have enabled us for the first time to trace with some chronological certainty the religious expressions of earliest historic man. That primitive man was so stupid that he could not tell the difference between men and things, and that therefore totemism or fetishism or a low form of animism was necessarily the first expression of religious thought is a theory which can no longer be held very buoyantly in the face of the new and striking knowledge, material and religious, which is now seen to be incorporated in some of the most ancient myths of mankind. (See e.g. Winekler, Die jüngsten Kämpfe wider den Panbabylonismus , 1907; Jeremias, The Old Testament in the Light of the Ancient East , 2 volumes, 1911.) The pan-Bab theory, which makes so much use of these texts, is not certain, but the facts upon which theory depends are clear. It is a suggestive fact that among the earliest known deities or symbols of deities mentioned in the most ancient inscriptions are to be found the sun, moon, stars and other great forces of Nature. Out of these conceptions and the mystery of life - which seems to have affected early mankind even more powerfully than ourselves - sprang the earliest known religious language, the myth, which antedated by eons our oldest written texts, since some of these myths appear fully formed in the oldest texts. Rough figures of these solar and stellar deities are found from very early times in Babylonia. So in the earliest Egyptian texts the sun appears as divine and the moon as "the bull among the stars," and rough figures of the gods were carved in human or animal form, or these are represented pictorially by diadems or horns or ostrich feathers, as far back as the 2nd Dynasty, while even earlier than this stakes and pillars and heaps of stones are sacred. (See further, HDB , 5th vol, 176ff; Erman, A H andbook of Egyptian Rel .; Steindorf, Rel. of the Ancient Egyptians , 1905.) These rude and unshaped objects do not testify, as was once supposed, to a lower form of religious development than when sculptured images are found. The shapeless fetish, which not long ago was generally accepted as the earliest form of image, really represents a more advanced stage and higher form of religious expression than the worship of a beautifully or horribly carved image. It has been generally conceded since the days of Robertson Smith that it takes at least as much imagination and reflection to see an expression of deity in imageless matter as in the carved forms. Rude objects untouched by human hand, even in the most highly developed worships, have been most prized. The earliest images were probably natural objects which, because of their peculiar shapes or functions, were thought of either as divine or as made sacred by the touch of deity. Multiplied copies of these objects would naturally be made when worshippers increased or migrations occurred. While images may have been used in the most early cults, yet the highest development of image-worship has occurred among the most civilized peoples. Both deities and idols are less numerous in the early than in the later days of a religion. This is true in India, Assyria, Babylonia, and Egypt, as all experts now agree. Idols are not found among uncivilized peoples, such as the Bushmen, Fuegians, Eskimos, etc. (See e.g. Allen Menzies, History of Rel. , 1895.) Images of the gods presuppose a power of discrimination that could only be the result of reflection. The earliest idols known among the Semites were rude stone pillars or unshapen blocks. These, as the fetish, were probably adored, not for themselves, but for the spirit that was supposed to be in them or to have touched them. Deities and idols are multiplied easily, not only by philological, geographical and social causes, but through intertribal and international associations. One thing absolutely proved by recent excavations has been the extent to which the representations of local deities have been modified by the symbolic art of surrounding nations. Babylonia, for example, was influenced by the Syro-Hittite religious art at least as much as by that of Egypt (William Hayes Ward, Cylinders and Other Ancient Oriental Seals , 1909; Clay, Amurru , 1910). Even in adjacent localities the same deity varied greatly in its pictorial representation. See PALESTINE EXPLORATION , and Revue biblique , XIV , 315-48. With the possible exception of one reign in Egypt, during which Ikhnaton refused to allow any deities to be worshipped except the sun discovered and himself, idolatry outside of the Hebrew kingdom was never made a crime against the state until the days of Constantine. Theodosius (392 ad) not only placed sacrifices and divination among the capital crimes, but placed a penalty upon anyone who entered a heathen temple.
4. Bible References and Palestinian Customs
The dignity of the image in common thought in Bible times may be seen from the fact that man is said to have been made in God's image ( צלם , celem ; compare 1 Samuel 6:5; Numbers 33:52 ), and Christ is said to be "the image of the invisible God" (εἰκών , eikō̇n ; compare Colossians 1:15 with Romans 1:23 ). The heathen thought of the sun and stars and idols as being images of the gods, but the Hebrews, though Yahweh's temple was imageless, thought of normal humanity as in some true sense possessing a sacred resemblance to Deity, though early Christians taught that only Christ was the Father s "image" in unique and absolute perfection. See IMAGE . The ordinary words for "image" by a slight change came to mean vermin, carrion, false gods, no gods, carcasses, dung, etc. Heathen gods were undoubtedly accounted real beings by the early Hebrews, and the images of these enemies of Yahweh were doubtless looked upon as possessing an evil associated (?) power. In the earlier Old Testament era, images, idols, and false gods are synonymous; but as early as the 8th century bc Hebrew prophets begin to reach the lofty conception that heathen gods are non-existent, or at least practically so, when compared with the ever-living Yahweh, while the idols are "worthless things" or "non-entities" (Isaiah 2:8 , Isaiah 2:18 , Isaiah 2:20; Isaiah 10:10 , Isaiah 10:11; Isaiah 19:1; Isaiah 31:7; compare Jeremiah 14:14; Ezekiel 30:13; note the satiric term 'ĕlı̄lı̄m , as contrasted with the powerful 'ĕlōhı̄m ). The many ordinary terms used by the Hebrews for an idol or image mean "copy," simulacrum , "likeness," "representation." These are often, however, so compounded as technically to express a particular form, as "graven" or "carved" image (e.g. Exodus 20:4; 2 Chronicles 33:7 ) of wood or stone, i.e. one cut into shape by a tool; "molten image" (e.g. Exodus 32:4; Leviticus 19:4 ), i.e. one cast out of melted metal (standing image) (Leviticus 26:1 the King James Version, and see below), etc. However, a few of the Old Testament terms and modes of worship are unusual, or have a more difficult technical meaning, or have been given a new interest by new discoveries, and such deserve a more extended notice.
5. Most Important Technical Terms
(1) Matstsebhah ("Pillar")
מצּבה , maccēbhāh ̌ : These were upright stone pillars, often mentioned in the Old Testament, sometimes as abodes (Bethels) or symbols of deity - especially as used by the heathen - but also as votive offerings, memorial and grave stones ( Genesis 28:18; Genesis 31:45; Genesis 35:14 , Genesis 35:20; Joshua 24:26; 1 Samuel 7:12 ). The reverence for these stones is closely connected with that found among all Semitic peoples for obelisks (Genesis 33:20; Genesis 35:7 ), cairns (Genesis 28:18; Joshua 4:6 ), and circles (Joshua 4:3 , Joshua 4:5 , Joshua 4:20 ). Rough stone pillars from time immemorial were used in Semitic worship (Kittel, Hist of the Hebrews , II, 84). They were thought of primitively as dwelling-places of deity, and the stones and the spots where they stood were therefore accounted sacred. From very early times the mystery of life pressed itself upon human attention, and these stones were viewed as phallic images. These images were at first rough and undifferentiated, but became later well defined as male organs. At Tell Zakarı̂yah the end of one is sculptured to represent a human face. Some sort of phallicism underlies all early Semitic religion, the form of which is determined by the attention paid to the date palm, to the breeding of flocks, to astrology, and to social life. This phallicism did not always represent coarse thought, but sometimes a very profound spiritual conception; compare GOLDEN CALF , and note Wiedemann's statement, in HDB , V, 180 that in Egypt the gods Hu , "Taste," and Sa , "Perception," were created from the blood of the sun-god's phallus. These images of fertility and reproduction were naturally connected in Canaan with the worship of the Baals or "lords" of each locality, upon whose favor as possessor of the land fertility depended. They were also naturally associated with the cult of Astarte, the female counterpart of all the Baals (see ASTARTE ). In the Old Testament the Baalim and Asherim are almost invariably classed together, although the latter were wooden posts dedicated to a particular goddess, while "Baal" was merely a title which could be given to any male Semitic deity, and sometimes even to his female associate. The maccēbhōth were set up in a "high place" (which see), attracting reverence because of its "elevation, isolation and mystery" (Vincent). Originally these pillars were not considered as idols, but were naturally erected to Yahweh (Genesis 28:18; Genesis 31:45; Genesis 35:14; Exodus 24:4 ), and even Isaiah (Isaiah 19:19 ) and Hosea (Hosea 3:4 ) approve them, though pillars dedicated to idols must of course be destroyed (Exodus 23:24; Exodus 34:13; Jeremiah 43:13; Ezekiel 26:11 ). Only in late times or by very far-sighted law-givers were the maccēbhōth erected to Yahweh condemned; but after the centralization of the Yahweh-worship in Jerusalem, these pillars were condemned, even when set up in the name of Yahweh, and the older places of worship with their indiscriminate rituals and necessary heathen affiliations were also wisely discarded (Leviticus 26:1; Deuteronomy 16:22; see also GOLDEN CALF ).
(2) 'ăshērāh ("Grove")
אשרה , 'ăshērāh ̌ : Perhaps a goddess (see ASHERAH ), but as ordinarily used in the Old Testament, a sacred tree or stump of a tree planted in the earth (Deuteronomy 16:21 ) or a pole made of wood and set up near the altar (Judges 6:26; 1 Kings 16:33; Isaiah 17:8 ).
It has been supposed that these were primarily symbols of a goddess Asherah or Ashtoreth (Kuenen, Baethgen), and they were certainly in primitive thought connected with the tree cult and the sacred groves so universally honored by the Semites (see especially W.R. Smith, Religion of the Semites , 169,437; Stade, Geschichte , 160ff; Fraser, Golden Bough , II, 56-117; John O'Neill, Night of the Gods , II, 57); but the tree of life is closely connected in texts and pictures with the human organ of generation, and there can be no doubt that there is a phallic meaning connected with this sacred stake or pole, as with the maccēbhōth described above. See references in HDB under "Asherah," and compare Transactions of the Victoria Institute , XXXIX , 234; Winckler, Keilinschriftliches Textbuch zum AT . As these wooden posts from earliest times represented the ideas of fertility and were connected with the mystery of life, they naturally became the signs and symbols in many lands of the local gods and goddesses of fertility.
Astarte was by far the most popular deity of ancient Palestine. See ASHTORETH . The figures of Astarte from the 12th to the 9th century bc, as found at Gezer, have large hips, disclosing an exaggerated idea of fecundity. In close connection with the Astarte sanctuaries in Palestine were found numberless bodies of little children, none over a week old, undoubtedly representing the sacrifice of the firstborn by these Canaanites (R.A.S. Macalister, Excavation of Gezer , 3 vols). These Asherim were erected at the most sacred Hebrew sanctuaries, at Samaria ( 2 Kings 13:6 ), Bethel (2 Kings 23:15 ), and even in the Temple of Jerusalem ( 2 Kings 23:6 ). The crowning act of King Josiah's reformation was to break down these images (2 Kings 23:14 ). As the astrological symbol of Baal was the sun, Astarte is often thought of as the moon-goddess, but her symbol was really Venus. She was, however, sometimes called "Queen of Heaven" (Jeremiah 7:18; Jeremiah 44:17 , Jeremiah 44:19; but see ZATW , VI, 123-30).
(3) Chamman ("Sun-Image")
חמּן , ḥammān , the King James Version "images," "idols"; the Revised Version (British and American) "sun-images" ( Leviticus 26:30; 2 Chronicles 14:5; 2 Chronicles 34:4 , 2 Chronicles 34:7; Isaiah 17:8; Isaiah 27:9; Ezekiel 6:4 , Ezekiel 6:6 ): This worship may originally have come from Babylonia, but the reverence of the sun under the name Baal-hamman had long been common in Palestine before Joshua and the Israelites entered the country. These sun-images were probably obelisks or pillars connected with the worship of some local Baal. The chariot and horses of the sun, mentioned (2 Kings 23:11 ) as having an honored place at the western entrance of the Jerusalem Temple, represented not a local but a foreign cult. In Babylonian temples, sacrifices were made to the sun-chariot, which seems to have had a special significance in time of war (Pinches, HDB , IV, 629; see also CHARIOTS OF THE SUN ).
6. Obscure Bible References
(1) Golden Calf and Jeroboam's Calves
See GOLDEN CALF .
(2) Brazen Serpent
Brazen Serpent (Numbers 21:4-9; 2 Ki 4). - T he serpent, because of its strange, lightning-like power of poisonous attack, its power to shed its skin, and to paralyze its prey, has been the most universally revered of all creatures. Living serpents were kept in Babylonian temples. So the cobra was the guardian of royalty in Egypt, symbolizing the kingly power of life and death. In mythology, the serpent was not always considered a bad demon, enemy of the Creator, but often appears as the emblem of wisdom, especially in connection with health-giving and life-giving gods, such as Ea, savior of mankind from the flood, and special "god of the physicians" in Babylon; Thoth, the god of wisdom in Egypt, who healed the eye of Horus and brought Osiris to life again; Apollo, the embodiment of physical perfection, and his son, Aeseulapius, most famous giver of physical and moral health and curer of disease among the Greeks. Among the Hebrews also a seal (1500-1000 bc) shows a worshipper before a horned serpent raised on a pole (Wm. Hayes Ward). In Phoenician mythology the serpent is also connected with wisdom and long life, and it is found on the oldest Hebrew seals and on late Jewish talismans ( Revue biblique internationale , July, 1908, 382-94); at Gezer, in Palestine, a small "brazen serpent" (a cobra) was found in the "cave of oracles," and in early Christian art Jesus the Lord of Life is often represented standing triumphantly upon the serpent or holding it in His fist. In the Hebrew narrative found in Nu 21, the serpent evidently appears as a well-known symbol representing the Divine ability to cure disease, being erected before the eyes of the Israelites to encourage faith and stop the plague. It was not a totem, for the totem belongs to a single family and is never set up for the veneration of other families (Ramsay, Cities of St. Paul , 39). Hezekiah destroyed it because it was receiving idolatrous worship (2 Kings 18:4 ), though there is no hint that such worship was ever a part of the official temple cult (Benzinger); for if this had been done, the earlier prophets could hardly have remained silent. The above explanation seems preferable to the one formerly offered that the serpent was merely a copy of the disease-bearer, as the images offered by the Philistines were copies of the ulcers that plagued them (1 Samuel 6:4 ). See further NEHUSHTAN .
Teraphim ( תּרפים , terāphı̄m ). - T hese are usually considered household gods, but this does not necessarily include the idea that they were images of ancestors, though this is not improbable (Nowack, Hebrew Archaeology , II, 23; HDB , II, 190); that they were images of Yahweh is a baseless supposition (see Kautzsch, HDB , V, 643). Sometimes they appear in the house (1 Samuel 19:13 , 1 Samuel 19:16 ); sometimes in sanctuaries (Judges 17:5; Judges 18:14 ); sometimes as carried by travelers and armies (Genesis 31:30; Ezekiel 21:21 ). They are never directly spoken of as objects of worship (yet compare Genesis 31:30 ), but are mentioned in connection with wizardry (2 Kings 23:24 ), and as a means of divination (Ezekiel 21:21; Zechariah 10:2 ), perhaps not necessarily inconsistent with Yahweh-worship (Hosea 3:4 ). They were sometimes small and could be easily hidden (Genesis 31:34 ); at other times larger and in some way resembling a human being (1 Samuel 19:13 ). Jewish commentators thought the terāphı̄m were in early times mummified human heads which were represented in later centuries by rude images (Moore, Crit. and Exeg. Commentary on Jgs , 1895, 382; see especially Chwolsohn, Die Ssabier u. der Ssabismus , II, 19, 150). Customs of divination by means of such heads were not unknown. In Israel the terāphı̄m were sometimes certainly used in consulting Yahweh (Judges 17:5; Judges 18:14 ), though their use was later officially condemned (2 Kings 23:24 ). The terāphı̄m in the home doubtless correspond in use to the EPHOD (which see) in the sanctuary, and therefore these are frequently connected. Certain small rude images have lately been uncovered in Palestine by Bliss, at Tell el -Hesy , and by Sellin, at Tell Ta‛annuk , which are supposed to be teraphim.
(4) Image of Jealousy
Image of jealousy ( סמל , ṣemel ). - I t is not certain what this statue was which was set up by the door of the inner gate of the Jerusalem temple (Ezekiel 8:3 ). It was no doubt some idol, perhaps the image of the Asherah (2 Kings 21:7; 2 Kings 23:6 ), which certainly. had previously been set up in the temple and may have been there again in this day of apostasy. "Jealousy" is not the name of the idol, but it was probably called "image of jealousy" because in a peculiar manner this particular image seems to have been drawing the people from the worship of Yahweh and therefore provoking Him to jealousy.
(5) Chambers of Imagery
Chambers of imagery ( חדרי משׂכּיתו , ḥadhrē maskı̄thō ). - D oes Ezekiel mean that in his heart every man in his chambers of imagery was an idol-worshipper, or does this refer to actual wall decorations in the Jerusalem Temple (Ezekiel 8:11 , Ezekiel 8:12 )? Most expositors take it literally. W.R. Smith has been followed almost if not quite universally in his supposition that a debased form of vermin-worship is described in the "creeping things and abominable beasts" (Ezekiel 8:10 ). But while this low and ignorant worship was an ancient cult, it had been banished for centuries from respectable heathen worship, and it seems inconceivable that these Israelites who were of the highest class could have fallen to these depths, or if they had done so that the Tammuz and sun-worship should have been considered so much worse (Ezekiel 8:13 , Ezekiel 8:14 ). To the writer it seems more probable that the references are to Egyptian or Greek mysteries which would be described by a Hebrew just as Ezekiel describes this secret chamber. It is now known that the Greek mysteries experienced a revival at exactly this era, and it was probably this revival which was making itself felt in Jerusalem, for Greek influence was at this time greatly affecting Palestine (see Duruy, Hist of Greece , II, 126-180, 374; Cobern, Commentary on Ezekiel and Daniel , 80-83, 280-282; and separate articles, CHAMBERS OF IMAGERY; IMAGERY ).
Ephod ( אפוד , 'ēphōdh ). - T here is no doubt that this was the name of a vestment or ritual loin cloth of linen worn by common priests and temple servants and on special occasions by the king (1 Samuel 2:18; 1 Samuel 22:18; 2 Samuel 6:14 ). The ephod of the high priest was an ornamental waist coat on the front of which was fastened the holy breastplate containing the pocket in which were the Urim and Thummim (Exodus 28:6 , Exodus 28:30; Exodus 29:5; Exodus 39:2-5; Leviticus 8:28 ).
There are several passages, however, which have convinced many scholars that another ephod is mentioned which must be an image of Yahweh (see EPHOD ). The chief passages relied upon are Judges 8:26 , Judges 8:27 , where Gideon made an ephod with 1,700 shekels of gold and "set" this in Ophrah, where it became an object of worship. So in Judges 17:4; Judges 18:14-20 , Micah provides an ephod as well as an image and pillar for his sanctuary; in 1 Samuel 21:9 the sword of Goliath is preserved behind the ephod; while in various places the will of Yahweh is ascertained, not by putting on the ephod, but by "bringing it near" and "bearing" and "carrying" it ( 1 Samuel 23:6 , 1 Samuel 23:9; 1 Samuel 30:7 , etc.). On the basis of these passages Kautzsch (HDB , V, 641) concludes most inconsistently that the ephod appears "exclusively as an image of Yahweh." Driver, after an examination of each text, concludes that just in one passage (Judges 8:27 ) the term "ephod" is certainly used of the gold casing of an image, and that therefore it may also have this meaning in other passages (HDB , I, 725). It does not seem quite certain, however, that a ceremonial vestment heavily ornamented with gold might not have been "set" or "erected" in a holy place where later it might become an object of worship. If this had been an idolatrous image, would Hosea have deplored its loss (Hosea 3:4 ), and would its use not have been forbidden in some Bible passage?
Kautzsch's view that the ephod meant primarily the garment used to clothe Divine image, which afterward gave its name to the image itself, is a guess unsustained by the Scriptures quoted or, I think, by any archaeological parallel. We conclude that there is no certain proof that this was an image of Yahweh, though was used ritualistically in receiving the oracles of Yahweh (compare Kuenen, Religion of Israel , I, 100; Kittel, Hist of the Hebrews , II, 42; König, Die Hauptprobleme , 59-63). See also IDOLATRY; CALF , GOLDEN .
See especially W.R. Smith, Religion of the Semites ; E. B. Tylor, Primitive Culture ; J. G. Frazer, Golden Bough (3 vols); Baethgen, Beiträge zur sem. Rel.-Gesch .; Kittel, Hist of the Hebrews ; Nowack, Hebrew Arch ., II; Baudissin, Studien z. sem. Rel.-Gesch . For recent excavations, L.P.H. Vincent, Canaan d'après l'expl. récente , 1907; R.A.S. Macalister, The Excavation of Gezer (1912); William Hayes Ward, Cylinders and Other Ancient Oriental Seals , 1909.
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Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Images'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/isb/i/images.html. 1915.