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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
properly an outward object adored as divine, or as the symbol of deity. (See IDOLATRY).
I. Classification of Scriptural terms having physical reference to such objects. — As a large number of different Hebrew words have been rendered in the A.V. either by idol or image, and that by no means uniformly (besides one or more in Greek more uniformly translated), it will be of some advantage to attempt to discriminate between them, and assign, as nearly as the two languages will allow, the English equivalents for each. (See IMAGE).
(I.) Abstract terms, which, with a deep moral significance, express the degradation associated with idolatry, and stand out as a protest of the language against its enormities.
(1.) General terms of doubtful signification. —
1. אֵַליל, elil', is thought by some to have a sense akin to that of שֶׁקֶר, she'ker, "falsehood," with which it stands in parallelism in Job 13:4, and would therefore much resemble aven, as applied to an idol. It is generally derived from the unused root אָלִל, to be empty or vain. Delitzsch (on Habakkuk 2:18) derives it from the negative particle אִל, al, "die Nichtigen;" but according to Furst (Handw. s.v.) it is a diminutive of אֵל, "god," the additional syllable indicating the greatest contempt. In this case the signification above mentioned is a subsidiary one. The same authority asserts that the word denotes a small image of the god, which was consulted as an oracle among the Egyptians and Phoenicians (Isaiah 19:3; Jeremiah 14:14). It is certainly used of the idols of Noph or Memphis (Ezekiel 30:13). In strong contrast with Jehovah, it appears in Psalms 90:5; Psalms 97:7, the contrast probably being heightened by the resemblance between elilim and elohim. A somewhat similar play upon words is observable in Habakkuk 2:18, אֵַלילַים אַלֵּמַים, elilim illemim, A.V. "dumb idols." See EL. 2. גַּלּוּלַים, gill'ulim', also a term of contempt, of uncertain origin (Ezekiel 30:13), but probably derived from גָּלִל, to roll, as dung, hence refuse. The Rabbinical authorities, referring to such passages as Ezekiel 4:2; Zephaniah 1:17, have favored the interpretation given in the margin of the A.V. to Deuteronomy 29:17, "dungy gods" (Vulg. "sordes," "sordes idolorum," 1 Kings 15:12). Jahn, connecting it with גָּלִל, galal, "to roll," applies it to the stocks of trees of which idols were made, and in mockery called gilluim, " rolling things" (a volvendo, he says, though it is difficult to see the point of his remark).
Gesenius, repudiating the derivation from the Arabic jalla, "to be great, illustrious," gives his preference to the rendering "stones, stone gods," thus deriving it from גִּל, gal, "a heap of stones;" and in this he is followed by First, who translates gillil by the German "Steinhaufe." The expression is applied, principally in Ezekiel, to false gods and their symbols (Deuteronomy 29:17; Ezekiel 8:10, etc.). It stands side by side with other contemptuous terms in Ezekiel 16:36; Ezekiel 20:8, as, for example, שֶׁקֶוֹ, shekets, "filth," "abomination" (Ezekiel 8:10), and cognate terms. (See DUNG).
May not גַּלּוּלַים, mean scarabaei, the commonest of Egyptian idols? The sense of dung is appropriate to the dung-beetle; that of rolling is doubtful, for, if the meaning of the verb be retained, we should, in this form, rather expect a passive sense, "a thing rolled;" but it may be observed that these grammatical rules of the sense of derivatives are not always to be strictly insisted on, for Sidon, צַידוֹן, though held to signify "the place of fishing," is, in the list of the Noachians, the name of a man, "the fisherman," Ἀλιεύς, of Philo of Byblus. That a specially-applicable word is used may perhaps be conjectured from the occurrence of אלילים, which, if meaning little gods, would aptly describe the pigmy PTEH-SEKER-HESAR, Ptah- Sokari-Osiris, of Memphis. Ezekiel uses the term גלולים of the idols of Egypt which the Israelites were commanded to put away at or about the time of the Exodus, but did not, and seem to have carried into the Desert, for the same word is used, unqualified by the mention of any country, of those worshipped by them in the Desert (Exodus 20:7-8; Exodus 20:16; Exodus 20:18; Exodus 20:24); it is, however, apparently employed also for all the idols worshipped in Canaan by the Israelites (Ezekiel 20:31; Ezekiel 23:37). Scarabaei were so abundant among the Egyptians and Phoenicians that there is no reason why they may not have been employed also in the worship of the Canaanitish false gods; but it cannot be safely supposed, without further evidence, that the idols of Canaan were virtually termed scarabtei. (See BEETLE).
(2.) General terms of known signification. —
3. אָוֶן , a'ven, rendered elsewhere "nought," "vanity," "iniquity," "wickedness," "sorrow," etc., and only once "idol" (Isaiah 66:3). The primary idea of the root seems to be emptiness, nothingness, as of breath or vapor; and, by a natural transition, in a moral sense, wickedness in its active form of mischief; and then, as the result, sorrow and trouble. Hence aven denotes a vain, false, wicked thing, and expresses at once the essential nature 3f idols, and the consequences of their worship. The character of the word may be learnt from its associates. It stands in parallelism with אֶפֶס. e'phes (Isaiah 41:29), which, after undergoing various modifications, comes at length to signify "nothing;" with הֶבֶל, he'bel, "breath" or "vapor," itself applied as a term of contempt to the objects of idolatrous reverence (Deuteronomy 32:21; 1 Kings 16:13; Psalms 31:6; Jeremiah 8:19; Jeremiah 10:8); with שָׁוְא, shav, "nothingness, "vanity;" and with שֶׁקֶר, she'ker, "falsehood" (Zechariah 10:2): all indicating the utter worthlessness of the idols to whom homage was paid, and the false and delusive nature of their worship. It is employed in an abstract sense, to denote idolatry in general, in 1 Samuel 15:23. There is much significance in the change of name from Bethel to Beth-aven, the great centre of idolatry in Israel (Hosea 4:15). (See BETHAVEN).
4. שַׁקּוּוֹ , shik-k-ts', "filth," "impurity," especially applied, like the cognate שֶׁקֶוֹ, she'kets, to that which produced ceremonial uncleanness (Ezekiel 37:23; Nahum 3:6), such as food offered in sacrifice to idols (Zechariah 9:7; comp. Acts 15:20; Acts 15:29). As referring to the idols themselves, it primarily denotes the obscene rites with which their worship was associated, and hence, by metonymy, is applied both to the objects of worship and also to their worshippers, who partook of the impurity, and thus "became loathsome like their love," the foul Baal-Peor (Hosea 9:10). (See ABOMINATION).
5. In the same connection must be noticed, though not actually rendered "image" or ‘ idol," בּשֶׁת , bo'sheth, "shame," or "shameful thing" (A.V. Jeremiah 11:13; Hosea 9:10), applied to Baal or Baal-Peor, as characterizing the obscenity of his worship. (See BAAL-PEOR).
6. אֵימָה , eynnzah', "horror" or "terror," and hence an object of horror or terror (Jeremiah 1, 38), in reference either to the hideousness of the idols or to the gross character of their worship. In this respect it is closely connected with —
7. מַפְלֶצֶת .miphle'tseth, a "fright," "horror," applied to the idol of Maachah, probably of wood, which Asa cut down and burned (1 Kings 15:13'; 2 Chronicles 15:16), and which was unquestionably the- Phallus, the symbol of the productive power of nature (Movers, Phon. 1, 571 Selden, de Dis Syr. 2, 5), and the nature-goddess Ashera. Allusion is supposed to be made to this in Jeremiah 10:5, and Epist. of Jeremiah 70. In 2 Chronicles 15:16 the Vulg. render "simulacrum Priapi" (comp. Horace, "furum aviumque maxima formido"). The Sept. had a different reading, which it is not easy to determine. They translate, in 1 Kings 15:13, the same word both by σύνοδος (with which corresponds the Syriac ‘ ido, "a festival," reading, perhaps, עֲצֶרֶת, ‘ atsereth, as in 2 Kings 10:20; Jeremiah 9:2) and καταδύσεις, while in Chronicles it is εἴδωλον . Possibly in 1 Kings 15:13 they may have read מְצֻלָּתָהּ, metsullathah, for מַפְלִצְתָּהּ, miphlatstah, as the Vulg. specum, of which "sinulacrum turpissimum" is a correction. (See GROVE).
(II.) We now come to the consideration of those words which more directly apply to the images or idols as the outward symbols of the deity who was worshipped through them.
(1.) Terms indicating the form of idols. —
8. סֶמֶל or סֵמֶל, s'mel, with which Gesenius compares as cognate מָשָׁל mashal, and צֶלֶם, tselen; the Lat. sinilis and Gr. ὁμαλός, signifies a "likeness," "semblance." The Targum in Deuteronomy 4:16 gives צוּרָא , tsirda, "figure," as the equivalent, while in Ezekiel 8:3; Ezekiel 8:5 it is rendered by צְלִם, tselan, "image." In the latter passages the Syriac has koimto, "a statue" (the στήλη of the Septuagint) which more properly corresponds to matstsebah (see No. 13, below); and in Deuteronomy genes, "kind" (=γένος ). The passage in 2 Chronicles 33:7 is rendered "images of four faces," the latter words representing the one under consideration. In 2 Chronicles 33:15 it appears as "carved images," following the Sept. τὸ γλυπτόν. On the whole, the Gr. εἰκών of Deuteronomy 4:16; 2 Chronicles 33:7, and the "simulacrum" of the Vulg. (2 Chronicles 33:15) most nearly resemble the Heb. semel. (See CARVED).
9. צֶלֶם , fse'lem (Chald. id. and צְלִם, tselam'), is by all lexicographers, ancient and modern, connected with צֵל, tsel, "a shadow." It is the "image" of God in which man was created (Genesis 1:27; comp. Wisd. 2, 23), distinguished from דְּמוּת, demuth, or "likeness," as the "image" from the "idea" which it represents (Schmidt, De Imag. Dei in Hom. p. 84), though it would be rash to insist upon this distinction. In the N.T. εἰκών appears to represent the letter (Colossians 3:10; compare the Sept. at Genesis 5:1), as ὁμοίωμα the former of the two words (Romans 1:23; Romans 8:29; Philippians 2:7), but in Hebrews 10:1, εἰκών is opposed to σκία as the substance to the substantial form, of which it is the perfect representative. The Sept. render demzth by ὁμοίωσις, ὁμοίωμα, εἰκών, ὅμοιος, and tselem most frequently by εἰκών, though ὁμοίωμα, εἴδωλον , and τύπος also occur. But, whatever abstract term may best define the meaning of tselem, it is unquestionably used to denote the visible forms of external objects, and is applied to figures of gold and silver (1 Samuel 6:5; Numbers 33:52; Daniel 3:1), such as the golden image of Nebuchadnezzar, as well as to those painted upon walls (Ezekiel 33:14). "Image" perhaps most nearly represents it in all passages. Applied to the human countenance (Daniel 3:19), it signifies the "expression," and corresponds to the ἰδέα of Matthew 28:3, though demuth agrees rather with the Platonic usage of the latter word. (See GRAVEN).
10. תְּמוּנָה, temundh', rendered "image" in Job 4:16; elsewhere "similitude" (Deuteronomy 4:12), "likeness" (Deuteronomy 5:8): "form," or "shape" would be better. In Deuteronomy 4:16 it is in parallelism with תִּבְנַית, tabnith', literally "build;" hence "plan" or "model" (2 Kings 16:10; compare Exodus 20:4; Numbers 12:8).
11. עָצָב , atsab', עֶצֶב, e'tseb (Jeremiah 22:28), or עֹצֶב, o'tseb (Isaiah 48:5), "a figure," all derived from a root עָצִב, atsab, " to work" or "fashion" (akin to חָצִב, chatsab, and the like), are terms applied to idols as expressing that their origin was due to the labor of man. The verb in its derived senses indicates the sorrow and trouble consequent upon severe labor, but the latter seems to be the radical idea. If the notion of sorrow were most prominent, the words as applied to idols might be compared with aven above. Isaiah 58:3 is rendered in the Peshito Syriac "idols" (A.V. "labors"), but the reading was evidently different. In Psalm 129:24, דֶּרֶךְ עֹצֵב is "idolatry."
12. צַיר , tsir, once only applied to an idol (Isaiah 45:16; Sept. νῆσοι, as if De, אַיַּים ). The word usually denotes "a pang," but in this instance is probably connected with the roots צוּר, tsar, and יָצִר, yatsar, and signifies "a shape" or "mould," and hence an "idol."
13. מִצֵּבָה , matstsebah', anything set up, a "statue" (=נְצַיב,! netsib, Jeremiah 43:13), applied to a memorial stone like those erected by Jacob on four several occasions (Genesis 28:18; Genesis 31:45; Genesis 35:14; Genesis 35:20) to commemorate a crisis in his life, or to mark the grave of Rachel. Such were the stones set up by Joshua (Joshua 4:9) after the passage of the Jordan, and at Shechem (Joshua 24:26), and by Samuel when victorious over the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:12). When solemnly dedicated they were anointed with oil, and libations were poured upon them. The word is applied to denote the obelisks which stood at the entrance to the temple of the sun at Heliopolis (Jeremiah 43:13), two of which were a hundred cubits high and eight broad, each of a single stone (Herod. 2, 11). It is also used of the statues of Baal (2 Kings 3:2), whether of stone (2 Kings 10:27) or wood (id. 26), which stood in the innermost recess of the temple at Samaria. Movers (Phon. 1, 674) conjectures that the latter were statues or columns distinct from that of Baal, which was of stone and conical (p. 673), like the "meta" of Paphos (Tacit. H. 2, 3), and probably, therefore, belonging to other deities, who were his πάρεδροι or σύμβωμοι. The Phoenicians consecrated and anointed stones like that at Bethel, which were called, as some think, from this circumstance, Baetylia. Many such are said to have been seen on Mt. Lebanon, near Heliopolis, dedicated to various gods, and many prodigies are related of them (Damascius in Photius, quoted by Bochart, Canaan, 2, 2). The same authority describes them as aerolites, of a whitish and sometimes purple color, spherical in shape, and about a span in diameter. The Palladium of Troy, the black stone in the Kaaba at Mecca, said to have been brought from heaven by the angel Gabriel, and the stone at Ephesus "which fell down from Jupiter" (Acts 19:35), are examples of the belief, anciently so common, that the gods sent down their images upon earth. In the older worship of Greece, stones, according to Pausanias (7, 22, § 4), occupied the place of images. Those at Pharae, about thirty in number, and quadrangular in shape, near the statue of Hermes, received divine honors from the Pharians, and each had the name of some god conferred upon it. The stone in the temple of Jupiter Ammon ("umbilico maxime similis"), enriched with emeralds and gems (Curtius, 4:7, § 31); that at Delphi, which Saturn was said to have swallowed (Pausan. Phoc. 24, § 6); the black stone of pyramidal shape in the temple of Juggernaut, and the holy stone at Pessinus, in Galatia, sacred to Cybele, show how widely spread and almost universal were these ancient objects of worship. (See PILLAR).
Closely connected with these "statues" of Baal, whether in the form of obelisks or otherwise, were
14. חִמָּנַים, chammanim'. rendered in the margin of most passages "sun- images." The word has given rise to much discussion. In the Vulg. it is translated thrice simulacra, thrice delubra, and oncefana. The Sept. gives τεμένη twice, εἴδωλα twice, ξύλινα χειροποίητα, βδελύγματα, and τὰ ὑψηλά With one exception (2 Chronicles 34:4, which is evidently corrupt), the Syriac has vaguely either "fears," i.e. objects of fear, or "idols." The Targum in all passages translates it by חֲנַיסְנְסִיָּא , chanisnesaya', "houses for star-worship" (Furst compares the Arab. Chunnas, the planet Mercury or Venus), a rendering which Rosenmuller supports. Gesenius preferred to consider these chanisnesaya as ‘ veils" or "shrines surrounded or shrouded with hangings" (Ezekiel 16:16; Targ. on Isaiah 3:19), and scouted the interpretation of Buxtorf — "status solares" — as a mere guess, though he somewhat paradoxically assented to Rosenmü ller's opinion that they were "shrines dedicated to the worship of the stars." Kimchi, under the root חמן, mentions a conjecture that they were trees like the Asherim, but (s.v. חמם ) elsewhere expresses his own belief that the Nun is epenthetic, and that they were so called "because the sun-worshippers made them." Aben-Ezra (on Leviticus 26:30) says they were "houses made for worshipping the sun," which Bochart approves (Canaan, ii, 17), and Jarchi that they were a kind of idol placed on the roofs of houses. Vossius (De Idol. 2, 353), as Scaliger before him, connects the word with Amanus or Omanus, the sacred fire, the symbol of the Persian sun-god, and renders it pyraea (comp. Selden, ii, 8). Adelung (Mithrid. 1, 159, quoted by Gesenius on Isaiah 17:8) suggested the same, and compared it with the Sanscrit homa. But to such interpretations the passage in 2 Chronicles 34:4 is inimical (Vitringa on Isaiah 17:8). Gesenius's own opinion appears to have fluctuated considerably. In his notes on Isaiah (I. c.) he prefers the general rendering "columns" to the more definite one of "sun-columns," and is inclined to look to a Persian origin for the derivation of the word. But in his Thesaurus he mentions the occurrence of Chainman as a synonym of Baal in the Phoenician and Palmyrene inscriptions in the sense of "Dominus Solaris," and it's after application to the statues or columns erected for his worship. Spencer (De Legg. Hebr. 2, 25), and after him Michaelis (Suppl. ad Lex. Hebr. s.v.), maintained that it signified statues or lofty columns, like the pyramids or obelisks of Egypt. Movers (Phon. 1, 441) concludes with good reason that the sun-god Baal and the idol "Chamman" are not essentially different. In his discussion of Chammanim he says, "These images of the fire-god were placed on foreign or non-Israelitish altars, in conjunction with the symbols of the nature-goddess Asherah, or σύμβωμοι (2 Chronicles 14:3; 2 Chronicles 14:5; 2 Chronicles 34:4; 2 Chronicles 34:7; Isaiah 17:9; Isaiah 27:9), as was otherwise usual with Baal and Asherah." They are mentioned with the Asherim, and the latter are coupled with the statues of Baal (1 Kings 14:23; 2 Kings 23:14). The chammanim and statues are used promiscuously (compare 2 Kings 23:14, and 2 Chronicles 34:4; 2 Chronicles 14:3; 2 Chronicles 14:5), but are never spoken of together. Such are the steps by which he arrives at his conclusion. He is supported by the Palmyrene inscription at Oxford, alluded to above, which has been thus rendered: "This column (חמנא, Chammaind), and this altar, the sons of Malchu, etc., have erected and dedicated to the sun." The Veneto-Greek Version leaves the word untranslated in the strange form ἀκάβαντες. From the expressions in Ezekiel 6:4; Ezekiel 6:6, and Leviticus 26:30, it may be inferred that these columns, which perhaps represented a rising flame of fire and stood upon the altar of Baal (2 Chronicles 34:4), were of wood or stone. (See ASHERAH).
15. מִשְׂכַּית, maskith', occurs in Leviticus 26:1; Numbers 23:52; Ezekiel 8:12 : "device," most nearly suits all passages (compare Psalms 73:7; Proverbs 18:11; Proverbs 25:11). This word has been the fruitful cause of as much dispute as the preceding. The general opinion appears to be that אֶבֶן מ signifies a stone with figures graven upon it. Ben-Zeb explains it as "a stone with figures or hieroglyphics carved upon it,'" and so Michaelis; and it is maintained by Movers (Phon. 1, 105) that the baetylia, or columns with painted figures, the "lapides effigiati" of Minucius Felix (c. 3), are these "stones of device," and that the characters engraven on them are the ἱερὰ στποχεῖα, or characters sacred to the several deities. The invention of these characters, which is ascribed to Taaut, he conjectures originated with the Seres. Gesenius explains it as a stone with the image of an idol, Baal or Astarte, and refers to his Mon. Poaen. p. 21-24, for others of a similar character. Rashi (on Leviticus 21:1) derives it from the root שׂכ,ִ to cover, "because they cover the floor with a pavement of stones." The Targum and Syriac, Leviticus 26:1, give ‘ stone of devotion," and the former, in Numbers 33:52, has "house of their devotion" where the Syriac only renders "their objects of devotion." For the former the Sept. has λίθος σκοπός , and for the latter τὰς σκοπιὰςαὐτῶν, connecting the word with the root שָׂכָה . "to look," a circumstance which has induced Saalschuitz (Mos. Recht, p. 382-385) to conjecture that eben maskith was originally a smooth elevated stone employed for the purpose of obtaining from it a freer prospect, and of offering prayer in prostration upon it to the deities of heaven. Hence, generally, he concludes it signifies a stone of prayer or devotion, and the "chambers of imagery" of Ezekiel 8:7 are "chambers of devotion." The renderings of the last mentioned passage in the Sept. and Targum are curious as pointing to a various reading, מְשֻׂכָּתוֹ, or, more probably, מַשְׁכָּבוֹ . (See IMAGERY).
16. תְּרָפַים, teradphim'. (See TERAPHIR)
(2.) The terms which follow have regard to the material and workmanship of the idol rather than to its character as an object of worship.
17. פָּסֶל, pe'sel, usually translated in the Authorized Version "graven or carved image." In two passages it is ambiguously rendered "quarries" (Judges 3:19; Judges 3:26), after the Targum, but there seems to be no reason for departing from the ordinary signification. In the majority of instances the Sept. has γλυπτόν, once γλύμμα . The verb is employed to denote the finishing which the stone received at the hands of the masons after it had been rough-hewn from the quarries (Exodus 34:4; 1 Kings 5:32). It is probably a later usage which has applied pesel to a figure cast in metal, as in Isaiah 40:19; Isaiah 44:10. (More probably still, pesel denotes by anticipation the molten image in a later stage, after it had been trimmed into shape by the caster.) These "sculptured" images were apparently of wood, iron, or stone, covered with gold or silver (Deuteronomy 7:25; Isaiah 30:22; Habakkuk 2:19), the more costly being of solid metal (Isaiah 40:19). They could be burned (Deuteronomy 7:5; Isaiah 45:20; 2 Chronicles 34:4), or cut down (Deuteronomy 12:3) and pounded (2 Chronicles 34:7), or broken in pieces (Isaiah 21:9), In making them, the skill of the wise iron-smith (Deuteronomy 27:15; Isaiah 40:20) or carpenter, and of the goldsmith, was employed (Judges 17:3-4; Isaiah 41:7), the former supplying the rough mass of iron beaten into shape on his anvil (Isaiah 44:12), while the latter overlaid it with plates of gold and silver, probably from Tarshish (Jeremiah 10:9), and decorated it with silver chains. The image thus formed received the further adornment of embroidered robes (Ezekiel 16:18), to which possibly allusion may be made in Isaiah 3:19. Brass and clay were among the materials employed for the same purpose (Daniel 2:33; Daniel 5:23). (Images of glazed pottery have been found in Egypt [Wilkinson, Anc. Eg. 3, 90: comp. Wisdom of Solomon 15:8].) A description of the three great images of Babylon on the top of the temple of Belus will be found in Diod. Sic. 2, 9 (compare Layard, Nin. 2. 433). The several stages of the process by which the metal or wood became the "graven image" are so vividly described in Isaiah 44:10-20, that it is only necessary to refer to that passage, and we are at once introduced to the mysteries of idol manufacture, which, as at Ephesus, "brought no small gain unto the craftsmen." (See SHRINE).
18. נְסֶךְ or נֵסֶךְ , n'sek, and מִסֵּכָה, massekah', are evidently synonymous (Isaiah 41:29; Isaiah 48:5; Jeremiah 10:14) in later Hebrew, and denote a "molten" image. Massekah is frequently used in distinction from pesel or pesilim (Deuteronomy 27:15; Judges 17:3, etc.). The golden calf, which Aaron made, was fashioned with "the graver" (חֶרֶט, cheret), but it is not quite clear for what purpose the graver was used (Exodus 32:4). The cheret (comp. χαράττω) appears to have been a sharp-pointed instrument, used like the stylus for a writing implement (Isaiah 8:1). Whether then Aaron, by the help of the cheret, gave to the molten mass the shape of a calf, or whether he made use of the graver for the purpose of carving hieroglyphics upon it, has been thought doubtful. The Syr. has tuipso (τύπος), "the mould," for cheret. But the expression וִיָּצָר, vay- yatsar, decides that it was by the cheret, in whatever manner employed, that the shape of a calf was given to the metal. (See MOLTEN).
(3.) In the New Test. the Greek of idol is εἴδωλον , which exactly corresponds with it. In one passage εἰκών is the "image" or head of the emperor on the coinage (Matthew 22:20). (See ALISGEMA). II. Actual Forms of Idols. — Among the earliest objects of worship, regarded as symbols of deity, were the meteoric stones which the ancients believed to have been the images of the gods sent down from heaven. (See DIANA). From these they transferred their regard to rough unhewn blocks, to stone columns or pillars of wood, in which the divinity worshipped was supposed to dwell, and which were consecrated, like the sacred stone at Delphi, by being anointed with oil, and crowned with wool on solemn days (Pausan. Phoc. 24, § 6). Tavernier (quoted by Rosenmü ller, At. and Al Morgenland, 1, § 89) mentions a black stone in the pagoda of Benares which was daily anointed with perfumed oil, and such are the "Lingams" in daily use in the Siva worship of India (compare Armobius, 1, 30; Min. Felix, c. 3). Such customs are remarkable illustrations of the solemn consecration by Jacob of the stone at Bethel, as showing the religious reverence with which these memorials were regarded. Not only were single stones thus honored, but heaps of stone were, in later times at least, considered as sacred to Hermes (Homer,. Od. 16, 471; comp. the Vulg. at Proverbs 26:8, "Sicut qui mittit lapidem in acervum Mercurii"), and to these each passing traveler contributed his offering (Crezer, Symb. 1, 24). The heap of stones which Laban erected to commemorate the solemn compact between himself and Jacob, and on which he invoked the gods of his fathers, is an instance of the intermediate stage in which such heaps were associated with religious observances before they became objects of worship. Jacob, for his part, dedicated a single stone as his memorial, and called Jehovah to witness, thus holding himself aloof from the rites employed by Laban, which may have partaken of his ancestral idolatry. (See JEGAR-SAIADUTHA).
Of the forms assumed by the idolatrous images we have not many traces in the Bible. Dagon, the fish-god of the Philistines, was a human figure terminating in a fish (See DAGON); and that the Syrian deities were represented in later times in a symbolical human shape we know for certainty. (See NISROCH).
The Hebrews imitated their neighbors in this respect as in others (Isaiah 44:13; Wisdom of Solomon 13:13), and from various allusions we may infer that idols in human forms were not uncommon among them, though they were more anciently symbolized by animals (Wisdom of Solomon 13:14), as by the calves of Aaron and Jeroboam, and the brazen serpent which was afterwards applied to idolatrous uses (2 Kings 18:4; Romans 1:23). — When the image came from the hands of the maker it was decorated richly with silver and gold, and sometimes crowned (Epist. Jeremiah 9), clad in robes of blue and purple (Jeremiah 10:9), like the draped images of Pallas and Hera (Muller, Hand. dl. Arch. d. Kunst, § 69), and fastened in the niche appropriated to it by means of chains and nails (Wisdom of Solomon 13:15), in order that the influence of the deity which it represented might be secured to the spot. So the Ephesians, when besieged by Croesus, connected the wall of their city by means of a rope to the temple of Aphrodite, with a view to insuring the aid of the goddess (Herod. 1, 26); and for a similar object the Tyrians chained the stone image of Apollo to the altar of Hercules (Curt. 4:3, § 15). Some images were painted red (Wisdom of Solomon 13:14), like those of Dionysus and the Bacchantes, of Hermes, and the god Pan (Pausan. 2, 2, § 5; Muller, u. and. d. Arch. d. Kunst, § 69). This color was formerly considered sacred. Pliny relates, on the authority of Verrius, that it was customary on festival days to color with red lead the face of the image of Jupiter, and the bodies of those who celebrated a triumph (33:36). The figures of Priapus, the god of gardens, were decorated in the same manner ("ruber custos," Tibull. 1, 1, 18). Among the objects of worship enumerated by Arnobius (1, 39) are bones of elephants, pictures, and garlands suspended on trees, the "rami coronati" of Apuleius (de Mag. c. 56).
When the process of adorning the image was completed, it was placed in a temple or shrine appointed for it (οἰκία , Epist. Jeremiah 12, 19; οἴκημα, Wisdom of Solomon 13:15; εἰδωλεῖον, 1 Corinthians 8:10; see Stanley's note on the latter passage). In Wisdom of Solomon 13:15, οἴκημα is thought to be used contemptuously, as in Tibull. 1, 10, 19, 20, "Cum paupere cultu Stabat in exigua ligneus cede deus" (Fritsche and Grimm, Handb.), but the passage quoted is by no means a good illustration. From these temples the idols were sometimes carried in procession (Epist. Jeremiah 4, 26) on festival days. Their priests were maintained from the idol treasury, and feasted upon the meats which were appointed for the idols use (Bel and the Dragon, 3, 13). These sacrificial feasts formed an important part of the idolatrous ritual, and were a great stumbling block to the early Christian converts. They were to the heathen, as Prof. Stanley has well observed, what the observance of circumcision and the Mosaic ritual were to the Jewish converts, and it was for this reason that Paul especially directed his attention to the subject, and laid down the rules of conduct contained in his first letter to the Corinthians (8-10). (See IDOLATRY).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Idol'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/i/idol.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.