Thursday, December 11, 2014

Figure 43

Household Gods (Heb. teraphim) © 2014 Dr. David E. Graves
Teraphim or household gods. 8th-6th cent. BC. Oriental Institute Museum, University of Chicago.

When Jacob fled from Laban’s household, his wife Rachel stole her father’s household gods (Heb. teraphim Gen 31:34). This strange incident makes more sense against the backdrop of the Nuzi tablets which describe household gods as a kind of title deed and proof of ownership of one’s inheritance. The possession of the household idol would secure for Rachel her husband’s (Laban’s) property.  It is now understandable why Jacob was so upset and later requested a boundary stone at Mizpah to keep Laban at a distance (Gen 31).

J. Paradise, “A Daughter and Her Father’s Property at Nuzi,” Journal of Cuneiform Studies 32 (1980): 189–207; M. J. Selman, “Comparative Customs and the Patriarchal Age,” in Essays on the Patriarchal Narratives, ed. Alan R. Millard and Donald J. Wiseman, 2nd ed. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1983), 91–139.

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