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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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IMAGES. 1. The making of an image implies a definite conception and the application of art to religion. The earliest Semitic religion (like that of Greece, Rome, etc.) was accordingly imageless. The first images were the stone pillar and the wooden pole or asherah (a tree fetish possibly of phallic significance). Then came real idols, at first for domestic use (as probably the teraphim , portable household gods), and subsequently those of greater size for public worship.

2. About 15 words in OT are used specifically for images. The earliest point to the process of manufacture graven, sculptured, molten images. The word properly meaning image, i.e. ‘likeness,’ is not earlier than the end of 7th cent. b.c. From that time onwards metaphor is frequent: images are ‘vanity,’ ‘lies,’ and objects inspiring disgust or horror [cf. the name Beelzebul , which some interpret as = ‘lord of dung’]. Sometimes such terms would replace those used without offence in earlier days; thus, in a proper name compounded with baal (lord), the objectionable word would be replaced by bosheth (‘shame’), in obedience to Exodus 23:13 etc.

3. Images represented animals ( e.g. the golden calves and the serpent Nehushtan) and human forms (cf. Ezekiel 16:17 f., Isaiah 44:13 , Psalms 115:4-8 , Wis 14:15-16 ; Wis 14:20 ). The ephod appears to have been some sort of image, but was perhaps originally the robe worn by the image.

4. The materials used in idol manufacture were clay ( Wis 15:13 , Bel 7), wood ( Isaiah 44:15 , Wis 13:13 ), silver and gold ( Hosea 8:4 , Daniel 3:1 ). They might be painted ( Wis 13:14 ; Wis 15:4 ), dressed up ( Jeremiah 10:9 , Ezekiel 16:18 ), crowned and armed ( Bar 6:9 ; Bar 6:15 ). They were kept in shrines ( Judges 17:5 , Wis 13:15 etc.), and secured from tumbling down ( Isaiah 41:7 , Jeremiah 10:4 ). Refreshments ( Isaiah 65:11 , Jeremiah 7:18 ) and kisses ( Hosea 13:2 , 1 Kings 19:18 ) were offered to them, as well as sacrifice and incense. They figured in processions (cf. ancient sculptures, and Isaiah 46:7 , Jeremiah 10:5 ). See also art. Idolatry.

H. F. B. Compston.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Images'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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