Insights: The Newsletter of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship


Matthew Roper


teraphim, divination, ancient Near East, Hosea 3:4, urim and thummim, Mormon Studies


Biblical scholars have long puzzled over the nature and function of objects referred to as "teraphim" in the biblical record. A recent study of divination practices in the ancient Near East notes that the term "is of disputed derivation and uncertain meaning" and that in the biblical text it "does not consistently designate the same type of object." Yet evidence in Hosea 3:4 (8th century B.C.) suggests that, in the preexilic Israelite religion, the teraphim may once have been considered "a legitimate method" of divination until they were taken away from Israel during a period of discipline.